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I used to have an in-your-face attitude toward people who posted spam, often adding mocking comments in their own broken-English style of writing (e.g. "high qality SPAM, download now, click here flag spam now get banned! Our new product supplement gets your account delted right away as spammer"). I later switched over to posting what I thought were helpful links to our "How to not be a spammer" help document and gentle reminders that we don't like spam in our community and that continuing to post spam carries the risk of account penalties up to and including being banned. I don't have enough insight into general spammer and site dynamics to truly understand which technique is more effective, if either is.

What is the recommended interpersonal response to spamming activity on the Stack Exchange network? I'm faced with two extremes (treat the spammer as incorrigible and not worth even a comment versus engaging with them and showing empathy to encourage them to start a spam-free life) along with a fair amount of middle ground of engaging with spammers but showing tough love (e.g. "We'd love you to come back and post helpful content, but I will need to red-flag this as spam and ask a moderator to suspend you for a few weeks").

I know that trolls tend to thrive on drama and engagement, and so the recommendation is to flag gibberish, NSFW content, and racist screed as offensive and move on without engaging, but it's not clear if that is also the best practice for spam or if there is something that ordinary users can do to help wayward users without either encouraging them or violating the Code of Conduct (CoC).

To be clear, I know that comments are never formally required before downvoting, so it stands to reason that it's ok for me to flag spam as spam without also warning the user that I am doing so or recommending that they delete the post or edit the spam out, but I'm really asking about whether taking the time to offer comments is worthwhile at all in the case of spam.

I'm also aware that spam should be flagged as spam. I do that and intend to continue to do so. My question is about the response to spam that goes beyond the flag - that is, should I "flag and move on" without attempting to engage the spammer or are there things I could be saying or doing to help them feel welcome while at the same time guiding them away from spamming behavior?

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    I could be wrong, but most of the posts I've seen read like bots rather than actual people, just trawling around spitting the same message up anywhere they can find a way to. – FlappingAlong May 14 at 14:25
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    It remains a judgement call. If the content looks decent and isn't plagiarized I might give a comment a try but often there is never a response. Non-responsiveness is a good sign a spam flag is warranted. Spam bots don't talk back. – rene May 14 at 14:27
  • Over in Charcoal, the policy is for members to not leave comments on posts caught by SmokeDetector unless they're already an active member of the site. – Sonic the Masked Werehog May 14 at 18:20
  • I leave a comment in borderline cases. For example when a user most likely has an affiliation with the thing he is talking about, but doesn't disclose so in his post. Otherwise just flag as spam, it is probably deleted before the poster had time to read your comment. – Luuklag May 15 at 7:03
  • It's worth considering two things. Are they bots, and if not - whether getting through to them in any capacity might help. – Journeyman Geek May 15 at 15:34
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My personal policy is that I don’t leave a comment for the author of potential spam posts but I might leave a comment if it would help other users, written in a factual tone:

  • @someclosevoter Please flag as spam instead of voting to close.

  • This is plagiarized from [source] with a spam link added.

Most spam is handled properly though, so I don’t usually leave a comment.

In my experience, actual spammers don’t stick around to read comments. These people are probably paid to leave this spam and move onto the next site, if they are even people and not bots.

On the other hand, I have seen “this is spam”-type comments on questions that were not red-flag spam (meaning that some people incorrectly thought it was spam) where the OP ended up responding. Obviously it wouldn’t be ideal to be antagonistic here. Would the “how not to be a spammer advice” be helpful here? Perhaps, but it depends on the question (as some of the questions I’m thinking of only had links that the OP was not affiliated with).

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In theory, there is always the tale of the good and the evil wolf living inside you, constantly fighting to dominate the other one.

Which one wins? The one you feed. So theoretically, for your own mental health, flag it, maybe give a comment as suggested in the other answer and move on.

On the other hand, maybe even the evil wolf just wants to get out occasionally and play a bit.

So my personal approach is: it doesn't matter anyway. Normally, spam is gone within a few minutes, so comments will typically be read by very few other users. So I mostly put down a mildly snarky comment. Not for the spammer, but to express the sentiment of annoyance that for sure every other user shares about spam.

Meaning, me personally, if I write a comment I try to be witty (not rude!) so that the other users have something to laugh about.

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  • So for example... "Dear poster: there are two wolves inside you. One of them is a spammer. The other one is also a spammer. YOU ARE A SPAMMER." 😀 – Andrew Myers May 19 at 17:03
  • I don't think I would write something like that. I have no problem making jokes about the act of spamming. But your approach is a big judgement on the personality of the person who wrote that spam to a certain degree. The other day I read one of those stories where a smart guy plays games with one of those fake call center guys who try to get your money. In the end, he goes like "you better get a real job". To which the scammer replied "I hate lying and cheating others, but that is the only job i can get here, and I have to provide for a large family". – GhostCat May 19 at 19:13
  • The point is that we don't know anything about the spammer, besides the fact that their actions are annoying to a certain degree. But that's it. No reason to get really rude. – GhostCat May 19 at 19:15
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    No, I wouldn't actually write that. It's just that you reminded me of that meme, which I inexplicably still find hilarious. With regards to people being forced by circumstances to do unethical things... I have some issues with that, but this is probably not the best place for that debate. But I'm cool with, "Don't be rude, period." – Andrew Myers May 19 at 21:39
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Usually no. But we're not here for short answers, we're here for nuance

If its a bot, don't bother. Depending on how clever the bot dev is, it might even be counter productive.Its best to get rid of it quickly, quietly and with a minimum of fuss.

There's a few different types of "organic" spammers with different levels of (self?) awareness.

There's a few who figure its good SEO. They spam their blog or product, don't actually organically write posts and arn't worth wasting our time on.

There's a few who know the rules, post lots of almost relevant posts (so they know better and do it anyway) and get aggressive. SOME of those are worth engaging, unless of course, they get aggressive.

If your comment can get through and makes them see the light, or could, go ahead. Otherwise its a waste of time. Flag and move on. Mods have much more fun tools to deal with this.

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