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Occasionally, I will see a post that has PG (or even PG-13) rated content. The offensive flag can be applied to these posts. Should I wait for the community to declare it offensive and have the post removed, should I edit the post to remove the offensive content, or should I do both?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Sep 16 '09 at 16:43

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8 Answers

Since the community has awarded you with enough reputation points to edit posts, the community trusts you to do the right thing when you see offensive posts: You should trust your own judgment too, and do what you feel is necessary in the particular situation.

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If only there was a "view history"... –  Paul Hargreaves Oct 30 '08 at 15:05
    
Reputation points doesn't equal Trust no matter how you slice it. Reputation points just identifies you for how much you've contributed to the community. –  Dalin Seivewright Oct 30 '08 at 18:05
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@Dalin: From the FAQ, written by The Jeff Himself: "Reputation is a (very) rough measurement of how much the Stack Overflow community trusts you" –  Graeme Perrow Sep 16 '09 at 16:52
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The reason that it requires 5 offensive votes to remove an offensive post is so that a consensus of 5 is needed.

If you just remove content that you deem offensive, then you are making a judgment by yourself, on your own. I think there is something fundamentally wrong about this in a community-driven site like this.

I say you should use the 'flag this as offensive' option, as it's the fairest way.

If something is truly offensive, it won't be long before it's flagged sufficiently negatively around here.

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I'm pretty sure it's only 5 offensive votes now. –  Mark Biek Oct 30 '08 at 14:57
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Yeah, I think it was decreased as well. So far, I personally like this answer the best. But I'm hoping Jeff posts here with THE answer. –  Thomas Owens Oct 30 '08 at 14:59
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The problem with this system is that there's no scale. If 10 people view a question and 5 flag it as offensive then its clear the community wants it deleted. If 10,000 view it and 5 flag it, then the community has OK'd it, but it will still be deleted. –  Greg Oct 30 '08 at 15:01
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@RoBorg, I think you're making a very important point. It should probably have a "not offensive" button and list the number of offensiveness votes. Just like rep votes. We could also track user's offensiveness score like we do rep :) –  rmeador Oct 30 '08 at 15:03
    
This is something i hate about SO. people vote for everything, but never talk it out. –  Niko Jan 14 '09 at 10:07
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If the question is a valid question, just remove the offensive content.

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Since many of us like to use this site for work related things, keeping it rated "G" would be nice... Even things considered "PG" by most can get one fired at some places.

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I find it very hard to believe that there is anywhere that would fire an employee for reading something work related that happened to include an "offensive" word. –  Mark Baker Oct 30 '08 at 15:45
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Apparently you're not from the USA...Employers can get sued for vast sums if an employee sees anything that offends them on another employee's screen... –  Brian Knoblauch Oct 30 '08 at 16:33
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Tempted to change my screensaver to "Stop looking at my &$%£"@ screen!" :) –  Bobby Jack Oct 30 '08 at 18:56
    
Mark, the final word on whether something is "work related" is not always made by technical staff. As Brain points out, you AND your employer can be liable if a pattern incidents occur... even if that pattern is a few people accidently saw questionable material. –  James Schek Oct 30 '08 at 21:12
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It can be worse than that here in the USA. If a link should open to porn (what porn is varies on state to state, it does not have to be images) in the presence of minors, the user and the company can face criminal charges. technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/… –  WolfmanDragon Nov 7 '08 at 19:39
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I would think it would be better to edit it out. That way people can still learn from the post and respond to it. There is no need for offensive language in spreading information about programming.

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The FAQ doesn't say the site is PG or PG-13. I would leave it until the community had voted, but I think the community is split on what is "offensive".

The FAQ says spam, hate speech, links to obscene images and abuse, but I've seen posts marked as offensive because they contained a "bad word" (which I disagree with).

Edit: SO is somewhat unbalanced in this regard - you can flag something as offensive but you can't see something that's flagged by someone else and say "actually, I don't think that is offensive". The best you can do is leave a comment.

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Perhaps the right answer is to change "offensive" to "abuse" or "TOS violation." Offensive is ambiguous; abuse or TOS violation is not -- the TOS has nothing about language, but a lot about spam, hate speech, links to obscene images, etc. –  John Rudy Oct 30 '08 at 14:57
    
Agreed. Plus, I've got the "rules" for a dozen different websites floating around my head and sometimes, I forget that "offensive" includes TOSV at this site, but not others. –  James Schek Oct 30 '08 at 15:12
    
The whole voting up/down concept is ambiguous. Lets the community as a whole decide. I think the "offensive" should be left as is. It lets the community decide. –  Brian Knoblauch Oct 30 '08 at 20:26
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I agree with Elie that if it's a valid question, just remove the offensive content. However, I would probably also take a more proactive approach to ensuring that offensive content is kept to a minimum or eliminated in the future. Obviously you don't want to have to go back and edit posts everytime someone posts something offensive, so why not place a filter on the post submit that obfuscates offensive language. Furthermore, it would be a good idea to make it clear on your site that offensive language will not be tolerated.

The problem you run into when editing posts is that you start blurring the trust line with your users. If users feel that after they make a post, there's a potential that it may be edited, you might find yourself in a situation where either users won't trust the site enough to post and others might lose faith in the content. This is why it's so very important to make it clear to your users what is and isn't kosher.

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except we already have editing of posts by other users to clarify questions, so users posting to the site are already aware of the possibility of another user editing their post. –  Elie Oct 30 '08 at 14:58
    
In that case I wouldn't worry about it too much. If it's a major problem, prevent offensive language from being posted in the first place. Alternatively, let the users determine what is and isn't offensive and edit accordingly. –  Anne Porosoff Oct 30 '08 at 15:14
    
Considering that I have a propensity for talking like a sailor at moments, I'm offended by very little. But I also realize that there are individuals who are more sensitive. –  Anne Porosoff Oct 30 '08 at 16:16
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Anyone who thinks that pornspam needs to be preserved in case of disagreement is just confused.

However, if you are feeling timid, you can always flag for moderator attention and let the diamond make the hard call.

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