IP Bans Are Not Always The Solution
I'd like to take some time out of my day to briefly talk about certain demands which appear regularly on my desk from various members of the community for various somewhat-related reasons.
A few times each week one of you out there appear in our Support desk and explain a situation, harassment, dArama, abuse, ban evasion, or something along those lines and you end your missive with the same demand;
IP BAN THEM!
It's happened often enough that I really need to say something in public on the issue; I know it won't necessarily get around to everyone but writing a journal on the subject at least makes me feel a bit better and I know the information will at least reach a small portion of the community and that's always a good thing.
I think the demands for IP bans are so prevalent because of a misunderstanding of how connecting through the internet actually works; I've noticed that usually it's younger members who are making the demands.
Maybe half the people who are on the Internet understand that in order to be there you must have an Internet Service Provider (or ISP) and that ISP assigns your connection an IP address.
At the risk of oversimplifying imagine that the Internet was a long hallway full of of locked doors and ownership of the various doors were all divided up among the different ISPs. When you want to enter the hallway which makes up the Internet your ISP tells you which door you can use and gives you the key to that door.
An IP ban essentially boards up and padlocks a door from the inside so that nobody can use it.
I think the main problem is that most people's understanding ends there.
What escapes most people is the fact that most ISPs swap IP addresses between their customers or allow multiple customers to access through one address, so most people don't always have the same address.
Essentially when you want to access the hallway the ISP just gives you the first available key and when you are done and leave the internet you give the key back and it's passed to the next person who needs one; essentially you usually wind up entering the hallway through a different door every time.
In addition you need to consider Proxies; essentially doors which are left deliberately unlocked so that anyone can come and go as they please.
The choices that we are presented with for IP bans amount to placing a single ban on a single address (the equivalent of the old sniper adage "One Shot- One Kill") or a ban on an entire range (the equivalent of "Nuke'Em All & Let God Sort'Em Out").
Obviously with IP addresses being swapped around so much with so many ISPs and the fact that there are so many proxies out there a single IP address ban obviously won't work in all situations; as a matter of fact it won't work at all with anybody who is both determined and internet savvy.
Having ruled out single address bans we have the broader range bans. The problem there is that broad range bans affect more than just the person you want it to affect. If we ban an entire ISP range we're not just affecting that one guy you want us to, we're affecting everybody who uses that ISP and that can easily amount to tens or hundreds of thousands of people.
I would hope that it would be apparent that we aren't going to take such a significant action against huge numbers of innocent bystanders simply because someone told you that your characters head was shaped like a pear.
So basically what I ask is, please don't demand IP bans as the solution for your problem because they either don't work the way you think they do, the one we might consider giving won't work for your problem or, quite frankly, your problem probably doesn't justify the measures we'd need to implement to make it work.