Why was this thread (about obscuring IP addresses) closed?

I am curious. Why was this thread about VPNs and hiding IP addresses closed?

I did not realize there was a rule about this sort of thing. To my understanding there is nothing so far inherently illegal in the United States about using network proxies and VPNs. I would argue that there is in fact a strong public interest in making this information more widely known as a democratic tool against overbearing and potentially unconstitutional state surveillance.

The thread did not mention any attempt or desire to conduct illegal activities, or any attempt to evade SDMB’s own IP-based bans, merely to learn more about cybersecurity and enhance online anonymity.


This has been discussed more than once, but as a Doper living abroad, let me reiterate that there are certainly innocuous reasons for using a VPN. From Indonesia, where I spend most of my time, a lot of totally innocent sites are blocked if you don’t use a VPN. For example, just a few days ago husband, in Indonesia, found that he could not access a site that gave information on how to dispose of construction waste on the island of Hawaii. Go figure.

Behaving as if everyone who uses a VPN has nefarious intent seems ridiculous.

We’d be up to our armpits in sock puppets?

Discussions of IP hiding techniques have been forbidden here for as long as I’ve been around.

See this for example from 2002:

If you use a VPN to access the SDMB we’re not going to immediately ban you, so that’s a bit outdated.

VPN has a lot of legitimate uses. I use a VPN to connect to work, for example. I have tried in the past to allow discussions of VPN services as long as discussions of the “hide my IP because I want to evade bans and do illegal stuff” type services were avoided. Unfortunately, those discussions didn’t go well, with too many folks implying what they wanted to say instead of outright saying it (so that they wouldn’t technically break the rules), and effectively the forbidden aspects of the topic were discussed.

VPNs are now being advertised heavily as ways to hide your IP for things like file sharing and ban evasion. You can use them for legitimate uses, but that’s not how most of them are advertised these days.

Because of this, I’m not as lenient as I used to be, and I’m going back to the old blanket “you just can’t discuss this here” approach that we used to have.

The folks who do have legitimate uses for VPNs are, unfortunately, just out of luck.

Similarly, there are actually some valid and legal reasons for using torrents and file sharing, but discussions of those are forbidden here as well.

Oh, you mean like this one, still open after a month?

From the FAQ:

Probably not the intention of your post, but I have reported the rule violation to the moderators of that forum.

It is sort of like banning any discussion of guns because they are frequently used in crimes.

On TPTB’s side I can see the reluctance to accept the reality that VPN and other means of anonymous internet access have, since that 2002 thread cited, become pretty much standard, mainstream, consumer level technology and are recommended for everyone by internet security experts. We have a small handful of highly motivated trolls who create sock after sock, dozens per month, using such methods to get around IP bans so the mods see any discussion of it as a path to even more headaches for themselves.

But hiding our heads in the sand and refusing to discuss this mainstream technology isn’t the right solution to that problem. It just looks silly in this day and age. It is leaving a gap of ignorance in this tome of collective knowledge we call the SDMB. Meanwhile this cat has been out of the bag for like 15 years. I’m pretty sure most anyone who would use it to avoid IP bans here already knows about it.

It would be better for the mods to be quicker to decide that someone is a troll and educate users about not feeding them when they reappear with a new IP address 5 minutes after being banned. The world has evolved and IP bans are no longer a viable way to enforce rules on message boards.

While the world has evolved, posters haven’t. Try to convince posters to quit feeding trolls–I’d rather learn how to herd cats.

As to we mods being quicker–we’re pretty good, especially with the help of posters reporting things. We still suffer from our policy of being deliberately slow to ban until we have good evidence. I doubt that will change much.

IP bans actually do work well for banning some trolls/spammers. We do it often for foreign spammers. We seldom do it for returning tolls as their IPs sometimes help ID them when they return.

None of which addresses the underlying point: banning discussions of VPNs over the fear that someone could use one to circumvent/violate the Board’s rules is silly, since a) anyone who wants to do that can get the info elsewhere easily (if they don’t already know it), and b) VPNs have many more legitimate uses than illegitimate ones.

