Do weblogs need Terms and Conditions?

So here’s a thought – albeit a short and unconvincing one that hasn’t really got much of my heart behind it – about the problem of weblog comment spammers. For those of you who are unaware of the phenomenon, basically it’s pretty simple: if your site is linked to by a well linked-to site, then Google ranks you higher in search results. Therefore if you’re someone with a desperate need to exploit the unhappy, unconfident or socially awkward by selling them Viagra or weight-loss drugs or ‘the banned CD’, the apparent best way to claw that little bit further up the greasy pole is to start posting specious comments on people’s weblogs filled with links to your commercial sites.

Or at least that’s the theory of the soulless evil self-interested wankers who undertake such activities. God knows if it works or not – certainly Google’s algorithms aren’t public. Moreover, there was a suggestion a while back that only links in which the link-text reflected something on the linked-to page would count for their weighting. So it might not work at all. Nonetheless, it continues and as it does so, each and every time, another weblog owner starts to feel more and more disillusioned with the web in which they operate and about the unscrupulousness of their fellow man. The perpetrators of this kind of spamming aren’t committing crimes against humanity, but they’re still basically scum. They’re people who would spit in your face if you couldn’t stop them and they could make a few cents out it.

There are a variety of ‘solutions’ to this kind of problem of course, with some being instituted in Typepad as we speak while others (like MT-Blacklist) have been developed by third-party developers.

One possibility that occurs to me that’s less technical in scope is a “Terms and Conditions”-style tick-box that you have to click when you post a comment. In the Terms and Conditions could be a statement that posting a comment constitutes an agreement that you will not link to any commercial sites whatsoever and that anyone who does so has basically entered into a tacit agreement to pay for whatever the length of time that link remains on the site at the rate of $100 a day (rounded up to the nearest day). You could then bill the sites concerned via their addresses in whois and take them to the small claims court if they didn’t pay-up. I’m fairly sure this wouldn’t work on the whole but it might put the wind up a few people and make them think twice about it. Has anyone got any other suggestions?

8 replies on “Do weblogs need Terms and Conditions?”

No commercial sites whatsover is too strict a standard. Most of the time I comment on blog posts as me. But sometimes I’m responding to a post that mentions my company specifically. We get product questions and even got a tech support question from Twisted Librarian once by blog. In that case, I’ll sign as Socialtext (no link for the local policy 🙂 That’s not spam in that case, it’s the identity behind the comment.

It seems generally like a good idea which might put a few people off. What though if some even-less-scrupulous type spammed a weblog advertising the website of a rival? Then it would be an innocent party getting billed for the damage.

Outside of LiveJournal, how many blogs are genuinely uncommercial? Most of the bloggers I read, certainly, use their blogs to support their careers in one way or another. So I’m not sure you can draw a clean distinction between commercially and non-commercially motivated posts either. Perhaps we should look to the operating principle of open wikis, that it’s quicker and easier to undo a post than it is to create it in the first place? (no link but if you want to find my unashamedly commercial blog, dig a bit at

soulP is a totally uncommercial collective of individuals who love the web as it offers us the chance to talk, write, comment and we even met for the first time recently and all that stuff, which was very exciting, but the infliction of rabid spam rubbish on every comment box is enough to tip us over to violence (an unsaid expectation), so i guess any solution would be satisfactory.
I’d say a process solution which stumps the bots and makes normal humans think first is the way.
The soulP editor and the chief tech will be awake soon and this shall be discussed (after their huge fits of antipodean rage no doubt) and we shall let you know too.

Ian: well, none of the blogs I read regularly are commercial or about promoting the owner’s career, and most don’t even have adverts. I suppose the possibility exists that some are writers and use their blogs as advertising, but given the content I doubt it.
Incidentally, I recently installed MT-Blacklist and it’s great. I particularly like the option to check all your comments for spam and delete automatically, which makes it much easier to deal with a mass attack.

Well, the lads have decided to ignore and move on, with references to boing boing and dive into mark, while waiting for further developments in MT.

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