Trolls Attacked the Hotels.com and Expedia Forums.
A few years ago I had a travel site that discussed all things to do with Hawaii. The forums were specifically focused on sharing Hawaii travel tips (that’s coffee grown in Hawaii). But the website attracted all sorts of Hawaii-loving people from all over the world. Our most popular thread was where we shared a hotel promo code from travel sites like Orbitz and Expedia.
The forums went along swimmingly, until one days there was an unusually high number of registrations. I didn’t think much of it, but then I started seeing what was being posted. The new members would join every thread and say ever sexist, racist and insensitive thing possible. People sharing pictures of their kids were insulted, and my community started to leave.
I banned as many of them as I could, but they would only make more accounts and post even more terrible things. My community stopped posting about themselves (for fear of attach). I restricted new registrations to ‘only under my approval’, which helped stem the tide of harassment. I used extra security measures, but to no avail. The damage was done. People in the community left and the forums were soon shut down.
We laugh at internet trolls, but they can be devastating to a business that relies on a community of people interacting for their business. Even massive sites like Reddit have been hit by internet trolls. Here’s how to make sure that you don’t end up being attacked by trolls.
1. No-Index Your Forums
This is tough pill to swallow for many web-masters. Forums create more content for your website, which presumably helps you to rank better in Google, right? Well, there is no direct evidence of such a thing. But if you no-index your forums, which means that you prevent search engines from crawling your forums, you’ll be more likely to escape the detection of internet trolls. If you already have a robust community, this can help you to preserve it. If your community is just starting out, it may harm your ability to grow it.
2. Restrict Registrations to Manual Approval
If your community is small, then there won’t be that many registrations for you to deal with anyway. Manual registrations will scare away trolls, because they will almost certainly be denied, and it ends up being much more trouble than it’s worth.
If your community is growing and you need to manually approve dozens per day, then this may not work for you.
3. Use only Facebook Registration
It isn’t foolproof, but many internet trolls have trouble getting Facebook accounts because they get kicked off of the social network so often. Again, it’s not foolproof, but you could limit their ability to troll.
4. Empower Your Community:
Giving your community some tips on dealing with trolls is a great way to ‘starve’ them out of your website. If you don’t react to the trolls, they see no reason to keep creating havoc on your site. Also telling your members to report any troll like activity right away is the best way to stay on top of banning trolls.