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There is currently an absolutely ridiculous influx of spam user profiles: almost the entire "recent badges" section in the right-hand column of the main page is full of Autobiographer badges for new users with somewhat unusual, but no entirely impossible, names like "Bradshaw Campos" or "Skovbjerg Sanchez", which on closer inspection turn out to all be spammers (many of them for the same target). What can we as a community do to avoid being completely swamped by these spammers? Can we and/or should we appeal to SE staff to mass-remove users with obvious spam links in their profiles?

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  • $\begingroup$ Do they only have spam links in their profiles or do they post links in posts as well? $\endgroup$
    – Mast
    Apr 13 at 16:39
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    $\begingroup$ So far only in their profiles, but they are everywhere. If this isn't stopped somehow, there will soon be more spam users than real users. $\endgroup$
    – gmvh
    Apr 13 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ Yea, after some poking around I can see a growing problem. Random examples here and here. These accounts can be destroyed on sight without anything of value getting lost. $\endgroup$
    – Mast
    Apr 13 at 16:59
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    $\begingroup$ A previous related post: Ability to flag user accounts as spam. It contains links to some other discussions related to the issue. $\endgroup$ Apr 14 at 3:56
  • $\begingroup$ I will add that it is possible to search among user for usernames containing certain string. As an example, I will add dental - you can see there both accounts which are clearly legitimate user names (such as Transcendental) and usernames which seem to be created with the intention to advertise some facility which provides dental care. Of course, you can replace this string by some other word you'd expect to be used by spammers. $\endgroup$ Apr 14 at 4:27
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    $\begingroup$ Clearly there is a problem with the anti-bot software. $\endgroup$ Apr 14 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for raising this - I had been planning to ask a meta question along these lines. $\endgroup$ Apr 16 at 20:24
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Unless the accounts start posting there's nothing to worry about. It's spam, yes, but low impact spam whose purpose (search engine optimization) is blocked wholesale by the SE software.

The general directive to moderators is to not worry about these. If this actually poses a problem then presumably a Community Manager (i.e. SE employee) should be able to easily destroy them in bulk.

But until then, it's just a nuisance that you can ignore.

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    $\begingroup$ It may be that this spam is not terribly impactful in term of achieving its purpose, but there are currently over a hundred such users being created per hour! $\endgroup$
    – gmvh
    Apr 13 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, I understand, it's crazy. This is something that is happening on several websites (you can see the accounts exist on multiple SE sites), it's well above the pay grade of the moderators here, and there is not a lot they can do. Since CMs are paying attention due to the election, they might be quick to respond. In any case, this is nothing to worry about at this point. And I say that as someone who usually worries about every single spammer account (on MSE). $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Apr 13 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ (Just for completeness, I sent an emails to the MO team a few hours ago on this topic.) $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Apr 13 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ Saying that it is fully blocked is a bit overstatement. It is true that the links are rendered as plaintext. Google still might find the text contained there. It would be nice if SE implemented some of the suggestions given here: Spam Profiles are getting my goat. Could we have better tools for mods to deal with profile spam? (Hiding profiles of such users or at least preventing them from being indexed.) $\endgroup$ Apr 14 at 4:00
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    $\begingroup$ This problem lately seems to affect MO and four other StackExchange sites (Stack Overflow, Server Fault, Super User, and Ask Ubuntu). What seems to be a particular problem for MO is that these spam users show up on the main page under Recent Badges; I for one don't see Recent Badges on any other SE site. And while I don't lose sleep over it, it is a nuisance, and I dislike the idea of such users getting free advertising on MO. $\endgroup$ Apr 14 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ By the way, congratulations Asaf! Hope you're enjoying your new role. $\endgroup$ Apr 14 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ @shane.orourke: That is because MO traded the Hot Network Questions for Recent Badges many years ago, other sites don't have that on display anymore, which is why it is "less obvious" there. And I can assure you that literally the first thing I did with my diamond powers was look into that and notify some higher-ups of this issue. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Apr 14 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Asaf That's interesting history I wasn't aware of - and thanks for pursuing this. $\endgroup$ Apr 14 at 19:40
  • $\begingroup$ @shane.orourke A post on Meta Stack Exchange related to your observation: Which sites show recent badges on the frontpage? $\endgroup$ Apr 14 at 20:54
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    $\begingroup$ Could we ask that "Recent Badges" no longer be shown on the front page? Every one I see at the moment is spam Autobiographer. $\endgroup$ Apr 15 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ If I understood the discussion correctly, most of the concerns are due to the fact that the spam users show up on "recent badges" page. This was surprising for me because I have been a regular user of the SE network for over five years and I have never seen or noticed such page! Just sayin... $\endgroup$
    – polfosol
    Apr 15 at 20:10
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    $\begingroup$ As I found out at the question Martin linked, the network-wide site software uses Recent Badges as literal filler if the HNQ list is disabled. I strongly support just turning the it off. There are only a tiny handful of sites without HNQ (and so have recent badges filler), and I doubt anyone would miss the list. $\endgroup$ Apr 16 at 2:28
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    $\begingroup$ @theHigherGeometer: I'd actually miss it, although not in its current form, obviously, full of spambots. But I did already float the idea up. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Apr 16 at 10:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Martin: SE offered to just filter out the Autobiographer badge from that list, which is also a good solution. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Apr 16 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila Now there is a feature request about the suggestion mentioned in your most recent comment: FIltering out the Autobiographer badge from “Recent Badges” $\endgroup$ Apr 16 at 16:08

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