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Audio Flagging, For Dummies -- Everything You Need to Know, by ADR3-N

Posted by ADR3-N - December 22nd, 2016

Audio Flagging, For Dummies
Everything You Need to Know, by ADR3-N.

Greetings, NG!

What you're about to read is a celabratory guide post marking my first week as an audio mod, written while I was vacationing in Arkansas some time in Dec. 2016. It is now May 1, 2018. As a present to you and a help-resource, I'm posting my not-quite secret methods for finding and flagging rule-breaking content in the Audio Portal in the hopes that it will benefit your whistles as much as your help will the moderation team and site as a whole.

With high hope and much pleasure, I present to you, without further ado:

ADR3-N's Pretty Darn Definitive Guide for Finding and Flagging Stolen/Abusive Audio

Heya NG regulars! ADR3-N here, still in Arkansas at the time of writing, hiding away from the sub-freezing temperatures and snow. As you may know, I've recently become a part of the mod team (thank you all so much; you too @TomFulp!) and now spend most of my time zapping infringing audio and smiting abusers of our fine establishment.

In the past couple of days alone, I've found probably over 2,000 stolen songs, banned tons of thieves, and run neck-deep into a whole lot more crap than I bargained for. It's an absolutely massive task keeping the AP clean, especially in the advent of a particular brand of thieves migrating to NG like passenger pidgeons in their prime, blackening the skies, shitting stolen content out like... Uh, like those plastic toy birds that poop candy eggs every three steps or so, and there seems to be no end in sight.

One and a half years later, and still going strong!

Sure, the current situation sucks, but what this means for you is whistle points galore  -- potentially, if you know your stuff and don't mind doing some sniffing. Lucky for those of you chasing a deity whistle, I can save you a lot of trouble. All you need to know is what to look for.

This guide focuses primarily on stolen content and Geometry Dash abuse, but it may also overlap with spam or other rule breaches. If you want more whistle points, or just want to make NG a better place -- faster and more efficiently -- dig in. Some parts bolded for skimming. Yes, TLDR sufferers, even with my propensity for massive posts, I thought of you.

Step One - Mr. Easy and Mrs. Obvious

If you're poring through the audio portal, unscouted section, or search pages, you'll see a constant stream of content. You may be tempted to go through it all, but should you really? No! Listening to every submission on Newgrounds is just not possible. You'd burn yourself out before you even scratched the surface.

Take things one submission at a time. Stop when you start feeling like it's tedious. Take short cuts, too, like searching specific sections or tags in unscouted like GeometryDash.

Any tips in this guide can probably be searched for and pull up some rule-breaking content; just remember to focus on one thing at a time and pay attention so you don't flag anything legitimate.

Whenever you're ready to begin, click the disc on whatever catches your attention firsthand, and most importantly, look at the TITLE of the submission.

Is the text:

  • spelled wrong
  • weird looking
  • broken English
  • indicating an author other than the NG username
  • "not mine" or geometry dash related (GD cuts)
  • named after a popular song/artist
  • named similarly to content reported in AP cleanup
  • [NCS Release] <song title>____</song title>

Example titles: Skrillex - Cinema, Re (as in Reanimate), Alan Walker - Shine, Fade [NCS Release], Death by Glamour, for Geometry Dash, Hellcat - Desmeon, Pegboard Nerds, cool, NOT MINE DON'T REMOVE, AAAAA, etc. Check for mispellings too!

Tip: There are tons more examples in AP cleanup. You can check which are unpublished by clicking the CD icon beside the name. The more popular a song is, the more likely it is to be stolen. Still, be careful. Sometimes people report legitimate content -- rare but enough that it deserves a mention.

I've seen big batches of stolen NCS releases, Skrillex, TheFatRat, MDK, and other popular works. If the username doesn't match the artist name, it's probably stolen, disincluding any impersonators like the fake Lensko account we found earlier. Any EDM, pop, or Hip-Hop song is a prime target for theft. Chippy soundtracks like Undertale are popular too!

Of course, while the AP cleanup is an excellent resource for inquiring/learning about and reporting stolen content, it's not a flag-whoring thread. You can lose whistle points by flagging any legitimate submissions reported there, so it's important to only flag submissions you know or highly suspect to be stolen/copyrighted/spam. Most people find these through the search feature, looking for common terms associated with AP abuse.

If you want someone to spoon feed you flags to help repair your whistle, ask around at your own risk, but piggyback flagging can actually hurt more than it helps. You're better off looking on your own and tapping a mod on the shoulder if you're not sure what you're looking at.

