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Every once in a while we get a question about how to report a bad user to the admins. Sometimes it's a spammer, sometimes it's a troll, sometimes it's just someone who had a momentary blip in the "socially acceptable" filter. But the answers are pretty much always the same. So, here is a "master post" for this sort of situation that we can refer to in the future.

  • [some user] is a spammer. What can we do about this?
  • [some user] is being blatantly offensive. How can I report it?
  • [some user] is personally attacking and/or serially downvoting me. Can the admins do something?
  • Almost all of [some user]'s answers link to the same product, but some of the answers are upvoted and/or fairly helpful. Is this spam? What should I do?

I'm on the fence about making this an FAQ proposal. If someone else thinks it's a good idea, it's already CW, feel free.

  • What if there is no behavior to report yet, and the behavior has not been bad, but the avatar used is offensive? There is currently no way to flag the profile picture being used. – dobey Nov 21 '18 at 21:41
  • @dobey The advice I have received from moderators is to just flag something else, anything really (a post of your own is good) -- of course explain very plainly why you are flagging and where they can find the bad content. – tripleee Feb 22 at 7:58
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Flag the behavior. You can mention in the flag comment if it's a pattern of behavior by the same user. Please, do not call out the user by name here on Meta. If it's persistent bad behavior by a single user, then you can use the contact us link at the bottom of every page.

  • Does emailing team@stackoverflow.com go into the same queue as http://meta.stackexchange.com/contact? – Jared Burrows Mar 28 '15 at 5:59
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    The same group of people handle it (community managers), but I'm not sure what the workflow is. I think using the contact link is now the preferred method, though (updated answer). – Bill the Lizard Mar 28 '15 at 12:58
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    @BilltheLizard: "do not call out the user by name here on Meta" I couldn't agree more. Is it the community policy or is it your personal opinion? The story: when I've asserted it on Meta.ruSO, a user tells me that I shouldn't present my views as the community point of view (I said that personal attacks are unacceptable on Stack Overflow in response to the Meta post that calls out a user by name in the title). – jfs Jan 17 '17 at 14:26
  • @J.F.Sebastian It's community policy. If I call someone out on Meta, I'm only presenting my side of the story. Moderators can see more information than regular users, like deleted comments, or if there's been voting irregularities, so it's better to let them handle these kinds of problems when they arise. – Bill the Lizard Jan 17 '17 at 15:07
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    @BilltheLizard I'm the user that told him not to present his personal veiws as community point of view when he completely replaced the body of the question (an overview of apparent harm done and a request to handle this) with sort of "public shaming is inappropriate". Much like what's done with spam posts to reduce visibility of their contents. Now he claims that he was within his rights to do that because it's community policy not to call people out by name on Meta. Was he right? Or should he just have flagged the question without vandalising it? – D-side Jan 17 '17 at 16:02
  • @D-side: do not attribute false claims to me. To be clear, the intent of the edit (though it is off-topic for the discussion) is to highlight the bad behavior (calling out users by name instead of reporting privately), to inform other users that it is not acceptable on Stack Overflow. – jfs Jan 17 '17 at 16:45
  • @J.F.Sebastian perhaps this discussion should happen elsewhere, but could you please be more specific as for where the false claim is? – D-side Jan 17 '17 at 16:47
  • @D-side: you made the false claim here and therefore I discuss it here. "Now he claims that he was within his rights to do that because it's community policy not to call people out by name on Meta." – jfs Jan 17 '17 at 17:04
  • @J.F.Sebastian you did vandalise the body of the question replacing it with a translation of this post, you did explicitly claim that it's community policy (refferring here) and after the edit was rolled back you claim that moderators may not understand the rules (sic!) in doing so. You're not explicitly saying that you were within your rights to make that edit. But you made it, so apparently you thought it was the right thing to do. Where's the wrong car in this train of thought? I suggest we resume this discussion back on Meta.ru.SO, this is really getting out of hand. – D-side Jan 17 '17 at 17:25
  • "You're not explicitly saying that you were within your rights to make that edit."*—agree. You said: _"Now he claims that he was within his rights to do that.."_ (emphasis is mine). I'm glad we've sorted it out. – jfs Jan 17 '17 at 17:46
  • So, pleasantries of explicit claims and subtle consequences aside, remains the question of whether content for the sole purpose of public shaming or calling out any particular user by name can be vandalized freely by any user the same way spam can be. Or should these extreme measures left for the mods to carry out and we, users, should stick to flags. But that would better be a separate question. – D-side Jan 17 '17 at 17:54
  • What if the "bad user" deletes the post? Are the admins able to retrieve the deleted post? Having said something still means you said it, regardless whether the post was deleted or not. – Martin Oct 4 '18 at 13:25
  • @Martin Yes, moderators can see deleted posts, including comments. – Bill the Lizard Oct 4 '18 at 13:35
  • Good, so a flag still persists even if the post / comment has been deleted then? @BilltheLizard – Martin Oct 4 '18 at 13:36
  • @Martin I'm not sure about that. I think if the post is deleted, the flag is considered processed, so it's possible nobody will see it. The flag does still exist though (it isn't deleted with the post), so there is a history of it. Moderators will be able to see it if they go looking for a pattern of behavior. – Bill the Lizard Oct 4 '18 at 13:54
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There are lots of ways to handle these situations. The admins tend to take the view that behaviors, not users, are bad; that said, they will suspend users in extreme cases.

