The description of the offensive flag reads:

This [post] contains content that a reasonable person would consider offensive, abusive or hate speech.

The definition of "hate speech", according to Wikipedia:

Hate speech is, outside the law, any communication that disparages a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic such as race, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or other characteristic.

I recently flagged a post that I thought fit this criteria, but apparently the community disagrees with my assessment.

I would therefore like to ask, what is considered hate speech by SE standards?

I'm asking this here rather than on the per-site meta because I think this is relevant to all SE sites.

  • 5
    This is a religion problem, actually the most controversial thing in Christianity I believe. I think SO Meta is not appropriate place to discuss this issue.
    – Tomas
    Oct 15, 2011 at 8:46
  • 4
    The answer you've linked is a viable, if bigoted, answer to the question. If the answer isn't acceptable, then perhaps the question isn't either. Actually, it appears that the question has already been closed...so....
    – cHao
    Oct 15, 2011 at 8:47
  • 2
    @TomasT.: Shouldn't the rules for what is considered hate speech be the same for all SE sites?
    – hammar
    Oct 15, 2011 at 8:47
  • 8
    @cHao: So am I wrong in thinking that comparing homosexuals with murderers and arguing that "if they can't be gotten rid of, their influence should be reduced" is disparaging against a group based on their sexual orientation? Or should SE use a different definition of hate speech?
    – hammar
    Oct 15, 2011 at 8:50
  • 5
    @hammar: The question specifically asks about such a viewpoint. To disallow the viewpoint in an answer to that question is intellectual cowardice. Although i might argue that the question itself should go away, as it incites such things...course, i'm not a member there, so i won't bother flagging or voting.
    – cHao
    Oct 15, 2011 at 8:55
  • 3
    @cHao: I'm talking about the answer, not the viewpoint. Other answers on the site have shown that it is possible to describe this viewpoint in less offensive ways.
    – hammar
    Oct 15, 2011 at 8:59
  • Hammar, shall we arrest a priest reading that particular piece of bible? I have a particular opinion on this issue, I think it's great misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the bible, but I'm afraid these religion issues are present within the society itself cannot be easily solved here.
    – Tomas
    Oct 15, 2011 at 8:59
  • 5
    @TomasT.: I'm asking about whether such posts are welcome on SE, not about society in general. And I can't help but thinking, that if this was targetting some other group like blacks or Jews, we wouldn't be having this discussion.
    – hammar
    Oct 15, 2011 at 9:06
  • @hammar, what is and what is not welcome on SE depends on the society. As you see, we are just a sample of it, representing the full range of opinions.
    – Tomas
    Oct 15, 2011 at 9:16
  • 5
    @hammar, that's an unsolvable problem. The definition of hate speech is highly subjective and depends on the target audience. For instance, some Christians may find the idea of "diminishing" LGBT people's "influence" (whatever it might be) perfectly acceptable, but will consider the same idea applied to their religion as hate speech. In other words, sometimes one man's hate speech is another man's credo, and the SE network is too diverse now for global "standards" about such concepts to apply seamlessly on every site IMHO. Oct 15, 2011 at 9:17
  • 5
    @hammar: If there were a KKK Q/A site, and someone came in there asking why there is such animosity toward blacks and Jews, then yes, we probably would be having this discussion. (Course, there'd probably never be such a site, for this very reason. But the point is, if you don't like the answer, perhaps it's the question that shouldn't exist, as it's more than likely begging for such an answer.)
    – cHao
    Oct 15, 2011 at 9:24
  • 3
    While I wish it could I'm not sure a religious site could exist with as strict hate-speech rules as our less objective and culturally based sites. Some religions simply are bigoted by an objective or outside opinion and questions about controversial rules or beliefs are going to happen, and I think it's important to maintain the context of even the bigoted answers. If that's how people of religion A feel, that's what you should hear, not rosey happy things. Life isn't always rosey happy.
    – Ben Brocka
    Oct 15, 2011 at 12:26
  • 19
    IMHO, StackExchange should never have gotten into business of politics & religion. These are always controversial and there will be always people who feel offended.
    – vartec
    Oct 15, 2011 at 16:45
  • 6
    It was Jeff himself who said "I’m not 100% sure Christianity is working." I agree with @vartec that creating this stack was a mistake.
    – AakashM
    Oct 17, 2011 at 9:16
  • 2
    @vartec: while I tend to agree that there's more than a little "sticking your nose in a hornets' nest" to the idea, it's not like we haven't had our share of flame-wars, trolls, and heated discussion on other sites. If we shut down "why do you hate X?" questions on SO for being troll-bait (and we do), then why should we do differently on any other site? Point being, a lot of trouble comes from folks who go looking for it, regardless of the topic...
    – Shog9
    Oct 17, 2011 at 16:48

4 Answers 4


General case

According to the Stack Exchange Terms of Service:

Subscriber represents, warrants and agrees that it will not contribute any Subscriber Content that [...] (d) is libelous, defamatory, abusive, threatening, harassing, hateful, offensive or otherwise violates any law or right of any third party [...]

That's it. That's the closest thing we have to a policy on "hate speech". Notice that it doesn't actually use the words "hate speech", which is probably just as well, since AFAIK that term actually has a specific legal definition in some countries.

The more useful rule, found on every FAQ on the network, is simply "be nice":

Civility is required at all times; rudeness will not be tolerated.

Be nice.
Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you. We’re all here to learn together. Be tolerant of others who may not know everything you know. Bring your sense of humor.

