This question about patent infringement yielded a few moderately contentious answers, as judged by the number of flags on the question. One of them simply stated that China was a dictatorship with little respect for the American patent system. That answer received a lot of comment discussion about whether the answer was sufficient or whether it was baseless accusations. I then edited the answer, adding a number of links to sources on China's IP policy and removing the unsourced comments. A few people commented that my edits went too far.

Were my edits inappropriate?

Note: Please try to disassociate the diamond here from the activity. If you don't wish to, that's your prerogative, but any 20k+ user can see flags on questions. I edited in the mindset of a member of this site, not as a moderator.

  • I felt the removals were greater than the additions. Also, there's no need to provide references for these statements. Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 12:59
  • 7
    Note: Only moderators can see flags, not 20k users. But anyone can see that the original answer was controversial from the comments
    – Laurel
    Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 16:34

3 Answers 3


You can't do much in China. China is a dictatorship, and it appears to have a national policy of hacking businesses to steal their code and data. No reason to expect them to respect your rights to your PhD thesis.

I don't see anything salvageable in there. The intention clearly is to write that China is a terrible country and has no IP protection at all. Replacing this with a correct nuanced view is against the spirit of this paragraph.

As you say that your advisor works for a UK university, you might be able to do something there. I have no idea if that's a good idea or not. Similarly, if anyone tries to claim rights to your invention outside of China, it's possible you could do something.

So the author has "no idea" and says that some unspecified action might be possible or desirable or not, as long as it's not in China where it's certainly not possible.

This is augmented with actual facts which weren't even hinted at in the original.

Lastly, while certainly suspicious, I wouldn't take it as proven that your advisor was responsible, at least not based on what you've written.

This last paragraph is good and important and the only reason I see to keep the answer around at all.

But it's the last paragraph, and so I assume it was vastly overshadowed by the anti-China views expressed in the first and second paragraph in the decision process of the up and down voters.

I think it's anti-democratic and against the spirit of this network to subvert the votes of so many people towards an entirely different answer.

If undesirable content is upvoted I think in general it makes more sense to:

  1. Add good other answers and trust in the users to upvote them more.
  2. I've also seen special notes added to answers (outside the answer text) which say that it's not up to the standards of a site.
  3. As a last resort deletion is more honest than to change an answer into its opposite, even if it means the answer would be trimmed down to the one useful sentence.

(no hard feelings)

  • 1
    Re: final point... none taken. I assume everyone here is acting in good faith.
    – eykanal
    Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 15:37
  • 3
    To your first point, I guess I just disagree. The OP is trying to say "China is bad", but does so without any real backing. It can be salvaged by adding proper references and removing biased language.
    – eykanal
    Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 15:38
  • Regarding freedom in China you should definitely check their "social credit score" system (hint: no naughty citizens allowed).
    – user
    Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 6:51
  • Plus "organ transplant tourism" (by executed prisoners).
    – user
    Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 6:56
  • 2
    @Fermiparadox You don't need to tell me that. I spend more time being a pacifism and human rights activist than discussing stuff on se. Personally, I don't like China. That doesn't change anything I wrote.
    – Nobody
    Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 14:25

"One of them simply stated that China was a dictatorship with little respect for the American patent system."

"Simply stated" isn't quite correct, it also answered the question, and the statements about China are supporting information for the answer. The answer given is to do nothing.

I didn't see any reason for the answer to be flagged or edited. It's firmly critical, but reasonable.

  • I conjecture that flaggers thought the answer stereotyped China as corrupt. But it seems that the reality is not "China is unfairly considered corrupt." Instead, the reality is that corruption outside China does not get as much attention as it should. Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 12:56

Just to post what I was thinking at the time, no, this was not inappropriate. The original question simply stated that "China is a dictatorship" (which is irrelevant here) and that they "have a national policy of hacking and stealing" (which both isn't true and is pretty slanderous). The edits added some background for readers unfamiliar with the actual situation. Granted, much of this is pretty public knowledge—I found all the links on the first page of a pretty straightforward Google search—but that doesn't mean everyone knows it.

  • 4
    I think the edits greatly improved the answer. I was not comfortable with the first paragraph but could not figure out how to easily fix it. I think it required a major overhaul to provide evidence and to make it less provocative. I think you did that without changing the intent of the answer.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 13:51
  • "they "have a national policy of hacking and stealing" (which both isn't true and is pretty slanderous)." Nonsense. Every developed country has an intelligence agency which exists to perform hacking and copying information, both industrial and military. "Stealing" is an excessively vague way of saying copying information. Commented Sep 17, 2019 at 8:29
  • @AnonymousPhysicist - Again, I disagree. Using your definition, I could say "they have a national policy of playing and learning", which both are excessively vague ways of saying that they engage in CTF-style activities and then learn from what they took. Even with the "excessively", this is beyond vague and entering into Rorschach-style "see what you want" in the original text.
    – eykanal
    Commented Sep 17, 2019 at 10:57
  • Some support in Help center, the last point on when to edit: academia.stackexchange.com/help/editing
    – Tommi
    Commented Sep 17, 2019 at 11:59

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