I refer to this question here:

http://webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/4304/adsense-page-impression-is-showing-zero

Where the guy wants his adsense ads to display correctly, but his site is clearly just an ad farm, so much so that it loads dozens of popups, popunders, and ads that would put people into eplieptic fits. It's this kind of site that is ruining the internet (in my opinion) and that the Stack Exchange network is trying to pound into oblivion.

Should we help these people with their problems? I know this sort of stuff has come up on other sites (Should we help people circumvent security/break someone's app/stop admins from doing things/etc) and the general consensus is that as professionals, we shouldn't help people break the law.

But what about here? I feel this is a grey area, but that's the main problem - it's all got to do with what I feel, which is what ethics and morality is all about. There's no one size fits all.

Your thoughts?

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+1 for "...and that the Stack Exchange network is trying to pound into oblivion." LOL! –  Srirangan Oct 26 '10 at 6:59
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6 Answers 6

Should we take an ethical stand on people asking for help with unethical sites

Yes, I would. I believe everyone should. But I also believe neither me nor Stackoverflow Stackexchange should enforce what should be a personal decision.

The complexity comes here:

My concern is that his question is not unethical, just his site..

Since the question is O.K. and not conflicting with Stackexchange policy, for me it becomes a matter of one's personal judgement.

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I don't think this particular site is a gray area. It's clearly in the nasty area...

I'm worried after visiting it that I've fallen victim to some kind of weird facebook XSS attack.

I'd remove the url from the question and simply ask them to provide info on the site instead of forcing me to visit it in order to answer the question. That and the fact that the user has 1 rep makes it obvious this is spam.

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My concern is that his question is not unethical, just his site... –  Mark Henderson Oct 26 '10 at 1:28
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I think we're all mostly in agreement. This poster aside, I think a question should live/die based on the quality of the question, not the purpose of its use. I've seen questions about xss where the response shows both how to do an attack as well as how to prevent it. The former part could easily be used for nefarious means, but overall, it's valid content IMO.

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Is there any ethical standard that the previously linked site fails? I would bet there is and I would like to find out. I would think it would fail Google Webmaster Standards. If that is the case then removing the link completely is something we should do every time. The question itself is still valid.

In the end I hope the user got some value from the answers, specifically, that they shouldn't do what they are doing. That kind of education is invaluable.

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Is there any ethical standard that the previously linked site fails? - the previous link was covered in flashing red/blue ads, loaded popups, popunders, had ads from at least 3 different affiliates, and very little content. I've no idea of the content was original or not, but it was definately just an ad farm. At least 2/3 of the visible layout was plastered with ads. –  Mark Henderson Oct 27 '10 at 3:54
    
@Farseeker - Agree, I guess I was just looking for a document that says here are thins that make a site spam so we can reference it in the future. I think the Webmaster Tools is probably good enough though. –  RandomBen Oct 28 '10 at 18:19
    
An ad farm isn't too unethical in the first place. Stupid; useless; barking up the wrong tree; sure, but if there are online advertisers that fall prey to ad farms without any useful content, that's a problem with their technology and their model (e.g. they should be measuring clicks instead of measuring impressions), not something for us to worry about. –  Kzqai Dec 10 '10 at 16:44
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I am in agreement with removing the link and asking the user to update their question, if necessary, to better describe their problem. We should leave the question in place if it is valid and let users use the tools in place to let the question asker know we don't appreciate unethical practices (e.g. down vote).

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I don't see any conflict between a (somewhat generic) question linking to invalid content, and the task of giving excellent answers.

Certainly the link itself in the example should be removed, as the purpose of stackexchange isn't to bump up the views of useless pages.

But as long as the site itself doesn't attack my computer/browser, If I'm willing to point out all the things that he is doing wrong (e.g. not providing useful content, overloading the ads on a single page, preventing loading by forcing an excess of media content), giving the kind of information that would turn a useless spam page into a useful, legimitately advertising page, then isn't the purpose of stackexchange served?

There's no guilt by association, in this case.

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