A number of MSN Spaces users had to deal abusive comments from malicious users impersonating others on their weblogs. This is a problem we are well aware of and are examining various approaches to curtailing.

Recently on I found an entry on Jen's Space entitled Petition where one of our users who's fed up with malicious comments wrote

The following petition was made with regards to suggestions for further upgrades to MSN Spaces as pertains to security.

  1. We would like to see the option to enter any URL in your comment removed and replaced with a field showing the URL of the commenter by default. This field should also be inactive and therefore not available for modification or the changing of the default URL. There have been several cases where individuals have left hateful and slanderous comments on other Spaces using the URL of another member to avoid being identified. This sort of thing should be stopped and we believe that the above recommendation will help.

  2. As with MSN Messenger, the ability to have your Space public and still being able to block certain members from viewing or commenting on your Space would also be beneficial. There have been several members that went Private to avoid people they did not wish viewing or commenting in their Spaces.

If in agreement to the above suggested upgrades to MSN Spaces please sign your names below in the form of a comment so that we can pass this on to the powers that be. I think we can all agree that these two recommendations will help with some of the ridiculous problems that certain members have been forced to deal with.

We've considered both approaches to solving the malicious commenter problem but neither one seems like a complete solution. The main problem with the first request is that it doesn't handle the case where the commenter is a valid Passport user who doesn't have a Space. Unless we prevent people from being able to provide their own URL, name and email address then this solution wouldn't really work. Given that we already get complaints that requiring Passport to post is restrictive, this would seem even more problematic. The second request doesn't really work if the Space is public because all the malicious commenter has to do is sign out and then they have access to the Space even if their Passport account is blocked.

For now, the best solution is to create a private space and add the Passport accounts of the various people you want to access your Space to your permission list. We have excellent documentation about permission settings which should show how to make your space accessible only to specific people in your address book or your MSN Messenger contacts.

In the meantime, rest assured that we are working on solutions to the impersonation problem which allow users to trust that commenters are who they say they are while not limiting the expressivity of people who leave comments in a blog. 

I love the tough problems.


Categories: MSN | Social Software
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Wednesday, June 1, 2005 6:30:28 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
well at least this is more than the reply I personally got from the MSN support staff. In my opinion, I do feel that URL's should be permanent, and that users shouldn't be able to change them to suit their own slandering needs. This is not only fradulent and upsetting, but also a shame that some people go to such lengths to hurt others. Perhaps MSN should look into making certain settings available to space owners, such as allowing anonymous comments. In most cases I feel that if someone were that interested in leaving an anonymous comment it would more than likely be only to defame someone. There is of course the rare instance of someone without a space, but perhaps there could be measures to ensure safety in that respect as well.

A lot of people agree that this behaviour needs to come to an end quickly as it is turning people off of spaces. There was such high enthusiasm and lately people are starting to lose their faith in blogging at Spaces. Something needs to be done one way or another, and if you don't believe me, go look at the comment section. So far there are 62 other individuals that feel the same way, and that number will continue to rise.

Personally I think we all just want a happy medium here and I'm not expecting a perfect outcome out of this, but I am expecting that at the very least SOMETHING be done. And by something I don't mean receiving an auto-generated reply telling me how to disable the comment section in my blog.

Sorry to ramble on for so long,
Friday, June 3, 2005 10:12:54 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Not particularly a new problem, is it?

Other sites - LJ is one that I'm particularly thinking of - have had to deal with this problem for years

LJ have some partial solutions to this; one is that the permissions for posting comments are seperated from the permissions for viewing the post. Each LJ user can choose to make each individual post private (no-one else can read), viewable only by a certain group of LJ users, viewable by everyone they've listed as a friend, or completely public.

Likewise, you can choose on a per-post basis whether to completely disallow comments, allow comments only from logged-in users, or allow anonymous comments.

Even if anonymous comments are allowed, it's possible to screen them - if you choose this option, the blogger has to approve the anonymous post before it is publicly displayed.

(publically? publiclly? my brain is telling me that all of those spellings are wrong)

Still not perfect, but it sounds a lot better than what you've described. I've not looked at MSN spaces at all though, so perhaps some of this is already in place..

Lastly, although you probably don't much care, Safari renders your blog terribly; there's a white vertical bar about from about 4/6 of the way across the screen to 5/6 of the way across; it looks like maybe it's meant to be a navbar? There's a calendar at the top, but displaced to the right of the navbar (if that's what it is), then some normal navbar stuff (links, small blogroll etc), then the main body of the content is below that - stuck inside the white bar.

This comments page is a little better - the content still starts 4/6 of the way across the screen, but at least it extends quite a way off to the right (meaning that once I scroll right I can see it all nicely) rather than being trapped inside the bar..
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