Can charging for comments stop spam?

Over on Tom Coates’ blog, ZF has a novel, if not somewhat outlandish, proposal for attacking the comment spam problem:

The real barrier to spam will have to be some sort of micropayment you have to make to post a comment. A good idea would be to have a checkbox associated with your identity – something like (a) give the money to the site owner, (b) donate it to offset carbon emissions, (c) give it to the Gates Foundation, or some such.

While this is an interesting idea, it could obviously be abused very quickly — and create an encumbrance that most folks might not be willing to put up with.

I wonder if we could take the same basic premise here — which is transaction based — and turn it on its side a bit…

What if, instead of forcing someone to pay someone else, we force them to pay themselves in order to comment?

I know, I know, wacky — but hear me out.

If I was charged, let’s say, five cents for every comment I wanted to make, I might reconsider making a spurious comment. If I was a spammer, well, I definitely wouldn’t be bothered… for two reasons, which I’ll get to in a moment.

But going back to that five cents — it could certainly add up over time, judging by my Co.mments feed. But, what if that payment simply went back to myself? What if I used Paypal or Google Checkout for the payment and simply roundtripped the money to myself? Taking it one step even further, what if there were no processing cost associated with this transaction? It would literally be like taking five cents from one pocket and putting the same nickel in the opposite pocket.

Why bother? Well, here’s why.

I would conjecture that not a lot of spammers would be willing to pay to comment to begin with — even at five cents, given the large volume of comments that they push, it would just be fiscally impossible. Second, PayPal has some of the most ridiculous and rigorous anti-spam and anti-fraud measures in place to guard against evil-doers and ne’er-do-wells. It’s not flawless, but heck, it’s backed up by the Fed whereas Akismet is not. And if a spammer wanted to go through the trouble of paying him or herself, well, they’d have to have a legitimate account with a name and address attached to make such a transaction go through. Somehow I highly doubt that that would be an attractive option for folks who prefer to lurk in the shadows and remain untraceable.

Oh, and bonus, it would be pretty hard to spoof given you’re paying yourself and not someone else. Even captcha wouldn’t be able to match the kind of deterrence this kind of system would afford!

Maybe? Am I totally off?

Author: Chris Messina

Head of West Coast Business Development at Republic. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Hashtag inventor. Previously: (YC W18), Uber, Google.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: