Back in 2016, someone asked a story ID question about a novel, which was answered, and in April of 2018 I added an answer mentioning a short story by the same author which I thought fit the description even better (except, of course, for not being a novel.) I linked to a review of the short story.

In 2019 a very high-rank member of this community (who I thought was a moderator) made an extensive edit of my answer, adding 8 paragraphs of what I felt were spoilers (Yes, 8 paragraphs of spoilers for a short story.). I was not at all happy, and added a comment to that effect:

This answer was extensively edited yesterday by a moderator of this stack to add detailed spoilers (basically the entire plot of the story) which I would have never included. I'm not going to roll back a moderator's edits but I really resent having my name attached to what this answer has become. – arp Jan 15 '19 at 0:44

Well, I was drawn back to the question by an upvote, and the edit is now credited to "Community"; the spoilers I was so unhappy about turn out to be 8 paragraphs of the linked review, verbatim. How is this not plagiarism, and worse yet plagiarism attributed to me?

The other to the answer also shows an edit by 'Community', and is primarily a long uncredited quote from Wikipedia.

So, 2 questions:

  1. Is it now site style to include the bulk of a linked source verbatim?

  2. If it is not, is there any way to identify and revert other instances of what I see as vandalism? (I remember at the time that the user had a very high reputation, and now wonder how much of it was gained by plagiarism, and if perhaps they were removed for cause.)

I doubt my little answer is an isolated case, which is why I'm raising this issue; but it's at Book: Gen-manipulated intelligent squids explore space/planet


Someone edited the answer to quote a shortened version of the review; I replaced it with this:

This theme first came up in Baxter's short story “Sheena 5”; see Variety SF for a review, which is much more about the squid and less about the humans.

A squid is genetically modified to be intelligent enough to pilot and land a spacecraft; she manages to proudly complete her mission without letting her ground controllers know that she managed to get pregnant on Earth. A few of her offspring inherited her intelligence, and the end result is a whole colony of intelligent squid in space.

Is that now sufficient to stand on its own?

I see a newer answer to the same question where the author was asked to provide more detail; I'm still upset that I wasn't given the same courtesy.

  • Only the most recent edit is credited to Community; the revision history shows all edits to the post. That user has never been a moderator here, by the way.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 16:28
  • 2
    I think your new version is perfectly fine (as was Rand's edit to it with the shortened quote). A note on not leaving a comment: generally I do, at least more so nowadays (evolved over the years of course), but I didn't on yours. Apparently I made that edit at 3am in the morning (no idea why I was awake then). I can only guess my brain wasn't fully functioning and I forgot to leave the comment so sorry about that.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 16:50
  • 1
    Plagiarism and copy right infringement are not the same thing. AFAIK, you are indemnified by SE, Inc. against DCMAs, etc., because everything you write here is owned by them and therefore their problem. Yours is to not plagiarize, and the only way you can do that is to lack proper attribution. 'fair use' is for all parties' concerned lawyers to weed out.
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 29, 2020 at 9:57
  • @Mazura. You retain the ownership of your contributions to SE sites. The copyright is yours. You license it to SE so they can publish it. (You also license it to any third parties, through the standard CC BY-SA license that SE sites use.)
    – TRiG
    Commented Jan 4, 2021 at 22:16
  • @Randal'Thor "That user has never been a moderator here, by the way." <= Comments that age poorly. :D
    – DavidW
    Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 15:28
  • @DavidW Somewhere on meta there's a long comment exchange between Null and Valorum, at the time when the latter was a mod and the former wasn't, which reads very weirdly now.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 20:13

3 Answers 3


Since I was the user that made the edit let me address your points in this post in order.

