If you think a question is trolling is it fair to VTC (Vote To Close)? If so what reason should be checked?

I don't want to link the question as I don't want to get into a discussion on if that question is trolling.

  • 2
    if it's unclear to you whether the question is trolling or legitimate, well, that kind of hints on a close reason, doesn't it (if it was clear to the point that you could explain why you think so then the way to go would be to flag for mod attention)
    – gnat
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 12:56
  • @gnat Some trolls are clever and are harder to spot than others. Straight up SPAM is pretty easy to nail. If I see a case of either I VTC the garbage and will try to delete it.
    – Neo
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 13:11
  • 6
    Is there anything to discuss that hasn't already been mentioned on "Recent string of trolling questions" and "How should I flag a question that appears to be the work of a troll?"? I think the general consensus so far is that most troll questions can be closed for other reasons while the sort of wildly unlikely but on-topic troll questions we sometimes get can be VTC as unclear or opinion-based.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 15:59
  • @Lilienthal It is a little different in ask if it is OK to VTC not just how. But it is a duplicate of the second.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 16:02
  • 1
    @Paparazzi Actually re-reading both questions I think this is distinct since you're specifically talking about close votes, not flags. Perhaps a general "How should we handle troll questions?" topic to summarise might make sense.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 16:07
  • @Lilienthal And how recognize and handle a troll I think is a better question.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 16:18
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    we should do something about the downvote stalkers in here too Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 19:42
  • So... we are 5 vs. 5 on our yes/no answers... seems that we all took the bait on that one
    – DarkCygnus Mod
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 16:30

5 Answers 5


Vote based on content, not assumed motives.

If a question is so outlandish that you suspect trolling, if it lacks essential details, if it's more of a rant than a question, then it doesn't matter if it's a troll or a genuine user who's really terrible at communication. Either way, if we can't answer it in its current form and can't just edit to fix the problems, we should put it on hold. If the OP responds, we can work with him to fix the question -- or not, if he doesn't supply what's needed.

If a troll manages to ask a genuinely useful question -- which might become genuinely useful only after a community edit, which anybody can do or suggest -- then the question is useful and we should leave it open. I don't care what the asker's motives were in that case. A lot of the joy of trolling comes from "getting away" with dumping crap and sensation on a site, so it won't be much fun when we edit the crap and de-sensationalize the question. Site 1, troll 0.

I disagree with the claim in this answer that SE encourages "white-hat trolling". SE encourages people to ask real questions about problems they've actually encountered, and also (secondarily) encourages canonical questions for common or important situations. Neither of those is trolling; the goal of trolling is disruption, not knowledge. A question that's not about a problem you have is not automatically trolling, "white-hat" or otherwise. Most trolling involves problems the author doesn't actually have, but that doesn't mean you can reverse the logic.

  • 1
    The wording in the tour is slightly different. "Real problems or questions that you’ve encountered pertaining to a workplace."
    – paparazzo
    Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 18:27
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    Some of the trolls are just blatant. Remember the blackmailing dominatrix who wanted the guy to meet her and bring her money because she was in debt? All that was missing from that one was a reference to Nigeria, some hand soap, and a left-handed monkey wrench. Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 14:56
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    @TheSnarkKnight and if I recall correctly (it's been a while and I didn't go digging), it wasn't really a workplace-related question, either, which means it should be closed. Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 15:40
  • @MonicaCellio that's a really good point, actualy Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 15:55

Yes, it is fair.

In the case I believe that a question is most likely ( 95% or higher ) trolling or spam, I will either FLAG it as SPAM or I will use the VTC close reason of OTHER option and write an appropriate comment. I consider both to be garbage that needs to ultimately be DELETED.

I will use the reason of "Voting to close because I believe you are trolling"

Note: The SPAM reason is within the FLAG a question option. I still think that maybe we should consider TROLLING as a reason to close a question too.

