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Bilbo crazed

Junk comments becoming a swelling tide....

Posted on 2011.04.08 at 09:02
Tags: ,
SPAM comments.

Since the winter, maybe as early as the fall, I've been receiving comments in old posts that turn out to be junk. Mostly they're anonymous. But sometimes they're from registered LJ users. However, if you go to the user's profile page, you can see they don't really have a journal -- they have no posts and no personal info.

When I first got one, I thought it was a real but indecipherable comment. It was written in a foreign language, one I didn't know. I'm not good at languages, but my guess was Polish. Someone who could read Polish took a look and said it was Polish, but didn't make much sense. I answered it, asking if they had commented there by mistake. Then there was another, and another, from the same anonymous source. The third one had links, links I opened to see if they gave a clue to the sender. They opened to ads for viagra, porn, you name it. That's when it dawned on me that these were junk mail, somehow turning up as comments to posts.

Since then I've been getting more and more, from all over, sometimes in foreign languages, sometimes in English.

I went to the Help Site and saw one could request CAPTCHA's be shown to people who wanted to comment. Those are the little pictures of squiggly letters and numbers you're supposed to decipher to show you are a living person. I asked that CAPTCHA's appear to anonymous commenters. (My apologies to anonymous readers of this LJ who have had to run this gauntlet.) I didn't want to do this, inconveniencing them and possibly making them feel cold-shouldered.

But, now, enough is enough. I am going to set my LJ to show a CAPTCHA to every commenter not friended to Mechtild. So I apologize in advance to you interested, amiable non-friended readers, who simply want to ask about a screencap or a manip, or speak to an entry. But this encroachment by junk mail posters has become a swelling tide.
ETA: I just went to Privacy Settings to add "non-friends" to those who will be shown a CAPTCHA. Unfortunately, you can't choose both "anonymous" and "non-friends", only one or the other. The only option that includes both is "all commenters". That means even friends would have to be shown a CAPTCHA. I'll have to think about going that far.

I can't be the only one to whom this has been happening. Have others of you been getting these junk mail comments? Have you better strategies to deal with them?

Thanks for any advice.

Mechtild

Comments:


jan_u_wine
jan_u_wine at 2011-04-08 14:25 (UTC) (Link)
yes....let's kill them....kill them all...and then the LJ will be oursssssss......

seriously, how annoying. I think your response is a good one. It may cut down a bit on posters who are anon, but it sounds as if there is far more spam coming in to your LJ than legit anon posters. It's a fair thing, I think.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2011-04-08 14:26 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Jan. Nice Setzer icon, too. :)
Prim
primula_baggins at 2011-04-08 14:35 (UTC) (Link)
They are bots that set up fake journals, and then they friend people's journals. As you said, they are always in a foreign language and have no posts of their own (sometimes they *do* have a post or two, even). LJ wants you to report them. These bots are what is causing the LJ notifications problems because they send out thousands of spam messages, and that is what has caused various email hosts to block all of LJ's emails.

Here's how you report it to LJ, and they will take care of it:

"How do I mark a comment as spam? What does this option do?

When deleting a comment, you will be given an option to also mark it as spam (unsolicited bulk messages). To do this, you first need to delete the comment. This will then bring you to an intermediate screen where you confirm your action.

You can mark the comment as spam by selecting the appropriate check box on this screen before confirming via the "delete comment" button. It is not possible to mark a comment as spam without deleting it, or when deleting it using the "mass action" option.

Additionally, if you suspect that the user may be a bot, and not a real person leaving spam comments, you can submit a bot report.

When you mark a comment as spam, this information is sent to LiveJournal administrators who are then able to take the appropriate action. Please note that all such information is carefully reviewed by a human being before any action is taken, so any erroneous or accidental marking of comments as spam will not automatically result in incorrect action being taken. Even so, please only use this option if you believe the comment in question to be spam.

Please do not use the spam reporting interface to report comments which are off-topic, harassing, or that you feel are violations of the Terms of Service but are not spam. This system is used solely for identifying users who are using LiveJournal to advertise services or products in journals where such advertisements are not desired, and any reports which are not unsolicited advertising will be disregarded. You can report other violations of the Terms of Service by contacting the Abuse Prevention Team.

