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This question is currently marked as locked:

This post has been locked while disputes about its content are being resolved. For more info visit meta.

.... so I came to meta, looking for discussion about this locked post, but I don't see any. Am I looking in the wrong place?

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    $\begingroup$ No, in principle you're in the right place. The question was taken from here, without attribution, and I've locked it until it has been decided how to deal with the problem. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Dec 27 '16 at 18:02
  • $\begingroup$ The text you quote is boiler plate text, it is not intended to imply that there is already some meta post. Another option to understand it is as "if you want more info/have questions about it, you can ask about it on meta." The likely reason why it is locked seems to be explained in a comment. Copied content. $\endgroup$ – quid Dec 27 '16 at 18:02
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    $\begingroup$ Same situation here, by the way. Source $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Dec 27 '16 at 18:10
  • $\begingroup$ How ironic is it that a question originally posed by Timothy Gowers is closed as opinion based? $\endgroup$ – The Great Duck Dec 29 '16 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ @TheGreatDuck: I don't see the irony. Tim Gowers posted his opinion on his website. This was copied from there, but it's still his opinion. So, where's the irony? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 30 '16 at 9:47
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila I assumed that the question he posed was something he answered through research and was actually mathematically provable. I didn't think he posed an opinion-based answer. I thought it was just closed generically to get rid of the plagiarized question. $\endgroup$ – The Great Duck Dec 30 '16 at 17:04
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The problem is that a user copied parts from Tim Gowers' page at Cambridge University, and posted those as questions, without attribution.

Since the questions already have attracted a number of answers, straight deletion of the plagiarised content is not without its problems either. I have locked both questions until a decision how to resolve the situation is reached. Now is not the optimal time of the year for a speedy discussion, so the locked state lasts a bit longer than I hoped it would.


After discussing the matter with a CM, I've edited the questions to provide proper attribution and links to Tim Gowers' pages and unlocked them. Further improvements to the wording of the questions would not be unwelcome.

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  • $\begingroup$ I understand the reason for locking, and agree with it. I was wondering where the "discussion" (speedy or otherwise) will take place. Is it a moderators only thing, or will it be happening here on Meta? $\endgroup$ – mweiss Dec 27 '16 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ Input from the community is welcome. There are some moderator-only aspects, but as for what to do with the questions, that's of public interest. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Dec 27 '16 at 19:02
  • $\begingroup$ Regarding what to do with the question, to me a natural option seems to be to attribute and contextualize the copied text and to then ask for additional/alternative answers to Gowers's (rhetorical) question. $\endgroup$ – quid Dec 27 '16 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ @quid Yes. I wasn't sure whether that would be sufficient (IANAL and so on). I got some CM feedback, and it probably is, so I've done my clumsy best with editing. Further improvements would be welcome. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Dec 27 '16 at 20:16
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielFischer the fact that there was more than one instance in a short period of time certainly adds a layer of consideration. Thanks for the edits. I noted one misdirected link and fixed it in addition to changing to the original Gowers's version a minor variation introduced by OP. $\endgroup$ – quid Dec 27 '16 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ Are you a constructivist? Because "not be unwelcome" might not be equivalent to "welcome" if you reject the law of excluded middle. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 27 '16 at 21:53
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    $\begingroup$ No, @Asaf. Tertium non datur is not negotiable. I just occasionally am not entirely unsupportive of a little Litotes. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Dec 27 '16 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ @mweiss I found the "multiple instances" aspect of things to be pretty sketchy; it strikes me as a way to gain a bit of reputation/good asking record quickly ("You mean, all I have to do is find questions asked by Gowers and post them like they're my own? Cool!"). I think CW is a fair way to not reward reputation. To be honest, it was legitimately multiple instances of plagiarism and I'm kind of hoping for something a bit more severe, for the user, than making the posts CW. $\endgroup$ – pjs36 Dec 28 '16 at 7:00
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    $\begingroup$ Indeed, I wish the site would be clearer about the fact that it considers plagiarism as a big no-no (if it does), through more effective reactions. The OP's misdeeds earned them around +160 reputation points, it seems, so the message to would-be plagiarists, so far, is actually that they do not risk much. $\endgroup$ – Did Dec 28 '16 at 10:13
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    $\begingroup$ @TheGreatDuck What are you talking about? The OP reproduced several pages of Gowers' website verbatim and you want to argue that "we cannot jump to conclusions" and the like? $\endgroup$ – Did Dec 29 '16 at 18:26
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    $\begingroup$ @TheGreatDuck Did you miss that several posts by this user copying without attribution the same website are involved? // Yes, a policy "must extend to all users" guilty of plagiarism. Are you mentioning this trivially true remark as an excuse to punish none? $\endgroup$ – Did Dec 29 '16 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ @TheGreatDuck Thanks for the noise. $\endgroup$ – Did Dec 29 '16 at 18:47
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    $\begingroup$ I certainly agree with the calls for a more severe punishment. Especially if the profile of the user says "Mathematics graduate". Sure, we all know there are parts of the world where academia is riddled with plagiarism and dishonesty. But at least on this site, I would want to hope that at least outright copying from someone else's website (never mind it was Gowers, that bit is irrelevant) will earn more than a "no more reputation on these questions for you", which is more of a punishment to the people who wrote the answers anyway. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 30 '16 at 9:55
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    $\begingroup$ @TheGreatDuck You say the TOS doesn't say anything about plagiarism in questions, but I believe there is nowhere made a distinction between questions and answers in the TOS. Also, the TOS says: "Subscriber represents, warrants and agrees that it will not contribute any Subscriber Content that (a) infringes, violates or otherwise interferes with any copyright or trademark of another party, [...] (c) infringes any intellectual property right of another or the privacy or publicity rights of another". $\endgroup$ – wythagoras Dec 30 '16 at 16:11
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    $\begingroup$ @TheGreatDuck Further, the content policy includes the following sentence: "We reserve the right to immediately suspend, without notice, any content, account, [...] which we determine to be submitting [...] potentially damaging or disruptive content to the Network." Also, from the TOS: "Stack Exchange reserves the right to [...] suspend or terminate Subscriber’s right to use the Services at any time, [...] for any reason, [...] or for no reason at all." In particular, the last sentence gives SE the right to suspend the user in question. $\endgroup$ – wythagoras Dec 30 '16 at 16:17

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