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I moderate a chat system that has a rudimentary ban application. Problem is, it is incredibly simple for a user to create a new account and start chatting right away again. It is hard to create some sort of privilege to chat, because of how the site works (one of the features is anonymity, so the amount of user stats we keep is fairly limited).

We've tried IP based bans, but those are easily evaded with the variety of free VPN services available.

What can we do in these sorts of situations? Do we just need to sit there, banhammer at the ready, like a horrible game of whack-a-mole? Or are there other options?

3

This could possibly be solved by an application of community moderation.

Perhaps you could introduce a new system in which newly created accounts are somehow hobbled in their ability to chat (ex. you can only post 3 messages per 30 seconds, or something along those lines). Of course, this will be very annoying to legitimate users, so you could also introduce some sort of /approve command. After being /approved by a sufficient amount of users in the chatroom (perhaps a fixed number, perhaps a percentage), the new user also becomes an approved user and is able to chat unhindered.

Note that this assumes you've already attempted to talk to the user and convince him/her to stop the behavior. This could also be a toggleable thing, and you could enable it only when you're having a problem with these users. (Of course, that could be community-sourced as well.) Maybe it could only be enabled when a large volume of new accounts are being created. Ideally, this entire feature wouldn't be necessary, so you could design it such that it's only turned on when required.

1

It sounds like your current chat system does not have the appropriate features to handle these kinds of situations. Therefore, your best bet is communicating the user and asking them to change his or her behavior. If they refuse to communicate or stop, then the proper response is to ban him immediately.

If this is a bigger problem where it may even be multiple users and banning them immediately is too much of a hassle, then I would suggest switching to a new chat system.

The best system for you is where you grant individual (known or trusted) users to talk in the chat, otherwise they cannot talk to anyone. However, developing or migrating to such a system may be more of a hassle than banning the users immediately.

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  • The problem is, it is hard to do that on a system where anonymity is a selling point, as you can't trace user activity or history.
    – Ash
    Jul 30 '14 at 1:37
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I assume you talked to the user before, to try changing his behaviour? Then having your banhammer ready is the only solution in case your chat system does not feature any further tools that assist you in effectively moderating.

If you are able to extend it then you might develop a tool to make other users deaf to the troll (he is the only one seeing his messages). Once the troll sees that no one is longer caring about him he will stop.

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  • “Once the troll sees that no one is longer caring about him he will stop.” I wish this was true. Many trolls do stop, but the ones who don't are the most problematic ones. Jul 30 '14 at 1:42

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