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The Faving spam counter-measures

Mon Jun 13, 2011, 3:06 AM by allixsenos:iconallixsenos:
The weekend before Memorial Day was an interesting one.

The TL;DR version:
  • A user was banned permanently for running an automated script against the site, faving the universe & more.
  • That kind of mass-faving just to draw attention to themselves provides zero value to the community and causes issues on the site.
  • To curb that behaviour, faving was put under the guard of the same anti-spam filter used throughout the site.
For a more detailed rundown of what happened, including information about the filtering that was implemented, you’ll have to read through the post. ;)

Site issues
At around 6am PST on Sunday, the dT team discovered an increasing amount of database issues affecting one of our servers which stores deviant data (deviations, favourites). On deviantART, all of the user-generated data is spread evenly across a number of servers, so seeing only one of them affected by unusually high load to the point of causing issues raised some eyebrows, especially considering 6am on a Sunday is usually a calm period.

Looking into that specific server, it was immediately noticed that sporadic issues started happening around 1am, reached a steady rate of 20 issues per second at 2am and have been steadily rising by another 20 per second with every hour. By 6am it had reached 100 issues per second.

One hundred issues per second directly translates to 100 failed page views per second. Not good.

The activity log for the problematic server revealed a long list of seemingly identical queries all related to a single deviant, piling on at a rate that could not have been caused by regular use of deviantART, no matter how quick you are with the mouse. The activity? Faving of what seemed to be damn near everything in sight.

The rate at which these requests were coming in told us without a doubt this was not a human-generated activity but a script or a bot running against deviantART, impersonating a deviant. Since affecting the site’s stability, especially in this way, is explicitly against our Terms of Service, the deviant generating these requests was banned, after which the issues immediately subsided and remained at a flat 0 for the remainder of the morning, as can be seen in the following image.

The banned deviant had accumulated almost half a million favourites in the short 2 months they have been a member, which comes out to an average of one fave every 10 seconds for 24 hours a day, every day since they’ve joined. This is not a rate a human being could sustain.

Introducing the velocity filter on Faving
Favouriting deviations was one of the last remaining user actions on deviantART that had no anti-spam measures implemented because, unlike commenting on deviations and deviant profiles, and posting in forums, it gives a very limited exposure to the person doing it, making it very difficult to find motivation to abuse it. Even our own realitysquared recently made a Journal in which he explained that there’s no such thing as “abusing Faves” or giving out too many, and asking deviants to stop reporting instances of that behaviour to helpdesk.

After the incident described above and after looking into the amounts of faves other deviants have accumulated, it was decided a limit should exist, but be set sufficiently high, so that no normal user could trigger it. To accomplish this, a velocity filter - the same mechanism already in place all over the website - was to be implemented for faving. The limits were adjusted for faving to be much more forgiving than for other activity, taking into account the reduced visibility of faves and the fact that it’s legitimately possible to hand out dozens in the time it takes to write a single comment. Our intention was to curb scripted mass-faving (or “favbombing” as the community has come to call it), while allowing near-unlimited faving by genuine deviants, within reason.

At around 4pm the same day, the velocity filter was implemented and the first reports from users hitting the limits started coming in. The limits were obviously set too low, and the affected users were very vocal about it. Taking that feedback, another round of discussion was had and the conclusion was to increase the limits to a value high enough that it would be theoretically impossible to hit even during a faving frenzy. After the changes were implemented, only a handful new complaints were registered, all from deviants with unusually high amounts of faves.

The weekend following the incident, almost a week after the initial rollout, we gathered some stats for this blog post, to give us a view of how many deviants were still hitting the limits. The stats were gathered from Friday night to Tuesday morning, and the velocity filter was hit a total of 30,900 times by 500 unique users. Of that, over 40% of the hits were produced by just 10 deviants, with one deviant in particular being responsible for 10% of the hits that weekend. The user was attempting to favourite at 300 times a minute (or 5 times a second) for several hours. The numbers here indicate the number of times a faving action was denied, once the user has reached the limit and continued trying to fave.

