Course Blogs: When Spammers Attack!

Last night at our meeting, Leah brought up some challenges she is facing using a course blog. What do you do when spammers attack? I co-hosted a Hastac Scholars Forum last year on Pedagogical Ethics in a Digital Age and some of the respondents addressed issues like the ones Leah raised, so I wanted to share it here. Not sure if the Wiki is the place to do that, but we'll see!

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On HASTAC we do a spam search daily.  We are big enough that our spammers are not bots but humans who register to the site, actually write fake comments, and implant url's for things that allow you to buy purses cheap or increase the size of private parts for a princely sum.  Not HASTAC, in other words.  We simply hide, delete, or ban them.  They come back.  Many each night.  We have not found any of the Captcha or other systems to prevent human spammers.  Captcha and simple adding or recognition systems do work.  You can ask questions such as "Class password" and then you can give the class a password.  Downside is some will forget and then you have to handle that case by case.  But it does keep out spammers.  I'd love to hear what else others have come up with.  The possibilities are much greater for a class (where everyone can be told special content) than for a public, open community site like HASTAC.  Good luck.--Cathy Davidson

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This link is making the rounds this morning on my twitter feed: about someone being harrassed on Twitter, then meeting the troll in person. It's very disturbing. Can you imagine if this infiltrated the classroom? When does a spammer (of the kind that is an actual person dumping links, not a bot) become a troll? When does it become harassment?

Re public/private, Adeline Koh recently posted about using Twitter in the classroom. The discussion in the comments is particularly interesting. Alexis Lothian also recently posted a very interesting Storify of her experience of her class hashtag getting spammed (and how she's dealing with it right now).

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This call for papers about trolling may be of interest.

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Just read throught the posts on pedagogical ethics and found them really on target and helpful. I think it is crucial to be aware of what might potentially be public, both in the content of any digital discussion and in the technical specs of the environment or platform one is using. For instance, the fact that a platform like WordPress collects IP addresses has an impact on what promises can be made about anonymity... Being aware of these hidden dimensions is really, really important.

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