I flagged this answer yesterday as spam. I flagged it because the answer was added to a very old question (from 2011) and praised a commercial solution. The original question was very well answered and has received a LOT of attention (>140k views).

I only received the information in my "Flagged Post"-History that:

declined - a moderator reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it

Is there any way to communicate with the moderator about this? I'd find it perfectly okay if the rules of U&L allowed for posts like this and would like a hint to better judge the next posts like this. Or if the post is not okay with the rules why it wasn't accepted as spam.

  • 6
    I’m not a moderator and haven’t seen that answer until now, but in my opinion, they tried to answer the question with a tool that appears to meet the requirements. I think “spam” would be used for posts that are clearly only links to an unrelated item
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 17:25
  • Yeah, that answer is clearly not spam. It answers the question, or at least attempts to. This screenshot is an example of spam. Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 14:55
  • For some reason I missed this post. Just wanted to say that the best way is to either do exactly what you did here and ask about it on meta (uhm, we normally do see these and answer, I swear!) or do what Stephen suggested below and ping one of us in chat. Not posting an answer because Stephen already did a fine job of it.
    – terdon Mod
    Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 1:40
  • IMO, recommending a commercial to a solution to a problem is not inherently spam. However, I would frown on hawking one's own wares without disclosure, or using undisclosed affiliate links. I've occasionally recommended Splunk, for example, for some data analysis questions, but usually among other possible viable options. I so so because it might be a good tool for the job, not because I have a financial interest in the program or its vendor(s).
    – DopeGhoti
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 20:51

3 Answers 3


Like Jeff Schaller when he wrote his comment above, I’m not a moderator...

However to get in touch with a moderator, I think the best way is to @ one of them in the main chat room. terdon is usually quite responsive there, which means he gets to deal with this kind of stuff ;-).

As far as spam goes, I think the practice here is to allow answers which “advertise” a tool the answer’s author is involved with, as long as the answer itself is useful. The spam flag description says “Exists only to promote a product or service, does not disclose the author's affiliation.”, and the linked page explains what’s considered acceptable in detail; I get the impression the disclosure requirement isn’t strictly upheld by the moderators, which is fine in my opinion as long as the relationship is reasonably obvious and as long as the answer isn’t egregious advertising (which doesn’t help much since it’s subjective...). In this instance, the answer’s author clearly mentions his involvement in his bio, which I suppose is sufficient.

It’s worth considering that most of the posts which get dealt with as spam here are clearly spam, utterly unrelated to the question they’re posted on or even the site’s purpose altogether (e.g. face cream adverts etc.). That might “taint” the flag in some way.

I had the same question myself a few years ago after flagging a similar answer and seeing the flag declined.

  • 5
    I don't think the bio is sufficient. The answer itself should do so, otherwise the bio is just yet another place for advertisement.
    – muru
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 1:31
  • @muru but still not a spam flag. Spam flags do a lot of damage to the offending user and are only for spammers. This user seems to have answered in good faith.
    – jkd
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 1:55
  • @jakekimdsΨ this user, yes. I have also seen users who did go about post their tool to a bunch of related questions, without disclosing affiliation in the post. Since this user just posted two answers, I posted a comment asking to disclose affiliation. If they hadn't responded by editing it in, I'd have flagged spam.
    – muru
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 1:57

Is there any way to communicate with the moderator about this?

As a recently-elected moderator, let me say that I appreciate your concern for keeping the site clean and in trying to understand the rules/guidelines for it! I will echo what not-yet moderator Stephen said that the site's main chat room, currently named /dev/chat, is a decent place to catch one of the moderators, and that posting here on Meta is also an excellent idea -- primarily because it's easier to search & find -- but that you could also raise a custom flag on the post to say that it is "in need of moderator intervention".

If you think the moderator simply mis-clicked or mis-understood a very clear situation, I would point you towards the custom flag, since that's a simple, direct solution to the problem. If the moderator who picks up that second flag is paying attention -- this time -- then hopefully they'll make the "right" decision, or at least hand it off to a different moderator for a second opinion. If the post is clearly spam, then that moderator can take care of it with a single spam flag. Note that this is best in situations where the case is clear; flag comments & responses are limited in length.

For most other situations, I would encourage a Meta post to air out the misunderstandings. That helps the moderators, you, and future users all understand what the current guidelines are.

Third-best all around would be the chat room, IMHO. I do my best to keep up with it, but it can get busy, and even a chat-ping there could get drowned out by other site notifications.

  • 1
    Note, though, that it's very difficult to have a two-way conversation with moderators through text snippets attached to flags.
    – Kusalananda Mod
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 14:38
  • Excellent point; I had that thought but it didn't escape my fingers. Editing it in.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 14:38

I'd say there are several additional factors which one should weigh when considering flagging something as spam:

  • relation to topic of the site and the question asked. If the post contains information with no relation to the topic of the site, it's 100% spam. If the OP asks about / foo and the post is about / bar, I would assume a honest mistake and downvote or flag as NAA instead, unless / bar is clearly some kind of snake oil, like a RAM booster or bloatware. If the answer is spot on / foo, there's no problem.

  • frequency of posts. A single answer about / foo suggesting a commercial solution is of no concern, or even several such answers to currently active questions. On the other hand, a user who keeps bumping old questions about / foo suggesting the same tool in every case is definitively a spammy behaviour, even if every single answer is fine by itself. Similarly, is the user posts a question which they then self-answer with a promotional material, it's clearly an abusive behaviour, especially if repeated.

  • overall content provided by the user. If the user who wrote a problematic post is only ever writing about / foo, I would be more inclined to flag their content as spam. In case they have made useful contributions to the site besides / foo, I would certainly consider expressing my concerns in comments before flagging.

The commercial nature of posts and the failure to disclose affiliation are important factors indeed, but they aren't in themselves necessary or sufficient. For example, a user who repeatedly promotes their personal blog or a Github project may be just as problematic, even if they disclose their affiliation.

In the end, bear in mind that an accepted spam flag has heavy consequences for the concerned user, so make sure you don't issue this flag lightly and don't expect mods to accept it without strong evidence.

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