On one hand, I get that IP bans make moderators’ jobs more difficult. But as DSYoungEsq point out, that’s not really the primary use of VPNs anymore, and banning discussion isn’t really sufficient to deal with the trolls anyway. Is someone who’s intent on circumventing SDMB bans really going to come here and ask the SDMB about how to get around them?

More to the point, is there anything we (as a community) can help with in order to both 1) re-allow discussions about VPNs and IP anonymization and 2) also help deal with the troll problem? More volunteer mods? Better reporting?

It seems like there ought to be a less… drastic… way to deal with this problem. Online security is going to be more and more important as a tool of free speech and anti-censorship, especially if Net Neutrality fails. To have such a topic silenced because of a few trolls – who can just as easily get the same information elsewhere – would be very unfortunate. It’s likely that determined trolls are subject-matter experts more than the average random poster here who’s never used a VPN before, whom this rule disproportionately hurts…

Look, there were idiotic rules about not linking to Youtube until the mods final-fucking-ly changed it. There were idiotic rules about torrenting that have almost completely vanished as mods caught up with the 21st century.

And now this? This is just sad.

When was there ever a rule against linking to YouTube? And the rules about torrenting ceased to be relevant because torrenting itself ceased to be relevant.

Actually, that is one of the primary uses of VPNs, and in my experience it is the most common use of VPNs these days, with legitimate security concerns being a distant second, and traditional VPN use (like how I connect to work) being an even more distant third.

The vast majority of users accessing the SDMB from a VPN are spammers. Our worst spammers (the live streaming crap) use VPNs left right and sideways. They keep finding new VPNs to use, which is why we can’t IP ban them and we have to play whack-a-mole instead.

The second largest group of VPN users here is socks and trolls.

There is also a fairly small group of regular users who use a VPN to access the SDMB.

From what I’ve seen elsewhere on the net, this is fairly typical of VPN use. The two biggest uses of VPN on the net in general are spamming and file sharing (games and videos mostly - Game of Thrones apparently tops the video list).

Surprisingly, yes. We’ve had that happen. More than once.

Personally, I would prefer to be able to discuss the legal aspects of VPNs. The problem is that when I’ve tried to allow those types of threads, it hasn’t gone well. If you say don’t discuss X, there are some people here who will imply things about X and won’t technically discuss X, but will weasel their way around the rules to get their point across. If that hadn’t happened, I would still allow discussions about legal uses of VPNs.

In short, I tried it your way, and it didn’t work.

As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. I’m not eager to try it again.

All right, well, I haven’t had to deal with the trolls myself, so if it’s as bad as you say… tough luck, I guess =/ I don’t want to make y’alls jobs any harder.

Are most of the trolls/spammers automated bots or determined humans? If they’re mostly bots, has the SDMB tried a security layer like Distil (I don’t recommend this), Cloudflare (is awesome), or Incapsula (no idea)? Just throwing out ideas…

We already have a spam filter here. Almost all of the spam that makes it past our spam filter comes from determined humans.

The vast majority of our spam (the live streaming crap) comes from one small group of very determined humans in Bangladesh.

Now I’m curious. What are they live streaming from Bangladesh and why do they so desperately want Dopers to see it?

I’ve read this before, and I’m still not sure where this is coming from. Do people actually think torrenting has stopped? Sure, there are also other ways to get a lot of stuff now, but torrenting is still alive and well. It fails a bit for older, less popular stuff, as the people that had that stuff have left over time. But it’s still huge–it’s just no longer in the news as something people are trying to kill.

As for the YouTube thing, the rule was more specifically about linking to places where you could obtain content illegally. And the majority of the linked videos on YouTube are not placed there by their copyright owners.

The change was to offset determining whether the content is legal to YouTube, and no longer police those links.

You can hire a spammer in Bangladesh for pennies/day. The spammer doesn’t care if posters see the links(or click them), but the people who pay them to do this are the website owners/promoters.

Whoa, I don’t remember that – what happened?

I was surprised too and couldn’t find any evidence for that. Here is the first mention of youtube in an ATMB thread which is someone asking if it’s ok to link to a specific video. It was in May of 2006 when youtube was just over a year old and not even owned by Google yet. Dex says that it’s ok so long as it’s not a copyright violation. There is another more general thread a few months later where, again, the Modes say that it’s not a problem.