What is the correct action for trolling questions from an editor's perspective? Recent example:


I wasn't sure initially they were trolling, but the comment

The also got "kill" and "killall". if a you are being investigated by feds with racial profiling in mind.. they can easily use it in court and say "suspect was constantly typing kill all on his computer "

seems clear.

2 Answers 2


In the general case, if the question is posted by somebody who thinks they're being funny and isn't actually looking for help, vote to close it.

In this case, this person (I assume it's the same person) has been posting nonsense questions like this for a week or two now. Just flag it and we'll delete the account.

  • 1
    Close with what option? "Trolling" isn't listed...
    – choroba
    Feb 9, 2017 at 17:02
  • 9
    @choroba "Unclear what you're asking" is probably best Feb 9, 2017 at 18:59
  • It seems to have happened again: unix.stackexchange.com/questions/344826/… (I cannot see it because I have <10K reputation). Could the question be left as it was in the beginning, without deleting it? It is a basic question but it can be useful.
    – fedorqui
    Feb 14, 2017 at 9:34
  • @fedorqui It happens dozens of times a day, and many of them are deleted when the spam accounts are, so trying to comb through them to find good questions is low reward. If someone who actually needs help has a problem, they'll post the same question again (although I suspect that one is already posted; as you said it's pretty basic) Feb 14, 2017 at 16:35
  • @MichaelMrozek oh, if it happens dozens of times a day I completely understand a full deletion. No problem, I just hope this troll gets tired soon, since the community is acting quite hard on this.
    – fedorqui
    Feb 14, 2017 at 21:46
  • Aren't deleted accounts part of the problem in that the "lamers" are simply moving on to a different/new account?
    – Astara
    Feb 22, 2017 at 22:06
  • @Astara deleting accounts ensures the users can't accumulate enough reputation to do real damage on the site. Feb 27, 2017 at 14:24
  • Ah, but in deleting the account, you let them know they need to create another. Suppose the account were flagged to either not accumulate points or that its points were not usable to generate new privileges (2nd option might take longer for them to recognize the problem). Other, options become available if they continue using the same account... like having their responses and/or questions only be visible from their own account, so no one else would be bothered by them.... etc...depends on how creative one wants to get...
    – Astara
    Feb 27, 2017 at 18:46
  • @Astara The thing you're describing is typically called shadowbanning; Jeff Atwood referred to it as hellbanning when he talked about it in relation to Stack Exchange on his blog back in 2011. So it's been considered, but I don't think it's ever really been close to actually happening Feb 28, 2017 at 5:20
  • @MichaelMrozek -- shadowbanning -- neat term. hellbanning carries more of a malevolent connotation, IMO..
    – Astara
    Feb 28, 2017 at 19:59

Might be interesting if for each question that was "clearly" spam, they'd get a spam-point on their account. Then for each point (or modified by some multiplier), ask another level (or set) of "are you human" questions. I'd have the spam-points on their account be dated and aged, so after 'N' "time units" (MultK * [days|weeks]?) the oldest point expire. Would have to play with numbers, but maybe 'spam points**(expK)'. I seem to find that a bit more "useful" ("sane recovery" based on behavior, with minimal intervention needed by admins).

So for expK=1.4:

5 pts would create a 9.5 day wait before 1st expiration,
10pts=>25 days
20 => 66 days...etc.

Constant might need playing with depending on feedback and how well it deters spam.

I tend to like having the computer follow a formula, by default, so if admins are busy and can't respond, the system does its best to "auto-manage" itself, Admins could remove 1 or more points if the situation justified it. I also like the computer handling the 'default' case, so usually there will be little reason for people to think they are being singled out -- never a good thing in maintaining a community environment.

  • 1
    Spam flags already have extreme effects. Search around on meta.stackexchange.com; you'll find out.
    – Wildcard
    Feb 21, 2017 at 22:18
  • 1
    @Wildcard Sadly none of them apply if the troll just deletes his account and comes back a few minutes later as another user, as we're seeing lately. Feb 22, 2017 at 6:53
  • @wildcard -- current spam flags are 1 thing, "spam" flags as marked under new system wouldn't need to have same weight or be "same" as current ones. This was a spam flag as proposed for a counter to ask more human questions -- not necessarily for other penalties.
    – Astara
    Feb 22, 2017 at 22:03
  • @SatoKatsura -- do you know if they are from the same ip or ip-range?
    – Astara
    Feb 22, 2017 at 22:04
  • @Astara Sorry, I'm way too low on the totem pole to have access to that kind of information. :) If I were to speculate though, they don't seem particularly knowledgeable. I'd be surprised if they made any attempt to hide their real IP. Feb 23, 2017 at 7:24
  • If that is the case, why wouldn't using that information help in detecting creation of alt-accounts for further enforcement or examination? At least, examination to see how useful using that data would be for automatic enforcement. Of course, people can get around anything, including geo-blocking, BUT, it's a matter of increasing the difficulty level until its no longer an attractive entertainment source for them
    – Astara
    Feb 23, 2017 at 19:48

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