Comment spam is still a problem on many blogs, including this one. Fortunately, WordPress’s Akismet plugin does a great job at filtering out most of the worst offenders.
But there are still some “gray-area” spam comments that I’ve tried to deal with. For me, this less-obvious type of spam has the following three characteristics:
- The comment itself is specific to the material, and might even be helpful to the discussion
- The commenter has used keywords instead of a name in the “name” field
- The name links to a website, usually something to do with the keywords
Generally speaking, if a comment gets through my filters and has nothing of value to add to the discussion, and the commenter uses keywords in the “name” field, I will delete the comment.
But, as indicated above, some comments are actually legitimate comments. Unfortunately, the commenter has chosen to include keywords anyhow (and this is forgetting the fact that pretty much all blogs use “nofollow”, thus negating any benefit those keywords might otherwise get).
How should such comments be dealt with? I deal with them by providing the following instructions in the “comment rules” on every comments section on this site:
Please use a real name or alias. Keywords are not allowed in the “name” field. If you use keywords, your comment will be deleted, or your name will be replaced with the alias from your email address.
Generally, I prefer real names in the comments, but not necessarily last names. And I will also accept a business name or alias. But if I feel the comment is still on topic and/or adds something to the discussion, I will allow it to remain, but I’ll replace their “name” with the beginning part of their email address. If their email alias is also just keywords, then I’ll just delete the comment. In a few rare cases, where the comment was quite good and the email address was just keywords, I’ve changed the name to “anonymous”.
Is This Ethical?
So my question about this is a matter of ethics. Maybe it’s even a legal issue, I really don’t know. Do I have the right to alter a person’s contributed content in this way, even if I’m not touching the actual comment content? Sure, I have a right to delete it. But do I have a right to alter what they claim their name is?
On Bruce Lawson’s blog, in the footer, he says: “Comments are copyright their authors…” Is this really the case? Does this mean that every blog should indicate such in this way? So if I’ve altered something in someone’s comment, does that comment no longer qualify as being ‘copyright the comment owner’?
This is an interesting situation that I would be curious to hear some opinions on.