This question was posted on Stack Overflow today:

I already know that recycling is the best way to dispose of our computer equipment, according to me almost each and every part of computer are recyclable, but im still not sure and the maximum volume of parts are being recycled thoroughly

On the face of it, off-topic but not obviously spam. (I wondered if it might be a spam seeder, but...)

But looking at the profile of the account posting it, we see (redacted):

[Acme] is based out of [somewhere]. We handle recycling solutions for all end-of-life electronics and computer equipment [someplace]. Working with clients, we determine the best methods for total data destructions, by ensuring compliance and transparency. [Acme] provides tailored recycling programs that meet and exceed customer expectations

...with links to the company, etc., in the relevant account fields.

Promoting yourself and/or your company in your profile is absolutely fine on SE, but the question is obviously fake. No one with that profile is going to ask the question shown.

Does this cross the line such that it warrants a spam flag? Would a spam flag be clear to a mod? Obviously it should be closed and removed. If not a spam flag, then what? Just VTC and downvote?

Very belatedly I realize that this is exactly the reason that I wanted to be able to provide a comment with a spam flag. Sadly, that FR is .


It definitely meets the criteria for spam on Stack Exchange: it "[e]xists only to promote a product or service."

I can't imagine a moderator seeing the full picture would decline a spam flag, but I could see them missing it with just the flag and no explanation.

I generally flag these as "in need of moderator intervention" and explain that it's a blatantly off-topic question likely designed to promote the poster's company, and suggest deleting it, possibly as spam. If I know another user has already custom flagged, then I'll flag as spam to help it get deleted faster (as 6 spam flags will delete a post immediately).

  • 2
    It was the "full picture" thing that made me wonder about doing exactly that: a custom flag. Thanks! Sep 9 at 7:22
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    Moderators only see the post and the user card in the Flag Dashboard, not the full profile. Especially on SO with thousands of flags a day, they don't always view profiles. On the surface, this answer looks like a poor answer to a question that's off-topic for SO, not spam.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Sep 9 at 7:44
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    @Glorfindel true, there should be a way to add some indicator when flagging as spam "Look in the profile" or something like that. (checkbox) Sep 9 at 8:02
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    @ShadowWizardIsVaccinatedV3 there's a long-standing FR to add additional text to a spam flag, that would work too. The disadvantage of custom flags is that they bother moderators with something the community can handle by itself, especially on large sites.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Sep 9 at 8:03
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    @Glorfindel - Do you have a link to that FR so I can support it? Also, what would you recommend in this case? Spam flag (because the community can handle it) or mod flag with details (because it's not clear from just looking at just the question text and usercard)? Sep 9 at 9:23
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    @T.J.Crowder Here's the feature request, originally posted six years ago...by you :-) There's also a broader feature request to add comments to all flags.
    – Ryan M
    Sep 9 at 9:31
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    @RyanM - LOL Sep 9 at 9:33
  • @Glorfindel - The long-standing FR has [status-declined] (without any helpful explanation why). What's an appropriate way to request review of that decision? The community seems pretty clear about wanting this, esp. for spam flags perhaps but also for all flags. (I'm a harder sell on all flags and sense others may also be. Perhaps we start with spam flags and work from there.) Sep 9 at 9:38
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    That's a pity (I didn't have the time to look up the status)... You might want to read Can we re-request features that were declined a sufficient while ago?
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Sep 9 at 9:40
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    @T.J.Crowder I believe Jon Ericson's answer was intended as an explanation for the decline: "Despite the shared name, these ['mindless attempts to plant links somewhere (anywhere!) on the internet' vs. 'calculated attempts to answer questions with subtle advertisements'] are very different problems with different remediations. So they should be flagged differently." Which is not to say that I agree...but the decline was explained, at least.
    – Ryan M
    Sep 9 at 9:44
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    @RyanM - You're right, thanks. (Having a bad eye day, scanned the answers and missed that that one was opposing the idea. And I have a terrible memory. :-) ) Sep 9 at 10:01
  • @T.J.Crowder The community can deal with spam without bothering mods. If spam is not obvious, you can write a normal comment that explains why you think it's spam.
    – PM 2Ring
    Sep 9 at 15:25
  • @PM2Ring - See (B) in the FR discussed above: Commenting requires calling attention to yourself, whereas flagging is confidential. Separately, A) Mods get spam flags pushed to them in some situations, and B) They decline/dispute them if the post and usercard don't look like spam. Do they even see comments when handling question flags? My impression is not, but I wouldn't know. Sep 9 at 15:48
  • @T.J.Crowder Ok, I agree that it may not always be desirable to post a public comment on spam. Mods don't see comments on flagged questions, unless they go looking for them, and busy mods are unlikely to do that when handling spam flags. But ideally, flagged spam gets deleted without mod involvement. If it's some kind of borderline case that does require a mod decision, then you can use a custom mod flag, which does permit a small comment.
    – PM 2Ring
    Sep 9 at 16:05

The existence or lack of a link is secondary. If the purpose of the post is to promote a service or product (or religion, mathematical proof, secret satanistic organization, etc etc etc) then it is spam.

As a vague parallel, we see a fair amount of obvious spam where the spammer simply forgot to include the link, or botched the formatting badly.

Not removing these posts could not possibly provide any value to the site, and any reasonable person would still see them as promotional, off-topic, and abusive.


Yes, it is definitely spam.

As per the definition of the spam flag:

Exists only to promote a product or service, does not disclose the author's affiliation.

Since the purpose of the post is to promote a product, it is spam. According to this:

Don't talk about your product / website / book / job too much. Folks will read your answers for their ability to solve a specific problem; if you're good at doing that, then they'll find themselves more interested in who you are and what you're working on. If you respond only to questions where the answer can be something you're selling, they'll assume you're just here to sell.

Thus it should be deleted as spam regardless of if it contains a link or not.

  • @amWhy I have read it. Now you can delete it Oct 28 at 3:47

Spam flag means that the post is spam. We can not flag profiles.

However, advertising on the SE has some extra requirements. Most importantly, the advertiser has to contact the company and pay for them. If a profile is spam, it violates that directive and can (should) be reported.

However, if a user with a spam profile posts useful content, there is no reason to remove the useful content. But there is a reason to make steps against the profile. This can be done by issuing a custom mod flag on any of his posts.

However, in your example, not this was the case. In your example, also the content was spam, even if it was not formulated so: its only possible purpose was to advertise the profile (which was already spam). In this case, flagging as spam is the right thing to do. You can still issue custom flags, to draw attention of the mods also to the profile.

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