We are still seeing the occasional favbomb run; for example on Tuesday the 7th we saw a noticeable spike in velocity filter activity, caused by one or more deviants hitting the limits 8 times per second, as shown in the image below.

Since that unusual spike subsided, we’re seeing an average of fewer than 1 fave in 5 seconds being rejected, with obvious attempts at favbombing cropping up here and there and quickly giving up.

How much is too much?
It’s important to note that the velocity filter, which as mentioned is the same mechanism providing one of many anti-spam measures to all of dA including comments, devwatch and notes, is not a single number or a “this many in this much time” thing. It’s a special sauce that includes some fancy maths, cooked up by dT’s smartest. Because of this, there is no single answer to the question that will surely come up - “how many faves can I give out?”. There’s still no limit to the absolute number of faves a user can give out and we’re not looking to change that.

The limits are meant to prevent server issues like the ones we experienced on Memorial Day weekend, but also to stop users from using faving purely as a method of drawing attention to themselves at a massive scale while providing zero value to the rest of the community. We hope you’ll agree these changes are for the good of everyone on the site.

- allixsenos & KnightAR

Add a Comment:
Blairlin Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2018  Student Artist

I did not know about this and my fav was banned :'(
dasinvader Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2018
Well i agree but i have so many pictures to be filtered out.
Neaganan Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2018  Hobbyist Artist
Yeah, a shit ton of people trigger the spam filter. Stupid fucking system
GoDoG420 Featured By Owner Edited Jul 23, 2018
ggbit2ez Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2018
It's not a bad mechanic, but i favorite A LOT of pictures and i keep getting timed out. Really annoying.
alleyneangel Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I didn't even know this was a thing lol. I'm sorry, I'll cut my favoriting down to a minimum, I guess, but I scroll through deviantart a lot because I like looking at art and I see a lot of things I like. Plus you learn and growing by observing several different artists techniques. It's easy to drop a fave to let the artist know I appreciated their work. If I start noticing that I favorite a lot of a particular artist, I'll put them on my watch list and leave a comment. I guess I can't do that anymore :/ don't want to be mistaken as spam. 
wafflepuppie Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2018
same here. I'm worried about being mistaken as a bot as well.
Nathancook0927 Featured By Owner Edited Feb 1, 2018  Hobbyist
I think there should tougher rules against Fav Spamming and the use of Bots which kind of proves that the user could be lazy and disrepectiful with others because they don't bother to look at the art first or ask to review it without permission.
DarkSkeletonPony Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2017  Student Digital Artist
Does anyone know how long you have to wait ?
Noot9001 Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2017
How long does a deviant have to wait to fave something after it has been temporarily blocked from them?
BroDan270 Featured By Owner May 23, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I comment a lot, because I know how nice feeling it is, when someone support you. But I cant because of this stupid limit. I just get through group gallery, find artworks that I like, fave and comment...but I cant, thats so stupid. Would the deviantArt like, if someone cant support them by buying a core membership, because they bought it too many times before?! NO!

