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I just came across a spam answer which is extremely vulgar (sexual). I flagged it for moderator attention, and then it occurred to me that I could edit it and erase its contents by blanking it till a moderator gets to look at it. Is this an acceptable thing to do?

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    $\begingroup$ For Stack Exchange, the directive is: no, you shouldn't edit spam or rude/abusive content on which you would raise either of those flags. Please see answer to: "Should spam posts be edited?" $\endgroup$
    – Makyen
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 6:10
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    $\begingroup$ OTOH, what you can do is report the post to SmokeDetector in Charcoal HQ. The people in that room can help with reporting it to the bot, if the bot hasn't already detected it. Reporting it to the bot should get extra eyes and flags on the post, which should result in the post being removed substantially faster. $\endgroup$
    – Makyen
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 6:13
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    $\begingroup$ Both comments above should be answers. ;) $\endgroup$
    – Pedro Mod
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 8:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Makyen is a representative of Charcoal, as am I; it would be preferable if a community member on this site provided the actual answer. We don't want to give the impression that we are dictating policy without actually participating on the site. $\endgroup$
    – tripleee
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 9:01
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson If the offensive content is "obliterated", then other users may not appropriately flag it as spam or as offensive. The best thing to do is to flag it and move on. Spam and offensive get deleted through flagging, and the post itself replaced with a warning about the offensive content (for those that can see deleted content. Do not edit a vulgar, trolling, or spam message to remove the content which will let others act correctly. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 13:46
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson But a small number of spam flags will also delete a post, and it often happens that the spam flags arrive faster than a moderator. Please, do not edit spam / vulgar posts to remove the spam / vulgarity. Raise a flag, and trust that the community, automatic systems, and/or moderators will get the job done. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 22:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Xander, OK, how about this: if I see a vulgar post, I edit out the vulgarity, raise a spam flag, and edit in something along the lines of, "I have edited out vulgarity; please, if you have the necessary privilege, raise a spam flag." That should keep the flags coming, while sparing other users the sight of the vulgarity. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson Just raise a flag and move on. Please. The automated systems work best if we let them do their jobs. Flag it as spam, or flag it as abusive, and move on. I do not know how I can be more clear about this. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 0:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Xander, it's clear what you want users to do. It's not clear to me how this is better than what I propose. How does my proposal interfere with any automated system? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 0:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Gerry For starters, if I see such a post after the kind of edit you propose, I'd check the edit history before doing anything first. That's less straight forward than seeing a spam post and flagging it, and I'd see whatever vulgar content you've edited out anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Elliot Yu
    Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 3:29
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    $\begingroup$ Moderators cannot get there faster than an automated system which responds to the first flag. Not only does flag-based deletion actually obliterate the text of the post, mark it as "spam or rude or abusive" permanently, and penalize the user that posted it, it feeds a large amount of information into various systems that help prevent more of it happening. You deleting the text, replacing it with something else, doing anything to the body of the post, interferes with that. 1/2 ... $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 6:13
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    $\begingroup$ ... 2/2 You might think you are being helpful in this situation by manually editing spam/rudabus posts - but this is false! You are creating more work, and more difficulty, overall. Please, just flag and move on, as Xander said. $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 6:14
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    $\begingroup$ Please, you're not a rebel fighting the power, you're a volunteer on a knowledge-sharing website. If you care about supporting the goals here, use the system here. If you want to do whatever you like, there are better places to be worse at working with the team. $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 18:31
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson Please let me know which situation you believe is preferable: (1) Normal users use the flags which exist in order to indicate that material posted on the website is offensive or inappropriate. Because the flags are used, the system learns to better identify such content and can, over time, remove that content more quickly using automated tools. (2) Normal users simply edit out offensive content, which might remove a particular example of such content more quickly, but which ultimately denies the automatic systems of the training they require in order to function better. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 23:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Snaw (1) You may not be aware of this, but there are a lot of trolls who have found very efficient ways to quickly earn enough reputation to gain basic privileges (such as flagging), and use that to troll the site. It is generally best not to give one person the power to make unilateral decisions. (2) You assume that such abuses would be noticed. Suppose that a user decides to delete a bunch of 5 year old answers---it is very likely that they could do so without anyone noticing. A troll might very easily cause a lot of damage without anyone noting it. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 0:07

2 Answers 2

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From the comments: No. Instead, flag it as rude or abusive and move on.

