7

We recently had a problematic answer that originally claimed to have privileged information from development of the game in question. This answer made basically the same claims as other answers to that question, and was just as unsubstantiated, but because the author claimed to be a developer, the answer was upvoted and accepted. I then investigated the claim myself, and discovered that the claim was false, and this led to people correctly downvoting the answer and the account getting renamed. Note that impersonating someone is against site policy.

However, that user now has almost 100 rep and at the time of writing the answer still has a positive score, just because they falsely claimed to be someone else. This lessens the integrity of the site.

Therefore, I propose that we make a rule stating that users who claim to be in a position of authority in relation to the question (i.e. a developer for the game asked about) must verify their identity. Until they provide such verification, the claim of authority should be removed from the answer, and if it turns out to be false then the user should face additional consequences for violating site policy.

  • Related (with Atwood opinion): Is it ok to impersonate a public figure? – user98085 Aug 29 '14 at 4:37
  • To add, all claims of authority should be taken with a grain of salt until such time the claim is proven. The onus is on the claimant to prove their legitimacy, not on us to disprove it. This isn't license to discard our other rules of conduct, though; we still treat them with respect regardless of the status of their claim. – Frank Aug 29 '14 at 4:40
  • @FEichinger I think that second link is relevant, but it doesn't cover the situation when that impersonation is directly related to the correctness of the question. I think that situation is more severe. – murgatroid99 Aug 29 '14 at 4:41
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    @Frank I agree with this. I would just like to have a rule that we point to when we say "If you don't verify this soon, we're going to shut it down." And I think having a rule lets us deal with it faster and more consistently. – murgatroid99 Aug 29 '14 at 4:42
  • We're already going to be removing their claims of authority if they're not actually relevant to the posts they're making; I'm not sure a time limit is really necessary. Or are you proposing that those that claim a position of authority and don't prove it have some sort of disciplinary action taken against them? Yes, they should verify if they claim it, but the incentive for that claim shouldn't come from disciplinary action so much as a community response to unproven claims. – Frank Aug 29 '14 at 4:55
  • The problem is that we know what the community response to unproven claims is. Irrelevant claims of authority should always be removed, but in many cases a developer can actually answer a question conclusively because of their extra knowledge. – murgatroid99 Aug 29 '14 at 4:57
  • But does it really matter whether it's the developer providing that information? The point isn't that it's the developer answering; it's that someone has given great information to answer a question. It's the appeal to authority itself that lends their contributions greater weight from a social standpoint, and that's what needs to be stripped. Or what would you suggest we do to claimants that won't prove their legitimacy? – Frank Aug 29 '14 at 5:05
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    But this isn't an appeal to authority. A developer actually knows more about their game than anyone else, and we know that their answer is correct because they said it. We want answers from authoritative sources, and developers are as authoritative as they get. But this makes impostors an even bigger problem because they are claiming to be in a position of relevant authority. So I think that we should only remove such claims if they are irrelevant or false, and that we should additionally suspend users that don't prove their legitimacy for violating site policy, as I said in the question. – murgatroid99 Aug 29 '14 at 5:14
  • Until their claim can be verified, it's a appeal to authority, regardless of truth. I'm envisioning we get a new user: they claim to be a developer. As you can see from the answer that sparked this one, that claim provides an almost celebrity status, and will garner upvotes based on that alone. Do we remove their claim until such time they verify it? Do we leave it until we verify their claim or lack thereof? – Frank Aug 29 '14 at 12:53
  • I edited my request. And this isn't very relevant, but that's not what an appeal to authority is. And appeal to authority is an argument that something is true because an authority said so. This is someone claiming to be such an authority and have the expertise to correctly answer. See yourlogicalfallacyis.com/appeal-to-authority. – murgatroid99 Aug 29 '14 at 15:15
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A Plea for Sanity

Can we take a step back and consider this for a moment. What really happened here is we had a troll make a post to try and bait users into believing their unsubstantiated answer. And they successfully got a few upvotes in the process, and people fed the troll. We got trolled, and some people fell for it. Welcome to the internet.

Getting trolled is bound to happen. We get a number of spam posts, a lot of crap and cruft from disgruntled users, a lot of bad answers, and yes, a number of fake posts. That's just a reality of being on the web. That's why the SE system exists. To improve the signal to noise ratio and get the good stuff up top, and bury the bad stuff (or delete it if that is the case). The system is already built to handle this.

Vote

We are a community of experts here. We love and are passionate about video games, and we ask and answer some fantastic questions. We collaborate, and chat, and science all in the name of having an amazing site, and I think we do pretty well.

Do you see an answer with incorrect, incomplete, or unverified information in it? Your votes are yours, but I'd recommend that you vote that down. Doesn't matter if they claim to be a developer, a regular plebeian, or the almighty Helix (praise be unto Them), they still need to show how they arrived at that answer. And if they don't, then it isn't really a good answer.

Who cares if they did code it

One thing I've learned as a software tester is to never trust the developer. If a developer says something like "It works fine, and this is how it works" then you can be sure that it doesn't work that way. There are holes, there are bugs, there are unplanned circumstances, and so even if it is the developer, a claim like "this is how it works" with no proof or anything to back it up is meaningless.

A developer's only advantage should be that they could, if they so choose, have an easier time setting up the circumstances because they likely have better tools. So, in your example post, it would have been awesome if the "developer" set up those exact circumstances, recorded a video, and showed it happening. That would be fantastic proof.

But, alas, they didn't. And it still got upvotes. Some users decided that a person on the internet saying "I am a developer, so X" was enough for them. It was their votes to use, and that's how they chose to use them. Nothing we can do about that. But if you think it is a bad answer that needs to be buried, you have the tools to do that as well. You can downvote it. This is a voting system and the votes are how we determine if something is good or not.

Don't Feed the Trolls

What I'm saying is that we have the tools to deal with this already. If it is spam, delete it. If it is so low quality it doesn't count as an answer, flag it for deletion. Otherwise, use your votes to express your opinion. And use comments to make notations on answers if you want others to hear your opinion to. Or post in chat. We have so much at our disposal to fix the problem.

Yes, we, as a community, got trolled. Someone came in, posted a bad answer, and ended up being net positive on upvotes for that answer. As of right now, they are now net negative in the voting, but still positive in rep. That's bound to happen on occasion. So we have a little noise as an accepted answer. That's not the first time that has happened, and it won't be the last.

So why in the world would we want to make some crazy site policy that will be near impossible to enforce, and discourage potential experts because one troll got past us? Why would we put what would likely be a herculean effort into verifying these people when the verification doesn't matter for a good answer? What do we gain?

All this does is feed the trolls. What happens when the first troll sets up a twitter account just to see how far he can take it? Or buys a domain name for the correct email? Or Photoshops a picture?

We are going to get trolled. And, yes, occasionally the troll will win. But we are experts, and the better we make our answers, the more the trolls stand out. And if we are unable to answer a question, then it probably isn't a good fit for the site. We have so many well researched and great answers. Make those the norm and it becomes very difficult for someone to troll. It will still happen. But if we do our research, and if we confirm answers, and if we are the experts we claim to be, then it will get by us far, far less.

Let's not overreact here. We already have a solution to this problem. Just hold all answers accountable, and this problem will go away. And if the answers you see don't satisfy you, then answer it yourself.

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