At first I thought it was an isolated incident or two, but I’m starting to think Dish Network may be actively having people spam blogs to promote their services. The latest offense is from my post on Amazon’s special pricing on Thor and Iron Man:
I like your review on Thor. I can’t wait to see this movie again because I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars. Personally I think that Thor is one of the best movies to have come out lately. If you haven’t seen it you definitely should. One way you can see it is by using Blockbuster Online. As a DISH Network customer and employee I can tell you that right now if you switch to DISH Network you can get Blockbuster Online FREE for 3 months! There are over 100,000 titles to choose from and TV shows and games you can get through the mail. Plus you can get 5 in-store exchanges per month with no due dates or late fees. More info online at [SPAM URL DELETED]
I deleted the comment, so don’t bother checking the post for it. It is clearly spam – there was no review in the post he made the comment on. This is boilerplate text slapped up based on some keywords. I’m not including the full URL because I’m not going to give a spammer the satisfaction, but it was to a signup page for DISH Network giving you three months of Blockbuster, and it included the query string “WT.mc_id=ECM_MKTG_DISH_BLOG_0611_A9Post&WT.mc_ev=click” which looks like a marketing program tracking code to me. (Companies use this to measure how well a specific form of marketing is working. In this case how many people sign up via a link with this code, and so how effective the spamming is.)
The comment was made by Robert Paulsen (bob.in.use@*****.com) from 18.104.22.168 on 09/15/11 01:27 PM. I’m tempted to post the email openly, but I won’t sink to that level. If you look at his Disqus comment history it is packed with comments on various blogs pimping DISH Network and related services. If you plug that IP address into WHOIS you get: Dish Network Corporation DISHNETWORK-NET (NET-204-76-128-0-1) 22.214.171.124 – 126.96.36.199. And it traceroutes back to their ISP’s gateway into EchoStar: ECHOSTAR-SA.edge1.Denver1.Level3.net. So this comment was made from an IP controlled by Dish Network.
This isn’t the first user to leave a spam comment like this extolling DISH Network or one of their affiliates. At first I just deleted them, banned the user from commenting, and moved on. But it started to form a pattern in my mind, and one of the users, Alison Ranon, even used her dishnetwork.com email address for Disqus, and she’s commented elsewhere as well. Unfortunately, since I’ve deleted those past comments, I can’t go back now and check the IPs on those as well. But I did look at the comment histories for a few of them before they were deleted and they were similar to this one – comment after comment extolling the virtues of Dish on blogs across the net. And generally claiming to be a Dish Network employee.
I admit there is an outside chance that this is some elaborate setup to tar Dish, but I strongly doubt it. I think there are two likely scenarios:
1. Dish Network is officially encouraging employees to spam blogs, and probably other social media outlets, to promote their goods and services. At best perhaps they’re encouraging them to do the promotion and some of the employees are taking it too far. This would be the more evil of the two.
2. There is some indirect incentive to employees to do this. Perhaps the tracking codes are unique, like an affiliate program, and they get compensated for signing people up via their links. That would reward spamming activity as there is little penalty unless Dish enforced some kind of rule against using the links in such a manner. This is more good intentions gone wrong due to human nature.
I’d like to think it is the second one and Dish isn’t doing something as evil as deliberately sending people out to spam the net. But still, it isn’t good for Dish to have employees spamming in their name.
Let me be perfectly clear, I don’t have an issue with employees leaving appropriate comments in which they promote their companies products. Like when I used to work for Sling Media, sometimes I’d see someone post about wishing they could watch a show while on the road, etc., and I’d comment that they might want to look into the Slingbox. If I posted something about satellite TV and a Dish employee wanted to offer their opinion, or present some facts, etc., that’s cool, I welcome it. If I post about video rental services and there is a legitimate hook to respond with a Blockbuster-related comment, go for it. (By legitimate I mean you can’t just comment about Blockbuster because someone mentions Netflix, etc. But if the post, for example, questions what alternative services offer then a reply of “Well, Blockbuster does X” is legitimate. Just use common sense.)
But I think it can be taken too far, and when it is clearly a boilerplate comment that has only the most tenuous relationship to the post, that’s spam, no question. Robert seems to have spent some time commenting on random zombie-related posts across the net, trying to tie it into AMC’s The Walking Dead and how Dish carries AMC HD but DirecTV doesn’t. The comments stink more than the rotting flesh of the zombies. His comments go back to March, and remember that these are just the comments on blogs using Disqus for commenting. Who knows how many other blogs he commented on.
For you other bloggers, are you getting comments like this as well? You might keep a closer eye on the IPs they’re coming from. I’d love to hear what you’re seeing.
Anyone from Dish want to comment on this? Either in a public comment or directly to me, feel free.
As for myself, I’m going to keep a closer eye on my spam comments and their sources and will use public shaming when appropriate.