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David Taylor, who helps administer the MySpace Group World Artist Network, tells a similar tale. With more than 211,000 members, WAN says it's the largest single MySpace group. But recently, WAN underwent a relentless attack that has brought the group to its knees. As recently as this weekend, members browsing the forum had to wade through 27 pages of blank entries before finding genuine content. Several members including Taylor are unable to post. The miscreants responsible have the ability to ban members and pin and unpin topics, effectively allowing them to wrest control of the group away from its rightful owners.

"They're really malicious," Taylor says.

As a senior information security specialist for the University of Pennsylvania, it's fair to say Taylor has a tad more technical sophistication than the typical MySpace user. But even with his credentials, he has been unable to convince MySpace security people to deploy several measures he says would go a long way to preventing the kinds of attacks his group is being crippled by.

They include anti-flood technology that would require members posting more than a set number of comments in a given period (for instance more than 10 posts by the same user in a few minutes) to complete a captcha dialogue. That would eliminate the use of third-party scripts he suspects the saboteurs are using to spray an unending stream of scat porn and other postings all over his group.

He's also calling for features that would give group admins more control, such as the ability to appoint moderators and the addition of buttons to the main thread page that would allow group leaders to ban and block the trouble makers. (Taylor's entire wish list is posted here.)

A quick search suggests that other MySpace groups, including President Bush is an Asshole, Support Gay Marriages and Daily Bible Verse for MySpace may also be under attack. Taylor reckons most of the steps needed to stop this nonsense would take little time to implement because they involve technologies MySpace already has in place.

In recent months, MySpace has taken steps to reclaim its site from the forces of darkness. In January and March respectively, it sued Scott Richter and Sanford Wallace for allegedly spamming MySpace users. (The site has also added features designed to protect its youngest users from predatory adults, although we're still not convinced the measures are effective.)

But so far, it appears MySpace is more concerned about the smooth operation of the machine that feeds banner ads to it's 177m registered users than it is in ensuring they can surf the site unmolested by trouble makers. As Taylor puts it: "I don't think they understand the impact this causes on the user community. I'm actually not very optimistic. Perhaps this last week may change that." ®

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