18

There was a questionable post caught by SmokeDetector containing an invisible link set forth on white space like follows:

[ ](hxxp://some-nsfw-image-link-or-spam-link)

... which renders pretty much as a 'space', as is the example here between these parentheses (note that in this case, the invisible link i put in there goes to https://meta.stackexchange.com, so people don't think I'm spamming or anything): ( )

This is definitely an evil vector, and makes for 'invisible' links which are hard to find unless you're looking at markdown or SmokeDetector's detections on it.

I believe that, if possible, such markdown replacement of links that use white-space-only in the square brackets should be automatically "removed" by the post system. This removes a hard-to-see 'spam linking' vector that might otherwise only be caught by SmokeDetector.

  • 7
    I like this idea, but auto-delete doesn't sound quite right. Maybe block it with the existing spam-detection systems? – NobodyNada Mar 19 '17 at 2:48
  • 1
    @ArtOfCode It doesn't work in comments :( – Nic Hartley Mar 19 '17 at 2:50
  • Also, Smokey only catches (IIRC & AFAICT) one-character links. If someone tries two spaces, they'll get past it. – Nic Hartley Mar 19 '17 at 2:56
  • @QPaysTaxes – Jason C Mar 19 '17 at 3:19
  • 3
    Related to my previous comment (hint: inspect element) -- In theory this seems effective but in practice there's always a blank-looking Unicode character that you can stuff in somewhere that is missed in a filter. It'd only be a matter of time before somebody with malicious intent figured out another one (note that the link you posted definitely appeared to be by somebody who put some thought into it, not your usual run-of-the-mill mass spam). Also, how many posts have you caught like this? If it's just one, or a small handful, filtering it may not make a real difference in overall spam. – Jason C Mar 19 '17 at 3:28
  • @Cai It contained an NSFW image linked from a space. At first, we tried to edit it out, but the OP rejected Thomas's edit suggestions and began swearing at everyone in the comments. At that point, we decided that we were going to flag as rude. – NobodyNada Mar 19 '17 at 14:41
  • 1
    @Cai Correct; it's technically rude or abusive. However, the two flags are identical, so we sometimes refer to them interchangeably, or even use them interchangeably in some cases: meta.stackoverflow.com/q/345332/3476191. "It's... hard... to argue in favor of writing an algorithm and making a bot spend time calculating which of the two flag types to use when they are, in actuality, the exact same flag. It's not even Coke vs. Pepsi, it's Pepsi vs. a second bottle of Pepsi that's using a different but still valid Pepsi logo." – NobodyNada Mar 19 '17 at 15:10
  • 3
    @Cai SD admin here. That image is inappropriate for the site; if it was in a post on its own, flagging it as rude/abusive would unquestionably be the right thing to do. I actually agree with you that it's questionable whether this particular post should have been nuked or edited, but in any case, it was not nuked automatically - six users chose to flag it, as with any other spam or abusive nuke. – ArtOfCode Mar 19 '17 at 15:38
  • 2
    @Cai As I said before, that's what we normally would have done, and that's what we tried to do. However, the OP was rejecting edit suggestions, swearing at people in comments, and making it clear that their only intent was to be rude. The only way anything remotely constructive could have come out of that post is if the OP was suspended/banned. Plus, nuking the post sends feedback to SpamRam, preventing them from doing this in the future. – NobodyNada Mar 19 '17 at 15:38
  • (side note: SmokeDetector currently never nukes anything automatically; the maximum number of flags it casts is three). – ArtOfCode Mar 19 '17 at 15:38
  • 3
    @Cai I think you've misunderstood the system slightly. SmokeDetector did catch the post. It didn't flag the post. – ArtOfCode Mar 19 '17 at 15:59
  • For transparency's sake, here are the chat transcripts: Charcoal HQ and SO Close Vote Reviewers – NobodyNada Mar 19 '17 at 16:02
  • 2
    @Cai As I explained twice before, we didn't delete the post solely because of the image. We deleted the post because the OP rejected edits to remove the image and because of his extremely rude comments. What should we have done instead? – NobodyNada Mar 19 '17 at 16:12
  • @Cai Whether you consider the image to be NSFW, rude, offensive, or not, there is no argument that it is inappropriate for that site. So you'll have to move past your own feelings about the image and just acknowledge its objective inappropriateness in context, rude or not. – Jason C Mar 19 '17 at 17:47
  • (That said I still don't think there's any real compelling reason for SE to implement a not-that-effective whitespace-link-blocking filter based on this one thing. Also given that AFAIK Smokey is primarily designed for spam but happens to catch rude/abusive sometimes as a bonus side effect [because hey why not use the pattern matching for a good cause], and that this image wasn't "spam", I feel like mentions of Smokey should philosophically be left out of this request entirely [speaking to OP not to Cai]. At the moment, this is basically a one-off, dealt with, no further action needed.) – Jason C Mar 19 '17 at 17:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .