Automatically delete "never active" accounts after 2 years


This would be helpful mainly to curators and staff, and maybe to the performance of the site as it grows.

Accounts meeting the “never active” category would have:
0 observations AND
0 identifications AND
0 comments AND
0 other created content such as projects, places, journal posts, etc.,
(EXCEPTION: created user-profile content like descriptions), AND
0 logins for at least 2 years.

In the process of flagging spam accounts I run across tons of these, both “legitimate” and spam. This would have the effect of automatically removing a lot of the older spam backlog, plus “legitimate” but clearly empty and abandoned accounts.

I suggest that such accounts be deleted automatically with no notification to the account, since that could end up sending emails to lots of spammers. Owners of other abandoned accounts who come back after 2 years would just have to create a new account again.

2 years is my suggestion, but better suggestions welcome!



Sounds totally reasonable to me.

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I don’t understand what benefit this would confer. It wouldn’t stop people from creating new spam and it wouldn’t hide old spam that isn’t already hidden. It also adds the small cost of confusing people who know they created an account 5 years ago and are confused about why they can’t sign in. On top of that, old spam or inactive accounts provide us with valuable info, e.g. if spammers are using sleeper accounts they created years ago, that’s a pattern we can look for. If we just delete the data, we don’t have that.

From a technical perspective, we would need several orders of magnitude more inactive accounts relative to active ones to have any impact on performance, so that’s a non issue.



Thanks @kueda for the perspective from the technical end of things. I’m just going by what I see on the site during spam curation. I’ve gotten back to about August 27, 2018, in flagging spam accounts, and before that date there are still tons of them in there and potentially visible, that haven’t (yet) been suspended or otherwise “hidden.” My thought was that this proposal would at least deal with those in a more efficient way after an appropriate amount of time.

I also see a lot of other “never used” accounts, but if the proportion of those is relatively small, then point taken as far as the performance angle.

Have there been any examples of spammers using sleeper accounts? Seems like removing created but never-used accounts after a couple years might help prevent any such activity, but maybe I’m missing something…

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Currently all user profiles are hidden until the account has been marked as “not a spammer.” You can test this by viewing a spammy account while signed out.

Yes, but not ones that were asleep for years, to my knowledge.


Why mark spam accounts as spam?

Good point, and I knew that too! So I guess that begs the question, is there even any need for curators to actively find and flag the new spam accounts as they pop up?

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I have a couple of relatives who have created iNaturalist accounts just to follow me, so they can get a daily email linking to the observations I’ve made. I think they meet all your criteria for deletion, including not having logged in for 2 years, yet are still using their iNaturalist account regularly. You could add the condition “not following anyone”, but my point is that this is probably trickier than it seems, for little benefit.

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How can they use their iNaturalist account regularly without logging in?

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My mom does the same thing. :) She gets emails related to my activity but only sometimes opens the website to view more detail.



Ah, got it, thanks. So there would be additional checks needed before being able to say that an account is truly unused. Still doable, but based on the rest of the feedback so far, doesn’t seem like there is much need for it.

I’m still hoping for an answer on whether there is even any need for curators to be actively seeking out and flagging new spam accounts. Seems like they have negligible impact already…

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Why mark spam accounts as spam?

It doesn’t sound like this will be implemented, so maybe we should close it? I moved the spam question here:

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Works for me, thanks for moving things along!

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closed #13