Let's say I come across a post which solely says:


Obviously this person is doing a little home-row bashing, but how are we supposed to flag this? My first thought was spam, but I wasn't sure if that was purely for promotional type stuff. My second thought was very low quality, which would've worked, except by the time I had thought that far, the answer had been deleted. =)

Anyway, given a gibberish post, are we supposed to flag it as spam or very low quality (or even not an answer)?

Is the purpose of the spam flag just for promotional type material or for gibberish stuff as well?

A comment brought this to mind: would rude or abusive apply here? Or is that only for, uh, expletive-filled posts?


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    $\begingroup$ I'm partial to "rude or abusive" because it has a nuke quality to it. There really isn't any purpose to these posts, so VLQ, NAA, abusive, they all work, they're all correct. Shog seems to agree, too. $\endgroup$
    – Magisch
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 13:08
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    $\begingroup$ rude/abusive is as official as it can get, though I don't have the relevant MSE link at hand right now. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ The spam flag is for unwanted promotion. The rude/abusive flag can be used for gibberish: see What are the spam/offensive flags and how do they work on MSE. $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 13:10
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    $\begingroup$ I think this could be an honest mistake. A person's keyboard went nuts, for example. Been there myself :) This theory also explains why the post got deleted this fast. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 18:08

2 Answers 2


The spam flag is indeed intended only for promotional posts that have very little to do with the topic at hand.

However, utterly meaningless gibberish may well be flagged as rude or abusive. The flag description says

A reasonable person would find this content inappropriate for respectful discourse

and posting something completely devoid of meaning is certainly inappropriate for respectful discourse. It doesn't need to be actively insulting. Here's the corresponding guidance from the faq post on spam and rude/abusive flags on mother meta:

Abuse of the system or community is everything that is created with the intention to harm them. This includes posts that contain no useful content at all – i.e. gibberish posts along the lines of:

asyuv;laergap897wertp[98 gb;vp98a34

Cats are not allowed to walk across keyboards as part of Stack Exchange posts; this is abuse and should be flagged as such. (Source)


Do you have an example? Or is this just hypothetical? I am willing to believe it does happen - but rarely. Is it worth worrying about?

I don't see anything rude or abusive about it. Surely if abuse is intended, something more obviously abusive would have been posted. There's no promotion of anything so it isn't spam either.

It is gibberish but we have no idea what is intended by it. Assuming this is an answer, it could just be a placeholder awaiting a fuller post. Perhaps the poster already posted an answer, then decided it needs to be reconsidered, but fears deleting may prevent posting another answer. We don't know.

As far as answers go, such gibberish counts as "not an answer" for which there is a flag reason. Or you could just ignore it and see what happens. It is surely not misleading anyone.

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    $\begingroup$ "Ignore it and see what happens" is not the right course of action. If you don't want to flag as spam or as abusive (even though it is an abuse of the system), then at the very least it needs to be flagged as Not An Answer. Let's not make leaving trash lying around a habit on this site. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 10:50
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty : Who says what the right course of action is? Is it part of the agreed policy of the site? Abusive (coupled with rude) is different from an abuse of the system for which there does not appear to be a flag or a close reason. Flagging as not an answer is my own suggestion. See what happens is not leaving trash around but monitoring the situation perhaps after leaving a comment. Good decision-making starts with gathering evidence, giving someone the chance to explain their actions before you impose your authority. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ That's my opinion, of course. Make of the voting what you will. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ I'm a bit late to this party, but yes, it's site policy to flag clear gibberish as abusive. See, for instance, the MSE links on the question, or even the FAQ quoted in ACM's answer, posted 2 days before your answer. FAQ on meta is as policy as it gets. (cc @Emilio) $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ @AndrasDeak : I dispute the logic of calling gibberish "abusive," which is used in the flag synonymously with "rude". There is a difference between "abusing the system" and "being abusive." Such a misuse of flags is even more clearly an "abuse of the system". Good physics relies on sound logical arguments, not the authority of numbers or reputation. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 17:11
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    $\begingroup$ How did "site policy" turn into "logical arguments"?:) We can argue about the logical behaviour, and we can argue about policy. Policy is "garbage needs to go and posters of garbage need to be penalized", which is what abusive flags do. Note that I agree with Undo's opinion here. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ @AndrasDeak : ok, you got me there. Policy does not have to be logical, only the will of the majority of voters. The consensus is that "Such posts have to go." Why? "They harm the system?" Evidence? None, only melodramatic, emotive arguments like Undo's. (Interrupting a conference by shouting - whether gibberish or not is irrelevant - is not equivalent to posting a nonsense remark on one question of a vast website.) If the post "has to go because the majority don't like it" then any flag will do - the reason is irrelevant. Use whichever is most convenient. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ @AndrasDeak : MSE "policy" on gibberish (rather than spam) seems to be flag as NAA and down-vote rather than flag as rude/abusive. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 17:59
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    $\begingroup$ I don't want to drag this further, I just want to note that there is a huge difference between flags: rude/abusive and spam flags will directly lead to the deletion of the post if 5 (or 6) gather on it (along with a -100 rep penalty for the poster). NAA flags send it to the low-quality queue, and maybe to mods after a while. So it definitely takes more time for them to get deleted. Anyway, we can disagree:) $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ Any answer asking "How likely is that to happen" underappreciates how huge stack-exchange is. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 13:13
  • $\begingroup$ @TomášZato : Frequency of occurrence as a % of all answers (or all concerns) is important, not actual numbers of occurrences. Effort expended in developing a policy to tackle concerns needs to focus on those which occur most frequently and which cause the most harm to the site. No evidence has been provided to back up either of these reasons in this case. The importance given to this issue is vastly out of proportion to actual occurrence or harm. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ @sammygerbil It doesn't go from your taxes or something, so you can just calm down. Is there any harm in asking about this and discussing it? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 16:20

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