Livefyre Torched As Spam – Are You Next?

Engagement becomes limited when comment shortlinks are falsely categorized as spam.

by Ike Pigott |

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 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 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 links. Spammers killed Tinyurl, and have all the access they need to the API of to create spam. But you can’t make a 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.


 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 the Author

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.