How to deal with spam on blogs and other social media entitites?

Spam is so much prevalent on social media and apps that the comment boxes of our blogs and websites, social accounts and even SMS inbox often receive more of it than genuine messages.

What is spam ?

Spam is an irrelevant and uninvited message. Spam is usually sent to many users with the help of an automated tool. Spam can contain malicious content too.

I give below the snap of spammy comments that I have received recently on this very blog. I have not included many that were exact repeats. So, it clearly is a case where someone might have found some merit in commenting on my blog (e.g. a backlink from a genuine website) and he/ she has automated the commenting process so that my blog gets repeated comments. None of the messages look genuine as they talk all nonsense. The links given in the comments are also usually not related to the topics covered in the blog, and none has the URL of the sender or a URL embedded in the comment. That shows, the commenter is either testing the ground or is not a professional spammer yet.

What would happen if I allowed all these comments on my blog? Search engines would consider my blog of low value, and whatever value still remains would be 'stolen' by the spammer for the URLs that he puts inside comments.Visitors to the blog would know that I am not serious about the blog and they would not like to put their comments. 

None of these comments has appeared on the blog is because  I have stopped them before they could harm the blog. How?

How to avoid comment spam on blogs and other social media?

Experts suggest many ways to avoid spam in comments on blogs and other social media. Let us examine them one by one.

Does captcha check spam effectively?

A captcha is the mechanism through which commenters are asked to prove that they are human beings and not a machine. 

There are different types of captchas: asking you to write numbers and digits shown against a mesh background, asking you to do a mathematical calculation, asking you to identify a particular type of pictures (e.g. a road sign or a flower) out of many given, and so on.

Captchas definitely make automatic spamming difficult but they are defenseless against spammers posting comments manually - but such spammers are also much less in number and they have physical limitations.

Captchas have a negative side too: Difficult or confusing captchas end up annoying genuine commenters. They have to use the captcha again and again, which is frustrating. People with poor eyesight find them unusable. 

Deleting comments manually: is it a better way to deal with spam?

Since getting comments on blogs is difficult these days, some bloggers do not want genuine commenters to be put off by a captcha. They would rather allow everybody to comment and then manually remove the unwanted comments at the end of the day/ week.

This is a less efficient way of dealing with comment spam, but is OK with blogs that receive a mix of comments and not too much spam.

Comment moderation: an effective way to stop spam

The most effective way to stop spam from appearing on your blog is to not allow its entry into the blog. For this, you have to check each comment and then allow the ones you want to appear on the blog. Blogger and Wordpress have inbuilt options for such comment moderation. Most website builders and content management systems (CMSs) have this provision.

There are two issues with comment moderation: One, the commenters do not see their comment immediately, which demotivates many visitors from commenting. Two, it is time-consuming. 

Should I accept comments only from an approved ID, so as to avoid spam?

Some bloggers allow comments only from those with approved IDs. For example,
  • Some blogs do not allow anonymous blogging at all.
  • Wordpress has an option to allow comments only from Wordpress account holders.  
  • Blogs on the Blogger platform can limit commenting to those with Google/ Blogger account.
  • Many websites/ blogs install third-party commenting apps such as Disqus.
  • Many websites (e.g. news portals) allow commenting only from registered users.
This method is automated and so the blogger or website owner need not bother about the genuineness of commenters. 

However, this method of avoiding spam too has limitations. One, it restricts comments from those not registered in a particular way. Two, it does not stop manual spamming by registered/ identified people.

Not accepting comments to avoid spam: is it the right way?

Ah! This is like keeping your house's door shut even for your friends.  Many news websites, government websites and big blogs allow you to share their comment on social media but do not allow you to react to them. I do not advocate this approach as it goes against the spirit of interaction on the web.

how to avoid spam?
Comment spam on a recent post
On social networking and social sharing accounts, you can check spam by changing privacy settings, which might lead to lower number of responses from friends and followers. For example, on Facebook, you have options on who can view your profile information and comment on it, and who can post on your timeline/ comment/ share/ tag, etc. You also block Facebook accounts from accessing your content or even following you. There is also an option of ranking comments. 

Some platforms such as TikTok/ Helo and local social networks seem to be liberal with all type of social engagement. If you are on such platforms, be much more discreet.

What type of check you'd apply on your website, blog or other social account to evade spam?

Frankly, you have to pay some price in the form of putting off genuine commenters, so as to avoid paying a bigger price (of having spam on your web entities). 

On the blogs, I prefer comment moderation. When I check comments before posting them on my blog, I have no worry about an unwanted comment appearing on my blog even if I do not get time to look at the comments for many days. Yes, visitors to the blog do not see their comment instantly on the blog, but that is a small price I have to pay for not allowing comment spam on my blog.

When I discussed the matter recently with some social media friends, I found mixed responses. Many agreed with me and a few disagreed too. Patrick (@patricksplace) argued strongly that he would not go for comment moderation because his commenters are likely to be put off when the comment does not appear on the blog right then and there. He would rather delete spammy comments after they have appeared on the blog.

On other social media accounts, I recommend a balance between full privacy and full openness. Social networking accounts get different types and number of undesirable content depending upon the content and user profile (gender, age, locale, sex preferences etc). You should be even more careful on social networks and image/ video sharing sites (than blogs and websites) because of the risk of instant spread of spammy/ abusive/ harmful messages and your indiscreet responses to them.

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