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I noticed that the posts of the recent spam surge on AskUbuntu were all edited by community members into something like

EDITED - REMOVED SPAM ANSWER

or similar.

While I understand why the users have done this and I too don't want to leave the spam content visible for longer than absolutely necessary, it made flagging more time consuming for me.

I had to check the revision for every of those possible spam posts to check if it is actually spam, instead of being able to flag directly from the review site. Spam flags carry a serious penalty, I'm not willing to add my spam flag without checking that it's really spam.

I see the benefit of editing spam, but it also causes some more effort for the later flaggers. Should we as a general policy edit out the content of spam posts, or should we deal with them solely by flagging?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 65 down vote accepted

This was recently brought up at the Super User Meta also.

Why shouldn't we edit spam posts?:

  • Usually spam is easy to spot, and gets removed very fast. 6 spam flags deletes the post.
  • Moderators can easily see (or search for) the links posted by spammers, and can blacklist sites once it is posted enough.
  • Spam doesn't usually stay there long enough for it to be cached by search engines or to have random users stumble upon it.
  • As nhinkle says, most links do not even need to be removed, unless there are linking to porn, viruses, or disturbing content.
  • If a post is flagged after being edited, those flags will be invalidated if the post is rolled back; unless your edit actually results in a post that shouldn't be deleted, you're just creating an opportunity for someone to make the post stick around longer.

In short, the community is usually too fast for spammers, so by the time anything can happen out of it, it's already gone.

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8  
6 spam flags? Is that the limit on every site, because it's highly unlikely to be reached on smaller sites in a timely manner. –  htorque Oct 22 '11 at 13:58
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@htorque it's part of SE I believe. On smaller sites you'd more heavily rely on moderators, or use chat to ask for help from others –  Simon Sheehan Oct 22 '11 at 14:04
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Spam doesn't usually stay there long enough for it to be cached by search engines or to have random users stumble upon it. => Considering that the users that have 2,000 reputation are considerably less than 1% of all the visitors, I'm not sure your statement is true. –  Andreas Bonini Oct 22 '11 at 16:22
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@Koper You only need 6 users with 15+ reputation to flag the spam into oblivion. On many SE 2.0 site you often won't achieve that and need a moderator, but the older sites have a decent chance of deleting spam without needing a moderator. –  Mad Scientist Oct 22 '11 at 18:19
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@Fabian Also why i suggested using chat - I'm sure users from other sites would happily come help out –  Simon Sheehan Oct 22 '11 at 18:20
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Moderators can't blacklist links. –  badp Jan 21 '12 at 0:05
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@badp They can request it to be done by a team member though –  Simon Sheehan Jan 21 '12 at 0:35
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@SimonSheehan sure, but talking to Rebecca isn't precisely a moderator power :) –  badp Jan 21 '12 at 1:39
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It's one of the oldest flag behaviors around, but rarely comes into play so not very many people know about it. –  Shog9 Aug 12 '13 at 14:55
    
@Shog9 I almost edited this meta.stackexchange.com/a/192893/223277 (after I'd flagged it .. hahahahahhahahaha if I hadn't seen this I would've!! –  user223277 Aug 12 '13 at 15:13
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RE: "most links do not even need to be removed, unless there are linking to porn, viruses, or disturbing content" - I don't know that they don't, because I don't trust them enough to follow them. I still edit links out of spam whenever the post text (which I leave) is still demonstrative enough of its nature for others to flag. If mods/admins have some superpower that lets them blacklist the links it's a rather trivial matter for them to review the edit history to get them. Meanwhile, other visitors don't need to be given the opportunity to click on links that are so untrustworthy by nature. –  Iszi Sep 5 '13 at 18:06
    
OK, this makes sense for questions, but not sure about answers. Those with large enough rep see the deleted answers, so unless the spam answers are removed altogether it would be preferable to remove the content as well when deleting the spam answer. –  Peter Grill Apr 28 at 5:31
    
@PeterGrill These days (and I'm pretty sure it was in effect before you left your comment), posts deleted by red flags don't have their content shown by default - you need to go to the revision history to see whatever was so bad. –  michaelb958 May 27 at 22:12

I think editing like this is counter-productive because:

  1. It makes it harder to manually spot patterns of spam through searching/memory
  2. It presumably makes automated spam handling harder

The automatic downvotes from flagging spam seem to be sufficient to hide most posts suitably far down the answer list until they're deleted.

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