Updated 2019-04-11: General cleanup; change to OOP.

Remove some techniques that are no longer needed since recent Techdirt update; add handling for some new types of predictable troll behavior.

Better blocking of flagged users who aren't logged in.


Updated 2018-08-19: Hide comments that have already been hidden by user flagging (this is mostly useful if the hideReplies boolean is set true).


Updated 2018-08-15: Added hideLoggedOut. If set true, then the script will hide any user who isn't logged in, unless their name is in the whitelist array.

Added hideReplies. If set true, then when the script hides a comment it will also hide all the replies to the comment.

If you set both hideLoggedOut and hideReplies to true, then the Techdirt comments section gets much quieter.


Updated 2018-08-09: Some doofus has been impersonating me. Script will now automatically flag and hide posts by fake Thad.

In addition to hiding posts if their subject line is too long, the script will now also hide posts if the username is too long. Additionally, the script can automatically flag posts if the subject or username exceeds a specified length.

This thing's gotten complicated enough that I think it's probably subject to copyright now. I've added a license. I chose a 3-Clause BSD License.


Updated 2018-06-20: Ignore mixed-case and non-alpha characters.


Updated 2018-03-06: Fixed case where usernames inside links were not being blocked.


Updated 2018-03-04: Added function to hide long subject lines, because some trolls like to write manifesto-length gibberish in the Subject: line.

There is now a maxSubjectLength variable (default value: 50). Any subject line exceeding that length will be hidden. If you reply to a post with a subject line exceeding that length, your reply's subject line will default to "Re: tl;dr".


Updated 2017-07-12: Added @include.


In my previous post, I mentioned that I spend too much of my life responding to trolls on Techdirt.

With that realization, I whipped up a quick Greasemonkey/Tampermonkey script to block all posts from specified usernames.

// ==UserScript==
// @name          Hide Techdirt Comments
// @namespace     http://corporate-sellout.com
// @description	  Hide comments on Techdirt, based on user and other criteria.
// @include       https://www.techdirt.com/articles/*
// @include       https://www.techdirt.com/blog/*
// @require       https://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/3.3.1/jquery.min.js
// ==/UserScript==

// Boolean settings:
// if true, hide all posts from users who aren't logged in
const hideLoggedOut = true,

// if true, hide all replies to hidden posts
  hideReplies = true;

// List of users whose comments you want to hide -- collect 'em all!
const blacklistedUsers = [
  'MyNameHere',
  'Richard Bennett',
  'John Smith',
  'ROGS',
  'JEDIDIAH',
  'Zof',
  'Bamboo Harvester',
  'btr1701',
  'Prinny'
],

// If an anonymous post begins with one of these strings, hide it
blacklistedStrings = [
  'out_of_the_blue',
  'Nothing to hide, nothing to fear'
],

// List of users whose comments you don't want to hide
whitelistedUsers = [
  'Chip',
  'Thad'
];

// global variable for storing gravatars of non-logged-in posters who have been blocked
let blockedGravatars = [],

// global variable for storing comments that aren't hidden
comments = [];

// check all non-hidden comments for a blocked gravatar
// (check each time a gravatar is blocked)
function checkCommentsForBlockedGravatar(blockedGravatar) {
  for(let i=0; i<comments.length; i++) {
    if(comments[i].gravatar === blockedGravatar) {
      comments[i].gravatarBlocked = true;
      comments[i].removeComment();
    }
  }
}


// Comment class
// Constructor
function Comment(node) {
  this.node = node;
  this.nameBlock = $('.commentname > div', this.node);
  this.name = $('> :first-child', this.nameBlock).text();
  this.loggedIn = $('> :nth-child(2)', this.nameBlock).text() === 'profile';
  this.gravatar = $('.commentname > img', this.node).attr('src');
  this.gravatarBlocked = false;
  this.flagBtn = $('.report-button', this.node);
  this.alreadyHidden = ($('> .abusivecomment', this.node).length > 0);
  this.alreadyFlagged = this.flagBtn.hasClass('down');
  this.postBody = $('.cbody', this.node).text().trim();
  
  // If I click on the "Flag" button, remove the comment
  var that = this;
  that.flagBtn.one('click', function() {
    that.removeComment();
  });
}

