Strategies to Mitigate Astroturfing for Forum Owners

Astroturfing (the practice of companies pretending to be ‘regular people’ and posting product or service recommendations on forums or blogs) is becoming a big issue. It’s becoming an increasing pain in the ass for us on AusGamers – as our site grows, we get more people drifting in from search engines on random keywords trying to pimp various products.

Unfortunately for this particular campaign – which is surprisingly subtle, giving the sheer obviousness of most of the others we get – it’s going to backfire, because I’m trying a new strategy. Rather than just blowing the whole post away, I’ve posted a link to a competitor.

We’ve been thinking for a while how to stop things like this. The most obvious strategy is to simply not allow new users to post URLs. This is what we’ll probably end up doing – before a user is allowed to post a URL, they must have at least (say) 10 regular posts to prove they’re actually interested in contributing to the community. The number will probably have to be tweaked a little.

There’s a bunch of other ways – approving first posts by new users, stopping them from creating new threads altogether, etc. At the end of the day I think the require-some-posts method works for us because we want to encourage a community of active users that regularly post useful information, and post counts is a simple (if not completely accurate) method of deriving some base level of trust – if they’ve got 100 posts, they’re more likely to be useful (simply because they haven’t been banned for astroturfing).