Since a post is only considered spam if the user is associated with the product promoted, mods need evidence of the association, and have proven to mishandle the flags if this fact is nontrivial to figure out.

As such, the flagging user needs to provide that evidence with the flag -- otherwise, they're forced to use a custom flag as suggested in the linked question, which defeats the purpose of a dedicated spam flag.

The justification for rejecting the previous such request, Add optional box for spam flags letting you say why you think it's spam, turned out to be out of date so it may no longer apply. (That post has been updated since, with new reasoning. I updated this post with the new figures, and also gave an update at the bottom.)

It's questionable in the first place: there's no statistics on how many flags were mishandled (11.4% and ~10.4k posts is the upper bound for the last 2.5 years, rather high to really say anything) or how much time the mods wasted looking for evidence -- so there's no way to estimate the magnitude of the problem with just the data. Maybe the SO mods themselves can provide feedback here.

The previous suggestion to use comments to show evidence sort of works --

  • if both users and mods know to look there for evidence
    • which is totally not obvious due to inconsistency: the only comments to a mod flag currently possible come with the flag and are private, unlike post comments
      • which is reasonable 'cuz a mod flag comment exposes others' wrongdoings and thus can get people into trouble; and
  • if it doesn't get lost/buried among other comments
    • quite possible is self-promotion wasn't detected early

So, it does provide a way, but that way is far from being intuitive, convenient or, if privacy is a concern, even acceptable.

In the recent edit, @JonEricson now argues that obvious and non-obvious spam are significantly different things and should be handled differently.

  • If that's the case, the note near the spam flag entry needs to say something along the lines of: "if the fact the post is spam is not obvious, use a custom flag instead and provide incriminating evidence":

    • so that the users know that they should be using this workflow -- this is completely non-obvious
    • this workflow will give hard numbers to find out if such cases really are frequent enough to warrant a more streamlined mechanism
  • 1
    And you can't use the "Needs moderator attention" option because...?
    – ale
    May 9, 2018 at 20:57
  • 3
    @ale They're claiming that the actual spam flag is pointless because they think they always need to use a custom flag.
    – Servy
    May 9, 2018 at 20:58
  • 2
    @ale ...because spam flags are handled differently by the system than other types of flags. May 9, 2018 at 20:58
  • 4
    @ivan_pozdeev But once the mods see and confirm your "Needs moderator attention" flag, they can use a single mod spam flag, which is treated the same as if six regular users spam flagged the post. So even in these cases, you really don't need to spam flag- The mods can do that. (IIRC, even if the post is deleted before they get to it.)
    – Kendra
    May 9, 2018 at 20:59
  • @Kendra why force them to do multiple actions where one could suffice? Mods are busy people and would take the easy way out (e.g. just delete the post) at least some of the time if it's fewer clicks. May 9, 2018 at 21:03
  • @ivan_pozdeev If the post isn't deleted, the single mod spam flag will delete the post. If it is, it's still just one action for mods to apply their spam flag. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure the vast majority of mods across the network would rather spam be properly handled than worrying about an extra click or two...
    – Kendra
    May 9, 2018 at 21:05
  • @Kendra On a site as busy as SO where mods are so busy they fail to address any more labor-intensive tasks like tag burnination, not necessarily. May 10, 2018 at 1:03
  • 1
    Would really like to see the status-declined revisited on this (well, on the dupetarget). It beggars reason not to allow people to help the moderator handle the flag with just a bit of information, while retaining all the semantics of a spam flag. May 10, 2018 at 13:16
  • 1
    @T.J.Crowder: If you need to explain the flag, there's a good chance a moderator will want to do something beside just delete the post. Straightforward spam should be spam-flagged straightforwardly. No need to burden those flaggers with options they won't really need. May 11, 2018 at 1:50

1 Answer 1


Since a post is only considered spam if the user is associated with the product promoted

This is not true. Posting an answer to the question that fails to disclose your relationship to a product discussed in the answer is just one possible way for something to be spam.

By far the most common form of spam is something that doesn't even resemble an answer, it's just a straight advertisement (whether the person posting it is affiliated with the product or not). That is precisely what the spam flag is for. It's there for the overwhelming majority of cases where an account is just posting ads that are very obviously spam from anyone even glancing in the vicinity of the question. For these blatant cases there's no need for any additional information beyond "this is spam" because the spamness of the post is just that obvious.

For cases of spam that are more subtle, like a lack of disclosure, an over-use of a product you're affiliated with in actual answers to questions, with proper disclosure, or other violations of the spam policy for pretty much anything other than, "obvious ad that isn't even trying to answer the question" you should be using a custom flag to explain the situation, because pretty much all of these situations require additional information beyond just "it's spam".

  • 1
    I never suggested that evidence should be mandatory. I don't really have an opinion on whether it should. May 9, 2018 at 21:00
  • If your spam flag does get declined, contact a moderator at that time, and provide additional information.
    – Ramhound
    May 9, 2018 at 23:32
  • 2
    @Ramhound do you have any idea how ineffective that is? Mods handle thousands of flags daily, the last thing they need is users wasting any more of their time about them. May 10, 2018 at 0:53
  • 1
    I am saying, if after your first spam flag is declined, then you should elevate the issue to the entire site’s moderator team with more information. At the end of the day we are talking about getting unacceptable spam content removed. The moderators won’t mind
    – Ramhound
    May 10, 2018 at 1:02

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