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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: 4, Insightful) by Mykl on Sunday July 03 2022, @10:00PM (8 children)

    by Mykl (1112) on Sunday July 03 2022, @10:00PM (#1257861)

    IMHO, the posting styles of the two are dramatically different, and from memory their individual targets on the site never seem to overlap. Each seems to have a different type of psychopathy as well. I doubt that the moment of clarity is coming any time soon, but when it does I really do hope that they seek help. Their lives could be so much more fulfilling without spending the time they do on something that they will get no thanks for.

    I always read at -1, but I do like the idea of modifying posts that contain spam so that you have to click to see it, kind of like the Spoiler tag. I agree that penalties for misusing the Spam mod would need to be increased.

    Starting Score:    1  point
    Moderation   +2  
       Troll=1, Insightful=3, Total=4
    Extra 'Insightful' Modifier   0  
    Karma-Bonus Modifier   +1  

    Total Score:   4  
  • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Monday July 04 2022, @06:43AM (5 children)

    by RS3 (6367) on Monday July 04 2022, @06:43AM (#1257962)

    My idea (off the cuff, fishing for suggestions) would be a very simple perl code change: "spam" mod would not be subtracting 1, but would always be a -2. No other mod type could achieve -2.

    In other words, almost all perl code stays the same, no matter how many downmods (other than spam) a post gets, -1 is the lowest any other post can go... except, "spam" mod would result in -2. That way spam score posts will be out of view of anyone using -1 reading threshold.

    Should be easy to expand reading threshold to include -2.

    I'll look at the rehash code, my hunch is it's quite easy.

    • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Monday July 04 2022, @07:03AM

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Monday July 04 2022, @07:03AM (#1257970) Journal

      I agree that seems quite possible and would be a useful improvement, but how to change those settings on the remote live server to which I haven't got access is not something I wish to contemplate at the moment. :)

      I am not interested in knowing who people are or where they live. My interest starts and stops at our servers.
    • (Score: 2) by hendrikboom on Tuesday July 05 2022, @02:00AM (3 children)

      by hendrikboom (1125) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday July 05 2022, @02:00AM (#1258136) Homepage Journal

      Then something incorrectly modded as spam would not be visible to the general public whi micht otherwise be able to mod it up again.

      • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Tuesday July 05 2022, @03:21AM (2 children)

        by RS3 (6367) on Tuesday July 05 2022, @03:21AM (#1258148)

        Not correct. I'm not sure why I keep explaining this. Spam and only spam would be a -2, and reading threshold would be expanded to include -2 option.

        "Spam" mod is the only way to -2 score in my scenario.

        The thought being the "spam" mod is a nuke from orbit. You only use it when it's really the correct mod. When editors / admins see it, they decide what to do (fix it or leave it).

        If the modder was incorrect, they risk losing mod points for a month, and afaik that has been the policy for several years (but now I'm not sure if it's being enforced...)

        • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Tuesday July 05 2022, @12:02PM (1 child)

          by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday July 05 2022, @12:02PM (#1258229) Journal

          It is being enforced.

          You may be being confused by the fact that the Decision to ban aristarchus specifically stated that his posts would also be classed as spam.

          I am not interested in knowing who people are or where they live. My interest starts and stops at our servers.
          • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Tuesday July 05 2022, @12:08PM

            by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday July 05 2022, @12:08PM (#1258231) Journal
            Sorry that second "quote" was actually my reply - hit the wrong button!
            I am not interested in knowing who people are or where they live. My interest starts and stops at our servers.
  • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Tuesday July 05 2022, @03:28PM (1 child)

    by DeathMonkey (1380) on Tuesday July 05 2022, @03:28PM (#1258275) Journal

    Each seems to have a different type of psychopathy as well

    Being pissed off that your rights are being systematically stripped from you by theocrats is a a reaction to objective reality, not a psychopathy.

    • (Score: 2) by Mykl on Tuesday July 05 2022, @11:52PM

      by Mykl (1112) on Tuesday July 05 2022, @11:52PM (#1258409)

      Wow, that's a lot to unpack. Let's have a look:

      • "rights". SN's free speech is not bound by the US Constitution (or any other country for that matter). It is entirely a matter of policy for the site whether someone can or can't post. Their ball, their rules. Now, SN takes a very open approach to this and is generally pretty open to most commentary, but has drawn the line at spam (duh) and doxxing. Nobody has a "right" to post spam on SN - the challenge for the site is working out how to eliminate spam while minimising harm to all other users and encouraging legitimate discussion
      • "systematically stripped". Apart from the aforementioned spamming and doxxing, what conversation topics are currently verboten? The fact that your own post will remain up is evidence that people can still say pretty much anything here. Please point me to a legitimate topic of conversation that has come under the jackbooted heel of the fascist SN leadership.
      • "theocrats". I do not think that word means what you think it means. No evidence of Sharia law here, or any religion-based decision making
      • "objective reality". This doesn't apply when it's an opinion. You can say that the sky is blue, that water is wet. But an _opinion_ on whether certain Doxxers are being unfairly treated is hardly axiomatic

      Perhaps I should ask you a different question. What value do you think APK's spam brings to SN and why should I, as a member of this community, defend it (instant fail if you reference the 1st Amendment - FWIW I don't live in America). Feel free to replace APK with D**kN***ers or those old misogynist fantasy posts describing extreme violence against females.