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Stopping spammers & harassers

3:28 pm on Jul 31, 2004 (gmt 0)


WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

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It seems like there are always some people who like to cause problems, and forums aren't different than other venues. Forums attract various types, including spammers (who are promoting something), harassers and malcontents. The latter usually have some kind of axe to grind, and pick on other members or, like spoiled toddlers, act up to get attention.

Most forum software includes features like member banning, domain banning (to prevent registration from specific domains), IP banning, etc. And if a user keeps getting their email address banned, one would think they would tire of the game and go somewhere else.

On some forums, though, a large number of users register with free email address from yahoo, hotmail, and the like. I have a board that attracts a lot of older teens, and I'd guess that 90% of this demographic uses free e-mail. Typically, they use their free e-mail to express some individuality, plus they often have little recourse. They can't get a school address, and their parents use their home ISP address or addresses.

International users often end up using free e-mail accounts, too.

I've encountered forums that don't permit registering from a free e-mail domain, but this seems quite impractical based on my correspondence with some of these free e-mail users.

One thought that occurred to me was requiring a very nominal registration fee for users from free e-mail domains, but that would probably just spark a hunt for obscure domains that aren't obviously free. And a registration free for everyone would definitely cut membership and participation.

At the moment, we just do our best to spot problems and disable those accounts. Of course, the same day that problem individual can be back with another addy. Or, he might have stored up a few accounts already. If he's using a dynamic IP like AOL gives, IP banning isn't of much use either.

Has anyone found any clever ways of dealing with free e-mail proliferation and policing forum registration?

4:08 pm on July 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

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joined:June 3, 2004
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I hear what your are saying. However from what I read on the net many people in the UK who use the net are OAP. Maybe they could not afford to pay for there mail address.

The best I find just like as with Spam, is ignore them. If the contents are rude just delete it. I run a dating agency and have these problems daily.
I don't allow adult photos or language. Some try but are deleted. I don't bounce or block anything. I don't even even reply to them.
They must read the rules before sign-up and it is clearly stated your will not be approve if you do not comply.
I have doing this for over 5 years now.
I hope this maybe of help

9:27 pm on July 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

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joined:Mar 4, 2004
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I think it comes down to being on top of things and being an active moderator.

The busier the board, the mroe it will need to be moderated. On the plus side, the busier the board the more likely you will be able to find people willing to volunteer to moderate.

Banning certain "free" mail services is not terribly effective. There are so many free mail services around, it would be impossible to shut them all out, and severely restrictive for your users (as you pointed out). I've seen boards that have taken that route, and promptly fell into dis-use and obscurity. For reasons of privacy, I know a lot of people who will give out nothing but a freemail addy on any registration.

The other problem is professional spammers. Most of these people own a domain or two, (or 50 or 100), and can create e-mail accounts at will.

"Black Hole" lists are even more restrictive, killing any visit from people coming in from certain IP ranges. Every black hole list I've seen takes out far to wide a swath.

So, in the end, I believe your stuck with just asking for any valid e-mail addy, and keeping on top of things the best you can. If the board gets busy, don't hesitate to ask for volunteer moderators. You will most likely find that your best participants, the quality people who post frequently, and thoughtfully, are going to be the one's most likely to volunteer.


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