Can we automatically combat Sea-lioning

So there is a behavior of Sea-Lioning happening in my forum. Here is a link to explain the idea further. Sealioning - Wikipedia

The behavior as I see it on the forum is an issue when a member attempts to shut down discussion on a topic by over questioning one side of the discussion. If the group is small and the topic is not popular, this isn’t really an issue, but when threads get longer and heated, the member through constantly questioning each tiny detail derails the conversation.

I think it wouldn’t be hard to spot this behavior. By just tracking how many times a user posts in a particular thread in a 24 hour period. Is there any way to track this within Discourse and have a message sent to the user when they cross a particular barrier? Also, could we disable their ability to talk in an individual thread if they exceed a particular amount of comments in that thread in a 24 hour period?

For my forum, it is rare for individuals to reply to a single thread more than 15 times in a 24 hour period, unless they are derailing the thread. I’d like to send a warning at 7 posts by the same member on a thread that thanks them for being so involved and suggests that if they are commenting on a off topic part of the thread to break it into a separate thread that links back to the discussion. If they hit 15 posts I’d like to issue a 24 break from posting on the topic.

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I assume these typically aren’t consecutive replies (which we have settings to block), and are back-and-forth replies between a few users?

We do have a setting called dominating topic minimum percent which by default is set to 20 — so when a user’s replies consist of 20% of all replies in a topic they’re shown this message in the composer:

Let others join the conversation

This topic is clearly important to you – you’ve posted more than %{percent}% of the replies here. Are you sure you’re providing adequate time for other people to share their points of view, too?

I guess one thing you could try to do immediately is to lower the threshold? That’s a light touch of course, and someone who is acting in bad faith will likely ignore the message and post anyway…

If you were able to prevent someone from replying once they hit the dominating topic minimum percent threshold it would accomplish what you’re looking for? or do you think it’s more important to do something based on the number of replies in a single topic within a 24 hour period?

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We discuss a “slow mode” feature, that may help in which it rate limits individual users:

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I love this,

I prefer the soft touch vs the heavy handed response. Percentage based is hard though. Our topics tend to blow up for a day and then settle down after the over night break. But, the example which highlighted the need most was a thread with 115 posts and one member made up 21 of those with all other large posters being around 5 posts. So he didn’t hit the 20% mark, but he was close.

I understand posts overtime better than percentage of post as the time and count defines the behavior better than a percentage does.

@Falco I’ll check out the slow feature it may also be the lighter handed option that makes this work.

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Yes, the “slow mode” referenced is the right idea in these cases. Better to follow up there.

I do think @falco’s idea of how to automatically trigger this based on topic velocity is solid. The only thing I’d add is once velocity gets high enough, you probably need to temporarily prevent new users from posting as well – otherwise people could circumvent the speed posting checks by creating new burner accounts.

(I think a massive influx of new posters is also kind of a problem in those scenarios, even if those new posters are well-intentioned.)

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Yes!

I’m running this by a few of my admins to see how they feel as well. Really liking the idea. Luckily, we do not have an issue with burner accounts. As subverting our rules in this manner is pretty much universally accepted by our group as inappropriate. Also, doing so will not only get you banned from the server, but may affect your ability to be part of the in person community as well. So we are lucky there.

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