I was looking through Hot Questions list posted on this site, and found A method to cause maximum pain to a human. The question was carefully crafted, highly upvoted, and answered by several experts with presumably high level of demonstrated competence in that tag.

My question is, should such questions promoting dehumanization and violence be even listed in Most popular? Should they be removed from StackExchange sites, or hidden? What kind of message that post delivers to readers? By the same token folks might start sharing here how to make bombs etc. Volume of information collected by humans is overwhelming. Does it mean, StackExchage should share all of this regardless of its content?

Yet again, who is going to decide in such cases, whether the question must be removed? Those high rep "experts" who answered that question?

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    I'm a moderator on that site and that question makes me uncomfortable, too. I've brought it up in our chat room but there haven't been a lot of people around so far. I don't know what the right answer is. I'm not going to apply mod fiat; it requires discussion. Jul 31, 2016 at 3:21
  • As long as it's "... as a world builder" then you can crowd source all types of waterboarding alternatives
    – random
    Jul 31, 2016 at 3:24
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    I thought a moderator can close any question. In any case, SE presumably has certain guidelines on closing questions promoting violence? Otherwise the portal may attract Law Enforcement agencies attention pretty fast, as well as negative media reviews.
    – sambul35
    Jul 31, 2016 at 3:24
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    @random Not sure I understand your point. If you're hinting about politics, if certain entities are often engaged in violence around the world, it doesn't mean SE can promote it. And SE is indeed responsible for the content posted on this portal by members. That question is not about imaginary world, but direct instructions set on violence.
    – sambul35
    Jul 31, 2016 at 3:26
  • Is it uncomfortable or one off the books? stackexchange.com/legal/content-policy
    – random
    Jul 31, 2016 at 3:42
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    That question is more about the planning of violence as opposed to the celebration and targeting of violence
    – random
    Jul 31, 2016 at 3:58
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    @sambul35 a moderator can close any question, but I'm not aware of any SE policy that this question is violating. (If there is one, I assume someone will answer your question and point it out.) "Squicks a moderator" isn't by itself sufficient cause to close. Jul 31, 2016 at 4:31
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    Agree with @Monica here, the direct answer to the question in the title is "No, there is no such canned reason". So if you want it closed, you should pick "Other" and add your own comment. Jul 31, 2016 at 5:41
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    Anyway, more to the point. Since this affects mainly people "from the outside", meaning users from other sites who see this in the HNQ sidebar, the actual solution would be to give moderators the ability to remove specific questions from the sidebar. Jul 31, 2016 at 6:08
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    @Monica Cellio This question and answers to it violate SE Content Policy Hate speech and other objectionable content that is unlawful. This pub Is Violent Speech a Right? outlines the extent of Free Speech rights in USA when it comes to promoting hate and violence. This DHS document Cyber Incident Reporting advises to report any cyber incident that "may impact national security, economic security, or public health and safety".
    – sambul35
    Jul 31, 2016 at 11:54
  • Therefore, this content is reportable to Law Enforcement. I do understand, posting violent content increases traffic to SE portal and leads to higher revenue. But this kind of revenue raise should not be tolerated by anyone who is concerned about public safety and well being. So the choice here may be a) voluntary removal, or b) order to remove and further investigation into practices to promote such content. Of course, such investigations attract media attention, and may negatively impact SE stock value, thus resulting in revenue loss and shareholders outcry.
    – sambul35
    Jul 31, 2016 at 11:59
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    @RobertLongson I checked the text of Be nice guidance and I can not figure how it can be applied to the question we discuss (to avoid misunderstanding I would want it to apply and to render question inappropriate, just can't see how)
    – gnat
    Jul 31, 2016 at 13:51
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    Shut down all of Arqade. Video games not only promote violence, they train users into perfecting it
    – random
    Jul 31, 2016 at 14:26
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    @sambul35 The context of the post is clear (and the post is understandable in that context). Just writing about someone doing evil things does not make the writer evil, or else there would be no bad people in fiction. I think reporting the post to the authorities is taking it a bit far. Also, StackExchange isn't a public company. Private stock isn't affected by 'bad publicity' in the way you think it is. Basically, you're overthinking it. Jul 31, 2016 at 14:53
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    The company needs ongoing investment for grows and development. That investment will dry out as soon as bad publicity comes in. The company is not as big as you may think it is, but quite moderate in revenue. Dissipating such content over various internet channels is self destruction for a company like SE promoting positive constructive knowledge. That post has nothing in common with the "fiction" site topic, the instructions are real, no matter on what site they are posted.
    – sambul35
    Jul 31, 2016 at 14:59

