Spam and trolls are an unfortunate reality for almost any community forum, but the world of competitive gaming seems to have more than its fair share. In fact, some gaming communities have developed such bad a reputation for toxic behavior that it has become a defining characteristic of their game. The big question is: how do you stop trolls and spammers from harming your community and detracting from the overall reputation of your game?
Why People Troll and Spam
These terms are often used interchangeably in video game communities but there is an important difference between the two.
While spammers are primarily motivated by financial gain, forum trolls are a much more complicated and varied bunch. Trolls go beyond obvious spamming to carry out personal attacks against other players, forum moderators and even the game developers themselves.
While spammers tend to rely on automated methods for the purposes of advertising questionable products and services – or even outright scams – trolls are driven by a multitude of motivations. Although trolls also employ common spam tactics to create maximum disruption, more nefarious individuals merely seek attention, emotional release or even the thrill of power.
Others may have more tangible reasons for trolling, such as the feeling that they’ve been wronged by a developer or community moderator. Oftentimes, these cases start off as legitimate concerns but quickly get out of hand.
In other cases, spamming and trolling might be less calculated and attributed to temporary frustrations. For example, some may habitually submit their posts quickly without any editing, while others may simply be bad at handling disagreement.
Using Automation to Eliminate Spam
The overwhelming majority of spammers use fake accounts and spam bots to flood forums with junk posts. Fortunately, this sort of spam is easily eliminated by using automation similar to the type that protects our email accounts.
For example, such techniques may automatically delete posts that contain key words and phrases commonly associated with spam, and automatically ban associated user accounts and IP addresses. Most forum spam prevention systems also provide the ability to manually review suspected spam first.
Other Ways to Eliminate Spam
Some spammers aren’t so easy to stamp out through automated methods alone. While automation will eliminate most forum spam, some spammers use more sophisticated schemes to spread their messages.
Some might manually post spam in the form of irrelevant content that doesn’t bring anything to the discussion. One way to prevent these attempts is to implement a probationary period for new members which limits their ability to open new threads and necessitates moderator approval.
The Importance of Community Moderators
Every community needs moderators to effectively police their forums and guide the conversation in the right direction. But it’s important to remember that a moderator is more than just someone who enforces forum rules and locks, or deletes offending topics. In other words, getting rid of trolls is a relatively small part of their job; their main purpose is to build a troll-free environment in the first place.
A good moderator must exhibit excellent judgement; ever-wary of being “that” moderator who represses their community and shuts down legitimate debate. They must not see themselves as police officers but rather as community builders. They must be the ones to inspire others and encourage involvement while also enforcing the rules.
Some gaming communities make use of ranking systems to reward the best posters without giving them moderation rights, simultaneously maintaining a separate team of moderators as well. A good example is Blizzard Entertainment’s MVP program, which rewards the most valuable forum posters in their community by giving them special recognition. This is a great approach to fostering a troll-free environment.
Reporting and Banning Forum Trolls
While automation can eliminate some of the work involved in dealing with spam and trolling attempts, the latter normally requires manual review. Every community forum should provide the capability for other members to report inappropriate posts and spam.
Furthermore, if your community forum allows members to send private messages to one another, you should always allow users to block members they don’t want to hear from.
Some people recommend that the best strategy is to simply ignore trolls, since, after all, they often only do what they do to get a reaction. But it’s much safer to stop them from polluting your community by having a moderator ban them outright. With unintentional trolls or first-time offenders, moderators can bring this inappropriate behavior to their attention and hope they make a change for the better.Click here to learn about Vanilla Forums’ powerful tools for keeping your forums free of spammers and trolls.