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When suggested edits contain possible spam, the system adds a notice to the review task that says something like "hey, be careful -- the system identified this as possible spam" so that reviewers know to look more closely. Can we do something similar with comments and nearly-hidden text?

Recently we saw a suggested edit that included an inappropriate HTML comment. (It accused the author of trolling.) A reviewer who was looking at rendered text, not markdown source, missed it. And I know that I have sometimes missed the vandalism in edits where somebody wrapped a spam link around a single mark of punctuation (period or comma), and I didn't notice the teeny tiny link in the rendered text.

I think an edit containing any HTML comment or any link with super-short anchor text (a few characters or shorter) calls for additional care. It might be legitimate; those sorts of edits shouldn't be barred. But could we alert reviewers, like we do with possible spam? An automated system is already checking the edit; can it check for sneaky vandalism too?

  • Not a bad idea at all, but it needs to be a different message than the current notice. I'm a fairly experienced reviewer, I regularly switch between markdown and rendered text, but this notice is currently not a trigger for me to inspect the markdown. Rather, I open the post in another tab and check if something weird is going on. – Glorfindel Dec 8 '17 at 16:14
  • @Glorfindel I don't remember exactly what the current notice says and don't have an example handy, but either a single differently-worded notice or separate notices would address the problem. – Monica Cellio Dec 8 '17 at 16:21
  • Here is an example of how it is currently worded. – Glorfindel Dec 8 '17 at 16:22
  • @Glorfindel thanks. Yeah, a separate warning might make sense here, possibly including a suggestion to look at the markdown source. – Monica Cellio Dec 8 '17 at 16:24
  • 2
    When the edit changes the URL of a link, the markdown is shown by default. Maybe it would be a good idea to expand that feature to the cases you mentioned. – Donald Duck Dec 8 '17 at 17:27
  • @DonaldDuck oh, I didn't know that -- good idea! You might want to suggest that in an answer. – Monica Cellio Dec 8 '17 at 17:30
  • Spam or offensive content can also be hidden by putting it as alt text of an embedded image, which does not trigger the Markdown view. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog Dec 12 '17 at 23:07
  • Also, that spam message: it also happens for anonymous edits if the IP address trips the insta-ban filter (all previous edits from that IP will have that message until the ban expires). – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog Dec 12 '17 at 23:08
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This feature request which is tagged suggests that it should be more obvious when a suggested edit changes a link URL to make sure that suggested edits that replace useful links with spam links are rejected. It was addressed by showing the markdown difference by default on any suggested edit that replaces a link URL (this answer suggests that and this answer says that that suggestion was implemented).

I suggest expanding this feature to any case where anything harmful can be hidden behind markdown, like for example when an edit adds or edits an HTML comment.

-1

It's still possible to add hidden comments and most reviewers don't seem to notice:

https://stackoverflow.com/review/suggested-edits/20401810 https://stackoverflow.com/review/suggested-edits/20396730

While my 8/8 isn't accurate, it seems that 4/5 didn't notice the comments.

  • I don't like abusing something just to prove a point. Sometimes it works, but it doesn't feel right. – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Jul 25 '18 at 12:29
  • @ShadowWizard First time it was to change a . to a ; (which is a too small edit to suggest) and the second time it was to check. No matter how you feel about it, this is harmless. – Winter Jul 25 '18 at 12:30

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