I recently saw a user with a user name that I thought could be a little offensive. I searched on Meta and could find only some references on a policy for using web addresses as/in user names. Nothing related to offensive or invalid words. Is there such a list/specification? If not, will there ever be? And, probably the most important aspect: am I the only one who thinks this is not OK?

Here's a snapshot of the aforementioned user. The post is here (EDIT: The name of the user was meanwhile changed).


3 Answers 3


Keeping a list would be futile, there are far too many different ways to create an offensive user name. But there are of course limits, and offensive user names are changed by moderators. There is no hard rule for offensiveness, this is judged on a per-case basis by the acting moderator.

  • Can a flag be raised by a regular user?
    – Andrei V
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 11:04
  • 4
    Yes, just flag one of the posts of that user with the "other" flag reason and explain the problem Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 11:06
  • 3
    On one auction site I was unable to comment on black ropes and compliment on their nice deep colour, because their word list was so restrictive. But no offensive sentence could really sneak in... So it's not impossible. It's only impossible to both prevent abuse and still allow convenient legitimate use at the same time.
    – Mołot
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 11:41
  • 4
    @Mołot: Yes, ### #### ######### ### ## #### ######### ############# ## ## #### ### #############. Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 12:55
  • @IlmariKaronen .. wht is tht #### ????
    – Dhaval
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 7:58
  • Here's a thought: since StackOverflow is user moderated, couldn't crowd voting/editing be used to create/trim/clean such a list? What I'm thinking is a voting mechanism for each entry in the list. When a user picks or changes their name, the list can be queried (I understand the level of resources needed for this action...) and if a match is found, a flag can be automatically raised for the moderators.
    – Andrei V
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 8:25
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    @AndreiV No way. Many many words can be offensive or not, depending on context. "My bitch" would be bad on parenting site, but perfectly OK on pet site, right?
    – Mołot
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 12:00
  • @Mołot, I totally agree. Hence, the reference to crowd instead of static and flag to moderator instead of immediate action.
    – Andrei V
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 12:14
  • @AndreiV but it's way easier to just flag for moderator when you see him on the site, isn't it?It would be a complicated mechanism inviting arguments and discussion and providing no real benefit.
    – Mołot
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 12:19
  • @Mołot, I have a sense you're trying to make me agree with something with which I already do :). The "default" method, which I didn't know when I posted my question, is indeed simple, effective and not at all costly (resource wise). From the time I first asked about the name, until I posted on Meta, 50 minutes have passed and I didn't see any reaction. To me, that suggested that nobody really cares and it made me think about the quality of the community. A(n) (semi)automated process would have triggered the flag sooner than I did.
    – Andrei V
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 12:27

Before adding any word to such list, you'd have to make a match against ~200 international databases of first names and surnames (most of that available probably only in paper form, if at all).

It would be a really bad thing if a user giving his real name would get the message, that his name is considered offensive and can't be used.

If you can't imagine how bad it would be, let's say one unicorn would die any time that happens.


Using blacklists for offensive/obscene words to block contents is generally not a good idea because of the numerous false positives it can bring up (clbuttic mistake).

It can be even worse if it's about people's real names, as @Łukasz already pointed out (there might be even some feelings involved). Take for instance The Scunthorpe problem.

This is probably an issue that should be judged and acted upon individually through moderation.

EDIT Also worth taking a look at Jeff Atwood's blog post about the subject.

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