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I've noticed a number of users spamming the site today, either by asking the same question over and over, or by posting rap lyrics as comments in nearly every thread.

I feel powerless to stop it after I've used up my 5 offensives (and don't want to waste any more karma downvoting).

Is there a way to report patterns of spamming? Is there anything I can do to help remove spam more quickly?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Aug 5 '09 at 2:54

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

    
yeah this needs to be taken care of, IP banning probably. –  Luca Matteis Feb 21 '09 at 3:38
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Incidentally, my spam fighting today has cost me 140 karma points, since 5 people marked my "stop spamming" answer as offensive. If you want to discourage people from helping eliminate spam, that seems like a pretty good way. –  jrockway Feb 21 '09 at 3:39
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I will vote up your stop spamming answers. –  magnifico Feb 21 '09 at 3:39
    
don't worry jrockway , I'll search for 14 good answers and upvote. Well done. –  Learning Feb 21 '09 at 3:40
    
@learning those votes will get rolled back by the fraud detection –  Rex M Feb 21 '09 at 3:40
    
+1 on this one, karma comin' back! –  Marc Novakowski Feb 21 '09 at 3:41
    
I learned today that I can only flag five offensive posts per day. And accidentally earned the Citizen Patrol badge. And used some rep. This is just annoying. –  R. Martinho Fernandes Feb 21 '09 at 3:42
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It's a mess. Here's my lame suggestion: stackoverflow.uservoice.com/pages/general/suggestions/… –  Shog9 Feb 21 '09 at 3:43
    
Thanks everyone! I didn't mean to dwell on the karma loss, but I appreciate the concern :) –  jrockway Feb 21 '09 at 3:45
    
Yeah, next time don't even bother downvoting - it doesn't do anything to the spammer and you just lose your own rep. –  Kyle Cronin Feb 21 '09 at 3:47
    
I'll upvote only 2 a day :) –  Learning Feb 21 '09 at 3:48
    
@ jrockway : You were downvoted because of your first line, you know what you said. That is just as bad. –  Ed Swangren Feb 21 '09 at 3:50
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+1 here though, someone needs to have ban power. –  Ed Swangren Feb 21 '09 at 3:51
    
Fair enough. I don't see why we need to be nice to people that are ruining the site, though. (FWIW, "STFU and write some code" is a conference t-shirt. Not offensive :) –  jrockway Feb 21 '09 at 3:52
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+1 to recover some karma (but you should not have been abusive in your response (if yours was the post I remember (with the F word))). –  paxdiablo Feb 21 '09 at 4:02

14 Answers 14

I'm wondering the same. Also I have to go through 'human verification' when I try to edit the offending posts.

EDIT : I noticed few things after this :

  1. 5 offensive votes per day? What's the logic. I want to mark as many offensive posts as I see.
  2. Human verification after each 2-3 edits? If I've verified I'm human once at least give me 30 minutes before popping the question again.
  3. How come spammers are faster than all the other people combined?
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On a related note: thanks for cleaning up a lot of the spam. –  BenMaddox Feb 21 '09 at 3:48
    
on point 1 -- the logic is to keep spammers from flagging things as offensive, I imagine.. –  SquareCog Feb 21 '09 at 4:01
    
If you give those 30 minutes, bot can be semi-automated, with a human passing the verification every 30 minutes. –  R. Martinho Fernandes Feb 21 '09 at 4:02
    
@SquareCog: You need 15 rep to flag as offensive. –  R. Martinho Fernandes Feb 21 '09 at 4:03

Simply let the reputation to go negative values, once one reaches, say, -20 reputation he can't post for some time perioud, or gets deleted, castrated or what not...

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Unfortunately, there's no such thing as negative reputation. Not that it matters - spammers would just create new accounts by deleting their cookies and continue spamming. –  Kyle Cronin Feb 21 '09 at 3:40
    
There's no perfect cure, ever. That would just help the community to manage the site, which is, after all, the goal of SO. –  arul Feb 21 '09 at 3:41
    
Well, a spam filter, an IP throttle and some new functionality changes as proposed by others would go a long way towards keeping it down... –  alphadogg Feb 21 '09 at 4:07

I just used up my 5 offensives too. I'm of the opinion we need more moderators - a few trusted individuals that can swiftly delete and ban spammers.

