Death by a Million Spammers

By on September 15, 2013 in

Earlier today we received a warning from Amazon that our site would be taken down in the next 24 hours if we didn’t respond to a copyright infringement accusation within 24 hours.

The claim was made by the site AFRICAGEMS.COM, and they claimed that this forum post infringed on their DMCA rights. In this post, the words “looks cute” link to their site.

Below is the response I wrote to Amazon. We sincerely need help trying to understand how we can deal with these constant threats. I’m going to be trying to find someone at Google to speak with, but if anyone out there has any ideas, I would greatly appreciate it.


Hello,

We are quite disturbed by the report below. It is blatantly false. Our forums do contain a link to their website (Full post here: http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?103766-Some-questions-about-feasibility-of-lunar-resource-exploitation&p=1800018#post1800018, with screen capture attached. The words “looks cute” link to their site.). I honestly can’t tell if this is a post by a spammer who is so good we can’t tell that he’s link baiting, or if it’s from someone who is legitimately linking to their site. In either case, the content, which quotes a long discussion on our site, is clearly not copied content from another site.
 
To give you background on this, during Google’s recent change in terms of service, they began penalizing companies who had too many links to their site from sources such as forums and blogs. Those links were typically created by spammers leaving comments and posts specifically to increase that site’s number of incoming links, and thus it’s Google ranking. Google realized the system was getting gamed and began penalizing companies. As a result of this change, our site, which has a forum that was initially setup over a decade ago under a different URL, has been getting a rash of emails asking us to find and remove links that these companies paid someone to create in the past. 
 
Put simply, we are being threatened because these sites paid someone to place links all across the internet, and our staff of moderators – who are all volunteers – missed some of these spammers posts.
 
As a small non-profit dedicated to science and education, we simply don’t have time to find and remove every random link unless we are sent a URL to a specific page that has the spam, and in cases like this, where the link appears to be part of a legitimate conversation, we simply don’t remove the links.
 
Is there anything you can do to help us deal with these attacks? Can you please put a note in our account that we run forums and do not have DMCA issues, but rather our dealing with a rash of companies who hired spammers now attacking us because some of those spammers links didn’t get caught by our moderators?
 
Your help is sincerely appreciated!
 
Sincerely,
 
Dr. Pamela L. Gay
Assistant Research Professor
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

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7 Responses to Death by a Million Spammers

  1. Phil Carter September 23, 2013 at 2:44 am #

    Pamela

    Not sure if this has gone any further.

    You’ll need to involve some form of legal representation if you haven’t already.

    Something to look into to prevent this from happening again is a site called AKismet (www.akismet.com), they provide spam filtering for blogs, etc…

    Cheers
    Phil

  2. Phil Viverito September 15, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    Pamela, I would suggest a couple of things.

    This person is claiming a link impacts their copyright which is not likely the proper use of a takedown notice. I would immediately file a complaint with Chilling Effects. Second, I would investigate a method of getting these bl

    • Phil Viverito September 15, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

      Sorry, I hit submit before I was done.

      I would see if there was a way to get these blog post duplicated on the forum. Third, I would familiarize yourself with the title system on the forum. The poster in this case has been there long enough to be an “established member”. He likely has hundreds of posts and isn’t a spammer at all. Circle back to point one, abusing a takedown notice. I would also ask said person what was infringed. They may be upset about bandwidth usage and not copyright. If this is the case, killing the link would simply be a kindness.

      Phil V

  3. John Jaksich September 15, 2013 at 4:03 am #

    I have re-blogged your post in the hopes that someone can help with your plight.

    best of luck

    John

  4. Heidi September 15, 2013 at 3:33 am #

    Do let us interested parties know what kind of response you get. I have a blog too, and dealing with the Spam and the potential of being on the receiving end of a DMCA complaint due to a third-party’s actions is very annoying.

  5. Jon Voisey September 15, 2013 at 3:08 am #

    Filing a false DMCA is illegal. While I don’t know that this would necessarily stop it from happening, you can respond with lawsuits that would be very easy to win given the history of rulings in the favor of those against whom claims have been filed. It could also help fund CosmoQuest 😉

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