The Great LinkedIn SWAM!

Posted on May 9, 2013. Filed under: linkedin advice, News | Tags: , , |

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?

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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!

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27 Responses to “The Great LinkedIn SWAM!”

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You known, I had no idea this was the case. I wondered why some folks posts were coming up for moderation now.

I delete and block quite a few people. Not for outright spam, but simply for repeated irrelevance. So in my group on marketing for professional services, if people keep posting about leadership or marketing for retail or small business then they end up blocked and deleted.

Hi Ian,
If you just remove them, rather than ‘block & delete’ they won’t get SWAM’ed.

You certainly hit the nail on the head with this article. Since I’m still working through this (6 months later) as one of the “ban & delete” recipients I know first hand how frustrating it is. To further the frustration there isn’t anyone to discuss changing this policy with at LinkedIn as customer service says they can’t help and won’t give another contact name.

I agree that it’s time for LinkedIn to address this issue so hundreds of other LinkedIn group members don’t find themselves in the impossible position of being “banned and deleted”. This has severely impacted my business and it will take many more months to recover.

Thank you for this article.

Hi Mark I think its so important every LinkedIn group owner understands this and every user is closer to the group managers! Great post hopefully everyone will start to learn more about SWAM before it happens to them.

Hello Mark – we’ve had a few lawful rebellions of our own going on, as it happens, and yours is amongst them now…

http://www.linkedin.com/groups/As-you-know-Neil-this-1328087.S.241728146

Please feel free to join us, if that suits or resonates. Good work otherwise / if not / anyway.

Kind regards – Neil

A SWAM peer support group for those of us who have been victimized

http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=4911853

[…] this month, Mark Williams–a.k.a. “Mr. LinkedIn”–shared a post that’s worth reading if you’re a member of any LinkedIn Groups. Williams’ post, “The Great LinkedIn SWAM!” discusses the perils of site-wide […]

I have learnt about this function by seeing the discussion in the LinkedIn Groups Forum…. I think, we miss Ian Mc Carthy ;-( I`ll post a similar article in my german LinekdIn Blog, and I think, in Germany aren`t much happy, too. Best wishes, Stephan

I completely sympathize with all who have written in and congratulate you for starting this discussion here.

Recently, I became a victim of the SWAM policy. Everything everyone has experienced and written about here and elsewhere including canned meaningless email response from LinkedIn customer service, I experienced it for last 7 days. The entire SWAM policy is almost as bad as when Instagram decided to change their policy about owning your photos. Nothing has changed within LinkedIn since people started writing about it in Feb-March of this year (you here a month ago).

Being in the tech and executive world for a long time, I was wondering if we should consider “social wave” of complaints in a 36-48 hours period to raise the awareness… sort of Flash_AntiSWAM.
I am wondering if any one has considered
(a) Finding members who work in LinkedIn and contribute in Groups — flag them.
(b) Flagging group moderators who are in different groups and flag them in non-moderator groups.
(c) Connections and friends who sympathize with your predicament, with their permission, flag them in a group, so they can complain.
(d) If you are connected with any of the “Influencer”, flag them.
Let all experience the consequences and then we will all collectively learn – experiential learning of sorts.

(e) Also has anyone considered bringing this to the attention of bloggers who write about badly implemented policies. Declan McCullagh who broke the news about Instagram — his profile is http://www.cnet.com/profile/declan00/
or someone from Ars Technica or Reddit etc.

(f) On the sane day, we work towards creating a twitter trend by posting concerns using hashtag #SWAM and any of the twitter handles @LinkedIn @LinkedInDev @LinkedInToday @LinkedInEng @LinkedInHelp @LinkedInNews @LinkedInIndia @LinkedInSelling @LinkedInFrance @LinkedInSelling @jweiner @LinkedIn_jobs @LinkedIn4Good @AdsOnLinkedIn @LinkedInSmBiz @LinkedInU

If this is done in a coordinated way for a 36-48 hours period but in an open, transparent way by all here and others you can engage, then this “amplification” might get the attention we need.

Feel free to connect with me or comment here.
Three Cheers! to the wisdom of open, transparent discourse.
Rini Das

It wasn’t so long ago that Jeff Weiner proudly said LinkedIn was all about “members first”. SWAM has shown how quickly a company can go off track. In early November Jeff Weiner explained to the New York Times:

“So our culture has five dimensions: transformation, integrity, collaboration, humor, and results. And there are six values: members first; relationships matter; be open, honest and constructive; demand excellence; take intelligent risks; and act like an owner. And by far the most important one is members first. We as a company are only as valuable as the value we create for our members.”

Less than two months later his minions implemented SWAM. As I write in my new blog post, SWAM is anything but members first.

Read more in my blog at: http://www.projectweavers.com/linkedin-member-first-no-more/

Thanks,
Matthew

Interesting comment Matthew. I am also struggling to see how ‘retiring’ useful features such as Answers and Signal can be putting ‘members first’!

Thanks for this info. Good to know about Swam. I will share it & if OK, I will have you be a guest on my blog by posting this article. I get worldwide exposure & have a Fan Page on Facebook that I boost posts.

Liked the video also :-).

LinkedIn has crossed the line here. Many millions are now basically blocked from participating here, group owners (I’m one of them) are now getting swamped with comments and discussion posts that must be moderated. This is angering millions of LinkedIn members. Yet, LinkedIn doesn’t even acknowledge or address this issue, which, as it continues, is now having the effect of advertisers pulling their advertising dollars, those who have upgraded to a premium membership placing stop payments on their credit cards and many many others who have decided NOT to upgrade, further reducing LinkedIn’s revenue stream, which, if they don’t do something about this asap, will result in a site that will see it’s stock price dip to zero. Is this what LinkedIn really wants?