Firstly, the reason I made the edit in the first place is because providing the link on its own isn't great as the link may die at any time, in fact it's actually dead for me at the moment. This means that no one would now be able to read the review to work out if the story is correct or not and would have to go off searching on their own. When linking to a source, especially when you haven't described anything in your own words, it is almost always best to include quotes from the link. In fact this is even called out as something to do in the help centre page on referencing material:

When you find a useful resource that can help answer a question (from another site or in an answer on Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange) make sure you do all of the following:

  • Provide a link to the original page or answer
  • Quote only the relevant portion
  • Provide the name of the original author

Now to reply to your comment from the time as it flows on here. Firstly, you are always free to rollback/revert edits completely or edit them further. Please don't worry about that (unless you're adding inappropriate content back in and the like). It's been too long so I can't speak for why I added as much as I did but I likely felt it would help the OP understand if this was what they were looking for or not. As I said though you are free to remove some or all of it if you want, though I would caution against you removing it all.

Further, whilst your name is on the answer the edit is attached to my name. You can see the revision history of the post here so there is full transparency to who added what. And if you're worried about spoilers, which you don't really need to be in this case as you're answering a question so details about the story are expected to be given in the answer, you can hide spoilers using spoiler markdown i.e. adding >! to the start of a paragraph, see below for an example.

an example.

Per above as well the edit is now not attributed to Community, the Community user was just the last to edit the post. In this case it was due to the markdown migration to CommonMark. This also appears to be why the other answer was edited by the Community user.

I want to note as well that this isn't plagiarism (as far as I'm aware, I'm not a lawyer, I believe this would fall under fair use; obviously though this depends on the license given to the review from that website). You've, or I've, given attribution and formatted it to be a quote so it's clear it isn't your, or my, own words. Also if you're quoting from an external source, as long as it's done in this way, I would imagine it is very much preferable to quote verbatim than to take their work and re-word it into your words.

On to your questions at the bottom:

  1. It's not necessarily style but rather at least good practice to include some of the content from a link if you're relying on that link for the description. For example, if you describe the story in your own words you don't really need to quote from a third party, though that might be helpful too.

  2. Identifying and reverting what you believe to be vandalism? I'm not aware of any built in tool so that leaves you either trawling through every post or action by a user or developing some complicated third party tool.

    I will note that this isn't vandalism in the SE sense though, which would be destroying a post. And your definition seems to be quite strict. Edits, and edits by other users, are a vital way for how the SE system works. Was this particular edit a little too far? Maybe, maybe not... that's up to the individual to decide.

I just want to end this saying though that I take offence at your end comment about myself, personally. I haven't plagiarised anything on this site (and if I did would have been caught by now) and you also don't get rep for edits. Just a note to yourself I think your post would be a lot better without the baseless accusation and also without it, would make me at least more willing to help. You'll get a lot further by presuming good intent than assuming bad and getting others riled up from the get go.

  • FWIW I think Rand's edit to your answer is better than mine!
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 16:39
  • 1
    I don't think quoting 8 paragraphs of a ten-paragraph review falls under fair use.
    – arp
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 17:04
  • 1
    I don't think you appreciate just how furious your edit made me at the time, and how completely disempowered I felt to challenge an action made by a user with stratospheric rep. Forgive me for not remembering how to check edit history on a site that I used to enjoy but that I've been mostly driven away from.
    – arp
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 17:49
  • 6
    @arp no edit is final, you are always free to revert it. I’d have said so at the time had I seen your comment. For the second part of your comment, I feel you think I’m being condescending in the answer above. I didn’t mean to, rather just trying to help you out and let you know where to find things. And I’m sorry if I’ve had any part in driving you away from the site as that is certainly not my intention.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 18:52
  • For what it's worth, from the time I've been there, you appear as a decent guy to me. Not really on topic, but it looked like you could use a moral boost.
    – Clockwork
    Commented Jan 4, 2021 at 10:55
  • @Clockwork Thanks very much! Means a lot :) Can always do with hearing nice things from time to time!
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Commented Jan 4, 2021 at 11:04

Firstly, you can still see all edits to your post in the revisions history. The edit you're talking about isn't now credited to "Community"; that was a more recent edit. The editor you're talking about was TheLethalCarrot, a high-rep user but not someone who's ever been a moderator on this site.