7 Answers 7


There is no close reason for questions promoting violence because close reasons are about questions that can't be reasonably answered, and the fact that a question promotes violence doesn't prevent it being answered.

A question promoting violence may need to be removed from the site, but there's a different tool for that: flagging. If you think that the question promotes abuse, flag is as “rude or abusive” — see this FAQ for more information. If you think that the question should be deleted but the reason requires some explanation, flag as “in need or moderator intervention” and explain.

If you think that some content is illegal (which is a different judgement from objectionable, although the same content could also be both), this is a matter for Stack Exchange (the company) to decide. Use the “contact us” link at the bottom of the page.

Regarding this specific question, I don't see in what way it promotes violence. Discussing violence is not promoting it — history books are full of violence, but they are not hate speech.

By the same token folks might start sharing here how to make bombs etc.

There is no blanket prohibition on sharing how to make bombs. Dangerous real-world material gets discussed regularly not only on Chemistry but also on more “innocuous-sounding” sites such as Home Improvement.

This question and answers to it violate SE Content Policy Hate speech

No, it doesn't, because there is no hate speech in the question or in any of the answers (unless there's some in a now-deleted answer that I haven't seen). Discussing violence is not hate speech.

and other objectionable content that is unlawful. This pub Is Violent Speech a Right? outlines the extent of Free Speech rights in USA when it comes to promoting hate and violence.

I won't claim expertise with US law, but your claim that the thread is not lawful in the United States is highly dubious. I am somewhat familiar with French law (although I'm not a lawyer), which is generally a lot less accepting of speech that promotes hate or violence, and even here nothing in that question would be close to illegal.

  • To add another example, see also this question on Meta Electronics Stack Exchange. Jul 31, 2016 at 13:27
  • "close reasons are about questions that can't be reasonably answered". Not true. Close reasons vary, and one can include moderation, the other site policy violation, to name a few of various possible canned reasons.
    – sambul35
    Jul 31, 2016 at 14:10
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    "Discussing violence is not promoting it" Wrong tweak. That thread (not only questions, but also answers) provides sufficient details to replicate violent behavior, not present in vast majority of history books, if any. Generally, discussing how to make bombs or torture people is direct instruction to those who plan such activities and therefore may ask such questions via anonymous channels.
    – sambul35
    Jul 31, 2016 at 14:14
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    @sambul35 There are tons of novels on the market which describe tortures and violence, with sufficient details to replicate them. Should we ban also those novels? Jul 31, 2016 at 14:22
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    @sambul35 Have you seen the Saw movies?
    – animuson StaffMod
    Jul 31, 2016 at 15:31
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    I personally don't see any value in this type of content to spend any time watching it. It doesn't deliver anything I expect from a piece of art. It is purposely designed to draw attention of low intelligence often lost on Earth and underdeveloped individuals for higher revenue, and I'm not going to deliver joy to its investors. Greedy money do a lot of harm to our planet we call home.
    – sambul35
    Jul 31, 2016 at 15:40
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    Let me repeat it this way: this is not a question for community to decide. Only company management is responsible for their site policies.
    – sambul35
    Jul 31, 2016 at 15:46
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    @sambul35 Do you apply the same standards though? Those movies are a lot more gruesome and detailed than any of the content in that question. Did you report them all to proper authorities or try to claim they should be outlawed? They're works of art. It may not be the type of art you care about seeing, but it's art nonetheless. We live in a world that mostly values freedom of expression. Because you don't like something doesn't mean others won't or shouldn't - you can't cast your opinions onto everyone else like that. Bottom line: there's nothing we can or should do here.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Jul 31, 2016 at 15:47
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    There is huge movement in the US against making money by promoting violent content. Whether its always successful mostly depends on who enacts laws and enforces them. Unfortunately, money is very hard to remove from politics, and it reflects in every way, including culture. If this is your company management opinion, it was nice to learn about. :)
    – sambul35
    Jul 31, 2016 at 16:15
  • In addition to novels and movies, YouTube has lots of information on torture. Aug 3, 2016 at 5:44

