Currently ToS requires, that when we reuse content from Stack Exchange sites:

You will ensure that any such Internet use of Subscriber Content Hyperlink each author name directly back to his or her user profile page on the source site on the Network (e.g., https://stackoverflow.com/users/12345/username), directly to the Stack Exchange domain, in standard HTML (i.e. not through a Tinyurl or other such indirect hyperlink, form of obfuscation or redirection), without any “nofollow” command or any other such means of avoiding detection by search engines, and visible even with JavaScript disabled.

Emphasis mine.

But when I need to reuse other CC content on your site, it is usually not possible to post a link without rel="nofollow".

Could you please either allow source links without nofollow on Stack sites, or remove this requirement from ToS?

If you claim you need nofollow to protect from spam and SEO abuse, it would be only fair to recognize the very same need on other websites.

If you claim you need no nofollow links to your site to get the recognition and SEO effect you deserve, then again, you are not the only ones.

Also, you require many links (to question and to user's profile), but some of your own users are only allowed to post one when using content here.


As Bart mentioned, sometimes it is possible to have a link without nofollow. If SE ToS would require that links on other sites should have nofollow removed when site-specific moderation decides it's OK, I would consider it fair. But ToS requires incoming links to be without nofollow always, and implemented solution allows outgoing ones to be without it only rarely - and in a way totally out of control of an user who posts them - but ToS keeps a person who posts content responsible for removing nofollow on incoming links.

Clarification 2:

Wherever I mention links in context of this thread, I always mean reference links required by ToS, licences, fair use law and similar regulations. By incoming links here and in comments I mean links to Stack from pages with reused content, and by outgoing - opposite situation. I refuse to repeat it in each and every comment.

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    Related: SE should stop using the CC logo. – Mołot Nov 28 '13 at 12:39
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    Part of this is (seemingly) already in place: Remove nofollow on links deemed reputable. That post states "Starting today we will be removing nofollow on links within posts that hit a high enough threshold to be considered reputable. The details will remain somewhat vague at the moment to discourage gaming of this feature." – Bart Nov 28 '13 at 12:45
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    @Bart I don't really care which way it'll get resolved. Removing no-nofollow requirement from ToS would satisfy me just as well. But I agree that are related topics. Also, most upvoted answer there still leaves a place for the very asymmetry in favour of SE I'm opposing here. If SE would allow nofollow on links to SE, until site-specific moderation means will remove it, it would be OK to me. – Mołot Nov 28 '13 at 12:48
  • I'm not arguing one way or another. I'm merely linking you to a post that seems to state that for some cases what you request already happens. – Bart Nov 28 '13 at 12:49
  • @Bart I see. I'm just saying that ToS requires more than SE is offering to others, even with that one solution already in place. – Mołot Nov 28 '13 at 12:51
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    Hey, it's true! They do remove the rel="nofollow" from reputable questions. I didn't know about that. (That screenshot was from RegEx match open tags except XHTML self-contained tags) – doppelgreener Nov 28 '13 at 12:57
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    @JonathanHobbs but they require no-nofollow incoming links on all content, not only in the posts other site founds reputable. So it's still asymmetrical and they require more than they are willing to give. – Mołot Nov 28 '13 at 12:59
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    @Molot I'd be interested in seeing an official reply as to why we have nofollows on our links. I imagine it's so that people can't take advantage of the SE network's popularity for SEO manipulation purposes, thus making this site an unattractive target for... people trying to do exactly that. – doppelgreener Nov 28 '13 at 13:02
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    @JonathanHobbs updated my question with SEO purpose from your comment. Still, SE is popular thanks to good SEO they get from links to them. Good SEO visibility is one of the Area 51 requirements for a site to go out of public beta, isn't it? If they are not shy to take this popularity, it's only greedy not to give some where it is due. – Mołot Nov 28 '13 at 13:05
  • I'd also be interested in seeing why we have this demand in our ToS. I imagine that is so that those of our many, many scrapers - or even the legitimate users of the work of the SO community - direct SEO weight back to where it belongs (the original source of the work). – doppelgreener Nov 28 '13 at 13:06
  • @Molot If it's in self-defence from spamming (which this site is constantly hit by), I can imagine the staff being pretty justified in using nofollow links on the SE network in most cases. – doppelgreener Nov 28 '13 at 13:06
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    @JonathanHobbs as I said in my question, if it's that, they should recognize other sites have the same need, right? – Mołot Nov 28 '13 at 13:08
  • They tried it on Server Fault for a while and things went tits up meta.stackexchange.com/questions/51136/… – random Nov 28 '13 at 14:28
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    @random well the root of my question is "please don't require us to omit nofollow", and not "omit nofollow yourself". As I stated already, making it the same for outgoing and incoming links would be OK for me no matter which way SE want it. Removing nofollow mention from ToS would satisfy "be consistent and fair" just as well. – Mołot Nov 28 '13 at 14:36
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    Does this answer your question? Creative Commons Licensing UI and Data Updates – curiousdannii May 12 '20 at 9:11

