We've had an upswing of spam recently (hopefully short-lived), and I've noticed a few users editing spam posts to remove links.

This has traditionally been considered a wrong approach on Ask Ubuntu.

Does that recommendation still hold? Do we flag spam, but not edit it? Or has something changed?

When I see a post that looks like spam but has been edited, I always look at the edit history to make sure that:

  1. It was really spam.
  2. (As a sub-case of 1) It's not a legitimate, valuable post that was then edited, making it spam. (Such edits are frequently submitted, and on rare occasion make it through review.)
  3. There isn't anything special going on that warrants an additional custom flag to a moderator.

When spam has been edited, the benefit is that links are less likely to be clicked by accident, and theoretically might be less likely to get indexed for search engines (but really, they're unlikely to either way, as each individual spam post is likely to be handled very quickly).

The disadvantage is that, whenever a spam post is edited, I feel obligated to click through to the edit history to check to make sure it's not one of the three reasons above, before flagging it. I suspect (hope) that everyone else feels obligated to do that, too. This makes handling spam harder and more time consuming, and makes it take longer to deal with it, increasing the benefit of spamming to spammers.

So it seems to me that we should continue just flagging (and if we wish, downvoting) spam posts, but not edit them.

Is that correct? Or should should I edit spam, at the time I flag it? If spam should be edited, is that because something in our spam-handling situation has changed since that post? Or for some other reason?

Please note that this is not about the question of whether or not moderators should edit spam after it is deleted, to affect what 10k users see. While I think that should usually not be done (and is usually not done), that's not what I'm asking about here.

Related: MPD♦'s answer to spam attack…is there anything else that the community can do to help the moderators?

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Links on AU have rel="nofollow", so the search engine indexing isn't a problem. –  Jorge Castro Jan 26 '13 at 0:59
    
Doesn't hurt to remove the links does it? I mean we don't want anyone clicking on them, virus or no virus... –  Seth Jan 26 '13 at 2:09
    
@Seth As I explained in my question, I think it does hurt to remove them. (If spam posts couldn't themselves be deleted, then removing them would make sense.) Of course, we might decide the benefits outweigh the disadvantages... –  Eliah Kagan Jan 26 '13 at 2:10
    
I actually don't see any disadvantages, but I will stop if you'd rather. Though I guess most people will know not to click on them. –  Seth Jan 26 '13 at 2:22
    
@Seth If you don't see where I argued there are disadvantages in my question: The disadvantage is that, when a post that has been edited appears to be spam, it becomes important to check its editing history before flagging it as spam. That increases the time, or at least the effort, required to handle spam. (I've edited my question to add a link supporting my claim that checking revision histories before spam-flagging is the right thing to do.) On the other hand, if what you mean by "I don't see any disadvantages" is that you know what I mean but disagree, I recommend posting an answer! –  Eliah Kagan Jan 26 '13 at 2:33

2 Answers 2

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Hammer it with flags.

The community will auto-nuke it if it gets enough.

Or a real mod will see it and they can do fun stuff, like banning the user.

If you want to edit it, you can, but don't do that at the cost of waiting to flag.

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Unless the link is something immediately harmful (But this being linux, one has less need to worry about malware - so maybe a shock site), there's little advantage to edits. New user links do not get picked up by search engines, and leaving the post as it lets a mod decide based on what is there whether its worth nuking or not.

You may also consider directed downvoting/voting to delete if its an answer (3 downvotes unlocks the deletion option IIRC), which should help get rid of it even without mod. Its 20K plus only and needs at least one downvote according to the MSO FAQ. If you happen to highlight such a question and there happens to be a 20Ker or three around... Well, yeah, take it out back and put the spam out of your misery

I think a good rule of thumb is "Would this edit be accepted if I was a anonymous sub 2K user?" Editing spam dosen't really add anything to the site.

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I've seen it on SU, but not here (for obvious reasons), so I guess so. –  Journeyman Geek Jan 26 '13 at 2:08
    
@EliahKagan Voting to delete negative score answer is a 20k+ privilege. –  jokerdino Jan 26 '13 at 2:56
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yeah, its 20K, -1. Added the deletion FAQ as a link to my answer. –  Journeyman Geek Jan 26 '13 at 5:51

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