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posted by janrinok on Sunday July 03 2022, @03:30PM   Printer-friendly
from the lets-see-what-happens-here dept.

I realise that this has been an unpleasant time for many of our anonymous community members, but I can assure you that it has been necessary. I am not yet prepared to go into details but I can at least update you with our findings so far. But first we have to look at some historical data.

Anonymous Cowards (ACs) have always been - and will hopefully continue to be - welcome members of our community. There are many perfectly understandable reasons for wishing to post as AC and how you chose to live your own personal life is of no concern of this site. Equally, you are welcome to use VPNs and other security measures to protect your privacy. We take similar measures to protect all of your data so that you will not be compromised by us. These measures are effective and to the SN administration ACs appear as a single user with the user identity of #1.

We cannot treat some ACs differently from others. While we can manage to sort out your comments etc with the aid of the hashes that we produce, they change so frequently as to be useless for any purpose outside of this site. But the Administration is only concerned with what happens within this site and so this point is moot. We have no interest in the rest of the internet so IP addresses are also of no interest to us. How your comments get from wherever you are to us is irrelevant. The bottom line is that ACs can only be treated as a single account. That account is granted certain permissions or not granted those permissions and they apply to every AC interaction.

Most of our community, both logged in and AC, participate in the discussions in an reasonable manner and discuss the topic that has been outlined and any threads that resulting from it. It is true that, particularly at weekends, there is a slight increase in the number of ACs appearing but on their own they are little more than a minor irritant. There is, however, a 3rd group, consisting of ACs who sole purpose seems to be to derail any sensible discussion. Over recent years they have become more aggressive and often use personal attacks rather than challenging what is being said. Some are more obvious than others and I am sure that you can all think of examples of such people for yourself. A very small number have stated that it is their aim to prevent SoylentNews from continuing.

On 22 Jun of this year we received an implied threat ( suggesting the the person making it had a target date of 6 July for some event or other. It is possible that this is related to another 'prophecy' in which this individual foretold that the site would soon be dead. We believe that we can identify the person making that threat with a reasonable degree of certainty. However, since that time the number of ad-hominem attacks has increased and we have also been subjected to increasing amounts of spam. In small amounts either or both of these things can be shrugged of, but when they come increasingly aggressive and frequent, they can make the entire experience of being in this community very unpleasant. I know that we have lost both staff and numerous community members because of this toxic atmosphere - and not, as some would have you believe, because we administer the site!

Almost all of this behaviour is conducted by a very small number of ACs and occasionally via sock-puppet accounts. As the levels of harassment increased over the last few weeks it was obvious to us that we could remove it by simply preventing AC access. This was not an easy decision to make but we knew that we could protect the majority of the site by this simple action. The result is, as you know, that we reluctantly removed anonymous access by ACs to the front page.

We are now actively looking for more permanent solutions and hopefully to exactly what we had before. I have experimented with providing stories on the front page which are AC friendly, and also in my journal. We are still looking for a better solution but unless we can separate individual ACs then I cannot see what else can be done. I would welcome your feedback and suggestions. The outcome of our decision is also our loss as you can see if you look at the numbers of comments that we are now getting compared to before the ban.

I have spent a lot of time analysing the posts, both current and historical, to try to identify the person or persons responsible for this unwanted content. I am not going to name specific individuals because I believe that you can each reach your own conclusions. By looking at both the spam and comment content, and their meta data, I have established the following.

The person spamming our site is one of our own Anonymous Cowards who is currently blocked because we have removed access for the AC account - and that block affects all ACs. He is also one of the people regularly carrying out ad hominem attacks against other community members. He will be reading everything that we post about this issue.

Unless the abuses cease everywhere on the site including in journals, ACs will remain outside of the main site except for specially released stories until we can devise a better system. For us to currently do anything different would be foolish and irresponsible in the extreme. As soon as the abuse ceases we can readmit all ACs to the main site again.

I know that this will be as much of a disappointment to you as it is to me, and you may also be thinking of leaving. I ask you not to go. Rather I would encourage you all to let the abusers know that they are not fighting for your freedom of speech ("freeze peach") but they are by their actions actively preventing your participation in our site. There is one particular post ( which suggests that this is being done on behalf of all ACs and that you all stand as one behind this action. I don't believe that anybody has the right to claim that if you haven't actually agreed to it.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by SomeGuy on Sunday July 03 2022, @04:00PM (9 children)

    by SomeGuy (5632) on Sunday July 03 2022, @04:00PM (#1257771)

    suggesting the the person making it had a target date of 6 July for some event or other.

    Might be a good time to check your backups if you haven't done so already. Just saying.

