Last week, I asked the question whether it was ethical to edit spam commentsto get rid of the URL that is being used to generate some SEO juice for the spammers, but leave the semi-spammy comment in place.
I expected some vigorous debate and discussion with people on both sides of the argument. But with a couple of exceptions, everyone said, “No, this is not okay!”
(Before I go on, let me say, we got some wonderful feedback and comments, so I want to thank everyone who took the time to read the post and respond.)
I was actually surprised by the near unanimous stance everyone took. I figured it would be more of an even split on the issue, with a large number of people saying they thought it was okay to beat the spammers by using their own energies against them, sort of a blogging jiu jitsu. But, nearly everyone was of the opinion that we, as real bloggers, should be above this, and should not resort to the same practices as the spammers.
Fellow blogger Brian Shelton summed it up best.
Erik, I think deleting them is the best option. Editing them just so you can keep a “semi-generic praise-ish” comment doesn’t seem right. Is it that important to receive praise, especially if it is not “legitimate” anyway. I think the ethical debate rests more in the decision to keep known spam comments – minus the links – just to make it look like people like your blog.
That was the majority opinion, and made the most sense. And it seemed to cover most types of blog comments, although Daniel Clark of GeekDadsWeekly.com made an interesting point:
It’s interesting that not a single person here, most notably the ones who say they will strip any and all links left in their blog’s comments, has opted out of including *their* link in *these* comments.
The Other Side of the Debate: Editing for Spelling & Punctuation
However, one person, an ethics blogger, said on his blog that he did not think it was inappropriate to edit typos and grammar errors in another person’s comment. But I disagree. That’s a line I won’t cross. It’s not up to me to fix someone’s spelling, punctuation, or grammar errors. They’re their errors, not mine, and they should not be fixed because I have to have everything perfect.
A post and its comments are a historical record, to show what people were thinking and saying at that time. If they make a mistake, it’s not my place to adjust the historical record because I have a weird fixation on spelling and grammar.
(And no, I don’t think spammers deserve to be a part of the historical record.)
That’s why most bloggers will fix an error in information by
striking out the error and writing the correct information next to it. They will also put an Update: note at the bottom of the post, so people can see that the information has been updated and corrected. (Note: this doesn’t extend to typos and misspellings. I think we can fix those without telling everyone “I fixed a typo.”)
Photo credit: Freezelight (Flickr)