12

I want to start this discussion in light of a recent question, that triggered some debate and attempts at editing:

The question How to talk to my brother about a shared interest in pornographic furry material? led to a debate about removing pornographic furry in body, title and even answers and replace it with variants of very specific and usually socially indiscussible topic.
The edits were finally rolled back as neither expression is NSFW.

One of the concerns was, that the question could attract trolls. I don't know how much work it caused for the mods and feedback is certainly welcomed.
The question was posted on December 1st and has, as of now, about 3,800 views. So far, two answers were deleted - one was a non-answer by a furry fan, the other some kind of joke.

Question

So the topic of this discussion is how to deal with potentially controversial content in questions?

This is not about obviously unfit content (e. g. ads, swear words etc.), but just acceptable content.

Is it better to edit it out to keep discussions or even trolls at bay, or shall we leave it in?

  • I'm pretty sure that the bikini content was removed because they felt it was unnecessary, not because it was controversial. – Catija Dec 5 '17 at 13:07
  • @Catija I got the impression it was considered controversial, because of one of the edit comments read removed contro material. Then followed the other edits without comments. But the contro comment may have been aimed at the language used by the OP, so I'm not sure. – Anne Daunted Dec 5 '17 at 13:13
  • Yes. It was the description of the roommate that was controversial, not the mention of the bathing suit. That's why my edit made it more neutrally worded. – Catija Dec 5 '17 at 13:16
  • @Catija Shall I make the question broader ("How do we deal with potentially controversial (but not NSFW) or unnecessary content in questions?")? – Anne Daunted Dec 5 '17 at 13:46
  • I wouldn't, no. They seem like two different questions and I'm pretty sure the latter is asked already in some form. – Catija Dec 5 '17 at 13:48
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    One of the concerns was, that the question could attract trolls Changing the meaning/intent of the question for that is not a valid reason. We have other ways of dealing with trolls (downvoting, flagging). – Jan Doggen Dec 8 '17 at 11:19
20

I'm drawing on several policy guidelines we worked up on the now-closed "Sexuality" site which I'm going to echo here (outside of how the post above was handled specifically).

When hosting a site that might occasionally delve into frank and clinical discussions about human sexuality (or other potentially "uncomfortable" subjects) — to facilitate the most productive experience for the site as a whole, you have to consider the following points simultaneously:

  1. First, Stack Exchange is primarily targeted at a professional audience working in an office setting, so we expect everyone to conduct themselves professionally. But avoiding "not safe for work" (NSFW) situations simply means (in part) that folks shouldn't have to guard against being hit in the face with unexpected and gratuitous (← that's important) F— bombs and T&A shots popping up on their screen while working among these subjects. But NSFW is also a matter of presentation and context.
  2. Remember where you are. This is not a programming site, and the subjects covered here might not make the best office fare in every setting. At the same time, we're not here to test the fences to see what you can get away with, so if it looks like you're posting something simply to evoke a reaction, it will likely be removed or edited to a more clinical context.
  3. Having said that, the ideas and topics discussed here are not expected to be watered down to be consumed by an 8-year-old. If someone's says "OMG-they-said-breasts", don't go around zealously replacing every instance with "secondary female mammary characteristics" (for example). For a site that potentially spans the sociological, biological, psychological, philosophical, anthropological, and other -icals… shrouding every word in child-safe euphemisms is both laughable and embarrassing.
  4. And remember… people can touch your stuff. This is a crowd-sourced activity, so things can and do get edited and removed for reasons of community self- moderation. If you don't like people touching what you wrote, this may not be the place for you. While folks should not be changing the meaning of your post, if someone moves the naughty-bits from a title into the text, or changes a piece of slang or jargon into something more conventional, let it go. You can roll back edits you don't agree with, but we do not allow "rollback wars". If an edit gets reverted, you're better off either dropping it, or bringing it to meta so everyone can benefit from the conversation.

Folks shouldn't generally find themselves accidentally stumbling deep into a subject without being at least somewhat aware of what is being discussed. If you are not interested in the subjects being discussed in a thread — without pretense — kindly move on and find something better suited to your interests.

9

I would like to caution people against censorship in these cases.

Whether people want to acknowledge it, or not, we're starting down a very slippery slope when we start editing out content that may make us a little uncomfortable.

Once we set a standard that it's ok to start editing to suppress groups or issues that make us uncomfortable, it gets much harder to draw lines to say that it's ok to censor this and not that. Who gets to choose which subjects are too taboo to talk about here? And before someone suggests it, allowing the majority to oppress the minority isn't great; history shows that it doesn't go well...

Personally I find it interesting that furry question faced much less trolling and abuse than LGBT+ questions on this site usually do. People tried to edit out terms that triggered taboo reactions for them, but their wasn't the usual onslaught of abuse and all around nastiness. It seemed most of the trouble was caused by people who supposedly weren't bothered, but felt the need to step in to prevent trouble before it started. People essentially said:

I'm not offended, but someone might be, so I better sanitize this.

I would like to say don't edit to remove potentially controversial content. What's controversial to you is a fact of someone else's life. Often it's a fact that they've faced a lot of pain and discrimination over. Let's not be yet another community that shames people and tells them they can't be who they are, or that they better not dare talk about it in public.

