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Earlier today, a Stack Overflow (SO) member noticed that another member was knowingly editing answers on SO that contained iTunes links to include the latter member's affiliate account number so that they can profit from the referral credit for purchases. This topic was discussed here. When the topic was brought to the attention of other members, many were upset. It led to a temporary suspension of the user, while it is being determined if the user will be banned for the offense.

Needless to say, this site has already, and will continue to garnish many links to external sites. Should we have measures in place to automatically remove affiliate parameters from links for known affiliate programs (iTunes, Mac App Store, Amazon Appstore, etc.) to remove any possibility of users including their affiliate program information in the content they post. These measures would also stave off the possibility of users unnecessarily editing posts/answers with their affiliate information which they can then also earn reputation points and would remove the need for members to 'actively' police anything that is posted to ensure users don't include affiliate program information. From time to time all that would need to be done is updating the measures put in place to include changes to the various affiliate programs and/or addition of other affiliate programs.

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Use of affiliate links on this site is NOT allowed. If you find them, edit themout. If it becomes repeated or persistent, 'flag' them as spam. If someone edited someone else's answer to add an affiliate link, flag the answer as “other” and explain the problem.

Affiliate links are fine in your own blog. But using them in this type of Q&A is completely inappropriate and calls into question the motivations of those using them, as well as the integrity of the answers in general.

Don't do it. Ever.

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  • 'Use of affiliate links on this site is NOT allowed' - is there a blog/About/help post/TOS that spells it out that can be linked to when explaining it? Thx – DVK Feb 10 '14 at 18:56
  • @DVK It falls under 'spam' in our Content Policy. – Robert Cartaino Feb 10 '14 at 19:40
  • Can you elaborate on whether an automated approach is being considered or is in the works to resolve this issue? If not no worries, just curious to know. Another point to consider is what to do if/when users use shortened links (bitly, etc.) to hide their links containing affiliate information. I understand we can't cover all scenarios, but wanted to at least mention the concern. – Anil Natha Feb 11 '14 at 0:05
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Yes, they should be removed automatically if possible.

And we should remove them manually if impossible.

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As it already is an issue on SO, as you write, I'd rather raise this concern on mSO (if that has not already been done). I know of many other sites having affiliate parts automatically removed from posts while they are "saved" (sometimes even replacing them with their own affiliation). So IMHO this would rather be a task for the devs to cover SE-wide.

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    Just an FYI, the issue was raised on mSO and I do agree with you that this should be a SE-wide implementation. I wanted to raise it here in hopes to raise awareness of the issue and so that the future moderators of the site will take it upon themselves to continue discussing this topic with the SE devs to have it resolved, if it isn't already in the works. Cheers. – Anil Natha Feb 10 '14 at 7:58
  • Good point! They might well miss the one or other "affiliate" (who knows them all?). – Izzy Feb 10 '14 at 8:09
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    Looks like link updating is already being done for Amazon book links across all SE sites. – Anil Natha Feb 10 '14 at 8:24

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