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Traditionally SE site users, moderators, and CMs have discouraged political conversation on main site posts, meta site posts, comments, and site-specific chat rooms.

Recently, SE's CEO shared a statement regarding a high profile political topic on MSO. A follow up was posted by a CM on the Islam site meta. Both are were featured posts.

My questions are:

  • Are political discussions now welcome on SE sites?
  • Where? Mains, metas, chat rooms, comments?
  • By whom? All users? Employees only? Upper level management only?
  • On what issues? USA-related only? Hot issues only? Only issues that have already had significant exposure?
  • On what sides of said issues? All sides? Favorable sides? SE-endorsed sides?

Having the CEO and a CM post a political statement on a site-specific meta sets an example and I am wondering what the new policies are.

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    Comments purged in response to multiple flags. Reminder that anyone who can comment here can also post answers; use that privilege.
    – Shog9
    Feb 6, 2017 at 22:28

1 Answer 1

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We need to be able to engage with you on our own platform when we feel that there's something important to say.

That includes:

  • Announcements about ways that Stack Overflow / Stack Exchange is changing or growing as a product,
  • Notices of job openings that are very difficult for us to fill, or we feel would be best filled by someone in our communities with a good understanding of what we build,
  • Silly crayon and paint contests to burn up an idle Friday and get a free t-shirt and some stickers, special events that we might be hosting or involved in some way, etc,
  • Communication regarding events taking place in the world that we feel could impact our business, our employees or our view of what community means, which has happened twice in the roughly nine year history of our company

While your question pulls context from Joel's recent post, the answer is a bit more broadly applicable. If we feel the need to make you aware of something, we need to be able to do it on our own platform, without any third party, with our own privacy policy, with our be nice policy and terms of service, and moderation tools.

Every employee in senior management is expected to be able to speak on behalf of the company should they need to without worry, direction or reservation. However, putting out communication that proactively puts us in a strong position for or against something will generally come from, or by the direction of our executive team. Or, pretty much, Joel.

It doesn't really boil down to political discourse being encouraged or discouraged, what this was about (and we didn't do the greatest job while rushing around) is that there's times that we just need to talk to you about something important; twice in roughly nine years this involved something resulting from politics.

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    @TimPost Thanks. Then, a question about the premise: "We need to be able to engage with you on our own platform when we feel that there's something important to say." -- Why do you need to be able to do that, as opposed to, e.g., doing the same thing that the rest of the world who doesn't have their own Q&A platform does, and using other platforms? To me there seems to be this pervasive and fundamental assumption on behalf of the staff that SE is the key to change, and that if it didn't exist, the world would somehow not have a way to effectively enact political change.
    – Jason C
    Feb 1, 2017 at 17:11
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    Comments purged in response to multiple flags. Reminder that anyone who can comment here can also post answers; use that privilege.
    – Shog9
    Feb 6, 2017 at 22:27
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    I read a story once about an organization that hit upon the idea of avoiding user drama by posting potentially-upsetting notices in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of the Leopard", @JasonC. I forget how that worked out for the users involved, but... Probably good?
    – Shog9
    Feb 6, 2017 at 22:36
  • Yes that was funny @Shog9 ("Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy") but those posts were user posts not political posts. Completely and very totally different.
    – NeilG
    Dec 7, 2022 at 10:34
  • I don't know what political matters were posted by CEO but I don't feel this answers the question. I am here seeking advice because a particular user is pushing politics and it's divisive, but I wanted to check the expectations. The thing about politics is that different people have different opinions about whether a matter affects them, especially now there are narratives which contradict science: anything goes. If there is an issue which genuinely affects users, political or not, presumably the CEO can post about it in purely user terms and still avoid politics. I have no guidance here.
    – NeilG
    Dec 7, 2022 at 10:38
  • @NeilG There were two policies at the time, essentially. One was an informal set of expectations about what and how the company would post things, the other was related to how users post and interact. This question arose when what should have been a blog post became a meta post from the company, and violated lots of expectations. In your case, if the user is causing a disruption it doesn't really matter if they're breaking a technical rule other than being disruptive, as the disruptive part is sufficient for intervention. One can annoyingly not technically break any rules, you know?
    – user50049
    Jan 5, 2023 at 17:00
  • Thanks @TimPost but this user's approach is divisive precisely, and only because s/he's taking a political angle. There's no other behavior. Just because the content is political, other users will be divided into those that support and those that oppose. Just bringing in political content is automatically divisive because that's inherent to political content. The user is using SO as a platform to promote their own political position, bringing political matters into the comment stream so that other users can't avoid having it in their face, and obviously there's a temptation to respond.
    – NeilG
    Jan 7, 2023 at 2:10
  • @NeilG I'd need to refer you to current moderators or employees for more specific help. All the precedence around this type of conflict that I can remember tends to start with "Well it depends on the exact circumstances", but if it's disruptive, it needs to be resolved or it will eventually blow up spectacularly with tremendous bottled-up energy (and it seems like you know that). I wish I could help more, if you think I can I'll try to be in chat this week at some point.
    – user50049
    Jan 9, 2023 at 15:16
  • Thanks @TimPost, actually I don't think there's going to be much energy involved, the user just gets to push their politics and for the rest of us we don't get a break. It's pretty much how the world works anyway and it seems SO is unwilling or unable to post clear policy on this either. "It depends" sounds like an ideal phraseology to allow moderators to be selective about instances depending on their own politics too.
    – NeilG
    Jan 9, 2023 at 23:12

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