I am creating a website and would like to know how i could prevent users sharing contact information such as phone numbers and emails on the messaging system-similar to how ebay works. Is there a software package, algorithm or AI that can do this?


In my personal experience, using such apps, there's no perfect system to prevent specific data from being shared. Yes, you can implement simple but effective regular expressions to catch telephone numbers, e-mails and so on (you'll find plenty on the internet ready to copy and past). You can also use more complex algorithms, AI, and so on.

But I want to suggest a better course of action. You didn't give out many details about your business. Whatever it is, design it such that sharing contact information is a disadvantage to at least one of the participants, and therefore happy to do all through your system.

So, think in terms of incentives to not share data, instead of "tyrannical" rules to forbid them. Win them over.

Let's think of a site where people find someone to walk their dog in exchange for money. The site gets a small bite of each transaction. If they manage payments bypassing your site, they won't lose your commission. What can we do to make people use the website?

Benefits of staying with you off the top of my head:

  • Dog walkers need trust and good reviews from clients on their profile to get new hires and potentially charge more money. There would be none of that if a transaction were never officially made
  • Give them both parties peace of mind by mediating in disputes. "He didn't pay me or paid less" and so on. The client could have an escrow account on the website, and if all is good, the site pays the walker. It's also very convenient.
  • Protect both parties against dishonesty such as either party changing the agreement on money or hours
  • Dog walkers have a mobile app to record happy moments walking the client's dog. And the client can watch it live with that same app.
  • Both parties can remain anonymous in terms of cell numbers, ID, etc. Your website should, however, have all that data.
  • In the event of the dog walker keeping the dog (I'm reaching here but hear me out), you will contact the authorities and facilitate the walker's ID, cellphone and so on to track and detain that person. That's a peace of mind for the dog owner.

I think you get the gist. Like I said, win them over.

TL;DR: Figure out how the website can be the best channel for everyone involved. Incentivize people to use it based on convenience, safety, references, etc. You should implement some basic controls (RegEx) to prevent the most basic attempts at personal data sharing but for a better reason: so that you use this occasion to remind each party why it's in their best interest to stay.

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