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Tackling Spam in the Comments

Posted by Danny Matteson on August 17, 2016

An inside look at how we deal with the Internet's biggest frustration

Spam is as pervasive as it is annoying. Since the advent of email and user-generated content, forums, and chat rooms, the problem of spam has plagued the Internet everywhere. Even during the infancy of electronic communication, scheming dentists would spam their services to unsuspecting telegram recipients (c. 1864). Seriously, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried:

[I] beg to ask by what right do they disturb me by telegram which is evidently simply a medium of advertisement?

Indeed, 19th century Londoner. Wherever you find engaged people communicating, you can almost guarantee that a spammer lurks in the shadows, ready to strike. Spam takes many shapes today, including the comments that weasel their way onto your website.

Of course, that's exactly where we step in. At Disqus, we take combating Spam seriously. We hate the little buggers just as much as you do because spam distracts you and your audience from creating a great community. And let's be honest, you don't want to waste precious brain waves on identifying and removing spam. We want to share a little insight into how Disqus stops spam before it appears in your community.

Why is it so difficult to fight Spam on Disqus?

Disqus powers about 1.8 million comments each day. 15,000 of those are spam, or about 0.8 percent. It only takes 1 spam comment to create an eye-sore in a lively discussion so, in a sense, stopping all these varying spam comments can be like "finding a needle in the haystack". Except in this case, the "needle" quickly shape-shifts after being found and will try even harder to look like "hay" tomorrow. Spammers adjust their tactics almost as quickly as software can stop them.

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That's why we partner with Akismet to power Disqus' automated spam detection. The name may sound familiar because Akismet is deeply rooted in the WordPress community, providing spam detection for widely used plugins like Jetpack and Contact Form 7. Given that WordPress is the platform of choice for about 25% of the web, there's no doubt that they're pro at processing and classifying a staggering volume of comments.

Squishing spam so you don't have to

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We don't stop at our 3rd party integrations. We combine the awesome power of Akismet with Disqus specific network-wide signals like reputation, flags, votes, comment history, forum moderator actions, trusted user lists, and user profiles. Our system is baked directly into your Engage forum so that you can easily harness the open web’s spam detection hivemind. Pretty cool.

We're also continually improving, here are some of our most recent changes:

  • Multiple checks on the same comments to improve accuracy of classifications over time.
  • Commenting requires email verification. This stops many fake accounts with throwaway email addresses.
  • Commenters mistakenly marked as spam can request to be reviewed by moderators. This keeps the system healthy when our detection is occasionally too aggressive.

When you use Disqus, you invite an unparalleled level of engagement on your site. That's why it's important that we protect the integrity of your site during every influx of comments, even while you're sleeping!

What’s next for dealing with Spam?

Much like an arms race, even when we develop better ways to eliminate spam, we will never be able to fully remove the motivation of a spammer to circumvent software. We offer a handy guide on how to take advantage of Disqus filters to minimize Spam on your site. If you’re still struggling with Spam on your site, let us know. The more information we have, the better we can continue eradicate the Internet's biggest frustration, together.

Something Powerful

Tell The Reader More

The headline and subheader tells us what you're offering, and the form header closes the deal. Over here you can explain why your offer is so great it's worth filling out a form for.

Remember:

  • Bullets are great
  • For spelling out benefits and
  • Turning visitors into leads.

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