  • What ever happened to assume good intentions? I've also been told off for commenting that I believe someone is a troll, so I don't think a trolling VTC reason is really a good idea
    – Draken
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 14:11
  • 1
    @Draken maybe not. But the beauty of this is no one user normally can close a question. I do assume good intentions by the OP until they prove otherwise. That is why I said I am very, very sure its a TROLL or SPAM. I did not say 100%.
    – Neo
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 14:13
  • 1
    I think you only get spam option if it is short. I consider spam different than trolling.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 15:23
  • @Paparazzi that may be true. I consider both garbage that needs deleted. Nice question by the way.
    – Neo
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 15:25
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    @Draken Good intentions and trolling are not mutually exclusive. I use that close reason only when the trolling is really obvious. I still assume good intentions though, but nonetheless, the post can still be a troll.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 16:03
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    The advantage of tagging as SPAM over a custom reason is that if the post is closed for that reason the user will at least get a hit to his Rep Points (if existent), that way they will think twice about trolling in the future
    – DarkCygnus Mod
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 18:22
  • @DarkCygnus Good to know. Did not know that!
    – Neo
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 18:23
  • 1
    @MisterPositive yes, it is 100 reps I think. We once manged to make a troublesome user get below the Comment rep threshold by doing this (as it was being repeatedly Rude and abusive). That way that user never came back to troll... Perhaps you remember that incident :) (you were there I recall)
    – DarkCygnus Mod
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 18:28
  • Almost every time I see an obvious troll, it has a rep between 101 and 180. Posts that are obvious bait should be closed as well. posts like this workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/105008/… even if true are not going to be productive due to the salacious nature Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 19:41
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    I will use the reason of "Voting to close because I believe you are trolling" - That seems to violate the spirit of Be Nice. Commented Feb 3, 2018 at 23:06
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    I've seen some high rep users who troll.... just saying
    – Kilisi Mod
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 1:26
  • @Kilisi - Yes the system for some reason rewards people who shot gun crap answers at every question just posting their opinion, despite that being literally against the rules and how it is intended to work. Its wierd Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 4:18
  • 1
    @DarkCygnus - If you try punishing a user like that and a mod sees it they will have to reverse the penalty anyway. That is actually you abusing the system. Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 4:22
  • @Idrinkandiknowthings if it is actually Spamish or abusive then there is nothing wrong. Many trolls tend to be spamish or induce probably rude or noxious responses, and if that is true I see no problem in flagging as such. Of course, it should be avoided if the case is not Spam or abusive, as that will indeed be improper use of the system. (Fwiw, the user I mentioned in the past situation was actually being rude)
    – DarkCygnus Mod
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 5:32
  • 5
    Take note that "Spam" in SE context is very specific to "undisclosed product", not "random trash post". Consider using "Rude/ Abusive" instead if the behaviour is indeed abusive to the community. If you want to flag, then flag it right.
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 3:08


First a question is not a trolling attempt. The OP asking the question was the attempt. We do not allow voting based on our dislike of the person posting.

A troll can, and in a few cases have, actually asked some really interesting questions here. I'll not bother listing them as most of them are in the top of the voted questions.

The only reasons to vote to close are listed. If someone suspects you are abusing your voting privileges they can report it and it is possible that you could face some sort of penalty should the powers that be deem it severe enough.

The only way to judge the fitness of the question is on its merits. If there is a problem with the question that is causing conflict (rollbacks, and comment arguing about the content) then that is a reason to put it on hold. But if the question is otherwise fine and on topic then it should be left.

SE Encourages WHITE HAT Trolling.

By this I mean it is encouraged to ask questions that you find interesting, that you will believe will be helpful and interesting to the community. Some of our most often used close questions are the results of these efforts.

Is it rude to leave an interview early if you have already made your decision? - Was asked after a discussion in the Chat room. No one was actually facing that dilemma. It was expected that it may be controversial, and it was one of our first HNQ and we were excited about it. And I still maintain it is and excellent question for the site. And it is Trolling by definition, a question asked to get attention, cause controversy, that doesn't solve an actual problem.

How can I prepare for getting hit by a bus? - Was written as though the OP were trying to be a troll. It was a tongue and cheek nod to the effectiveness of the trolling techniques in delivering the narratives.

What should I do if I see a suspected Troll Question?

If the question is a non duplicate otherwise On-Topic and plausible question. Assume best intentions and invest your time in crafting an answer or contributing to the question based on your value of its merit.