There's a few different issues involved here, so let me address them one by one, starting with the most important.

Nobody's edits are sacred.

If someone makes an edit to your post, and you as the OP don't like it, then you're (usually) free to roll back.

  • Most edits on this site are good - correcting misspellings, improving formatting, fixing tags, etc. - and if an edit is an objective improvement it shouldn't be rolled back. If an OP (not you) rolled back a good edit, it might be re-rolled back, and at some point a moderator might step in to lock the post in a given state until the content dispute could be resolved, e.g. on meta.

  • But you're always free to ask why a post was edited, and even free to roll back if you have good reasons against that edit. Don't be too scared of anyone to question their edits, even moderators (which TheLethalCarrot isn't, but he and we are as human as anyone else and can make mistakes). Anyone who's edited your post can be pinged in comments by using @ followed by their username.

  • As in most disputes, the best way to reach an agreement is to understand the other point of view. If an edit seems bad to you, why did it seem good to the person who did it? That brings me to the next points ...

Link-only answers

Answers which consist of only a link, without any useful info in the text of the answer, are discouraged across Stack Exchange. Links can go dead, and we're trying to create a lasting resource here. I suspect that's why TheLethalCarrot edited your post: because without that quote, it was essentially a stub answer with a link.


We have a somewhat flexible spoiler policy, which - at least in ID answers like this where you're posting about a story which may or may not be what the asker's looking for - leaves a lot up to the answerer's discretion. Spoilertags in ID answers are neither encouraged nor discouraged, I would say; if you think something is too spoilery to include directly, put it in spoiler markup so that it's hidden to casual viewers until they click on it.

Copyright and plagiarism

I'm not a lawyer, and know nothing about copyright law, so I've no idea if including 8 out of 10 paragraphs of a book review published on a blog is legally dodgy or not. It's certainly a valid concern, though. Plagiarism is not a concern, since the source is clearly linked and the copied paragraphs are marked in quote formatting to make clear they're not yours.

The way forward

From the above points, certainly you have good reason to dislike the edit that was made, but there was a valid reason for making an edit. I can think of a few ways to resolve the situation and address all issues:

  1. Cut out the bulk of the quoted text, keeping only the parts most relevant/important. (This is what I attempted to do in my edit.)
  2. Use spoilertags (>! syntax) as necessary to hide any spoilery parts.
  3. Remove all the quoted text and add a summary in your own words. (This is probably the best solution, since you can choose your phrasing to avoid spoilers, and there are no copyright concerns. I couldn't do it though, since I haven't read the story.)
  • Sorry for editing the post and then disappearing. I started writing this meta answer immediately after my edit, but then had to go AFK for a while.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 17:43

Before the edit your answer was basically a single sentence that referred to a link without providing more than the merest hint of the content. The only thing you said that provided any link to the question was "squid."

Did you try to follow the link in your answer? This is precisely the reason to include quotes from the referenced blog post. Imagine that Carrot had not edited quotes from the blog into your answer; how much use would your answer be?

Answers need to have enough content to stand on their own in the event that the external resources they use go away. The edit does that. If you roll the edit back the likelihood is either that your answer will be deleted or the content will be restored since you don't really have an answer anymore without it.

As to the legal details, well, that's tricky. SE is governed ultimately by US law, but is an international site and people outside the US may not have the same expectations of what is permissible. Based on my understanding of US copyright law, the quotes and snippets used in answers would tend to fall into the "fair use" category, especially since they are not being used to simply recapitulate the content but used to inform commentary on the subject. Quotes directly from works are always a small fraction of the work as a whole, etc. Besides, copyright is not something that you can enforce on someone else's work; it's not up to you to decide if fair use may not apply to quotes from some author's story.

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with the answer as it stands, but if you still really don't want to be associated with it you can mark it as "community wiki" by editing it and clicking on the "Community wiki" checkbox below the text box.

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