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One of our community promotion ads redirects to a website listing people who have strong opinions against a publisher. This ad pops up frequently on the homepage, alternating with useful, fun and politically neutral ads, and could give the impression that a majority of users of this site endorse these opinions. Only experienced users know that a very low threshold of up-votes will trigger these ads to show up.

Notwithstanding the fact that I don't think it's helpful to anyone to gather academics to that cause, I think it might tarnish the reputation of users of this site who sometimes use their real names. Especially early career academics certainly don't need that kind of negative publicity.

Should we really use our SE for this kind of promotion?


Note: I'm looking for answers on the generic issue, not for posts or comments trying to convince me said website is the only thing that stands between civilization and obscurantism. I have already endured hours of vociferous campaigning along that line.

  • "Only experienced users know that a very low threshold of up-votes will trigger these ads to show up." I suspect the in-experienced users will not know that the ads are proposed and voted on by the community, and will believe that it's a paid ad (as most ads on the Internet are.) I can totally understand not wanting to participate in a site that advertises for something you strongly disagree with - I can think of ads that would make me rethink my willingness to participate in this site. On the other hand, I don't think tarnished reputations are a serious concern, for that reason. – ff524 May 9 '16 at 13:44
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The whole point of ads on this site is to allow the community to advertise what they, collectively, find useful and relevant. I disagree with your "low vote threshold" comment... the ten-vote threshold on meta for a site like ours is a pretty steep requirement, as the vast majority of our users don't visit meta, ever. For an ad to have accumulated ten votes meant that a non-negligible subset of the active community agrees with that ad.

As such, I think your question is somewhat rhetorical; clearly, the community feels that we should use the site to advance these types of arguments.

However, if you feel differently, you are welcome to campaign against the ad through a meta post. This question seems somewhat broad ("Should our ads involve political content"), which seems to have been your intention given the "edit to add" blurb. However, a question specifically asking about this ad ("Should we allow that particular ad") would give you a chance to voice your concerns very directly and allow for discussion on that ad specifically, and possibly drive others to downvote it and thereby remove it from the rotation.

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To me the best ads are for web resources which I would want to visit many times. This means that I think "product" ads (e.g., the one for Zotero) and "political" ads (e.g., the one for the Elsevier Boycott) are not particularly useful. The issue is the static and one-off nature of the material. Having ads be to unchanging webpages (e.g., political blog posts, new articles, or products) which you can digest fully in a single reading seems strange to me.

That said, if the product and political ads point to something that is important to academics (and in the case of political ads, regardless of which side the ad one supports), then I think they are fine to let the community decide on.

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