In the recent months, we’ve been getting more blogspam accounts, and the administrators have been discussing behind the scenes on how to deal with it. Blogspam is against the rules of this Lemmy instance and is treated the same as any other spam. That is, offending posts will be removed and blogspammer banned. I thought I’d share my thought process of moderating stuff like this.
Blogspam is kind of a controversial topic and has a lot of grey areas. It basically involves accounts seemingly made specifically to post links to a specific website, usually with the intent of generating ad revenue. Herein lies the grey area, because simply posting links to your own website or a website you like isn’t spam, nor is it against the rules to post websites that have ads, nor is it against the rules for an organization to have an official account on Lemmy, so it becomes a problem of where to draw the line. You can also run into problems where it’s hard to tell if someone is intentionally spamming or if they’re just enthusiastic about the content of a site.
That said, here are my general criteria on what is considered blogspam, with some wiggle room on a case by case basis:
Does the user only post links to one or a few sites? Do they have any other activity, such as commenting or moderating communities?
How often does the user post? For example, it might not be reasonable to consider an account to be blogspamming if they only post a few articles a month, even if they only post one site.
Does the user post the same link repeatedly? Do they post to communities where it would be off topic? Do they post the same link multiple times to a single community?
Is the user trying to manipulate the search feature in Lemmy? For example, by including a large number of keywords in their title or post body?
Is the site content “clickbait” or otherwise designed to mislead the reader?
Is the site trying to extract data or payment from readers? Examples include invasive tracking, or forcing users to sign up or pay for a membership before letting them read the article.
Is the site itself well-known and reputable or obscure and suspicious?
Does the site have an “inordinate” number of ads? Are the ads intrusive? (Autoplaying video ads versus simple sponsor mentions for example)
Is there evidence that the user is somehow affiliated with the site? Examples include sponsored links or having the username be the same as the site name.
Is there evidence that the user is a bot?
Not all of these have to be satisfied for it to be blogspam, and it’s usually up to the administrators to make a rational decision on whether to intervene.
Note that these criteria apply to sites that are generally benign, but is being posted in a way that might count as spam. If the site contains malware, engages in phishing, is blatantly “fake news”, is a scam, is generally malicious, etc, those alone are reason enough for it to be removed and the poster potentially banned, and would constitute as a much more serious violation of our rules.
I’m open to feedback on this, feel free to discuss in the comments!
Feel free to announce new communities here.
Other than that, this is reserved for admin use only.
Well, by definition of “blogspam” that would basically ban me and GamingOnLinux.
Frankly, I really think it’s a gross term that often discriminates against websites doing good work, and I’m not even talking about myself here. The /r/linux community on Reddit is notorious for this, banning multiple sites giving out good news and I see CAP_NAME is here as a moderator of the Linux community - sad to see this. CAP is a power-hungry tool who claims harassment whenever people don’t agree with his way of thinking.
The problem should not be banning “blogspam”, the issue should be looking at what the sites and the people running/posting them actually bring to Lemmy. Think about the posts themselves. Do they generate discussion? Get regular upvotes? Do the majority enjoy the content. Lemmy itself is small, being hostile to people that might actually help bring traffic is not going to do it any favours right now. I’ve been constantly advertising Lemmy to multiple thousands of people through GOL social accounts, and our website.
Are the people/websites posting about something other people aren’t? Often yes. Are those news websites the initial source most people get the info from? Usually also yes. People love to claim otherwise (hello CAP_NAME), but the majority do not follow hundreds of mailing lists and RSS feeds to source the info like the news sites do.
Honestly, If the route we go down here is to start shouting “blogspam” and turn into another Reddit with far less people but the same hostile rules, then I’m out and I won’t look back.
I love the idea of Lemmy, so please think on all this very carefully.
I think in general, if something is
Then treating it as spam and removing it isn’t a bad idea.
When it comes down to it, moderation is always going to be about the grey areas.
That is why it needs to be done by humans and its also why there needs to be many communities with different moderators so that no one moderation policy/team has too much power/cultural blindspots are limited in their impact.
Ultimately I have seen very little evidence that communities don’t need strong moderation.
There are a lot of news outlets one needs to be wary of, like Epoch Times as well, which operate as independent instances publicly. Conservative famous sources like Breitbart are also an issue unless they do exclusive reporting.
