I've noticed a string of questions from single-use accounts that are generally either ill-informed or offensive.

The ones I can see from my meager 123-rep account:

Is fascism an older, less liberal form of the welfare state?

Marxism and land ownership

Shouldn't countries like Russia and Canada support global warming? (this got a relatively high vote after the edit, but the original is more poorly worded.)

But I remember there are at least a half dozen questions that have been deleted recently, and a couple other examples are alluded to the in the comments from the posted questions.

What should I be doing here? I've been leaving custom mod flags on these pointing out that these seem to be the same person, but it hasn't shut down the three I pointed out and the flag from the global warming question was explicitly declined. And since I only get one flag, doing this doesn't impact the question score and I can't flag as rude/abusive.


4 Answers 4


When it comes to suspected trolls, my policy is to follow Hanlon's Razor.

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence."

So instead of assuming that the user has got to be a troll to post such an inappropriate question, try to assume that the user is just misguided about what kind of questions are and are not appropriate. Use the tools you have available to teach the user how to post better questions. The tools you have are:

  • comments which explain to the user what's wrong with their question and how it can be improved
  • edit to make those improvements yourself
  • downvote
  • vote to close
  • flag as "rude or abusive" (but only if it clearly violates the Code of Conduct)

Even if you are absolutely sure that the user just wants to troll, remember that the user isn't the only one who sees your actions. You might not be able to teach them, but you can still teach others. New users also learn the do's and don'ts of this community by observing how we treat posts of other people.


My impression is that there are probably two or three people involved. One is asking "erudite Marxist" questions, usually with some background material (quotes or links), but the questions often seem facetious enough. These were probably the more numerous questions.

Another was posting more offensive alt/far-right material with less background; thinly veiled anti-Semitic comments etc. There were at least a couple of the latter.

Both of these have been going on for a couple of weeks.

Yesterday we apparently had a really angry guy from Africa ask first about "left-wing" then about fascist "white nations", meaning Europe by the tag. When he posted the left-wing stuff, including an assertion in comments that fascism was left-wing, I assumed him to the alt-right guy, but apparently he was just confused in his terminology, assuming his outrage at Europe's treatment of Africans was genuine.

I'm only mentioning this for more context... and as a caveat for how hard it is to distinguish real trolling from what seem to be genuine poor questions.

Having said that, some of the "questions", like the one on heterosexuality "not working" require a fair bit of imagination to peg them in the good-faith category (is heterosexuality not working for the OP?).

An interaction pattern that transcends topics to quite a few recent new-accounts questions has been that if the question gets answered, the OP will often take the answer(s) as validation of their points (even if they're not), either by commenting or editing the question to that effect. In other words, the questions often have an explicit or implicit theory/idea that the OP seeks to validate.

Another possibility given some of the (repeated) recent themes is that someone might be using the site as help for writing some school essays/assignments. On other SE sites like econ.SE this is extremely common, so they have a rule for it that the OP needs to show some attempt to having solved the problem. Unfortunately it's not so easy to differentiate such questions here, on politics.

  • As the saying goes: heterosexuality is not working for anyone, men and women just don't fit together… But honestly, that Q topic seems confused, to say the least, but the format is so far away from "useful". As a philosophy or social policy question the topic might have some merits, and in pubs it might 'save the evening' from comparing football statistics. In short: "good faith" is most probably not the issue in that example? Sep 30, 2019 at 17:53
  • @LangLangC: we had more weird topics recently; one that came up a couple of times was "inverting the social contract". Here's a not-yet-deleted instance: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/46052/… Sep 30, 2019 at 17:59
  • "Personalised medical advice is…" Or legal, or again philosophy? Really strange example you found there. But as so often in such cases: weirdness alone is something we might assess. But whether it's really trollish depends imo on repetition (and SE has some resident single.minded people?). With single-use accounts only mods or even higher-ups have that info to check? Sep 30, 2019 at 18:04

You treat those questions as you treat any others. You answer them if they are answerable. You vote on them (I'm not having a high hope that the votes are based on genuine "research effort, clearness and usefulness" official voting critera, but in a platonic ideal that's what goes into the vote, not whether you agree with the ideology of the poster). You edit them to improve them.

  • 1
    @philipp - did you also edit out ad hominem attacks by THAT user that litters their posts? If no, I'd like a public explanation of why you treat everyone differently
    – user4012
    Sep 30, 2019 at 16:45
  • 1
    If you feel that my answers are rude/abusive, feel free to flag my messages the way I flagged yours. Both the antisemitic users I flagged have been deleted, I did my part. Sep 30, 2019 at 16:55

This site attracts mostly coders that dabble in politics; some of these folks may have a university education. Some may be more or less self-educated. And many of those apparently are not native English speakers. This is who the site attracts because the high popularity of the technical SE sites and usefulness of them. I think it's just a feature not a bug, which is why the welcoming messaging is so important.

  • 7
    I'm not particularly worried about the background of the user. People ask bad question all the time and the system handles it. But if one user is spinning up multiple burn accounts that allow them to avoid a question ban or act maliciously, that feels like something somebody should know about. Sep 16, 2019 at 20:01
  • 1
    @GGMG I didn't get that feeling. The first q seemed kind of antagonistic, the second like a second in year in college encountering Marx for the first time, and the third someone older and seemed to be a native English speaker. Don't think this is the same person.
    – user9790
    Sep 16, 2019 at 20:03
  • 1
    @GGMG But the mods should be able to determine if it's from the same IP address.
    – user9790
    Sep 16, 2019 at 20:16
  • This answer looks OK, except that it seems to just graze the question, as though there's some underlying assumption, perhaps too obvious to its author to mention, and given which would land a direct hit.
    – agc
    Sep 24, 2019 at 19:13
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    @agc This site, like all SE sites, are ostensibly for expert communities, says so right on the home page. However, this site attracts mostly coders that have no grounding in it academically or sometimes even incidentally. It's basically a DailyKos diary. If you were to ban coders and had some requirement to vote, like being published, the site would improve dramatically. Can you think of one person on this site you would deem an expert?
    – user9790
    Sep 24, 2019 at 19:20
  • @KDog, There are some capable scholars here. OTOH, where expertise fails, one hopes that SE is more of a tempering environs for emergent learning, than it is a stagnant partisan harbor.
    – agc
    Sep 24, 2019 at 21:16
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    @agc There are a couple of people that have some learning and put together compelling sources. But the mods help create a hostile environment, and that in turns emboldens some, and then you get a cascade of like minded automatons. So while I agree it's emergent, because it's naive and uninformed, it's still a partisan harbor.
    – user9790
    Sep 24, 2019 at 22:15

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