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  • (Score: 4, Funny) by janrinok on Sunday July 03 2022, @04:04PM (1 child)

    by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Sunday July 03 2022, @04:04PM (#1257772) Journal
    I'll start search for a sober sysadmin :)
    I am not interested in knowing who people are or where they live. My interest starts and stops at our servers.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 04 2022, @04:09AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 04 2022, @04:09AM (#1257934)

      Ah, the veritable Holiest of Grails. I'm afraid they went out with the dodo bird. The tipsy ones who also do perl have all gone fishing.

  • (Score: 0, Disagree) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 03 2022, @04:42PM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 03 2022, @04:42PM (#1257785)

    Backups? Seriously, is anyone reading anything from more than a day ago? Maybe it makes posters feelz warm 'n' cozy that their insights are saved forever on teh tubez but c'mon, those Gb of text are wasted. Better to save old episodes of Friends, or M*A*S*H.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by janrinok on Sunday July 03 2022, @04:56PM

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Sunday July 03 2022, @04:56PM (#1257789) Journal

      It is useful to be able to link to 'Previous Stories' of relevance and alternative points of view. Some comments also point to them as a citation for the claim that they are making.

      The meta data is important for protecting users against some forms of abuse (moderation abuse for example).

      You might wish that we didn't keep such data but for this article in particular I had to go back several weeks.

      If we removed what people had said previously from our database then we would be accused of censorship. In fact we have been accused of censorship even though we have kept everything and it is all still publicly viewable.

      And if we didn't have a backup, how would we restore our system when it crashed - of course that would never happen to SoylentNews, now would it?!

      I am not interested in knowing who people are or where they live. My interest starts and stops at our servers.
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by SomeGuy on Sunday July 03 2022, @07:57PM (1 child)

      by SomeGuy (5632) on Sunday July 03 2022, @07:57PM (#1257827)

      I know it's unthinkable these days, but once in a while someone might have actually posted something *useful*. The sort of thing one might want to pull up again, or let someone else pull up while doing a web search.

      That is technically the entire purpose of a forum, to preserve hopefully useful information and discussion.

      Of course, "modern" sites like Facebook and Twitter could go up in flames and nothing of any value would be lost, since their entire purpose is to produce advertising and sell cell phones.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by anubi on Monday July 04 2022, @12:53AM

        by anubi (2828) on Monday July 04 2022, @12:53AM (#1257905) Journal

        Thank you.

        What you said is exactly the reason I registered here.

        Many Soylentils offer unique points of view into issues of the day, often the same issues vexing me.

        I am a member of a diesel truck forum for the same reasons. An old purely mechanical IDI International Harvester Diesel engine powers my van. It should last the rest of my life if I can maintain it. Or at least until it is outlawed I even have it converted to run on 100% solar power, via Neste's plant and animal fat rendering technology. ( Neste renewable diesel ).

        Specialty forums, such as here, are just the ticket for me. I come here to discuss technology. I don't have much interest in pointless bickering, who knows who, name-dropping coattail-riding celebrity idle rich people crap.

        I don't even visit FB, Twitter, etc. It's like getting snarled in an Outbrain or Taboola trap. Lots of people, but the ratio of brain to blubber is so low it makes meaningful communication quite tedious.

        "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 03 2022, @11:58PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 03 2022, @11:58PM (#1257889)

      Information that someone has posted, even decades ago, will come in very useful for their trials for crimes against the state, comrade. That ten years ago people weren't telling you which pronoun they preferred will be no excuse.

      Dark comedy aside, as a semi-frequent AC poster, if y'all need to shut down the AC posting to keep out those miserable SOBs who are abusing the privilege, then so be it. I think the site will manage to go on without my thoughtful insights and sharp witticisms, as improbable as that may seem. :D

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Reziac on Monday July 04 2022, @02:38AM

      by Reziac (2489) on Monday July 04 2022, @02:38AM (#1257920) Homepage

      I've occasionally gone looking for some quote and guess where I find it? in one of my antique posts either here or on the Green Site. This happens often enough to have some appreciation for the long string of history preserved by these sites.

      And there is no Alkibiades to come back and save us from ourselves.
  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 05 2022, @06:19AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 05 2022, @06:19AM (#1258168)

    One day left! Backups will be of no avail. The Apocalypse, the Ragnorak, the Eschaton is imminent! Prepare yourselves, soylentils, to be cleansed. The End is Nye! Bill Nye!

    We are amused by the gullibility of SoylentNews's ex officio Chief Editor Emeritus, retired but called back into "action". Good luck, janrinok, and have fun storming the internets!