I head over to the phpBBHacks.com Support Forums today and I have a private message report from a member telling me that there is spam everywhere. Yay! So, I take a look and … sure enough, there was a lot of spam. 273 messages, to be precise. All in the same forum. The person wasn’t spamming any link, website or organization – they were just spamming saying they were spamming. An annoying disruption, but no big deal, really, management wise. That’s why my good friend Jeremy wrote Post Remover. A couple clicks and we’re good. All posts removed. User marked as troll, IP banned. All set.

Most activities that violate my user guidelines also tend to violate most ISP’s AUPs (Acceptable Use Policy). Even so, you should be a bit choosy when it comes to what you report people to their ISP (Internet Service Provider) for. You don’t want to waste your time or the ISP’s time. You want to make sure that the person has demonstrated a serious intent to harm or disrupt your community. Most users I ban, I never report to their ISP because once they are banned, they don’t come back and that’s that. And I don’t have any vendetta against anyone – I just want them off my site. So, if they accept the ban and move on, we most likely won’t have any issues.

However, if I have a user who evades bans and tries to come back over and over again, then he’s disrupting my community and wasting my time and the time of my staff. So, I’ll report that person to their ISP. If someone comes and makes 273 spam posts, that is a serious disruption of my community (pushing new threads 10 pages down) and I’ll report that person to his ISP, as well. Mass private message spam is another thing that I will report people for. I’ll report people for any persistent activities that disrupt or harm the community, whether that’s the mass posting of junk messages, inappropriate links or pornography. That doesn’t usually happen to a point where I feel like I need to report them, so it is fairly rare.

However, when that time does come, I look up the user’s IP address and then I do a search for it on DomainTools to see who owns it. I then visit their website and contact them via their abuse contact. Most ISPs have an abuse contact designated. But, if they don’t, I’ll just use their general support contact. I simply introduce myself and explain what the issue is. In the case above, the ISP had a very limited contact form (1,000 characters), so I wrote something like:


My name is Patrick O’Keefe and I own the iFroggy Network, an internet network of websites that includes phpBBHacks.com.

This morning, between 4:39 PM ET and 5:59 PM ET, a user posted 273 spam messages on our support forums (located at http://www.phpbbhacks.com/forums). These messages were all titled “spam” with the message “I am a spammer.” This represented a violation of our user guidelines, a serious disruption of our community and a violation of your AUP.

I wanted to report this so that the appropriate action could be taken. I would be happy to send you further documentation upon request, including the posts themselves, the IP information on those posts, our raw access logs and more.

I appreciate your time and assistance. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.


Patrick O’Keefe
iFroggy Network

When you are contacting these ISPs, it’s important to remember to be calm and reasonable and to stick to facts. Don’t take your anger out on them. I generally like to attach proof with the e-mail, but the contact form for this ISP didn’t really allow for it. But, even so, always offer it to them and make sure you have it on hand to offer before you do so. I would like to believe that most ISPs want to “take out the trash”, so to speak, but to do so, they may need your help and cooperation. So, be polite, treat them with respect and give them the information that they need.

Sometimes, no action will be taken. But, sometimes, action will be taken. I remember this user who had PM spammed one of my sites. I reported him and I found him, a while later, complaining on his website about how I had reported him to his ISP and how they had suspended him (he also mentioned how I was wrong, immature, whatever). So, it does work with people. But, pick your battles and only do it when someone is truly worth it, as you don’t want to waste your time or anyone else’s.