How to Stop Web Spam with the Law in Minnesota

internet spam criminal

It took an act of Congress to make e-mail spam illegal. Today, web spam is a problem.

What is web spam? Web spam is a comment on your blog or forum that provides little or no value to the dialogue and is put there solely for the purpose of establishing a backlink for SEO purposes.

If you own a blog or a forum, you have probably encountered the annoyance of spam comments on your site. You may have wondered what to do about them. Until we have an act of Congress, is there any legal way to stop spammers?

Here is an interesting idea that I heard recently. You establish Terms of Service on your blog or forum, which everyone must accept before posting on your site. In the Terms of Service, you require the visitor to contractually agree that the visitor will not post spam, if they do post spam the visitor can be sued for liquidated damages including attorneys fees and collection costs, and the visitor is subjecting herself to the jurisdiction and venue of the website owner’s state.

Then, when a spammer agrees to your website’s terms of service, and then posts spam, you can proceed with a lawsuit against the spammer.

The difficulty with this approach is you must incur the expense of a lawsuit and track down the spammer. If the spammer is an SEO person, you may be able to sue the company they are working for because the SEO person is an agent of that company.

If this idea worked, companies would be very careful not to hire an SEO person who engages in web spam, because they could incur serious financial liability. What do you think of this idea?

Leave a Public Comment

  • John Nagle, Silicon Valley, CA
    March 20, 2012, 3:54 pm

    There’s a whole ecosystem involved in social spamming. Read our paper “Social is bad for search, and search is bad for social”.
    ( Thisis a tour of the underside of social spam. There are several levels of organizations involved – ad agencies at the top, then SEO firms, then sellers of “likes”, “+1”, and fake reviews, then the creators of fake Facebook, Google, and mail accounts, then the people selling disposable IP addresses and phone numbers. Some of the entities there are vulnerable to legal process. If you can find them.

    Impermium (“”) also has a technical solution.

  • Aaron Hall, Minnesota Lawyer
    March 8, 2011, 1:12 pm


    You raise some good points. Maybe this problem can only be addressed through federal legislation, similar to how the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 addressed email spam.


  • Tom
    March 8, 2011, 3:13 am

    It is not likely to work.

    First, you would have to prove who the person was who actually posted the spam comment. Just because they link to site XXX does not mean that the owner of site XXX put up the link, and with the use of proxies, etc. today, proving that someone actually put up a comment would be next to impossible.

    Second, the purpose of liquidated damages is to approximate what the actual damage is when calculation would be time consuming, and not as a way to punish the breacher. In this case, the liquidated damages would have to actually represent the harm, which if you are simply talking about a comment here or there, is going to be extremely minimal. Certainly it wouldn’t result in “serious financial liability.”

    Third, I’m afraid that crafting the “no spam, but non-spam is OK’ type of language might actually be harder than think, and without a proper delineation the entire provision would likely not be enforceable.