We’ve been on MySpace for a while now and we just confirmed our 10,000th friend request (above). I thought a look back would be in order. We were lucky early on. Ellis G., a Brooklyn-based artist, had a lot of friends and thankfully sent bulletins to all of them telling them about our profile. “Add this user” called Ellis and suddenly we had a lot friends which provided a nice start (thanks, Ellis). …but, with many friends comes….spam and lots of it.
Accounts on MySpace get hijacked all the time and when you’ve got as many friends as we do, I’d estimate at least one or two friends of ours get taken over per day. When accounts get hijacked, bots start sending a lot of spam. 10,000 + 2 hijacked accounts per day = you can imagine how much spam this generates. So, the first thing we had to do was turn on comment approval. I’m not a fan of moderated comments, but we had no choice. If we didn’t moderate, you’d see so many ads for gift cards and ringtones in our profile…well, it would be a little overwhelming.
Moderation [shudder] stopped the spam from going live, but we were still dealing with it in the comment approval process and this was getting really time consuming. Just recently, we had to break down and turn on CAPTCHA. Activating this has an upside and a downside. Upside: for the most part, we stemmed the tide of spam and can still allow images in comments, so friends can share their art and announcements with us. Downside: CAPTCHA is not accessible, which is really terrible and goes against everything we do at the Museum. This was another one of those situations where we felt like we had no choice, the amount of spam was driving us into a hiding. This was and continues to be a difficult decision for us. Has anyone else found better ways to deal with this situation? Advice would be much appreciated.
In the mean time, this is an open letter to MySpace: Tom, get with the program! We love MySpace and are proud to be there, but give us decent tools to fight spam on your site, so we don’t have to resort to CAPTCHA. If you insist on CAPTCHA, at least implement and alternate audio version to maintain accessibility. Audio CAPTCHA is not a perfect solution by any lengths, but it’s something…
Shelley Bernstein is the former Vice Director of Digital Engagement & Technology at the Brooklyn Museum where she spearheaded digital projects with public participation at their center. In the most recent example—ASK Brooklyn Museum—visitors ask questions using their mobile devices and experts answer in real time. She organized three award-winning projects—Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition, Split Second: Indian Paintings, GO: a community-curated open studio project—which enabled the public to participate in the exhibition process.
Shelley was named one of the 40 Under 40 in Crain's New York Business and her work on the Museum's digital strategy has been featured in the New York Times.
In 2016, Shelley joined the staff at the Barnes Foundation as the Deputy Director of Digital Initiatives and Chief Experience Officer.