Excellent terms to search for: NCS, Skrillex, Borgore, not mine, all rights, no es mia, esta cancion, gmd, geometry, for gd, geometry dash, Alan Walker, Hellcat, Desmeon, MDK, Fingerbang, Reanimate, tombstone, thefatrat, Pegboard, Krewella, Monstercat, please scout, pls scout, scout me, undertale, sans, papyrus, etc. Basically any popular artist or song, GD related tags, you get the idea.

These are just what I've seen the most of, and my god is the unscouted section at large a massive treasure trove -- or dung heap, when it comes to flagging. There are at least 5-10 rule-breaking songs every day from some idiot(s) who never read the disclaimer, or did and don't care.

Naturally, even though people like myself go through these hotspots daily, there's no way mods can catch every single illicit submission, not alone. This is where users like you come in. Don't be shy! Dig in, and as I mentioned before, be VERY careful about scouting given the current situation with thefts, spam, and impersonating accounts for GD.

Occasionally, we get suckered into scouting a thief, since most GD thieves are not aware, under the current GD API, new artists must be whitelisted by RobTop himself, and stolen songs won't make the cut!

You might wonder, if there's so much music in the world, why are so many of the same songs, tags, and artists in general so common? Why are these terms so easy to pinpoint? Why does this keep happening?

Cancer? Sort of.

Let me explain. 80-99% of what we see is people stealing songs for Geometry Dash, an unintended consequence of GD creator @Zhenmuron (RobTop) updating his game to be able to use custom songs from Newgrounds. Almost immediately, we were bombarded with a bunch of people who didn't know or care about our community trying to upload their favorite Skrillex songs and getting mad when their submissions were swiftly taken down for theft and copyright violation.

Their next move? Thousands of NCS thefts from YouTube, because clearly, copyright infringement was the only problem in this equation. Some of these thieves have made multiple accounts to evade their permanent bans. Others whine that copyright is stupid, @Zhenmuron should have partnered with YouTube or SoundCloud, and Newgrounds moderation team sucks. The image below is just a fraction of the cancer.


In particular, the theft-minded crowd is a thick-headed bunch that believes they're entitled to upload whatever they want, despite a clear warning not to submit music you didn't personally make. Mods hear a lot of bs in their defense -- whether it's "fair use" (which doesn't fly here or anywhere else), non-copyright material, so-and-so said they could upload it wherever, etc.

They don't care about us, our rules, or if our whole site gets taken down over their five seconds of fun. Many even steal from artists, some already on Newgrounds, in the same breath as they harass them to upload their favorites and beg for other NG users to scout them. Tom himself has asked them to stop to no avail.

This results in a lot of the same songs being stolen ad nauseam and a lot of workload for moderators. You may find yourself running into the same song submitted by 50 different people, all of whom seem to think they're going to get away with it and that the submissions will stay up if they get scouted (wrong, and wrong!). At the very least, it makes for easy whistle points and list making for the AP Cleanup thread.

If you find any submissions that are clearly rule-breaking, flag them (intelligibly) and (optionally) report them to AP cleanup. If you want to dig deeper and find more elusive rule-breaking crap, keep reading and we'll move on to the harder stuff.

Step Two - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Rule-Breach

You do have the occasional a-hole that tries to get sneaky and obscure the name to make rule breaks harder for mods to find. Check everything, always. "Remixes" in particular are not immune to this, as GD thieves will try to hide the original songs by calling them remixes and even affixing their own usernames to them, sometimes in combination with totally changing the title and even impersonating the artist.

What do you do when a suspicious submission's title is obscure?

Check out the summary, description, and tags.

Does one or more:

  • make no sense, have illegible text
        "AA" "asdfasdfgh" "11234" "lol"
  • mention Geometry Dash, Zhenmuron, or RobTop
        "I don't make music often. I just shorten songs from my PC for GD"
  • admit theft
        "not mine", "all rights to...", "esta cancion no es mia", etc.
  • talk about the song in a way a creator would not
        "I love this song!" "Great song" "I could listen to this all day"
  • mention a popular artist, movie, anime, or game (it may have copyrighted material)
        Undertale, Rurouni Kenshin, Skrillex, any NCS artist, etc.
  • address NG mods or other users in any way, especially derogatory
        "fuck u NG" "if anyone removes this u r a dick"
  • mention DAWs not allowed on NG AND consist entirely of loops
        Magix Music Maker, Music Maker Jam
  • link to ANYWHERE else
        Scrutinize that, esp. for any NG backlinks. Usually they are crediting a source. It could be a smoking gun.
  • beg to be scouted (some people even do this with reviews, which you should flag too)

99% of these will be stolen/spam or otherwise rule-breaking. If you happen upon one that isn't a combination of these, it could have no tags at all, a virtually nonexistent description, or be in a completely bullshit genre and have misattributed authorship, like the uploader playing "bass" on an EDM track uploaded to the Easy Listening section I came across the other day. Yes, some people are this stupid.