  • Flag for a moderator
    • You can send short messages directly to moderators by clicking the "flag" link under posts or the little flag icon next to comments and choosing "Flag for moderator attention."
  • Flag, but not for a moderator
    • If it's truly blatant spam or hate speech, you should be able to just flag as such directly. Enough such flags and the system will take care of the problem automatically, no need for any time-consuming human effort! Beyond the 1.5 seconds it takes to do the actual flagging, anyways.
  • Send e-mail to the admin team
    • You can always e-mail via the contact us form with your concerns. That link is in the footer bar of every single Stack Exchange web page.
  • Post to a meta site, like this one
    • This is generally discouraged. Since everyone can see what's on meta, calling attention to problems this way has the feel of public shaming even when that isn't the intent. Not exactly in the spirit of privacy or "focus on the behavior, not the user." Still, there are cases where this can be useful, such as spam (which isn't posted by "real" users and can be cleaned up without mod help), or odd activity that isn't linked to specific accounts.

What you shouldn't do is e-mail a moderator directly. Despite many of them listing their contact details in their profiles we need to have all site related communications on site where they can be reviewed by other moderators or the Community Managers.

  • nice answer. automated solutions like multiple flags are better to start a user suspension, than emailing a mod, since it may be the weekend and mods may be busy. – abel Oct 2 '10 at 17:22
  • @abel, thanks, I worked that into the answer. Since you have >100 rep, you're welcome to make such edits yourself. That's the beauty of CW, right there. – Pops Oct 2 '10 at 17:32
  • Hey! I never saw that edit link. I thought editing others post would require a lot of karma. – abel Oct 2 '10 at 17:42
  • @abel, usually it requires 2k rep, but for CW posts it's 100. CW also implies that others have permission to edit. – Pops Oct 2 '10 at 17:57
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    I don't think calling out users, by name, in public, is good form. There are already ways to deal with behavior without affixing the equivalent of a Scarlet Letter. How will you protect against bad faith accusations? Mob mentality? Everything is forever on the Web. – ale Jan 24 '11 at 13:20
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    Serial downvotes are managed, but what about random, individual, "hey I remember that username" downvotes? Reputations (real ones, not those tracked with points) are very difficult to fix. This is a very "guilty until proven innocent" kind of policy. – ale Jan 24 '11 at 13:23
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    Contacting admins is of no use. They do nothing to prevent abusive behavior. – Anderson Sep 17 '13 at 10:59
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    @Anderson Actually, that's kind of the entire job of moderators and the community team. If you've found an instance where one of us has made a bad call, you can always submit another flag or e-mail team@stackoverflow.com to explain why. – Pops Sep 17 '13 at 15:50
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    @Pops I have contacted them and written over a dozzen emails in a good hope that they do in good of a comunity. I was very much mistaken all my effort was just waste of time. – Anderson Sep 17 '13 at 16:30
  • There are some users who insist on taking everything said as a personal attack, no matter how devoid of judgment you attempt to write your comment. It's quite sad that some people carry this chip on their shoulder at this site. How dare you question my answer? In fact, you are offering a mere suggestion to improve the quality of the answer - a selfless act of which only the answerer will be the benefactor. Judging whether this type of behavior is serial is tough. I know that I've been on the other side, but was eventually humbled by a moderator's action and response. – crush Feb 11 '14 at 15:20
  • «have all site related communications on site where they can be reviewed by other moderators or the Community Managers» This is quite risky if you need to flag the behavior of a community manager. It can end up well, but it also may not (they can see the flags on their own posts). – Andrea Lazzarotto Aug 11 '16 at 11:26

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