The Rise of STEEM and the Return of the Spammers - Getting Prepared and Requesting to Decouple Flagging and Upvoting Power
Over the course of the past few weeks we have seen a relatively steady STEEM price around the USD$1.30 mark. A far cry from the all time high of USD$4.00 achieved in July last year, the platform has enjoyed the benefits of relatively little spam and abuse of the system. Unfortunately, as the user base and popularity of Steemit continues to grow (alongside the STEEM price), so will the number of users trying to game the platform for whatever they can.
Of course, even now there is some abuse evident of the rewards pool behind the scenes, such as this 1700+ account botnet upvoting itself discovered by @sherlockholmes. We are incredibly lucky that we have users like him/her around, and we also owe a lot to the creators behind some of our most popular curation bots and accounts. A few of these you may already be familiar with:
@steemcleaners is a collaborative account run by a group of Steemit users to fight plagiarism, copy paste, spam, scams, and other forms of abuse. They post frequent reports on their blog on the actions that have been taken, and it's a good browse to see how big an impact the people behind this account are actually having.
@cheetah is a bot account that looks for plagiarised work elsewhere on the internet. If it detects what it thinks is plagiarised content, it will upvote the plagiarised Steemit article and comment with the source of the content. Repeated incidences of this happening result in the account of the author being added to a blacklist that automatically downvotes their posts.
Despite having tools and initiatives such as these available, the amount of spam and plagiarised content is still on the rise.
What do I Mean by Spam?
While plagiarism is easy to pinpoint and fact check, what falls under the blanket term spam is a little harder to define. I look at it as any content that the author attempts to benefit from while us, the users of the Steemit platform, do not benefit from it whatsoever. To clarify, this leaves a lot of types of spam (and I invite you to disagree with me in the comments if you wish - debate is healthy!):
- Posts that are plagiarised in their entirety
- Posts along the lines of 'Upvoted and RESTEEMED' posted hundreds of times in a few hours on any random posts
- Harassing other Steemit users with endless referral links, or tricking people into clicking referral links
- Self-upvoting bot networks
- Repeated, shameless advertising of external products
I would wager all of you can relate to the most classic examples above, which appear right after you submit a new article. Within a minute, suddenly users respond as if they have already read and digested everything you have brought to the table. For example, I recently authored a post to help a very specific subset of users navigate a small bug in a cryptocurrency wallet, and these comments appeared within minutes from users I am confident have zero interest in the article:
Really beautiful .. thanks information .. hope we can cooperate .. follow me @ [REDACTED] .. maybe we can be a good friend
Thanks For Share.
or, perhaps my favourite zero effort comment:
What value is any of this adding? This is a problem now, with only several hundred thousand users on the platform. What will happen when we have several hundred million in a few years?
What Can We Do?
As a lightweight user (a minnow), I feel inadequately equipped to deal with some of the things I have mentioned above. This comes from a variety of limitations on users that - while well intentioned - greatly limit our ability to deal with spam:
Flagging uses the same SP pool as upvoting content. If I wanted to curate the comments section of all my posts, I would be spending most of my SP doing that. Can you imagine how impossible it would be for the bigger whales on the platform to do the same in their comments sections? I am sure all of us would 100 times rather be upvoting good content, then wasting our power downvoting bad content to hide it.
Flagging users with a higher reputation than you does not affect their reputation. While I am 100% behind this system as it stops lots of small accounts starting a smear campaign against a legitimate bigger contributor, it has a nasty side effect. When users such as @cryptocash show up and spam all over a small sub, there needs to be a whale big enough to usher them out. In this case, the Gridcoin sub has no whales with a reputation greater than 62, so the @cryptocash account can continue to spam its referral link as much as it likes. Hopefully one of the big Steemit whales stumbles across the account in future and puts a stop to it.
- It is too easy to leave low quality content. With a little bit of tech savvy, anyone can whip up a Steemit bot from the open source templates to throw low value comments out onto the blockchain at 20 second intervals. It takes a lot more time to curate the good from the bad.
What I Would Like to See
Don't get me wrong - I absolutely love the Steemit platform, what it stands for and the freedom it offers. There are a few tools I would like to see to enable users to more effectively maintain a high standard as we move towards widespread adoption:
A flagging power that is separated from a user's upvoting power. This way, users can contribute meaningfully to both promoting good content and weeding out spam, without having to sacrifice one for the other.
A platform of some kind where the general community can notify whales of abuse by high reputation accounts. At its most basic, the whales of Steemit are the guardians of the platform. It is in their best interest to protect the value of the platform to safeguard their investment, which in turn has afforded them the power to curate practically any content. We need a method to effectively bring abuse to the attention of the whales, as there is no way they could read even a small fraction of the content created daily on Steemit.
It is up to each and every one of us, as a community, to uphold the standards of the platform. Lets get it right now, so that we are prepared when the price of STEEM reaches the $10 @jerrybanfield has been predicting and the wolves come knocking for easy pickings.