I have a question about profile pictures. Are they moderated in some way? I remember seeing a meta post from someone complaining that their profile picture got taken down. I just saw another questionable picture on a profile that was quite similar to this one. Because of this user's reputation and amount of profile views, this made me wonder if profile pictures are moderated, and if they aren't, should they be? This could really take down the professionalism of the site. Plenty of kids use Stack Overflow, and their parents may not want them seeing things like this. Is this a problem?

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    Plenty of kids use Stack Overflow, and their parents may not want them seeing things like this. Plenty of kids use the internet, and their parents may not want them seeing much worse things that aren't regulated in any way. The parents are the only ones who can do anything about that.
    – user154510
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 0:56
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    Doesn't seem like anything you wouldn't find at a local beach or swimming pool... There's lots of kids there too!
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 1:01
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    No wonder my kids read every OP's profile. Are there really other pictures like this on the internets? Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 1:05
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    @ChrisGerken First one I've ever seen.
    – jonsca
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 1:06
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    Said individual does have far more profile views than most other SO citizens. Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 1:09
  • This post reminds me of peer pressured user hot chick and her about me text. Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 1:25
  • Someone complained about the first one in a moderator flag. Nobody's flagged the second one yet. Don't bother going there and flagging it, just because you've seen this comment.
    – user102937
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 1:32
  • @RobertHarvey - Wait, so Bikini Girl gets flagged, but telling us all to F off is okay? What kind of world are we living in. ;)
    – jmort253
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 1:33
  • @jmort253: I added links to my comment to make it clearer. I personally didn't find anything wrong with the Fergie pic either, but whatever.
    – user102937
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 1:34
  • @RobertHarvey - Don't the terms and conditions make it clear what is and isn't offensive? Are these really sexually explicit? I mean, I don't really care that much. I can always go to another site if I wanna look at photos of beautiful women, but as a moderator, I don't think I'd personally change these, especially when the "FU" in the other post -- something far more offensive -- is deemed ok by Jeff Atwood.
    – jmort253
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 1:38
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    Needs more bubbles
    – random
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 1:42
  • Disclaimer: If you haven't figured it out, the pic isn't really me. What a shame. I would have preferred living with such illusion. ;)
    – apaderno
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 1:42

2 Answers 2


OK, so here's the deal.

Yes, Fergie's picture did appear in someone's profile, and it was redacted by a moderator. The first meta post adequately explains the relevant issues, so I encourage you to read there.

Why are Gravatar pictures and user names held to a higher standard than the user's profile text? Because they are public artifacts; users are involuntarily subjected to these artifacts each and every time the OP makes a post.

The profile text is different; we pretty much allow people to say whatever they want there, so long as they are not attacking someone else personally. If that reflects negatively on them, so be it; it's their profile.

It's not really about obscenity, even though obscene material is clearly not permitted. It's more about professionalism; do you really want your boss to see that scantily clad woman when he looks over your shoulder to see what you're surfing?

What's my personal opinion about the profile picture? Yum. But that's totally not relevant. What is relevant is if people start complaining about these pictures, or they become a distraction. I'm inclined to give the complainer the benefit of the doubt.

Incidentally, this same woman's picture managed to appear in a number of SE chat rooms, at about the same time, in full resolution. We removed them; I think the quagmire that such postings represent really should be self-evident. In short, we don't want to become the next "Girls Gone Wild."

  • Hi, why the picture mentioned in the question was not banned and mine was? I would say it's more provocative.
    – damluar
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 9:59
  • Ugh, Fergie's gone downhill. She looks like a man, now. Here's my take on the original image (not really not safe for work)
    – user1228
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 13:40

Someone reported a photo once on Super User that was extremely X rated and pornographic. It's been removed, but you can check out that post for context. In that case, I agreed that it was a bit uncalled for.

