A Modest Proposal For The Suppression Of Captcha Abuse

If you’ve used the web for any length of time, you’ve probably been subjected to captcha in one of several forms. Perhaps you have been told to type a random selection of letters and numbers, or been given a set of pictures or a picture divided into squares and told to pick out tractors or chimneys or taxis or buses or traffic lights or crosswalks or something else of that nature from within the picture or pictures. Sometimes you have not had to do this just once, but repeatedly, over and over again, all under the guise of proving that you are not a robot. Not only do you have to do this, but sometimes the captcha is mistakenly coded, sometimes it freezes or fails to load, leaving one’s internet experienced harmed, and frequently it is inconsistently enforced, so that a perfectly legitimate user might have to input dozens or even hundreds of captcha requests over the course of a single day, while actual bots that the captcha is officially supposed to work against find their efforts unhindered. What can be done about this sort of abuse?

There are at least two different angles that have been taken against captcha so far. A few years ago, a handicapped internet user put a petition on change.org that drew a fair amount of support before it was taken down. Alternatively, there have been a wide variety of captcha lawsuits that have been filed against companies like Google. There are at least a few different grounds upon which lawsuits have been or could be made against those companies which use captcha as a means of limiting the use of websites or at least claim to be seeking to prevent or limit bots. The lawsuit against Google argued that captcha was fraudulent, and the prevalence of bots despite the restraint of using sites that captcha represent demonstrates that bots are able to get in perhaps better than actual people. One can also make discrimination lawsuits against companies that use it because the options for those who are blind or otherwise vision impaired are still not very good and often leave users completely unable to use such websites. Also, captcha is highly discriminatory in that some users and some channels tend to be targeted more heavily than others [1].

What, then, do we propose? We modestly propose, therefore, that where websites engage in ip tracking so that they have a persistent record of the ip address or accounts for users, that there be a strict limitation on the use of captcha. To wit, websites shall be forbidden to use captcha where a user has expressed visual impairment that makes it impossible to use the captcha successfully. In addition, websites shall be prohibited from abusing captcha as a means of seeking to limit the use of a website to people through repeatedly asking for verification of the user. Websites shall be liable for monetary damages to users for waste of the user’s time and bandwith if they ask for more than one verification in the course of a 24-hour period, whether that be multiple captcha’s asked in a row or intermittently. Damages shall increase in a logarithmic scale so that at every ten occurrences of a captcha, damages shall be increased in a power relationship. So, for example, while captcha requests 2-9 will be n*damages, the tenth captcha request shall lead to a levy of n*damages^2, the twentieth at n*damages^3, and so on. There shall be no limit to the damages that a user can collect from a website that engages in repeted and persistent abuse of captcha, until websites use better and less discriminatory means of proving that users are human beings.

[1] For example, I happen to play a game called Politics and War that uses a captcha system in a very inconsistent fashion. When I play the game on my laptop using the webpage, for example, the most I have to do is occasionally press a captcha box to claim that I am a human being. However, when I use the app, matters are considerably more grim and it may take minutes to do several rounds of image recognition to do the simplest actions, like moving from one page within the game to another. Indeed, this particular aspect of the game has led to a drastic degree of frustration that some users have had with the game and the ratings they have given the app and the game itself, showing that the removal of captcha could be of benefit to the game’s creator.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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