This isn’t a question as such, but a public service announcement.

From time to time, and sometimes in waves like the current spam campaigns, the main site gets posts (both questions and answers) which are obviously spam — they are blatant attempts to get visitors to go to a site the spammer presumably cares about, or more recently, call a phone number. Most of the time these posts are quickly removed, but I have noticed some instances of well-meaning users commenting on the posts or voting to close them.

What should be done about such posts?

1 Answer 1


There is only one correct way of dealing with spam on SE, and that is to flag the post as spam, and only that (in particular, do not downvote it):

Flagging a post as spam

Flagging a post in this manner doesn’t necessarily end up adding work for the site’s moderators: once six such flags are raised, the post will automatically be deleted.

Every single spam flag also results in a downvote (and in the case of answers, this doesn’t cost the flagger any reputation). Additional downvotes are not helpful, in fact they can help spam survive longer by removing it from the front page.

Additionally, if you see a spam post that hasn’t been deleted some time after it was posted (say, ten minutes), that means it hasn’t been detected by SmokeDetector. Such posts should be reported to Charcoal HQ, ideally before they are deleted; doing so allows the people involved with Charcoal to adapt the detections such that future instances of similar spam are detected and reported, which tends to result in the spam more rapidly accumulating spam flags and, thus, being deleted faster.

All this is but a small part of Stack Exchange’s spam handling; see How does spam protection work on Stack Exchange?

  • 10
    Brilliant, thanks for posting this!
    – terdon Mod
    Mar 8 at 10:57
  • 4
    "in particular, do not downvote it" -- and this part is hilariously stupid, which of course is par for the course for SE. Downvoting to remove the spam from sight sounds like something one might relatively naturally want to do.
    – ilkkachu
    Mar 8 at 14:38
  • 3
    @ilkkachu the ultimate removal from sight is deletion, and that can take longer if spam is removed from sight without being deleted. Mar 8 at 14:41
  • 6
    @StephenKitt, yes. And if what is required for that is visibility on the front page, then spam flags should counter those downvotes to prevent them from hiding the spam. There's no sense in having a feature that obviously works to remove bad stuff (from sight) which then inversely should not be used for other bad stuff. The tools should be designed to make the job easier for the user.
    – ilkkachu
    Mar 8 at 14:44
  • 1
    Thanks for this, I misremembered that a way of dealing with spam was downvoting it. Monty python would be happy with this wave of spam 😆 Mar 8 at 15:28
  • 11
    "in particular, do not downvote it" SE's behaviour is particularly misleading because flagging spam marks a downvote... which is the most visible effect to most users. So without this meta-post it actually looks like everyone else is down-voting! Mar 9 at 10:32
  • 3
    Don't forget that if a post is flagged as spam, it goes into the VLQ review queue where reviewers will see it even if its negative score has removed it from the front page.
    – Chenmunka
    Mar 10 at 11:02

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