Posted by Vuud (1944 posts) 2 months, 6 days ago

Poll: Should there be a captcha for creating forum topics? (148 votes)

Yes, spambot topics are annoying and must be exterminated! 59%
No, I for one welcome our new robot overlords. Tell me more about how your stepsister's boyfriend makes $88 a day! 41%

These are quite annoying, and I wonder if the folks in charge of the forums have any plans to deal with it. I'm sure the mods don't enjoy deleting all these topics.

Shouldn't there be a captcha required to start a topic on the forum? Many forums have captchas even for searches. I don't have any stats but I'd think it would do a lot to keep the spam in check around here.

#1 Posted by CorruptedEvil (2361 posts) -

Yes, we should definitely have a captcha for creating topics, or maybe a "Your account must be 30 days old or have X many posts to make a topic" thing.

Online
#2 Edited by ZolRoyce (651 posts) -

I find the spam bot threads are pretty easy to recognize and therefor avoid. A gibberish title made by someone with no avatar. However they do appear frequently enough that if a captcha system is easy enough to implement it seems like an alright solution.
So long as they don't use a garbage one, humble bundle uses a terrible captcha.


That's not the worst example if ever had for them, actually everything considered that one is somewhat readable, but they are usually such a hot mess of squeezed together indecipherable squiggles.

#3 Edited by Gaff (1706 posts) -

It would probably be easier to put a captcha in the account creation stage. Making it a requirement for topic creation just makes things more annoying for legitimate users.

#4 Posted by Zevvion (1840 posts) -

@gaff said:

It would probably be easier to put a captcha in the account creation stage. Making it a requirement for topic creation just makes things more annoying for legitimate users.

This. Also, most captcha I've come across in the past year was awful stuff that wasn't readable. 'We have a problem with bots, so we're going to make you put out more effort' is not an elegant solution either. I'm against bots, but I'm not behind the captcha idea.

#5 Posted by MattyFTM (14363 posts) -

There is captcha on signup. It doesn't stop the spambots. Having captcha on thread-creation also wouldn't prevent spambots. It would just add a layer of inconvenience to real people who want to create forum threads.

Just keep flagging and/or PMing the mods when you see spam threads and we'll deal with them. The vast majority of spam threads are gone within minutes.

Moderator
#6 Edited by Noblenerf (312 posts) -

@mattyftm: There's like 5 spam threads right now. There always seems to be one or two floating around.

Something more needs to be done to stem the spam, because I find that it really undermines my interest in checking out the recent forum activity when 1/5 of the first page is all spam. It makes this forum feel shady and unsafe, even though I know that's not the case.

Perhaps the answer is to do something to slow down or filter a user's first thread?

#7 Posted by HatKing (5875 posts) -

I'd be fine with that, I guess. Maybe just throw that on the account creation process instead of the forums. It'd get old punching it in whenever we post. I think if they put a delay on creating topics, that'd be enough. Maybe new accounts can't create topics for 24 hours? Or, their topics had to be approved for the first 24 hours?

#8 Posted by TheHumanDove (2523 posts) -

@mattyftm: There's like 5 spam threads right now. There always seems to be one or two floating around.

Something more needs to be done to stem the spam, because I find that it really undermines my interest in checking out the recent forum activity when 1/5 of the first page is all spam. It makes this forum feel shady and unsafe, even though I know that's not the case.

Perhaps the answer is to do something to slow down or filter a user's first thread?

But then wouldn't the entire internets make you feel unsafe?

#9 Posted by AntPatCan (26 posts) -

@gaff: I agree with you because it will ensure real humans are actually signing up for the website's services.

#10 Posted by xite (834 posts) -

Reposting because the site ate my post.

I think the spambots are using the social media signup process and not the site's own one. There's no captcha to stop that and spammers can easily create fake social media accounts to exploit the process. I just created a fake gmail account and was able to sign up with no captcha to stop me.

#11 Posted by MEATBALL (3155 posts) -

I find captchas way more annoying than the couple of spambots I see every now and then. That said, I don't create a whole bunch of topics anyway.

#12 Edited by LordAndrew (14426 posts) -

Captchas only serve as a hindrance to the real live people creating forum topics. The registration captcha isn't stopping them, adding more won't help either.

#13 Posted by Clonedzero (4196 posts) -

Yup, dealing with captchas would be way worse than a little bit of spam here and there. Plus they aren't fool proof.

#14 Posted by PimblyCharles (1360 posts) -

@mattyftm: You and the other moderators do an amazing job removing all those spam threads quickly. I agree that a captcha on thread creation would be really annoying for users.

#15 Posted by Nightriff (4972 posts) -

Make the registration one harder?

#16 Posted by mrcraggle (1894 posts) -

A system to prevent spam accounts, comments and threads yes but fuck Captcha. It's a shitty system, I'd rather the one from Mega.

#17 Posted by Sterling (2141 posts) -

How about phone call verification to create an account, or for it to be approved and allowed to post. Lets make Matt Rorie call everyone! I'm sure he'd love that!