BTW, I had to wait to post this comment, too :D
rautamiekka Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2017  Student Artist
allixsenos or KnightAR, you should be answering concerns here.
allixsenos Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2017  Hobbyist Photographer
you do realize this was posted 6 years ago and neither of us works there any more, right?
rautamiekka Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2017  Student Artist
Oh well.
glowdarq Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
wanted to fave this journal but I couldn't because of the stupid limit
lapis-lazuri Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Your fancy maths is not so fancy if it hinders people's relishing art. What, am I supposed to not award faves to works I like just because there's many of them? I thought having so much good art to look at was a good thing. Apparently not. There's less and less to like about dA for many months now.
sklifos Featured By Owner May 31, 2017  Student Interface Designer
I doubt you can preform 20favs/second, so you should be fine
lapis-lazuri Featured By Owner May 31, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Obviously not. Nevertheless, I've had a message pop up on me that I cannot fave again for a while because whatever.
finfinfoo Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2017
Yikes. I just really wanted to add more deviants to my watch, and found quite a few that were inspirational from another artist. I guess I'll wait some time before trying to add more :/
RedScarGrin Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2017
this is an annoying feature for people who don't spam favorite.
EwokPoet Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Where we do report fake favs? 
NixillUmbreon Featured By Owner Edited May 20, 2016  Student Writer
I have a friend whose account is about to be taken down by his parents. He wants me to save all his favorites. I've hit the "spamming" mark twice now using just my mouse to do it (scrolling down the page of his favs and drag-and-dropping them into a collection I made).

Edit T+2 mins: Three times.

Edit again: Here's an idea - if the spam filter is triggered, allow the +fav and simply drop the notification to the artist.
JosephineLithius Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Ya know, I don't know the exact math involved here, but I do know that tossing deviations into both the general Favorites folder as well as user-created folders seems to add to a counter.  The upper limit seems to be around 250-300 (?), but I'm not sure in what time frame that number has to be hit, since I've added pictures to a few different folders in the span of... an hour, maybe?  I'm not sure.

I do know it's pretty irritating when I'm trying to quickly organize a folder as a public archive for a specific topic (or character) -- something I should only have to do once, thankfully.  I wasn't getting this error until I switched from 10 images per-page to 24 images, either. (Of course, in 10 IPP mode, I was only doing like... at absolute most... browsing 30 pages and favoriting half of that.)
BunnyGirlCedrenna77 Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2016  Student Traditional Artist
I'm just trying to regain the watchers that watched me that's all I just made a new account 
james-sager Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2016  Student General Artist
Can you please make it not do anything when I'm moving things into folders.  I lose favorites.  

I know some people say they don't lose them.  Sometimes, if you look back, they appear that they're in place, but if you navigate away from the site and come back, the favorites vanish.  It's not fun.

There are several here with the same complaint.
MechanicalCerberus Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Having the same issue as X-Novus (and several others, apparently). Even though I already have items favourited, and I'm reorganizing them into subfolders to tidy up, I get the error message: "You have added too many favourites in a short time." I'd really suggest finding a way to prevent this while still safeguarding against the spammers--otherwise we have to take breaks and twiddle our thumbs while we wait for the spam filter to ignore us again... it's a waste of the spam filter's time. Good thing its a string of code and not a person.
X-Novus Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2016
When I am moving favorites to a different folders and I get this message. I find it to be a mere nuisance. It does not mess anything up for me; however, it is very annoy and seems like a pointless amount of programing that is more of a spam itself than a countermeasure against spam.
MajesticReaper Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2016
This would be significantly less annoying if merely organizing your favs and moving favs to different folders didnt count towards this. 
I've lost entire pages of favorites due to this bullshit.
robogirls Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2016
i am having a problem i like to move some faves into folders and use the drag and drop method but after about 60 or so it says i have added too many favorites even though ive already faved them i am just putting them in a folder and now since they didnt get placed in the folder they seem missing from my faves
cyeri Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2016   Digital Artist
I literally came here because this just happened to me. Moving faves into folders shouldn't count towards the spam blocker right??
robogirls Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2016
i noticed it happened last month i guess just have to only move 60 pics then wait 5 minutes
KawaiiAF101 Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2015
Wow I didn't even know this existed until I got a prompt for it. I see a lot of stuff I like. Is it really a problem that I like a lot of peoples work that I want to favorite it. 
PoneBiscuit Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2015
So it's a bad thing for me to like other peoples' work? This "faving spam counter measure" of using fav limits to keep people from adding things to their collections are pretty ridiculous. And who in the world spam-favs for attention? The only time I'll ever mass-favorite a deviant's work is when I find a lot of stuff that I really like in their gallery, and even then, it's not done "for attention" or to intentionally annoy someone.
AltairSky Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is still happening. Anything we can do to report cheaters and bots?
EnderBlackEcho Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
This is interesting. I was just dragging and dropping an artist's work into my favorites and it denied me, but I kept trying. I was probably 0.2-2-ish times a second (lol my mouse is fast) I think. I hope I don't get flagged or anything for that?
Misaki-Somervell Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Fave limit 200
RobloxManiac Featured By Owner Edited May 12, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
so i get a fav when i just upload something
3 seconds later i look in the guy who faved my stuff's collection
he has 20183 pages and my deviation is already in the 91st one
The9thNightguard Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
Good to know now can you guys do something about the people not commenting when it says to comment
Yuko-desu Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2015
Im not meaning to be spamming if I am >.<! I just like FNAF, Vocaloid, and Team Rocket things! I never got the message I hope Im ok!
Anisa-Mazaki Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
I think you guys putting this faving limit is annoying and somewhat useless.
I watch 488 people and every time I manually reach the "so called limit", your ridiculous site tells me "Error. you cannot fav anymore" because you are have reached the limit"..... then then I have to wait -.-

