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Ten posts in eight minutes. I don't see a reason why anyone should be posting this fast, especially not a brand new user. This is only the most recent example, not the one that's posted the most:

call girl spam

It looks like this user was only stopped by either boredom or possibly a question ban (but those are probably not real downvotes but the effect of a few spam flags).

As I understand it, this is not a bug in the system — our current rate limiting system allows this. But it shouldn't. At least make the spammers make another new account before they're allowed to continue doing whatever they want.

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  • 31
    Actually there is rate limit. But due to a terrible short sight of whoever built it (probably Jeff) it's only checking IP address, letting account post zillion questions per second if each question posted while having different IP address. Silly? Super. Easy to fix? Most likely. Will SE do anything? LOL Jul 7, 2023 at 13:56
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    It's worse that the screenshot in the post shows. It is literally the entire front page: i.stack.imgur.com/XIC6z.png with less than a minute between recent posts.
    – Andy
    Jul 7, 2023 at 14:18
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    SO expects user to eagerly remove spam per hand, so that they don't have to do anything. I think we should say, if it's not our portal, it's not our problem as well. Jul 7, 2023 at 14:40
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    Somewhat related: How are spammers rate limited?
    – Martin
    Jul 7, 2023 at 14:55
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    In the past, spammers have been fine with creating new accounts as soon as they are unable to post with the account they are currently using(or even just because). There are spammers who have posted thousands of posts from thousands of accounts, some as rapidly as indicated here, some faster by an order of magnitude, or so. Having a limit on posting by account would slow some spammers down. For others, creating a new account will be just one more thing to automate. In other words, having a limit that's also on the account is helpful, but it's not a magic bullet that will solve the problem.
    – Makyen
    Jul 7, 2023 at 15:50

2 Answers 2

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+50

This is really not a new problem.

What has changed is that Smoke Detector/Charcoal is on strike together with many moderators.

Fix the core Stack Exchange problems -> end the strike -> turn Smoke Detector back on, and the problem will go away.

Short of that, Stack Exchange could take some effort currently being used for AI or marketing and put it towards their own version of Smoke Detector. Though as I understand it, the system is a combination of software and volunteers who review possible spam. Without active participation by real people, be they volunteers or SE employees, the system will not work very well, if at all. It is possible to create a system that is more automated, but that would require real people doing a lot of work up-front.

TANSTAAFL

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  • This is true, but this could be exploited by people who are creating low quality Q&A (and it could happen by accident too!), which Charcoal wouldn't handle.
    – Laurel
    Jul 7, 2023 at 18:53
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    @Laurel But the humans that handle those are on strike too. The fix is the same. Jul 8, 2023 at 18:30
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    Smoke detector only detects keywords and alerts people via SE chat, it is the humans that review the item and flag it into the spam queue, which leads to deletion. Smoke Detector does not work without volunteers.
    – Trish
    Jul 10, 2023 at 11:35
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(More of an extended comment)

There needs to be both an account limit and an IP address limit if the spammer keeps on changing their IP address. (I am curious about the reasoning for only having an IP address limit). However, this might not be enough; I witnessed different accounts posting spam in rapid succession. Fortunately, this was dealt with quickly; but if spammers keep on changing their accounts and their IP address, there might be little an automated system can do. (It’s about time SE started appreciating us users for cleaning up spam that would otherwise have gone undetected.)

I would also suggest putting more restrictions on comments and answers. I observed the spammer on Super User creating a mess by answering their spam questions with the same spam and commenting spam everywhere. However, this is a minor issue since it is only restricted to one question, which can be easily deleted.

I took a look at the spammer's profiles and noted that they usually have accounts on multiple sites. Having an automated network-wide suspension for users posting spam on more than one site might slow them down a little bit.

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    At a certain point... limits can have a detrimental effect on real users. We already have pretty stringent limits that these spammers simply bypass by brute force. Add in a new limit, and they'll just find a new way to bypass it. It'd be better to find/produce solutions that solve the problem at a more... fundamental level with more human involvement from our most active users (new answerers.) It'd be nice if some of that energy new users have for answering questions could also go toward curation.
    – Kevin B
    Jul 7, 2023 at 20:00
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    @KevinB whatever the limits are they are not effective. I doubt new users could ever post more than just a few good questions in a day so if a stronger throttle is needed it should be implemented, if only locally and temporarily to avoid the kind of stupidity illustrated by the OP. Jul 8, 2023 at 1:11
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    It’s much easier to clean up the spam if it’s all posted by a single account. If the spammer successfully creates a new account for every IP address, and posts a single spam post from each account, cleaning it up is tedious. If everything is posted by the same account, just nuke the entire account and all its content at once. Much easier. You won’t even have to find and validate each post. Jul 10, 2023 at 16:32
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    In addition, if a single spam account is used from multiple IP addresses, at the time of nuking the account, you can mark every single one of those IP addresses as used for spam. The list already exists well. Even better, you know that these IP addresses are not just used for spam, but part of the same spam network. Jul 10, 2023 at 16:34
  • That said, recognizing spam posts can be automated once a pattern is found. So it’s possible to automate a lot of this still manual work of finding and identifying spam. Jul 10, 2023 at 16:41
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    "I took a look at the spammer's profiles and noted that they usually have accounts on multiple sites. Having an automated network-wide suspension for users posting spam on more than one site might slow them down a little bit." – In general, if mods spot accounts that are posting spam on multiple sites, they can escalate them to the CMs, who can now destroy their accounts network-wide.
    – V2Blast
    Jul 12, 2023 at 17:20
  • @V2Blast how will mods know that a user has been posting spam on multiple sites? Is there an automated system to notify them? I don't see this being carried out much in practice but I can't view deleted posts so I wouldn't know for sure.
    – bobeyt6
    Jul 13, 2023 at 21:24
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    @bobeyt6isstricken: Well, they might spot the spam on multiple sites before it's removed – or they might just come across an obvious spammer (typically spambots) on their own site, and notice that the same user has accounts on other sites (which often suggests that they're probably posting spam there as well).
    – V2Blast
    Jul 13, 2023 at 21:36

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