But in this case, we're talking about a woman wearing a bathing suit. There's nothing inappropriate about that particular photo. If there is, then we should outlaw people from going to every single coastline in temperatures above about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, because who knows, there just might be a beautiful woman wearing a bathing suit. ;)

However, I sort of see avatars as the representation of yourself. Ideally, this would be your own photo, but a cartoon, animal, or logo would suffice just as well. As for posting photos of other people, I personally believe it sort of reflects poorly on the person who would use such a photo when that does not accurately depict him or her.

Now, if that woman is an actual photo of the Stack Overflow user, awesome. If she wants to post herself in a bikini, good for her. She rocks! But I'm more inclined to believe in this case that it's just some teenager putting up a photo of his favorite supermodel. I'm not a fan of that, because it's a bit misleading, but it's not breaking any rules, so it wouldn't be right to change the photo forcibly.

In short, if they're X rated, they don't belong (here on Stack Exchange), but in this case, if said person wants to represent him or herself as a scantily clad woman, so be it. To each his (or her) own.

  • The only reason I brought it up was not because she was in a bathing suit, but because of the other post that I linked to. It was showing less (he links to the photo), yet got taken down. Here is a comment on it with 19 upvotes... "certainly is unprofessional (for programming professionals, Ok for swimsuit/underwear model photographers, but I doubt that will be an SE site anytime soon)." Maybe I'm not understanding the differences. Could someone explain?
    – CoffeeRain
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 2:25
  • @CoffeeRain - It seems like the consensus on MSO is that it's not appropriate. I disagree, but not enough to want to make an argument out of it. As for Fergie being removed but not the swimsuit model, maybe the offensiveness isn't about the fact that the model has less clothes, but just that Fergie is ... well ... let's just say she has a reputation... In short, perhaps it's not about clothing, but about who the person is...
    – jmort253
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 2:31
  • Not to be rude, but as an honest question, did I deserve those downvotes?
    – CoffeeRain
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 2:41
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    @CoffeeRain - Actually, let me rephrase. Consensus on the post from April is that Fergie sucks and needed to be removed. Consensus here for Bikini Girl seems to be that a random swimsuit model doing nothing but posing innocently on the beach seems to be okay. I think that had you left your opinion out of the question -- the part about it not being appropriate and unprofessional -- your post might not have seen so many downvotes. Your question is valid, and I haven't voted either way. (BTW keep in mind voting works different on MSO. It just means "I disagree".)
    – jmort253
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 2:47
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    Right... I took a break from Stack Exchange over the Summer and just started up again. I forgot about the voting differences on Meta. Sorry for the commotion on here.
    – CoffeeRain
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 2:49
  • I don't understand why bikini girl is not banned and Fergie is. That picture is much more provocative and it it seems that there are double standards. How do you assess reputation? Your reputation also sucks in the eyes of someone, but your picture is still here. Fergie was neither naked nor XXX-related, so it should be allowed.
    – damluar
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 10:08
  • @damluar - It's what she stands for. Fergie isn't the nicest person. It has nothing to do, IMHO, with the level of nudity. She's just.... offensive...
    – jmort253
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 15:42
  • @jmort253 Am I or you are the nicest persons? What's the basis for your judgement?
    – damluar
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 15:47
  • @damluar - I'm just not a fan. With that said, I still wouldn't have flagged the photo. I'm just pointing out there is more than 1 way to be offensive. But it's also worth pointing out that the girl on the beach isn't undressing herself. Fergie is...
    – jmort253
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 21:45
  • I was involved in the fergie fracas but not this latest swimsuit woman, so let me chime in. First, fergie was borderline. She was in a pushup bra which (I know, insert woman logic meme here) is a bit different than a bikini. A judgement was made on this borderline gravatar and the consensus was to ditch it. I didn't get to see the swimsuit gravatar, but I assume we are still in this borderline area (women in skimpy outfits). I don't know if she was trying to look seductive (a la ferg) or just standing there, but the decision on this borderline question came down different. C'est le Bikini.
    – user1228
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 13:49
  • @Won't - She was a young blonde woman, sitting/kneeling in the sand with her legs spread, and she was smiling innocently at the camera. All I have to say is our cultures are so hung up on sex and shaming. It's just sex. :)
    – jmort253
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 13:56

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