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This question (now deleted) about the difference between the terms legalization and attestation was posted yesterday. It was posted simultaneously with a self-answer. I thought it was spam immediately, but in a comment was told that self-answers are encouraged.

enter image description here

The "answer" provided by the OP was linked to the PEC website as a definition and "proof" of usage.

I decided to do a little digging, and this is what I found:

The OP is the technical director for BTW Group.

BTW Group owns PEC

In other words, it is tricky, but it looks like spam.

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    Nice detective work! Given the region involved and the manner in which the website is linked (gratuitous-link style rather than as-source style), I'd lean towards calling that spam. – ArtOfCode Jun 6 at 22:17
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    Well done, Cascabel! As someone who has on occasion both asked and answered a question at this site, I find it very annoying when people do so not to share potentially useful information with no strings attached but to surreptitiously try to drum up business. – Sven Yargs Jun 7 at 0:45
  • @Cascabel It would be useful for lower rep. users like myself to know exactly what is going on here, but at the same time I have some reluctance regarding that matter because it would basically be like re-posting the spam. As a matter of fact, I'd probably even recommend that you replace the utm hyperlink with a bare hxxp:// equivalent, so you can't just click through to its destination without intentionally copy/pasting them into the U.R.L. bar, just to reduce the traffic going through to the site.Besides that, the matter's settled, so it would not do much good. – Tonepoet Jun 8 at 3:20
  • @Tonepoet I edited the Q so you can see the original post. Since it is an image only I don't think it will hurt. The other suggestion about stripping the UTM I am gonna think about. This has been an education for me. – Cascabel Jun 8 at 14:55
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In this case, the links contain more than just a link:

?utm_medium=stackexchange&utm_source=dd&utm_campaign=hqbl&utm_content=attestation

UTM stands for Urchen Tracking Module

utm_source: As the name suggests this custom variable allows marketers to track the source that is sending the visits. If you have partnered with a website then you can track visits from the website using ?utm_source=...

Given that the links appear to be part of a campaign to drive traffic to their website, and the author does not disclose his affiliation with that site, I'm content that whatever the actual worth of the answer, it fits Stack Exchange's definition of spam. I've dealt with it accordingly.

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    The words "...author does not disclose his affiliation with that site" do it for me. I took a screen shot of the original post. Since it has now been sent into oblivion, is it worth while to include the snippet in my question for archival purposes? – Cascabel Jun 6 at 23:05
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    @Cascabel I believe all deleted questions (even mod-deleted spam) are available to 10k users. I think your description is adequate; but if you want to help users with less than 10k rep, then it's your question to edit. – Andrew Leach Jun 7 at 6:28
  • @Cascabel that would be useful. – whiskeychief Jun 7 at 13:04
  • Did you consider banning the OP for violation of the TOS? I would be in favor of that. – user0939 Jun 8 at 8:09
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    @user0939 We don't discuss individual cases. I can say that successful spam flags carry a swingeing rep penalty and that generally that's sufficient. – Andrew Leach Jun 8 at 8:16
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    I'm not sure it's even a good answer. I'd guess that OP is using a precise legal definition as if it was incontestable and where other broader definitions occur among real people. I wish it was a rule on ELU that 'according to (eg CGEL)' should be mandatory with answers, rather than the fiats we sometimes see. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 11 at 13:20
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At the risk of muddying the waters with (more) facts, the user in question:

  • Has been a member of EL&U Stack Exchange for three years,
    • where he has posted two (other) questions, which
      • were not self-answered,
      • contained no links,
      • contained no self-promotion that I could see, and
      • appeared to be legitimate, on-topic questions (although neither was high-quality, and one was a dupe).
  • Has been a member of Stack Overflow for seven years,
    • where he has over 500 rep (based on 6 questions and 17 answers):
      • A spot check of these indicated that they were legitimate, spam-free posts.

Of course I cannot see deleted posts, and I have no idea whether he has any history of violating rules or causing trouble.

Is this a malicious, deliberate rule-breaker / spammer?  Or is it a person who has a lot of plates in the air, and forgot the rules of a site he uses only a few times per year?

Even if that’s true, does it change anything?  Past good behavior doesn’t mean you get to break the rules and engage in self-promotion without being transparent about it.  Sudden “spammy” activity after a long period of inactivity may indicate the account has been compromised, although I don’t think this is the case here.

comment by ColleenV

I believe that it makes a difference.  I believe that it’s appropriate to look at intent and patterns of behavior.  A lot of the spam that we see is the first post from accounts that are less than a week old.  When Datt joined Stack Exchange, I doubt that that he rubbed his hands together and said “Now all I have to do is wait seven years, and then I can post a link to a company that’s owned by the company I work for, and maybe I’ll get away with it.”  If (and I say If, because I don’t know) it’s a first offense from a user with a long, clean record, it might be appropriate to delete the answer (or edit out the link?) and give him a warning.  Wiping out all his rep on EL&U seems excessive.  Banning the user (which hasn’t happened [yet] but was suggested) seems like it would be very excessive.

At one point the “Be Nice” policy said “Be welcoming, be patient, and assume good intentions.”  The language may have changed, but this still seems to be the spirit of the policy.

And, if the account has been compromised, how does it make sense to punish the legitimate owner of the account?

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    Even if that’s true, does it change anything? Past good behavior doesn’t mean you get to break the rules and engage in self-promotion without being transparent about it. Sudden “spammy” activity after a long period of inactivity may indicate the account has been compromised, although I don’t think this is the case here. – ColleenV parted ways Jun 18 at 14:10
  • Why do I think the user was punished?   Seriously?   He (apparently) got all his (110) reputation points taken away. – Scott Jun 21 at 14:56
  • I was looking at the screenshot and got confused. That reputation loss is temporary. It will be restored when his suspension is over. – ColleenV parted ways Jun 21 at 14:57
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    Also consider this, one third of the content contributed to ELU was a deceptive attempt to promote a business. I do think that merits a suspension to make sure that the seriousness of the policy violation is understood. It might have been a bit different if the author had posted a genuine answer to a genuine question and promoted their business without disclosing the relationship, but to fabricate an excuse to post the link is behavior that should be punished with a suspension. – ColleenV parted ways Jun 21 at 15:16
  • Hello? I see no indication that the account is suspended.  He was able to post this question (and the comments below it) on June 15, nine days after Andrew Leach vaguely dealt with the infraction.  Meanwhile, it’s documented that there is a 100 point penalty for spam, so I’m wondering why Datt lost 110 points. – Scott Jun 21 at 15:39
  • P.S. When searching for the above FAQ entry, I found this post, which suggests that spam can be inadvertent, and that a warning is an appropriate first response (and it has a score of +23). And you bring us back to the issue of intent.  Was he “deceptive” or did he forget the rule?  Did he “fabricate an excuse to post the link”, or was it “a genuine answer to a genuine question”? – Scott Jun 21 at 15:39
  • Even if this is so, his “punishment” was losing his association bonus. Seems fair to me. If the account was compromised, privileges like commenting on any post need to be revoked until control can be restored to the rightful owner to prevent more disruption to the site. – ColleenV parted ways Jun 21 at 20:07

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