Livefyre Torched As Spam – Are You Next?

by · January 18, 201321 comments

Words like “Engagement” and “Conversation” have been drilled down to the point of self-parody. Anyone putting together a Social Media Bingo Card would be foolish to ignore them — and in some businesses, those words represent real business. So much so that there is an entire industry built around comment management and making the activity around online interactions as “sticky” as possible.

There are several commenting platforms you can chose from: Disqus, Livefyre , IntenseDebate and Echo, just to name a few. They sit on top of your blog or website, and not only provide tools for community managers but also make sharing easy. I know many people who use Livefyre, and they swear by the engagement that comes in. When a person comments, they have a quick option to share that through or social network, with a shortlink leading directly to that comment.

But the system isn’t going to fare well if that shortlink is categorized as Spam.

IT Holds The Cards

Recently, I tried clicking on a link from the frye.it domain, and our corporate firewall blocked it. More specifically, the third-party vendor providing us that real-time blacklist of spam links blocked it. As I often do, I filed a report with them, indicating that this was a legitimate link domain.

The response:

Hello again -

We have reviewed http://fyre.it and determined that it does not need to be changed at this time based on BrightCloud’s classification criteria.

It is currently classified as SPAM URLs in the BrightCloud Service and available in Database version 4.25.

You can read our Database Change FAQs for more information on the most common reasons why your suggestion may not have been implemented.

Thanks again for your suggestion!
– BrightCloud Team

This is a bad classification, on a number of levels.

First, as far as I know, there is no “public portal” where one can make custom fyre.it links. Spammers killed Tinyurl, and have all the access they need to the API of bit.ly to create spam. But you can’t make a fyre.it link without actually leaving a comment somewhere.

That’s the other piece that doesn’t make sense. All of the links end up pointing directly to comments on someone’s carefully-maintained site. They don’t go elsewhere. Sure, a spammer can leave a spam comment with a spam link in the comment, but the Livefyre shortlink only goes to the comment.

As you can see, my explanation fell on deaf ears. But there are many other companies facing similar issues with link shorteners. Some domains really are hit and miss, depending on the whims of the day.

No Incentive To Fix

This problem isn’t new, per se, but just a rehash of older conversations about blacklisting servers that send spam. We used to have my father’s business on a shared hosting plan, but had to scramble for alternatives because a lot of his email wasn’t getting through. The aggressive Spam Filters flagged the entire server for the actions of a few, and they really don’t have an incentive to fix anything.

If you’re a company selling your blacklist spam protection, it is a selling point to a corporate IT liaison that “We block 300,000 domains, while the other guys block just 100,000.” Of course that sounds better, and more secure. But does anyone ever ask if some of those domains are directly tied to the industry you’re in? That this is impeding a free flow of information with business purposes?

I am pleased that companies like Brightcloud and Websense are attempting to crowdsource their designations. They are wise to allow users to help shape and classify the database of what is truly helpful versus what it run over with spam. But at the end of the day, they still hold all the cards, and that’s just a fact of online life for the providers of third-party solutions.

For all I know, there are serious black-hat games being waged, with competing comment platforms trying to get the others flagged for competitive advantage. It’s not an expensive thing to do. I just wish the blacklist industry had a better grasp of what is happening on the modern web and was a bit more transparent about how they draw the line. At the very least, consider this yet another warning that when you build sandcastles on someone else’s beach, you have more than the tides to worry about.

UPDATE 

 LiveFyre has now successfully appealed to Brightcloud, and the shortlinks are now whitelisted.

We’ll be happy to entertain your comment on Disqus below… if your firewall allows it.

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About Ike Pigott

Ike Pigott

In his previous life, Ike Pigott was an Emmy-winning TV reporter, who turned his insider's knowledge of the news cycle into a crisis communications consultancy. At the American Red Cross, serving as Communication and Government Relations Director for five southeastern states, Ike pioneered the use of social media in disaster. Now -- by day -- he is a communications strategist for Alabama Power and a Social Media Apologist; by night, he lurks at Occam's RazR, where he writes about the overlaps and absurdities in communications, technology, journalism and society. Find out how you can connect with Ike or follow him on Twitter at @ikepigott. He also recently won the coveted "Social Media Explorer contributing writer with the longest Bio" award.

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

    Ike – I certainly can’t speak to the technical aspects of spam and firewalls. But, I can tell you that in my old government job, I experienced the exact same issue. I was never able to visit websites that used Livefyre commenting. And, if the firewall did let me visit, I couldn’t view or add comments. It was a total bummer.

    And, as much as I think Livefyre is a great commenting platform, it’s one of the reasons I don’t use it on my site – because I know it has the potential to get blocked.

