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Hello Mastodon admins. I'm looking for input on how to prevent spam. We were overrun during the holidays when I was distracted by other things. I have anti-spam turned on but it doesn't seem to do anything. What do you do (besides active moderation)?

@leo we go with invite only, which probably doesn’t fit your model very well.

But approvals would slow them down significantly, and is far less labor intensive.

@leo masto.host did a post recently about what they're trying masto.host/testing-custom-code

Personally this was part of the reason I switched my instance to invite only and basically gave up running it as open sign-up

@kevinflo @leo Only crazy people have open sign-ups. I went a step further and have a Single-User Instance. Works well.

@chidgey @leo I feel like since my instance already has users (though almost all are inactive) I should maintain the instance as-is for those already here. But yeah if I could go back in time I'd probably do single-user. Resource-wise the db is ~400mb at this point and my digital ocean VPS is having memory issues even with this user count almost entirely inactive

Past the spam issue I got nervous about a possible influx of shady characters and the prospect of moderating questionable material.

@kevinflo @leo Understood. My instance used to have about 10 users, only 1 was active. I Emailed each of them and explained, suggesting alternative instances and I shifted from Mastodon to Pleroma but as a Single User Instance and haven’t regretted it.

@leo This may not work for you, but I ended up requiring approval for new signups. Still get a few spam applications but the mostly get caught by the filters and I don't notice until later.

Additionally if you're getting a lot of spam signups from the same mail server you can block the mailserver domain at /admin/email_domain_blocks

@hugh Thanks for the advice. I've turned on registration approval required and I'm sure that will take care of it. And it gives me a good reason to logon every day!

@leo for my instance, I have Registration Mode in Site Settings set to 'Approval required'. I have included a paragraph in the 'Server Rules' stating that new users must enter something in the 'Why do you want to join?' field at sign-up. However, I have UNchecked 'Require new users to enter a reason to join' in Site Settings. This helps me to spot genuine sign-ups (who read the rules) and more easily see the bots (who either ignore the "optional" text field or will fill it with spammy nonsense).

@quokka Sounds like the way to go - thanks for the advice!

@leo you're welcome! Another tactic is to keep an eye on the email addresses on new accounts (or the requests if you go that route). If you're getting a lot of new accounts registered to addresses all coming from the same (usually sketchy looking) root domain then just add it to the 'Blocked Email Domains' list for a couple of days.

@leo We get right-wing attacks sometimes on our activism and campaign instances. We remove the accounts when the cross the line and turn on moderation for sign up so people have to type a resion spammers and right-wing nutters have limited attention spans so this stops it for a while but the issues do come back.

sysadmin help filtering spam 

@leo You should be able to filter e-mail domains from registration, that helps a little if you can see a pattern from the accounts trying to register. I would also recommend requiring a message during registration so you can at least filter out anyone who doesn't read your CoC or ToS. Additionally, I would recommend requiring administrator / moderator approval for registrations, that way even if you get a lot of registration applications, they won't immediately become accounts.

On my end, I went ahead and disabled registration altogether. You could do this and then still enable registration invites for administrators / moderators, then set up a 3rd party way of sending registrations so that spam bots don't just use the API or template HTML pages to fill out registration froms. Hope that all helps.

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