Now, find a submission with a funny names, bullshit tags, and/or suspicious descrip?

Check out the uploader's account too. Is it:

  • GD, MLG, or "gamer" related? A lot of these guys turn out to be thieves.
  • made the same day as the upload, or near it? This is often someone evading a ban.
  • possibly impersonating a popular artist? Lensko, TAG-Underground, Desmeon, etc.
  • totally void of any links, newsposts, other content?
  • description is strange or incriminating
  • ageless, genderless, picless, etc.?
  • Stat-less, lvl 1, no posts, etc.

You get the point. Scrutinize that profile, especially if you see any of the other signs of stolen, abusive, or spam content. None of these by themselves mean much, but in combination with suspicious audio can be a big red flag. Once you eye-ball the descrips and the submitter, check out the submission itself again.

Does the song:

  • sound too high quality? (this is a big one for me)
        esp. "first" songs or just pro quality music in general from a newer, barren acc
  • sound like a full orchestra or poppy, girly Japanese/Chinese/Korean lyrics?
        These are probably stolen from anime, cartoons, or TV (you'd be surprised)
  • sound like something you've heard before?
        esp. videogame themes, NCS music, or popular songs. Serach the title.
  • differ significantly from their other submissions?
        eg. a country song, an orchestral arrangement, and a rap song on the same acc
  • sing in a different language other than the user's text and other submissions
        A Peruvian 14-yo's acc was uploading a 39-yo Korean's music
  • have an acapella? Search the lyrics.
        Failing that, use an audio search.
  • have a jarring intro and fade? This is pretty much a dead giveaway of a YT rip.
  • have copyrighted material? Flag it.
  • consist entirely of loops in an unoriginal arrangement? Flag.
  • contain ear-rape/spam or hate speech? Flag.
  • consist solely of advertisements? Flag.

These are just a few indicators of possible AP abuse. As you scour the portal, they become more natural and easily identifiable. When you find content with similarities to any of the above, I just about guarantee it's stolen, spam, or just malicious. Of course, always look for proof if you can't immediately ID the content.

Tip: Having trouble? The internet is your friend. The easiest way to pinpoint a theft is to find it on YouTube. Often thieves rip their songs from here to begin with, so all you have to do is search the title if they haven't defaced it. 90% of songs I didn't recognize that weren't purposefully obscured or outright admitted stolen were easily found on YT, approximate duration included. If the name is screwed up, look for clues around the account to help you. Occasionally, they'll even upload the same song twice -- dead giveaway.

Failing that, use some sort of sound search app on your smartphone or simply ask in AP cleanup about it. It's hard to go wrong, really. Just remember, if you find one rule-breaking song on an account, anything else they have is most likely also bad news, though not always. Eye-ball it all just as hard as you did the first song, and only flag what you know to be rule-breaking, and you'll be fine.

Step Three - You're a Grand Old Flag

Unlike flagging reviews, flagging in the AP isn't a one-click affair, but that doesn't mean it has to be a complicated process. Just make sure your flags are intelligible and informative and you'll do great. It could be as simple as recognizing the song or linking to an earlier YouTube vid containing it.

If you do link a YT video, make sure the upload date is before the NG submission's and that the submitter in question is not the same person. Granted, we have had some impersonator accounts here on NG, but those are usually easy to identify if you follow the above advice.

If you manage all of that, you may find keeping track of your queue in notepad useful for reporting to the AP cleanup thread. This way, you can inquire about songs you were unsure about in the same breath as reporting the stolen audio. If you have any other questions, of course, you can always grab an audio mod!

That should about wrap it up. Happy flagging! Report rule-breaking audio here!



Comments (17)

Ass-kickin' guide !

Thanks! Hope it helps. If you need a hand, btw, don't hesitate to ask!

There's a bright decorative sign when you go to submit audio, it's practically slathered all over the guidelines, yet there is still audio theft day after day. No wonder people are turned off by any music from Newgrounds.

