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Forum improvement - peer-based spam removal

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Posted by Nick Gammon   Australia  (21,674 posts)  [Biography] bio   Forum Administrator
Date Fri 16 Oct 2009 03:39 AM (UTC)

Amended on Fri 16 Oct 2009 04:22 AM (UTC) by Nick Gammon

Recent spam postings have motivated me to add a new forum feature - peer-based spam removal.

Prior to this, spam messages could only be removed by me, or a moderator. This new system is designed to allow messages, which are obviously spam, to be flagged in such a way they are promptly removed.

In brief:

"If sufficient forum members 'vote' on a posting to be spam, it is hidden from view, awaiting moderator action".

In more detail ...

Every post on the forum potentially has a new link on the "date" line of the message: "[ vote as spam ]". If you see that link, and click on it, that message will be immediately flagged as "potential spam". If enough people click on the link, the message is then suppressed. There is no confirmation message, so try not to click on the wrong message. ;P

In order to see the "vote as spam" link three conditions need to be satisfied:

  • Who you are - you need to be logged into the forum (so we know who you are), and you need to have been a forum member for at least 30 days, and made at least 5 postings.

    This provision is intended to stop people running a denial of service attack on the forum by joining the forum purely to mark other people's messages as spam.

  • Who the poster of the alleged spam is - you can only flag messages posted by people who joined the forum within the last 30 days, or have made less than 5 posts.

    This provision is intended to stop people flagging as spam posts from long-standing forum members.

    Effectively, once you have been a member for 30 or more days, and posted 5 messages, you are immune from having your posts voted as spam.

  • How new the alleged spam message is - only messages which are under 14 days old can be flagged as spam.

    This provision is intended to only allow recent posts to be flagged. If they stay there for 14 days then they are safe from being voted against.

Hopefully these provisions will make it easy to get rid of spam, but hard to attack the forum by deleting old messages.

  • Messages which reach the "5 strikes" count will disappear (although they remain on the database), and I will have a chance to either agree the message is spam, in which case it will be permanently deleted, or disagree, in which case the message will be flagged as "cannot be marked as spam". If the spam message is the sole member of a thread, then the thread itself will disappear as well (in case the spam message is in the subject line).

  • Any poster whose message is voted as being spam will be blocked from making further posts, and blocked from joining the forum under a different name, from the same TCP/IP address the spam came from. In the event that I think a posting was not in fact spam, those restrictions will be lifted.

  • A particular forum user can only vote once, against a particular message (this is to stop one person recording all 5 votes).

  • You cannot vote against a message more than once from a PC at the same TCP/IP address as someone who has already voted against it. This is to stop people creating multiple forum accounts simply to vote against spam with.

  • Once one or more "spam" votes have been received the message will be noted as "x users consider this to be spam". This is an alert that your vote did something, and may help other users to decide whether to vote against the message as well.

  • If you accidentally vote against a message, don't worry too much, as it requires 5 votes for the message to be removed.

  • Any user who repeatedly votes against messages for no good reason may have their ability to vote against messages revoked.

    Votes are recorded in a "spam vote" database. This is to check for anyone trying to vote twice, and also provides an audit trail of attempted frivolous votes.

What is spam?

The quick answer is "you will know it when you see it". Basically I consider messages to be spam that are completely irrelevant to this forum, or to be blatantly advertising some unrelated product (this includes links to unrelated products in the user's signature).

Even messages that appear to be genuine, but are followed by a link along the lines of "for more details see http://www.some_irrelevant_web_site.com" are spam, in my opinion.

However messages which genuinely mention *relevant* sites (eg. MUD games, programming information, scripting etc.) are OK.

- Nick Gammon

www.gammon.com.au, www.mushclient.com
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Posted by Nick Gammon   Australia  (21,674 posts)  [Biography] bio   Forum Administrator
Date Reply #1 on Fri 16 Oct 2009 03:45 AM (UTC)
There may be some teething problems with this system - please post if you find any problems with it.

I have added a test message for testing the voting process.

- Nick Gammon

www.gammon.com.au, www.mushclient.com
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Posted by Nick Gammon   Australia  (21,674 posts)  [Biography] bio   Forum Administrator
Date Reply #2 on Fri 16 Oct 2009 04:01 AM (UTC)
It will assist the spam removal process if you vote against spam without posting a comment in the thread (eg. "stupid spammers - I wish they would all die").

The reason for this is that once the spam is deleted, you are then left with a lot of comments, that make no sense in the absence of the spam itself.

Also (and this could be worse), if the spam is in the subject line itself, then the subject (thread) will remain even after the spam is removed, if comments are posted after the spam message.

- Nick Gammon

www.gammon.com.au, www.mushclient.com
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Posted by Nick Gammon   Australia  (21,674 posts)  [Biography] bio   Forum Administrator
Date Reply #3 on Fri 16 Oct 2009 04:09 AM (UTC)
At present there are 1,130 forum users who qualify to vote against spam messages (by the above rules).

This is a vastly greater number than the handful of administrators and moderators on this board, so we should see spam being removed pretty quickly.


- Nick Gammon

www.gammon.com.au, www.mushclient.com
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Posted by Nick Gammon   Australia  (21,674 posts)  [Biography] bio   Forum Administrator
Date Reply #4 on Wed 04 Nov 2015 01:28 AM (UTC)
Further anti-spam measures

Recent idiotic postings have revealed the need for throttling of new posts. Some spammers have been making accounts and then posting dozens of posts about their mindless crap. Scum.

From now on:

  • You can no longer post without being logged onto the forum first
  • People who joined recently, or have made a small number of posts, will be "throttled back". That is, you can make one post, and then you need to wait for a while before making another one.

These measures should not interfere with genuine posters, who usually post a question, wait for a response (perhaps the response requests clarification) and then reply to that.

- Nick Gammon

www.gammon.com.au, www.mushclient.com
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The dates and times for posts above are shown in Universal Co-ordinated Time (UTC).

To show them in your local time you can join the forum, and then set the 'time correction' field in your profile to the number of hours difference between your location and UTC time.


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