#18 Posted by Christoffer (1786 posts) -

I was going to say "Hell yes, captcha, why not"... but then again, those spammers are real people making real decisions, right? Not bots.What's the point?

#19 Edited by charlie_victor_bravo (980 posts) -

#20 Posted by MattyFTM (14363 posts) -

Make the registration one harder?

I'm no expert on the subject, you'd have to ask the engineers about the technical aspect of blocking spammers, but the issue is mainly that the spammers employ people in third world countries to manually bypass captcha, then they unleash a script that posts. When you can pay actual human beings pennies an hour to bypass captcha, it becomes incredibly hard to stop. The captcha can be as hard as you like, but if normal people can enter it, so can anyone being paid by these spammers. And if normal people can't solve it, then you have a totally different problem.

Moderator
#21 Posted by BisonHero (6394 posts) -

Everyone in this thread other than moderators: you guys seem really misinformed. The GB signup already uses Captcha, but it's irrelevant, because as MattyFTM points out in the post right above mine, shady companies are paying real people in third world countries to just go make hundreds of accounts each day. Captcha filters out robots, but if actual humans are being paid to create the accounts, then Captcha doesn't really stop anything. You could put Captcha all over the site, and it wouldn't stop a damn thing.

Online
#22 Edited by Fattony12000 (7252 posts) -
  • Maybe you should have to make a certain number of replies to a certain number of previously created threads before you can make your own thread. And not have any of those posts flagged/removed/moderated/whatever.
  • Maybe you should have a harsh CAPTCHA set up for the first 1/2/3/whatever threads/posts that you create as a new user.
  • Maybe use a better CAPTCHA/system/process for all new signups.
  • Maybe make me a mod. I definitely, definitely won't somehow bring back mini bios somehow.
#23 Posted by LtSquigs (265 posts) -

@xite: I'm pretty sure the google/twitter/facebook sign up services have captcha systems, so this isn't really 'easier'.

@nightriff @mattyftm: The signup captcha actually is already really hard. They use a service called "Are you Human" which actually requires you to play a little mini flash game in order to prove your human. Much harder to cheat than those images with text on them.

The problem is, at least this was the problem when I left (could have changed since then, disclaimer), a lot of the spammers *are* humans. They are people who are payed to spam on forums, not robots. So Captcha's don't really work that well on those types of spammers.

The funny part is, they don't get anything from spamming on these forums. GB (and GS/CV/OG) all make it so any new posts by new accounts automatically get a bunch of anti-SEO stuff on their posts (thats the main goal of these spam bots, not to get you guys to click on them, to spread links around the web to increase a websites page ranks). So they do all this work and get basically nothing out of it.

Trying to stop spammers will always be a push and pull, but at a certain point if your making these barriers at the cost of legitimate users ability to participate its a bad deal. Spammers will continue to do whatever they need to do to spam, a captcha on topic creation (or a wait time) will stop a lot of legitimate users.

Nothing is a substitute for a good skilled moderation team (like the great one GB has).

#24 Posted by MattyFTM (14363 posts) -

@ltsquigs said:

Nothing is a substitute for a good skilled moderation team (like the great one GB has).

"Good" and "Skilled" aren't words I'd use to describe this rag-tag group of miscreants, but sure, nothing is a substitute for moderators.

Moderator
#25 Posted by LtSquigs (265 posts) -

@mattyftm: Ok I guess I should put a disclaimer on that "Not Zombiepie"

#26 Posted by themangalist (1731 posts) -

What happens when the captcha's themselves gain consciousness? What if they make us type in "I'm a loser on the internet lol #sosad" in order to create a thread on giantbomb.com? Then what?

#27 Edited by Splodge (1177 posts) -

@ltsquigs said:

@xite: I'm pretty sure the google/twitter/facebook sign up services have captcha systems, so this isn't really 'easier'.

@nightriff @mattyftm: The signup captcha actually is already really hard. They use a service called "Are you Human" which actually requires you to play a little mini flash game in order to prove your human. Much harder to cheat than those images with text on them.

The problem is, at least this was the problem when I left (could have changed since then, disclaimer), a lot of the spammers *are* humans. They are people who are payed to spam on forums, not robots. So Captcha's don't really work that well on those types of spammers.

The funny part is, they don't get anything from spamming on these forums. GB (and GS/CV/OG) all make it so any new posts by new accounts automatically get a bunch of anti-SEO stuff on their posts (thats the main goal of these spam bots, not to get you guys to click on them, to spread links around the web to increase a websites page ranks). So they do all this work and get basically nothing out of it.

Trying to stop spammers will always be a push and pull, but at a certain point if your making these barriers at the cost of legitimate users ability to participate its a bad deal. Spammers will continue to do whatever they need to do to spam, a captcha on topic creation (or a wait time) will stop a lot of legitimate users.

Nothing is a substitute for a good skilled moderation team (like the great one GB has).

Online
#28 Edited by DeadpanCakes (828 posts) -

The "Are You Human?" test is too casual. This wouldn't happen if it made you play an online multiplayer hardcore first-person shooter.

