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I've been receiving a large number of emails recently requesting I clean from link spam from my forum. Initially the emails were very polite and professional, and I was happy to remove the links. Recently the email have gotten very abrasive, here is a particularly rude example:

From: dmcaviolations@company-one.com To: id@privacypost.com

Hi, This is the second time we are reaching out to you regarding your link to our site hxxp://www.company-two.com from hxxp://www.my-forum.com/some-topic-id. We really do need to remove this link. We have to report to Google any link we were unable to remove, and I wouldn't want to have to include your site in the list. Could you please remove our link from this page and any other page on your site? Thank You, Name Changed

Behind the superficial pleasantries I feel there is some very real maliciousness.

  • Note the email address, DMCA Violations, I don't see how the DMCA is involved here, except as a word which tends to strike fear in many people.
  • Also relating to the email address, it doesn't match the company being linked to at all. How am I to trust they are truely operating on behalf of company-two when they don't even use one of it's email addresses.
  • My email is hidden by privacypost. While a service with legitimate uses, I feel it's highly unprofessional for communications between to companies.
  • The claim "This is the second time..." Every email I've received has started like this, but a check of my spam filters has never revealed a 1st mail. Initially I gave them the benefit of the doubt, by now though it's clear this is a cheap ploy to start me off on the defensive.
  • And finally worst of all- the threats of reporting me to Google if I don't do everything they ask.

I sent a polite reply asking for more information. I have no idea if the email address was even valid but I never received any response. Much later I got this followup mail

From: name-changed@company-one.com To: id@privacypost.com

Hi, This is the final time we are reaching out to you regarding your link to our site hxxp://www.company-two.com from hxxp://www.my-forum.com/some-topic-id. We will soon be reporting to Google any link we were unable to remove, and currently your site will have to be on the list. Could you please remove our link from this page and any other page on your site? I appreciate your urgent attention to this matter. Thank You, Name Changed

This time the from address was more personal, though still not obviously connected to the spammed company.

Lets be honest, I don't for one second believe that the companies were the victim of a 3rd party spammer as they claim. The links in questions were generated well over a year ago, and I firmly believe the companies were directly responsible for the spam links in question, a type of spam that has plagued my forum. Now they have the audacity to demand I spend my time cleaning up their mess, using threats to ensure they get their way.

Have recent changes in Googles algorithms meant all the cash they spent spamming the web has now turned into a liability? If so I can see why these companies are all of a sudden running scared. Frankly, cleaning up my forum is a good things, but the threats they are using sickens me.

So my question here is specifically about the threats:

  1. Are they vaild, and would such reports to Google destroy my page rankings?
  2. Is there a way I can report this abusive behaviour to Google?
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2 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I'm not a lawyer. This answer should not be considered a substitute for legal advice.

Google has updated their algorithms so that spam links hurt their site instead of helping it. Now their site has probably lost a lot of it's former ranking, so their trying to remove those links to get their ranking back up.

I don't think you should worry about getting a dmca take-down request. In order to do that, they have to, among other things, state under perjury that you copied their work. Here's the complete list (from Stack Exchange's terms of service).

  1. Identification of the work or material being infringed.
  2. Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing, including its location, with sufficient detail so that Stack Exchange is capable of finding and verifying its existence.
  3. Contact information about the notifying party (the Notifying Party), including name, address, telephone number and e-mail address.
  4. A statement that the Notifying Party has a good faith belief that the material is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent or law.
  5. A statement made under penalty of perjury that the information provided in the notice is accurate and that the Notifying Party is authorized to make the complaint on behalf of the copyright owner.
  6. The Notifying Party's physical or electronic signature. After the Designated Agent receives notification of an alleged infringement that meets all of the requirements above, Stack Exchange shall:
  7. Disable access to or remove material that it has a reasonable, good faith belief is copyrighted material that has been illegally copied and distributed by any subscriber to the Network.
  8. Stack Exchange will then immediately notify the subscriber responsible for the allegedly infringing material (the Offending Subscriber) that it has removed or disabled access to the material.
  9. Stack Exchange reserves the right, at its discretion, to immediately terminate the account of any subscriber who is the subject of repeated takedown notices.

Also read this article about the dmca from a layer who works for photographers and this article on dmca takedown notices if you want to know more.

In addition, links are generally not considered copyright infringement.

In regard to them removing your site from google search results, they will have to fill out this form. I took a look at it, and google requires a lot of legal information that the company who is spamming you will probably feel cautious about providing. For them to remove your site based off of copyright violations, for example, the company will have to submit a dmca request. And, if google complies with their request, you can file a complaint to get your site relisted.

So I wouldn't worry about them trashing your google rankings or dmca requests. However,

keep in mind that people sue other people all of the time, and that there is a possibility that they can sue you.

I can't tell you whether they will (while personally I wouldn't worry, I am not a lawyer, so I don't know for sure), and if you think that they might, then contact a laywer.

In regard to reporting them, you have several options:

  1. You can report the spam your site was getting at places like stopforumspam or spamcop.
  2. You should also report their site to google.
  3. Take a look at their site: they probably have lots of copyright violations or something similar. You can report those too.

Also, you should still remove the spam links anyway. Spam makes a bad impression on users, and it's not good for your site. In addition, you should strengthen your anti-spam defences.

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Thanks Christofian, I do intend to remove the spam links. More importantly thanks for putting my mind at ease. Though I will still be reporting them to Google. –  Eoin Aug 25 '12 at 15:02
    
@Eoin no problem. Thanks for asking such an interesting question. –  Christofian Aug 25 '12 at 15:09
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Question is already answered and the answer is very good.

Before Google Penguine we were getting emails "Dear webmaster, please consider including link and info about our site on your page about ABC subject, because blah blah blah..."

After April 2012, same people in our inbox (!): "Hello, please remove our link from your site ASAP! We are penalized by blah blah blah and I would appreciate you letting me know once it has been removed. Thank you in advance yadda yadda yadda..."

Internet is not Google. And purpose of SEO is not SEO. SEO should learn what he is optimizing and need to know who the visitors are, and what they need. They really do not need huge header above the fold and they sure do not want to scroll down to content, as can be seen on number of sites where SEO is practicing just link building magics.

Unasked question: Should we remove those links? Of course - yes. Why? Because, they are doing their job best they know. They are wrong, but they are learning. (Let's hope so.)

Are they vaild, and would such reports to Google destroy my page rankings?

If someone reports Google my page about ABC because there is a link to www ABC-solutions dot com, and that hurt my site ranking, let it be so.

chillingeffects.org - ...if someone is making a website publicly available, others may freely link to it. That open linking is what makes the web a "web."

Is there a way I can report this abusive behaviour to Google?

Why would you do that? It's not so bad, they are a bit abusive, but why bothering Google with that?

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