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Is it possible to do something about spam attacks and hateful questions repeatedly being posted on christianity.stackexchange? For the past couple of days, it seems some users (or is it the same user?) create accounts just to post spam questions. (Case in point: user2463383)

Way in which it is currently dealt is effective if we have a very large user base and more moderators like stackoverflow but not for small user-base like ours.

Also, how can non-moderators deal with it? If someone has a edit privilege and if a question is full of derogatory words, can we edit and blank it until a moderator takes note of it? Or is there any guidelines to be followed to do that? I am asking this because if a new user sees the site for the first time and it looks like this, I am sure he will be offended and will never comeback:

christianity.stackexchange spam

  • Blocking is one solution, but he/she is going to create a new account and repeat this behavior. Is it possible to auto flag questions with derogatory terms, or repeated phrases etc., to be automatically disallowed or hidden until a moderator approves it?
  • A new user can be allowed to post only a limited number of questions, until his previous questions are reviewed.
  • If you have any other suggestions please share them so that moderators can do something about it. Please keep in mind that this should not be an intrusion/discouragement for new users from posting question and/or answering them.
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As a user the thing to do is to flag as spam/offensive ASAP, then try to get some eyeballs on it. We have a pretty active community that has successfully cleaned up many instances of this sort of thing on its own without waiting for a moderator. All it takes is a few offensive flags and things get nuked automatically.

  • If the there are folks in the The Upper Room or other chat rooms you are in (even on other sites) feel free to bring it to their attention. The sooner a couple people flag the sooner the posts go away and (and the account gets auto-blocked).

  • You might check to see if anybody is active in The Assembly. That and other SE wide chat rooms are a good place to find a few folks capable of spam flagging.

  • For the immediate future with this particular pesky user, you can comment on this post. Inbox notices for comments on this are currently routed to my phone and reach me quicker than seeing spam flags, which I actually have to open the site to see.

This case is a persistent spammer that is hitting up the whole SE network (their beef actually started on other sites and has spread. Unfortunately blocking is not as easy an option as it sounds. This is a hard technical problem and already a huge number of solutions are in place that make this sort of thing hard for spammers, but making it impossible is, well, next to impossible.

If you have 2k+ rep you could edit out offensive material pending flag validation, but if you do please get the ball rolling on flags first. If you do edit make sure you clearly note that the post had offensive content only and should be offensive flagged by anybody who reads it. Please do not edit offensive posts. There are many reasons not to edit. One important one is that you invalidate existing offensive flags which are the main thing you need to be collecting. There are lots of other pragmatic reasons why edited posts make moderation harder and hold up the most important thing, so please hold off. The fastest way to deal with the problem is actually to leave the offensive content in place and get user eyeballs on it so that they are properly incensed and hit that flag link.

By the same token, downvoting spam of this nature is actually not a very good idea. Posts that get a couple downvotes are removed from the home page. This greatly reduces the number of users that will see them first thing. It takes 1 more spam flag to nuke a post than it does downvotes to remove it from the home page, so downvoting will actually tend to slow down the process of collecting the necessary spam flags.

