64

One of the responses to the question about the mass of football spam said:

The proper course of action is to flag the post as spam. Three spam flags will remove it from the front page, six will delete it. Don't edit it, don't downvote it, don't use another flag. Flag as spam and move on.

Assuming I've already flagged an obvious spam post, why shouldn't I downvote it as well? Is this discouraged because enough downvotes will hide it from the main page and potentially make it more difficult for users to spot (even though search engines will still index it and penalize the site's rankings?)

Are there other reasons? Is the rationale different for lower-traffic SE sites?

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    Sufficient downvoting could remove it from the front page before it is flagged enough times (assuming some people downvote and don't think to flag). – apsillers Aug 19 '13 at 20:53
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    It's just 3 spam/offensive flags that remove posts from the front page. – Mat Aug 19 '13 at 20:54
  • @apsillers Does that remove it from the active tab as well? – John Bensin Aug 19 '13 at 20:55
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    In the recent mass span attack, I noticed that folks are not educated about this. Many times, the number of downvotes was greater than the number of needed flags from regular users to delete the post (6, I think). – brasofilo Aug 19 '13 at 21:05
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    It's not "probably" index: twitter.com/df07/status/300250817473175552 – mpdonadio Aug 19 '13 at 23:02
  • @MPD Corrected. – John Bensin Aug 19 '13 at 23:54
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    Clearly we should then upvote spam. – GManNickG Aug 20 '13 at 0:02
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    But, @MPD, that tweet says "Google has applied a manual spam action to your site". Bad, of course, but also someone who needed some sleep at Google. I still feel that visitors who happen to run into the spam post should be warned about how the community feels about that post too, no matter how short the spam post will live. And flags are not visible to other visitors. So, always comment then? – Arjan Aug 20 '13 at 10:40
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    @apsillers, By that logic, do you mean we should be upvoting spam? – Pacerier Apr 25 '15 at 23:19
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    @Pacerier No, just use the spam flag and move on. – mpdonadio Apr 25 '15 at 23:39
57

Because downvoting pushes out off the front page but doesn't remove it. This means that it is somewhat less likely to be seen by other active members who could flag it, and therefore kill it.

Downvoting is for bad, unresearched questions. Spam is just spam, it should be spotted and removed ASAP. Hiding it means it might stick around longer then it needs to.

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    Devil's Advocate asks: If it's hidden, then what is the harm? – user159834 Aug 19 '13 at 20:56
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    @WesleyMurch Downvotes only remove the question from the main page. It can still show up in searches, "related question" links, and "recently tagged" lists. – apsillers Aug 19 '13 at 20:57
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    Because then it exists, it'll show up in searches, or be found when people are browsing tags. – JonW Aug 19 '13 at 20:58
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    @apsillers Then once again, why does it matter? Won't it eventually get nuked anyways? Or do spam flags expire? Isn't hiding it a good thing if it is destined to be removed after the first flag? – user159834 Aug 19 '13 at 20:58
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    @WesleyMurch Then a moderator would have to handle it. Why not let the community nuke it asap? – Bart Aug 19 '13 at 20:59
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    @Bart Oh right they are nuked after 3 flags automatically, correct? – user159834 Aug 19 '13 at 20:59
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    If this is a concern, then why do 3 spam flags remove it from the front page? Wouldn't that also hide it and make it harder to obtain the last 3 flags needed for deletion? – David Robinson Aug 19 '13 at 21:00
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    @WesleyMurch Personally, I'd rather waste the 6 users' time -- we have way more than 6 users per mod, and there plenty of other specialized things that only mods can do. If there's something the community can easily accomplish as a collective, I'd rather have the community do it that waste time a mod could be merging accounts, commentifying non-answers, etc. When there's a huge volume of spam, I'd imagine even the trivial task of spam-flagging adds up. – apsillers Aug 19 '13 at 21:03
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    @apsillers Doesn't a mod have to eventually step in to ban/nuke the account anyways? Why do you devalue the regular user's time? We are the ones editing, voting, and providing content. – user159834 Aug 19 '13 at 21:03
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    @WesleyMurch: that's not an "urgent" matter. The thing that need to get rid of fast is the spam itself. – Mat Aug 19 '13 at 21:05
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    @WesleyMurch A worthwhile point; I don't know. Certain after a handful of spam-flagged questions, the account would get an automatic question ban anyway without mod intervention (and same for answers, if the spam comes in the form of an answer). – apsillers Aug 19 '13 at 21:05
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    But @apsillers and JonW, if you're saying spam posts can show in search and all, shouldn't oblivious visitors be warned? I often leave a comment (source) to help future members (who can also flag) decide if something is indeed spam. But I feel a downvote warns future visitors even more. – Arjan Aug 19 '13 at 21:14
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    As for last activity on the front page (which shows questions): when the spam is in an answer, then downvoting does not seem to affect listing on that front page. And even when a spam answer is removed, the front page still shows the last activity of the question (contributed to Community♦ which removed the spam, but using the timestamp of the true last activity), also regardless of downvotes it seems. – Arjan Aug 19 '13 at 21:39
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    @WesleyMurch SE sites get indexed by Google rather quickly. There was an instance a few months ago where an SE site was flagged b/c Google had crawled it and seen spam. – mpdonadio Aug 19 '13 at 22:34
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    But according to this FAQ if we flag a post as a spam it automatically add a downvote on behalf of us. So if we just flag a spam, it still add a downvote. Am I missing anything here? – hims056 Apr 29 '14 at 5:48
14

While the reasons given in the accepted answer are correct (but only apply to questions), it's good to note that most of the obvious spam posts 'automatically' get three or four spam flags from Charcoal volunteers. One spam flag from you, and the question's score is already -4/-5 and it isn't displayed on the frontpage anymore, so it doesn't matter if you downvote it or not.

On the other hand, I tend to downvote spam answers as well. The reason for this is that the -1 reputation 'sticks' in my achievement inbox, where it serves as some kind of 'bookmark'. If it sticks there too long, it's either not spam (anymore) or I need to escalate matters.

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    Another thought (related to charcoal) is that removing it from the front page where it could get more flags is almost completely irrelevant. If it's spam, it'll definitely get the 6 flags required from charcoalers whether or not it's visible to get more flags from site-members. – DJMcMayhem Jan 8 '18 at 20:26
  • So it could be said that if the post was caught by SmokeDetector (or reported in the Charcoal chatroom manually), then the negative side effects described in the JonW's answer become negligible. – Martin Sep 2 at 5:27

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