[…] SWAM stands for “Site Wide Automatic Moderation” and is something that LinkedIn quietly rolled out last December in an attempt to rein in the massive amounts of spam that clog up just about any group on LinkedIn.  Say a LinkedIn group member posts something in a group they belong to–may be legitimate spam or may just be something that group’s rules don’t permit, such as a job listing, a product or even just a link to one’s own blog post that is on-topic within the group. The group manager uses the “block and delete” function to block that user from future posts in that particular group. Without realizing it, by taking that action, that group manager has caused SWAM to kick-in for that LinkedIn member–who may even be a paying LinkedIn customer–and cause that user’s posts in ANY/ALL LinkedIn groups to be automatically moderated. So basically anytime that user attempts to post anything–a comment or a discussion or a link–in a LinkedIn group from that time forward, his or her post will not appear unless the manager of the new group goes into moderated posts and clears the post. And this must be done for EVERY post that person makes from that point on. […]

Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn’s CEO should be ashamed of himself. Without us members, LinkedIn would never have been able to offer their billion dollar IPO in the first place. Now that the co-founders are richer than most countries, with the SWAM policy, they have basically told us all that we don’t matter and to go to hell.

If anyone knows any reporters at the Wall Street Journal, CNBC or the New York Times, ask them to bring the SWAM problem out into the open. Maybe LinkedIn will start to listen and remove this screwed up function.

Until then, I encourage everyone who is a premium subscriber to place a stop payment order on their credit card, pull their subscription dollars from LinkedIn and never give them one more dime until they start treating us with some respect.

Strong words Dave! The interesting thing for me is that, despite the many protestations, LinkedIn are sticking with SWAM….if they were going to revert the policy it would have been done by now. I am certain that they will have discussed the issue and concluded that SWAM should remain. The big question is this “If there is a good reason to keep SWAM then why not come out and tell us what it is?”
LinkedIn appear to have a policy of secrecy and this just leads to misunderstanding and frustration…its not just SWAM, they have also failed to explain why they thought it a good reason to ‘retire’ a very useful feature like Signal.
I fail to understand why they need to be secretive, surely a more open and authentic approach would make LinkedIn a much easier business to deal with. Secrecy just makes us feel suspicious about their motives and this leads to unhappy members and customers.

lets recap – if a new member who has 80 contacts opens a group and dosnt like someones response in their group and blocks the comment – the new member will have swam’d the comment er – who might have a premium account with 7 years of history and 20k contacts. the new kid on the block will have trashed the comment ers life on LI – this is so sososo soooooo very wrong

I am a victim of SWAM’ing. I was told it was done in error and while the one group reinstated me, the ripple effects have been unfortunate.

What this has made me realize is that managing a digital society needs careful thought as each action may have unintended consequences.

A group owner has every right to block someone from their own group. However a society that automates a process giving a single owner the ability to block that individual from other groups within the same system without others backing that decision turns that owner into a dictator.

At least they could have a 3 strikes and you’re out rule…or something else more democratic.

I don’t see the “delete and block” option anymore. I just see “requires moderation.” Does this mean that SWAM is gone?

Hi Kim,
Apologies for the late reply. The block and delete option is still visible in the groups I manage so it is difficult to comment. Could you be looking under the ‘change permissions’ on each member as opposed to the top right of the list of members?

I am also a victim of SWAM! Banned from one Group (MARPRO) and now even UNABLE to even click “like” or “dislike” on the remaining 12 other transportation groups of which I was a member.
Therefore I believe that only talking or writing about how bad SWAM is a waste of time and will bring NOWHERE

I believe that freedom of speech is guaranteed and protected by the First Amendment of our Constitution and nobody, not even LinkedIn, can trump it.

My suggestion? Let’s start a class action against LinkedIn!!

Any idea, or suggestion?
Any valid lawyer ready to take our defense against a Company that believe our Constitution to be a useless piece of paper?

If this one has been “fun”, think how much more interesting (and profitable) the Great (British &) Global Mortgage Scam is going to be!?

If this one has been “fun”, think how much more “exciting” (and profitable) the Great Global (& British) Mortgage Scam is going to be!?

Sorry – didn’t see that the first one got through the WordPress log-in. I didn’t mean to repeat myself, although obviously the facts to bear repeating.

SWAM support group on LinkedIn
http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=4911853

LinkedIn SWAM (Site Wide Auto Moderation) Support group on Google+
https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/116051139530449057060

Great read Mark, and I hadn’t come across this before until a colleague had it happen and now seems I have! Me who bangs on about spamming! It is frustrating that I don’t know which Group / post it relates to. It could have been an accident or misunderstanding, as I certainly don’t spam groups.

You are so right about LinkedIn’s sharing options – which encourage sharing to multiple Groups. I teach people to check the Group rules before participating, but this sharing via the web doesn’t alert the user to check rules.

I love this platform, but it has so many issues… I have list which grows each week!

Ironic thing is, that I have the message I’m on moderation with the Group I own!

Have you heard anything from LinkedIn since?

Sorry to hear about that Jo, this is a classic example of the problem with SWAM. I know you would never spam a group but here you are an innocent victim!
Perhaps this would be a good topic to discuss on my Linkedinformed podcast. How about we arrange a time for an interview?


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