As first reported over at Collective-Thoughts, StumbleUpon has finally reacted to terrible press and user complaints by adding a line-item “flag” system to SU reviews. Now users, who feel as if they have been subject to TOS violations, can flag abusive reviews as spam, violent, hostile, or vulgar.

In the alternate, reviews can be flagged as helpful, informative, or friendly. It is unknown how giving or receiving positive or negative flags affects a user’s authority algorithmically. The system can only be an improvement. It might be algorithmically prudent to flag all of your incoming reviews, good and bad. Just remember, folks who don’t violate TOS are allowed to disagree.

Let’s recap recent rants about abusive jerks in SU and examine the results. The following posts are summarized in this SearchEngineWatchBlog post, StumbleUpon Death Threats in eBay Social Network:

Related Posts:
6 Reasons to Love StumbleUpon, Kill “Craven StumbleUpon Traffic Whores?”, Justice Reigns: Stumble Troll BANNED by SU. Jacqui Cheng picked up the ball and ran with Memo to Internet nutjobs: Please, think before you post.

SU mounted only tepid PR defense of their supposed TOS vigilance.

Cheng quoted StumbleUpon VP of Marketing Dave Feller as saying, “We take the concerns of our members seriously. When users register on our site, they agree to our Terms of Use which state that they cannot post ‘threatening, libelous,stumbleupon-flag-this.jpg defamatory, obscene or otherwise objectionable’ content. StumbleUpon does not condone behavior that violates out Terms and will take action when these situations occur.” Now there’s some serious insight Dave.

Fixed After the Hot White Light
Magically, 1 week after the SEW Blog post (highly circulated SEM trade publication) called out eBay (owners of the SU cesspool) the new reviews flagging system was finally released. Previously there had only been rumors of such as system in development.

It’s easy to imagine why eBay might get queasy at owning a website known for bands of hostiles marauding around flaming people with Nazi hate rhetoric, violent language, and hate speech. Public and media reaction finally elicited reaction from eBay and StumbleUpon.

I have no doubt that we’ll be serenaded by a scintillating PR department motivated SU/eBay chorus of “we’ve had it in the works for MONTHS”. They probably have been working on it because the issue has existed for over a year, sporting some of the nastiest moderator-sanctioned behavior in all of social media. This stuff makes the whores on MySpace look tame.

Amazingly, most of the vulgarity, violence, and hate speech has suddenly disappeared from my SU reviews. I’ve banned only a couple of users. That said, there is still a direct “I will kill you” threat posted which clearly violates SU TOS. I just flagged it as hostile and vulgar. Let’s see if eBay makes the new system matter.

  • Glen Allsopp

    Looks like some positive changes all around 🙂

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Glen: Yes, I think that’s true. Glad to see you here.

  • spostareduro

    This is my main concern Marty..

    Who’s to stop them from forming the same posse that has always been the source of drama over there, but now they’ll be flagging US as spammers?

    This may be what decides upon who stays vs who goes as I see it.

    The only way I see us winning this fight is to be active (not lazy) about flagging them every time there’s negativity..and doing so as a collective team..all of us flag them as it occurs or it may be useless..They will certainly take this approach with us.

    And another thing..the flagging is done without a means of showing WHO is doing the flagging..

    So, if they show up in droves to flag us it will be anonymous and we can’t defend ourselves…This could be all she wrote for SEO in SU..

    PS:I’ve had to block about 15 SU trolls so far..

  • Matt Keegan

    Wow, with all of my mega-stumbling, I’ve only encountered one person who was nasty, but what he said was tame to the vitriol you have experienced, Marty.

    I’m glad that there is some sort of recourse available. Took forever, but it is necessary. When social media gets out of control, someone needs to reign it in.

    In this case eBay/SU had to act. I am glad that they did.

  • Marty Weintraub

    @spostareduro: OMG, you totally could be right. Maybe it’s the search marketers SU is after.

    BTW, I blew an anonymous comment off the collective-thoughts thread that I SWEAR had the tone of someone very close to the moderation team…it was the language someone would use in describing the process of managing a 3 million person community. The basic timbre of the comment was “pack up and LEAVE SMO”

    @Matt: Any action along these lines is a good experiment and hopefully a positive test.

