So, I'm rather surprised this hasn't been discussed already (it hasn't been as far as I can tell). What do we do if an answer to a question recommends a piece of software that, for example, contains Adware or something else bad during the installation process? Should we make note of this?

As an example, someone posted Windows program for viewing which program is using a file recently. The top answer now recommends Unlocker which has four upvotes. Unlocker is a notable piece of software if not just for the awful adware it attempts to shove down the user's throat during the installation process.

I personally don't think we should be supporting software like this, or, at least, the answer should contain something along the lines of

Note: This software contains potentially harmful adware. Install at your own risk.

What actions officially are we to take against these recommendations?

Edit: To give a better example of the kind of adware encountered in Unlocker I ran through the installation in a virtual machine and took some screenshots of the ads.

Ad 1:


Ad 2:


Ad 3:


Ad 4:


Ad 4 - Part 2:


3 Answers 3


I don't think we should be deleting such answers on the spot. I believe that this mSO answer applies here.

An answer that is not an answer should be deleted (should be a comment, doesn't answer the question etc...).

Answers that are answers but are factually wrong or are actively bad (say promote SQL Injection) should get downvoted, but not deleted.

The standard for dealing with these kinds of answers is to downvote, and (if it's really bad) a warning comment.

It would be nice if answer authors would put the warning in themselves. If they get the comment, they might. At this point, though, I don't believe we should be going around editing this into other people's answers, either - this is the kind of thing the voting system is built for.

  • True. I guess the best that can be done is to add a comment warning. Feb 7, 2014 at 16:03
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    I agree that such answers shouldn't be deleted, but they should be edited. Such cases, where an answer is mostly fine but incomplete or incorrect in a point of detail, is exactly what the edit system was built for. Comments are for temporary notes, not to add complements to a post. Feb 7, 2014 at 17:55
  • @Gilles Yes, but are we authorized to be running around pinning edits to posts saying 'don't use this because this, or at least be really careful'? Shouldn't we at least give the OP a chance to respond or edit themselves?
    – user46
    Feb 7, 2014 at 17:56
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    @Undo: no, you should edit in something like "Be aware. This software contains potentially harmful malware. [Link to source]"
    – Olli
    Feb 7, 2014 at 17:57
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    @Undo No, not “don't use this” (which would go against the essence of the post), but “this contains adware” (which adds a complement that the author missed). Feb 7, 2014 at 17:58
  • @Gilles Ok, that makes much more sense. Just saw your answer.
    – user46
    Feb 7, 2014 at 17:58
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    I agree and disagree at the same time. Yes for the downvote part, Nes for the other half. Not all users read (all) comments, especially when there are plenty. If just acting on the answer would imply harm, we should edit the question directly and immediately. If it's simply wrong/stupid/bad, but no immediate danger ahead, the author should be given a chance to fix it up himself (so a comment should be placed). If there's no reaction on that in reasonable time, we might again do the edit ourselves.
    – Izzy Mod
    Feb 7, 2014 at 19:29
  • "(if it's really bad) a warning comment" - any downvote should always be accompanied by a (warning) comment IMO, and in this instance it is even more important. If an answer has been upvoted then it is not obvious that it even has been downvoted. And if a user does not have 1,000+ rep then they can't see the vote counts so it is impossible to tell (if it has received more upvotes).
    – MrWhite
    Feb 10, 2014 at 1:29

This kind of information should be mentioned in the answer, so that readers can make an informed choice. The (approximate) cost of a piece of software needs to be mentioned in an answer, whether this cost is measured in dollars or ads.

Given the facts you present here, if you see an answer that mentions Unlocker, you should ensure that it mentions the ads. Edit that in if necessary. Remember to make sure to respect the author's style, and don't overdo it. For example, given

You can use Unlocker, which can be downloaded for free. Unlocker does this and that…

you can edit to

You can use Unlocker, which can be downloaded for free. The installer prompts you to install adware, make sure not to accidentally install it. Unlocker does this and that…

Don't do this:

You can use Unlocker, which can be downloaded for free. Unlocker does this and that…



As I wrote in my comment on Undo's answer, I think we must differentiate:

  • If there's danger ahead, immediate action must be taken, and we should edit that question ourselves. The Unlocker post IMHO is such a case. And I approve of the way Dante suggested the edit in his question: Direct, but without offense or defacement.

    Beware: This software contains potentially harmful adware. Install at your own risk.

  • If there's no danger ahead, the author should be given a chance to fix it himself, which also ads to his "learning curve". In those cases, we should place a comment, pointing out what's wrong/bad/stupid, or otherwise needs improvement.
  • If such a comment was already made, but the author didn't act on it in reasonable time (or directly showed disinterest in doing so), a direct edit should be evaluated at least. Downvotes are almost mandatory then ;)
As for downvotes: I wouldn't generally downvote this kind of question. It might well be the author wasn't aware of the issue, or simply forgot about. Showing ignorance (or incidentally placing bad information) is something else, as is bad quality etc.

  • Also sometimes new versions suddenly pop adware into the installer that didn't used to be there. Feb 9, 2014 at 1:04

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