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


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?

  • Is there any advice for editing spam posts with potentially malicious URLs? If we heed the advice on this page and leave them, users are at risk of malware. (Stackexchange should implement a no HTML policy (including hyperlinks) for users with low reputation.)
    – user2768
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 14:08

3 Answers 3


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 they 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.
  • Editing spam can result in the remainder of the spam post being considered "good". This can end up with the spammer getting upvotes for what was posted as spam. The user gaining reputation for spam is bad, because it adds an air of legitimacy to any further posts made by the user on that site, and even adds legitimacy to posts which the user makes on other Stack Exchange sites. If the user gains sufficient reputation, then their posts will be exempt from some, but not all, spam checks.
  • Even if you feel the content of the post which is exclusive of the spam links is good, and you think they may have just inadvertently added some unrelated or marginally related link, you should check the post quite carefully. A very common tactic for spammers is to add spam links to content which is plagiarized from another post or elsewhere on the internet. That is done to make the post look more legitimate, which delays having the post dealt with as the spam which it is.

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

  • 27
    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
    Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 13:58
  • 1
    @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 Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 14:04
  • 7
    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. Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 16:22
  • 19
    @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. Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 18:19
  • 3
    @Fabian Also why i suggested using chat - I'm sure users from other sites would happily come help out Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 18:20
  • 1
    Moderators can't blacklist links.
    – badp
    Commented Jan 21, 2012 at 0:05
  • 2
    @badp They can request it to be done by a team member though Commented Jan 21, 2012 at 0:35
  • 5
    @SimonSheehan sure, but talking to Rebecca isn't precisely a moderator power :)
    – badp
    Commented Jan 21, 2012 at 1:39
  • 6
    It's one of the oldest flag behaviors around, but rarely comes into play so not very many people know about it.
    – Shog9
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 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!!
    – user310756
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 15:13
  • 6
    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
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 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. Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 5:31
  • 7
    @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. Commented May 27, 2014 at 22:12
  • 5
    I would love to add that spam posts should not be down voted or close voted as well
    – rene
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 19:11
  • It's also worth pointing out that links posted by low-rep users are automatically nofollowed, meaning that they don't boost the linked sites' search engine ranking.
    – NobodyNada
    Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 6:41

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.


In addition to avoid editing spam posts, I'd like to mention as well that you should also roll it back ASAP if someone else edits a spam post.

The key here is ASAP, because if you perform the rollback too late, you may obliviously invalidate some red flags cast after the edit.

See my concern here: Dilemma after someone else edits a spam post

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