Regular RTH readers may have noticed a heavy deluge of spam over the past few weeks. Clearly our spam filters were not working!
These comments are posted not by bored or malicious users but by spambots, computer programs that trawl the internet by jumping from link to link and try to fill in comment forms.
For a website dedicated to citizen engagement and collaboration, this poses a problem: we want to make it as easy as possible for people to post authentic comments, while simultaneously making it as hard as possible for bots to post spam.
It's clear that our design was out of balance, allowing so many spam comments to get through that real discussions have been disrupted.
Our long-term plan still entails subscribing to a comment spam service (we're looking closely at akismet), but in the meantime, we've implemented several new measures to weed out spam in anonymous comments:
As always, these restrictions won't apply for registered users who have confirmed their user account via a valid email address.
We've also tried provide more detailed information for real anonymous commenters whose comments are caught by the spam filters.
For example, if your comment includes text that looks like spam, the error message will include the text - but in a white-on-white colour scheme so you have to highlight the text to read it. (The reason for this is that some of the spam words are not considered fit for polite conversation.)
If you experience persistent problems posting comments, please feel free to contact me with the details so I can try and fix the problem.
We'll watch comments closely over the next while to see if this reduces the spam to a more manageable level.
Thanks for your patience while we struggle to deal with this unpleasant by-product of the ease of web-based communications.
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