(Then, nobody would sign up for Giant Bomb. Problem solved)

#29 Edited by MB (12197 posts) -

Since the spam bots (whether human controlled or otherwise) can bypass Captcha and answer simple questions, the only solution I can think of to prevent spam threads outright is to put topics from new users in a crowd moderation queue, like we have for image submissions. Once the new users are verified as real people, they can have this restriction lifted and their new topics can go live right away, bypassing the queue completely.

Here's a rough idea of how it could work:

1. New user submits a topic. They get a notification that their topic will be published to the forums once it has been checked by humans to be a real topic.

2. Topic goes into the crowd moderation queue. Users vote yes or no on whether a topic is spam. When enough negative votes have been received, the topic is moved to the deletion queue and the user has their posting privileges temporarily revoked pending moderator review. If enough users vote that a topic is legit, it gets posted to the forums and the user is put in a queue to review for white listing.

3. Premium users automatically bypass the queue regardless of their post count, and moderators can add or remove anyone to the white list at any time.

The problem with this approach is that people will have to actively be monitoring the queue and voting on topics in order for it to work. Otherwise, new topics will just sit in the initial queue for hours and then legitimate users will get so frustrated they just stop trying to contribute. This probably means that "spam voting" will need to be incentivized in some way, whether that is through profile badges or achievements or something else, I don't know.

Of course, the real issue here is that anything like this is going to take a significant amount of time and engineering resources to accomplish.

Moderator
#30 Edited by Splodge (1177 posts) -

@mb said:

3. Premium users automatically bypass the queue regardless of their post count, and moderators can add or remove anyone to the white list at any time.

This reminds me of the ViewAskew boards (Kevin Smith's website). He was sick of people just trolling his forums and spamming nonsense so he put a procedure in place. To register on the board, you had to donate 99 cents during the sign up procedure to the red cross. Completely killed the trolling and spam.

Prob not a great idea for GB, but an interesting idea regardless.

Online
#31 Edited by Vuud (1944 posts) -

If they use people to bypass the registration captcha, then would they also have the people sit there and do the captcha for every topic their script bots create? Probably. (Hey, spambots create jobs!) I wonder how hard this stuff is to implement so you can at least do a little experimentation.

Having a 24 hour probation for creating topics isn't very welcoming to new users, even if you try and explain why. I imagine a lot of people registered here because they wanted to create a topic for legit reasons.

I like the idea of any users first topic creation having to go through the mods first, where a mod has to approve of any users FIRST topic creation. So new user's first topic may take a little while to show up on the forum, but it's just a delay to screen for bots and (hopefully) won't be seen as too discriminating.

#32 Posted by Bollard (5394 posts) -

@mb said:

Since the spam bots (whether human controlled or otherwise) can bypass Captcha and answer simple questions, the only solution I can think of to prevent spam threads outright is to put topics from new users in a crowd moderation queue, like we have for image submissions. Once the new users are verified as real people, they can have this restriction lifted and their new topics can go live right away, bypassing the queue completely.

Here's a rough idea of how it could work:

1. New user submits a topic. They get a notification that their topic will be published to the forums once it has been checked by humans to be a real topic.

2. Topic goes into the crowd moderation queue. Users vote yes or no on whether a topic is spam. When enough negative votes have been received, the topic is moved to the deletion queue and the user has their posting privileges temporarily revoked pending moderator review. If enough users vote that a topic is legit, it gets posted to the forums and the user is put in a queue to review for white listing.

3. Premium users automatically bypass the queue regardless of their post count, and moderators can add or remove anyone to the white list at any time.

The problem with this approach is that people will have to actively be monitoring the queue and voting on topics in order for it to work. Otherwise, new topics will just sit in the initial queue for hours and then legitimate users will get so frustrated they just stop trying to contribute. This probably means that "spam voting" will need to be incentivized in some way, whether that is through profile badges or achievements or something else, I don't know.

Of course, the real issue here is that anything like this is going to take a significant amount of time and engineering resources to accomplish.

This seems like the most sensible system I've heard for dealing with this. I agree with the last point, but the large number of spam threads that are still coming up (I feel like I flag a bunch every other day or so) and the increasing number of people unhappy with it means that its probably something that should get a little more attention.

#33 Edited by EVO (3889 posts) -

Why does it seem like this is only a problem on Giant Bomb? I only visit a handful of forums regularly, but none of them are plagued with spam. Either they've got a better system in place, or they're just not being targeted.

#34 Posted by billymagnum (769 posts) -

@evo: what plague?? i see maybe two spam posts a day. i dont see the urgency....

maybe new members should have their posts temporarily screened by the mods. that way you dont have annoy all of us. thats what we do at another site i mod for.

#35 Edited by FinalDasa (1585 posts) -

Yes, we should definitely have a captcha for creating topics, or maybe a "Your account must be 30 days old or have X many posts to make a topic" thing.

This is a great idea. There's already a flood protection until you reach a certain number of posts but this seems like an easy fix for spambots. Keeping it to 'X' number of posts would also encourage people to post as well.

Moderator
#36 Posted by AMyggen (2771 posts) -

Those threads are removed so fast that I don't really see the problem.