Marcia, an individual who has over 6 years of online moderation and administration background, including well known forums such as WebmasterWorld (she managed the huge Google forum) and now Search Engine Watch forums, started a thread named What are the limits of defining forum spam?. In that thread she says (quoting, can't say it better myself):
If someone is eschewing - condemning- search engine spammers, but is at the same time a forum spammer, in the sense that some of us define and recognize it, then IMHO we have a dichotomy to deal with, as well as an ethical issue regarding whether or not forum guidelilnes are universally applicable or preferentially applied.
Do "high profile" individuals have privileges and immunities among us that our lesser members are not afforded? Can they be allowed to get away with more than the "average" member since they are "high profile", including surrpeticiously and promotially linking to their own properties?
Where is the beginning and where is the end of nepotistic, preferential treatment? What do you think is fair and equitable treatment in online communities?
I moderate at two primary forums these days; Search Engine Watch and SEO Chat. My role at SEO Chat has kind of transited into a moderator that just participates in the moderator room. Over at SEW it is a bit different then SEO Chat. SEO Chat is more free, in my opinion, then SEW and other forums - one big difference is the large signatures. Forum spammers are defined differently in the forum in which they partake. I personally would let things slide at SEO Chat that I wouldn't let slide at SEW.
It is interesting to see how forum admins and mods respond to such a thread. Marcia asks some great questions and so far, several SEO forum representatives chimed in. For me, it makes a good read - if you participate in forums, you might enjoy the thread as well.