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Dictated to by spammers - what have I done?

Folks I recently deleted two threads from my forums, these threads were about a year old and thus were spidered and indexed by the ‘big three’. If I had have spotted these threads at the time they were posted I would have deleted them straight away as they were simply threads going on about how great a certain company is, I believe SPAM is the word you kids are using these days, yes SPAM plain and simple.

Anyhow the threads got through the forum moderation team (me) for whatever reason I don’t know, perhaps it was a busy week so I didn’t even know these threads existed. That was until about two months ago when I started getting emails asking me to remove them because they were ‘inaccurate’.. whatever that means. When I didn’t ‘jump’ when they asked me to ‘jump’ they started asking me for my solictors number so legal action could begin.

Can you believe that? They spam my site and then about a year later when one of the threads appears in Google and I refuse to remove it (at least for the time being) because I don’t like being told what to do be spammers (as it kind of means they ‘win) they threaten legal action. I asked them what possible grounds would they have for legal action against me and my site, there was no response. That was the end of the email ‘correspondence’ (or threats), however this week the voicemails and phonecalls from Manhattan in New York started coming in, about three or four in total, asking me in a not so pleasent tone to ‘cease and desist’ and remove the threads as they were ‘inaccurate’.

I toyed with the idea for a couple of days, not actually knowing if this went further (and I continued to refuse to remove the threads) could it put the future of the site at risk. I came to the decision to just remove the threads and forget about them just in case any ill effects could come my direction by way of any legal action this company may opt to take.

I have to admit that I didn’t feel good about it afterwards, I felt I was right (morally at least) to refuse to remove these spam threads (which by this stage were ’buried’ and not detracting from the quality of topics) from my forums so removing them certainly felt like handing a victory to the spammers. What do you guys think? What would you have done? Was I indeed breaking some ‘law’ which could have resulted in legal action being taken against me? Have I let the ’side’ down? Should I have made it more frustrating for them?

7 Comments on “Dictated to by spammers - what have I done?”
1| Cormac said,

You would have to wonder what grounds they have. It all boils down to intellectual property i would presume. I would imagine that since it’s your domain and your site that you would own the property.

It’s not nice getting hit by legal warnings though. I would have probably done the same as yourself Dave and folded.

2| Richard said,

Where is the site hosted? If it’s in the States then you’re probably better off just complying.

Not quite clear from your post Dave - third parties spammed the board with links to a company? And then the company sent you ‘cease and desist’?

If they were spam links to their site in the first place then you can be pretty sure that they probably instigated those links. Could of course be a competitor that was trying to hurt them.

Any more detail forthcoming about what exactly was published on the threads in question? Without that it’s hard to decide whether you had much to worry about.

The fact that they were looking for your lawyer’s number makes me think they were just blowing. They wouldn’t send anything to your lawyer, they would send it to you.

Of course, I’m no legal eagle so…

3| David Callan said,

Hi guys sorry for the late reply, my broadband is still down at home so only seeing these messages now. I actually had a couple of spare hours on saturday and thus I started reading the da vinci code.

Thank for the thoughts on this though folks, the site is hosted in the States for the moment anyhow, considering switching to blacknight in the near future though.

I don’t want to land myself in more ‘hot water’ and thus I won’t mention names or anything like that but Richard you have pretty much got the grasp of it. There was no links back to this company however just references to their company name, so basically third parties spammed my board lets say they where called companyA, in their efforts to promote themselves they claimed to have done work for companyB. It was then companyB who sent in the legal threats to me. On the phone the way companyB referred to companyA made me think they were affiliated, so although it was not companyA spamming directly, I believe the spamming was endorsed by them.

I also thought it strange that they would ask for a number as opposed to just sending me whatever legal document is sent in these circumstances.

4| Richard said,

I wonder whether they had instigated some SEO previously (read ’spamming’), subsequently found that their inbound link profile was pretty shitty (perhaps even found it was hurting their rankings), and now want t remove some of those links?

Of course, this being the case, you would think that a nice email would do the trick.

If the posts made no defamatory or disparaging remarks about said company, I would be inclined to request that they outline the reasons for the takedown request.

You could even call send them back something along the lines of ‘counter-suit’.

These things are very annoying…

5| Mucker said,

Dunno about the States, but the law regarding material posted on web forums is untested here in Ireland at the moment. That could well be about to change though with MCD taking legal action against boards.ie for comments some of their users made about oxygen. It could make for a very interesting precedent!

6| David Callan said,

Hi Richard there was nothing defamatory or disparaging about the comments at all, they were just said to be ‘inaccurate’, I think I’m just going to put the thing to bed and forget about it.

Mucker does bring up a good point about the boards.ie issue, boardsGate if ya will (sorry for that….). I remember reading about this on boards.ie back closer to the time it all came about, slipped my mind recently though. What’ the latest on that? timeframe?

Interesting precedent indeed, could really shake things up. Hosting365 hosts boards I believe, if a legal case is going ahead then hosting365 must be backing boards, if this is the case this is quite unusual as usually hosts will back down at the slightest hint of trouble.

7| Richard said,

New law in the States about this and it firmly comes down on the side of the publisher:


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