In one of my recent answers, I cited an article that had been written by a market leader in the space. I am not, in anyway, affiliated with the source nor was I paid to link to their article. I thought that I was doing the right thing by including my sources, while others felt that this was just advertising for one particular vendor.

Where does the line between citation and advertising lie? If I cite an academic journal, could one argue that I am just advertising that one particular journal?

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    I am no expert on the legal aspects but to me it is only advertising if you are affiliated with the product in some way and your suggestion doesn't answer the question. Even then all you need to do is declare you affiliation and it shouldn't be a problem. Saying posting a link to any product is advertising is madness, technically any link will be an advert by that logic. I guess the people saying this to you just don't like your solution or the product associated with it. I would ignore them.
    – Mark Kirby
    Sep 21, 2021 at 10:33
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    It is a fine line, but you could link to the relevant example. Because "market leader" already sounds like it is written in a more commercial way then strictly necessary. Which is why people might frown upon your link.
    – Luuklag
    Sep 21, 2021 at 11:37

3 Answers 3


Undisclosed affiliation

If you're associated with the source you're citing, you need to disclose that in the post in order for it not to be considered spam (and even then, it still can be if it's excessive, unrelated to the post, etc.). Having the same text in your username as the URL or mentioning it in your profile is not considered sufficient disclosure under Stack Exchange policy.

If you're not affiliated with the source (you didn't create it, get paid for it, etc.) and you're just referencing or recommending it as an unbiased person who thought it was worthwhile, that's not advertising—it's just a recommendation.

  • Thanks - I have no affiliation with the sources I cite and would absolutely disclose any such conflict of interest if I did. Sep 21, 2021 at 10:55

Basically, the line between citing sources and advertising is a blurry one. Some 'clever' spammers might cite these sources and get paid for them, and other innocent users may quote similar sites, miss out on the money and encounter frowning looks in the process.

In one of my recent answers, I cited an article that had been written by a market leader in the space.

Including sources is, generally, fine. It's often encouraged, as it's nice to see research that confirms the points you're making in an answer.

That's also where the shoe starts to wring though: Your source is an 'article' written by a 'market leader'. That doesn't exactly sounds like a solid peer-reviewed study or research to me, and it heavily depends on the question and answer if the quotes as such are even relevant. To me "an article written by a market leader" does sound like it may also very well be ill-researched, just their opinion and written to market a certain thing, in which case it's not the best source to quote.

I wouldn't say quoting a source like that would necessarily count as spam. I would apply some scrutiny to see if the source is really necessary, if it can't be replaced by something that's more scientifically oriented, and if full disclosure is present. Even then, it could still be 'electronic word-of-mouth' advertising, though that one is hard to prove. In any case, if all three are met and there's no pattern of a user continually quoting slightly suspicious sources, I'd say it's not a spammer.

  • I agree, an article written by a company who sells the kit in question is not ideal. I always try to include better primary sources where possible, however, in this specific case I was unable to find other authoritative commentary on the subject. Nonetheless, I have no affiliation to the author and their knowledge in the field was helpful. Sep 21, 2021 at 11:08
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    @JamesGeddes Like I said, then you're probably, and in general, fine (if that disclosure is in the post too). If the users on that site continue to give you trouble, it's probably better to post on that site's child meta about this. I can only give you a general answer, if a specific site has other standards than you're more likely to learn about that on their meta.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Sep 21, 2021 at 11:12
  • Thanks, glad to know I'm generally on the right track. Sep 21, 2021 at 11:13
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    "According to foocorp - in an article on their marketing blog" or something along those lines might help ameliorate some of those concerns. Just make it obvious where its from Sep 21, 2021 at 11:19
  • @JourneymanGeek however including the name of "foocorp" seems to be exactly what the mods keep editing out, see revision 3 and 7 networkengineering.stackexchange.com/posts/76329/revisions Sep 21, 2021 at 11:24
  • Ah - that would be useful context to have had - I feel like simply linking would be sufficient? I presumed a large quote of some sort that looked like marketing speel Sep 21, 2021 at 11:26
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    @samcarter_is_at_topanswers.xyz I was trying to be nice and not name names lol Sep 21, 2021 at 11:55

If the OP is quoting someone to support an answer, and it is clearly stated who the author is, it matters not if that person also happens to be a manufacturer or own a profitable business.

But if the author of the answer (the OP) is not quoting anyone's words but merely listing a line of products, or extolling the benefits of said product then one might question the motive. One might call it subliminal or blatant advertising.

  • Thanks - I always quote articles in direct support of my answers and give full details on the reference. Sep 21, 2021 at 10:57
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    As long as the attribution makes it possible for the reader to understand the author of the quote's relationship to the product mentioned, this is the right answer. If I quote Prashant Ketkar but neglect to mention they are the CTO of Corel, and I'm suggesting a Corel product as a solution, that could be a problem.
    – ColleenV
    Sep 21, 2021 at 12:45

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