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Sometimes I see spam comments, and I would like to see a "Spam" reason for flagging comments.

But now there are only these reasons:

Comment flagging reasons

My feature request is: add an "Spam" flag reason to comments.

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    Furthermore, I want the old separate flag reasons “obsolete”, “not constructive”, and “chatty” back. Moderators cannot read the mind of the flagging user.
    – Loong
    Jul 1, 2023 at 10:47
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    Related: How to flag comments as spam? Jul 1, 2023 at 10:47
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    Lack of telepathy is the real bug :D Jul 1, 2023 at 11:46
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    @JourneymanGeekOnStrike I'm sure Yaakov can fix this in six to eight weeks
    – Mureinik
    Jul 1, 2023 at 13:34
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    No mind-reading is required, @Loong; "obsolete", "not constructive", and "chatty" are all subsumed by the "no longer needed" reason. Those are all just sub-reasons why the comment is no longer needed, and it doesn't help moderators to more expeditiously process the flag to get any more specific. Jul 2, 2023 at 7:32

2 Answers 2

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I've been moderating Stack Exchange sites for over a decade, and I can count on one hand (in base 10) the number of times that I've seen a spam comment that could be flagged with such a reason. Thus, we simply don't need this.

Adding this option would add undue complexity to the flag options in the dialog. (The more options that there are, the harder it is, cognitively speaking, for someone to read them all and choose the correct one, so the cost of adding additional options is not zero. It is, in fact, much larger, to the point where any suggestion of a new flag type starts with −1000 points and needs to claw its way up to even approach "break-even", "might-as-well" status.)

In the rare event that you need to flag a comment as being spammy, you would use either the "no longer needed" or "something else" options. Use "no longer needed" if it would be patently obvious to whoever sees the flag why you're flagging it and why the comment needs to be deleted. Otherwise, use the "something else" option, so that you can type an explanation. A possible use-case for this would be, "This comment recommends to use a code library, but the author of the comment is the author of the library. No affiliation is disclosed, making this inappropriately self-promotional." In other words: technically spam, but not obviously spam, and thus requires a bit more explanation.

Something that many folks don't understand about comment flags is that, despite all these different bins/types, they're all fundamentally the same thing. All of these comment flag types mean one thing, and one thing only: this comment needs to be deleted. When moderators handle comment flags, we pay relatively little attention to the exact reason why the comment was flagged. We look only at the comment's text itself and see if we think the comments adds value or not. If it adds no value, we delete it (thus, implicitly marking the flag as "helpful"); if it seems to add value, we keep it by declining the flag. That's it.

The implication of this is that comment flags are unsuitable for bringing larger problems to the attention of a moderator. If, for example, one user is targeting another user with comments that appear innocuous on their face but are a problem due to their volume, then a comment flag is not appropriate. Instead, you need to raise an "in need of moderator intervention" flag on a post. Same thing for the kind of "spam" comments you might come across on the sites: a user posted this same comment containing the same link to 5+ different answers. If those comments are flagged individually, and the flags processed in isolation, it may not be obvious why the comments should be deleted. In such cases, you should instead flag a post, not a comment. Proper handling of such comments would include messaging the user and telling them to knock it off, which goes far beyond simple deletion of a flagged comment. If more than simple deletion is needed, a comment flag is insufficient. Even if you didn't know to flag a post rather than a comment, you would at least have to use the "something else" comment flag reason so that you could type an explanation of what the issue(s) are with the comments that require them to be deleted, despite looking superficially fine.


That said, why would you be making a suggestion to add a flag type for things that I said I've almost never seen happen in the more than a decade I've been using Stack Exchange sites? Probably because you actually have seen a spate of spam comments recently. My guess is that you're seeing these spam comments getting posted underneath actual spam posts. I've certainly seen quite a bit of this recently. For example:

Screenshot of Stack Exchange site, where an obvious spam question has 4 comments posted under it, by the author of the question, recapitulating the exact same spam content.

The reason for this is that the moderators and spam-fighting infrastructure are on strike, and so the spam is not getting deleted as quickly as it normally does. Thus, not only are you coming across far more spam than you ever have before, but, because the spam lives longer, the posters of it have more time to interact with it and the site. Since there is no reputation threshold for posting comments on your own posts, many of these spammers are posting spam comments under their own spam posts. Those comments don't need to be flagged separately from the associated post. They don't need to be flagged at all. Just flag the post itself as spam. Once the post is nuked as spam, the comments go away, too.

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  • No, I recently seen a (possible?) spam under good question.
    – PetlinBOT
    Jul 2, 2023 at 7:45
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    What made it spam? How did you know? Was it obvious? It must not have been, considering that you said "possible?"... Jul 2, 2023 at 8:02
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You generally can't post comments without a little reputation or as an comment to your own post.

Its also incredibly rare for comments to be spam - the reputation gate makes it harder.

Comment flags are also "yes or no" with no options in between

If someone is spamming under their own post or even weirder someone elses using the "something else option" or flagging the post it is attached to explaining the situation might be useful.

If it is a user of some reputation suddenly spamming comments, it could be an indicator of a compromised account and needs moderator or community team attention.

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    "Its also incredibly rare" - what is rare? Also, spammers using voting rings can get to 50 rep and more, it happened before and can happen again. Jul 1, 2023 at 14:21
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    Spam in comments. A suspected voting ring needs a custom flag and somewhat deeper investigation Jul 1, 2023 at 14:56
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    From time to time, Charcoal gets requests for Smoke Detector to look for spam in comments (and also suggested edits) but my impression is that the problem has been too marginal to be worth the effort. Doubling or tripling the load for Smoke Detector is not something we take lightly, but of course, if the need was really there, we would have to figure it out.
    – tripleee
    Jul 1, 2023 at 15:32
  • @JourneymanGeekOnStrike Someone that earned the association bonus can post the spam in comments.
    – PetlinBOT
    Jul 1, 2023 at 18:21
  • And somewhere, e.g. here and on StackApps, it is very easy to earn the comment privilege.
    – PetlinBOT
    Jul 1, 2023 at 18:22
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    Assocation bonus needs 200+ reputation on one site. Both that and the comment rep is ... A bit too much work for most spammers . Jul 1, 2023 at 18:45

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