I don't participate enough in PCG to feel I should have a say in whether that community allows profanity in their question titles, and I'm not particularly interested in opening yet another, "Is the language “BrainF_ck” offensive?" question.

However, the hot questions list appears on all the networks regardless of their own community's support of profanity or not, and I'd like to suggest that questions with profanity be disallowed from appearing in the hot questions list.

Today the following question appeared in the list:

BrainF***edBotsForBattling - A Brainf*** Tournament

  • Is the general ban on profanity Stack Exchange wide, or does each community set its own standards?

  • If it's not Stack Exchange wide, what is the process or response to have such items removed from cross-site exposure, such as the hot list?

  • 1
    @JanDvorak If you're interested in a discussion on whether the language's name is offensive, and should or shouldn't be used as-is, please go to meta.stackexchange.com/q/24079/2915 . This is out of scope for this question.
    – Pollyanna
    Aug 25, 2014 at 16:27
  • 2
    For example, Shutterstock doesn't prevent people from using these words, but they do use a list on github to prevent items containing these words from showing up in suggestion/hot/interesting lists - in short, their recommendation engine. In their words, "In our case, the question we use is, "What wouldn't we want to suggest that people look at?"
    – Pollyanna
    Aug 25, 2014 at 17:00
  • We have a blacklist mechanism in place that can be used to prevent certain words or phrases from appearing in the hot list. Creating a meta post or emailing the team would be fine ways to get it modified.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Aug 25, 2014 at 17:17
  • 3
    I just came here to post this, but you beat me to it.
    – Brian
    Aug 25, 2014 at 17:30
  • I'm offended that their list considers "2 girls 1 cup" to be an offensive phrase.
    – user1228
    Aug 25, 2014 at 18:52
  • That list is gold. acrotomophilia.
    – user1228
    Aug 25, 2014 at 18:53
  • 7
    @Won't I'll take "Things I don't want to Google" for $1,000, Alex.
    – Pollyanna
    Aug 25, 2014 at 18:59
  • @Won't I am bit surprised there is no "prographilia" term just yet. Aug 25, 2014 at 18:59
  • @ShadowWizard there is, it's just not offensive--just boring.
    – user1228
    Aug 25, 2014 at 19:06
  • 1
    @AdamDavis Hmm... I'd have great difficulty with that list in my code. Section 10.5.4 Special Comments of the Code Conventions for the Java Programming Language would be considered offensive... and no, Java is much less offensive than php. And I wonder if this was a hot question in its day.
    – user213963
    Aug 26, 2014 at 0:41

1 Answer 1


There's precious little value and plenty of potential harm from scattering vulgar language across the sidebars of the entire network. Not only does it irritate people, the titles also get indexed in search results as part of the pages they're linked from - we've gotten complaints from folks who found their questions listed in search results for some fairly shocking phrases due to this.

Under normal circumstances, it's best to either close or edit questions that contain vulgar language. However, we do block a range of vulgar terms from appearing in the network-wide "hot" list as a fall-back in cases where there's a dispute or the post is simply overlooked.

This isn't really suitable for Brainfuck questions though. This language is a legitimate topic for multiple sites within the network; there have been and will continue to be good questions on the topic that are worth featuring network-wide, and penalizing them purely due to the naming choice of the language designer isn't appropriate.

The uneasy consensus on Stack Overflow for the past 6 years has been that BF questions are allowed, but the term "Brainfuck" should be munged or edited out of titles. This makes everyone equally unhappy, so I consider it an effective compromise - and I'm making it official: starting today (Nov. 24, 2015), the term "brainfuck" is blacklisted in titles only network-wide, with a message explaining why:

Please munge the word "brainfuck" when writing titles, to avoid causing unnecessary blockage from web-sensors.

  • 1
    One might want to glance at the-stick-of-truth and consider other title words that you might want to filter.
    – user213963
    Aug 26, 2014 at 0:48
  • 1
    @MichaelT whole SE network need to learn Where to find blood orgy?
    – gnat
    Aug 26, 2014 at 8:54
  • 2
    Do questions (which have been removed from the hot questions list) have a chance to get back to the list if they change their title?
    – redevined
    Aug 26, 2014 at 9:06
  • 1
    @Cipher Yours is back in the list since you edited the title, so it looks like they do.
    – Geobits
    Aug 26, 2014 at 12:37
  • 12
    @Geobits ... which perfectly demonstrates the true nature of beeps/asterisks - to hide profanity from robots, not from humans. Aug 28, 2014 at 13:20
  • 1
    Edit it, @Andrew
    – Shog9
    Jan 17, 2015 at 18:34
  • 1
    This is another example of a question that showed up in HNQ starting with an uncensored Brainf**k. I've edited the uc out now, so this is just to let you know the blacklist doesn't seem to cover this word. Jul 7, 2015 at 16:43
  • 1
    Fix the filter, don't edit the question titles.
    – Mast
    Nov 24, 2015 at 15:07
  • 2
    @AdamDavis For some values of "fixed." Nov 24, 2015 at 15:08
  • 2
    Really, @Mast? I left this blacklist fairly conservative in the hope that in less egregious cases, y'all could work together like adults. But since you prefer to bicker in the comments under my answer, "brainfuck" is now blacklisted in titles everywhere, hot or otherwise.
    – Shog9
    Nov 24, 2015 at 15:57
  • 1
    You'll find the link when you go to edit your question, @Mast.
    – Shog9
    Nov 24, 2015 at 16:02
  • 3
    @Shog9 With respect, I'm not entirely convinced "Well, now it is blacklisted everywhere, screw you" is the adult response either (nor is your edit reason). While I do think Mast has overblown this quite a bit, his point still stands: The issue is with the filter that prevents profanity in HNQ, not with his question.
    – Dan
    Nov 24, 2015 at 16:41
  • 1
    I was asleep when EBrown & Mast got into it with Adam here, @Dan. I try to sleep on a fairly regular basis; I guess you could consider it a flaw in the system. Fortunately, there's a perfectly good work-around for situations where a problem needs a temporary solution until someone wakes up: editing. There's a long tradition of editing titles for this precise reason, but if folks are gonna stonewall that now, then more drastic solutions become necessary. Now... I'm gonna go drink enough coffee to where, if I need to write a more complicated regex, I can at least think about doing so.
    – Shog9
    Nov 24, 2015 at 16:46
  • 3
    I'll make a final decision once I've had breakfast, @Dan - but it's worth noting that the HNQ blacklist was originally intended as a fail-safe for questions that couldn't be edited or deleted in time. I put this check in place a year ago thinking it'd help, but in hindsight it may have just exacerbated the drama; for whatever reason, BF isn't going away, so a HNQ blacklist just penalizes folks who participate in that topic.
    – Shog9
    Nov 24, 2015 at 16:52
  • 5
    @Shog9 Unfortunately it will always offend someone. I would be on-board with an HNQ blacklist on it, but one shouldn't be forced to edit the title because of the fact that the name contains a word that some deem offensive. It's a perfectly legitimate word, and it's not being used profanely, so it really doesn't deserve an all-out blacklist. Just because part of the word can be offensive, doesn't mean the entire word is. Nov 24, 2015 at 17:06

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .