By in Writing

Oh No! Did You Get Caught By the Spam Detectors?

Automated spam detectors can be set off even if you aren't doing anything wrong. They are designed to flag suspicious activity, but they are still just a matter of a computer following a preset series of instructions. That computer doesn't have the ability to discriminate between legitimate use and forbidden use. It only knows there are certain patterns that are followed by spammers. When those patterns are detected, the program is set to give a warning or to take some other action.

What Automated Spam Detectors Look For

Most spam filters are looking for patterns that set illegitimate use aside from genuine interactions between users. Multiple comments in a short period of time, tags or links in comments, etc. can be signs of a spam bot, so these are some of the things spam detection apps will be looking for. Similar software can be set up to detect spam or plagiarism in posts. Some sites will pass all their posts through a plagiarism detector such as Copyscape, for example, to help ensure cheaters won't get paid for stolen content .

For example on one of the sites where I wrote in the past, we were warned not to leave a long string of short comments on any post, but rather to combine responses to several users in a single long comment instead. This is because the spam filters are programmed to see a quickly posted string of brief comments from the same user as potential spam.

Legitimate Activity Can Trigger Spam Filters

Sometimes when you multitask, you can trip a spam filter or other security measure, with completely legitimate behaviour. I once received a warning that read, “You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down.”

Why? I had refreshed the captcha on one post after composing a long comment, and it was taking a bit of time to load. While I was waiting I happened to click into a much shorter post and took a moment to leave a brief comment. When I returned to the first post and tried to submit the comment I'd composed before, I tripped the automated spam detectors. I know I didn't do anything wrong, but the computer can only see the potential for harm. It can't judge the comments themselves. If you get a warning like this, just wait a moment and try again. Nobody will hold it against you, but it is a good idea to avoid repeating whatever behaviour triggered the warning.

You may not have encountered this situation yet, but you may have seen posts on some writing sites that use a WordPress platform, where the comments have been turned off. This is because something in the post or comments triggered the spam filter. If you spot a post where you can't comment, you can report it to the admin so they can manually check it. Or you can contact the writer directly, and let them know they need to toggle their comments back on . In my experience, WordPress-based sites usually permit the writer to fix problems like this independently.

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Image credit: Spam by Gerd Altmann/Pixabay ( CC0 1.0 )

Note: This content has been adapted from an original piece by the author, which has since been removed from EliteVisitors

Image Credit » by geralt

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CoralLevang wrote on July 1, 2015, 12:33 PM

I take it that we are notified if this phenomenon happens? I would hate to feel like I'm tripping something up or doing something wrong unintentionally, not knowing what I did.

wolfgirl569 wrote on July 1, 2015, 12:34 PM

I have set it off in another writing site as I usually have a few tabs open at once. I have learned to finish a comment before reading the next post.

Bensen32 wrote on July 1, 2015, 12:53 PM

I ran into this before when putting a link into a comment but it was a warning that links could be considered spam.

bestwriter wrote on July 1, 2015, 7:16 PM

The only time I notice this is when I am told to go back and do another Captcha - annoying.