// Functions
Comment.prototype = {
  constructor: Comment,
  
  checkForBlockedGravatar: function() {
    if(this.loggedIn) {
      return false;
    } else if(this.gravatarBlocked !== true) {
      // only need to find gravatar in blockedGravatars array once;
      // once this.gravatarBlocked is set true, then it will always be true.
      this.gravatarBlocked = blockedGravatars.includes(this.gravatar);
    }
    return this.gravatarBlocked;
  },
  
  blockGravatar: function() {
    this.gravatarBlocked = true;
    blockedGravatars.push(this.gravatar);
    checkCommentsForBlockedGravatar(this.gravatar);
  },
  
  hideReplies: function() {
    const next = this.node.next();
    if(next.hasClass('nest')) {
    // Comment has replies; remove them.
      next.remove();
    }
  },
  
  removeComment: function() {
    if(hideReplies === true) {
      this.hideReplies();
      this.node.remove();
    } else {
      // replace comment with 'removed'
      // -- because replies will still be visible, this is necessary
      // so you can tell there's a missing post that they're replying to.
      this.node.text('removed');
    }
    if(!this.loggedIn && !this.gravatarBlocked) {
      this.blockGravatar();
    }
  },
  
  badStart: function() {
    for(let i=0; i<blacklistedStrings.length; i++) {
      if(this.postBody.startsWith(blacklistedStrings[i])) {
        return true;
      }
    }
    return false;
  },
  
  check: function() {
    if(
      this.alreadyHidden
      || this.alreadyFlagged
      || this.checkForBlockedGravatar() === true
      || blacklistedUsers.includes(this.name)
      || (this.loggedIn === false && hideLoggedOut === true && !whitelistedUsers.includes(this.name))
      || (this.name === 'Anonymous Coward' && this.badStart())
    ) {
      this.removeComment();
      return true;
    }
    return false;
  }
};

$('.cmt').each(function() {
  // skip comment if it's already been removed
  if(document.contains($(this)[0])) {
    const cmt = new Comment($(this));
    if(cmt.check() === false) {
      comments.push(cmt);
    }
  }
});

License

Copyright 2017-2019 Thaddeus R R Boyd

Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

  1. Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
  2. Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.
  3. Neither the name of the copyright holder nor the names of its contributors may be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without specific prior written permission.

THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS "AS IS" AND ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER OR CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.

Further Thoughts

(Note: The script was much smaller when I originally wrote this part of the post.)

This is a blunt instrument; it took about five minutes to write. It lacks subtlety and nuance.

Blocking all anonymous posters on Techdirt is not an ideal solution; most anons aren't trolls. (Most trolls, however, are anons.) I apologize to all the innocent anons blocked by this script.

I could make the script more precise. Techdirt's trolls are creatures of habit with certain noticeable verbal tics (more on that below); if I had a good parser, I think I could whip up a scoring system that could recognize troll posts with a high degree of accuracy.

The question is, how much time do I want to spend on that?

On the one hand, "five minutes in a text editor" is the appropriate amount of time for dealing with forum trolls. Anything else seems like more effort and attention than they deserve.

On the other hand, it's a potentially interesting project, I've always wanted to spend some time studying natural language processing, and any programming project is time well-spent if it teaches you a new skill.

So I haven't decided yet. Here's the script as it stands, in its initial, blunt-instrument-that-took-five-minutes form. If I update the script, I'll update this post.

Chip Tips

Lastly, as I can no longer see anonymous posts, this means I will likely have to give up my beloved sockpuppet, Chip, the man who hates all government regulations and loves to eat leaded paint chips. To anyone and everyone else who wants to keep the spirit of Chip alive, you have my blessing to post under his name.

A few tips on how to write as Chip:

  • Never use the backspace key.
  • Remember to add random Capital Letters and "quotation marks" to your posts, in Places where they "don't" make Sense!
  • Most sentences should end with Exclamation Points!
  • I told you So!
  • I have "lots" of Solutions! So many I can't Name a single "one"!
  • Sycophantic Idiots!
  • Every Nation eats the Paint chips it Deserves!

Boy, my regular readers are going to have no fucking idea what I'm talking about in this post.

Come back tomorrow; I plan on having a post about online privacy that should be a little less niche.