Recently I saw a question where a user was asking how to do something which many commenters considered unethical. The person was asking how to circumvent a restriction in someone else's web application which was made intentionally to prevent exactly what he was trying to do.

The question was put on hold with the reason "unclear what you're asking", but I don't believe that the question was actually unclear. I suspect that the real reason why people decided to close this question was because of ethical reasons.

Should there be a new close-reason like this:

Put on hold as ethically questionable

This question is about trying to do something which is ethically questionable or might violate the law. The community has thus decided that it should not be answered.


2 Answers 2



Ethics are, by their very nature, subjective. If a post is clearly in breach of the SE Terms of Service then flag it for moderator attention.

But otherwise, judge the question by the usual metrics, perhaps comment, perhaps just ignore it. But a 'Unethical' close reason will only attract dispute and abuse.

For example, scraping copyrighted websites is not necessarily unethical; fair use could still apply. Sometimes websites block site scrapers because their infrastructure is not set up to handle the high frequency of unbridled robot scrapers. Pointing the OP to the possibility that a robots.txt exists with rate limits might be a valid answer in that case. Etc.

  • 6
    Plus I'd be looking for C++ questions using C style casts and flag them as unethical
    – nikolas
    Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 11:17

I think in this case, the downvotes, negative attention and swarm of comments speak for itself. This is how questions like this are dealt with on Stack Exchange.

It's not really for a moderator to decide whether or not he agrees with the question, but moreso on whether or not the question breaks a rule. If it does not, then it should stay, but as mentioned, the response from the community will speak for itself.

Also, I need to add that we cannot be the people to judge someone's motives or methods.
A question may ask about an underhand method, but keep in mind that in some cases (granted, not in your example) the user may not even know it's negative connotations or are using them in a perfectly legal way.

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