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This is a screenshot of the last ~12 hours of new active questions (click to see full length version):

enter image description here

Of the 49 questions that were active less than 12 hours ago, 13 of them were spam.

I can't see them, but spam seems to be quite a large amount of the posts sometimes. We handle it well, with the flags and diamonds intervening, but I do wonder if we can do something else.

All of these may help, as well as the Low Quality Posts HQ and the Charcoal HQ but this spam is still being seen by people, which isn't great.

Suggestions? Is there any way we could combine a number of indicators in the Question itself and Community just deletes it? I'm not sure what the criteria should be, but my main point is that there is no point blocking before posting - the spammers will just change the blocked parts...

Any ideas?

  • Do you realize that a lot more is being blocked than gets through. Problem is spammers are tricksters. – Taryn Apr 16 '15 at 17:46
  • @bluefeet I'm sure it is, but a lot is still getting through - and to me that spam has patterns in it. – Tim Apr 16 '15 at 17:47
  • The fact that spam was posted and you didn't see any of it is telling you that the tools for dealing with spam were actually quite effective. SE has lots of tools for mitigating spam. One can never entirely eliminate all of it automatically, but a lot of it is handled automatically, and great tools allow users to clean up the rest quickly and effectively. – Servy Apr 16 '15 at 17:48
  • @Tim, so we need the FBI now to use their tech to find this mysterious pattern? – Anthony Pham Apr 16 '15 at 17:49
  • @Sery yes, but is that a reason to not try to automate it more? – Tim Apr 16 '15 at 17:49
  • @Tim Yes,, that's how spam works. People posts spam, sites learn to deal with it, spammers evolve, repeat. – Servy Apr 16 '15 at 17:49
  • @PythonMaster well anything that mentions Anti-Aging wrinkle cream could be blocked? Anything that is just a link for a title? Maybe involve the bots in the chats and use that data? – Tim Apr 16 '15 at 17:50
  • @Tim When you start automatically blocking good content, yes. Automated tools can only ever be so effective; the fact that some non-zero amount of spam got through doesn't mean that the system is broken; the system is working just fine. It's not even like there was a hugely disruptive amount of spam getting through. – Servy Apr 16 '15 at 17:51
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    Also, you might be seeing spam live a hair longer on Meta.SE because of the low volume of posts and the fact that only SE staff are the moderators here. They're not going to be able to sweep through and respond to flags as quickly here as moderators do on other sites. I can also confirm that every time we've tried to blacklist terms or block URLs on SO, spammers have found ways to work around them. – Brad Larson Apr 16 '15 at 18:04
  • Spam in the RSS feed is even worse. I'm not sure why these particular spammers are targeting meta rather than SO, SU or SF. – Won't Apr 16 '15 at 18:11
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    @BradLarson No, spam on Meta.SE is extemely short-lived, thanks to the combined effort of Meta regulars, Tavern regulars, and SE employees. Tim's screenshot is not an actual view of the site; I think it was obtained by leaving the browser open for several hours and then clicking "show new posts". They did not actually live for more than a couple of minutes. – user259867 Apr 16 '15 at 18:31
  • @pizza yes, but still - 12 out of 50 posts is a lot - 25% of the content is spam... – Tim Apr 16 '15 at 18:32
  • @Won't Because they get spam points here? And Tim, I don't think adding a wall of code to then find out that a spammer has just bypassed it is really pleasant to watch. The trickier the spammers are, the harder this gets. So, that's a disagreement from me. BUT, too bad I vote-capped. :) – M.A.R. Apr 16 '15 at 18:48
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    @Tim: only because Meta doesn't get all that many regular posts. – Martijn Pieters Apr 16 '15 at 20:22
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As I remarked in a comment, your screenshot is misleading: in reality the site never looked like it does on your screenshot. I was around during yesterday's spam peak hours and can confirm that none of this stuff lasted more than a minute on the front page (some took a bit longer to get 6 flags required for deletion, but it takes only 3 flags to be removed from the front page). A visitor to the site at any particular moment would not see 25% of posts being spam; they might see one or (rarely) two, but most likely none.

Also, Meta is a perfect honeypot for spam, with relatively low general-public traffic but high percentage of engaged, experienced users and employees. We're lucky to have so much spam posted here: it gets promptly flag-deleted, and the information gained from this is used to block spam from other SE sites.

  • I'm not saying it was all around, or what it looks like to an outsider - I'm saying that these are the numbers - 25% of posts are spam... – Tim Apr 16 '15 at 18:51
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    @Tim And that spam was quickly and efficiently dealt with, such that it didn't cause any significant disturbance. That's an indication that the war on spam is going well. When you start to have trouble finding real content among the spam, that's when you know you're losing the war. – Servy Apr 16 '15 at 18:53
  • Keep in mind that, for email, upwards of 80% of global traffic is spam or nearly so. Most of that is never seen, so people do not (usually) simply write off email as hopelessly spam-laden: it's a fight, but it's not one that's lost (yet?). Compared to that, 25% looks pretty snazzy. – Nathan Tuggy Apr 16 '15 at 19:04

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