If we were engaged in the business of scraping other sites and reposting their articles in their entirety, then yes - this requirement would be a tad hypocritical.

But we're not. While a pretty hefty number of the folks re-posting stuff from SO/SE are doing exactly that.

Now, we don't no-follow everything, but there are really good reasons to be a little bit distrustful of links until they've proven themselves valuable.

If you want to build a similarly-nuanced system for no-following links on your own site, go right ahead... Just make sure your site doesn't consist of republished articles from Stack Overflow. If you're just linking to us, you can do it however you please...

Regarding your clarifications:

...you'd have needed a lot fewer clarifications if you hadn't cherry-picked the parts of the ToS to quote. In particular, this bit of context is rather important:

In the event that You post or otherwise use Subscriber Content outside of the Network or Services, with the exception of content entirely created by You, You agree that You will follow the attribution rules of the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license as follows:

Awkward language notwithstanding, I think that's fairly clear: if you're taking something someone else posted here and using it elsewhere, you're bound to give credit where credit is due without resorting to dodgy tricks to effectively avoid doing so.

More importantly, this has absolutely no bearing on linking to SO unless you're also using content that someone else posted here. That whole section - including the bullet point you quoted - is concerned with one specific problem, and you should not try to generalize it.

Furthermore, if you see anyone doing this on Stack Overflow - that is, posting large chunks of someone else's work without attribution - then flag it or report it somehow; we routinely delete plagiarism and ban plagiarists, and need everyone's help in watching for this... The solution here is absolutely not to change our license or the behavior of the system such that it becomes legally or morally "ok" to turn a blind eye toward this behavior.

P.S.: if you still feel like I'm missing the point here, don't write another comment or edit in another "clarification"; stop tip-toeing around and re-write your question to ask whatever it is you're actually trying to ask. Don't turn this into a chameleon question.

