# Should we defuse spam messages when we spot one?

Earlier today I found two spam messages and of course flagged them. I know there are couple of mechanisms on SE that will take care of eventual removal of the posts. But until these mechanisms kick in, the spammer has visibility to users and search engines. Spamvertised links are being clicked and indexed which in turn brings them visitors.

I'm in doubt here. I defused both messages by removing the hyperlink from them so nobody can accidentally click on them, without hiding to anyone what is going on and why the message got such low rep.

But is defusing considered good practise? Should I leave hyperlinks to bad websites in posts? Or should I even take it a step further and not only remove links, but entirely change the post into a short explanation that is contained spam? The latter option makes me feel uncomfortable, because it I'm actually hiding things from others and maybe even make them curious and check historic revisions.

What is the SE way? What are your opinions?

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That is fine, generally if you delete the link it might make it less clear that it is spam to others, maybe replace it with

the auto remove should happen also if people flag as spam, but moderators will take care of it in the morning. When a site keeps spamming links SE informs them that their link will be blacklisted from existing anywhere on the sites if it continues, so they wont be able to post their link and no one else will, that generally does better then you might think.

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I question the efficacy of doing that. There are a million different ways to obfuscate the eventual target of a link, and domains for redirection are both very cheap, and in many cases returnable after a short time. Diffusing the link, or even auto-disabling/removing it on negatively valued posts would likely be the most effective counter measure. –  SplinterReality Dec 26 '12 at 5:38
@SplinterReality that decision has nothing to do with me and to my knowledge is quite effective at causing sites to stop. Crazy effective, I have no idea how you would go about stopping such a practice, but I also have no idea how to optimize a website, so I will leave it to those that do. –  Kortuk Dec 26 '12 at 5:50

As a general rule for Stack Exchange sites: Don't. See this topic on Meta SO and similar. To summarize some of the points I found:

• The spam remaining obviously spam helps it get flagged as spam which removes it.
• Edits may complicate manually checking whether the flags are legitimate or blacklisting recurring spam.
• Stack Exchange uses rel='nofollow' so that spam links do not affect search rankings, and spam is generally removed fast enough that it isn't very visible to crawlers anyway.
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"As nhinkle says, most links do not even need to be removed, unless there are linking to porn, viruses, or disturbing content." $\rightarrow$ Disagree as by far most users cannot distinguish a site with drive-by-mallware from another one. –  jippie Dec 31 '12 at 11:51
"Usually spam is easy to spot, and gets removed very fast. 6 spam flags deletes the post." $\rightarrow$ EE.SE is a relatively small community so it takes much longer before 6 users have flagged a message. –  jippie Dec 31 '12 at 11:52