There is a certain pattern of Stack Exchange users who habitually post plagiarized content.
Some cases are easy to deal with. If the user is still pretty new, a message explaining that plagiarism is not cool can turn them into more useful contributors. Some plagiarizers are so bad at it that their posts are irrelevant and can be removed wholesale. Some accounts do nothing but plagiarize and their accounts can be removed while leaving their positively-scored “contributions” (with proper sourcing added) in place.
This leaves quite a few accounts who:
- Post a mixture of plagiarized and original content. (Invariably you can tell the plagiarized content at a glance: it's the posts that contain a grammatically correct English sentence.)
- Do generally post more-or-less relevant answers, even when the answers aren't their own.
- Never, ever provide attribution for the content they copy, and sometimes even make a habit of editing attribution out.
It seems to me that we don't have a good way to deal with these people. Suspend the account for rules violation? They continue when they come back. Delete the account? Well, they do contribute decent content sometimes. Delete the posts? No, not when they're relevant.
When I see an account whose top-scoring answer (+50) is from copying a blog post from 2006… and whose second-highest scoring answer is from copying a blog post from 2011… and whose third-highest scoring answer is, well, you get the drill, I think that we should at least remove any reputation gain from those answers. Reputation is very much part of the game there; if you aren't too stupid or uninformed to do a web search for good, relevant preexisting blog posts, plagiarism is an easy way to earn lots of points. If plagiarism wasn't a good way to earn reputation, that would at least remove some of the incentive.
Can we have a procedure to remove reputation gains from plagiarized posts? Deletion isn't the answer because the posts are relevant and useful to future visitors. (Note that if the posts violate the author's copyright, that's a completely different matter; that complaint must come from the author themself through the formal channel of copyright counterclaims.) Community wiki conversion would only prevent future upvotes from mattering.
Is there a procedure we can follow (we being community members, moderators and Stack Exchange staff) to deny all reputation from plagiarized posts, even if (as often happens) they are discovered months after the fact?
I realize that “remove the poster's reputation gain from this list of posts” is a very dangerous tool — is there a better solution? What controls should be in place to make this both practically doable and not abusable?