14

So, a new user securoseal has answered a bunch of baggage security related questions. The answers all cast doubt on normal security measures and recommend their product: Securoseal.

None of the answers are really bad and they've clearly put work into it so it's not just spam. But they are heavily pitching their product and the slant on the answers reflects that. But I also think they make it clear in each answer that they're pitching their product.

My gut feel is that we shouldn't allow it -- but, it's arguable they're not breaking the rules.

Links:

https://travel.stackexchange.com/a/45977/3119 -- this is a bit shady as it's a hidden advert really. https://travel.stackexchange.com/a/45976/3119 -- as is this
https://travel.stackexchange.com/a/45975/3119 -- but here the say 'our company' and make it clear what they're saying.
https://travel.stackexchange.com/a/45974/3119 -- and here is 'our website'.

What should be done?

  • 2
    I saw it also. chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/21048092#21048092 And had the same non-conclusion. I was concerned about the obscured URL's. Without the tiny links it would be an infomercial. Regardless, it promotes a point of view that is less likely to be objective. Most likely it is soft advertising and an attempt to reach this site's niche audience. I don't know what would happen if his competitor were to come along. Echoing SpaceDog, what if anything should be done? – Gayot Fow Apr 12 '15 at 1:22
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    Interesting. He didn't link "our website"... definitely not a classic spam. – chx Apr 12 '15 at 2:13
  • Also... I up voted one in the 'First Posts' queue before the penny dropped. Since then I looks like one answer has attracted a down vote. – Gayot Fow Apr 12 '15 at 3:25
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    Like @Joernano says, the rules state if your reason for joining is basically to post links to your site, even if not blatent spam, it's against the terms. Flag it, downvote it, and vote to delete it. We can do better. – Mark Mayo Apr 12 '15 at 12:08
  • People should remember to down vote in a way that does not trigger the software to reverse all of them! – Gayot Fow Apr 12 '15 at 18:49
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    The goal of these posts is unambiguously to advertise the user's products. Yes, they're relevant ads but they're ads and, as JoErNanO points out Stack Exchange expects companiess to pay for advertising space. There's possibly also some search engine optimization going on, here. I don't think we should be rewarding this user by linking to their website when discussing them. – David Richerby Apr 12 '15 at 22:46
  • @GayotFow What would cause the software to revert down votes? I guess if I down vote every answer from a given user in a certain period of time (with no other votes in between)? Something to prevent people trying to actively target other users? – SpaceDog Apr 13 '15 at 3:35
  • @SpaceDog, there are triggers in the software to prevent overt punishment and vengeance and voting fraud. There are literally HUNDREDS of threads in the main META about it. If detected, the software will roll back all the votes. – Gayot Fow Apr 13 '15 at 12:10
  • @SpaceDog, be very wary of the META effect. meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/269349/what-is-the-meta-effect It seems ok on Travel, but on the main site it is HORRIBLE – Gayot Fow Apr 13 '15 at 17:03
17

According to the Stack Exchange definition spam is something that is purely promotional without any other plus value. So as it stands, those posts don't really qualify as spam as they do answer (part of) the questions. Nevertheless hidden advertising is definitely frowned upon, as once again by doing so I'm implicitly following the SE rules:

Avoid overt self-promotion.

The community tends to vote down overt self-promotion and flag it as spam. Post good, relevant answers, and if some (but not all) happen to be about your product or website, that’s okay. However, you must disclose your affiliation in your answers.

So by applying the rules you should ask for the affiliation and wait. You can also downvote the post temporarily, and then remove the negative vote if the op renders the post compliant to the rules. If not the downvote remains as an indirect flag for low quality. This is what I usually do.

Having said this, I also consider another criteria, namely the reason for which the user joined the site. The case at hand is a perfect example of this: the user just registered and mass-posted 4 answers on the same topic, all aimed at advertising their product. This tells me that, whilst the user might not be a spammer in the technical SE sense, he registered with the sole intent of (somewhat legally as per SE rules) pushing their product and thus add no value to the community. Yes, I judge the intentionality of the posts. What I do then is that I flag it for moderator attention saying exactly this. Turns out that by doing so I'm implicitly following the SE rules:

Avoid overt self-promotion.

[...]

If a large percentage of your posts include a mention of your product or website, you're probably here for the wrong reasons. Our advertising rates are quite reasonable; contact our ad sales team for details. We also offer free community promotion ads for open source projects and non-profit organizations.

For more information you can refer to the more comprehensive help page from TSE on how not to be a spammer.

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    Perfect, I guess I should have read the rules. I remembered that disclosing the affiliation was OK but not that having an account purely for advertising was not. Thanks! – SpaceDog Apr 13 '15 at 3:33
  • @SpaceDog The moderators do have a couple of tools for dealing with this sort of situation, so flagging one or more of the offending posts with a custom message is exactly the right thing to do. – Michael Hampton Nov 15 '15 at 8:07

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