When going through the moderator queues, I come across posts that one (or more) of our community members have flagged as spam.

Our community doesn't get a lot of spam, but when we do, it's usually rather obvious.

Occasionally, though, someone will flag a post as spam that isn't obviously spam. The flagger likely had a good reason for flagging as spam, but that reason is not conveyed.

It sometimes takes me 10+ minutes to determine if such posts are really spam. I believe in deleting as little community-created content as possible, so I work hard to make sure that only real spam gets deleted from our site.

Is there anything we can do so community members can add more details as to why they are flagging a specific post as spam?

  • This was declined several years ago on MSE: meta.stackexchange.com/q/251565/336163 Commented Jun 10, 2020 at 10:16
  • 5
    For the record, we in Charcoal run a (volunteer-operated, i.e. unrelated to any official Stack Exchange efforts) spam collection and annotation effort. Any post which is reported to our metasmoke system can be annotated by users who have an account there. We encourage anyone and everyone to feed the system with spam posts, and even non-spam posts which are relevant for whatever reason (i.e. good example of false positives which should not be flagged as spam).
    – tripleee
    Commented Jun 10, 2020 at 10:19
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    And here are recent reported posts from Software Recommendations.
    – tripleee
    Commented Jun 10, 2020 at 10:21
  • @tripleee I've noticed that when the reports come from Charcoal, they often include the helpful annotations you mention. Commented Jun 10, 2020 at 11:32
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    Thanks. It should also work the other way around; feeding a report into metasmoke or asking informally in the Charcoal chat room could get you additional feedback and opinions.
    – tripleee
    Commented Jun 10, 2020 at 11:34

2 Answers 2


Is there anything we can do so community members can add more details as to why they are flagging a specific post as spam?

They can/should be using custom moderator flags if it's not obvious the post is spam. However, since the custom flag option says "A problem not listed above that requires action by a moderator." it's understandable users choose the spam flag instead. (And there's even a flag decline reason for using standard flags.)

The problem is: what is obvious? I remember a case where I got a declined spam flag for a short post promoting LongPathTool, which is known malware and has a pretty bad spam record on the Stack Exchange network. I must have flagged dozens of those posts in my early years at Charcoal. However, it was handled by a new moderator who simply didn't know about this tool.

I guess you could mark the flag as helpful with a custom response, but since those are usually not read (there's no inbox for them), and flagging the post as spam yourself automatically marks the user's flag as helpful, that's not a good option.

It's abusing comments a bit, but you could leave a comment on one of their old posts asking to use custom flags in the future.

  • The catch there on comments is a lot of people like autoflaggers have no posts to comment on.
    – Machavity
    Commented Jun 10, 2020 at 13:26

Yeah, flagging on the *Recs.SE sites is harder in general because some of the usual spam indicators don't hold up.The largest problem with red flags is that, due to their inherent penalty, they tend to have a much sharper drop-off in where people draw that threshold. It's worse on this and other sites, where there has to be a higher tolerance for fishy links. Wordpress.SE has the same problem.

Most of us who flag have learned over time to run with custom flags when it's not clear why it's spam (especially if they're spamming multiple SE sites and we need to link to a Charcoal report to connect the dots). I find a higher degree of success with custom flags, and most mods have expressed a preference for them. The trade-off is that they are slower and they don't always get the desired result. Conversely, Charcoal has a handy tool to look at reports and issue a red flag via the API right there.

If I were to ask for something, I'd love to see there be a comment section for red flags. Not optimistic that will happen anytime soon (there's more frustrating things I'd love to see fixed), but having discussions like this helps in the long run.

  • Like you mention, I personally prefer custom flags in many situations (especially spam flags). The more info presented to help make a good decision, the better. As a bonus, it helps add to the community's human "feel" instead of a hollow mechanical feel. Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 5:57

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