    I agree wholeheartedly that sometimes firewalls are a bit overzealous. But, I think IT folks prefer it that way because they don’t want to vet sites or deal with the other issues that come along with allowing social networks or other similar sites. I had to fight tooth and nail to get access to Facebook and YouTube because it was critical to my job function. It’s sad that instead of dealing with how to manage folks and provide parameters for using these sites that they just go the route of blocking entirely so they don’t have to deal with it. Though, that’s another topic altogether.

    • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

      Thanks Laura…

      We only have the issue with the short links, the rest of the service renders well and updates in real time. But as an individual who uses a custom shortener (and who runs one for my company), I find it disconcerting that the technical knowledge at these providers is so lacking.

      • http://canadianangelxo.blogspot.com/ Tasha W

        So if I use LiveFyre on my blog. I’m going to have issues with URLs being blocked if the commenter uses a custom URL shortner? Sad I was thinking of switching to Livefyre from Intense Debate :(

        • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

          Not anymore.

          The comment sections were always fine — it was the shortlinks that were Tweeted out and posted to Facebook that were not resolving, and bringing in the traffic to the posts.

          As of Friday evening, that has been resolved.

          Fyre away!

          • http://canadianangelxo.blogspot.com/ Tasha W

            Ah OK thanks! One more question… when I respond to a comment after installing Livefyre, does that person get notified that I responded through email or social media, however they commented from?… or do they need to have a Livefyre account to be able to get notifications that I commented back to them?

  • http://FireYourBossProject.com/ Sandor Benko

    Blocking livefyre links sound like an odd decision. They do go to comments, after all, even if some of them are spam comments.

    • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

      Exactly… Livefyre isn’t blocked — just the domain they use exclusively for shortlinks.

  • http://www.swordandthescript.com/ Frank Strong

    Good post, Ike.  I had no idea.  I’m a big fan of Livefyre, use it and often recommend it to others. It is definitely a tool to facilitate engagement. I have notice lately that several sites I visit regularly are getting the big red flag in Chrome — that is the “do you want to proceed.”  At least one of them was using Disqus, but I think others were using Livefyre so will have to pay closer attention. 

    • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

      Thank you, Frank.

      I hope this kicks off a larger discussion about making sure the people running the pipes aren’t flushing out gold with the effluvia.

  • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

    More link shortening blocking!

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/1544780/qubblock.png

  • Benjamin Goering

    We at Livefyre would love to be unblocked! :)

    • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

      We’d like that too.

      Have you heard about this before? Have you approached Brightcloud in the past?

      • http://livefyre.com/ Jenna Langer

        Hi Ike, we haven’t heard of this before and reached out to BrightCloud as soon as we saw this article. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

        • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

          Excellent — let me know if you have better luck with them.

          • http://livefyre.com/ Jenna Langer

            We’ve spoken with them and the links should now be working! Check out the link to see our trustworthy rating: http://d.pr/i/lciI

  • http://www.brunobabic.com/ Bruno Babic

    Hi Ike, I am glad that I have found your blog because I have been getting lots of spammers’ comments on my blog posts and would therefore like to ask you what I could do in order to prevent that from happening.
    By the way, my site is actually a Word Press blog and wanted to ask you whether I have to install a specific comment managemant software or plug-in in order to block these spammers.
    Anyway, to make a little bit of fun of this, I might sell some advertising space to some of these spammers because funnily enough I have lately realized that most of their businesses relate to the luxury playboy lifestyle that I am trying to promote on my blog :)

    In advance thank you very much for your kind help and assistance.

    Bruno Babic 

    • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

      Hi Bruno…

      There are many different ways to attack the issue of comment spam. I would recommend a two-step solution involving free WordPress plugins.

      First, activate Akismet (it should have come with your WordPress basic install.) You’ll need to configure it, and that’s a fairly easy process. What Akismet does is wash your incoming comments through a directory that millions of other people use. Odds are, the person spamming your site has spammed others with the exact same (or similar) message. Akismet essentially crowd-sources spam declarations, and those comments go straight into a spam folder.

      The second plugin is called Bad Behavior. Most of the spam traffic you get is from automated scripts (called ‘bots), that try to go straight into your database without ever landing on your page. Bad Behavior recognizes a lot of the tricks spammers use when they automate, and simply rejects those HTTP requests before they even hit your server.

      As for third-party comment systems, I have heard wonderful things about Livefyre, and of course Social Media Explorer uses Disqus. You might also look at Echo and IntenseDebate.

      Anyone else have recommendations for Bruno?

  • http://twitter.com/hyreme Travis Summerlin

    Techcrunch is now using livefyre so…

  • nannasin smith

    those comments go straight into a spam folder.

    LM2596

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