What sparked this is a Psychology & Neuroscience answer which is purely a cut and paste answer from Psychology Today, I flagged to the moderators for further action.

The person who posted this seems to have been inactive in SE over the last 3 years. Maybe this needs to be deleted?

The thing is, I could easily provide a citation for the quote in Psychology Today. Now, I have reviewed When should I edit a post?, and I can see a possible reason for editing (it creates utility of the answer while rectifying the plagiarism).

But, as @NickStauner said in a discussion here about plagiarism,

I can't quite decide how I feel about inserting the source myself if I happen to know it or can find it, instead of telling the plagiarist to do so. On one hand, it solves the immediately obvious problem, reduces the motivation for a lawsuit, and probably makes a lawsuit very unlikely to succeed; on the other, the evidence of the crime is still there in the edit history, and the person's behavioral pattern (to whatever extent it can be inferred from the case(s) at hand) hasn't been addressed. I'd appreciate any comments on this sub-issue, if it's worth considering.

In my mind, and in light of bans on ChatGPT it would be defeating the aim of SE to stamp out plagiarism (and plagiarists) within SE sites, would it not?

What should the response be to such a problem? To edit or delete?


Reading What to do when plagiarism is discovered in main meta, one-off plagiarism should be edited.

I have decided that as there is a large consensus in SE to edit, I will edit the post as the user is inactive and their only other answer does not appear to be plagiarism.

I will be happy to accept it if the consensus is to delete later.


1 Answer 1


My answer would differ a bit from the main-meta advice.

I'd differentiate between plagiarism like this copy-paste example where there is absolutely no evidence at all in the post that this is taken from somewhere else, and cases where the poster simply hasn't used proper referencing.

The latter is still considered plagiarism under, say, a university ethics code, but I think it's less familiar to people to uphold those standards on the internet. I have in mind cases where, say, the poster indicates "a study says" without referencing the study, or has a quote in their post with a partial or complete reference but it's not clear which section of their post the reference applies to or is a direct quote. Editing these seems to help educate the poster on how they should format and reference their posts.

For just the blatant plagiarized rip-off of some blog on the internet that they represent as their own, though, I'd say just flag it and let's delete them. If they then want to, on their own effort, improve the post to not be plagiarized, that's great. If it's worth preserving a similar answer, just write a new one. I think the current risk/reward balance for plagiarism is too high in favor of plagiarizing: that content can be a pain to detect and deal with, and I don't have a lot of sympathy for it.

That said, I certainly wouldn't recommend going back and undoing any edits that have already been made.

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