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    Do not edit spam/offensive posts!!! See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/110030/… – John Dvorak Sep 29 '13 at 12:33
  • Do bear in mind that a spam or offensive flag automatically casts a -1 vote. It's possible to cast another -1 vote manually as well. Once a post reaches -4 it's removed from the front page (it remains in the Active list) and I think it's at -7 it's nuked altogether. – Andrew Leach Sep 29 '13 at 13:27
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    @AndrewLeach 6 spam/offensive flags nukes a post. No amount of downvoting will delete automatically. Casting a manual vote in addition to the auto one will speed the process of getting it off the home page but it will slow the process of getting spam flags. – Caleb Sep 29 '13 at 13:29
  • I think it is not "a couple" but four down votes before it gets removed from the main page, as reported to me by a Rev Caleb. – Wikis Sep 29 '13 at 19:28
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    @Wikis I learned after writing this that the current requirement is six. Which is more like a "few". But it's a sum we've hit a number of times today. – Caleb Sep 29 '13 at 19:35
  • RE: Downvoting spam or flagging downvoted posts. Is there any mechanism for user-cumulative flagging? I understand not editing, but all the data is there, isn't it just up to SE to put the right triggers in place? – Peter Turner Sep 30 '13 at 13:59
  • @PeterTurner Something along those lines is already in space. For example our friend the other day collected himself enough flags to post ban him even before I did the honors and made it official. Moral of the story. Moral of the story: it pays to flag all instances of erroneous material. – Caleb Sep 30 '13 at 14:26
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    @PeterTurner: Without going into any details, we are working on a system that takes clues from users and moderators to block malicious users from creating new accounts to get around suspensions and deletions. This is a very high priority for Stack Exchange, but it takes time to do it right. The trick (as always) is to block spam/offensive posts without accidentally preventing legitimate users from participating. In any case, keep flagging spam aggressively. – Jon Ericson Oct 1 '13 at 16:48
  • Regarding the fact that editing offensive posts is a poor practice. I have perceived a few times where a post raises a fascinating topic, but in a clunky, non-SE format, and is quickly closed. Then I later I see a Senior User has made an Answer, yet it's still/again closed. Is it likely the Senior User edited just to get their two cents in? – pterandon Oct 2 '13 at 10:19
  • @pterandon I don't see what this has to do with editing or offensive content, but here are a couple clarifications: "fascinating topic" is not a metric we use in evaluating questions. this isn't a round table discussion forum. Answerability is what is important including the scope, research, clarity, etc. There are no such things as "Senior User" privileges when it comes to answering. Even moderators cannot answer questions that are closed and "editing" will not change the owner of a post. If you don't understand what happened in a particular case, feel free to post a specific meta question. – Caleb Oct 2 '13 at 11:02
  • Correct. As I said, fascinating topics may not be SE-quality in wording. But are privileged users able to edit a bad but interesting Question to get their own Answer in? I believe I've seen that. Am I correct? – pterandon Oct 2 '13 at 14:09
  • @pterandon That's not really how things work. There is no function to "get an answer in", even for moderators. We all play by the same rules. The only way to be able to answer a question is for that question to be open. Anybody (regardless of privilege level) is welcome to edit poor questions that have been closed in the interest of improving them. If they succeed and the community agrees that the question is up to par, they can vote to re-open it. If enough people agree and vote, the question will open again and everybody (again regardless of privilege level) is free to answer it. – Caleb Oct 2 '13 at 14:15
  • What I perceived was: See it closed. Day or so later, see it closed and with a privileged user's answer in it. Will speak up if I see this again. – pterandon Oct 2 '13 at 14:26
  • @pterandon I'm telling you there is not nor ever has been a "privileged users" function in this regard. Closed questions cannot be answered by anybody. Open ones can be answered by anybody. In a few rare cases questions will get edited after being opened and subsequently closed again, but as people who have previously voted to open or closed are restricted from doing so in subsequent cycles, it is unlikely that this would factor into abuse. Check the timeline on the question you have in mind, it will show exactly how the sequence went including who opened, who closed and who answered when. – Caleb Oct 2 '13 at 14:34
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To be sure, I've been doing exactly what Caleb suggests:

  1. Flag it ASAP!
  2. Change the title / material to something on the order of "Please help me flag this offensive spam"

    Note: I really dislike the language he uses, and don't want it on my home page at all! Despite a comment from @JanDvorak to the contrary, I think it actually is worthwhile to clean up the mess. The edit history preserves it, and by saying 'Please help me flag' it gets flagged and nuked.

  3. Pray and Move on.

This troll is a troll. As a child of God, he's worth precisely the amount of time to do the above.

Nothing more.

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    Do not edit spam/offensive posts!!! See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/110030/… – John Dvorak Sep 29 '13 at 12:33
  • See Simon Sheehan's answer at that link. Flags following an edit can be invalidated. – Andrew Leach Sep 29 '13 at 13:25
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    Please don't edit. I was wrong (see above). Besides other reasons listed, even as a moderator cleaning up after that junk is harder (and takes 2-3x longer) when the posts are edited, and its harder to find. It also screws with the previous flags (offensive flags seem to be reset on edit and the main thing you need to shoot for is 6 flags so you're shooting yourself in the foot editing). As if that wasn't enough, it makes it hard to tune the auto-block stuff when search doesn't get you the goods. – Caleb Sep 29 '13 at 13:25
  • Today I learned that downvoting answers on meta sites doesn't carry a reputation penalty (except on meta.so) – John Dvorak Sep 29 '13 at 13:45
  • Ok, won't edit! Sorry! – Affable Geek Sep 29 '13 at 15:45

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