  • I kinda agree with some of this, but I also don't think that there's never a time when editing can happen . . . but perhaps drastic enough changes should do through some sort of meta discussion first, just to ensure that one or two people feeling uncomfortable doesn't change things for the worse. – HDE 226868 Dec 5 '17 at 16:43
  • 2
    @HDE226868 I see your point, but there's a difference between sanitizing to remove certain topics and editing for language and tone. – apaul Dec 5 '17 at 16:47
  • I don't think anyone's seriously suggesting removing a topic entirely - which would go against the OP's wishes - but changing language. In some cases - like, of course, the furry question - some people might have wanted to remove the word "furry" entirely. But that's not removing the topic; that's replacing it with an (IMHO inefficient and probably worse) euphemism. – HDE 226868 Dec 5 '17 at 16:51
  • @HDE226868 From what I saw they removed the terms "furry" and "pornographic" and edited into a meaninglessly broad question. I could see that line of thought sliding into other areas... "First they came for the furries, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a furry." – apaul Dec 5 '17 at 16:57
  • Inappropriately used Holocaust quotes aside, @apaul, I'm not talking about just that particular case. – HDE 226868 Dec 5 '17 at 17:06
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    @HDE226868 Neither was I, that's why I picked the quote. People don't seem to mind censorship or discrimination till it starts to affect them or people they care about. – apaul Dec 5 '17 at 17:09
  • For this specific question : considering how the question is asked your excellent answer we could eventually make the question more generic and replace "pornographic furry", by "specific sexual material" (or something better phrased, my english is rough). So we avoid potentially "OH my god there is the p*** word in the question" and have a question more generic and thus cover a wider scope. – Walfrat Dec 6 '17 at 9:49
5

Since 'interpersonal skills' will inevitably sometimes step into that delicate region where biology, psychology and libido intersect, such matters should broadly be considered acceptable here, and there really is no need in this day and age to cloak explicit language in innuendo or euphemism simply for fear that "potentially controversial" content might offend a reader's sensibilities. I absolutely agree with @apaul that censorship is generally undesirable on this website.

The best test of a post's quality is still to apply the criteria for closing/deletion. If a question can pass muster and remain open // if an answer is not low quality, rude or abusive // if a post does not violate the 'be nice' policy, then irrespective of content it can stand on its own as being asked or answered "in good faith" although any member can edit what they consider unacceptable language, provided OP accepts the edit.

If OP disputes the edit, what we don't seem to have at present is some community-voting-based mediation to resolve edit disputes. This does not apply to 'potentially controversial' content alone, but to editing in general, and is not unique to IPS.SE either. Bringing each edit dispute to meta or chat does not seem an ideal option. Therefore I expect a moderator to intervene quickly in such cases and give some clear ruling either for or against the edit, to prevent controversy and settle the dispute.

  • Mods can "lock" posts from further edits, as a last resort. – NVZ Dec 6 '17 at 18:20
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    I once saw an OP who failed to accept a moderator's ruling on edits -- when that happens, locking a post is indeed the last resort @NVZ. – English Student Dec 6 '17 at 20:37
-1

What exactly is the problem with those questions that needs to be dealt with?

Looking at the aftermath of the drama, I get the impression that the questions were handled pretty well. How to ask my female room mate to stop leaving her bikini in public space? is rightfully closed because its not clear what the OP's goals for the interaction are. How to talk to my brother about a shared interest in pornographic furry material? has gotten an answer that seems to have been helpful to the OP.

The fact that these questions are written from perspectives that might not be shared by everyone seems unrelated to how the questions should be handled, looking at the aftermath of the drama. Obviously, there's probably a lot of deleted comments that I'm not seeing. But at the end of the day, I think things turned out pretty well.

I guess my point here is I'm not really sure what problem you're trying to solve here. So far, there doesn't seem to be any evidence that these questions are posing problems that can't be solved with the tools at our disposal: deleting comments, closing questions, and so on.

  • 3
    It's about editing out content or not, not about closing the questions or whether they got helpful answers or not. – Anne Daunted Dec 5 '17 at 12:06
  • @AnneDaunted but what problem would you be trying to solve by editing out content that you haven't edited out already? – user8960 Dec 5 '17 at 12:10
  • Not me personally, but other people feared that mentioning the furry porn may attract trolls and thereby a lot of attention (removing comments/answers). In the other question, the whole part about the bathing suit, although the core of te post that every answer centers around, was deemed inappropriate and edited out. Maybe have a look at the edit histories. – Anne Daunted Dec 5 '17 at 12:13
  • @AnneDaunted and it was edited back in. But my point is that if there is trolling or so on, then it doesn't seem to have been anything that normal moderation tools couldn't handle. So I'm still not sure what real-world, non-hypothetical problem anyone arguing that the posts should be edited are trying to solve. – user8960 Dec 5 '17 at 12:17
  • I hope with this question to provide a forum for members who think otherwise to voice their opinion, so that we can discuss it. – Anne Daunted Dec 5 '17 at 12:22
  • I deleted case 2 from my question. – Anne Daunted Dec 5 '17 at 13:53

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