I have an idea that may cut down on spam

revmacian

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Oct 20, 2018
1,740
1,445
USA
I have seen that many, if not all, of the spam threads I've been reporting lately include a string of asterisks in the thread title. This indicates that the user attempted to post a URL and it was thwarted by the forums software - thanks for that MR. Now, clearly these are posted by bots and I have an idea that may help reduce this type of spam if there were a way to implement the idea.

parameters:
If the user's thread includes a URL in the title or body that will be masked with asterisks
and
If the user's post count is zero
then
Ban the user, delete the thread and record the user's IP address. Perform an IP ban if the user's IP appears in the previously recorded IP list.

It seems that this should be easy to implement with an if-then-else statement in a script or php file.

I saw a user post a thread about how tiresome it can be to report several spam posts and having to deal with the post report time limit. I'm hoping that my idea will help make things easier on forums members.
 

keysofanxiety

macrumors G3
Nov 23, 2011
9,537
25,262
I agree it looks like bots. I tried creating a new account to see what the process is and MR does have a captcha, though it's just the old "click this to make sure you're human". So I'm not sure if the implementation of a better captcha might improve this, like the "select all tiles which contain x".

If they're posted by humans however, a quick "report spam" button only visible for users who have a join date of today might make the reports easier. Or maybe if it hits a threshold of 3 reports, it auto hides until a mod approves - something like that, I don't know.
 

Absrnd

macrumors 6502a
Apr 15, 2010
584
776
Flatland
The nice thing is, Spam can now easily be recognised, and removed,
if your ideas get applied, the spammers will look for more clever ways to spam the board, and it would be harder to find.

lets thank the spammers for being consistent and dumb :cool:
 
  • Like
Reactions: arkitect

revmacian

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Oct 20, 2018
1,740
1,445
USA
I agree it looks like bots. I tried creating a new account to see what the process is and MR does have a captcha, though it's just the old "click this to make sure you're human". So I'm not sure if the implementation of a better captcha might improve this, like the "select all tiles which contain x".

If they're posted by humans however, a quick "report spam" button only visible for users who have a join date of today might make the reports easier. Or maybe if it hits a threshold of 3 reports, it auto hides until a mod approves - something like that, I don't know.
Good point, some captchas are easy to thwart so that aspect could probably benefit from a change.
 

revmacian

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Oct 20, 2018
1,740
1,445
USA
I am of the opinion that the moderators don't really have a problem with the amount of spam on the forums.
The moderators may not have a problem with it. But, according to this thread the users do have a problem. I've also seen that another user got tired of the spam and left the forums. My idea is to help make things easier on forums users.
 

tobefirst

macrumors 601
Jan 24, 2005
4,077
1,213
St. Louis, MO
Why would the moderators not have a problem with spam?
I don't know either.
[doublepost=1547132580][/doublepost]
The moderators may not have a problem with it. But, according to this thread the users do have a problem. I've also seen that another user got tired of the spam and left the forums. My idea is to help make things easier on forums users.
Oh, I do understand. I'm with you. I just don't believe the moderators care as much.
 
  • Like
Reactions: willmtaylor

Weaselboy

Moderator
Staff member
Jan 23, 2005
30,174
9,853
California
I am of the opinion that the moderators don't really have a problem with the amount of spam on the forums.
You could not possibly be more wrong about this.

The problem with some of these anti-spam measures (not specifically the suggestion by @revmacian here) is it is a balance between blocking spammers and blocking or inhibiting legitimate user activity.

Edit: @revmacian I have passed along your suggestion to the admins.
 
Last edited:

revmacian

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Oct 20, 2018
1,740
1,445
USA
You could not possibly be more wrong about this.

The problem with some of these anti-spam measures (not specifically the suggestion by @revmacian here) is it is a balance between blocking spammers and blocking or inhibiting legitimate user activity.
True, we do need to find a good balance, and that was why I included the second parameter - user post count should be zero. I believe this would give a good chance at catching spambots while lessening the chance of banning legitimate users. Hopefully the mods and admins can augment my idea further and come up with a way to implement it while keeping the good balance you mentioned.

I wonder if it would also help to disallow the posting of URLs until a user has accumulated at least 10 forums posts. I have found that it is easy to detect a user posting junk just to artificially inflate their post count.
 
Last edited:

tobefirst

macrumors 601
Jan 24, 2005
4,077
1,213
St. Louis, MO
You could not possibly be more wrong about this.
I could absolutely be more wrong about this. There's a still active thread proposing a solution to the spambots that post 15 or 20 new threads and a mod (or multiple mods) essentially said, "Nah, thanks. We're good," and the proceeded to completely confuse the argument with something the OP (and supporters) never suggested or would affect.

Listen, I've seen all these threads that pop up in Site and Forum Feedback, and I've written plenty of emails to the "contact us" link. Can you guess how many times the mods and admins have actually admitted that they could be doing better?
 
  • Like
Reactions: willmtaylor

Weaselboy

Moderator
Staff member
Jan 23, 2005
30,174
9,853
California
I could absolutely be more wrong about this. There's a still active thread proposing a solution to the spambots that post 15 or 20 new threads and a mod (or multiple mods) essentially said, "Nah, thanks. We're good," and the proceeded to completely confuse the argument with something the OP (and supporters) never suggested or would affect.

