How To Handle Troublemakers On Your Forum

Thursday, May 25, 2017


Running a community has its downsides. One of them is that it requires moderation. During your journey toward success, you'll encounter a ton of great people, but also some trouble makers who want to harm your community. Since such bad individuals are a true poison to online communities like yours, let's see what are the best ways to handle them (get rid of them!) effectively.

Just to make it clear, we won't be talking about light moderation or how to ask someone to calm down a bit. We're talking giant trolls, serial posers and sock puppets. Brace yourselves!!

Ban, Ban and Ban

First things first. Once you were able to spot the troublemaker and catch him red-handed, harming your community, the easiest and first thing to do is to ban him. No admin should be afraid of banning: It's all about taking care of your forum. Did the person register a new username to keep going? Ban! 

Additionally, you can ban its IP addresses in order to spot more easily its next registration attempts: modern forum software will notify you of registration attempts coming from a banned IP. It’s possible to ban a range of IP addresses as well. 

If the concerned person is using Tor, that's another story. It's pretty hard to block anyone using Tor reliably. But there's something you can do. Which brings us to…

Manual Registration Approval and IP Check

Having trouble with someone using Tor? Or you don't want lazy spammers/trolls to create dummy accounts? Enable manual registration approval. You'll have to review all registrations, which will mostly guarantee that your new registering members are real members.  Yes, it'll require you a few seconds to a minute for each account, which is the price to pay, in order to stop most if not all the troublemakers.

It's pretty easy to spot similarities between fake accounts created by the same troll after all. Weird email addresses, similar usernames, IP addresses belonging to Tor nodes, etc. Trolls are often lazy. 

Talking of IPs, at some point when trolls create a ton of fake accounts, you'll notice they always use the same range of IP addresses. Make sure he/she's the only person using that IP range and ban it. That usually works pretty good.  

Discouragement Mesures

Troublemakers are not always tech-savy. When you feel you're dealing with such a person, you can go ahead and use discouragement measures on him/her.

vBulletin called it Miserable Users. Others call it Discouraged Users. All in all, it makes your forum pretty much unusable for the targeted individual. Super long load times, blank pages, error messages, etc. It makes them believe that your site is buggy and unreliable, which will somewhat satisfy them, because they want your community to fail. They'll believe your site is broken and will leave you alone. Good deal!

You can usually make specific members or IP addresses miserable. 

In some rare cases, discouragement mesures make more sense than a ban. When you have to ban someone who you know is going to be super mad about it and generate trouble big time, you can simply discourage that person. Harsh, I know… but useful. 

Block All The Weird Email Service Providers

Modern forum softwares allow you to prevent people with weird email addresses to register. I'm also talking about disposable email addresses here, like Yopmail. Depending your website's audience, you probably don't want members using super weird, underground Russian email providers, right? Normal people use normal email providers like Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail, their ISP email service, etc. 

All you gotta do is copy a list of unwanted/weird domains and include them in your forum software's email black list. Here's the one I'm using: https://xenforo.com/community/resources/spam-and-disposable-email-addresses.3025/

I once visited a forum that required you to have an ISP email address in order to register. That’s pretty rare nowadays. 

Bonus Tip! 

Okay, not that much of a tip, but rather something to keep in mind when fighting these pesky troublemakers. Ignore them, don't give them any attention! These people want to make your life miserable, don't let them succeed. Clean things up, delete their double accounts and their crap without saying anything. Don't answer them... They'll eventually leave. They always do. 

Good luck! 

--Marc