22

I flagged an answer today.

The key factors were:

  1. It was posted almost four years after the question was posted and received an accepted answer.
  2. It was just one line which merely rephrased what the accepted answer had established about four years ago.

At worst, this is plagiarism. At best, It was redundant and added nothing new of value to the post.

Giving the guy benefit of doubt, I decided not to raise a custom flag accusing him of plagiarism. Instead, I raised a VLQ flag given the length and content.

The flag was rejected.

What is our policy on such answers? What should we do when we see an answer which merely parrots what other users had contributed years ago?

In my opinion, such answers should be removed as:

  1. They are redundant and add nothing new of value.
  2. They could be upvoted (Not sure by who but it happens every now and then), giving that person rep s/he doesn't deserve.
  3. It is unfair to the person who answered before that their contribution is rephrased without any credits to them on that very thread.
  4. Given that there is an interval of an extended period of time between the old answer and the new answer, it is highly unlikely that the new person hadn't read the older answer before posting h/is/er own. So that in turn makes it very unlikely that this was done in good faith.
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    “They could be upvoted, giving that person rep s/he doesn't deserve.” THIS POTENTIAL INJUSTICE CANNOT STAND – Paul D. Waite May 7 '17 at 11:42
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    “it is highly unlikely that the new person hadn't read the older answer before posting h/is/er own” — sure. Everyone knows that, on the internet at least, everyone reads all existing comments before posting their own! – Paul D. Waite May 7 '17 at 11:43
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Do not flag posts because they only repeat existing information. Those flags should be, and usually are, declined. Downvote, comment, and move on.

Answers should be evaluated on their own merits. Not other answers, not whether there's an accepted answer, and especially not who the author is.

There's no time limit on responses, no rule against posting on a question with an accepted answer, and no rule here requiring answers to present new and unique information. In short, there's no cause for a mod to delete new answers that say the same thing in new words. Downvote, comment, and move on.

Plagiarism is direct copy-and-paste, with at most a word changed here or there. Rephrasing another answer is not plagiarism.

If you do encounter an answer that is substantially a word-for-word copy of an existing answer (or any other source) as-is without quoting and sourcing it, flag that with a custom reason explaining that it's directly copied and link to where it's copied from.

"Very low quality" flags are rarely appropriate, and really should be removed entirely.


As to your specific example, the answer is not copied, answers the question directly and clearly, and even cites a source (which we don't actually require anyway). There is nothing wrong with the answer.

  • This is pretty much what I would have said. +1 especially for "Answers should be evaluated on their own merits." – Rand al'Thor May 5 '17 at 22:08
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    See also Duplicate answer as late answer from new user on main meta. From the top answer: "This does not require moderator intervention. If they say the same thing clearer than others, vote for it. If they're just adding noise, don't vote for it, or even vote against it. But if an answer is right and multiple people say the same content in different words, vote for the one(s) you find helpful." – Rand al'Thor May 5 '17 at 22:52
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    note please that raising a VLQ flag is not asking for moderator intervention (the assumption behind the flag being "declined", if it is the community that decides it gets "disputed"). for that there is the "moderator only" flag. There are plenty of examples around the SE network where VLQ flags are needed to put posts in the LQ queue. and no, no other flag is applicable. – Federico May 9 '17 at 21:11
  • I guess the gameification to get tag badges with this policy is not a major concern? – Skooba Aug 24 '17 at 13:51
2

I downvote, flag, and comment on why I feel it duplicates the existing answer if it's a straight restatement.

If it looks like good intentions, I'll just comment, asking the answerer how they feel it improves upon the accepted answer.

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    I took the first approach, which resulted in flag rejection. IMO, such answers should not be allowed to stay. It's not like I have never answered old questions with existing accepted answers years after they were posted but I do it only if the existing answers are missing something or lacking in details. If the answer had showed some sort of effort, I'd have recognized it as done in good faith. But if some guy is just repeating what someone else said in one line, it's hard to argue that intentions were good. – Aegon May 5 '17 at 13:53
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    What flag do you give on this case? – Bebs V May 14 '17 at 6:55

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