How to deal with questions referencing/promoting questionable/'fake' research?

This morning, the following question involving the Riemann Hypothesis was posted:

The Riemann Hypothesis Proof

(in case it gets deleted: here is its content, albeit in a less readable form)

It was detected by Smoke Detector as possible spam. A quick search on Google reveals that the article it references is fake, which leads me to believe the question

[e]xists only to promote a product or service, does not disclose the author's affiliation.

i.e. the description of the spam flag

Can we flag posts like these as spam, or should we do something else?

• spam or as abusive of the site's ToS – user88558 Jan 30 '17 at 9:44
• I find "promotes a product or service" fitting. Product being the Article they're linking to. – Magisch Jan 30 '17 at 9:45
• A bit of backstory: about 6 months ago MO had a bit of a spam wave also by this Thierno M. Sow person. Over at Charcoal we detected this spam (due to its shortened links), and it was initially marked as false positive due. After discovering that this person's promotion of their articles was rather widespread, we marked the posts as true positive and started flagging them as spam. – angussidney Jan 30 '17 at 10:01
• I also added the name 'Thierno M. Sow' to our blacklists to help detect future spam by them, that is how SmokeDetector came across this post just now – angussidney Jan 30 '17 at 10:02
• @Magisch and angussidney: This is the first I've heard of 'Smoke Detector' and 'Charcoal'. I'll definitely have to chat with you guys in the near future. I don't see diamonds next to your names, so I guess you're not SE Community Managers, and yet it sounds like you have knowledge of certain powers that would definitely be useful to us here. – Todd Trimble Jan 30 '17 at 15:37
• @ToddTrimble you're always welcome for a chat. We do have some moderators (on other sites) in our ranks. Usually, we know pretty well what we're doing, but in edge cases like this, we often consult with the local community. – Glorfindel Jan 30 '17 at 15:39
• Glorfindel, I can tell you that T.M. Sow has been a persistent blight on our community, and blacklisting anything to do with him would receive universal backing here. Destroying the accounts he's created has had little apparent effect. – Todd Trimble Jan 30 '17 at 15:42
• @ToddTrimble I'm one of the admins of the system. None of us are community managers (though there are a number of mods, including myself, as Glorfindel said), so we don't have the power to stop the guy posting here at all. What we can do is blacklist certain terms or usernames, which lets us find it quicker when he does post here, and then flag it as spam. – ArtOfCode Jan 30 '17 at 15:50
• @ToddTrimble Good to hear - if you have any other spam on this site that follows a certain pattern, we're always happy to discuss if SmokeDetector can play a part in detecting said spam. – Glorfindel Jan 30 '17 at 15:52
• @ArtOfCode Ah, so that probably means that in this case the SD chatbot won't make much of a difference -- Thierno Sow's posts are instantly recognized and virtually instantly deleted by the MO Community already (usually within minutes I think, although I'd need a stopwatch), with or without a headless chatbot. Now if on the other hand SD could just outright block posts, then it would be a whole different story. – Todd Trimble Jan 30 '17 at 18:20
• @Glorfindel In case a question does not mention T. M. Sow in particular, this spam can also be noticed by linking to pages on the site one-zero.eu (which as far as I can tell would never be linked to by any reasonable person). – Tobias Kildetoft Jan 30 '17 at 20:54
• @TobiasKildetoft we do have means to blacklist certain websites, though we usually do that only after we detect repeated links to them. I do see that the website is mentioned in a certain user's profile. – Glorfindel Jan 30 '17 at 20:59
• @Glorfindel At least in all of his posts that I have seen, there will be a link to a paper of his hosted on that site (which seems to be his consulting company) – Tobias Kildetoft Jan 30 '17 at 21:00
• @TobiasKildetoft thanks for refreshing my memory. This is then probably the remains of a post of one of his 'sock puppets' - the URL is a shortened link, but ends up at one-zero.eu. I'll go ahead and blacklist it. – Glorfindel Jan 30 '17 at 21:04
• Also, certain character strings which appear in his posts would never be used, ever, by a sane mathematician. I'll supply some examples in a while. – Todd Trimble Jan 30 '17 at 22:04

I think (as a non-member of the mathoverflow community, I just flag spam here) that the spam flag fits perfectly.

[e]xists only to promote a product or service, does not disclose the author's affiliation.

The product in question is the article. The author (or someone else who likes him) has been spamming this article over 30 times so far. (Thats just the records we have).

This search produces 32 results, all mentioning this "Thierno M. Sow" and his article, and all of them exist only to promote it.

I'm not a mathematician, in fact I'm not very good at math at all (compared to mathematicians), but the larger community (irrespective of the spam) seems to consider the "Proof" that Thierno M. Sow claims to have obtained very dubious at best. A google search reveals that he is not even publishing the article for free, but charging 27$for a copy. The blog post criticizing Thierno also makes some further points: I was tipped off about this by a reporter at our local newspaper: a local man, James P. Moore, is apparently claiming a solution to the twin-prime problem and the Goldbach conjecture. I haven't read his work. However, the manner in which the claim is being made raises real questions about its correctness. Moore is apparently not a mathematician by training. Here it is stated that he has a systems design engineering degree from Waterloo. According to MathSciNet, the database that attempts to review every mathematical publication of interest, Moore has not published any mathematical papers, at least under the names "James P. Moore" or "J. P. Moore". The chances that an amateur without previous mathematical publications could solve these important and famous problems are, for all practical purposes, zero. (Prior to his celebrated recent success on the twin-prime problem, Yitang Zhang, a professional mathematician, had two published papers in good journals.) Instead of placing his claimed solution on the arxiv, or publishing it in a journal -- as would be customary in such a case -- Moore is selling his solutions online in three different books for$27.05 each. One book is entitled either "The Proof of the Primes" or "The Proof of Primes", a title that doesn't make much sense mathematically. (source)

So I think it's safe to assume that "spam" fits here, as it's promoting a product (the article / book) that the creator stands to profit from.

• I upvoted this post, and it should be upvoted more, because it points out that 'spam' in the technical SE-approved sense is actually appropriate for this troublesome case. That is to say: many MO users flag certain posts as 'spam' to cover cases which don't involve vendors, just people who annoy by referring to crackpot theories and the like. It's been explained by our former resident meta expert quid (no longer active at MO) that those flags are incorrectly labeled because bots won't interpret them correctly. Thus it's good of you to report that in fact this really is technical spam. – Todd Trimble Jan 30 '17 at 18:04
• +1. By the way, I have looked at the post referenced by the OP, and the problem is not only that his proof of the Riemann Hypothesis is ridiculous, but also that he can't even manage to state the Riemann Hypothesis right. – Joël Jan 31 '17 at 5:21
• @Joël I'm sure I couldn't state the riemann hypothesis right, either, but then again I'm not a mathemathician or trying to spam this site :p – Magisch Feb 1 '17 at 12:19
• @Magisch and you're not claiming to have proved it either. – Joël Feb 1 '17 at 13:31
• @Joël Indeed, some of his errors reside in failing to grasp, at the most basic level, how to use variables correctly. Most American kids learn this stuff in the 6th grade or so. But trying to explain any of this to him would be a pointless waste of time. – Todd Trimble Feb 2 '17 at 2:42