Doc Lithius/Gold Spam Amalgamation Article (Pre 2.1.0)

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Notice: Please don't edit my article... If you have something to say, please use the discussion page instead. Thank you.

Alright. So... I'm tired of seeing all those repeatitive topics about "Gold Spammers" this and "Here's my ideas" that and "omg so annoying blue plz!!" on the WoW Suggestion I decided to make a sort of "master topic" for the concept. Here, I'll be stating the facts and opinions of research into the matter and giving functional solutions Blizzard may or may not want to consider, reasons behind the solutions, and why it would or would not work. Let's get started, shall we?
Article by Doc Lithius
Contributions by numerous WoW Suggestion Forum users, Sky2042, Slxception

What is a "Gold Spammer"? Edit

In short, a "gold spammer" is someone who advertises in-game services for real money. A more detailed explanation is that a "gold spammer" is someone who sends a series of whispers (or "tells") to a number of people in a short time, sends messages in channels, or in some cases, yell or say things such as "offering power levelling services" or "cheapest gold in WoW!" either preceded or followed by the URL of a website for said services. These services are against Blizzard's terms of agreement as they exchange real money for in-game services.

Types of Spam Edit

  • Whisper Spam: A gold spammer who "/whispers" (or "/tells") you with a real-money service site.
  • Repeated Whisper Spam: Similar to whisper spam, except this one usually has one than one whisper line at a time.
  • Mail Spam: Real-money services sent via in-game mail.
  • Chat Channel Spam: Same as whisper spam, but spoken directly in any one of the in-game channels such as General, LookingForGuild, or LocalDefense.
  • "Say" Spam: Same as above, but instead of using a specific channel, they simply /say it or /yell it.

Regarding Trial Accounts Edit

A common misconception is that all spam -- be it mail, channels, whispers, or otherwise -- is generated from accounts created by Trial Accounts[1]. This is not entirely true. Though it's entirely possible a great deal of the ones using "whispers" (or "tells") to do their work are Trial Accounts, the ones using other means simply can't be Trial Accounts for the following reason:

- In-game chat channels will be unavailable.

What This Means: Characters sending messages in any channel in any region are not Trial Accounts because they cannot use public chat channels.

On the other hand, one other limitation comes to mind that doesn't seem to be slowing "whisper spammers" down in the least:

- A limit on the number of tells that can be sent.

What This Means: I'm not sure what the specific number is, but regardless, once a Gold Spammer hits this number, it's theorized they log off, delete the character, and start the process over once more.

How do Whisper Gold Spammers Get Your Name? Edit

This part isn't positively clear as people have been soliciting services since the game started.

  • Some theorize that gold spammers simply use the /who command followed by random key words such as zone names, level ranges, random strings of characters, races, and other things to get a series of names on their list. They then combine this information with macros (or possibly even AddOns) to mass-whisper folks.
  • Similarly, it has recently been theorized that gold spammers have been using third-party "realm census" sites to collect a random assortment of names then mass-whispers them whether they're online or not. Further speculation addresses the official World of Warcraft Armory for the exact same usage. This could explain why when you get a spam whisper, everyone in your guild does as well, as most census sites and The Armory keep track of guilds and members of the guilds.
  • Tying in with the two above, a spammer may instead opt to use this information for Mail Spam.
  • Lastly, spammers may just be reckless and random about things, simply wandering around and /saying or /yelling their advertisements wherever possible.

What Can I Do to Defend Myself Against Spammers? Edit

At present time, not much without the use of AddOns. Without AddOns, the most extreme measures would be to simply delete or return any and all mail received from unknown people, turn off your Whispers, and not use any of the Chat Channels unless absolutely necessary. As you may have guessed, however, there is an AddOn made specifically for curbing and ignoring any and all Gold Spam you could possibly receive. This AddOn is called SpamSentry. More information on SpamSentry can be found at the URL listed below[2]. Otherwise, your best bet is probably to just report them, when they spammed you, and what they spammed you with. (If this is inconvenient for you, SpamSentry can automatically generate this report as part of its default functionality.)