I'm not sure if you have this in your guide, but the way I look for stolen audio is I search up an artist's name. I know of a lot of dubstep artists and just about every GD player uses a dubstep song for an overused trend called &quot;circles levels&quot;. I know artists like Skrillex, KDrew, etc. don't have a Newgrounds account so I'll type in Skrillex or Datsik and find about 100 audio submissions under that name.

Thing is, we're the only community having to deal with GD theft specifically, but people are acting like we're YouTube. We aren't.

I do, actually. Before I was modded, that was my prime method of finding stolen crap. One day I ran across 500+ songs. The next, I was a mod. It occurred to me that not everyone was doing this or aware of it, so I made this guide.

GD thieves just perturb me.

I intend to help when I can. I assume any covers any covers or remixes of all these dubstep songs should also be reported?

That depends. We're trying to move away from covers and remixes, yes, but some of these songs aren't copyrighted so there isn't a problem with covers and remixes. Others are, and there is a problem. I do hate to take down otherwise legitimate work on the account of it being a cover, though, especially if there are no samples from the artist they're covering or stems from them used.

How long have you been a mod??? I just noticed this, haha.

Happened while I was in Arkansas. I don't remember which day. Probably about 4-5 days? I literally didn't keep track hahah.

Well done on compiling this guide -- I hope it'll make things seifter and easier for us lot to handle.

Now, I wonder if there is gonna be a Readme or permanent FP associated with this...

Thanks. I never really have been one for publicity, but if it would help, by all means, put it in your sig, w/e. I see a whole lot more backlog in AP cleanup than I ever do flags all day long, and the cleanup thread started because flags/whistles at one point were broken. As a result, many users, myself included at one point, forgot how to flag. Who knows, maybe even a wiki link would do.

@NekoMika, what do you think?

I knew you haven't been one for very long, haha. My guess was right.

Anyways, congrats! :)

Thanks. It almost feels strange. A while back, @Asandir interviewed me and asked if I'd be interested in modding if it was offered. I said yes, if it would help out. Never actually thought I'd get the honor.

Congratulations on becoming a mod! Seems like a foregone conclusion to me. Fantastically informative post, and one that I shall certainly be linking others to. It's a filthy landslide of disallowed content each and every day, but with enough legit Newgrounders probing the Audio depths, it can be cleaned up in short order.

And, in the long term, let's all hope that the illegal upload fad tapers off. Perhaps one day all who post content on Newgrounds will learn to read, comprehend the site's text-based rules, and wisely decide not to upload stolen material.

...And maybe I should wish for a million dollars to fall out of the sky and fall right into my lap. Oh well, one can always dream.

Yes, and yes. Well, if I wish for anything, it's certainly more users to help find all this stolen crap and get it off the site. I've spent over a decade on NG, and I'll be damned if I see it go to ruin because of some ignorant fools pirating music. We're a user-created content site, not a PTP filesharing ring.

... Uh, what I meant to say was, thank you. :P

It's been exactly a year since I interviewed you and now you actually are an audio moderator, congrats ^^

Wow, I didn't even think of that! No small thanks to sterling examples such as yourself. Thanks Asandir!

My thoughts?

If @TomFulp wanted to add a modified variant of this to the NG Wiki, that would be neat, otherwise I feel a large part of the problem stems from the fact Robtop made update 1.9 (the update where custom music started.) I think his mind and heart were in the right place but the community had other plans. Instead of having to remove occasional stolen stuff, now we have to be super vigilant everyday.

I think, seeing as Robtop comes to Newgrounds every once in a blue moon (seems they were here in July of last year); that there is a chance he might see this and actually try to remedy things a bit which would help a little bit I think. Otherwise, the GD dumpers will always be bitchy that we are &quot;killjoys&quot; instead of protecting a site and the audio portal we care so much about...

I notice the only truly cancerous part of the GD community are those who come here with crap they did not make then start to e-beg for scouts and try to whine that all they needed was &quot;permission&quot; to upload here to Newgrounds which NONE OF THEM SEEM TO COMPREHEND DOES NOT MEAN THEY CAN UPLOAD THAT PERSON'S WORK!!

The only thing I can really hope for is Robtop takes away the ability to import custom music because it really does make far more work for us which their community does not give two fucks about for their five seconds of fun.

That or he allows people to use native music on their devices as well which would solve the problem essentially. Notice the babies are crying that he needs to partner with someone else. Let them play pirates in their own back yards.