No. There is no canned close reason to close this question. And even then, should it be closed? It personally disturbs me, but I am not a member of the site. And if it doesn't violate the SE policy (not as far as I can see), there is no reason to close the question unless the community agrees it is a question that is undesirable.

That said, I like the suggestion from Shadow Wizard to give moderators the ability to remove a question from the HNQ list.


I don't think there's any reason for it to be closed. Yes, it's a bit 'icky' and dark, but since when did was that a reason to remove content?

Things on the D&D site imply things like burning people alive or assassinations or mass murder all of the time, but that's not objectionable content because it's fantasy.

This question is still fantasy in the same way (it's fiction), it's just the question is posed with the subject less subtly.

Without the writing context and it being asked on a different site (say, Biology), then that might be more questionable, but it could again just be an innocent curious question about the body.

People do awful things in fiction all of the time, but that doesn't make the authors bad and it doesn't mean the authors should be arrested for promoting violence.

I think the objection-ability is down to a knee-jerk reaction to how forwardly the question was asked.

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    *cough* Some of the Burning Wheel, V:tM, and FATE players there might be less than amused at being called members of "the D&D site". Aug 1, 2016 at 7:12
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    Apologies to everyone on the RPG site. I used D&D to make the point in case some people were unfamiliar with the site and missed the context. Aug 1, 2016 at 12:56

The question isn't "promoting" violence, it's discussing hypothetical types of violence to be incorporated into fictional stories/worlds.

Many of our most esteemed authors and filmmakers have had to create such fictional elements as part of their stories. Do you think they were all promoting violence in the process? The only difference is that the same thing is being done collaboratively and in public on Worldbuilding SE.

That said, it gave me the total creeps and I wish I'd never read much of it. Quite terrible.

I upvoted your question because I think it is an interesting question. But no, I don't think we should close or delete such questions. Worldbuilding is full of questions about violence, war, crime, etc. There are always bad guys in fiction.


Having a canned reason means that it's common enough that it's needed. This sort of thing is an exception. And I think it being uncommon enough not to have a specific dedicated reason is a good thing for any site.

I'd recommend a flag, to let mods know, and a local meta question to get community consensus and a point of reference for such questions in future . As a high rep user you may also use a custom close reason.


I tried flagging it as "rude or abusive" (it's not rude, but I considered it abusive, as torture is abuse), and it got declined. This means that at least diamond mod has looked at the question, and regarded it as appropriate.


I think it would be good to give the site a setting that excludes questions/answers this violent, which you can switch off, if you are comfortable with this (meaning it excludes these by default) - so people uncomfortable with this don't have to see it.

But also, if you don't want to read stuff like what is discussed in this question, the question makes that pretty clear, so anyone uncomfortable with this subject won't open the question anyways, like they probably wouldn't read or watch horror.

Besides, in the context of a story (since we're talking here about Worldbuilding SE) this is probably going to be used by the antagonists to instill fear in the reader, meaning it isn't meant to promote violence. "How can I make the villain the most gruesome person ever", "How can I make my readers suffer" - stuff like that is what many writers ask themselves. Look, for example, at supernatural. Torture is pretty often used there and, although it is sometimes used by the protagonists, it is never really painted as a good thing. And in the question it is stated, that it is used by the antagonists: "I am currently searching for a new execution method to be used in my fictional psychotic dictatorship".

I hope I could get you another viewpoint to the situation.

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