I've just edited a one-sentence question. After editing, I clicked on the link in the body of the question. It led to a survey posted on the web site of a large fast-food chain: nothing to do with the question.

I hesitated between simply going back in to delete the link and flagging the question for the moderators as spam. I ultimately decided to flag the question as spam. I also called attention to the link in a comment on the question.

My reasoning was that it might be useful to leave a record of the spam issue for the moderators.

Should I instead have edited the question to delete the link? Or did I do the right thing?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

Update: While I was writing this post, another person made changes to my edits and removed the link. No harm, no foul, but my original question still holds, particularly since the link is still visible in the edit history. My flag was also accepted as helpful.

That said, I still could have saved a few people a little time and just deleted the link myself. Is it useful for moderators and users who read edit histories to know about spam occurrences?

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Good question, the general guidance in this case is to not edit the post. Looking at the answer below it's different; you stumbled upon a suggested edit adding spam and inadvertently approved/improved it – the right course of action is to reject it as spam/vandalism, and only then edit it.

This issue (whether to edit spam or not) comes up frequently and the reasoning for this can be found on Meta Stack Exchange, since it applies to all sites in the network:

Why shouldn't we edit spam posts?:

  • Usually spam is easy to spot, and gets removed very fast. 6 spam flags deletes the post.
  • Moderators can easily see (or search for) the links posted by spammers, and can blacklist sites once it is posted enough.
  • Spam doesn't usually stay there long enough for it to be cached by search engines or to have random users stumble upon it.
  • As nhinkle says, most links do not even need to be removed, unless they are linking to porn, viruses, or disturbing content.
  • If a post is flagged after being edited, those flags will be invalidated if the post is rolled back; unless your edit actually results in a post that shouldn't be deleted, you're just creating an opportunity for someone to make the post stick around longer.

In short, the community is usually too fast for spammers, so by the time anything can happen out of it, it's already gone.

Just flag it as spam, down-, close- or delete-voting is entirely optional. See the following references:

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  • Thank you, @Glorfindel! I just earned "edit without approval" privileges, and I want to be sure I use them appropriately. I appreciate the quick feedback. – Isabel Archer May 28 at 11:57
  • You're welcome. It's certainly understandable that users want to get rid of spam by editing it out, but as you can see there are (non-obvious) reasons against that practice. – Glorfindel May 28 at 12:00

Regarding your update:

This particular item of spam was not part of the original post. It was a suggested edit.

The spam wasn't posted by the question asker, so if I had flagged the post as spam it would have put a black mark against the wrong person.

This is why I edited out the link.

I'm glad you didn't edit out the link and flagged it, because that made it easier for me to find the culprit and get rid of them.

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