As a website owner, I see a lot of spam. Along with the usual “lottery winnings” and “work from home” opportunities in my e-mail, I receive more in the form of blog comments or messages from the contact form. A lot of it is jibberish, broken English, and nonsensical or selling what is clearly a scam product (SEO, viagra, etc). Fortunately some plugins and filters catch a lot of the spam and prevent 404TS visitors from seeing it.
On our sister site, TechNoose, I employ Disqus for the comment system instead of WordPress’ built-in commenting system because the spam had reached new levels and the plugins weren’t able to keep up. Now some human spam still gets through but Disqus has provided me with more details about the spam that I found to be quite a fascinating yarn. I started looking into the spam comments TechNoose was receiving from DISH Network employees. 404 Tech Support had received these spam comments before but I never had much to go by. They start on-topic but eventually turn their comment around to be talking about their “employer, DISH Network” and some detail, plan, or new device from DISH.
The fact that the messages are direct and say that they come from employees of DISH Network doesn’t dismiss the fact that the comments are unsolicited marketing attempts hoping to piggyback off a blog and reach the audience of that site. If they were to advertise with the site in a disclosed manner, it would be one thing but to come across as a thinly veiled promotion from an over-joyed employee is deceptive and bad practice. Many consider spam on par with telemarketing which, according to the Better Business Bureau, DISH has a history of violating Do-Not-Call rules.
The latest round of spam comments got under my skin because the same account chose to spam the same article again after their first comment was moderated to the spam folder. A second account was also pushing the same type of messages on my site from the same IP addresses, 18.104.22.168.
I did a quick traceroute of the IP address using Network-Tools.com and was a little surprised to see that it went all the way back to DISH Network headquarters. Usually spam tends to come from bots or others trying to push an affiliate angle. How do you feel, DISH customers, that part of your bill is paying the salary of somebody to comment spam websites? Ah, marketing…
The rest of the report shows the WHOIS information about the IP address.
NetRange: 22.214.171.124 - 126.96.36.199 CIDR: 188.8.131.52/22, 184.108.40.206/23 OriginAS: NetName: DISHNETWORK-NET NetHandle: NET-204-76-128-0-1 Parent: NET-204-0-0-0-0 NetType: Direct Assignment RegDate: 1994-12-12 Updated: 2011-03-23 Ref: http://whois.arin.net/rest/net/NET-204-76-128-0-1 OrgName: Dish Network Corporation OrgId: ECC-9 Address: 9601 S. Meridian Blvd City: Englewood StateProv: CO PostalCode: 80112 Country: US RegDate: 1994-12-12 Updated: 2011-10-26 Ref: http://whois.arin.net/rest/org/ECC-9 OrgTechHandle: EJZ-ARIN OrgTechName: Zimmerman, Eric John OrgTechPhone: +1-303-941-9815 OrgTechEmail: email@example.com OrgTechRef: http://whois.arin.net/rest/poc/EJZ-ARIN
It’s registered to 9601 S. Meridian Blvd in Englewood, Colorado or Dish Network HQ.
From the WHOIS, does Eric Zimmerman = ErikSuperman?
Looking at other information Disqus provides about the account, 19% of the comments by this account are marked as spam.
For the Gmanthebrave account, 47% of their almost 300 comments across 178 sites are marked as spam by site owners.
So I am kindly asking you, employees of DISH Network, save me the hassle of having to mark your comments as spam and stop spamming my sites to push your products.
One catalyst for this article, beyond the spam, was the article over at Boing Boing titled Computer-generated PR spam trying not to look like computer-generated PR spam. It also gets into the topic of an editor receiving what seems to be computer-generated spam that take the on-topic, off-topic approach or “I loved your coverage of X, perhaps you’d like to hear about y!” The story gets interesting in the comments of that article.