I have had a lot of good comments about the article “How to not get Banned on Stumblupon“, and I appreciate all of them. One issue that has received a lot of attention is the “ghost banning”.

stumbleupon_collageI want to clear something up for those of you who are now afraid to thumb up your friends stuff, or who think they can no longer thumb or review their favorite sites. I am going to explain how the process works from my knowledge in hopes of putting your mind at ease.

First of all, when you go to check one of your recent discoveries and find that it says “discovered by someone” rather than yourself, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are ghost banned. You may be experiencing:

  • A glitch. They happen all the time on most sites and SU is no exception.
  • You are sandboxed, which I will explain below.

I got a lot of my information for the term “sandboxed” from a post Jeff Quipp made a couple of years ago.  Where ever you are buddy, thank you! I wasn’t sure how to explain it until I found his post.

There’s no way I can predict the algorithm of SU, however there is a process SU uses to combat spam.  They found the best way is to not inform these suspected people that they are watching them.  They want to watch their usual activities versus giving them a warning, because they will eventually return to their usual spammy ways after a while and the process would start all over again.  Why not build up enough evidence that can’t be disputed?

If you have been reviewed or flagged before, there is a chance that your discoveries or certain discoveries are getting sandboxed. And if you haven’t been reviewed before, but are receiving a lot of flags, then this would apply to you as well.  What this means is that they take your discoveries and make it appear as though they are active, until it’s determined that tags are fitting etc (there’s more to it, but you get the idea). People you share with see your discovery, they can review and thumb it.  Everything goes on as usual, or so it seems to the submitter and the friends it was shared with, except one thing — the discovery is being reviewed.  Once it’s cleared (usually very soon after the discovery), then you get listed as the person who discovered it, and it becomes a normal discovery which can then be viewed by more people. This is obviously a very loose interpretation of the term “sandboxed.” In all actuality, it’s more complicated. However, it works very well.

Ghost banned means that basically all your discoveries are under review, and usually for a longer period of time. This usually means they have reason to believe that you are spamming based on their reviews, or a lot of flags on multiple posts. At this point, they are looking very closely at your patterns, friends, etc. That does not mean that they review all your friends however, just certain friends who have been thumbing all your discoveries, especially if they are leaving reviews.  Those particular friends will either be sandboxed or ghost banned as well.  This is necessary to eliminate the spam rings or circles. At this stage, you will lose all or most of the work you have put into SU in regard to your discoveries.

The next step is usually an email to let you know that you are under review, usually you cannot access your account during this period of time. There is a possibility of being permanently banned if they find evidence that you are spamming.

SU is not necessarily wanting to target the people who thumb up these sites in question, but the people who are actually discovering them. You will not know who these people are that are being watched, and that’s the reason you need to be careful/mindful of your friends.  It’s not being deceptive on SU’s part because it’s giving their users the benefit of the doubt. It may also appear that the other obvious spammers are getting away with it because there is no indication those people are even being watched.  But, the fact is, they are just building up the ammunition they need to ban them completely, if they are indeed a real spammer or a spammer ring.  I have only seen this with the real spammers guys, not an innocent user, so don’t think they are out there watching your every move just waiting to swing the ban hammer.

One of the reasons the actual user is not aware they are being sandboxed is because SU is basically giving the user time to prove they are or are not a spammer.  SU does not randomly chose these users.  They have only been brought to their attention because there have been multiple people thumbing their disoveries down, marking them as spam or un-useful, and if they have been flagged for nudity/porn when they are not listed as an x-rated site. And if you have gotten in trouble before, and you are still being flagged.

SU also understands that there are people who do this on purpose to get rid of a top user because they are haters, or they are tired of seeing their stuff etc. Basically SU is giving these flagged users the benefit of the doubt as I said before (I am being very redundant, I know). And keep in mind that SU doesn’t usually ban someone unless there’s a lot evidence, not just flags.

I can name a user off hand (in my mind) who is a top stumbler.  He is good, and I don’t consider him a spammer simply because he has quality stuff from a lot of good sources.  He has been reviewed at least twice that I know of, but he hasn’t been banned, and probably won’t be unless he changes his pattern. The reason it seems he is being targeted is because of some haters out there that feel he is spamming certain sites, there seems to be a large group of them who’s intentions are to “clean up” SU. However, sometimes their intentions may be a little misguided by their own jealousy, but that’s just my opinion, and it is only a few. SU can’t ignore it’s users, however, and they will do their best to weed out the good users from the bad ones.

You may see your good friend get temporarily suspended who you feel doesn’t deserve it, and then see some crappy user spam their health blogs or whatever, it doesn’t mean they (the obvious spammer) is not being watched while your friend gets picked on. Chances are that these obvious spammers are being watched, so their days are short.  SU tries to make their users happy, and like I said before, it’s a big accomplishment for a social media site these days.

Please don’t be afraid of thumbing your friend’s stuff.  Just make sure you take a look at what they are submitting, if it’s from the same source each time, or if it is obviously very low quality.  If it is, then just remove them, or don’t thumb it.  And if you feel it truly is spam, report it.  This will make it a lot easier for the rest of us who are on SU for the right reasons.  You have to be accountable for who you chose to be your friends, so getting upset that you are under review because you kept thumbing up joebob’s (hopefully that’s not an actual user) health blog that sells vitaimins over and over again, seems a little silly.  Common sense is the best advice I can give you.

I am in no way affiliated with SU, nor do I know anyone who is.  I am only a long-time user who loves SU, and write what I have learned from my own experiences and research.

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Written by Tammy Rucker