The Great LinkedIn SWAM!

LinkedIn groups and other online forums are full of it, LinkedIn users are outraged and LinkedIn Group Managers are tearing their hair out....so what is all the fuss about this new thing called SWAM? Image For those of you who haven't come across it yet, SWAM stands for 'Site Wide Auto Moderation' a relatively new LinkedIn feature designed to block spammers from LinkedIn groups. Here is how it works; A member of a group behaves in such a way that the manager of that group decides to 'block & delete' them from their group. This decision is purely made by the manager/owner of that group and LinkedIn are not involved in any way. The result of this action is that the blocked individual is automatically moderated in every other group of which they are a member (up to 49). Moderated simply means that every post (creation of discussion, comment, promotion or job post) has to be approved by the manager of the group before it is published. LinkedIn brought in this function to help group managers deal with the ever-increasing amount of spammers infiltrating their groups. The idea was that a group manager would only delete and block someone they believed to be a genuine spammer and this would therefore be doing a favour to every other group manager who had been unfortunate enough to have attracted the said individual as a member. I think LinkedIn genuinely thought this would be widely welcomed by everyone (except those nasty spammers) but it has caused a massive outcry from just about everyone. The problem is that this decision is based on the following assumptions;

  1. All group managers are responsible, credible members of the LinkedIn community.
  2. The definition of spam is uniform.

Clearly these assumptions are completely wrong and this has been the route of the problem. I have heard countless examples of professional, credible individuals who have never even considered spamming anyone getting hit by SWAM. This could be for a variety of reasons;

  • They have had a disagreement with the manager of a group
  • They have had a public 'falling out' with another member of a group (groups are after all debating forums)
  • The manager of a group blocked & deleted them by accident
  • The manager of a group is a competitor
  • The manager had a bad day and decided to 'cull' some members to make themselves feel better!!

Quite often the reason someone gets banned from a group is because they continually post links to articles, this is very annoying for most group managers who have set up their group to be a discussion forum and links without commentary to stimulate debate just clog up the discussion timeline and are considered spam by many managers. This problem however has largely been created by LinkedIn themselves with their 'Share on LinkedIn' buttons that appear in most internet articles, these buttons allow the reader to 'share' the article to multiple groups and this is often the cause of the problem. Innocent group members are suddenly finding they are effectively subject to some gagging order in all of their groups, if they are a member of many groups it can even take them some time to figure out which group they have been deleted from!

To make the situation worse, it is not easy to get yourself 'de-SWAMed' LinkedIn customer services want nothing to do with it and advise contacting every group manager individually and 'pleading your case' to get the moderation lifted. The problem is that the group manager may well believe that there is 'no smoke without fire' and decide to ignore your appeal (this seems to be the most common response).

Interestingly some of the most vocal opponents of SWAM are the group managers themselves! The result of SWAM to decent, credible group managers is an increased workload (significant increases in moderation) and more hassle from disgruntled members asking them to lift their moderation status.

It seems that no-one is happy.

So what do LinkedIn have to say about it? .........Nothing! So far there has been a wall of silence from LinkedIn on this matter, despite the deafening volume of protest.

So come on LinkedIn, its time to eat some humble pie and accept this was a well-meaning but ill-judged action. Nobody is suggesting we should just accept spam and everyone wants to find a solution but SWAM is clearly a very blunt edged sword that is doing far more harm than good. In the meantime I would suggest everyone is extra careful with their behaviour in groups....oh and steer well clear of groups managed by your competitors!