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Cyber-vandalism woes for MySpace

Groups targeted by offensive comments

MySpace is suffering at the hands of a number of cyber-vandals who are filling the walls belonging to a number of 'groups' with offensive comments and photographs. Among the groups that have fallen foul of these vandals are those dedicated to interests such as home beer brewing, animal welfare and gay rights issues.

Known as trolls, the cyber-vandals are egging each other on by posting taunting videos on Google's YouTube. It has left many MySpace users struggling to maintain order on their groups. They allege that MySpace has been lax in fixing several well-known glitches that persist on the site despite repeated efforts to contact security administrators. MySpace, which would not grant interviews for this story, contends it has beefed up its security department and does its best to patrol the site for misbehavior.

"Over the last two years, I have notified MySpace not only of the problems but given them possible solutions as well, but they have only responded with a thank you, but there never has been any result," said Corey Scott-Walton who runs a group for craft-beer enthusiasts.

Scott-Walton is one of several MySpace users who became fed-up with trolls and created their own tools for combating abuse.

One of the problems is a glitch that allows vandals to post comments on a group even when they aren't an approved member. Usually, a moderator must approve new people who join a group.

That glitch opens a door to two more. Another is 'bombing', where dozens of empty comments can be posted in the group's discussion area using an automated tool. The boxes push down the real comments and create hundreds of empty comment pages, effectively ruining a conversation. Another problem is 'pinning' where a new topic on a discussion thread can be pinned on any forum.

Even if the account of the vandal has been deleted, the offending posts are sort of halfway deleted, with no comments visible but page after page of blank space. Scott-Walton wrote a tool in Visual Basic called 'Thread Cleaning' that allows moderators to delete those posts.

MySpace's terms of service forbid use of automated tools and scripts, but users say they've been left with no choice.

Another MySpace user who is a web developer created a tool that will check his group every 20 seconds for spam and delete it. The web developer, who did not want to be identified for fear of harassment, said he has used the ‘report abuse’ feature hundreds of times.

"I've found that the more people that report an [abusive] account, the faster MySpace makes it go away," he said.

NEXT PAGE: More reports of cyber-vandals


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