If the Question is causing problems for some reason Flag the question for moderator attention. The moderators will take action as necessary. I have seen SE Overloards step in early in the life of a question when the user had been disruptive on several sites. Allow SE to handle these exceptions.

If SE Fails to address the problem still, Bring it to Meta.

All of this is the standard operating procedure for SE. There is not any valid reason why this percieved problem needs an alternate workflow. There is no workflow suggested that would be able to objectively measure if a question is a "Troll Question" or not. If there is then suggest that on Meta.Stackexchange.com.

Using Meta to raise a virtual Lynching party against people who do not use the site in the manner you would like is not an acceptable method of dealing with this!

  • 1
    While I'm completely with you in general, the issue is that troll questions in the wild can be a gray area. By definition these questions will be interesting; the problem is that they're typically so specific/outlandish that any answers to them will be largely useless to others in similar, usually less extreme, situations. I think we rightly give well-written / interesting questions more of a pass in the whole "questions should be general" department but the risk is that you also allow troll questions that waste a lot of people's time.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Commented Feb 3, 2018 at 20:14
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    @Lilienthal - that waste a lot of people's time. Based on the fact that 90+% of the engagement on this site happens between 6am EST and 5PM PST Weekdays Id guess that most of what happens on this site could be considered wasting time. - So unless we are going to decide to buck the rules about judging the Question by the Author not the content I do not see what your objection is. Commented Feb 3, 2018 at 23:03
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    I would hope that by and large people participate on this site to help others out, whether that's just one person the OP or future people running into similar situations and finding advice via a web search. The issue with troll questions is that they often help no one because of the issues I mentioned in my first comment. We don't judge a question by the author but I don't think anyone is suggesting doing so. A question can be posted to troll regardless of who the author might be.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 0:45
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    A single VTC is not serial voting. The first link makes no sense here. According to the tour "Focus on questions about an actual problem you have faced."
    – paparazzo
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 0:58
  • 1
    @Lilienthal - What we may view as an attempt to troll could well be someone else's real attempt to help someone else. However misguided or ill conceived it may be. Deal with the problems you actually face, not the problem you fear exists. As a moderator we expect you to step in when you see something that is harmful to the community. It is valid to close or lock a post to minimize the disruption to the community Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 1:05
  • "Focus on questions about an actual problem you have faced is part of a guide to help ask good questions. It is not a rule for how you must act on SE. The reason serial voting is punished is because it is voting against the author not the content of the post. It is in fact a rule for how you must act on SE. Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 4:15
  • In principle, a troll question should be accepted here if it is useful to future readers, but in practice, these troll questions describe such "interesting" situations that it is highly unlikely for any future reader to face such a situation. For example, a huge bird flew in from the window, and took away the manager. How should I manage the team after this sudden, shocking and unexpected disappearance of the manager? I am exaggerating to make a point, but many of these troll questions come quite close.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 18:24
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings Your comment above and the positive feedback to my meta answer helped me realize what I had to do to a certain troll question, I have now edited it to make it more useful to the community by removing the trollbaits.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 14:29
  • 1
    @MaskedMan - And well done. Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 21:13

I feel trolling should be closed. It is hard to be sure if they are trolling so I give them the benefit of the doubt. A user with a rep of 1 I give less benefit of the doubt.

From the tour

Real problems or questions that you’ve encountered pertaining to a workplace.

To me by definition trolling is not real problems or questions encountered in the workplace.

The common definition of trolling is to intentional piss people off.

In the context of this site I would include:

  • Outlandish / unbelievable scenarios. I just makes a mockery of a site trying to solve real workplace questions.
  • Intentional use of controversial examples designed to elicit discussion when the controversial example was not required for the question.

There is difference between troll and trolling. Trolling is the act (the post). Troll can be a noun the person or a verb the act.

I feel that the reason can be Too Broad or explicitly state "I feel you are trolling."

If it is repeated behavior then they are a troll. In that case I would flag a moderator so they can consider locking the account.



because motivation should not play a role in evaluating the validity of a question. If the question and subsequent answers provides value to the community, it does not matter if the OP put it there to provoke or if he was seeking help.

If it does not provide value, then some of the other closing reasons will apply

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