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We have had several answers flagged as spam recently:

  1. https://pm.stackexchange.com/a/26530
  2. https://pm.stackexchange.com/a/26531

The answers were trimmed by the author after they were flagged, removing the spammy links and content, but the links are still present in the edits, which is (potentially) an SEO-targeting hack.

On the other hand, while the trimmed answers seem low-quality to me, the remaining text isn't really spam. I'm a little torn on how to handle these.

Is this deliberate spam with the goal of keeping the links in the edit history for SEO, or are these simply low-quality answers? As a policy matter, I don't take moderator actions against wrong or incomplete answers (that's what votes are for), but I do try to keep "broken windows" to a minimum.

I'd like to hear from the community about whether the answers seem like deliberate spam or not. Either way, I think the answers merit some sort of community or moderator intervention, but there seems like some gray area on this one.

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    Two moderators working together can redact the version which contains the spammy links, which will completely remove that version from the system. That said, in general, spam should not be edited to remove the spam links/contact information. Doing so often results in it taking longer for the spam to be properly handled (i.e. deleted via spam flags or by a moderator). In some rare cases doing so can result in the spammer getting some reputation, which makes detecting the spam harder, making it easier for the spammer to have future spam visible for longer periods. – Makyen Jun 3 at 19:35
  • However, the OP editing the post to remove the spammy links can indicate the user didn't intend for the post to be an advertisement. At that point, it should be a judgement call as to if you, and/or the community, feel the post is providing benefit to the site. If I'm familiar with a site and think the OP may not understand SE's policies on promotion, then I'd leave a comment linking to What signifies "Good" self promotion?, some tips and advice about self-promotion, and What makes something spam. – Makyen Jun 3 at 19:35
  • @Makyen Yes, redaction is an option, but it's got problems too. Thank you for pointing that out. – Todd A. Jacobs Jun 3 at 19:49
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Deleted, Not Flagged

I eventually opted to delete the answers without flagging them as spam. I did this because:

  1. They were low quality, but not necessarily spam.
  2. The links in the edit history would have continued to feed SEO in the event that they were spam.
  3. Deleting the questions without flagging as spam seems less likely to result in punitive action by the system, e.g. question bans.

As discussed in the OP and comments, this could have gone either way. The community should continue to keep their eyes out for this particular type of link/edit behavior, but in this case I opted to assume good intentions from a new user.

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    So, for those of us without a diamond, what do we do - flag it as low quality? – Sarov Jun 10 at 18:04
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    @Sarov I think this was tricky because I wasn't 100% sure it was spam. If you think it's spam, flag it as spammy. If you think it's not-quite spam, but a "broken window" then I'd vote to delete. I wish I could give you a better all-around answer, but this was an odd use case. – Todd A. Jacobs Jun 10 at 18:07
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Just saw this post now.

It was indeed a not so common case and i didn't really know how to proceed once saw the first post while doing reviews.

This lead me to investigate the user, trying to understand the relationship between the user and the firm being mentioned and / or anything that would be odd. Couldn't find anything, there wasn't much to go on as well.

Then, noticed around the same period of time the user wrote two very similar answers referencing a firm, including link. This was an alert to me and could have been interpreted in different ways. Some examples

. The user just learned something new and tried to fit that knowledge using similar answers in similar questions, to increase faster the repo. In this case, the reference to the firm wasn't still making sense why and the quality of the answers were also very low (forced into it).

. The user edited the question to remove the link and hide the firm reference. Coming from a very new user (not much to lose) it could indeed be trying out new ways of SPAM. Worst case scenario creates another email and tries something new / again.

. The user just doesn't know and should learn how to proceed in the community. Didn't think this was one of those cases.

...

In the end, a decision was made and from all the possible paths the flag as SPAM was what i thought to be the most appropriate.

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