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Recently, within 24 hours, two new accounts were created on Super User, both advertising the same company on old questions related to PDF. Given the (deleted) spam posts, I truly doubt their profiles are real. And both profiles link to Facebook profiles which might be real, but might be totally unrelated to these users.

I understand we cannot validate all profiles. And surely this is not limited to Stack Exchange sites and Facebook. Nevertheless: should we take action when we're almost certain that the references are fake? And if yes: then how?

Users: 1, 2. Some of the deleted posts: 1 (user's first post; user explicitly claiming there's no affiliation), 2, 3, 4, 5.

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What do you mean by "act on"? You want to report their Facebook profile? –  C. Ross Jan 29 '11 at 14:01
    
That's exactly what I'm wondering about as well, @C. I'm no Facebook user, so I wonder if there are folks here that would somehow like to be contacted through Facebook? But then what? Or just send some email to the user and clear the SE profile? I really don't know! (And surely things are not related to just Facebook.) –  Arjan Jan 29 '11 at 14:08
    
Not onlinepdfconverter.com again? (or whatever their name was) –  Pëkka Jan 29 '11 at 17:07
    
Upon reading the Facebook profiles, someone put a lot of effort into spam accounts (assuming that's what they are). –  C. Ross Jan 29 '11 at 17:27
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@Pekka, no it was arx.com. I really would like to be able to search for URLs of that company, but the new search does not support that any more. The spammer was even bold enough to undelete the very first post that was deleted by a moderator — it might still be in that state; I cannot flag it again... –  Arjan Jan 30 '11 at 11:53

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

should we take action when we're almost certain that the references are fake?

Nah, it doesn't matter, and it's not worth the effort if it did.

  • Links in profiles are nofollowed under 2k rep. If an account is just for spam, the likelihood of that user getting to 2k is pretty slim, especially on SU. Even if they do get there, the -100 penalty for spam probably won't keep them there for very long. Moreover, if we start seeing accounts like that, it wouldn't take much convincing to get the team to implement nofollow at a higher rep for users who have been spam penalized in the past (or another such mechanism). I really doubt many users will even be viewing these profiles. They probably get the most exposure when we link to them here on Meta.

  • We can never really say what is legitimate and what isn't. Who will be the judge that decides this? By what criteria? This pretty much makes the whole idea a non-starter... it's really not very fair to the mods to have to make these kinds of decisions, and then have to deal with the inevitable backlash when they make a mistake, or one of the users raises a stink that is itself fake.

  • Are there enough users like this to justify the effort of implementing some kind of system to deter/eliminate this? IMO, no.

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This strikes me a little bit like my early experiences with spam which claimed to come from a reasonable address, but was really just spoofing the from: field -- I would sometimes bounce the email, and sometimes write back with something like "please don't email me". Once I even wrote to a sysadmin.

Of course finally I realized that this is, at best, a waste of time. Legitimate users can't stop their email addresses from being written in arbitrary from: fields, and blocking a specific one will just make the spammer choose a new one.

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It's kind of like Jeff's dilemma regarding "what isn't a good question". You can't quite articulate it, you just know it when you see it.

I would suggest at the least annotating the account if you think it's a robot or puppet. As for immediate action? That depends on what you are acting upon. However, your responsibilities are to your site, not Facebook .. why give them free labor that will probably get ignored anyway?

You'd be amazed what people put in Facebook profiles, sometimes just out of the urge to be sarcastic. So I would not take preemptive action, but nothing is wrong with letting others know that you raised an eyebrow.

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Do you think it's safe to assume that flagging for moderator attention makes a moderator add such annotation? (Or, @any moderator: do you write such annotations?) –  Arjan Jan 29 '11 at 15:21
    
@Arjan It really depends on the flag and what you are flagging. All of them are seen, but moderation is delicate and often becomes a triage. I'm sorry to half answer your question. –  Tim Post Jan 29 '11 at 18:55

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