Limit new users ability to send messages


Because I don’t know If it is technically possible I put this here not as a feature request.

But if the trend of the last couple of days continues, it may be time to consider limiting the ability of new users to send messages until they’ve added other things on the site such as records or identifications.


Upcoming Limits on Making Projects, Places, and Messages
What is evidence?

Not sure that’s necessarily a good idea - I’ve had a couple messages from new to newish users with legitimate requests (related to photo use, and exact location for records for research purposes).



That’s why I added the point about until they do something else on the site.

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I think there are probably some cases of people with literally no observations or IDs sending legitimate messages. Maybe not enough to worry about though.

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The reality is you are not going to stop the bot programmers, as long as you have an open API that allows creating content, they will use it, but to make it annoying enough to do they move on.

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Today, for the first time, I received an iNat message that looks like spam, coming from an account that has no observations, no identifications, no followers, etc. What is the best way for me to alert the powers that be about this account, so that it can be shut down?

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It’s an ongoing problem over the past few days, someone is setting up multiple new accounts using different IP addresses and blasting out large numbers of messages. The site admins are aware of the issue. It is very likely the account is already suspended, sadly they will likely pop back up under a new name very soon.



iNat staff are aware of the recent spam issue (we received some ourselves as well) and are blocking IP addresses as much as we can. Our automated spam filter is doing a good job of immediately suspending these accounts, but the perpetrator just makes new ones. Not allowing a new user to send a message until they have added observations and/or IDs is definitely something we’re considering, although clearly it’s not ideal. I do apologize for the spam messages.



How about not allowing an account to send messages until they’ve completed some kind of short interactive tutorial on how the site works? Would probably be helpful for the new users, and enough time sink to deter spammers.



I got one of these spam messages via email yesterday, but couldn’t find either the message in my iNat inbox nor the user so you must have cleaned it up already. It said “you got a nice profile and i really like your profile and i feel it would be nice to get to know you more better.”
Let us know if sending through examples would help.

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Despite the downside, I do think it would be a good idea to block the ability of new users to send messages until they’ve added other things on the site, such as observations or identifications. Perhaps the message button could be greyed out, and when hovered over, could show a brief note saying something like “messages become possible once a new user has added observations or identifications.”

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Can I be a maverick?
Why do we need messages at all? Why can all requests not be made on the relevant observation. Out in the open. Transparent.
I am not that worried about spam: I can just ignore it. But I have had a few illegal requests for specimens and live animals and plants. How many such requests are made and how many naive people actually help these collectors make money? If these were made in the open they would be countable and traceable (rats: I keep forgetting on iNat one can just delete a comment when-ever one wants - on iSpot once a comment was replied to it got locked - OK then they are countable and traceable until they are deleted).

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I find messages very useful - not everything has to do with a specific observation, or is something the general public needs to see. I’ve made good friends on here and gotten invited on some lovely excursions that wouldn’t have happened without the ability to communicate privately.



As distasteful and unwelcome as the recent surge of spam has been, I tend to agree that the downside of new users not having that tool available to ask legitimate “how to” questions would be significant.

A (hopefully) related question (@tiwane?) – when new accounts are created, is the user required to complete some kind of CAPTCHA-like verification as part of the process? And if not, why not? Seems like this could/should cut way down on illegitimate accounts.

Suppose I could answer my own question by setting up a dummy account and then deleting again – just looking for a shortcut here… (I have no memory from setting up my original account 5 years ago.)



Yes, there is a CAPTCHA but I’m not sure how effective they are. I think any spammer worth their salt will have a bot or some other method to beat them. In general, I think the “bad” guys will usually be able to things like CAPTCHA pretty quickly. Another option would be to implement email verification for new users.

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Thanks, apparently CAPTCHAs are not nearly as effective as I was imagining, given the constant spam volume. Yes, email verification, or whatever else it takes (but is not too big a roadblock for new users), would be good, so staff and curators can spend more time on actual nature and naturalists!



I think one of the potential downsides of Discourse is indeed how offputting it can be until you are an active member of a community. Encouraging peopel to use the Forum for feedback and questions, but then putting further roadblocks in their way before they can do so would be a big mistake.

I’m currently frustrated that the Discourse Android app will not let me access messages from the Forum because my permission level is too low to use the API. Even more disincentives woule be bad …



Donald, just to be clear, this topic is not about limits on the Discouse thread, but rather limiting use of the private message function in the website/app.



Sorry - ignore me …

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@dhobern If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to express these concerns in the Forum Feedback section. They seem like valid issues that staff should hear about!