Due to recurring problems with questions that contain allegations against named individuals or organisations, we moderators would like to implement a policy against these.
This should only affect a small fraction of questions that cause a disproportionate amount of trouble. In this post, we are asking if you see any problems with the proposed policy or whether there is anything else you propose to change. (If yes, please post an answer.)
Moderators will delete a question without warning if all of the following apply:
It contains allegations on an individual target, which can be a person, university, journal, publisher, company, or similar. As decided separately here, this includes self-allegations.
The allegations are severe, i.e., the reported behaviour is misconduct, criminal, or highly unethical or highly unprofessional. Honest mistakes, sloppiness, and quirks do not count. Neither do things like “Is Publisher X predatory?”, unless containing specific severe accusations, but they should still be closed as a duplicate of this or a shopping question.
The information in the question apparently allows others to identify the target or allows the target to identify the asker beyond any reasonable doubt without intensive research. This includes the asker’s username and thus all questions asked by users with what looks like a real name. This can be through explicit naming, a clear relation to the named author (e.g., their supervisor), a paper title, or similar.
The allegations have not already been widely reported or discussed (on news media, blogs, etc.).
Such questions can be re-asked when they are sufficiently anonymised. However, anonymised questions may still be unsuitable for this site for several reasons.
When you encounter such a question, please:
- Leave a guiding comment linking to this policy.
- Flag it for moderator attention.
- If you can additionally vote to close or delete it, do so.
Going by experience, for almost every such question at least one of the following applies:
- The asker soon regrets posting the question.
- The question harms the asker.
- The question causes a huge amount of debate.
- The asker did not ask the question in good faith.
- The question should be closed for being opinion-based, a shopping question, or depending on individual factors.
- The question abuses this site as platform for public shaming.
As a result, such questions cause a lot of unnecessary grievance and moderation work, in particular through self-vandalisation, disassociation requests (an action requiring an SE employee) or redaction requests (an action requiring two moderators), or escalating comment debates.
In Cases 1–3, the question can be anonymised to avoid the issues and then re-asked. Thus nobody is prevented from asking a valid question. In Cases 4–6, no big harm is done by deleting.
Questions I would like to answer
Why doesn’t closing suffice? – Closing primarily prevents answers, which is not where the problems with such questions are. Moreover, these problems cannot be solved by editing the question as the information still sticks around. Deletion with a clear reference to this policy is the quickest way to start with a clean state.
Why does identifying information only count when it is in question or username? For example, what if I can identify the asker via their profile or similar? – We cannot predict every research angle at this and have to draw a line somewhere. Also the post content and username are the things which requests for moderator action usually are about – since those are the things that are within our control and only our control. (Note that while the username can be changed, there are restrictions on this and it can still be visible through comment replies and similar.)
Why don’t you give any examples for such questions? – Most previous questions matching the above criteria have already been deleted or redacted, so there will be strong survival bias in the selection. Moreover, I do not want to give them extra exposure. Here is a meta discussion about such a question.
I am an experienced user using my real name as my account name. Does this mean I am forced to make a sockpuppet to ask such a question? – Yes. This is a valid use of sockpuppets and it’s probably for the better. Just ensure that your accounts do not interact. Further reading.
This is censorship. The world must know the truth about … – This site is neither suited nor intended as a news platform. Even if your allegations are completely accurate and severe, they simply do not belong here. We can help you with how to deal with them, but we do not need names for that.