What Can Blizzard Do to Defend Me Against Spammers? Edit

As of Patch 2.1.0, there are going to be new spam-prevention features added into the game[3]. What we know about them so far is that they make reporting spammers far easier (à la SpamSentry's one-click method) and auto-ignore reported players. This applies not just to your current character, but to your account, as well! Very nice, Blizzard! There are, of course, going to be other things put into play, but these undocumented changes are to remain undocumented by Blizzard for obvious reasons.

Effectiveness of the Patch Edit

15-Day statistics moved to here.

Since the major changes as of 2.1.0 and a lawsuit filed against Peons 4 Hire, typical "Gold Spam" via whispers is a thing of the past! However, the truly determined have found a way around this system. Simply put, they create a new, Level 1 character, but they don't whisper users with their various website plugs. Instead request a Party or Raid Group! Should the user accept, they'll find themselves in a conversation such as this:

[03:11:51] [Winifredmi]: Hey wanna get to 60 or 70 the fastest way possible?
[03:12:00] [Winifredmi]: You can get to 60-70 today with this stat changer
[03:12:01] [Styringer]: Don't you have anything better to do?
[03:12:08] [Winifredmi]: goto to learn more!
[03:12:10] Your group has been disbanded.

At this point, the user can simply right-click the user's name and select "Report Spam", instantly sending a report to an online GM. Unlike with whispers, however, it doesn't matter if the user uses a Trial Account or a Paid Account. Even trial accounts can create groups!

List of Ideas to Stop Gold Spammers Edit

A number of people have brought a number of ideas into play about spammers and how to stop them. Here are just a few of them and some opinions to go along with them.

Restrict Whispers/Tells Until Level # Edit

  • The Good: This will stop a great deal of the "instant" spam that gold spammers create by forcing them to take a few extra minutes to level up to where they can actually whisper folks.
  • The Bad: This won't stop them for long. If they can automate scripts to auto-spam, chances are, they can automate scripts for levelling in the eight starting areas easily enough, then whisper-spam and delete their characters.
  • The Ugly: A number of legitimate low-level players would no longer instantly be able to whisper their buddies after creating a new character.

Introduce Player-Set Whisper Filters Edit

  • The Good: In addition to the Ignore List, players would be able to set their whispers threshold to only access whispers from certain levels, level ranges, or even no one but friends and guild mates.
  • The Bad: Unless a notice was returned to the person whispering someone who has filters on, this would cause a lot of miscommunication and lack-of-communications between players due to peoples' paranoia about spam and junk whispers.
  • The Ugly: Elitism. 'nuff said.

Put Stricter Filters on the Swear Filter Edit

  • The Good: This would scramble the URLs of certain gold sites or, depending on how the filters would work, simply make it so the message can't be sent.
  • The Bad: ...but only if you actually have the Swear Filter turned on.
  • The Ugly: People would still complain about this if it were implemented but more than likely wouldn't understand why it isn't working for them.

Sue the Gold Spam Sites Edit

  • The Good: Blizzard could more than likely win these cases hands down and thus net a few extra bucks in the process...
  • The Bad: ...if they could sue some of these overseas sites in the first place. Something about international laws makes this probability almost impossible, given most of the sites are overseas.
  • The Ugly: In theory, if Blizzard managed to get some of these sites, much like the "emulation scene" or "peer-to-peer music sharing scene," even more of these sites would pop up and spam would be even higher and more prevalent than now.

Completely Remove Trial Accounts Edit

  • The Good: This would stop the Trial Accounts from being used for gold spam.
  • The Bad: Where do I begin? Well, firstly and foremost, this would make it so users would have to actually go out and buy the game if they wanted to try it for themselves. This would also give you less incentive to purchase Game Time cards instead of using the online subscription process seeing as Game Time cards also come with a free Guess Pass Key good for ten days of limited play after you download the client. Furthermore, this would not stop the spam altogether. All of the above ways of spamming, in addition to whispers, would still be open and used like normal. Blizzard would essentially be shooting themselves in the foot if they decided to permenantly close Trial Accounts due to spam abuse.
  • The Ugly: Think the forums are spammed now? If Trial Accounts were suddenly pulled, there would be no end to the riotting.