Also, I have an idea that might prevent abuse of the offensive flag and still allow users to have as many as they need in this case: Once a post is removed as offensive, the offensive votes are returned to the users. That way in this sort of rapid-fire situation the 'good guys' aren't stuck without ammo. (The potential abuse is a malicious user having 5 sock puppet accounts removing things as offensive without limit, but that would take more time to cultivate and operate than some two-bit drive-by spammer)

edit: suggestion now UserVoice'd

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+1. It would be nice if there was an IRC channel where we could coordinate anti-spam efforts. (Hey, sometimes I have too much free time, and this is a not a bad way to kill it off :) –  jrockway Feb 21 '09 at 3:41
    
If you're into IRC, there's #stackoverflow on freenode –  Shog9 Feb 21 '09 at 3:47
    
There are more moderators now - anyone over 10k rep. –  Jay Bazuzi Feb 21 '09 at 3:55
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I have over 10k and I had 5 offensive votes. After that all I could do was watch it burn. –  Kyle Cronin Feb 21 '09 at 3:57
    
*5 offensive votes = I can cast only 5 offensive votes per day –  Kyle Cronin Feb 21 '09 at 3:58
    
meta.stackexchange.com/questions/7878/… ( I just noticed this ) –  Brad Gilbert Aug 15 '09 at 17:46
    
There are also some abusive moderators. Don't forget, the system favors people with enough spare time to be a moderator, which isn't the optimal way of choosing the best and the brightest. –  thrillscience Jan 2 '11 at 19:53
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@thrillscience This post was written when the only moderators in the system were Jeff, Joel, Jarrod, and Geoff. I agree that the burgeoning number of moderators may present issues now, but at the time this post was written the opposite was the case. –  Kyle Cronin Jan 2 '11 at 20:16
    
That said, editing offensive/spam posts will clear the offensive/spam flags as relates to the automatic deletion when it collects enough community votes. Mods still see the flags, but the community could often delete them more quickly. –  Andrew Barber Aug 6 '13 at 14:51

Yes we have all wasted some points and offensive bids, but this discussion itself belongs on uservoice, we don't want to proliferate bad content.

Another note I think providing attention is just causing the enjoyment to grow, possibly ignore and stop editing his posts and maybe he/she will get bored faster.

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I was about to say the same thing. zabzonk, as annoying as he/she was, got stomped for a uservoice-ish question... –  alphadogg Feb 21 '09 at 3:43
    
Yes exactly, unfortunately sometimes the correct channels aren't followed although the ghost of a rapper that is currently posting is much different then zabzonk or so it seems. Although this will pass, sometimes the children need to feel empowered by disrupting a community. It will pass. –  Quintin Robinson Feb 21 '09 at 3:45
    
How come the rapper has amassed 45 rep? –  R. Martinho Fernandes Feb 21 '09 at 3:49
    
@CQ: Yes, eventually it will pass. @Martinho: I was wondering the same... –  alphadogg Feb 21 '09 at 3:51
    
Must be that other guy with javascript problems... –  R. Martinho Fernandes Feb 21 '09 at 3:54

These posts come all in one wave it seems. The offending person will keep posting until they get bored. One way to deal with this is to have a cap on how many questions can be asked in a given period of time. Just a thought.

If you have more than 2K reputation, you can edit their question and title or post to something not offensive.

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I did this, many, many times. The spammers are automating the spamming, or at least revert my reverts very quickly. –  jrockway Feb 21 '09 at 3:46
    
A real risk in editing offensive questions: I think there's a 100-point hit on rep to the last editor when the question gets closed with 5 offense points. This could easily happen with 5 people having the 'bad' question open and flagging it without seeing your 'good' changes. Then you suffer. –  paxdiablo Feb 21 '09 at 4:11
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@paxdiablo's comment is not accurate. The -100 point reputation loss applies only to the author of the original revision. There is no penalty for editing offensive or spam questions. –  Cody Gray Aug 6 '13 at 13:02

But what's going to keep him/her from getting a different login? This is a great site. Doesn't it have moderator that could just delete and block abuse.

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In the podcast, Joel stated his opinion that the voting system can handle abuse. Voting against an abuse post is one way for the voting system to handle the problem. Another way the voting system can handle the problem is if we vote up legitimate questions. So if you are afraid of spending any more reputation on spammers, you can still help by up voting legitimate questions.