If you frequently receive spam comments, you have the option to show CAPTCHAs (an anti-spam image) to certain categories of commenters. This may reduce the amount of spam comments you receive."

See more here:

http://www.livejournal.com/support/faqbrowse.bml?faqid=201&q=spam

Mechtild
mechtild at 2011-04-08 15:01 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Primula. I actually have been doing just that: going to each strange comment that crops up (however tiresome it is), deciding if it is spam (always has been so far), then deleting them as spam, as you described.

I don't know how to judge if something is a bot. Do you mean checking the user page to see if there's nothing there and reporting it? Yet there are people friended to Mechtild that have never posted in their own journals, who just have an LJ so they can read other people's posts and comment there. I am glad to hear LJ folk try to check, first, before pouncing on some journal that, for all intents and purposes, looks like a bot journal (but isn't).

But you inspire me to go through the list of LJ's that are friended to Mechtild and see if there are ones that have no personal info, but also that have never commented.

Thanks so much for these instructions!
Mariole
mariole at 2011-04-08 14:38 (UTC) (Link)
Yes, I get this crap. I just delete it. But it's a pain, because I have to look it up and make sure it's complete garbage. If it contains a link, I know it's one of those scam things as well.

I hate this.
Mariole
mariole at 2011-04-08 14:41 (UTC) (Link)
Adding, CAPCha however you spell it sounds like an option I'll use as well. I don't want to contribute to the tide.

And the option to delete a comment is now reduced to only delete-- there was no "mark as spam" the last few times I did it. Maybe they got too many requests?
Lily Dragonquill
lily_the_hobbit at 2011-04-08 15:09 (UTC) (Link)
I've been lucky. I only had a a handful of these - all from registered users which I immediately deleted and marked as spam. I hope the situation improves for you now.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2011-04-08 15:21 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, Lily. I hope it will not come to showing every commenter CAPTCHA's. As I just found out, it's not possible to select both "anonymous" and "non-friends" as those to whom they will be shown. You have to choose one or the other. Since I have got more from anonymous than registered LJ users, I'll leave it set to anonymous for the time being.
(Deleted comment)
Mechtild
mechtild at 2011-04-08 16:01 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, Mews. Yes, it seems to be rampant. I've only twice had a mystery comment from what seemed to be, definitely, a bot journal. I did what I should to get rid of them. But this new influx is unprecedented, and mostly from anonymous spammers. The CAPTCHA for anonymous comments has reduced them, I'm happy to say. But I was just telling Lily, I got another anonymous spammer just today, who had to have jumped the CAPTCHA hoop.
Maewyn
maewyn_2 at 2011-04-08 15:43 (UTC) (Link)
I haven't had a problem with unusual comments to older posts. However, a few weeks ago I received a message in my inbox from someone I didn't know. When I clicked on it, there was no message. I didn't investigate any further and had forgotten about it until I read your post. I wonder if this may have been one of those "bots"?

Good luck with sorting this out. :)
Mechtild
mechtild at 2011-04-08 16:02 (UTC) (Link)
Hey, I got one of those, too, Maewyn. In the inbox, not in a post, right? I clicked it and there was no message. So strange! I guess it was a bot, but what was the point?
Ann
just_ann_now at 2011-04-08 16:33 (UTC) (Link)
I've gotten them on MEFA Reviews posts that I used to put up daily. The review posts weren't anything anyone ever commented on, I just deleted and marked as spam with no regrets whatsover.

Edit: I got the captcha and it took me THREE TRIES because I can't read captcha's stupid handwriting!

Edited at 2011-04-08 04:34 pm (UTC)
Mechtild
mechtild at 2011-04-08 16:39 (UTC) (Link)
Three tries? That's not good. I put it back to "anonymous". There is no option to show CAPTCHA's to anonymous and non-friended comments, only one or the other. So I set it to "all" an hour ago. I put it back to "anonymous", which are, so far, the main culprits.

Don't you hate CAPTCHA's, or some of them? I had that problem trying to log onto my bank account the other day. I mispelled my password so it started showing me CAPTCHA's to try again. But I kept failing, unable to tell what all the letters were supposed to be. I appreciated that they were making it hard to get into my account, but, SHEES!
Lavender Took
lavendertook at 2011-04-09 04:51 (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I get those, too. I have my journal set to screen anyone who isn't on my friends list, and when they show up in email notifications, I just report them as spam when I delete them.

