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See subject. What exactly happened?

These two answers got deleted for no apparent or communicated reason:

Both answers are my own original work, address the questions at hand, and try to be as constructive as possible. Now for what possible reason would those be deleted, and my reputation annihilated (to the point where I can't even post to meta!!)?

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    Both answers are the same and are visually compatible with astroturf. I've no idea what happened, but I bet someone thought you were spamming. – gowenfawr Sep 18 '14 at 19:35
  • "visually compatible with astroturf." What do you mean by that? Both answers are similar because the questions are similar. If one question needs duplicated, fine. But why should my work take the blame? – landroni Sep 18 '14 at 19:37
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    It means the answers looked like spam. One of the questions is over a year old, and the other is over two years old, and you posted answers promoting a specific company/product, with multiple links back to their website, and without disclosing what relationship you had with the product you were promoting. – Xander Sep 18 '14 at 19:51
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    Some quick Googling shows that he has done custom work to create modules, but is not part of the company. Just a poweruser of the product. It is unfortunate that he links to his own answers on another SE site for technical details. – schroeder Sep 18 '14 at 20:01
  • @TildalWave My answers were posted for transparency in the answer to this very question. – landroni Sep 19 '14 at 7:18
  • @schroeder I was simply trying to adapt my work to the specificities of Security SE. I noticed that here the answers are usually of the form: use this. While elsewhere, like Unix SE or Ask Ubuntu, full-fledged step-by-step instructions are more often. On Unix SE the questions pertained to how to place secure calls; on Security SE the questions were about what to use to place secure calls. I would have gladly copy/pasted the full technical instructions from Unix SE, but I didn't feel there was a need to do that: hence linking back to the more detailed post. – landroni Sep 19 '14 at 7:22
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Two out of the three answers provided by your account looked like spam, matching the following heuristics:

  • Heavily promoted a single product, service, or vendor.
  • Contained multiple links to a commercial site, matching common SEO patterns.
  • Contained little or no direct technical information within the post body.
  • Consisted, primarily, of a call-to-action to visit the aforementioned sites.

There were also other issues with your answers which were not specific to spam, but were indicative of abnormal behaviour:

  • The two offending answers were literally identical.
  • You linked to another answer of yours on Unix SE, which also heavily backlinked to the same vendor, though which did contain more technical details. This is usually done by people who are trying to farm reputation, rather than spammers.

That being said, it doesn't mean you are a spammer. Your behaviour was indicative enough for you to be concerning, but the fact that you replied and the fact that some basic osint shows you're probably not an employee means you're (probably) off the hook on this one. However, it is customary when recommending a commercial solution to explicitly and transparently state any affiliation you have with the vendor, paid or otherwise. I would suggest you caveat all of your future answers that reference Linphone as such.

As for what happened to your answers, they have been soft-deleted and can only be read by 10k+ reputation users who explicitly view the revision history. This is a safety measure to prevent gaming of the SE system by spammers.

For transparency, I'll quote the answers you gave (sans links):

You can use Linphone to place secure calls. It supports:

  • HD Audio and video call
  • Secure communications (TLS, SRTP, zRTP)

You would need to use a SIP service that supports authenticating and transporting traffic through TLS (not all do), like Linphone SIP service or Ostel.

For detailed instructions on how to set up secure calls with Linphone see:

[unix.stackexchange.com/questions/9724/secure-foss-alternative-to-skype-on-linux-openbsd/151402]

As a closing word on the matter, I'd like to point out that these measures are taken to ensure that StackExchange is a good resource for solving technical (and non-technical) problems for everyone. It is better to err on the side of caution and have a few false positives with these things than it is to let spammers run riot. Signal to noise ratio is critical in making StackExchange useful.

If you were literally just posting about a solution that you had experience with, then I'm sorry you got flagged incorrectly, but I hope you understand that it wasn't intended to be an attack on you specifically. We like people to stick around, enjoy themselves, and contribute quality answers, which is one of the reasons we take abusive behaviour so seriously.

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  • Everything @Polynomial said is pretty spot on. They were downvoted by community members and marked as spam without a moderator being involved. I look at Linphone and the context of the answers and have cleared the spam flags. Doesn't mean you won't get downvotes from others, but I agree it's not worth dinging all your rep and Linphone sounds like a good open-source alternative. – Jeff Ferland Sep 18 '14 at 21:09
  • Thank you for elucidating "visually compatible with astroturf" so clearly and in such detail. I agree it may not have been meant as such, but it sure "looked like it", and your answer lays out the "it". – gowenfawr Sep 18 '14 at 21:46
  • OK. Thanks for the thorough explanation. I would have appreciated though if first a warning were issued, which would have cleared up very quickly any unfortunate misunderstanding. One thing that would have helped is if the moderator also checked my reputation/history on other SE websites, and seen that elsewhere (e.g. AskUbuntu) I'm a "trusted user"; that should have dispelled or alleviated spamming suspicions. As for the suggested product being commercial, well, it's no more commercial than Firefox or Chrome: Linphone is fully FOSS, and available to all for use for free. – landroni Sep 19 '14 at 7:14
  • @JeffFerland "Doesn't mean you won't get downvotes from others" I don't really mind downvotes as long as they're transparent: i.e. the downvoter leaves a comment to explain the reasons and to suggest improvements. But I do hate when people downvote and move on (or trigger the spam flag, as in this case).. – landroni Sep 19 '14 at 7:38
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    Just because a product is free or open source, doesnt mean it can't be spammed. And if the consensus is that these are acceptable answers for the question, that just means the question likely needs to be closed or rewritten. A question that expects answers to provide names of products is merely a shopping question, not what we want here. – AviD Sep 19 '14 at 8:47

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