Clever activism or comment spam?

Look what I found in the spam filter. Oceana, an ocean conservation nonprofit, has been posting that exact same comment, word-for-word, all around the blogosphere. Check out this google search. On the heels of the poorly received “edgy” Stinky Fish campaign from World Wildlife Fund (Blogfish has the story: 1, 2), is Oceana engaging in cutting-edge Web 2.0 marketing or are they dirty, dirty spammers?

I’m leaning towards dirty spammers, myself. The amount of self-promotion in that comment leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Also, virtuous though the cause may be, I think Oceana is setting a dreadful precedent. If the amount of paper mail I get from environmental non-profits is any indication, they are world-class address-sellers & spammers – I can only imagine the sheer quantity of comment spam that would spew out if they decide that this is the way to reach people. In my opinion, comment spam is NOT the best way to reach blog readers, but it is the best way to alienate sympathetic bloggers, many of whom are conservation’s most vocal allies.


9 Responses to Clever activism or comment spam?

  1. Mark Powell says:

    damn, and I just thought that my blog was so important that oceana had to come visit and comment. this is yucky, how did you figure it out?

  2. Justin says:

    Weird. I know(knew?) people at Oceana, and they’re smarter than this.

  3. I thought to google the comment because it just sounded stiff and wrong. I don’t think a normal comment would be quite that shameless about plugging Oceana. But, there’s no way to tell if this is an organized Oceana strategy or just one overly enthusiastic person.

  4. wetlandstom says:

    I would guess these posts came from some over-enthusiastic volunteer or staff member. I can’t imagine that this type of activity has the backing of the upper staff or management.

    Spam it is…


  5. Jackie Savitz says:

    Ok, yes, we did post to various pages – and maybe it does sound like self-promotion, sorry if it offended you or your readers and we will back off. The intention was not actually to include the blogs of our friends, rather to raise awareness about mercury in fish so that we could ultimately stop mercury releases at the source.

    But while I’m here, and among friends, let me point out that in our campaign to prevent mercury releases and minimize human exposure, we are dealing with some tough opponents that are posting their brand of false and misleading information everywhere. We are doing our best to set the record straight. That includes posting our message in multiple places much like other conservation groups have done.

    So, ok, maybe we should revise the language, and certainly we should be transparent that it’s coming from us — but the purpose is letting people know about the mercury problem, and getting stores to post signs. I hope we can at least agree that this is a valuable role and one that benefits consumers – and hopefully also contributes to the momentum for getting mercury out of the environment.

  6. Hi Jackie – I really appreciate you taking the time to reply. Another problem with campaigning in blog comments that comes to mind is that comments are supposed to be a conversation amongst the blog readers. Posting the same thing all over doesn’t contribute to a conversation – it’s just an advertisement. I would love to learn more about what Oceana is doing, but the place for that is in a blog of your own.

  7. Sure, happy to have the conversation, and, since you asked…. we do have a blog at

    Happy surfing 🙂

  8. Nikki says:

    Disclaimer: I’m Oceana’s online editor.

    A couple things: When i think spam, I think of some computer program firing off junk e-mail at will. I don’t see how Oceana posting the same duplicate comment qualifies as spam. A real person took time to read the post and further paste information. How is that different than going door-to-door to share your message with people?

    Secondly, if Oceana has the sense to put an intern to work reading the press and commenting on blogs or news articles that reference their campaign, I say kudos — wait to be ahead of the curve. The Internet is vast (like our oceans 😉 and it’s not like bloggers are exactly united in “raising awareness” about the threat of mercury in seafood. There’s a lot of isolation in cyberspace, yet Oceana has the potential to unify people to make a difference on this issue. If NGOs want to continue making strides toward positive change like Oceana does, they’re gonna have to find innovative ways to spread their message. Therefore, to answer your question, it IS clever activism, and it’s likely many more NGOs will follow suit if they haven’t done so already.

    Thanks for your time.

  9. If I knew how to tell people that bluefin tuna and swordfish are being fished to extinction and they should not buy them or eat them — mercury or no — what a wonderful world it would be. I’m with Oceana. Bluefins are now being fished to extinction. For sushi. Bought by people who would never do it if they knew the truth. Same with swordfish.


    Doug Watts
    Augusta, Maine

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