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?

  • 2
    @animuson Out of curiosity, why did you de-faq-ify this question? Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 18:06
  • @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog It doesn't really fit the standard of a FAQ. It barely gets viewed (727 in 10 years means no one is looking for this), and deleting all these answers to replace them with an official, canonical answer just isn't worth the effort for something no one is looking for.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 18:09
  • 1
    @animuson Additionally, the answer to this is already stated in the official FAQ; see above. Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 18:11

9 Answers 9


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.

  • If only there was a "view history"...
    – Paul Hargreaves
    Commented Oct 30, 2008 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
    Commented Oct 30, 2008 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" Commented Sep 16, 2009 at 16:52

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.

  • 12
    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
    Commented Oct 30, 2008 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
    Commented Oct 30, 2008 at 15:03
  • This is something i hate about SO. people vote for everything, but never talk it out.
    – Niko
    Commented Jan 14, 2009 at 10:07

If the question is a valid question, just remove the offensive content.


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.

  • 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
    Commented Oct 30, 2008 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... Commented Oct 30, 2008 at 16:33
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    Tempted to change my screensaver to "Stop looking at my &$%£"@ screen!" :)
    – Bobby Jack
    Commented Oct 30, 2008 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. Commented Oct 30, 2008 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/… Commented Nov 7, 2008 at 19:39

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.


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.

  • 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
    Commented Oct 30, 2008 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. Commented Oct 30, 2008 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. Commented Oct 30, 2008 at 20:26

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.

  • 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
    Commented Oct 30, 2008 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
    Commented Oct 30, 2008 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
    Commented Oct 30, 2008 at 16:16

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.


Assuming that the bit you're talking about is "offensive", then whether to edit the post (or only flag/delete it) depends on whether the post includes other useful/beneficial/on-topic content (that would remain sensible and worthwhile if the offensive bit were removed):

  • If "no" or "not really", then just delete the whole post
  • If "yes", then edit the post to remove the offensive bit and preserve the good bit

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