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[Community] Preventing Trolls from Hijacking Your Fan Site

Posted by Charles Owen-Jackson on Feb 13, 2018 10:34:18 AM

4 minute read

February 2018 (12)

It’s an unfortunate truth that trolls and spammers permeate just about every corner of the internet, and TV fan communities are no exception. Broadcasters have realized that nurturing these communities are great to their bottom line, as it not only builds a steady, loyal audience, they can also help drive awareness.  

In this time of social media and always connected viewer, predicting the strength of a tv show can be tied to the strength of its underlying community. However, while these communities do offer a sense of belonging by giving people an outlet to share their passions with others of like mind, they can also attract the wrong types.  We’re looking at you, Jerry Springer!

The big question is what to do about these undesirable types – what do you do to stop trolls and spammers from overrunning your community and damaging your show’s reputation?

Why Do People Feel the Need to Troll or Spam?

For the uninitiated, the terms trolling and spamming are often considered two of the same, but there is one important distinction between the two:

Spammers are primarily motivated by financial gain, so they’ll typically reach out to as many people as possible by relying on technology and automation. Trolls are a far more varied bunch, which makes them a lot more difficult to get rid of. Sometimes, there is some crossover between the two – spammers may troll, and trolls may spam.

Whatever the case, any combination can have disastrous effects for your show fan site, especially since this particular community niche is still very much in its infancy and, therefore, more susceptible to harm.

Since spammers largely rely on automation, you can also rely on automation to keep them at bay. Trolls, however, are a lot more complicated, since they come in many different forms, such as the hot-headed social justice warrior, the grammar Nazi and the infamous all-caps troll.

Fan sites and forums for TV shows perhaps sees more than its fair share of trolls as well, especially in the form of invaders coming from outside the community to harass those whom they perceive as ‘lame’ or ‘geeky’. Unsurprisingly, fan communities of shows like Star Trek or movies like Star Wars tend to see a lot of these sort of trolls.

Trolls do what they do for a multitude of reasons. Oftentimes, it’s all about attention-seeking, while others it’s about power. Sometimes, trolling starts of with a legitimate concern that spirals out of control thanks to the anonymous environment of the Web.

In other cases, either spamming or trolling might not even be calculated and instead the result of temporary frustrations. Some people, though they may not be malicious in their intentions, are just plain bad at dealing with disagreement.

How Community Moderators Help Protect Your Fan Sites

People are often passionate about their favorite TV shows. Take the highly influential Game of Thrones community for example – it’s full of fans discussing episode recaps or guessing which among their favorite characters is going to be killed off next. While such communities are often hotbeds of excitement, they can also attract immature trolls who seem to serve no other purpose than cause maximum disruption. That’s why every community forum needs a team of stalwart moderators.

It’s important to remember that a moderator is more than just someone tasked with enforcing the rules of the community. In fact, getting rid of trolls and spammers is a relatively small part of their job. Their primary purpose is, or at least should be, to help foster a troll-free environment in the first place by building a strong community of like-minded individuals.

Good moderators have excellent judgement and see themselves as community builders rather than police officers. In other words, they’re supposed to be a part of the solution along with the rest of the community. They must be able to build relationships, identify passionate fans and drive the community towards the marketing goals of the broadcaster.

That’s why everyone who runs a community forum should also consider using gamification to reward the best posters and discourage those who have nothing of use to say. Furthermore, every forum should also offer registered users the ability to report spam and inappropriate posts as well as block people they don’t want to hear from.

How Automation Helps to Eliminate Spam

Almost all spammers rely on spam bots and fake user accounts to flood community forums with junk advertising. In other words, the human element is minimal, which is also what makes getting rid of spam relatively easy. Fortunately, getting rid of this sort of spam is typically a matter of using automation itself to filter out offending posts so that they rarely blight your community in the first place.

Spam filters come in many different forms and offer varying degrees of effectiveness. For example, one of the most common methods of eliminating forum spam is to look for commonly spammed keywords and phrases in posts and stop them from being published in the first place. Furthermore, it’s also possible to automatically ban bad IP addresses and user accounts and verify the identities of first-time posters using a captcha.

Here at Vanilla Forums, we provide powerful moderation tools that allow community managers to manually review suspected spam or even prevent it straight away using shadow bans and other features.

At Vanilla Forums, we’re all about helping publishers build healthy communities that are free of spam and trolls. That’s why we offer powerful tools to protect your forums, such as gmaification systems, automated spam filters, and reputation engine.

Topics: Community

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