Over the last several days, we've been seeing a novel trolling attack on Super User: a flood of answers containing plagiarized content posted by a user called "Marlin Woods":

Marlin Woods flagged posts

The user creates a new account for every post; however, the same Gravatar appears on each post so it's apparent that it's coming from the same email address and hence the same person. Because the accounts are unregistered, they do not show up in the Users page under new users > creation date.

Can we get someone to stop this ASAP?

New developments to this story...

Examination of recent answers caught by SmokeDetector (to which I've submitted modifications) has revealed that the user was doing this to "test the waters". New posts with this username are now almost universally spam (example link for 10K users):

Example of spam content from Marlin Woods

  • 10
    "it's coming from the same email address" How is that possible? Does SU allow multiple accounts with a single address? Nov 11 '16 at 14:21
  • Any idea of the motive?
    – DaaBoss
    Nov 11 '16 at 16:20
  • Appears to be intended to disrupt our moderation system or to "play with" it by posting content that's hard to catch as inappropriate.
    – bwDraco
    Nov 11 '16 at 17:09
  • 5
    Unfortunately, the popularity of your question has pushed it to the main page in the popular Meta questions list. So our obnoxious friend will, at a minimum, get some psychic satisfaction, and if he clicks on this link, may get hints on how to circumvents efforts to get rid of him.
    – fixer1234
    Nov 11 '16 at 20:16
  • links > screenshots
    – Hack-R
    Nov 12 '16 at 0:24
  • 3
    @Hack-R the abusive answers are likely to be quickly deleted and therefore only users with >10k rep will be able to see them. Also only you can see your own flags raised. In this case a screenshot is much better for the majority to see what is going on.
    – Mokubai Mod
    Nov 12 '16 at 9:08
  • 2
    @fixer1234 Yes, we're in a sense feeding this troll by giving him the attention he craves, but in this case the benefits outweigh the costs, because the whole website benefits if trolls are properly controlled, even though marlin may get hints about how to evade the net that is used to catch him.
    – karel
    Nov 16 '16 at 10:46
  • You should at least remove the username from the title.
    – M.A.R.
    Nov 17 '16 at 9:44

We've talked to the CM team about it.

It so happens I have a week or two before my next job gets settled. While I typically discourage pinging me for mod related issues -it might be ok here.... the right thing to do on the user side is

  1. Flag as spam. This should get the current IP address into spamram. Dogpileing him with spam flags would work great.

  2. If its during waking hours for me (see if I'm on chat, or 8am to 11pm SGT) I'll see if I can deal with it. I'll take a look during my regular mod queue rounds, or just let me know if you see me on chat.

  • 1
    Do you mean to spam the user with spam flags? I don't like that, even if the user is a bad user it does not mean that if he games the system against us we must game it against him. Nov 16 '16 at 19:39
  • 8
    I think we should red-flag, but not as spam, as abusive.
    – M.A.R.
    Nov 17 '16 at 9:46
  • I think he meant to flag the answers as spam. While their answers are not literally promoting one service, they are there only to earn reputation to him and actively harm the site, so there is negative behaviour. Marking them spam instead of just abusive helps the site to treat it correctly. Nov 17 '16 at 11:31
  • 2
    In addition, it feeds his IP address into the spamblock, which seems like a good idea to me. Considering he's creating a dozen new unregistered accounts at a time...
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Nov 17 '16 at 11:32

There's a chatbot called SmokeDetector which detects spam and offensive content and reports it to a special chatroom. I've submitted some code to the bot so that it reports content posted by the troll.

This change enables community members to quickly flag and delete these posts. As of this writing, the bot detected at least six new posts by Marlin Woods, which were readily deleted.

  • 1
    This warms the cockles of my heart. There's nothing quite like warm cockles.
    – fixer1234
    Nov 22 '16 at 7:07
  • Charcoal HQ isn't special, is it? It just happens to be the main chatroom of SD.
    – dorukayhan
    Nov 27 '16 at 19:26

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