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Rude/abuse/spam deletions are causing -100 rep loss to the OP and the post content is defaced. People having access to the deleted content (OP + mods + 10k+ users) can still see it, but even they need an extra click to see its edit history.

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These deletions can be caused by at least 6 spam/rude/abusive flags, and possibly also by mod. The deletion will happen as if it had been done by the community bot. Mods get notified and they decide, what to do to the perpetrator. The most likely consequence is either suspension, or account destruction (if it is a low-rep spammer).

Defacing the post would remove evidence. Vote down, flag and wait. If you get back your lost rep, you know that it is done. Normally it happens quickly.

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    $\begingroup$ "Defacing the post would remove evidence." Is that right? Deleting the offensive material would cause it to take some extra clicks to see the evidence, but the evidence would still be there, wouldn't it? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 8:51
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson Mods are enough smart to check also the edit history, but anybody can flag from 15 rep, and they might be not. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 9:47
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. That's why I suggested, in one of the comments some days ago, that a user flagging and deleting offensive content would also leave a note to the effect that offensive content had been edited out and that other users could see the edit history if they cared to. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 10:02
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    $\begingroup$ But comments are not reliable; they too can be deleted at somebody's whim. $\endgroup$
    – tripleee
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 11:13
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    $\begingroup$ @trip, I think you misunderstand me. On 10 Feb, at 22:59, I posted the following in a comment on this page: "if I see a vulgar post, I edit out the vulgarity, raise a spam flag, and edit in something along the lines of, "I have edited out vulgarity; please, if you have the necessary privilege, raise a spam flag." That should keep the flags coming, while sparing other users the sight of the vulgarity." Anyway, there aren't that many actors authorized to delete comments, and who would delete a useful comment? I really don't see what you're getting at. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ And if you intend a comment for me, @trip, please use the at-sign notification technique, as I have done here. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 12:51
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson Many people have given you a lot of good reasons why it is best to let the automatic systems do their job. If you want to continue to insist that you know better, do what you like. The fact is, however, that if you choose to edit vulgar posts (rather than just flag and move on), you increase the likelihood that a post will be mishandled. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 12:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Xander, yes, people have given me good reasons. Other people have given me bad reasons, or no reasons at all. I was happy to let things be, until peterh posted what I consider to be a misleading answer, which tripleee compounded by failing to understand my proposal. I'm happy to accept the good reasons, but not to let the bad ones just slide by. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson Here opinions are imho different. If I would see a vulgar post with also long-lasting content, I would edit it out (and then I would vote the current version of the post). Many people, particularly on the SO, thinks that anything interpreted even a little bit vulgary should deserve close-down-del, -100 rep and suspension. Possibly they would also shot the perpetrator in the head. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ Your comment seems inconsistent, peterh, with your answer, "Defacing the post would remove evidence. Vote down, flag and wait." $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson If the content is an useful post, then just editing out the bad part is obviously much better. I think it is pretty rational. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ Most of the other people taking part in this discussion disagree with you, peterh, and they have presented some pretty good reasons for not "editing out the bad part" before flagging. Or are you suggesting not flagging at all, when someone posts truly offensive matter? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 22:00
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson 1) Vulgar content with insult: I edit out the vulgar part. I do not cast flag (but possible others already did it at the time - and, if the 6 flag for the -100 did not happen, then a mod will see it soon). If the content, after the edit, becomes upvote-deserving, then I also vote it up. 2) If it is just vulgar or spam --> down + flag. | This is what I do, I remove what is not okay and leave what is. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 22:36

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