  • spostareduro

    yup yup..

    Sad to say that we do not live in a society that makes as many allowances for the victim as it does for the abuser.

    Hate is powerful.

  • Tad Chef

    spostareduro: They can flag me as “Spam” as long and as often as they want. As I’m not a spammer and StumbleUpon mods can most probably distinguish between spam and SEO so it will rather backfire.

    The problem with these people is that they pretend to fight spam to make SU a better place while they assault perfectly genuine stumblers most of the time and destroy the community.
    StumbleUpon does not care what topics are covered, as long as it’s genuine. So this new feauture will help clean up StumbleUpon.

    It will of course also help to find out about real spam.

  • spostareduro

    Of course, we don’t have the actual knowledge of how SU intends to address the thousands of flagged message influx yet..

    Will this be a way to excuse letting us go? By letting the troll flaggers have the vote? Or are they going to sift through every single one of the flagged messages, go to the site to see analyze if it’s true, come back, and give the approval/disapproval, address this with the attacker one by one..etc?

    We have not been told how’ judgment’ of this flagging system will be rendered. How do we know that it will be in our best interests?

    Does SU have the same view of what is to be considered ‘Spam’? Therefore possibly seeing the troll flagger’s as being relevant? Or are we just hoping for the best here?

  • Ad Tracker

    There is a huge difference between submitting content with SEO/SEM in mind and spamming. Content is what makes the SU world go around, spam is useless junk. The fact is, if you’re spamming you should stop, no matter what your profession.

    Every instance of kicking a user out would have to be manually checked by an admin. Automating that part would simply be turning the asylum over to the inmates and letting the network turn into a civil war which would be patently stupid.

    It sounds like you have become a bit gunshy, spostareduro. Just because you work in the field of search doesn’t mean you have to believe all the negative hype 😉

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Tad, AdTracker, spostareduro, Matt: It’s a fascinating conundrum actually. Social communities need to eliminate spam, to keep loyal users interested Without content no one would come. Content and spam are different.

    SU needs sponsors in one form or another because the same IDIOTS, that abuse those who’s content they don’t like, are not likely to fork up cash to support their beloved community.

    eBay did not pay 75 million for SU without the ultimate objective of making it somehow pay. They can’t alienate folks like US who are the only ones in their sphere who know how to write checks to advertise. If they don’t clean it up, they’ll lose my my client’s advertising budget and screw em’.

    The complainants want it all…free membership, control over content that does not personally interest them, no ads, and the right to be complete assholes in public-even in violation of TOS.

    BUZZER: That’s not how the world works and their reign of terror is temporary. eBay has to know this. The changes @ SU, regardless of the autonomy Garret Camp boasted about in his SMX Social speech last year, is still dictated (and likely monitored) by eBay.

    SU will ultimately have to bend to eBay’s wishes. I believe the new flag system is a harbinger of further corporate intervention to come. This shit would NEVER be allowed between eBay users…and the media will notice if it keeps up.

    I think it’s important to flag all reviews as positive or negative people. My guess is that the algorithmic implications could become palpable. spostareduro is right. The trolls will roam in packs and abuse the flagging system.

  • spostareduro

    Adtracker: lmao..’gun shy’

    Gun shy would apply to those that keep their heads up their *sses and in the sand. I am neither one.

    You said,
    “There is a huge difference between submitting content with SEO/SEM in mind and spamming”..
    It’s really a shame that as soon as one of those trolls were to even visit YOUR site, all they would see was your title, “AdSense Tracker..
    A blog about blogging, the blogosphere, Web 2.0 and anything else I decide to write about.” and they would run screaming their heads off to the other SU trolls referring to your site as a spam site.

    I’m afraid their understanding of spam is a bit distorted…

    Anyone that thinks the asylum has no control eliminates the possibility. This renders them powerless in formulating a plan against it, leaving us unprepared in the instance.

    How many times have we said or heard, “This will never happen to me”? How many times have we been wrong?

    Preparation is never a bad thing. Considering possibilities never makes a person ‘Gun shy’..

    It’s what they do with what they know, that makes them ‘Gun shy’ or not.

