# How to handle user that seems to just copy existing answers?

I tend to spend more of my time poking around looking at existing questions/answers on MSE than answering them myself, and recently I found an old question which had two identical answers calculation-wise, with a bit of wording changed. However one was nearly a year older than the other and had amassed a great deal of upvotes, whereas the other had none. Out of curiosity I looked at the newer answer-er's profile, confused as to why they would add an answer that was already there, and found that they have a handful of answers which follow the exact same pattern of copying the math and adding a sentence like "Do this." to an older existing answer long, long after the original answer had been posted.

This (in my opinion) probably isn't exactly an ingenious way of trying to get reputation (and this user doesn't have much) as older answers attract much less voting and I don't see who would upvote a copied answer anyway, but the notion still irks me of blatantly copying someone else's work under your own name.

My question is, does this warrant any more attention than a downvote? Should I inform a moderator? Also, after discovering this pattern I feel the urge to go downvote every single one of their copied answers, however that would sort of match the definition of serial downvoting, wouldn't it?

I don't want to draw a bunch of negative attention to this user and am not even sure if this is technically not allowed, hence I am not going to link their profile in this discussion.

• If you feel the urge to address every single copied answer, I don't think a downvote would do much at all. Instead, consider simply adding a comment on the copied answer to the effect of something like this: "There does not seem to be anything different in this answer from [this one](<link>). Did you have any new thoughts on the matter? Otherwise, this does not look original." Perhaps that could help. Aug 16, 2015 at 17:25
• @WillJagy Yes. On the other hand, in the past, a proven case of repeated plagiarism has been, first declared insignificant (and the whistleblower, who was the plagiarized user, made fun of), then, when evidence became impossible to deny, it was left unpunished.
– Did
Aug 16, 2015 at 20:45
• @WillJagy Again: contrarily to the discovery of a ring of mutual upvoters, which apparently led to collective suspensions, decided reasonably swiftly, at least one clear-cut of systematic plagiarism I am aware of led to no suspension at all (the irony being that the plagiarist happens to be also a member of the ring). So yes, "people have been suspended for activities somewhat related to this" if "somewhat related" means mutual upvotes, but not for the activities this OP asks about, that is, plagiarism. You see me coming: to me, the latter is an order of magnitude more serious than the former.
– Did
Aug 17, 2015 at 19:01
• Yes, plagiarism is a serious offense. It is against both the spirit and the letter of Community policy. Aug 18, 2015 at 23:02

## 1 Answer

Flag such a post for moderator attention and, in the message box to the moderator, indicate that this is a frequent behavior of the user, linking to examples if space permits. The behavior hurts the site's quality and can't be adequately addressed by normal users (but which would otherwise not be seen by our small team of moderators). You could leave comments on isolated incidents, but I doubt this would be effective at stopping persistent behavior.

• No. This is not a website dedicated to original research, and your reputation is based on correctly answering questions, not a measure of your originality or ingenuity. If you're concerned about plagiarism, you're on the wrong website. This is a question and answer website. If two questions have the same answer, it is more helpful to post the answer directly on the webpage of the posed question than a link to another page. Aug 17, 2015 at 4:28
• @anon0909 Where did he say anything about plagiarism in the manner you're describing it in? Aug 17, 2015 at 4:31
• This is a question of whether copying answers is improper behavior. If the concern isn't about plagiarism, then what's the problem? Aug 17, 2015 at 4:36
• @anon0909 I think there's a pretty noteworthy distinction between what you're describing and what I am describing. Aug 17, 2015 at 4:49
• There's no difference. You say yourself: "the notion still irks me of blatantly copying someone else's work under your own name." That defines plagiarism. But if even the language us clarified, then its a better answer. The is not a website dedicated to the valor of who knows more first. Aug 17, 2015 at 5:01
• @anon0909 Far as I can see, this question is asking only about two identical answers to the same question. Your argument does not apply to the discussion at hand. (That said, if you find that a question already has a good answer elsewhere on the site, you should mark the question as a duplicate, not copy the answer) Aug 17, 2015 at 5:10
• @anon0909: Plagiarism is copying without attribution. The license to SE content is Creative Commons with Attribution. There is a link (in fine print) to this at the bottom of essentially every SE page, including this one. I cannot imagine your reasons for thinking those here "concerned about plagiarism [are] on the wrong website." Aug 18, 2015 at 23:09
• @anon0909: Plagiarism is explicitly against site policy. See math.stackexchange.com/help/referencing. Aug 22, 2015 at 5:55