Astro-Spam

by on May 31, 2006 · 18 comments

The Abstract Factory flags something I’ve begun to notice when I periodically go through our comments to weed out spam: our posts about network neutrality have begun to get a steady stream of highly generic supportive comments: see here, here, here, and here, for example. Cog posits that some PR firm must be paying people $10/hour to troll the web making anti-regulatory comments on blog posts on the subject of network neutrality.

The posts almost never make substantive arguments, and they’re often made days or even weeks after a particular post is made. Moreover, the comments consistently appear only on pages related to network neutrality. Cog’s term fits the bill perfectly: this is astro-spam.

I don’t think I’m going to delete it, though. It’s not clear to me there’s anything unethical about paying someone to post random comments on blogs advocating a point of view. Certainly, people pay others to write press releases and talking points. It’s not clear to me how this is different.

But more importantly, it’s not obvious to me how I’d go about drawing the line here. I have a pretty good hunch about which of the pro-NN comments are paid astro-spam, but I have no way to prove it. And I don’t want to go down the path of trying to decide which comments are “real” and which are not. Ordinary spam is easy to identify: it links to a porn site or a generic viagra store. But I have no way to positively identify astro-spam.

In any event, the far more effective way to deal with the problem is by allowing the spam to stay in place and then make it look ridiculous. So if anyone in the media is reading this, this seems like a great story lead: telcos are so desperate that they’ve resorted to hiring shills to promote their point of view in blog comments.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeT

    Tim, as I have noted, most bloggers don’t seem to understand what this issue is about at all. The ones that do, usually frame it in a way that is conducive toward them getting others to pay for them being able to use file sharing software as much as they want. It would be a good lead, though. The telecoms are rightfully getting desperate because they’re about to potentially lose control over their own networks to a bunch of populist jacobins.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeT

    Tim, as I have noted, most bloggers don’t seem to understand what this issue is about at all. The ones that do, usually frame it in a way that is conducive toward them getting others to pay for them being able to use file sharing software as much as they want. It would be a good lead, though. The telecoms are rightfully getting desperate because they’re about to potentially lose control over their own networks to a bunch of populist jacobins.

  • enigma_foundry

    Tim:

    I can understan you’re rationale for not deleting such ‘Astro-Spam’ posts, but what I would like to know is why you’d deleted my several posts, for example in the “Brooklyn Bridge for Sale” article.

    Perhaps it wasn’t you, but someone else…

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Tim:

    I can understan you’re rationale for not deleting such ‘Astro-Spam’ posts, but what I would like to know is why you’d deleted my several posts, for example in the “Brooklyn Bridge for Sale” article.

    Perhaps it wasn’t you, but someone else…

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim

    enigma: if I did it was an accident. We get about 50 spam comments a day, and so I have to do it pretty quickly in order to get it done in a reasoanble time. I might have gotten too trigger-happy. My apologies. I’ll be on the lookout for your posts going forward.

  • Brian Moore

    My question is, how do I get that job? And more importantly, can I get one for writing highly generic, un-supportive comments?

    I guess that market might be a tad saturated.

    That brings up an interesting point — what’s the difference betwen generic, pro-Original Poster comments, and generic anti-OP comments? I know that I, like you, would be extremely suspicious of the first, but would consider the latter to be honest but tiresome.

    Okay, I’ve gone way too far down the road of blogging about blogging. Sorry. :(

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim

    enigma: if I did it was an accident. We get about 50 spam comments a day, and so I have to do it pretty quickly in order to get it done in a reasoanble time. I might have gotten too trigger-happy. My apologies. I’ll be on the lookout for your posts going forward.

  • Brian Moore

    My question is, how do I get that job? And more importantly, can I get one for writing highly generic, un-supportive comments?

    I guess that market might be a tad saturated.

    That brings up an interesting point — what’s the difference betwen generic, pro-Original Poster comments, and generic anti-OP comments? I know that I, like you, would be extremely suspicious of the first, but would consider the latter to be honest but tiresome.

    Okay, I’ve gone way too far down the road of blogging about blogging. Sorry. :(

  • Anonymous

    Tim:

    Well, it was deleted after you responded to it, which I thought a bit odd….

  • Anonymous

    Tim:

    Well, it was deleted after you responded to it, which I thought a bit odd….

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