Here's a really interesting essay on the relation of the spamming and the recent attacks on LJ and their implications written by one of DW's 2 founders in the journal she posts in her unofficial capacity at dw.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2011-04-09 14:35 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. But I don't want to throw away comments by people not on my friends list. There are three anonymous commenters, for example, who have been regulars over the years, big LOTR fans who have never registered on LJ. There are others who stop by, though not much in the last few years, that were LJ LOTR fans, but not friended. Again, I wouldn't want their posts deleted as spam. I guess I'll hust have to address it on an indiviual basis, beyond showing the CAPTCHA to anonymous commenters.

Thanks for linking that article, inspite of the icon (bondage being not my fave). I didn't know a thing about it. I think I'll show it to my husband, who would find the story of LJ and its function in Russia fascinating.
wendylady1
wendylady1 at 2011-04-09 06:48 (UTC) (Link)
Mech,
Oh, I am sorry that your journal has been plagued with these pests - my Fashion Journal was being simply inundated with crap all the time, on random posts right back to 2006 when the journal was started...( that's always a give-away too - if someone has commented on a very old post )until I put the CAPTCHA in place for all anonymous comments. Now it is reduced to a manageable trickle...

The other thing I have done which is very effective is to screen all posts with any kind of link in them - then you have to use your homepage 'latest comments' option on a regular basis to check for spammers - the posts with links will be highlighted in grey and also hidden from your readers - then you can hit that delete button straightaway, without mercy - don't even bother check their journals...

I have had to get into the habit of checking the latest 100 comments page as it enables me to keep track of legitimate comments all over the journal, on old posts as well as the latest ones, as well as being able to delete spam from the one page - these are all useful tools and make the spam comments much easier to find and delete before any readers get to see them.

Spam is often in Russian, or some other language,- (and seeing as your journal is written in English, why are they commenting in any other language that you can't understand ?)- always nonsense and a great big pain in the arse...but I have found my own ways of dealing with it - I always report spam journals as a rule, then the LJ spam fairies can go to work - they can't deal with them unless they are reported in the first place, and after a while, you do get a sixth sense of when it's a spam journal rather than a legitimate user - if it's in a foreign language then don't hesitate...

Try the screening option for comments with links - that will highlight the Viagra and porn ads faster than anything else, and if your journal is a fully paid up account, you can keep track of the last 100 comments which is also useful if you can't always get to LJ every day...
Mechtild
mechtild at 2011-04-09 14:44 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Wendy. I will have to look and see where the "screening option for comments with links" is. Maybe it's also on the privacy settings page. And where you find the most recent comments all in a bunch. "The 100 comments page." It kind of rings a bell. Maybe I stumbled on it once in my wanderings, trying to find this or that. I have a paid account, so it should be there.

Speaking of comments with links, take a look at Lavender Took's directly above you. She linked an essay at Dreamwidth by a former Livejournal person who has much to say about why Livejournal is frequently under assault, and why a lot of the spam is in foreign languages.

Yes, the CAPTCHA for anonymous comments has been a big help, although the occasional anonymous spammer still gets through (must be a real person; the CAPTCHA's are very difficult to decipher; I've failed them myself).

Thanks so much for all these tips!
antane
antane at 2011-04-09 18:54 (UTC) (Link)
I love your Bilbo picture! :) I would have LOL but I'm at the library and had to restrain myself.

I've gotten a few spams and like you they are people who have a LJ name but not truly there, I would guess set up just so they can spam people. I got one in another language too. I delete the comments and ban the user from commenting again and haven't had trouble since then.

Namarie, God bless, Antane :)
Mechtild
mechtild at 2011-04-09 19:59 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, Antane. Yet more good advice. Where do you ban the user from commenting again? At the problem comment itself, or some other place, like privacy settings?
suzemyna at 2011-04-10 20:16 (UTC) (Link)
excellent articles, useful for me. keep writing and happy blogging.

Mechtild
mechtild at 2011-04-10 20:32 (UTC) (Link)
:)
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