Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Moderating the MFRW Facebook Group: So What’s the Big Deal About Spam? #MFRWorg

"Spam? I don't think so...."
As I’ve alluded to in my first two posts about screening and contacting potential members, one of the things I consider within the purview of my responsibilities as an MFRW Facebook group moderator is preventing spam profiles from becoming group members. In addition to moderating the request/join process, we also choose our group settings according to the general seeking of balance between allowing the group to be accessible to the public and potential members and disallowing illegitimate members access to it.

In creating or moderating a Facebook group, one of the first things one selects is the group type. On any group page (whether you’re a member of it or not), there is a tab toward the upper right corner that says “Create Group.” After choosing a name and having the opportunity to invite particular people to join, a group creator also needs to choose whether the group is “Open,” “Closed,” or “Secret.”

MFRW is an “Open” group, which means the public may see the group members and the posts made in the group. This is because promotion is a big part of the MFRW Facebook group, so of course we want people to be able to find it easily and see the content in it, since most of said content is intended to reach potential readers. (A “Closed” group allows the public to find the group and see who is in it but not view the posts on the group page, and a “Secret” group hides the members and the content from the public and is not accessible via a search.)

In addition to this setting, the “Membership Approval” setting is one to which moderators may want to pay attention. (If you moderate a group, the place to edit these settings is found by clicking on the little wheel-like icon at the top right of the page and choosing “Edit Group Settings.”) The two choices here basically indicate that 1) any members can invite and approve other members or 2) moderators must approve any invited members. MFRW is set to the second option. With this setting, members can still invite others to join the group, but the request then goes to the queue to be moderated like any other request.

Facebook additionally has an option to “block” someone who is requesting to join. The “Block” button appears alongside all member requests in addition to the “Add” and “Ignore” buttons. I have only used this feature about half a dozen times, but I have found it helpful in cases of accounts I’ve already determined to be spam sending multiple requests even after I’ve rejected them. Moderators may unblock blocked members at any time by clicking on the "Members" tab in the horizontal menu bar along the top of the group page, clicking the arrow next to the default “All Members” option next to the search box, and choosing “Blocked” from the drop-down menu. The list of blocked members will appear, and a “Remove Ban” link will be next to each name.

So, at this point in these posts, you may be wondering what difference it really makes if a spammer does manage to infiltrate the secure fortress of the MFRW Facebook group? (That is a joke, of course…very little on Facebook is secure, and one should always practice due diligence there in general!) The risks this poses range from mildly inconvenient to more pressingly relevant to one’s professional online persona. They include the following:

1) Well…spam ;)
Right, so obviously one of the things a spam profile tends to do is post spammy links on group pages. Spammers sometimes receive financial compensation for each instance such a link appears, so the spammer’s goal is to place these links in as many places as many time as possible. In general, these links are likely to advertise “make-money-quickly” schemes, easy-to-“win” products, or simply any variety of items for sale. Were this to happen on a moderated group page like MFRW’s, it would likely be spotted and subsequently fixed with a deletion of the post(s) in question and removal of the profile that posted it/them. This falls into the mildly inconvenient category.

2) Credibility Questions
However, were I to be away from my computer for several hours (which seems to happen absurdly infrequently), a spammer could do a fair number on the group page while I wasn’t looking. I’ve personally tended to feel this would affect the group’s credibility were a new or potential member (or current members, for that matter) to visit the group and see a bunch of obvious spam links bombarding the page.

3) Malicious Third-Party Applications
Furthermore, some spam efforts have more widespread consequences. In phishing schemes, for example, while the actual post from the spam account doesn’t affect the group members or page (this is the case in general with all posts), if someone were to click on the link in question and enter, for example, her/his/their Facebook password or other sensitive information, that data would then be in the possession of an entity with potentially malicious aims. In general, incidentally, Facebook users should be quite careful to only enter their password on what they’re sure is the actual Facebook site (type the address into the address bar yourself) and not offer this information on a landing page from a link on which they have clicked.

These are the main reasons I and MFRW work to keep spam accounts from gaining membership to the MFRW Facebook group. While links and promotion are welcome in the Facebook group, we want to do all we can to make sure those links are legitimate, safe, and fulfill MFRW’s purpose of connecting the hard work of our members with the readers who will love it. :)

Emerald is an erotic fiction author whose short stories have been featured in anthologies published by Cleis Press, Mischief, and Logical-Lust. She serves as an assistant newsletter editor and Facebook group moderator for Marketing for Romance Writers (MFRW), and she selects and posts the monthly inspirational quote on the MFRW Marketing Blog. Find out more about her at her website, The Green Light District.

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