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Introduce a spam reaction?

+4
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It just occurred to me that it would be nice to have a "spam" reaction feature, to mark a post as potentially harmful while waiting for moderators to delete it.

Benefits:

  • Prevent other users from thinking the post is legit and clicking on links posted.
  • Making it easier for other users to spot already detected spam to flag. In case for example we wish to use a consensus system where multiple spam flags by several users lead to auto-deletion.

My proposal is that the reaction should be in red color and simply say "Spam". The text in the reaction-picking dialog could say:

  • Spam. The post is self-promotional and/or abusive. Use this reaction in combination with the appropriate flag.

This can also be used on abusive posts that violate CoC or contain links to harmful or inappropriate content.

But I don't think the reaction should be named "spam or abuse", even though it can be used for both. Or otherwise people might start using it for various drama purposes.

The reaction should be available on all sites in the network.

Optionally, a "nice to have" feature would be if flagging the post as spam automatically adds the reaction to it. Perhaps it should even be the only way to add the reaction, to ensure that users flag and not use the reaction.

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3 comment threads

Avoiding redundant actions (1 comment)
Disabling links (6 comments)
Perhaps more explicitly dangerous? (1 comment)

3 answers

+0
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I don't think it should be called spam. Spam, in the strict sense, is large-volume, unwanted commercial advertisement. For example, if I go to every question tagged Python and reply "Click here to get 10% off my Python course" that would be proper spam. If I go to one question asking about the fastest database and recommend DynamoDB, that might be advertising, but I wouldn't call it spam - it's relevant and low volume.

For actual spam, it's probably best for full mods/admins to deal with it. Usually proper spam is not controversial, everybody can tell it's spam. And the best solution is to check the user's history and bulk delete the spam, not flag and review each post one by one.

Then there's spam in the informal sense which can mean a lot of things, like:

  • The post recommends a product
  • The post defends a company I don't like
  • The post has too much of a pro-consumerist attitude
  • The post is too low quality
  • The post is too short
  • I don't like the poster and I'm sick of seeing him

People are going to use it inconsistently because everybody has a different understanding of what "spam" is (unless you go by the strict sense).

I think for what you want, a better word might be "shill". If someone has reason to believe that a user is being disingenuous out of commercial interest, that seems useful to indicate, and a reaction/comment seems like the best way to do it. Then people can look at the argument and decide for themselves if they believe it.

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1 comment thread

I dispute that it's obvious to everyone. (3 comments)
+2
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I like this idea. I'm not worried about the potential for "drama" because disruptive users already have many other tools at their disposal (such as, say, posting), and in practice this kind of disruption is quite rare outside of spam - even on massive sites like Stack Overflow. (Even there, nonsense posts often turn out to have been intended as spam seeds.) Aside from that, reactions are not anonymous, by design, so marking a post this way involves having some skin in the game. As such, I think such a reaction should explicitly mention vandalism (a more precise term than "abuse").

Ideally, using such a reaction should also cast the corresponding flag automatically, rather than simply asking the user in the react tooltip. After all, there's no good reason not to flag the post. On the other hand, using such a reaction should probably require explicit confirmation to avoid mistakes.

One possible drawback of using reactions like this is that a new user might stumble upon a question reacted to as spam, before a moderator gets a chance to look at it, and wonder why the site has users who get to declare that something is spam but it doesn't actually get taken down. Ideally, the template text for a spam reaction should preempt that question. It could even say something like

Flagged as potentially spam or vandalism by [user list] (and possibly others)

It would be worthwhile for a reaction like this to take up the extra screen space compared to other reactions, actually.

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0 comment threads

+6
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I'm stealing an idea from trichoplax in the comments: Disable links on posts flagged as spam.

There's some potential for abuse here, too,[1] but I suspect it is somewhat unlikely. We can also add an ability based on, say, "5 approved flags and flag-approve-rate > 75%" that enables the automatic link suppression on posts they flag.

Trich's other suggestion is to out-right prevent new users from posting links until they earn an ability for it. I am less enthusiastic about that. A new user being unable to link to documentation or sources degrades post quality.


  1. Wherein someone with a business interest flags posts citing a competitor… ↩︎

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1 comment thread

Filed an issue to track this (1 comment)

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