HR 4411: A Blow to Sploggers?

HR 4411, entitled "To prevent the use of certain payment instruments, credit cards, and fund transfers for unlawful Internet gambling, and for other purposes." is a controversial bill being brought before the United States House of Representative today. If passed, it would effectively ban most forms of online gambling by prohibiting the use of credit cards and other kind of fund transfers to collect gambling debts.

Though the bill has caused a gread deal of uproar online, it seems likely that the bill will pass. If that is the case, no matter what one thinks of the other consequences of the bill, there will definitely be a change for spammers and sploggers and, through that, a change in the climate for content theft and plagiarism online.

It's very likely that, in addition to putting the brakes on online gambling, the bill might stop many sploggers and scrapers dead in their tracks.

Splogging and Gambling: A Love Story

Spammers and Gambling sites have gone hand in hand for many years. Spammers were drawn to gambling sites due to the negative imaging but wild popularity of betting on line. This resulted in decent conversion rates that, when combined with the high payouts casino sites usually offer, made for a very easy, but very lucrative living.

On line casinos, constantly seeking an edge in the high-stakes and intensely competitive field of gaming on the Web were willing to turn a blind eye to the actions of spammers so long as they provided a steady stream of customers and didn't violate any of their local country's laws. Since most of the countries gambling sites incorporate in have no anti-spam laws and, often times, relaxed copyright laws, they were free to let spammers do whatever it took to drive in new business.

While most casino sites and their affiliates obey common marketing ethics, the few that don't have been responsible for a large percentage of the spam, both email and Web-based. A famous example of this involved 888.com, which was recently blacklisted from several casino gaming watchdog groups for its lack of initiative in battling splogging and scraping by its affiliates. Though 888.com, and its parent company Cassava Enterprises, recently denounced such practices, it is still too early to tell if the new policies are having any effect.

But even if Cassava does change its ways, there is still no shortage of other casinos willing to turn a blind eye to these practices and, most likely, if HR 4411 passes, many of them will be put out of business.

Shuttering Doors

To casinos, HR 4411 means one thing, fewer customers. With an estimated one half of all online gamblers residing in the United States, casinos could lose millions of players and, potentially, billions in revenue. This means many companies, especially smaller ones, will likely have to shut their doors and larger ones will have to scale down their operations. 

This means that many of the "spammer friendly" affiliate programs that sploggers have grown to rely on will be closed down, others will be forced to pay out less and conversion rates will likely drop across the board. With a large portion of the target audience unable to legally participate, spammers will find that their gambling advertisements are less effective and less profitable. 

This will, almost certainly, result in a significant drop in gambling-related spam.

However, that raises another question: What effect, if any, will this have on the overall rate of email, blog and comment spam? The answer, most likely, is not as straightforward as one might hope.

A Different Direction

Spammers are in their chosen occupation because they have relaxed morals regarding spam and want to make money the easiest way possible, not because they love gambling, pornography or any of the items that they promote. Like any traditional marketer, a spammer doesn't care what he or she promotes, so long as it brings in the most money possible.

If gambling-related spam starts bringing in less money, which it likely will if HR 4411 passes, spammers will simply move on to promoting other products that are more lucrative. In that regard, pornography is a likely candidate as email-based pornography spam has been shown to be 280 times more effective than any other kind of spam sent over the same medium.

However, spammers will likely weigh a variety of factors, including market saturation, relative click-through ratio and payout rates, when deciding what genre and product to promote, The end result will likely be that spammers who now specialize in gambling and gambling-related products will simply enter into other fields, if they aren't in them already.

This means that, over all, while HR 4411 would do little to reduce the overall number of spammers or the amount of spam. Most likely, the largest difference for users will be different products being promoted in their inboxes, comments and on splogs.

It might, at the most, be a speedbump for spammers, sploggers, scrapers and others "black hat" types that rely on the gambling industry, but it will not be a roadblock.

Conclusions

HR 4411 is a controversial bill being debated on grounds of censorship, civil liberties, morality and many other fronts. It's a deeply divisive issue that will not die down any time soon. 

But while it's tempting to look at the crippling of a major spam-generating industry as a victory against spam itself, the effects are not nearly that clear cut. While it will certainly be a setback for spammers, it is not going to bring about a major shift in the amount of spam being tossed around on the Web.

As such, scraping and other forms of mass plagiarism, hallmarks of many unscrupulous casino affiliates, are not likely to be abated much either. Sadly, those fights will go on much as they have before.

In the end. the most HR 4411 will likely do in regards to spam is change the nature of it, not the amount.

[tags]Plagiarsim, Content Theft, Scraping, Splogging, Spam, Copyright Infringement, Online Gambling, Gambling, 4411[/tags] 

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