Restrict /who Commands Until Level # Edit

  • The Good: This would stop a small number of whisper-related spam...
  • The Bad: ...and I [b]do[/b] mean "small" considering most people who whisper spam seem to do so in a "brute force"-style where they whisper you whether you're online or not, having obtained your name from census sites or The Armory.
  • The Ugly: One less toy to play with as you boredly level up, I suppose...

Disconnect Anyone Who Sends More Than # Whispers Within # Seconds/Minutes Edit

  • The Good: This would knock a good deal of spammers offline due to the fact that most spammers spam entire guilds at any given moment they send Whispers.
  • The Bad: Unfortuantely, this would also knock off some legitimate players who are just extremely chatty and of course nullify certain beneficial AddOns that "spam" things like Enchantment Lists or Crafting Lists to people upon request.

Implement a Live Filtering System for Names Edit

Note: For further information about this specific suggestion, please visit the Naming Policy page.[4]
  • The Good: With a name authentication system in place (and presumbaly live people to authenticate some of the less "mechanical" names such as "Beelzebub" or "Gyarados"), less and less peculiar names as well as some of the more "clever" misspellings or respelling of "famous" names will be seen. ("Légolas" is one.)
  • The Bad: This will unfortunately mean that naming conventions will have to be considerably more strickly enforced and a great deal of names, be they famous or not, may not make it past the "censors"... Furthermore, determined spammers would easily circumvent the filters and filterers just so they can spam however they feel like. It's not just the gibberish names that spam people, afterall.
  • The Ugly: Forum spam. "My name wasn't approved! I demand to know why!", "hay i want my name its 'legoman' plz approv kthx", "I think the approval system is a ridiculous waste of everyone's time and Blizzard's money. Some people don't have the time to wait around an hour or more to get their character names approved.", etc. etc. On the European servers, it would alienate nationalities who view a name with accents or marks around the name as legitimate (e.g. the Swedish names Åsa and Åke are legitimate female and male names in Sweden, and are quite common.)

Disallow Players Under Level # from Sending Mail Edit

  • The Good: This would probably put a slight damper on the (on some servers) elusive "mail spam" people talk about where someone advertises their real-money-services site via mail as opposed to via word-of-mouth.
  • The Bad: This would prevent people from making "bank alts" (alternate characters used exclusively for holding and soliciting items to the player's main characters or to the guildmates' characters) and leaving them sit at low levels as most bank alts need that mail function to send and recieve items.
  • The Ugly: Honestly, is it really that hard to hit that little "Return to Sender" button? Or even "delete"? You cannot get viruses or keylogged through in-game mail. Period. Furthermore, the outcry of lowbies being unable to mail their pals would be pretty high considering most, if not all "bank alts" are Level 1. A lot of people just don't see the point in levelling up a character they never intend to actually play.

Cripple Trial Accounts by Disabling Whispers and Mail Completely Edit

  • The Good: This would put a slight damper on the general spam overall. Without whispers or mail, potential spammers would be forced to rely on simple word-of-mouth methods -- these being nothing more than /say and /yell messages.
  • The Bad: This would also cripple newcomers' abilities in joining the game. If they have friends that got them into the game, they couldn't talk to them outside of parties of guilds, which would really put a crink on their opinion of the game. Furthermore, this would not stop spam coming from full-fledged accounts in the least.
  • The Ugly: Do I even need to say "forum spam"? As with other ideas, there will be a mass outcry from the newcomers and oldbies alike that this is very unfair to Trial Account users.

Further Reading Edit

1. Trial Account Restrictions
2. SpamSentry at Curse Gaming
3. WoW Forums: Upcoming (Now-Implemented) Spam-Prevention Features
4. WoW Policies: Naming Policy

See Also Edit

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