Kill-filing repeatedly abusive commentors

This is advice for fellow blog administrators. If you don’t have admin privileges to the comment moderation utility on a blog, then ignore this post.

Many bloggers (feminist bloggers are a favourite target) get targeted by gits who like to pile up abusive comments on many posts, even when they know they’ve been put into permanent moderation, because they get a kick out of the idea of the blogger(s) reading the comments anyway. It’s hatespam. If you have email notification for posts in moderation, then you get the abuse sent to your email, a thought which they also love. It’s a particularly insidious form of cyberbullying, with the goal of intimidation and silencing of voices that bother them.

The first answer to controlling such comments is to enable the options where comments are only autopublished if that commentor supplies an email address and has had a previously approved comment (more on that later). That will catch any new gits posting abuse to your blog. Then killfiling (aka blacklisting* or spaminating) the malfeasants bypasses the moderation queue entirely – usually sending them to the spam bucket. The instructions below are specifically for WordPress users (com and org) but other platforms should allow similar kill-filing (if not, I suggest you change to a more flexible blogging platform – there are several).

Once you send a hate commentor to the spaminator then you won’t have to read it in your moderation queue, and for [edit 2009-03-17] WordPress users there’s another option to make checking the spam bin for false positives even better: a Firefox Greasemonkey browser script that puts all your spam on a single page, only shows the first 50 characters, and identifies multiple messages from the same sender. Install the Firefox Browser + Greasemonkey scripts + Akismet Auntie Spam for WordPress (all explained at Auntie Spam’s page), then you will only ever see the first few words of any hatespam. If the same email address or IP number (more below) posts many comments Auntie Spam will redlist them and you won’t even see those first few words. [no longer updated for latest versions of WordPress]

The first thing to notice with hatespam commentors is that they do tend to morph their email addresses, so moderation or kill-filing on email addresses alone is ineffective with this type of poster. You may think that you’re getting abuse from lots of different posters, but go to the dashboard and choose the Comments tab and check the IP numbers that are listed next to each comment. Copy the IP number of an abusive commentor in the moderation queue into the Search function on the Comments Page. You may well find that all those nasty comments resolve down to only a few IP addresses, or maybe even just one. So, the answer to a hater who uses continually morphing email addresses is to kill-file their IP address, as IP numbers change infrequently, even if they are using dynamic IPs.

Method (for the current WP.com configuration):

  • Got to the Admin Dashboard & choose the “Settings” tab over on the right:

  • Then choose the “Discussion” tab:

  • Scroll down the options to “Before a comment appears” and make sure that these two are checked (check all three if you want even more comment control, but it will slow down discussion amongst your trusted regular commentors):

  • Scroll down further until you come to “Comment Blacklist*” and add the IP number:

  • Then (very important) scroll down to the bottom of the page and Save your changes:

If you have a wordpress.org installation the method might differ slightly if you are not running a 2.5+ version on your blog. Other blogging platforms will organise their admin interface slightly differently, but the logic should be generally similar.

Any questions? General questions about moderation welcome as well as any clarification needed on the specifics of kill-filing.

*yes, I do wish WordPress called it a Kill File instead

About tigtog

writer, singer, webwrangler, blogger, comedy tragic | about.me/vivsmythe

12 comments on “Kill-filing repeatedly abusive commentors

  1. Another suggestion: if the comments that someone leaves have weird line-wraps i.e. the text breaks in the middle of a line when you read it for no particular reason, this is a sign of a comment that has been cut and pasted.

    That’s the sign of someone who is simply posting exactly the same thing on lots of blogs to stir things up. They are not actually engaging with your discussion, they’ve just hooked on to it because it came up when they did a keyword search.

    Recommended action: delete without regret.

  2. Excellent suggestions.

    I’ve found that a strict and stated moderation policy does a lot to deter the trolls, as does moderating all comments (although the downside is that you have to, you know, actually moderate comments). There are a few people on my blacklist, but those were just the persistent wankers.

    In my experience, trolls are cowards. They love to dogpile, but are less into being the ones to start the abuse.

  3. Moderator Note: This Troll thinks that linking to a parody-blog purporting to be another person’s actual blog is hi-lariously clever.

    This comment has been edited by moderator to delete the original text and URL

  4. Awesome, thank you so much for this post. I just started a new political blog, and I haven’t been trolled yet, but I’ve been following this conversation (cyberbullying) online long enough to know I will if I can get any kind of readership. I’m bookmarking this post for future reference. Love your blog, btw!

  5. Thank you Tigtog- for editing my stalker.

    Yep- stalker.And clueless.

  6. No worries, RQ. And hi, annabellep – sorry I didn’t reply last week! Good luck with your new blog.

  7. Thanks Tigtog. This is invaluable information.

  8. Does Akismet work with this? I know it works well with spamming — but probably can’t figure out what’s abusive or not…

  9. Kill-filing on WordPress installations works via the Akismet spam filtering system if you have it enabled (asWP.com blogs automatically do).

    Back in the days of USENet newsgroups there were filters that separated the spam-bucket from the kill-file (and the kill-file population could be scored and ranked according to pestiferousness), but there’s no provision for that in most blogging platforms AFAIK. I wish there were – treating abusive commentors as if they are spammers can be problematic. They’re a different type of beast, and it would be nice to be able to have more flexibility with a kill-file than is offered by simply using the spaminator to do the job.

  10. […] Kill-filing repeatedly abusive commentors « Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog (tags: blogging blogging:modpolicy) […]

  11. Just a note on this post, as people are visiting it again – Akismet Auntie Spam has not been updated for WordPress 2.7+ (sadly, the writer of the plugin seems to have suddenly fallen off the net a few months ago – he hasn’t updated his blog, Twitter, Flickr, anything – I hope he’s OK). That means that it no longer works on wordpress.com blogs. If you have a self-hosted wordpress.org installation that is not yet upgraded to 2.7+ it will work.

    I’m just installing Bad Behavior over on my other blog, to see if that helps control the spam enough that I’m willing to do without Auntie Spam and upgrade – I get a lot of spam over there.

    This reminds me – I need to go and add some of Auntie Spam’s features to the WordPress features wish-list – in particular, it would be awesome to have only the first line of spam displayed instead of the full comment. Now that they’ve AJAX-ified the admin interface, they could easily have a toggle to display the very few comments that aren’t immediately obvious spam, and that would save people so much time.

  12. […] Here’s a guide to kill-filing abusive commentors on your blog. […]

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