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This is one time Joel is obviously wrong. You guys do realize that even Joel can be wrong sometimes, right? Moderation is not the way to go, but there are probably clear-cut business rules that could be applied to the egregious cases. –  alphadogg Feb 21 '09 at 3:55
    
BTW, the second sentence has a smiley... :) –  alphadogg Feb 21 '09 at 4:05
    
Whether Joel is right or wrong is not the point. The point is that his view on this issue has influenced the site design. –  magnifico Feb 21 '09 at 4:10

Rate limiting would be nice, I see at least 6 posts done in the same minute by this spammer, that seems a bit excessive. Putting an limit on the number of new questions per minute would clean things up a bit. Start it at something reasonable like 5 and if that is hit or exceeded decrease it.

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There's already the "30 second comment" limit, which hits me when I realise a mistake in my first comment and want to immediately make a second comment to admit/correct it. Allowing 6 questions per minute, but preventing 3 comments per minute, sounds more like a historical accident than a policy :-) –  onebyone Feb 21 '09 at 3:53
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IMHO 5 questions/minutes is still too much. Nobody can ask 5 reasonable good questions in a minute. One question in 5 minute in quiet enough. –  Luc M Feb 21 '09 at 4:00
    
I agree with Luc M –  R. Martinho Fernandes Feb 21 '09 at 4:05
    
Agreed, I feel it's better to err on the side of caution for someone who has several fine-grained questions to ask that merit multiple posts however. 2-3 per minute would be a fine middle ground. –  Sid Farkus Feb 21 '09 at 4:12

Until this ends, I am just using the "Hot" list instead.

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I would recommend to offer to not only report the post as "offensive", but if you report the second one from the same user as offensive that the system asks if you want to report the user as offensive (or does automatically so). This may help a little bit (although spammers would quickly change their strategy, but this time spam was not the problem, just a teenager having too much testosterone combined with whatever...).

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This happened once before and I used the "contact us" link at the bottom of every page to notify the SO admins. The user was deleted shortly thereafter. I have done this today as well for 2pac but I'm not sure what hours the admins work, so it may take a while. Just ignore it, go away for a few hours. When you get back, things will be back to normal.

If it happens again, I sure the admins will post a N-questions-per-minute limit along the lines of their comment add and delete policies.

Don't waste your downvote points, mark it offensive if you like, but trust in the admins to sort it out (either manually or by introducing some limitation).

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It appears this may have worked (or 2pac has left the building :-). –  paxdiablo Feb 21 '09 at 4:00

In an earlier podcast, Joel suggested setting an "evil" bit on an abuser's account. All posts from that account could be made invisible to non-evil users. The abuser would see their posts normally, rather than seeing them getting removed. They would think they were just being ignored rather than thinking that they were really irritating someone.

Another option mentioned would be slowing down the site for abusing IP addresses for some period of time. How long would you hang around if every page took 15-30 seconds to load?

I don't think these features were ever implemented. Maybe it's time they should be.

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This isn't a big deal, at least it hasn't been so far: how many examples of blatant, disruptive abuse have you seen in Stack Overflow since you started? I haven't seen much.

I think that poorly-written questions and questions that are clearly intended to farm rep instead of spread knowledge are a much bigger blight on SO.

Perhaps users with only 1 reputation should only be allowed to post once / day.

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once/day may be too low, but six times a minute is definitely too high. I'm sure nobody can type more than one well phrased question in five minutes, though. –  gimpf Feb 21 '09 at 4:02
    
I may only be 24 days old on SO, but this was by far the worst time I have had. Poorly-written questions are forgivable. Also, in terms of "being able to do something about", dealing with 2pac would be easier than only allowing people who know how to ask questions... –  alphadogg Feb 21 '09 at 4:03
    
I just had a case when some Python zealot perceived that I was insulting Python and he went and downgraded every answer I made in the past few months (and told me he did so). This makes me not want to support or recommend StackOverflow to anyone –  thrillscience Jan 2 '11 at 19:56

One thing that I think would help: If a spammer gets the boot then all negative points people got for reporting him are refunded. This would remove the downside of reporting the scum and result in them getting closed and booted faster.

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