Several years ago we managed to convince the SE team to remove the 2 link limit for new users on Skeptics. This limit was particularly frustrating on this site, as any answer without links was likely to violate our reference rules, but new users couldn't put in more than 2 links. While there are workarounds, new users don't know them, and they were frustrated by these contradictory requirements.

Since this limit was removed on Skeptics, I can't actually remember ever seeing any spam with lots of links in it. Or any noticeable increase in spam volume in general.

The experience for new users on Stack Exchange sites is often marred by a large number of seemingly arbitrary rules we impose on them. Many of them have very good reasons behind them, even if those aren't immediately obvious. But I don't think the link limit is one of those.

One aspect that changed in the meantime is that there is now a community-run project to detect and remove spam (SmokeDetector). This makes it easier to observe the impact of any such change, and could also help to contain small increases in spam, if this change would cause them.

Stack Exchange has been trying to improve the new user experience for a while. And while this is probably only an issue for a small number of new users, I think it makes sense to evaluate or get rid of such small barriers for new users.

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    I agree that this would be a good change to make life a lot easier for new users. After all, a spammer is usually only looking to get a single link into their post; being able to add 2 or 3 shouldn't matter much for them. Anyway, if worst comes to worst, we can always re-enable the limit on the main spam sites (SO, SU, AU, GD, AD, Drupal, TWP) – angussidney Oct 22 '17 at 9:13
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    I'm trying to think hard of any reason why this would be bad and fail. Part of me is like "maybe restrict that to registered users" but someone who posts one spam link and one to hide it, would... just add more to hide it anyway. I think its worth a shot – Journeyman Geek Oct 22 '17 at 10:22
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    At least, everywhere doesn't sound like a good idea. I think it's better to retain the current settings on primary spam sites, and remove it everywhere else. – iBug says Reinstate Monica Oct 22 '17 at 10:46
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    @iDebug You have a SU moderator saying they cannot think of a reason this shouldn’t also be changed on SU. I also cannot think of a reason it certainly would make my life as an editor easier. – Ramhound Oct 22 '17 at 16:38
  • I as an avid Health user can say that this actually deteriorated new users, and spam either was only one link or just text – Narusan Oct 22 '17 at 17:05
  • @iDebug spammers gonna spam, one link or many. For bigger sites, the community will be quite happy to flag stuff. For smaller ones, smokey can be backup. On the other hand, if a feature is more painful for new, legitimate users than for spammers (who try anyway), experimenting with it turned off seems fine. At worst, we can turn on the link limit again. – Journeyman Geek Oct 22 '17 at 23:59
  • Yup. The spam I see is often just one link, or even no links at all (in an attempt to avoid detection). The limit is not all that useful and is in fact counterproductive. Consider that links in low-rep-user posts have nofollow and therefore don't confer any significant SEO advantage. – bwDraco Oct 24 '17 at 3:38

This is a reasonable request. We don't want to be blocking new users from posting, but we also don't want to start letting in more junk. While SmokeDetector is great as identifying spam, we still would like to prevent as much of the junk from getting onto the sites in the first place.

After poking around at the number of users blocked, the number of links they first tried to include, and how well the posts faired (were they closed, deleted, upvoted), we found that 99% of posts finally submitted had less than 8 links when first blocked. Based on this, we've upped the limit across the network to allow new users to post up to 8 links on posts.

We'll keep this at 8 for the near future and can adjust as needed for specific sites.

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    Sounds good to me. My point regard SmokeDetector wasn't so much to rely on it, but that it's a new thing that makes it far more likely that someone would notice if this kind of change causes an actual increase in spam. So I think it is slightly less risky now to do this kind of change than before it existed. – Mad Scientist Oct 23 '17 at 21:04
  • It just occurred to me, did you lower the threshold with this for Skeptics? We had a threshold of 50 for a long time now, and it probably doesn't make any sense to reduce that. – Mad Scientist Oct 23 '17 at 21:26
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    @MadScientist Nope, that stayed the same. :P – Taryn Oct 23 '17 at 21:27
  • Would be interesting to know how many of the blocked users actually gave up, versus going on to post something later red-flagged to death. – Undo Oct 23 '17 at 23:33
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    Over the past 90 days, around 40% gave up @Undo. No way to know if those would've been good questions or bad ones though; roughly 30% of those that were posted were poorly-received. – Shog9 Oct 23 '17 at 23:43
  • What's 'poorly received', @Shog9? Red flags or just negative score / closed? – Undo Oct 23 '17 at 23:49
  • Any/all of that @undo – Shog9 Oct 23 '17 at 23:58

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