The initial definition of (Internet) "spam" was "unsolicited promotional email (and other media)". However, probably due to the frequency and volume of spam, the word "spam" has aquired a verbal definition of "rapidly sending numerous messages".

I have heard usages such as:

  • the user was spamming the Halo server with pings
  • he was spamming me with txt (the messages themselves were not spam, but they were being sent in a "spam like" manner)

Dispute the spam flag's description being quite clear as to its meaning:

it is spam

This answer is effectively an advertisement with no disclosure. It is not useful or relevant, but promotional.

Users are ignoring this and applying the term to posts that are just plain garbage. Admittedly, the action taken is the same: Delete!

However the effect of the user is a spam "demerit" point, when really the post, while annoying and useless, was not offensive or pernicious. A more appropriate flag would be "not an answer" or "low quality", etc.

This happens quite a lot - in my experience, most posts flagged as spam are actually just garbage.

Is it worth distinguishing these cases, possibly adding another "it is garbage" reason? Should moderators decline the flag? (before deleting the post)


It depends on what was flagged. For complete gibberish (cat-walking-on-keyboard-style) from a new account, I'll often accept the flag and delete. While not technically self-promotion, I've seen spammers use gibberish to test the limits of the system.

For very-poor-quality posts that are not of the promotional variety, but aren't unintelligible gibberish, I might clear the spam flags from the post (disputing but not declining them) if there's something else actionable about it.

If someone's using a spam flag in place of a close vote or any other standard flag, I will decline it to indicate that they are inappropriate to use in that circumstance. Spam flags have serious consequences and fly right to the top of our queue, so I want to make sure they aren't thrown around frivolously. Declining one or two of these is usually enough to adjust behavior appropriately.

  • What about a new user who posts a blog link as a link-only answer to more than one post? I was once told by Tim Post that the spam flag is okay for this, but I feel that a mod may not accept that. – Jamal Jan 15 '15 at 23:42
  • @Jamal I just usually flag one of their answers and use custom message stating like "this user has left same link in answer 7/8 times" .. so they can then decide the best course of action from there. – CRABOLO Jan 16 '15 at 0:04
  • @Jamal That sounds like spam to me. But as bluet says, if you want to ensure a mod will take care of all the instances of the issue, a custom flag will do the trick. – Keen Jan 16 '15 at 0:05
  • 1
    @Jamal - If it's clear that it's their blog post (I either look for a name or the fact that it was written on the same date as their answer), that does seem to fall under the category of excessive self-promotion. I almost always accept those. – Brad Larson Jan 16 '15 at 17:45

Users shouldn't be flagging as spam unless the post/comment/message is "an advertisement with no disclosure." So, mods should dismiss flags where users incorrectly flagged as spam. Then, while they're looking at the post, they should still moderate it, if it isn't an answer, is low quality, or has some other issue that needs moderation.

If users are using 'spam' in the 'many messages' sense, then moderators have a variety of tools at their disposal. The flag should still be dismissed, but then they can lock the posts, delete the comments/messages, or suspend the user. It's up to the moderator to use the appropriate tool to stem the flow of messages if they need to be stemmed.

If a user is found to be frequently incorrectly flagging things as spam, moderators can message them and point them in the right direction. If the user keeps incorrectly flagging, the number of flags they have at their disposal will drop, so the problem will sort of solve itself.

What users should do is flag appropriately. If there's bad behavior that the mods need to look at, a custom flag should be raised instead of one of the canned reasons. That will give mods the correct information they need to remedy the solution. And it will help give mods and SE the information they need to detect the need for new flag reasons.

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