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Trusted users (20k+ reputation) can delete downvoted answers and closed questions immediately, only three votes are required. Spam flags take six votes, but can be cast by anyone able to flag (15+ reputation).

For spam answers, this means theoretically trusted users could remove them with three votes, though this doesn't work for spam questions as they would have to be closed first.

I propose that users with the trusted user privilege should get spam flags that count double, so three trusted users flagging as spam would validate the spam flag, or two trusted users and two normal users as well. This would essentially translate the deletion power of trusted users into spam flags, allowing spam to be deleted quicker. I also think that requiring at least three users is enough to prevent misuse of that feature.

One way to prevent abuse of this feature for ambiguous cases would be to restrict it to posts from 1 rep users. Pretty much all blatant spam is from users that never posted anything of value to the site, and never received a single upvote.

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(It turns out I can't do basic math, and they were sat on Stack Overflow for 45 mins, not 1 hour, but it's still a substantial amount of time...) –  Matt Sep 28 '12 at 10:37
@Matt there's a user-education angle here: as you say, those posts were at or below -6 while still undeleted, which means some people were downvoting but not spam-flagging. These people clearly didn't like the post; why didn't they spam-flag? There's no privilege issue here, as downvoting requires more rep than flagging... –  AakashM Sep 28 '12 at 10:56
@AakashM: I'm not too focussed on the "privilege" side of things here either. I liked Marc's idea in the comments about potentially using votes as well as spam flags. –  Matt Sep 28 '12 at 11:07
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1 Answer

There are two types of spam;

1: Kind-of-related answers that happen to mention a commercial product, that tend to pick up a spam flags, but may or may not be "true" spam - it could well simply be a relevant answer to the question. Sometimes, funnily enough, the person who is deeply interested in a subject also has a commercial product in their portfolio, which addresses a common issue / gap.

2: actual spam; WoW gold, watches, meds, etc. This garbage gets flagged aggressively, and we have no problem with this stuff getting deleted promptly. This stuff usually gets hammered so hard into the ground that you need a deep-mining crew to even find it.

So; only the first case is really in question, and I'm dubious that this is a grey area that often a knee-jerk reaction is wrong.

One reason that I would tread very carefully with this is that death-by-spam-flags incurs a non-trivial reputation penalty. I would be a bit cautious that this makes things a bit more open to abuse...

So: I don't propose that we have something we need to fix here... what am I missing?

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I've watched spam just sitting there for longer than I think it should, especially during the quieter times of the day (and not on SO). I'd be fine with restricting this stronger spam flag to posts of users that never got a single upvote and provided no content of value so far, that should limit the abuse potential significantly. –  Mad Scientist Jul 13 '12 at 8:53
@Mad which category of spam are we talking here? –  Marc Gravell Jul 13 '12 at 8:54
The second one: plain, unambiguous spam. –  Mad Scientist Jul 13 '12 at 8:55
@Mad any particular site(e) here? is this SO? or...? usually true spam is nailed quickly. My concern is that any changes we make for unambiguous spam could impact the trickier commercial-product cases. –  Marc Gravell Jul 13 '12 at 9:00
@MarcGravell: One I can think of is a number of offensive posts (aware offensive != spam, but I think it's still related) on (B)Sports.SE. Those posts sat there for over 24 hours (IIRC) before a moderator reviewed it; and it was a verrrry popular question (10k views), and made the site look extremely untidy. –  Matt Jul 13 '12 at 9:19
I agree: I've never seen unambiguous spam survive longer than 5 minutes. And the spammy-ness of ambiguous, borderline stuff is in the eye of the beholder; giving senior users more weight in what often is a subjective question seems unfair. –  Pëkka Jul 13 '12 at 9:24
@Matt see, now glancing at those, one potential signal we could use is downvotes from other users. Now that I know we're not talking about SO, the behaviour changes slightly... –  Marc Gravell Jul 13 '12 at 9:29
@MarcGravell: That makes sense, especially in this scenario (both posts were heavily downvoted very quickly). –  Matt Jul 13 '12 at 9:36
@Matt yes, but were the downvoters also the flaggers ;p –  Marc Gravell Jul 13 '12 at 9:45
Why not have 3 20k user spam flags automatically count as delete votes, but still require more or a binding vote for the penalty? Or put another way a spam flag from a 20k user is an implicit (and free?) delete vote in the same way it's an implicit down vote? –  Flexo Jul 13 '12 at 9:45
I've seen spam survive for several hours on Ask Ubuntu and Drupal a while back, and just now on Arqade for 40 minutes. It's not a huge problem, my main idea was to make spam flags as powerful as delete votes from a trusted user. –  Mad Scientist Jul 13 '12 at 9:48
@MarcGravell: Let me just crack out my dev privileges and I'll tell you... (might be a while). –  Matt Jul 13 '12 at 9:51
Mad Scientist's observation of spam living on Ask Ubuntu longer is, unfortunately, true. Not enough people are aware(?) of the spam flagging option but do well enough to down vote it. While the more established user (mostly active in the chat at the moment) do flag it as spam, it is not enough to get the spam deleted. The spam usually only gets deleted when the mods come around to attend the flag. If the deputies' (or marshals) spam flag were given a higher weight, this situation can possibly avoided. –  jokerdino Jul 13 '12 at 10:42
@MadScientist in the case of sport.SE, there aren't any trusted users... (rep-wise, I mean). kinda makes it a tricky example –  Marc Gravell Jul 13 '12 at 19:47
@MarcGravell My examples were AskUbuntu, Drupal and Arqade, which have some 20k users. Ideally, I would like to have some cross-site spam flagging capabilities, recogizing blatant spam doesn't need any specific domain knowledge. But that would probably be difficult to implement and even more dangerous, so I didn't propose that. And using non-rep bases privileges doesn't seem to have much support inside SE, I think it would make sense to tie something like that to previous number and accuracy of flags, but it would make the privilege system far more complicated. –  Mad Scientist Jul 13 '12 at 20:33
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