For this community update we once again want to focus on supporting community administrators by showing possibly solutions to tackling the spam problem most communities deal with. If you are new to our Community Updates format, we hope that you also check out the last edition - including a stunning interview with a leading Flarum community.
🤦 Tackling "the spam problem"
Every community out in the public will eventually have to face the problem with spam. Both automatically and manually created content can have a big negative impact on a community and to other community members. Therefor as a community administrator fighting spam is always a high objective. But what options do you have using Flarum? Today we are going to look at different approaches tackling the "spam problem".
®️ Registration of new users
Every spam contribution starts with the registration of a new users. The ultimate border of course is closing registration all together - but this is not what most communities strive for. Here are several ways to optimise the signup of new users:
Doorman - making your community invite only
Although this solution might only be applicable for some communities, you have the option to make your Flarum invite-only quite easily. The extension in question is called Doorman. It will allow signup only for people holding an invitation code.
Captcha - making a bots' live so much harder
Some (not all!) spam is created automatically by bots. Making live harder for them registering in your community can improve spam a lot. Captchas have been some of the well established forms of getting rid of this kind of spam. There are two different solutions available for Flarum reCaptcha and hCaptcha. Besides the possibility to integrate it into the registration process it can also be used for discussion / post creation.
StopForumSpam - using the collective knowledge of many communities
StopForumSpam holds a database of potentially spammers that have been caught on other communities already. With the according StopForumSpam extension for Flarum you can profit from this vast data. In the context of this extension the Spamblock extension has to be highlighted as well. On the one hand it automates blocking and removing content, on the other hand it contributes to the StopForumSpam database (if both extensions are used).
Blocking access - tightening the target audience
Another option you have is to manage who is able to access / join your community. Banning IPs can be done on server level - or also with a Flarum extension. During registration you can use both E-Mail and Username black/whitelists to narrow the audience.
🔒️ Managing access rights
The second line of defence for your community starts with the spammer being already a member, passing the registration obstacles. Although your community most likely wants to be as inclusive as possible to new members you want to keep control over the spam problem.
AutoModerator - introducing trust levels
Auto Moderator is a extension allowing complex validations for automatic group assignments. This allows you to easily build trust levels. This allows you to keep new users from spreading spam too quickly. For example they could be required to use Captcha for posting, are not allowed to edit their user bio, are not allowed to use private discussions, etc. A secondary group that is automatically assigned after a certain number of posts, received likes, etc. could then allow extended rights - as spammers have already been sorted out by moderation staff and do not reach such milestones. The possibilities to use this are sheer endless.
Akismet - verifying the content
Running posted content against a spam analysis is also a popular option. Wordpress has been using this for it's commenting system for a long time. There is also a Flarum extension to allow running content against the Akismet service.
First Post Approval - keeping a tight moderation
If you are willing to make a tradeoff for people being able to jump into your community right away (or have a very active moderation team) you can also require first posts of new users approval first. With the FirstPostApproval extension you can most likely block out a lot of spam.
👮 It has happened - what now?
Eventually some spam will make it through all your defensive lines that you have built. Now your focus will shift to handling the spam and making work of your moderation wonders.
Spamblock - automate the obvious
As mentioned above, the Spamblock extension will help you automate the indefinite suspension and deleting of all posted content with one click. Also (if used) it will submit the spammers data to the StopForumSpam database.
Shadowban - keeping it from happening again
Especially for human spammers it might be a valid option to make them unaware you have caught onto their spammy behaviour. In this case there is a sneaky extension called ShadowBan allowing for a different kind of suspension behaviour.
🛫 Conclusion - is there a solution?
As you can see from the large list of available options - tackling the spam problem is something you will share with most community administrators. Every community needs to find their own fitting way to approach the spam issue. This list of possibilities hopefully is a good starting point to you.
📰 Other News
Blomstra (managed Flarum hosting) company has launched it's service to the public. You can learn more about Blomstra and the offering here: https://discuss.flarum.org/d/25875-blomstra-development-services-scalable-managed-flarum/90.
🕸️ Extension Highlights
🏁 Final words
The Flarum team is extremely grateful for its great community. We hope to have given you a comprehensive overview of some highlights. Next time we will feature one of our own core developers in an interview format. Read you next time!