Usually spam I see on the SE network is deleted very fast.

But occasionally the system utterly fails and we're left with spam on the site for hours. Sometimes this happens because nobody's there to flag it. Other times it happens because people are seeing it but decide to vote to close "as spam" instead of flagging like they should.

This applies pretty equally to most abusive content too.

I am just wondering what the best thing to do here is to get these posts off the site faster. I once tried asking for help in chat (years ago), but I got told off for how I did it. I'm also aware that there are community projects such as Smokey that do this but I don't want to create an account right now.

Also, if people are not seeing the spam, is there ever a problem leaving a comment to tell people to flag as spam, potentially with my reasoning? (The problem with this is of course that if spam is handled correctly, they probably won't see my comment, since the post it's on will get deleted.)

  • 5
    Probably not what you want to hear, but... reporting spam to Smoke Detector is the fastest way to get spam flagged by other users. Feb 28, 2019 at 12:19
  • FWIW, the chat room was SOCVR and the problem was that I barged in and said something like "I need the deletion mob" and it was taken the wrong way :P (but they probably did help me anyway). In any case, it's in the distant past.
    – Laurel
    Feb 28, 2019 at 12:52
  • What is "vote to close as spam"? First time I hear about that. Checked now, and there's nothing like that. Care to elaborate on that part? Feb 28, 2019 at 12:54
  • 1
    @ShadowWizard Just people using the free form close reason: "I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's spam" (I'd be surprised if you haven't seen this happen.)
    – Laurel
    Feb 28, 2019 at 13:00
  • Nope, never seen that. That's indeed very wrong, we should comment back to such people and explain what they should be doing. Feb 28, 2019 at 13:05
  • A decade ago, the expected behavior was to close posts as spam. But that's long gone. Feb 28, 2019 at 16:04
  • Become a moderator
    – Kevin B
    Feb 28, 2019 at 17:27
  • In my experience, people voting to close a question as spam is the result of someone encountering it in the "Low Quality" queue. That queue has a nice, big "Close" button, but no "flag as spam" button, so people use the tools they're given. That kicks the question over into the "Close Votes" queue, which...also doesn't have a "flag as spam" button, but it does have a "Close" button, and so the question gets closed rather than being flagged as spam.
    – Mark
    Mar 1, 2019 at 3:05
  • I suspect people are more comfortable with down-voting than flagging. Because of that those early, critical eyes are not as effective as they might be. Mar 1, 2019 at 6:56
  • @KevinB I actually did become a moderator. Spam magically disappears in front of my eyes — but only on my own site. It doesn't help so much on other sites, except maybe by allowing me to better reach other mods in chat.
    – Laurel
    Jan 26, 2022 at 4:01
  • Now I'm actually a moderator on the site where I kept on seeing long-lived spam (not that I've seen any spam now!).
    – Laurel
    Apr 12, 2022 at 0:51

3 Answers 3


If you see spam or other posts that you think that should be nuked with red flags, the fastest way to get it actually nuked is to talk with people in Charcoal HQ. (You need 20 reputation points to participate in chat.)

Just drop a message containing a link to the post. There are Charcoal members hanging around all the time and they will report the spam or abusive post to SmokeDetector, which will trigger autoflagging if the post looks spammy enough, further bringing down the time the post remains visible before being nuked.

To help us process it quickly, please make sure you link to the post you want to report, not a comment or an answer to a question if it's really the question itself you want to report. The easiest way to make sure you're linking to the right thing is to click the "share" link underneath, and copy/paste the URL from there. You may want to add a word or two to avoid one-boxing the spam post.

There is no real need to create a Metasmoke account for this. (Metasmoke is the backend; Smoke Detector itself doesn't have user accounts associated with it.) Though if you find yourself doing this regularly, creating an account will allow you to report stuff directly to Metasmoke yourself. For detailed instructions, please refer to https://charcoal-se.org/#get-involved

  • 2
    Sorry for hijacking your answer for a bit -- I added a few points I was about to post in a very similar answer.
    – tripleee
    Feb 28, 2019 at 12:32
  • 1
    @tripleee Thanks for the edits! I was also about to expand the answer, so no real problem was there. Feb 28, 2019 at 12:35

A single flag should be enough to get things started on an active site. The flag will stick around in the mod queue, and someone should see it. (as an aside, I wonder if having a visible or queryable way to see spam flags with sufficient rep would be useful)

I guess part of the issue is Smokey et al are probably efficient enough that most old school ways don't work. I see a breakdown in the trained behavior that we rely on a bit in what you're talking about for organic spam hunting though.

Sometimes this happens because nobody's there to flag it.

That's a bit of a deeper meta-moderation problem. If spam is lying around in the forest, and there's no one to eat it...

Other times it happens because people are seeing it but decide to vote to close "as spam" instead of flagging like they should.

Comment to let them know, Some folks literally go "This is spam".

If it's a big/widespread problem, might be worth using per site metas to encourage people to do the right thing.

Also... it's fun beating Smokey to flags.

  • Single flag? Not really. I've seen many cases of edits pending for days and weeks, can't see any reason how spam flag is different. Without active mods, spam can last for very long time on any site. Feb 28, 2019 at 13:02
  • Not having active mods is a problem though - there's a certain expectation for mods to turn up Feb 28, 2019 at 13:03
  • BTW, the specific spam post that caused me to ask this question was posted on English, which ranks #4 in terms of traffic and pretty good by other measures. I have no explanation for why the spam was on the site for like an hour and a half. (I flagged it when it was about 8 minutes old I think.) What's worse, English only requires 3 spam flags for deletion. :/
    – Laurel
    Feb 28, 2019 at 13:11

No need to create account on the site with the spam and no need to barge into a room with people and culture you're not familiar with.

To report spam quickly and effectively, join the Tavern chat room here on Meta Stack Exchange, and write the following chat message:

!!/report [link to spam here]

That's it. Even if you'll see "You are not a privileged user" message back, someone will notice what you said and report it correctly.

Unlike most other chat rooms, the Tavern doesn't have a strict set of rules about who can join and what they can, or can't say. Anyone is welcome to join and ask what you want/need to ask. Of course, as anything on SE it must follow the Code of Conduct, but other than that, it's hard to start on the wrong foot in there. :)

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