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Developing marketing software that may potentially be used for spam.

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by Askimam.org

I am in the software development and web development/internet marketing field. I want to take on a project but before I take it I would like to know if the income from it would be halal. The project would require the following:

1. Giving our software users(customers) the ability to register automatically to save time. We will use automatic captcha solvers, etc. which I think must be listed as not allowed on forum guidelines(terms and conditions). If we use the forum terms and condition through automatic registraions, would the income derived be halal?

2. Our software user(customers) will have the ability to post general information content with links on the forums(not just spam) automatically. The software will try to generate that content for them through the internet by scraping other websites and rewriting the content to post on these forums. The software will try to generate useful content for the forums from other places on the internet.

3. The software will scrape google for information with proxies(since google does not allow a lot of queries from one ip). So the software will scrape google which is not in accordance to google’s terms and conditions to use google.

I would like to know whether income from such a software would be halal with respect to the 3 different points seperately.

I’m not concerned about the forum owners or google’s voilation. All they loose is internet bandwidth which they allow to be used manually. We are just using it through automation.

What I’m concerned about is the Shariah’s ruling and my income being halal.

Please let me know regarding this as its worrying me a lot and I have to take a decision as soon as possible.

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh. 

Based on the details provided in the query, it seems that the project involves developing typical forum spambots that are used to spam forums with advertisements (even if it may contain some useful content) against the desire of the forum owners.[1] Usage of such software entails breaking laws pertaining to breach of online contracts and as a developer, tortious interference with contracts.[2]

Furthermore, the use of proxies[3] and web scraping[4] for such reasons may also be in breach of certain laws. This may also complicate matters in the future if any website/organization pursues the matter in court as they may have a right to take legal action against you.

Since the main purpose of this software is to circumvent online restrictions for the purpose of advertising on forums without explicit consent from the owners, we advise you to desist from taking on such a project, especially since it contains legal implications that may cause problems for you in the future.

And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best

Bilal Mohammad

Student Darul Iftaa
New Jersey, USA

Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.

www.daruliftaa.net


[1] How do forum spambots work?

Do they even ‘view’ this page at all? ..If not, then I’d assume they’re communicating with the server directly – how is – this possible? How do they do it?

    Where do spambots come from? Is someone sitting behind the computer snickering as they watch their bot destroy site after site? Or are they snickering as they simply ‘release’ it onto the internet somehow? Are spambots ‘run’ by an infected computer somewhere? Do they replicate themselves?

It’s all automated. Tools like xrumer are built, and sold, and contain the ability to exploit software with known vulnerabilities. Anyone can buy it and after setting it up it’s more or less fire and forget. It goes to every forum in its list and tries to spam it to the best of its ability. Just due to brute force it is successful and worth it for the spammers. That’s why they never stop. They barely have to lift a finger for it to work.

Can forum spambots break CAPTCHAs? Can they solve logic questions (how?)? Math questions?

Yes, but not always. Depends on how well it is implemented. But many captchas, including those offered by big companies, have been beaten and are effectively useless. That’s why multiple forms of protection are required to stop them. Even then, humans can usually beat any system.

[“How do spambots work?”, Stack Exchange – Pro Webmasters, accessed on November 11, 2014, http://webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/3588/how-do-spambots-work]

[2] You may think that a website owner can’t control what somebody else does online, but there are a couple key laws that protect website owners.

The first is Breach of Contract. A website’s Terms of Use can expressly prohibit certain activity on the website and if software does that activity, it’s breaching the contract.

The second is Tortious Interference with Contract. When software help somebody interfere with a contract, this software writer is tortiously interfering with the contract. In other words, they’re facilitating the breach of contract so they are liable for it as well.

[Hall, Aaron, “Are Spambots Illegal? Software That Violates a Website’s Terms of Use”, Thompson Hall, accessed on November 11, 2014, http://thompsonhall.com/are-spambots-illegal-software-that-violates-a-websites-terms-of-use/]

[3] A US court has ruled that simply changing one’s IP address is enough to fall foul of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, if done to circumvent a deliberate block on accessing a site or service.

Halfacree, Gareth, “US court rules proxies, IP switching illegal”, Bit-Tech, accessed on November 17, 2014, http://www.bit-tech.net/news/hardware/2013/08/21/proxies-illegal/1

[4] “Is web scraping illegal?”, Distil Networks, accessed on November 17, 2014, http://www.distilnetworks.com/is-web-scraping-illegal-depends-on-what-the-meaning-of-the-word-is-is/

This answer was collected from Askimam.org, which is operated under the supervision of Mufti Ebrahim Desai from South Africa.

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