Death to the &^$%# Spam Links on IF!
February 10, 2012 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Is there a way to keep repeat link spammers from a free and open art community project without requiring membership/passwords or the like?

I have been participating in a weekly, online art challenge called Illustration Friday for a few months now. It was started several years ago and has hundreds of participants. To enter, you post your entry on your blog or wherever, then go to the IF site and put in your name, link to your post and a thumbnail. (If you do art it is awesome for inspiration.)

Spammers are common but usually not too bad, until last week. I can't even imagine it actually helps with their Google ranking or whatever it is they are trying to accomplish by including a link to their crap, but one particular guy put 5 links two weeks ago, and this past week a total of 16. I don't run the site but I have been helping by alerting the owners and when they have time, they go in and delete the offenders. (I have a feeling it is one of several projects for the owners so they don't always check.) Is there any way, aside from making people sign up or something, to at least keep repeat offenders away?

Here is a link to the last challenge where you can see the spammers six listings near the top (posted after the first 10 were deleted). He doesn't even bother to change his name or anything and it looks like it is links to his resume or resume service or some other crap.

I realize it's not my blog or my project, I just thought if there was a way to minimize this (infuriating annoyance) I could let the owners know. I'd also like to know in case I decide to start a similar project in the future. [I have offered to help by monitoring and deleting them myself, which they said they might do at some point in the future, but for now they prefer not to give a stranger access - which is totally understandable.]
posted by Glinn to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
A captcha won't stop a human spammer, but most spam of this type is done by spambots these days, and captchas stop them.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:57 AM on February 10, 2012

Best answer: They could try banning by IP address.

Also some anti-spam software puts anything with more than one link into a moderation queue for review before it gets published.

It might worth looking into whether something like Akismet can be hooked into the site.
posted by philipy at 8:08 AM on February 10, 2012

The only fix is mediation via Captcha, moderation, etc. What you're seeing may not be effective from a link, advertising, or SEO perspective for the posters, but that doesn't matter. These are people who only have to post links, take a picture of them, then get paid. It's all about just getting a URL on a page, that's it, everything else is gravy to them.
posted by rhizome at 8:48 AM on February 10, 2012

Even membership, captchas and passwords won't keep spammers out. Sorry.
Your only real recourse is to block by IP address AND keep a vigilant crew of moderators to ban on-sight any spammers that make it through the blocks.

I'm a mod on a Mac users' forum and that's basically our approach.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:01 AM on February 10, 2012

Best answer: You will never get 100% effective spam protection, but there are a lot of things you can do to keep it from being dead simple for spammers and taking up lots of time.

Obviously you're a concerned person who regularly visits the site and care for it. They should give you moderation privileges so that you can delete them yourself.

Most of the following depend on the software that is being used for the discussion area.

Aksimet, as mentioned, is fantastic and works very well. I don't think I've ever had a false positive marked as spam. Very few spam comments get through. (I use a combination of Akismet and Disqus.)

Most comment systems will let you set the number of links allowed in a post before it's flagged. I set mine to "0".

CAPTCHAs will stop a lot, but people complain about them if they're too hard to read. ReCAPTCHA is a good compromise and does something useful. They won't stop humans from spamming your site, but it will stop most robots. And that's a small win since humans do cost the spammers money.

There are other options, for example holding only unregistered comments in moderation, holding comments from new members in moderation, allowing the community to vote up and down comments and hiding ones that are voted below a threshold.

I've found that banning by IP really doesn't work well. It might work for an hour but the IP will change and they'll be back. And blocking a range of IPs is exactly the kind of user unfriendly thing you're trying to prevent.
posted by Ookseer at 1:52 PM on February 10, 2012

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