This post is addressed to all those people who have gotten a message from this site when trying to comment that tell them that we think that they might be a spammer.
In that message, the user is invited to leave a comment to let us know they they aren’t actually a dirty, rotten, heartless spammer, but really a good citizen with no intentions but the advancement of knowledge and civil discourse.
Each time this happens, I get an email that contains all the pertinent info, including any comments that have been left.
In the runup to the coming election, some of those comments have gotten more vitriolic and pointed. A few of them accuse Cal of stifling free speech in general, or muzzling them in particular.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
First of all, it is necessary to have controls in place to avoid spam posting.
If they were not, then each discussion would be chock full of spurious ads for Ray-Ban sunglasses and Nigerian money schemes.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
So, I want to clarify the nature of the spam blocks in place on McHenry County Blog.
Our spam blocker looks for comments that are made too closely together from the same computer, or IP address.
The reasoning behind this is that since a spammer uses automated responses, if subsequent comments are made rapidly following an initial comment then that commenter is most likely a spammer.
Research shows that humans take more than 10 seconds, at least, to fill out forms, If a user takes 4 seconds or less to fill out a form they are not human and are thereby denied access.
The other block in place is to deny access to comments when there are 5 comments made in less than 3 minutes.
Since spammers hit a site over and over again.and this site allows anonymous comments, if more than 5 hits over 3 minutes are made from one IP address, the input will be ruled as spammy and shown a challenge page to continue posting.
When users complain of these blocks, we are able to add their IP address to a “known good” list that bypasses these checks.
The problem with this is that Internet Service Providers typically assign different addresses to their users upon reconnection or every few days.
If you use a mobile device to connect to the Internet, the assigned IP can change each time the device reconnects to the Internet or switches between wi-fi and cellular service.
As our site allows unregistered anonymous comment with no checks other than these spam traps, it is likely that there will always be some low degree of legitimate activity blocked as spam behavior.
The alternative is to have a site overrun with illegitimate content that would degrade the level of information exchanged for everyone.
I hope I have shed some light on why this situation exists.
Please understand that the last thing we want to do is muzzle free speech in any way, but your quick five word replies on several topics in a short period of time will get you flagged as a dirty rotten spammer every time.
If I can shed any further light on this, please don’t hesitate to comment here (but not too quickly!) or email me using the link on the sidebar.
My initial post about spam can be found here: Of Spam, and Ships, and Sealing Wax…