Online Forums provide so many benefits to all involved. The site owner is able to earn income and promote other websites through the forum, the moderator can earn experience and act as arbitrator of an online community and of course the members, who get to share ideas and experiences, receive practical advice and even gain some exposure.
Unfortunately, spammers and trolls destroy these experiences. Spammers and spam bots are a grave concern to any forum owner. Left unmonitored, spam can really devastate an online forum community. Fortunately, there are some tricks and tools available to help ease the problem.
1. Image Verification for Online Forums
More commonly known as captcha, image verification is one of the best ways to stop many of the the spam bots attempting automated registration. The captcha tool produces a test in the form of a distorted image, words, digits, an equation or a simple question for the user to retype or answer. Anyone entering the correct solution is presumed by the server to be human. It filters out automated spammers because other computers or servers cannot read or solve the captcha.
Online forum software should already have this feature incorporated. If not, find one of the many free CAPTCHA image verification tools for download.
2. Block Open Proxy Registrants
Open proxies are publicly available proxy servers, accessible by any internet user. The proxy server is a computer system or application program which acts as an intermediary between the user making the request and the other server. An internet user connects to the proxy server to request some service from another server. This may be a file, connection, a web page or another resource. The purpose of doing this is usually to stay anonymous or for security purposes.
Unfortunately, spammers use open servers to make registration requests on forums. When you receive a registration attempt from proxy servers, they are generally detrimental and malicious. You need to be able to detect open proxy registrations and prevent them. If your forum software doesn’t have this feature, you should download or purchase a mod which blocks open proxy registrants.
3. Configure Member Profile Required Fields
Requiring registrants to manually enter information is another way to help prevent spam on online forums. Don’t ask for too much information which personally identifies your members, such as their birth date and full name. Remember, Forum members like the anonymity offered by online discussions.
Rather, you may look at including a field for as to why the member wishes to join your forum. If you’re not satisfied their answer is legitimate, you can always deny their request.
4. Moderators for Online Forums
Moderators help eradicate spammy posts and users. They have the power to edit and/or delete posts and to deactivate or suspend members. It can be a demanding and stressful task, especially for busy discussion sites. If you’re struggling to moderate, you can either employ moderators or seek some voluntary help.
You will need specific forum rules and perhaps even training guides for your moderators. Make sure they know exactly what’s expected of them. Set up procedures for dealing with spammers. For example, some users may spam unintentionally, without even realizing they’re in breach. You want to weed out the real spammers without alienating unsuspecting members.
Unless the comments or members are clearly and unequivocally spam (you know which ones these include), then your moderators should give the member a chance to remedy their actions. Allowing users to edit or remove their own posts will make them feel more valuable than just deleting them without giving any reason. This will reduce your spam whilst maintaining good relationships with your members.
5. Email Confirmation
Many online forums already incorporate this verification feature. Upon registration, the software automatically sends an email to the address provided by the applicant. Most spammers never actually click the link to verify their email, which eliminates the spammy posts.
You may also disable website signatures. However, this method is not favored by website owners. Link signatures provide contributing members with recognition; an incentive to write meaningful posts.
Other ideas for helping reduce forum spam include IP blocking, swear filters, filtering URLs and site names, enabling flood control to limit the number of posts per user, using mass pruning, reporting spammers’ details to a blacklist websites and ISPs and allowing members to report spam via a link in each post and thread.
Spam detection and prevention is crucial to a thriving online community. Luckily there are ways to combat majority of the spam through mods and other tools available for online forums. Your legitimate members will appreciate your efforts to combat spam.