Achtung! Read this first:
Please use spam flags responsibly. Spam flags can have severe consequences on a user without any moderator action. Don't just spam spam flags, look at the user's activity. If they're engaged in frequent borderline spamming, flag for moderator review and say what you found, rather than dropping the hammer on a user who might be a useful contributor that failed to add a disclaimer of affiliation.
Flags are there to help you help the moderators help us all. Please use them appropriately!
So, recently I've been experimenting with using the Data Explorer to find posts of... actionably low quality, shall we say. After trying a lot of badly-constructed queries with somewhat mixed results, the most recent attempt seems to have been rather effective:
A list of almost 500 users that are suspicious. Certainly not all are spamming--but after looking at a few selected arbitrarily from the list, I'd wager that very, very few are unambiguously non-spam.
To give you an idea, one of the first users I looked at had a grand total of 17 answers all promoting the same site, with little to no other content in the answer. I left a comment to that effect, flagged an answer for moderator attention with the same explanation, then spam-flagged a few others for good measure. The user account has since been gloriously destroyed with righteous vengeance.
There are a few clearly legitimate users like this one who seem to merely have a habit of giving relevant links as answers with perhaps less detail than would be ideal; but most others I saw were promoting a single site/product/&c., with no disclosure of affiliation.
And lest you think that the example I mentioned of 17 spam answers was just an outlier, here's
an account with 39 answers the smoking ruins of what used to be a spam account--good work, everyone! I've glanced at a half-dozen of them and all have been blatantly promoting one of two products.
Is this worth dealing with? I don't think I have the stomach to go through more than a few of these.
Edit: Some other folks have stepped up to improve or expand upon my (quick and dirty) query, which is pretty awesome! Check the most recent queries list to see what people have been up to.
As another aside, I don't know if anyone else has tried doing this on other sites yet, but I ran my query on both SU and SF. After inspecting a few users chosen arbitrarily, I found nothing other than people giving helpful, relevant links to things they clearly had no affiliation with. There may still be some spam users in there, but they aren't the majority. Looks like SO is by far the biggest spam target in the SE family, which isn't surprising, but good to know.
Spam-hunting 2: Electric Boogaloo
Anyone up for a bit more? Valiant spam-fighter Scorpi0 below has been trying more queries, and it looks like the most recent may still have some material worth inspecting.
- Seek and Destroy: Spam Users who are Spamming Urls
- Seek and Destroy: Spam Users who are Spamming Urls, Different Ordered Version
This is probably the last gasp for this method of spam-hunting, at least until the next data dump is added to the Data Explorer and things aren't painfully clogged with the bajillion spam accounts already sent to the Great Meat Tin in the Sky.