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    I agree this is the sensible thing to do and SE should not drop the requirement. Dropping it could mean that copycats might score better in Google results than SO itself, right? Which is something nobody wants. But technically, the requirement indeed looks like it's an infraction against CC's rules as pointed out in that other question linked above. A sucky dilemma. :( – Pekka Nov 28 '13 at 17:04
  • meh; I'll let the lawyers worry about whether the ToS actually constitutes a separate license or not. I'm satisfied that there's a good reason for this that doesn't impose a double standard on anyone. – Shog9 Nov 28 '13 at 17:16
  • Fair enough. ---- – Pekka Nov 28 '13 at 17:23
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    You assume all others are scrappers, don't you? If not, it is hypocritical to assume other websites are not affected by "there are really good reasons to be a little bit distrustful". If you will allow in ToS what you said in last paragraph, it would be OK. Now your ToS is a case of double standards. And you do have a lot of stolen content pretty regularly here, like massive unattributed edits to tag wikis mentioned here on meta, so claim "we are not scrappers" is a bit weak - sometimes your users are. – Mołot Nov 28 '13 at 19:19
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    You keep switching back and forth from arguing for the removal of nofollow and arguing for the removal of the no-nofollow requirement, @Molot. You do realize that part of the ToS only applies to folks duplicating content, right? Spam - and the search engine de-ranking logic built to combat link farms - makes the use of nofollow a necessity for untrusted links; that part is non-negotiable. You would be well-advised to follow our example there if you're not engaged in republishing content. – Shog9 Nov 28 '13 at 19:41
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    And no, I don't think we need anything in the ToS regarding just linking - the notion that sites get to dictate who links to them is beyond ridiculous. – Shog9 Nov 28 '13 at 19:42
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    I'm not switching, I'm advocating fairness and consistency all the time. If someone argues it's reasonable to expect no-nofollow, I advocate it's reasonable both ways. If someone says it's reasonable to be careful and put nofollow, again I advocate it's reasonable both ways. ToS does not says it only applies to folks duplicating whole site. It applies to everyone who wants to put derivative content anywhere. and some of your content is derivative from, for example, Wikipedia... – Mołot Nov 28 '13 at 20:29
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    Your ToS expects us that if we edit Wikipedia with parts of content from here, we ensure links back are without nofollow. Your own links to Wikipedia are with nofollow. And in that case you are the site less often scrapped. – Mołot Nov 28 '13 at 20:30
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    @Molot: If you edit Wikipedia to include short excerpts of SE content (with acknowledgement), it almost certainly comes under "fair use". You are not relying on the SE CC-license, but sitting above it. If you use different words for the Wikipedia page, and just link to SE as a reference, no problem - no need for no-nofollow. If the entire Wikipedia article is a cut-and-paste of a StackExchange page - or vice versa - then there is a problem and the page should be edited to fix. – Oddthinking Nov 28 '13 at 22:54
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    @Oddthinking: Under the CC-By-SA license, which both Wikipedia and SE claim to use, it shouldn't be a problem, provided that the original author(s) are properly attributed. (And anyway, my experience is that a substantial fraction, if not the majority, of our tag wiki content already seems to be copied from Wikipedia, occasionally with attribution but often without.) – Ilmari Karonen Nov 29 '13 at 0:50
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    In any case, I think part of the issue is that, at least on SO, we seem to be way more than just "a little bit distrustful" when it comes to nofollow (and also when it comes to disclosing the exact threshold for it). You'd think that earning a Nice Answer badge would at least be enough to exempt that answer from nofollow, but apparently that's not the case. Anyway, I asked a separate question about that. – Ilmari Karonen Nov 29 '13 at 1:43
  • @Ilmari: Fine. So let's make a community rule that it is NOT acceptable to copy an entire Wikipedia page as an answer. It seems poor practice as SE is not an encyclopedia. It then breaks the false equivalences that Molot is setting up: that quoting an excerpt from Wikipedia on SE or quoting an excerpt from SE on Wikipedia is the same as scraping and reposting SE content as a business model. – Oddthinking Nov 29 '13 at 3:25
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    @Oddthinking Why should page be edited? why wouldn't it be OK? CC was created exactly to allow sharing and redistributing content. That's the sole purpose of it's existence. If someone does not want his content to be copy-pasted elsewhere verbatim, simply shouldn't use it. Also, copy-pastes from Wikipedia are in tag wikis, not answers (or that's where I usually see them). – Mołot Nov 29 '13 at 7:43
  • What does the Fox journalist say? – random Nov 29 '13 at 17:22
  • Copy pastes of Wikipedia into tag wikis are not acceptable meta.stackexchange.com/questions/102314/… Edit out the plagiarism if you spot such cases @mol – random Nov 29 '13 at 17:30

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