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Part of my daily routine is to go to stackexchange.com and see the hot questions. Today this hot question was up:

https://pets.stackexchange.com/questions/21575/how-can-i-fix-my-relationship-with-my-7-month-old-cat-after-ive-constantly-abus

The question itself seemed like it might be a problem but my curiosity got the better of me, and I was not expecting to see quite so much graphic detail about the nature of the abuse -- to the extent that it ended up giving me a panic attack.

I feel like this question (especially in detail) is likely to cause a lot of emotional grief for a lot of people, and it would be beneficial if it could be flagged with a content warning and, ideally, if questions like those would not show up on the "hot questions" list.

The question itself is legitimate and I am glad the user asked the question -- and the answers they received are, also, quite beneficial. But it certainly isn't the sort of thing I was hoping to be confronted with, especially as a "hot question."

Thus, what I am proposing:

  1. Have the ability for the community to flag such comments with a content warning
  2. Prevent such posts from appearing on the "hot network questions" display and sidebars.

Edit: It appears that the question has since been deleted. I have mixed feelings about this (the answers which were given would have been very educational for the person asking). Regardless, I still feel like a content-warning mechanism would be helpful; sometimes there are questions that are important and valid but which are also troublesome for some people to see.

The use of CW-based partial-hiding is well-established in communities such as Mastodon, where people can put things behind a structured spoiler/CW tag that indicates what lies behind it.

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    Perhaps a better solution would be to edit the titles of such posts? – Sonic the Anonymous WizHog Oct 26 '18 at 20:23
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    @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog the problem was what fluffy found after clicking though. Or are you proposing editing "trigger warning" into titles? – Monica Cellio Oct 26 '18 at 20:51
  • @MonicaCellio No, edit the titles so that they no longer look offensive to users who have no context other than HNQ. – Sonic the Anonymous WizHog Oct 26 '18 at 20:53
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    Fluffy's complaint isn't about the title. Reread the first paragraph after the question link. – Monica Cellio Oct 26 '18 at 20:55
  • What exactly are you asking for, and who would be responsible for adding such a warning? – Jason Bassford Oct 26 '18 at 22:55
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    @JasonBassford I am asking for the ability to 1) flag questions with a content warning (from the community) and 2) have such questions be removed/disallowed from the "hot questions" sections. I have edited my question to clarify. – fluffy Oct 26 '18 at 22:57
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    Looks like the question has (rightly imho) been deleted. – Richard Oct 26 '18 at 23:07
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    @Richard yes, unfortunately that means that the very reasonable answers have as well. I hope the questioner at least got to see the answers first. – fluffy Oct 26 '18 at 23:16
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    I don't think that a reasonable answer should justify the presence of an inappropriate question. If the question is offensive, then it should be flagged, either for deletion or editing. I don't see why the normal mechanisms are insufficient for that. – Jason Bassford Oct 26 '18 at 23:21
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    editing the title wouldn't help. The content of the question is rather disturbing - and sometimes that happens when the pet's human has full good intent, and tries to help a pet with pre-existing issues. This was just terrible, and I think the mods were aware and looking into the best way to deal with it – Journeyman Geek Oct 26 '18 at 23:35
  • @fluffy - Oh goodie. It's been un-deleted. – Richard Oct 28 '18 at 8:36
  • @fluffy OP has not been back since posting. – paparazzo Oct 28 '18 at 10:30
  • @paparazzo - I wouldn't expect them to be. When I read it, I assumed that they were simply trolling. – Richard Oct 28 '18 at 23:40
  • @Richard Thing is OP has some valid questions on some other SE sites. On mathematics the questions are fairly advanced (beyond what a normal 17 year would ask). – paparazzo Oct 29 '18 at 18:59
  • @paparazzo - Which does also beg the question of whether we want a self-confessed animal abuser to have an account on the site, period – Richard Oct 29 '18 at 19:02
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I'm not surprised at all to see this post. I deleted the question on Pets this morning. I was waiting a reply from a community manager, as it was an unprecedented type of question on Pets. (I'm a mod on Pets).

Someone had created a suggested edit using a spoiler or content warning (someone will remind me of the correct term) to hide the abusive behaviour with a warning above it. That was something I didn't think to do last night when I first saw the post.