Fact checkers like MBFC or Snopes have corporate ties and funding of some sorts, so that might be concerning and should be taken as opinion and not cross check reference point.
There are also lately growing sockpuppet opportunists wanting to spread their ideologies or spreading discrimination and racism (targeted mass group or individual stereotype).
Think I went a little off but I think these points are in the ballpark in the grand scheme, to understand how these users do this stuff.
I got some concerns with the “fake news” part of this post. Let me just clarify what I meant by “blatantly fake news”. Personally, I’ll only remove things that are without a doubt false, and maliciously so, things like “Trump won the 2020 election”, “Climate change isn’t real” or “Vaccines cause autism”. Or, from “news” sites that have been proven to be puppets of organizations like the CIA. Stuff that “might be wrong” is generally left to up/down votes.
Though keep in mind that I’m talking about removing things at the site level with this, moderators of individual communities are generally free to remove stuff the admins don’t have a problem with at their own discretion.
Replacing “blatantly fake news” to “without a doubt false” doesn’t solve the problem at all. It still relies on your view of things. Why you in particular should be the arbiter of Truth?
Even some of the topics you listed are worthy of discussion in my opinion and should not be outright banned by instance admins on such ambiguous terms that could be stretched to infinity. Most of them not even proven to be false but rather gathered large amount of evidence against them. Who’s to say that new evidence won’t change it tomorrow? Or that evidence we already have are not intentionally misleading to benefit someone? Or just statistical error?
Previously common knowledge was that homosexuals are pedophiles, there were actual scientific evidence supporting that. Imagine labeling any counterargument to that as “without a doubt false”?
I understand the desire to shield people from trolls and misinformation and I want that too, but ambiguous rules that rely on personal world view is a terrible way to go about it.
Well, someone’s gotta be an admin at the end of the day. If this is not adequate, perhaps hosting your own instance is a good alternative?
Exactly - this is the whole point of federation. If you have a problem with an instance, just create your own one.
I just want to chime in and say thank you for handling this topic so well! This is exactly how it should be done in my opinion.
Removing blogspam increases quality, no question. I keep meaning to write better feedback for Lemmy with what I’ve learned over the years, but blogspam is a hot topic of mine so I’ve listed some thoughts here.
One addition to your list is insistent self-linking to the website itself at many points through the story, very little sources outside of themselves.
Blogspam usually copies or re-writes source content that is usually linked in the story. A big problem with Linux news are the re-writes of mailing list posts with added opinion.
On top of ads, referral links are common, especially by gaming and hardware blogs.
Finally, and it’s hard to describe, but a lot of blogspam sources have a cult following. If they take action to harass people because their content was removed, they should be banned entirely. I’ve had two website owners get their little cultists to harass me because their content was removed.
You tried to get the full-time Project Manager of Godot Engine banned from their own subreddit, because they had the audacity to very politely talk to you about the ban on me from /r/linux. You’re fucking power mad. You should not be listened to, ever.
Admins, if you listen to CAP, you will ruin Lemmy.
The name alone is such a ridiculous scream for attention it’s absurd.
If you could stop following me around and harassing me that’d be great. Bye.
Seems mostly reasonable. Not sure about ban for “fake news” tho. It could be abused to silence critical voices. In the end it might produce echo chambers.
Maybe it’s a good idea to add “repeated ban evasion” to the list. It could be checked through IP or fingerprinting. Doing it without sacrificing privacy would be difficult however. Account age might also indicate that something fishy is going on.
As a solution, could such people just be downvoted to hell? Self moderation is a nice benefit of reddit-like voting. Their effectiveness would plummet if nobody is seeing them, so they would eventually stop, right? To prevent spam they additionally could be rate-limited if they get downvotes only. Also, what about user reports? Maybe they should be also taken in consideration (their relative quantity and validity). Restricting new accounts might also help (until certain amount of karma has been reached, for example) against bots.
I think it would be good to have a simple rule, you need to make at least 5 comments before you can create a post. Could be overall or in each community, and configurable.
better yet, don’t make this rule public and change it from time to time 😉
I dont think that is the right way to go for an open source project, it will just lead to frustration for new users. Its better to make the details public, then everyone can participate in the discussion if the rules make sense.