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I left home on August 1st and traveled to Phoenix to NY to Boston to NY to San Diego to L.A. to Phoenix to Tampa to Nashville to Chicago to NY. I got back last night. In the meantime, I did not have much time to look at Olbermann Watch but learned that a troll on this site and become particularly active. As a general rule, I do not edit or delete comments or ban commenters. When comment spammers find open threads I close them and delete the comment spam. It generally takes a couple weeks for comment spammers to find open threads so it is typical that a comment is open for about that long.
In this case, the commenter may or may not have been the owner of the web site and the owner of the web site may or may not have been the person depicted in the web site. It's the internet so you can never be sure about these things. Regardless, someone was posting from a particularly IP address (and doing so anonymously, psuedonymously or under other people's names). I found over 100 posted comments from this IP address. Many of them had dozens of links to a particular site so that there were thouands of outbound links to that site coming from our site. For those who don't know how this game works - if you do that on dozens of sites you can get hundreds of thousands of inbound links to a site which increased the sites Google Page Rank and causes the site to show up higher in Google searches. In other words, these comments were spam designed to advertise a particular site.
As a result, I have deleted all of these comments and banned anyone from posting at that IP address.
This is generally not an effective solution because there are many ways around a ban but reasoning with a troll is pointless, negotiating with a spammer is pointless and doing nothing is not an acceptable option.
I have reported the matter to the web host for that site and will let them look into whether the commenter is coming from the same IP address as their customer and determine how to handle their customer. Spamming is a violation of their user agreement.
One last point, some folks might wonder why I don't moderate comments (pre or post),, require registration or use a catchpa. The answer is simple, I've tried them all and they all inhibit a free exchange on the site. I'd rather close comments after a couple of weeks and deal with the occassional spam that gets through then get in the way of the give and take on this site.
UPDATE: Here is my exchange with Piczo Member Services, the company hosting the site linked in the comments on Olbermann Watch
Subject: one of your sites is being comment spammed into my site
Response (Pom) 08/28/2006 05:25 PM
Dear Mr. Robert Cox,
Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. We here at Piczo take abuse complaints very seriously. The IP address you reported is actually different from the owner of the site. However, this site is in violation of our Terms of Service and therefore we have cancelled it.
Unfortunately, at this time our systems are unable to search sites by IP address. If you become aware of any other inappropriate site or the email address of a Piczo member who is abusing the use of our services, please notify us immediately and we will take action.
Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance.
Piczo Member Services
Customer (Robert Cox) 08/27/2006 09:55 AM
My site is http://www.olbermannwatch.com/
Someone is repeatedly posting the following URL into my comment
sections (hundreds of instances of this):
Many of the comments contain phrases like "fuck my website bitch" and
"I am invincible" etc.
The comments are coming from the following IP Address: 18.104.22.168
This is comment spam and may be a violation of your user agreement.
It is certainly a violation of my comment posting policy. Can you
please investigate this and advise as to whether the spammer is the
owner of this site and whether you are able to take any steps to
discourage this behavior?
You might also want to refer the owner of the site to a psychiatrist
as it appears this individual has some serious psychological issues.