ChristianForums: Trolls and spammers

2006-11-11 14:48

It’s not all bad. ChristianForums staff do some really good work. In particular, let’s talk about trolls and spammers.

All forums get trolls and spammers. ChristianForums allows automated signup (you don’t have to be manually approved), and is a very large target.

They get a lot of trolls and spammers.

You’d never guess this from reading the forums. With the case of the purely unambiguous abusers, CF staff do an excellent job of catching and nailing spammers. The entire forum staff is (or was last I checked) empowered to yank them.

One example that I find particularly interesting is exodus4321/timex/mead/delur. There was this guy. And he was frankly a very annoying and mean poster, but he wasn’t really a rulebreaker. Then, one day, a staffer he had a problem with did something that set him off. She deconverted. She stopped being Christian, she resigned from staff, and she participated in the forum for a while as an atheist.

He flamed her, a lot.

He got banned.

What followed was a series of troll accounts that frankly became legendary. I lost count. I think I personally banned him ten times or more. (You could argue that this information is a breach of staff confidentiality, but anyone in General Apologetics from that period could tell you as much.) Many of his accounts were just brand names. He had a very distinctive posting style, and some users would spot him on his first or second post. David Gould, in particular, could almost always spot him.

He got clever after a while, using more elaborate made-up names, pretending to be a girl, and so on… But he had one key weakness, which was that he seemed to have a constitutional limit of a week or so, at most, before he would track down some old post of Lanakila’s and write immense rants about how she was a liar.

It was sorta noticeable.

The night John Paul II died, a large number of the non-denominational and Baptist members made poor decisions. They made decisions that this was the right time to go insult the Catholics. They wrote rants. They wrote rants about how JPII was in hell. They wrote “questions” like “Why should we be sad about the death of a man who lead millions of people away from God?”

These posts disappeared at an astounding rate, and I think the staff must have been putting in insanely long hours on that for a few days. Some users got very sneaky, and registered new accounts; Iollain (a regular Catholic-basher) had a particularly nasty bit of vitriol nuked; five or ten minutes later, a brand-new Baptist showed up and posted a substantially similar rant.

For all that there’s plenty of horror stories about CF, it’s important to remember that there’s a lot of people whose stories aren’t nearly so horrifying. There’s a lot of good work getting done. One of the downsides of CF’s secrecy is that people may feel morally obliged to blow the whistle on harmful behaviors, but they don’t feel right doing so on good ones. But rest assured, there are good ones. I’d guess that perfectly reasonable or even particularly good moderator actions are the overwhelming majority of staff actions at ChristianForums.

Peter Seebach

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Comments

  1. I remember that when the pope died... those were long days indeed, with lots of nasty people...

    — Jeff · 2006-11-12 05:54 · #

  2. Seebs, i've never ever used a sock puppet, i'm on as Iollain, and that is it. And i'm not a basher, I have logical arguments based on the Bible.

    Thanks a lot.

    — Iollain · 2007-06-11 17:11 · #

  3. .......AND I've never said a thing about JPII being in hell.....what a gossip starter you are....man...you had best go and ask if my IP number has ever been used twice before you start rumours.

    — Iollain · 2007-06-11 17:31 · #

  4. oh yes, and.......we are already labeled as Protestant, ....so keep your Catholic-Basher to yourself, thank you.

    — Iollain · 2007-06-13 09:19 · #

 
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