• What is spam?
  • I saw a spam post, what should I do?
  • I saw a spam edit, what should I do?
  • How can I help fight spam most effectively?
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What is spam?

Spam is unsolicited commercial advertisement. Fundamentally, spam tries to sell you something when you didn't ask for anything.

Some spam is after your money. Sometimes it's indirect, such as spam that wants you to visit a website and click on the ads. Some spam wants you to visit a website with malware that may be able to infect your computer. Sometimes spam is after things other than money; political spam is still spam.

Sometimes you'll see posts from broken spam bots that only have the framing but are missing a reference to the brand or site being advertised. Treat them as spam. Stack Exchange has some technical measures designed to limit spam, so the proportion of spams from bot tests rather than from working bots is quite high.

Some things, how ever, are not spam:

  • Wildly off-topic questions are not spam. Vote to close, perhaps flag as low quality, but do not flag them as spam.
  • Nonsense posts that aren't clearly the product of a bot are not spam. Flag as low quality or “not an answer”, possibly downvote (and vote to delete if you have that privilege).

I saw a spam post, what should I do?

Flag as spam.

Flagging as spam is the most effective way of dealing with spam. A post that receives 6 spam flags is automatically deleted and locked.

Don't raise a custom flag, select the “it is spam” predefined reason. That gives extra work to moderators as they need to handle the custom flag separately. Moderators see spam flags, and generally react to them by destroying the account.

Don't bother downvoting spam. It's actually counterproductive for questions as they are taken off the front page if their score drops below -4. A spam flag already reduces the post's score by 1. (But don't upvote either: we don't want to risk giving the spammer privileges, or to say to the quality control system that there is something worth saving on that account.) There's also no need to vote to close a spam question.

Don't edit the post to blank out the spam. That makes it harder for others to notice that the post is spam and must be removed pronto.

I saw a spam edit, what should I do?

Most spammers post questions or answers but some try to sneak in spam via edits.

Reject spam edits, or edits that are testing bots, as vandalism. There is currently no separate tracking for spam and other kinds of vandalism.

Pay attention to edits that add links — most are helpful (adding a link to a paper or to Wikipedia), but occasionally the link is to a spam or fishing or malware site, so check the targets of links when you review suggested edits.

How can I help fight spam most effectively?

Flag as spam and move on. Really, that's the most helpful thing.

There is one other thing: if other people with a Stack Exchange account are around (in real life, or in chat), you might ask them to flag as well, especially in the slow hours when there are few people around on the site. Anyone with 15 reputation can flag. If you have 200 reputation on one Stack Exchange site, you get an association bonus which is sufficient to raise flags on any site (if you've never interacted with that site before, you'll need to create an account on that site by clicking the “login” button).

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    $\begingroup$ So in reference to the recent spate of wildly-off-topic-but-not-really-spam postings, are the moderators notified that a particular user has posted a rapid series of closed questions? In the situation we just had (and may still have ;) ), the posts should have been closed, but not flagged - they were just off-topic - but it seems clear that the account they were posted from should be banned in some manner, so flagging would seem the natural way to draw attention to this. I assume mods aren't notified every time a question is closed, that would certainly be tedious for you! $\endgroup$ – Luke Mathieson Jul 25 '13 at 1:09
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    $\begingroup$ @LukeMathieson On the contrary, a little less that a day ago, we had a spate on spam posts by two accounts using the same name. The spams were incomplete as they didn't contain any reference of the brand or site that was spammed for, presumably because they were intended to be posted as a question and answer pair but the account was blocked from posting the answers. Nonetheless they were spamming attempts (for artificial grass and other tings). The right way to handle these is a spam flag. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jul 25 '13 at 1:23
  • $\begingroup$ those were indeed the posts I was thinking of, so marking something like that as spam, although it doesn't strictly have an advertisement in it, is an appropriate approach (?). That's good, it's what I did! ;) $\endgroup$ – Luke Mathieson Jul 25 '13 at 1:26

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