This is the 10th f$%&ing time tonight I got this message. WTF?...

It's not my fault your servers can't keep up with my net connection for the fact that it's so easy to just click two buttons and go -.-

Seriously, did you guys even really sit this through at all??  -.-
B0rnC0nfus3d Featured By Owner May 21, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
ItsGLaDOS Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2014  Student Digital Artist
When i post art i always get favs in 1 second. I don't know if a bot is faving my art or people faved because they found it.
SonikkuAensland Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Really Annoying, they fave some of my work with Spamming... This needs to stop u_u
Ronero Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2014
Whoa! Really creepy!
TheBlueDragonfly Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2014  Hobbyist
There is this one user who IMMEDIATELY favorites everything I post, no matter what time of day it is I post it.  They don't even follow me.  I checked out his profile like usual (I like to watch people with similar interests, of course) the first time and even started watching him because the stuff he does is nice. He's good enough he shouldn't need to spam-fave anymore.  It's a pity, but I've had to block him; I just don't approve of what he's doing to try and get more views.
The-Penciler Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Huh. I was wondering about this. Someone faved one of my pieces, so like normal I go to see where they put it and to see what else they faved to expand my own faves and when I opened their favorite page I see I have to click several pages until I find my piece and a lot of it is random stuff besides mine (no common thread like you see with someone faving their favorite subjects). Then I found this post. When I faved this post (yeah yeah yeah, ironic) I later find my piece unfaved and the member no longer exists. So, was this a bot? Seems a pretty obvious "yes" I guess. I've run into this before and always wondered.
Jakeukalane Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
yes, I have seen this "you have faved to many pieces". is annoying. Hopefully I don't see anymore.
CookieCrazyCatX3 Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2012
Huh? He got banned for faving?
Azz-Tech Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
correction, he got banned for messing up the server, and being dishonest. he did not get those faves 'legitimately', he got them by being dishonest. also, the script was running that many faves so fast that the server couldn't keep up. this slows down the server, and increases latency (latency = slow) for anyone trying to use the site. it effectively "vandalises" the server (except the 'vandalism' is gone when the user stops favbombing).i fully agree with it too!

for those who don't understand how the filter knows when to block a fav if it doesn't have an exact maximum number of allowable faves, it would work something like this:

the filter would take into account the number of faves per second, how many faves are being made by the same user, the current faving rate, etc to find outliars in the data (like the HUGE spike in the graphs)

yeah, its confusing i know, but it is a pretty clever equation (even though i don't know what it is, its a clever equation if it can stop favbombing). basically if it finds increased faving by a single user that is impossibly high (even 2 faves per second is virtually impossible, it takes about that just to load the next deviation when you click 'next'), it denies it. you have to wait.

that's how i understood it anyway.
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