After receiving very useful advice in a previous Meta Q&A, a certain troll has seen their posts becoming very short-lived. With the help of other community members, we close, flag, and delete the post quickly, without imposing a burden on the moderation team.

However, I got curious what happens with the "spam/abusive" flag, which is used to indicate that a user is being abusive of the Stack Overflow site itself, and which helps clean up the content once the post is deleted. It's easily seen that the flag is automatically handled as "Helpful", but then I also discovered that other effects normally applied as a result of such a "Helpful" flag don't wind up happening:

…If a post is flagged as spam or offensive and is deleted by a moderator or by community votes (10k, 20k, or review), the harsher penalties are not applied. The post content should still be obscured when seen by 10k+ users later, but the IP-level blocks and 100-point penalties are not applied as a result of this.

The explanation for why this happens is clear and completely reasonable. Better to avoid false-positive scenarios due to accidental flag choices, even if that means some posts slip through.

But: does this mean that I should then flag a genuinely rude/abusive post again, once the original rude/abusive flag has been cleared?

The reputation change for the user is moot; these are throw-away accounts that only have 1 rep point to start with. But IP-blocking aspect could be useful, depending on what this user is actually doing when they create these accounts, to at least slow them down a bit.

On the other hand, I'm well aware that diamond-badge moderation is a limited resource. At the very least, such custom flags might take so long to be handled so as to make them moot, and I of course don't want to add to the custom flag backlog if this is neither necessary nor desirable.

So, is it useful? Should I flag such posts again after the original rude/abusive flag has been automatically handled by the post's deletion? And if I shouldn't, is there at least some follow-up process that could eventually activate the IP-blocking?

  • 1
    As you can only cast a single red flag on a given post, a better way to ask your question would be, "should I custom flag such posts asking that the normal deletion be changed to a spam/abuse deletion?". Jun 1 at 7:46
  • When trolls get 0 attention they will get bored. It takes some time, but they will leave eventually. Just keep piling on R/A flags, that's the best way to quickly delete their posts and make them lose interest.
    – Luuklag
    Jun 1 at 7:47
  • @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog, they ask if they should re-flag after their R/A flag was helpful, so in that case the post is deleted, most likely as R/A.
    – Luuklag
    Jun 1 at 7:48
  • @Luuklag: I'm aware of the "trolls get bored" aspect, thanks though. This isn't about that. As noted in the related question, one of the mechanisms by which trolls get bored more quickly is to have a higher barrier of entry. IP-blocking is such a barrier, so even if we are already being effective in other ways, there is reason still to include that higher barrier as well. Jun 1 at 7:48
  • Consider whether the missing penalties will achieve anything. Some trolls are persistent enough that they use proxies and VPNs to change their IP and they are new accounts with no reputation. If they've just been bypassing IP blocks anyways, it doesn't particularly matter which method is used to get rid of the content.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Jun 1 at 13:45
  • @animuson: "Consider whether the missing penalties will achieve anything" -- as I've noted, the rep loss penalty obviously has no effect. But the IP-blocking could. As has been explained by comments and answers to my previous question, while trolls can bypass restrictions, making them do so is relatively easy compared to the cost they incur to do so, and so can make the moment come earlier when they finally get too bored to continue. Jun 1 at 17:09

So, is it useful? Should I flag such posts again after the original rude/abusive flag has been automatically handled by the post's deletion?

In general, if there are things left to do, you can leave custom moderator flags. I see them on Meta.SE from time to time, where a post is already deleted by the community (either by red flags or regular delete votes) and there's e.g. still an account that could use destroying/suspending.

Given the abusive behavior you described in your previous question, I would really encourage you to use red flags only. Don't use regular delete votes, just wait for the post to get enough rude/abusive/spam flags to be deleted by the system and have the associated penalties applied.

Even so, moderators might want to be made aware of the problem and destroy the socks anyways, so feel free to raise custom flags.


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