  • Ad Tracker

    @ spostareduro – I meant no offense, I promise. The gun shy comment was not meant as a slight but I can see how it could be taken that way. I appologize.

    So many people seem to live in absolute terror of someone labeling them a “spammer”, they seem to spend all of their time arguing that they aren’t. That’s where the comment came from. I don’t know you and should not have used it toward you.

    You’re absolutely right, I have gotten negative reviews on SU by people who never visited my blog, they just didn’t like my handle. (A handle and blog title I chose when I knew NOTHING about anything.)

    I, however, am in a unique position on the whole thing; I just don’t care.

    I am not scared of the trolls in the slightest because they simply can’t do anything to me. The worst they could possibly do to me is get me kicked out of SU and, honestly, that wouldn’t be a big deal to me. The worst part would be losing the communication channel.

    I know what you mean though, prepare for the worst and hope to be surprised.

    Here’s another question. Why in the world did eBay buy SU? I understand why they bought PayPal, but SU, I don’t get it. I just don’t see any kind of tie in. Of course, until this article, I didn’t even know it had happened.

  • Marty Weintraub

    AdTracker, check out: Will ebay Wreck StumbleUpon?

    eBay bought SU for a reason. Who KNOWS how they will market to the SU social graph. Most company’s don’t piss away 75 million without a serious plan for how the thing could be profitable.

  • Ad Tracker

    Well, there you go. Like I said, when I started I didn’t know anything and that happened right before I started. I still can’t figure out how they plan to monetize the thing.

    Of course, I still haven’t figured out why in the world Yahoo bought MyBlogLog.

    Sometimes I wonder if the gianst just get aquisition fever and gobble up things for no real reason. Think AOL/TimeWarner

  • spostareduro

    Adtracker: Hi, sorry it took so long to reply. I was enjoying the weekend (smile)

    I haven’t taken offense. I feel the conversation is a learning experience for everyone involved and I appreciate Marty for offering a forum for it. (Thanks Marty!)

    Everyone’s opinion is a good opinion if used to analyze remedies. I’m all for it because I am just learning myself. (smile)

    Although, I do not take a stance that can afford to ‘not care’…I am trying to make a ‘go’ of things and things of this nature can become a problem in reputation management for one. I am not going to drop a link in the comment area, but a few days back, I wrote a post regarding this called “Learning SEO: Reputation Management”. Maybe you’ll find the post and commentary of value.

    Marty: Interesting read. “Will ebay Wreck StumbleUpon?”..Do we want ebay to know our habits? Scary..I’m with Adtracker in wondering where all of this is truly going…

  • Marty Weintraub

    @spostareduro: It’s an honor to host the dialog :).

  • spostareduro

    I see we have the spam gods among us…garndocaloxamargorgonazixintar, that’s

  • Derek

    Marty, thanks for the post as this is actually the first that I have seen the new rating/flag system over at SU.

    It is something that I think is certainly needed, however my only concern is that there is the possibility of misuse on the part of malicious people. It will be interesting to see how SU/eBay reacts to the flags as the hope would be it is not just a smoke and mirror resolution to a problem.

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Derek: Ditto

  • Chris

    I had no idea this was such a problem

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Chris: It’s amazing actually.

  • jami

    this would be good if people didn’t tend toward being dishonest whiny babies, and if stumbleupon didn’t completely muzzle people based on a couple of complaints. i’ve somehow been rated “X” on stumbleupon. i’ve dropped an f-bomb and a couple of esses, in no one’s particular direction. i’ve also criticized misogynist web sites. i don’t think i’m rated “X” for a handful of swears directed at web pages, not people. i think i’m rated “X” for feminism. it’s pretty horrifying censorship. i wrote to stumbleupon about it several days ago, and i haven’t heard a thing.

  • jami

    also, i’d direct you to my stumbleupon reviews to verify that they’re not abusive, but unless you’re allowed to see x-rated content (which apparently limits your ability to interact with other users), you can’t see anything i’ve written, which is laughably un-x-rated.

    it’s a little kafka-esque. for now, i’ve dropped that addictive little stumble button, until they fix it or at least email me back to tell me what happened. if they’re going to shut people down based on the complaints of thin-skinned whiners, they’re gonna have the blandest, most granniest site imaginable in short order.