The last activity indicator currently reads something like asked/answered/modified x minutes ago by display_name, and obviously stays that way until a new activity is conducted on the thread.

In the case of spam/RA posts, a lot of display names are also spam/RA. The result being that the homepage proudly features a answered x minutes ago by naughty_username, even if the post has been deleted since. This offensive username is displayed on the site's frontpage until someone deletes the account or reverts the username to default user123456 (mods can do both, I reckon).

If it's not explicit enough, here are a few screenshots (NSFW): rude, spam, other rude.

I understand that automatic detection/blocking of certain keywords in usernames would be hard to efficiently conduct, but maybe the username-reverting to default could be automated when someone's post is flagged and deleted as spam/RA, to avoid the homepage displaying spammy/offensive stuff?

From a discussion in SFF's chat with mod Rand'al Thor, it appears that in the case of a false positive:

It's not likely to impact any genuine users, and those who make abusive posts may well also make abusive usernames. - Rand'al Thor (permalink)

Some other comments:

  • Yes, it would revert John Smith as well as naughty_username but then again if John is a random passer-by troll/spammer and their account is going to be deleted eventually, who cares about their display names then?
  • There's a limit to how much times/period you can change your display name, I reckon. I don't know if the reverting would trigger that period? In the case of a false positive, or a true positive but user was just "unaware" and then went on to actually contribute, people might want a more custom display name than user123456 but then again, one can live with that until the next period kicks in.
  • That situation probably does not have the same impact on all stacks. My home stack is SFF. We get 20ish new questions a day (per sites rankings), edits to previous QAs must be around this number too, so the offensive username doesn't stay in the top of the list for too long, but maybe it would on sites with less activity? (and "more likely to attract trolls" scopes)
  • Of course, mods will probably see it at some point and manually do it (or someone can ping them if it's really urgent and they're around), but mods 1/ aren't our slaves and 2/ can't always be there.
  • You can link to them and clearly label them as "NSFW". Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 12:44
  • Do you mean to default the username if the only (or all) posts of the user gets deleted with red-flags. Or would a single red-flagged post by any user trigger this?
    – rene
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 12:45
  • 1
    Hmmm... as stated in the chat transcript above, I definitely don't know how to search in main Meta becuase now related questions list show this. The question isn't answered, though.
    – Jenayah
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 12:46
  • @rene flagged+deleted. The deleted part is important, otherwise it'd be too easy to troll-game, raising red flags on users one has a beef with. As for users with several posts, either 1/ all are abusive and will get deleted anyways or 2/ the other posts are actual contribution, and maybe they can get an inbox notification to clarify this? "Your username has been reverted because your post XYZ was deleted as spam/RA. If you feel like it's not appropriate, please raise the issue to mods/staff here". I don't think it would occur too often for genuine users to clog the mods?
    – Jenayah
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 12:53
  • I think it does happen for regular users often enough, if not on their main site, then on meta. I can support this if it was limited to those accounts with only spam/rude posts to rule out genuine accounts.
    – rene
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 13:09
  • IMO the better solution would be to just show the next-to-last activity if the last-activity was something which was deleted (or just show Community as the user if that's not trivial to do). Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 13:21
  • A better option would be to un-bump the post when the action that bumped it is cancelled. Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 13:37
  • @JohnDvorak un-bumping would make some stuff easier :^) but in any case, a bumped thread isn't necessarily that bad? Take up the opportunity to clean it, fix dead links etc. If it's there, might as well deal with it. Then again it depends on what each site deals with, I guess...
    – Jenayah
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 13:44
  • I'm with the others here. This solution seems way over-complicated for the problem trying to be solved. If we're worried about the possibility of an inappropriate user being shown, a simpler thing to do would be to look at the last active user on the question and if it's the same as the user who posted the offending content, clear it out. Doesn't require crawling history to figure out who should replace it, and will just not show a name for the latest action. Keep in mind that a user could just re-edit their display name within 15 minutes.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 20:06
  • Very related: meta.stackexchange.com/q/310474/162102 Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 4:38

2 Answers 2


The true solution to this is to automatically destroy 1 rep users that have no positive contribution, and that had their only posts nukes as spam or offensive.

The false positive rate is likely extremely low for spam/offensive flags if you also restrict it to 1 rep users only. So I think an automatic mechanism could work. But just going after the display name is quite a bit of work with rather small impact. Nuking the entire user would save moderators time as well, and help to clean up spam and trolls more effectively. And it would efficiently solve the problem you're addressing as well, as destroyed users are shown with a greyed out default user name.

  • 1
    Users with spam/abusive usernames are likely to have spam/abusive profiles, so changing only the username masks this part of the problem, while deleting the user completely fixes the problem.
    – Laurel
    Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 5:31

On this question I proposed omitting the username in the notification for red-flag-deleted posts. Instead of "modified 3 hours ago AbusiveName" you'd just see "modified 3 hours ago". This is also what you see for migrations where the asker doesn't have a local account -- in that case there's no account to attach to, and in the red-flag case there's an account that we don't want to give more visibility to.

Auto-deleting accounts where the only contributions are spam or offensive would help, and I support that too. Occasionally we get abusive behavior from accounts that have earned a little rep first, so we should consider omitting the names on the front page when the account can't be auto-destroyed. Since your concern (and mine) is the front page, not every place the user name shows up, making this change suffices without touching the user account at all. And the user can't get around it by manually changing the name back from user12345 to the abusive name.

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