Be honest.
Above all, be honest. If you see misinformation, vote it down. Add comments indicating what, specifically, is wrong. Provide better answers of your own. Best of all — edit and improve the existing questions and answers!

If you find a post that appears to violate the ToS, you can flag for moderator attention and suggest that it be removed per the agreement. The moderators will review the situation, and either handle or escalate the matter if they deem it necessary. If this fails to satisfy you, there's a bold contact us link at the bottom of every single page on the site that will connect you with the network's administration team.

If you find a post that strikes you as rude or disrespectful, consider leaving a comment pointing this out. Be constructive; be specific. If necessary, you can flag the post as "offensive" - if enough other users agree with you, it will be removed. And you can always down-vote...

Specific case

This was already flagged for moderator attention. The matter was brought up on the appropriate meta site. You posted a not-very-well-received answer there, but have not shown much in the way of interest in discussing or rebutting other responses.

I rather strongly suspect that your continued use of the term "hate speech" (which as I previous noted is a loaded term due to its connection to regional laws) and raising the issue here rather than continuing the discussion on the Christianity.SE Meta site are attempts to side-step both the community and moderators in getting an answer you disagree with removed.

My personal recommendation, should you find yourself in this situation again, is to down-vote, post a constructive, reasoned rebuttal, and then enjoy a nice cup of hot tea.

  • What kind of tea?
    – Pekka
    Oct 15, 2011 at 21:14
  • 2
    This stuff is pretty good
    – Shog9
    Oct 15, 2011 at 21:31
  • Oh boy, I can imagine! drool
    – Pekka
    Oct 15, 2011 at 21:40
  • I'm not sure where to go with this, a full meta question may be needed, but I've been seeing a good bit of alt-right leaning stuff that seems to skirt the line by inventing their own terms. Being relatively new terminology, that's not always immediately recognized as what it is, how should we/I handle it?
    – apaul
    Oct 8, 2017 at 21:52
  • I went ahead and asked over on the local meta: interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1866/…
    – apaul
    Oct 8, 2017 at 22:36

I too found the answer in question offensive.


  • what the answerer really meant to say was not 100% clear.

  • as pointed out earlier by another user, the original question was not asked in good faith - it was designed as flame-bait.

  • the sentiments expressed in the disputed answer are shared by a notable fraction of christians. Censoring them away from a Christianity site is dishonest and stifles the chance for any constructive exchange on the subject. Especially if the censorship comes from outside the community.

I would suggest that

  • People who are not willing to engage in calm, constructive discussion on a SE site, and who fundamentally oppose its subject matter, try and stay away from it. (Related)

  • When answering controversial questions, be careful to be very clear about what you want to say.

  • When writing about a controversial view that you just describe, but do not share, consider pointing out that you're just the messenger so people don't start attacking you.

  • The communities continue to be allowed to decide what is acceptable on their sites and what is not, that free speech have priority, and that any censorship from higher up be invoked only in truly, truly extreme circumstances - circumstances that shouldn't happen anyway because those are for the local mods to deal with.

Like Shog said over in the other discussion -

But if it does get re-opened, and does stay re-opened, if the community here does decide that it wants to tackle questions like this... Then, yes,

[...] some people need to lighten up, and accept that some views here will be offensive?

...there will need to be some of that. Whether you can be hurt, offended, feel marginalized or attacked by an answer and shrug it off is debatable, but I do not think anyone should come here expecting to find every answer a soft pat on the head.


To me "hate speech" means advocating violence against or maltreatment of a particular person or group of persons based on some innate attribute or difference between the person advocating and the person or group being advocated against. It isn't merely disagreement with a principle or position. Saying white people are bigoted and oppressive isn't "hate speech;" shouting kill whitey! is. Note, it doesn't have to be "hate speech" to be offensive. Both of those are offensive. It also doesn't have to be offensive to everyone to flag it as offensive. In my opinion, it's enough that it would offend a reasonable person, one who is tolerant of varying viewpoints. I would caution against turning a site into a factional war through the use of the offensive flag.

Personally, I don't like the term "hate speech" -- it's too politically loaded and can easily be a codeword for simply "not politically correct." As such the term itself can be highly coercive, being an example of the behavior it purports (on the surface) to describe. I think it could easily be removed from the description as, by my definition, "hate speech" would qualify as both offensive and abusive behavior.


It should be possible to explain why some X have a problem with Y without saying Y are equivalent to murderers and will destroy a nation.

When a question asks "Why do some X have a problem with Y?" my answer should try to address X, not me. "Some X feel this, here's a ref" is better than "I think this. Thus X also feels this".

I agree that answer you provide is abhorrent.

  • 1
    I disagree with your assessment of that answer. The answer references passages from religious texts (the relevant standard if this was about code). Whether the person that wrote that answer agrees with the quotes he cited is a different issue. If you look at the answer before the edit, it's arguably possible to read it as a plain rephrasing of those quote and not a statement of his/her opinion. If that is not tolerable, the whole site should be shut down IMO.
    – Mat
    Oct 15, 2011 at 9:42
  • @Mat - the edit is the hate speech.
    – DanBeale
    Oct 15, 2011 at 9:50
  • 14
    I still disagree on the same grounds. The assertions made are backed by his citations. If the citations are wrong, then that site's community should downvote/vote to delete the answer. If not, live with it - you can't have a religious Q&A site if people expressing their interpretation of that religion's texts/rules/laws/whatever is not tolerable. I disagree with what that person expressed but that is irrelevant. If the matter exposed is intolerable, then the question itself (if not the site itself) should be removed.
    – Mat
    Oct 15, 2011 at 10:03

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