@NekoMika I wouldn't expect GD to remove the custom music option - and despite the problems, it has brought lots of positive attention to the NG Audio Portal as well, in addition to GD fans encouraging other artists to upload their work on NG. The big question is whether there is any sort of communication that can dramatically reduce the abuse. For example we added that big graphic bumper before users upload music - which may be helping some but we need to generate some moderator data to see what the daily abuse has been like before / after.

In GD itself it has a link to NG's terms but probably needs a better notice to not abuse the NG upload system. I'm gonna email Rob about that.

I hope it helps.

Would you like me to start keeping my daily statistics of GD theft and songs relating to it? That's 99% of what I deal with daily. Sometimes AP cleanup interferes with watching the unscouted section, so much backlog.

I'm sorry that you've had to deal with all this. I always thought you'd make a good mod. I agree with what some others I've been talking to have said, Geometry Dash needs to be taken down and/or modified since the community has gotten out of hand. Nobody asks permission to use music on GD, and music that isn't on GD gets stolen and uploaded here.

@TomFulp I think it would be good for the game to have a giant banner on the game that says not to upload stolen content to newgrounds....but honestly it seems with these ignorant kids, as much as you try, they'll never listen. Something has to be done to reduce this mess....it's getting harder on the mods though, I worry about what'll happen to the site if this keeps up :S but you know more than I do. I'm always concerned about NG xD i just hope things don't get worse, this is like...crazy bad, isn't it?

Honestly, I agree. They MUST see all the rules that say not to upload content that isn't yours, and they do it anyway -- and think they'll get away with it.

Music that is in the game itself gets stolen, and those artists there come from NG themselves. It's getting ridiculous. Don't get me wrong though, I sincerely enjoy taking that shit down. I just wish we had the option to permanently delete things we know for sure to be stolen. Our servers are being inundated with the same mp3s over and over.

@TomFulp, what do you think?

A content ID system like youtube eh? Maybe. At this point newgrounds might need that, somehow. It's advanced though, think they can pull that off? @TomFulp ?

Not necessarily content ID. That's a lot of server brain power. I mean, instead of unpublishing and republishing only, have an option to delete permanently for the case of when we see stuff like someone submitting @F-777's music from level 2 in GD for the 1000th time. I can't help but think of servers being clogged with worthless garbage like that.

We're able to recognize when someone uploads the same art or SWF, have to see if we do that for music - I imagine people come at it with the same song but their MP3 files aren't identical.

I talked to Rob yesterday and he's gonna try some changes to the messaging. Right now if you search a song ID to add it to a custom level, a box pops up telling you not to upload music you didn't make - the update should make that box appear as soon as you hit the custom music screen, and force you to wait a moment to read it, with some different wording / font coloring to try and emphasize the main points. We'll see if that helps. I think the main problem is they think they can upload and get scouted, when they need to know it just isn't gonna happen for them.

I find that a lot are ripping from YouTube videos or pirating from approximately the same place. If you could rig it so that any mp3s already in the system would flag a new submission that matched one of them, it'd keep someone else from stealing the same mp3, at least. I've heard the same 320 kbps or w/e F-777 - "Seven Seas" at least 300 times in one week, enough to make anyone sick, haha. I would be worried about the server load that would bring on, though. Perhaps less than the actual thefts themselves, but I already get some occasional errors while banning and unpublishing. I do think something like this would be 100% worth it, however. Some thieves double and triple upload the same song trying to get it onto GD, which is a lot of workload over time.

Maybe update our upload banner here as well. I feel it doesn't quite illustrate the point -- that permission from someone off NG doesn't give you permission from us to post content you didn't make on NG, that fair use doesn't exist, no copyright doesn't matter: theft still sticks out like a sore thumb in user-generated content community like NG, you won't get to use the song, whether or not you get scouted, we'll remove the content, you will get banned permanently, and we might even delete your account.

I don't think these kids even read, honestly.

congrats for being the new mod. NG need you and Lexy. :)

Thanks! Glad to help out where I can :)

Sniffle sniffle pretty good guide in here because one of my songs got taken down

Did it break the rules? Completely made up of loops, etc?

Thanks so much for writing this up, man! We definitely need to pay closer attention to piracy issues among GD users and the community at large.

No problem. Glad I could help!

I stole a song that's why in banned

Yeah, we do sorta ban people for that, a lot. Stealing music hurts us, legally and in terms of good name. We're not a file dump for GD either.