I don't believe editing the title would help, in fact the title served as a warning in itself, but definitely the content could be screened.

From this, not so well managed, experience I would recommend a protocol.

If there is any offensive written content, that is not clearly off topic for a site, but may constitute a bona fide question. I'd recommend users edit the content to use a spoiler plus create a custom mod flag. Mods can also make these same edits. (the ability to flag of this type of content is already there in the form of custom mod flags)

This is to be compared with gratuitous abusive content for that warrants abusive flags.

I'm sorry everyone was subjected to this, it was indeed a disturbing question. We will handle it better in the future and hopefully this will help other sites also.


Updated action

The question was deleted while there was advice from the community team and discussion with other moderators. This deletion took the question from the Hot Network Posts.

After some moderator discussion about the pros and cons of this post we have undeleted it. Included is a comment clean up, as there were some pile on of comments, naturally, as this type of content upsets and frightens people.

Using the principle of assume good faith, we're treating this post as genuine and attempting to provide good answers. At the very least it may help people who are too ashamed to verbalise their actions and need for help. We cannot solve deep emotional problems, but we can provide sound advice on the care of pets.

In terms of Hot network questions, it's definitely vital that NSFW content is hidden by spoiler tags, whether the content is graphic or written.

Nothing is set in stone, we're dealing with this on the fly, and trying to determine a protocol, as this is a precedent for our site. We are open to feedback. Please comment under this post, write an answer or visit us in chat.

I thank you again for bringing this to our attention on here.

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    Thank you. I am the one who submitted the suggested edit, as well. – fluffy Oct 27 '18 at 0:19
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    @fluffy oh I missed that. There was a lot of angst around that question. It was a shame with time zones that it ended up on the HNQ. We weren't sure if it was a troll or what to do with it. It is something we at least will deal with more effectively should it occur again. Thanks again for that edit, it would have saved a lot of people sick stomachs. – Yvette Colomb Oct 27 '18 at 0:28
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    Just a thought, and I'm not the first to have it, but "assuming good faith" may be assuming a lot in this case. – apaul Oct 27 '18 at 17:53
  • @apaul you make a valid point. However, there was a real life case where someone was treating their kitten like this (this is 24 years ago) and they confessed it to me. So it does happen. And as an anonymous user on the internet I'm in two minds whether it's real or not. The thing is, it does happen. The person I knew is no longer with us. She never developed the life skills to cope. It was a very sad story. The problem of getting older, you end up encountering more and more things in life, until really I don't know how we can be surprised. – Yvette Colomb Oct 27 '18 at 17:56
  • Didn't mean to imply that these things don't happen. I'd just question the motives of someone posting on SE about it. – apaul Oct 27 '18 at 18:20
  • @apaul: Yes, that's why I suggested deletion. Still, it can be a useful question with some edits. As far as I'm concerned, if the Pets community is willing to curate the content (ideally by removing unnecessary objectionable bits) that's their call. – Jon Ericson Oct 27 '18 at 22:26
  • @JonEricson are spoilers with a a warning ok? – Yvette Colomb Oct 27 '18 at 23:19
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    Whatever you feel is appropriate. I kinda think "I physically abused my cat" is plenty of detail to form an answer, however. – Jon Ericson Oct 27 '18 at 23:40
  • @JonEricson ok thanks. I'll bring this up in our mod chatroom. If we could get more activity on Pets meta that would be the best route imo to reach a consensus on this. – Yvette Colomb Oct 27 '18 at 23:44
  • Not my circus, not my monkeys. @JonEricson – apaul Oct 27 '18 at 23:48
  • @apaul flying monkeys? Also we've had some mod chat about this question and account. So we haven't allowed it on the site blindly. – Yvette Colomb Oct 27 '18 at 23:48
  • OP has not been active since posting the question. OP is active on Mathematics but the questions are far beyond a normal 17 year old. The language is professional. OP has not accepted a single answer. This could have been a computer left on that someone else trolled. If OP is not thankful in SE he may not be thankful in the workplace and subject to hacking. – paparazzo Oct 29 '18 at 19:11

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