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Our first win in bringing the good ol' TF back: large group of shills intercepted.

Thread title: Our first win in bringing the good ol' TF back: large group of shills intercepted.
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03-07-2010, 01:03 AM
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  Old  Our first win in bringing the good ol' TF back: large group of shills intercepted.

I have some good news. During a substantial investigation that lasted over the course of last three days we have intercepted a large group of shills who have been out promoting predominantly services of web hosting companies. Actually, the use of the word shill is not very accurate. Our understanding of a shill is usually of someone who acts as an enthusiastic customer in order to stimulate interest of others in that particular enterprise. In this case we were dealing with individuals who considered themselves providers of social marketing services (the term they prefer), who charged web hosting companies a fee for mentioning them on various forums and social groups, without any direct experience whatsoever. The more clients paid, the more “plugs” they could receive. So let's call them what they are - spammers.

These "decoys" are well organized. They first try to gain trust within the community by camouflaging their activity as real members. They achieve that by posting absolutely real stuff, making on-topic suggestions and tips. However, they gradually start to do what they were paid to do - bring out the names of companies in form of question, recommendation, comparison opinion, etc. A lot of times they would bring up well-known companies in the mix of their recommendation to make it look more authentic.

At the end of the day, these shills not only mislead the public, but also bring down the quality of a discussion and ruin the value of authentic advice, and eventually the whole community takes a hit.

Having gone through the similar experience at HostingDiscussion, we quickly weeded them out, but research and concrete proof required extensive work. The first major phase of ridding TalkFreelance of these creeps is over and we can now speak of the results: 19 members were banned (most of these members were active on the board since 2006) and 21 companies lost business privileges at TalkFreelance as their URLs are now censored, as a direct result of these posters' action.

To understand the power these shills can provide on public mind and opinion, here are a few stats for you to think about. A total of 155 companies received close to 2,000 (that is two thousand) mentions over the course of shills' activity on TF alone! The companies with the most number of mentions that got their URLs censored, were responsible for over 60% of total mentions. Over 250 fake threads filled predominantly with shill questions/recommendations/discussions were removed from public eyes.

These disgusting low tactics is pure spam and shall (and will from now on) be treated as such. The great news is that these guys are now exposed, but even if they decide to make a silly comeback, we will continue to watch the forums for any suspicious activity and take action as soon as we notice them.

Spammers will always try to find their way into sites like TalkFreelance. We have introduced some new roadblocks to control their presence. We also encourage you to use the “Report Post” function if you notice spam before we do.

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03-07-2010, 01:20 AM
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  Old

Good job! :-)

Glad to see some enthusiasm at last.

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03-07-2010, 04:11 AM
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Wow, we knew something was going on in hosting when I was staff but this is more than I could have imagined. Good find. Who were they (screen names)?.

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03-07-2010, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Village Genius View Post
Wow, we knew something was going on in hosting when I was staff but this is more than I could have imagined. Good find. Who were they (screen names)?.
I had no idea anything like this was even going on, haha. Nice one mod team.

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03-07-2010, 12:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Village Genius View Post
Wow, we knew something was going on in hosting when I was staff but this is more than I could have imagined.
If anything the numbers are lower than I thought, only 19 accounts. Anyway, good to see something done about it: another tick on the list of things that needed to be done around here.

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03-07-2010, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Salathe View Post
If anything the numbers are lower than I thought, only 19 accounts. Anyway, good to see something done about it: another tick on the list of things that needed to be done around here.
I am sure there are more accounts involved in this scam, but they are not as active, if at all. However, that doesn't mean we stop here - all suspicious usernames get recorded and investigated. It is definitely a long term fight, but the fact that we have a list of ALL the recommended companies and statistics for each of them, this will allow us to quickly intercept further spam.

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03-07-2010, 09:57 PM
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This is exactly what I had told Spencer back when he was on staff and what I had wanted him to take care of with the hosting section.

I'm VERY glad that this has been taken care of. It has been my #1 pet peeve with TFL.

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03-07-2010, 10:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Jordan View Post
I'm VERY glad that this has been taken care of. It has been my #1 pet peeve with TFL.
I echo this, great step forward

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03-08-2010, 02:35 PM
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Have you guys considered raising the amount of posts needed to make threads in the marketplace? I know it may lead to people trying to SPAM etc. But seem as you are enforcing/moderating the forum more effectively now. It may weed out even more useless sales threads. However could equally mean more useless threads elsewhere..

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03-08-2010, 02:43 PM
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  Old

Originally Posted by csh View Post
Have you guys considered raising the amount of posts needed to make threads in the marketplace? I know it may lead to people trying to SPAM etc. But seem as you are enforcing/moderating the forum more effectively now. It may weed out even more useless sales threads. However could equally mean more useless threads elsewhere..
The overhaul of the marketplace and advertising posting is on out to-do-list, but frankly, most likely not for this week with our basket of issues already full.

In general, I am a fan of the idea that advertising privileges have to be earned. By doing so, we stimulate quality discussions and let those member who actually earned the right to advertise better exposure.

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