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Someone just posted a (hopefully bad-taste joke) question on maximizing the damage of a school shooting to Academia.SE (since deleted). I flagged for moderator attention, but this made me wonder: Is this the correct way to do this, especially if there was a really time-critical issue (e.g., if the poster had said "I'm about to start a school shooting" instead of "how do I maximize the damage")? Just deleting the question through downvotes and flags seems insufficient, especially if the poster was serious.

A separate question was already asked here about the same issue, but is asking in a more general way without the full context of what was going on, and is thus unlikely to elicit a helpful response in case this is going to happen again.

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    related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/243700/… – rene Jul 7 '17 at 8:00
  • "especially if the poster was serious." => Then alert the local police and give them a screenshot, deleting the post on a site won't have any impact on the reality... – Tensibai Jul 7 '17 at 8:02
  • @Tensibai What if (like me) you are not US-based and so don't have any local US PD to contact? – malexmave Jul 7 '17 at 8:03
  • @malexmave I don't think finding the phone number of a school on google would be that hard to contact them and let them handle it ? – Tensibai Jul 7 '17 at 8:05
  • The poster did not give details on which school he was planning to hit (if any). It was just a general question with no geographical context, aside from "in the US". – malexmave Jul 7 '17 at 8:05
  • @malexmave "in the US" => Federal Bureau of Investigation if there's nothing more to narrow, at worst case, call your local police, explain the problem and let them handle it at best. – Tensibai Jul 7 '17 at 8:10
  • (this doesn't invalidate flagging for moderator attention, I just mean that a post moderation won't solve a real threat) – Tensibai Jul 7 '17 at 8:11
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    The reason I did not do this is that SE has better tools than the average user to give LE information about these issues. I can basically only report "there is this guy online with the username xyz who said X", and by the time they click the link, the question will have been deleted. SE can give more detailed information faster to LE, so I thought there may be a more direct way to get SE involved in an issue like this, so that SE can do the reporting. Basically an SE-internal emergency contact for issues like this. – malexmave Jul 7 '17 at 8:18
  • I believe if you want SE to handle/notice it, then use "contact us" on the footer. – Meta Andrew T. Jul 7 '17 at 8:42
  • Mods and staff can also look at the IP of the poster, for what little value that's worth. – Mithrandir Jul 7 '17 at 9:33
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I'm the director of community strategy for Stack Overflow / Stack Exchange.

If there's a specific threat that we can actually report, and the first step there being figuring out which authority would be interested in hearing about it, then we'd of course let them know about it. But I'd have to say that how we go about this would be on a a case-by-case basis, it would depend on how much is shared by the distraught person(s) involved.

The best thing to do is flag for mod attention as you did, it gets escalated to us pretty quickly.

Had there been more info (and not such a clear indication that this was trolling), I probably would have been on the phone with law enforcement. But, again, I can't say for certain - it's better to just let us handle this in the context of the information we can see, but we do examine every instance of it carefully.

  • On a related note, on Biology.SE someone asked a question about why a man was vomiting blood instead of bleeding when he had his skull smashed with a stone, and then a link was given to an I.S.I.S. website with the actual video of this. Fortunately a moderator removed the question quickly. – skullpatrol Jul 7 '17 at 10:12
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    @Justwinbaby valid question – Kenshin Jul 7 '17 at 11:04
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    I'd also assume that if you aren't getting a quick response from mods on that site (as the previous question about this incident stated), a flag on any post here with a full description of the problem and links to the problem question would also be an acceptable route to get the issue escalated to staff quickly. – Won't Jul 7 '17 at 16:02
  • The community definitely needs to implement a strategy to deal with these types of situations in an ASAP manner. – skullpatrol Jul 7 '17 at 20:00

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