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Every so often, we get some crank coming by and polluting reasonable questions with often unrelated conspiracy theories, usually about moon hoaxes and what-not. When I see these, I generally flag as Very Low Quality, since they're unsalvageable propaganda. (The most recent example being on Why did the Space Shuttle fly upside-down normally.)

Should we perhaps be flagging as spam instead? Essentially, they're abusing answers to "sell" their pet theories. They don't make a profit (presumably), but they do get to advertise something where it doesn't belong.

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I don't think such answers meet the criteria for spam. The criteria for spam is that the post:

Exists only to promote a product or service, does not disclose the author's affiliation.

Sure, one can argue that they promote the poster's pet conspiracy theory, but many other answers also promote ideas shared by the poster, so that on its own shouldn't qualify a post as spam.

Conspiracy theory answers are, however, usually:

  • Unrelated to the question they are posted as answers to → is not an answer
  • Poorly written → is potentially very low quality
  • Nonsensical or incorrect from a subject matter expert perspective → should be downvoted

Those sound like good reasons to vote down, flag as not an answer or very low quality, and vote to delete.

If the answer actually is (bear with me!) relevant to the question, such as a moon conspiracy theory being posted in relationship to a question on the Apollo program, and explains why it is relevant (in practice, that is a very big if), then it makes more sense to treat it as simply a wrong answer, which generally means to simply vote down and if possible comment to explain why it is wrong.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good analysis. This is generally my view on things. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jun 28 '16 at 13:44
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I too don't think such answers meet the criteria for spam. If there are no commercial links, it's probably not spam. A couple of marked exceptions:

  • If you see a wall of text that is obviously nonsense, copy and a paste the first sentence or two into a search engine and do an exact search. If you see multiple exact copies of the same wall of text, it's spam. In this case, it's crackpot spam as opposed to bad commercial spam.

  • If a person has made lots of rude / offensive posts in a short period of time, including obscene or disgusting pictures, it's spam. In this case, it's denial of service spam as opposed to bad commercial spam. These need extremely high attention because these problems can escalate very quickly.

Crackpots who get locked out or see their magnificent walls of text disappear can change into that more nefarious class of spammers. Even worse, they might ask members of Anonymous to help them attack a site. (I've seen this happen.)

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