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This question already has an answer here:

Problem

(The question will be found at the end, Question.)

As a user of any Stack Exchange's community, you most likely stumbled through a post where for you that would be considered spam, but you're not quite sure how to proceed, because different communities / users have different expectations to what spam really is.

Let's take as example / inspiration two situations I've encountered recently (this doesn't mean the answer to this question is solely based in them).


Situation 1

On Project Management, when reading a user's answer, I found another answer that has a "See Also" section at the end, including many links to other answers from the same user inside of the community, without disclosing the affiliation.

I created a question in Meta Project Management, explained the situation and still don't know how to proceed. From tripleee's comment, I've noticed a specific approach to spam (which I didn't read anywhere in the documentation):

Links within the same site are IMHO unproblematic. Trying to drive traffic to an external site is what the disclosure requirement is supposed to discourage.


Situation 2

On Stack Overflow, when reading about converting CSV to SQL, I found a post from a user mentioning a specific tool and linking to an external site. There was no doubt the user was the creator of the tool.

After analyzing the Q&As where the tool was mentioned, noticed five (out of 25) was from the same user (creator of the tool) and at least two from team member(s). From all the seven answers, only one of the team member(s)'s posts disclosed the affiliation.

I flagged as spam (all but one), explaining in the comments why I've done that. The flag was accepted for the user creator of the tool, which then edited the answers to include

(Disclaimer: I help run the tool)

(I am not sure how acceptable such edits are though, but this would be a different question.)

The other still awaits validation.


Question

I would like to understand when we should flag a post as spam and when not, considering what was mentioned by tripleee:

lack of disclosure where disclosure is required VS voluntary disclosure where none is strictly required.

Note: I know of two good questions including similar information, namely:

marked as duplicate by Kate Gregory discussion Oct 1 at 15:15

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    I have a hard time getting to the actual question. – Patrick Hofman Oct 1 at 10:38
  • What can I do to clarify? – Tiago supports GoFundMonica Oct 1 at 10:41
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    The "Goal" section is written in a somewhat confusing way so it's unclear what the question is. – connectyourcharger Oct 1 at 10:43
  • Is that better now? – Tiago supports GoFundMonica Oct 1 at 10:45
  • Would you accept "It Depends" as an answer? Because it does. And it's different for every site. There are some general guidelines somewhere on this meta, but in the end, it depends. – Mast Oct 1 at 11:00
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    Perhaps state in your first paragraph that the question will be found at the end and then change your Goal into My question. – mdewey Oct 1 at 11:00
  • @Mast not really, I know it does but it can't just be relative to what each and everyone says (or to use repo / badges or whatever to pose as an authority). Anywhere there's one actor (user or group of users) whose decision on the matter is the final one and we all have to follow. – Tiago supports GoFundMonica Oct 1 at 11:18
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    also relevant: meta.stackexchange.com/a/202138/147247 and the links there – Kate Gregory Oct 1 at 15:17
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    This question was marked as dup but I still don't know how to proceed in similar cases such as situation 1. I might assume through your comment (linking to you own answer) that it's an acceptable behaviour to share links to own questions without disclosure. – Tiago supports GoFundMonica Oct 3 at 11:06
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If the questions asks for tools, it would definitely generate answers with external links. There, affiliation is not strict on Ask Different at least.

In questions where other answers post something native to questions like "How to remap such and such keys?" and one post comes up Hey use this tool, I might flag it as spam unless they say they helped make it or not. I'd also see if their only intent is to promote the service with words like This is the best, easy to use, free of cost etc. or at least attempt to guide how to use that tool to solve the issue.

As in scenario 1, blatant misuse of comments or answers for increasing traffic to one's answer even if the posts are not slightly linked is abuse. People often question in follow up comments Why'd you link that and it can be flagged as NLN too, under Not related to the post. But if they suggest alternatives or more details which shouldn't be copied all over the site, it's good to link them.

In scenario 2, the question is not specific about how to do it. It is open to all alternatives. So I guess such links helps there. I myself used some online convertors for non personal data. (I know the risks)

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Regarding case number one, I disagree with triplee's rationale, but ultimately I also find the lack of express disclosure in the post to be non-problematic for a different reason. Once somebody clicks the link the affiliation between the old post and the new post should be known because people can see that the new post was written by the same user, and act accordingly. In other words, the system automatically discloses the distinct special interest that a person has for linking the post. Insofar as I am aware the purpose of disclosure is to reveal potential biases and conflicts of interest, and perhaps to avoid giving false impressions of external validation where non exists, and so long as it is obvious that the same person is writing the other answers, then the lack of disclosure is not a problem. Naturally, an exception to this is when somebody makes two separate accounts in order to hide the fact that both posts were written by the same person, but determining that to be the case would have to rely upon evidence not included in the case example.

That does not necessarily mean that a see also section to a person's other answers might not be problematic: Links need to be contextualized and relevant to a post. This is just to say that these problems are not the result of a lack of disclosure. The reasons disclosure is useful is to help people identify biases and conflicts of interest, or to avoid giving an impression of false validation, and so long as the affiliation is revealed to the reader, then none of that poses a problem because the user will be able to act accordingly

Regarding case number two, I do not think editing is an appropriate remedy. One of the editing guidelines is that edits should not change the meaning of the post, and a third party disclosure is putting words in somebody's mouth. That is not to say that somebody should not be given the chance to amend the post voluntarily, but I feel as if informative commentary is the appropriate tool for that, and if users are unwilling to provide self-disclosure after a comment is made directing them to the disclosure requirement, then the appropriate remedy is for the post to be flagged and deleted.

That might seem a little harsh, but it needs to be for the practical purpose of showing that the violator is willing to abide by the rule. This not only prevents them from simply reverting the edit after-the-fact, but it also discourages them from violating the rule again in the future since they know they know post will only be depublished anyway. If spammers who made an innocent mistake want to have their posts reinstated, then they could possibly apply the edit and try to inform a moderator of the rectification somehow, at which point the moderator can check in on the post occasionally to see if the edit sticks. If the user does not care enough to do this, but the post was good, then our creative commons license allows us to make a derivative answer which rectifies any faults the original answer had, provided that disclosure of original authorship is provided alongside a link to the terms of the license.

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