Listen, I've seen all these threads that pop up in Site and Forum Feedback, and I've written plenty of emails to the "contact us" link. Can you guess how many times the mods and admins have actually admitted that they could be doing better?
There are times we cannot implement suggestions, or we could but it would have unintended side effects, and I think we could do a better job communicating that. Often it is because of limitations in the forum software. The problem is if we lay out all the details of some of this publicly it can tip off the spammers to work arounds (sorry I cannot be more specific here).

I searched and can't find any contacts you sent in with anti-spam suggestions. Can you recall when this was, and I can try and track it down further.
 

tobefirst

macrumors 601
Jan 24, 2005
4,077
1,213
St. Louis, MO
There are times we cannot implement suggestions, or we could but it would have unintended side effects, and I think we could do a better job communicating that. Often it is because of limitations in the forum software. The problem is if we lay out all the details of some of this publicly it can tip off the spammers to work arounds (sorry I cannot be more specific here).

I searched and can't find any contacts you sent in with anti-spam suggestions. Can you recall when this was, and I can try and track it down further.
Sorry, in my second paragraph I was speaking more generally about emails I've sent. I could have communicated that better. It really isn't worth looking into, but thanks for taking the time to do so.

I also appreciate your reply to me and apologize if I offended you with my comments.
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
50,773
34,308
The Far Horizon
Good point, some captchas are easy to thwart so that aspect could probably benefit from a change.

Very good point about the asterisks, - I use them as a means of identifying spam (especially if the poster is a newbie with the proverbial one post, who may have just joined the forum - all red flags to my mind).

As someone who wears glasses, I have fallen foul of captchas all too embarrassingly often, and am not really a fan of how they are supposed to work.
 

timeconsumer

macrumors 68000
Aug 1, 2008
1,773
1,475
Portland
Is it possible to implement something such as:

if new member join date is X amount of days old or less
AND
if X amount of members report the post/thread
THEN
the post/thread auto-hides until it can be reviewed by a moderator (could take this one step further and auto-hide all content by this person until it can be reviewed by a moderator)

If somebody reports a post a moderator has to review it anyway. This would just allow the community to essentially "vote" on it. It shouldn't effect existing members since there would be a join date limitation in there. It just would help with the people who sign up and their intent is to immediately spam.
 

jerwin

macrumors 68030
Jun 13, 2015
2,687
4,555
True, we do need to find a good balance, and that was why I included the second parameter - user post count should be zero. I believe this would give a good chance at catching spambots while lessening the chance of banning legitimate users. Hopefully the mods and admins can augment my idea further and come up with a way to implement it while keeping the good balance you mentioned.

I wonder if it would also help to disallow the posting of URLs until a user has accumulated at least 10 forums posts. I have found that it is easy to detect a user posting junk just to artificially inflate their post count.
What if this new user has joined this forum specifically because they need help?
 

revmacian

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Oct 20, 2018
1,740
1,445
USA
What if this new user has joined this forum specifically because they need help?
I find it highly doubtful that a new user needing legitimate help would be posting a url that the currently-existing filter would mask with asterisks - see my first parameter. Also, bans aren't permanent and moderators aren't perfect.

If you're going to mention that this might cause the mods more work.. I hereby volunteer to help the moderation staff with whatever work needs to be done for as long as it takes. I'm willing to donate my time and effort to help rid the forums of spam.
 
  • Like
Reactions: AngerDanger

Weaselboy

Moderator
Staff member
Jan 23, 2005
30,174
9,853
California
here really should be a forums rule that disallows new members from posting URLs until their post count reaches 10 posts or so. That would reduce a lot of the spam we saw today.
The problem with that is then you just get spammers that create ten innocuous posts, then start posting the spam anyway. So it is almost worse.
 

revmacian

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Oct 20, 2018
1,740
1,445
USA
The problem with that is then you just get spammers that create ten innocuous posts, then start posting the spam anyway. So it is almost worse.
Actually, we have members on these forums that are smart enough to catch "junk posts" - posts created for the sole purpose of artificially inflating their post count. Also, when a member is banned for malicious activity, all of their posts are gone - doesn't matter if it's 2 or 20.

New proposal:
  • New members must have a post count of 10 prior to being allowed to post URLs
  • New members must have been members of these forums for 30 days prior to being allowed to post URLs

I was a moderator on another Apple-related website and their post count requirement didn't seem to be a problem. New members weren't allowed to post URLs or post on someone else's profile page until their post count reached 20 and their membership has been in place at least 30 days. I know 20 posts and 30 days seems high, but it seemed to work.. spammers kind left the site alone rather than going through all of that work every time they wanted to spam.

You see, spammers know they're going to be banned, the trick is to post their payload as quickly as possible and have it stay as long as possible. Requiring a post count and membership length before they can post URLs throws a major wrench in their plans. Spammers are busy worshipping money.. they're not going to waste valuable resources when it eats into their resources rather than bringing them profit. They'll leave us alone if we cause them too much work.

We're talking about URLs here, not banning newbies from posting altogether. So new members can't post URLs straight away, I seriously doubt that URLs are going to be a vital part of a newbie's first ten posts. If it actually ends up being a vital part, a newbie can contact a mod and have the url added by a staff member.

If you want the problem to go away.. you're going to have to do something to make the problem go away.
 
Last edited:

Similar threads

  • Scepticalscribe
10
Replies
10
Views
2K
Replies
12
Views
3K
  • PickUrPoison
13
Replies
13
Views
2K
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.