Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Monday, October 03, 2005

New poll: What to do with comment spam

What to do when the First Amendment collides with … the First Amendment

Just when I thought comment spam had gone away, it reared its ugly head, big-time. When I first looked at this blog this evening and saw the number of comments I got, I thought, gee, that bit about Christmas catalogs must have really hit a chord with my readers.

Nope. It attracted comment spam offering such things as payday loans and get-rich-quick schemes. Even without the spam, I despise such businesses, which prey upon the already disadvantaged. I have seen the devastation caused by payday loans among my students. I would never, ever, for a second, wish such a business to have an advertising link on my blog.

Sure, those businesses might argue, they have a First Amendment right to say what they want to say, so long as it’s truthful (of which I have my doubts).

Well, that’s true in the public sector. In the private sector, which includes this blog, I have the right of censorship. So when one of those businesses uses an automated system to put an unwanted message on my blog, I will delete it as soon as I see it.

But even though this is the private sector, I still want free speech. I really do believe in the First Amendment, and I believe that the best way for ideas to be tried, and for decisions to be made, is through the freedom to express ideas and listen to opposing ideas and form a synthesis. Thus, while I want to protect my blog from spam, I also don’t want to impose undue hardship upon those who wish to comment.

Right now, what I do is delete the spam as soon as I see it. But the volume of spam is becoming greater, and at times I feel overwhelmed. Blogger offers me several options to reduce the amount of spam.

First is a verification step. Under that option, anyone could still post a comment, but before the comment gets posted, the poster has to look at a bit of distorted text that a machine can’t decipher but a human eye can, and enter that text as a password. This would still allow free speech, but would entail an extra burden on commenters.

Two other options are restricting posting only to people who are registered with Blogger, or to people whom I have invited to comment. I don’t like either of those options, because I really want to get comments from more than just a predetermined set of selected individuals.

The final choice, and one I would probably shut my blog down before selecting, would be not permitting any commenting at all. If there are no comments, there’s no point in having a blog.

So now there’s a new poll; go and vote.


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