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Ridding yourself of numpties

How do you get someone to stop abusing your site

     
10:08 pm on Oct 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

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OK, so you've identified a serial numpty, who has so little of a life he likes nothing better than signing up for dozens of sock puppet accounts on your forum, accounts and sends obscene messages to your members.

You know his IP address (AOL, so can't be blocked), his email address, even his home address and real name.

He's damaging your site and it's reputation profoundly.

What do you do?

7:59 am on Oct 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Welcome to WebmasterWorld drongo.
  • Ignore him, and he might go away
  • There are forum plug-ins that let trolls post but hides their posts from everyone but him. It lets him think he's being disruptive when actually nobody sees his posts.
10:07 am on Oct 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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He has been doing this 2006. He is not going away :-(

He does this before being spotted by our moderators. He particularly likes to target new members to drive them away.

We're finding it impossible to grow the site because he always sends insults to new members before we can get to him. Our business model requires us to allow free messaging straight away.

drongo

10:38 am on Oct 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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There are forum plug-ins that let trolls post but hides their posts from everyone but him. It lets him think he's being disruptive when actually nobody sees his posts.

Have been using such a technique for about 6 months now and it works brilliantly.

sock puppet accounts

Anything useful in his browser user-agent? Certain combinations of toolbar installations can give a decent level of uniqueness, especially when combined with other elements (AOL ISP).

obscene messages

Again, look for fingerprints here - if he consistently uses the same terminology you can detect and destroy before the message is sent to the recipient.

10:44 am on Oct 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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If you know his home address have you tried contacting him?
11:14 pm on Nov 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

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We slap them on FMS (full mod status) and call it a day. We may get around to approving a post or two every week.

They eventually get mad and leave.

That or we ban them. If they come back, we just ban them again. It grows old and they usually give up and leave.

5:22 am on Nov 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Have you tried befriending him? Probably too late now because I'm sure you've sent him angry mail by now but getting on his good side would make him less likely to bother you.
2:25 pm on Nov 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Have you tried befriending him?

Sorry, but I think this is a bad idea. People like this that prey on community users have no place on my sites.

I simply ban them and ignore. Not once will I respond to one of their hate e-mails, threats, etc.

They go away after a while. If you respond, they only get more angry.

10:49 am on Nov 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I am just wondering, can't a case be filed against him..Now, that we know his address, name, etc...
4:38 pm on Nov 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I simply ban them and ignore. Not once will I respond to one of their hate e-mails, threats, etc.

Well, he's already explained why he can't ban him forever. And of course the site owner can ignore him but new users definitely won't.

They go away after a while. If you respond, they only get more angry.

Well, eventually. But 2006 was a long time ago and he's still there.

4:43 pm on Nov 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Contact his ISP (AOL).
Send them the IP addresses and time stamps and the explanation of abuse.
Once they establish a pattern, they'll be able to find which particular customer it is.
They won't reveal his info to you, but they might be able to send him a cease and desist letter or e-mail for breaking their terms of use.

That might be enough to stop him.

Just be nice with AOL. Don't push or threaten them, but ask for their help.

Don't discount the abuse departments of the ISPs. The internet is not as wild and lawless as people believe.

7:23 am on Nov 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Anyone ever have any success contacting a ISP? Just curious.

That by itself will probably not solve the problem because they will just move onto a web proxy server.

One possible partial solution is to flag all new accounts coming from AOL's IP's to be set for moderator activation and posting moderation. They'll be aware there is new rule but most likely won't realize you have been able to narrow down the possible suspect accounts.

As mentioned above finding patterns are helpful too, for example are all the accounts created around the same time? Does the person post around the same time? With that information you can further narrow down the suspect accounts.

7:36 am on Nov 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Anyone ever have any success contacting a ISP? Just curious.

Yes, I'm speaking from experience.

That by itself will probably not solve the problem because they will just move onto a web proxy server.

And that was exactly the case.

First, they kept logging off to change the IP assigned by the ISP, and then they switched to using proxy servers.

That actually made it a worse offense in the eyes of the ISP. It proved the abuse was deliberate and persistent.

4:33 pm on Nov 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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If you know the abuser's name and address, you have a significant advantage. Normally, the first step would be to get a court order to compel the ISP to disclose the real identity of the abuser, which in itself is expensive and time consuming.

I suggest you contact a web-savvy attorney to be sure your TOS is in good shape. It's possible that a stern letter on legal stationery would be enough to put an end to the abuse. If not, your attorney would have to advise you on the best grounds for legal action seeking monetary damages and/or some kind of injunction prohibiting further use of your site by the offender. Good luck!

1:58 pm on Dec 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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AOL? Suggests that mommy or daddy are providing access.

If you have an address then notify mommy and daddy that they may be facilitating an ongoing crime, by providing sonny with internet access, and that they may be held accountable or sued civilly. (See recent case reported on front page of WebmasterWorld regarding using false identities.)

Mommy and daddy may do a better job of putting an end to this than the police.

12:06 pm on Jan 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Ban AOL. According to my server logs you'll be denying service to much less than 1% of visitors. Leave AOL out of the loop for 6 months and see if he's gone permanently then. If not... ban them for another 6 months.

Somewhere in there you can contact AOL and ask for assistance in unbanning them but don't hold your breath.

12:55 pm on Jan 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Why can you not introduce a ranking system where every user has to gain trust by posting 5 -10 decent posts before they can freely post?

Sounds like the horse has already bolted here but we are just a link away from launching a forum for our site but this very issue is stopping us!

Now there is an idea a forum FOR these kinds of people!