Policing the Web is Everyone’s Job

Some people in the marketing community complain that Google has no right to police the web, that the Internet is an open place where anything goes. People complain that Google is ruining their lives when an algorithm change goes live that wipes out their network of spam blogs. But that’s not the topic of this post.

I want to highlight something I saw today that angered me, and make a bid for all of us to be good Internet citizens and police the places that we see that deserve to be kept clean. Just like it is – I think – our responsibility to pick up trash around our neighborhoods and not put gum underneath chairs for others to put their fingers in, it is also our responsibility to clear out spam when we see it so that the Internet stays, for the most part, an inviting place to be.

Let me show you an example.

Albino Killer Whales

Today I was on my iPad, flipping through Flipboard like I do each morning while drinking coffee. While browsing through FlipPhotos, which shows amazing shots from around the world, I came across a photo from National Geographic about a potential albino killer whale. I’m not oceanographer, but this seemed pretty cool and it was an amazing photo, so I clicked through to read the article, which you can see a screenshot of here:

I read the article, which was pretty interesting even though the title was a bit of clickbait. I read to the very bottom and then scrolled down a bit to see what was happening below the article. Much to my chagrine, I saw this:


Right. Awesome. Thanks bgvfdusa8. Free shipping and Nike Shox have so much to do with albino killer whales, as do those links to your site.

I’m not trying to out anyone here – and I won’t link to the plethora of anti-outing people who have publicly outed people – but this kind of thing simply has no place on the Internet, in my opinion.

I’m not going to go so far as to say that we should all disable comments, though (link 1) good arguments (link 2) have been made (link 3) to that effect. Instead, I want to call for a higher degree of activism online when it comes to spam. Algorithms and programs are not perfect, and therefore spam will still exist until Internet citizens – that includes you – rise up and police the web ourselves, deleting or flagging comments when they are obviously spam.

Part of being a good Internet citizen is also allowing free speech, of course. So I plead with you to not mark worthwhile comments that happen to be counter your beliefs as spam, but rather to engage with the discussions and points made. With great power comes great responsibility, but I tend to think that humans are relatively good and decent.

So mark blog spam as what it is – spam. Mark Twitter DM or Mention spam as what it is – spam. Let’s not get into a “what is spam” conversation (UrbanDictionary has the best definition I’ve ever seen), as that is ultimately futile. I think we all know what spam is when we see it.

Let’s make the Internet a better place for all.

16 thoughts on “Policing the Web is Everyone’s Job

  1. Pingback: Policing the Web is Everyone’s Job | Inbound.org

  2. Good post.

    Thank you for taking the time to make this

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    Nice Sunday read. I’m pretty tired of seeing spam on strong brand sites like that too. Android Market is almost equally as bad (you get spam reviewers promoting their website/offers and you also get spam-apps that are there purely to get links back to their “developer sites”)

    I feel like some of these big brands (National Geographic is a great example) care about their content a lot, but neglect the end user. Many authority bloggers still don’t “get it” – the blog post is only the first half the process.. The comments are the second half.

    Instead of letting a bloodbath occur on the comments, authors and site admins need to take a more active role to moderate, clean up, and engage with the users who are actively contributing to the post (rather than spamming their post)

  3. Have to agree John, we all need to play a part in this. I think what is interesting though is that people have no reservations marking spam in some areas, Twitter being a good example. On the flip side marking spam in the SERP’s (which is ether spam itself or the product of spam similar to your example) is a huge no-no for some, you mention yourself that you’re not trying to “out” anybody, I guess because this is a bit of a delicate subject. I’m not sure if you’d agree that there seems to be different rules depending what platform you’re in?

    …and finally…
    Woop-woop! That’s the sound of da police! (sorry, couldn’t resist)

      1. I don’t troll. I’m sometimes sarcastic, but not now.

        But I strongly hate the citizen patrol attitude in the US. That’s what police state stands for. Everybody is policing. No privacy, no freedom. Everybody’s eyeballing your every move. Got a backpack… you’re in trouble.Carrying cash around, you’re suspicious.

        If we were to be honest, someone’s gotta bet really dumb/careless to accept Nike comment on Whale posts. Or note remove them later.

        Do your own stuff and let Google/Search Engines work for their profits 😉 They won’t share with you. They just move you to the bottom of the page along with all the organic SERs.


        PS: I love how the web changed in the last decade. The social ‘socialness’ made people slave for corporation’s profits, for free. It’s so crazy…

        1. Appreciate your followup. I actually completely disagree with you, which is probably not a surprise. I think that the exact reason why we need the citizen police mentality is so that the big corporations don’t take over. The whole point of democracy is that everyone gets a voice. It’s when you are doing something that is anti-positive for the masses that the voices matter most. And that especially goes for big corporations, as they have more power to screw us than the rest.

          I also briefly alluded to the fact that we need to have a voice and say something, because if we don’t we are all silenced. I’d rather have people looking at me suspiciously – and remember, I live in NYC – than no one look and we have another catastrophe like Sept 11. I’ll take the cautiousness any day, personally.

  4. When I see bad things in my home, neighborhood, personal or professional life, I want and try to make them better. When I see bad things on the web, I want to do the same.

    I have a hard time understanding the mentality against this principle. It all feels like a lot of excuses for leaving things shittier than you found them just to potentially enrich or convenience yourself. It sucks that the vast majority has to share existence with the few who have this selfish worldview.

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