Yesterday, I posted a now deleted answer to Does Stack Exchange, Inc. really care about the LGBTQ+ community?. It has been removed by the Community user with a penalty of loosing 100 rep which indicates serial flagging.

I do not want to risk another attack on my account so I will refrain from reposting its content here. However, I would like to ask 10k users and/or moderators to take a look at it and tell me whether there is anything there that you would classify as rude?

With about 14 positive and negative votes the answer was obviously controversial but it was, I my opinion, by no means rude or unfriendly. I wrote it as respectful as I only could. I strongly believe that I am a victim of bigotry and a coordinated flagging-action. I also think that I am neither the first nor the last person who experienced such a reaction.

Is this how it works now here? If you can gather enough allies then you can without any consequences remove unplesant opinions by simply flagging them? How many of them has been already removed this way?

It looks like writing anything that criticizes the LGBT+ community (or some of its members) seems to be now a suicide because the answer will not be a conversation but a flag-attack.

Tell me, am I now your enemy number one because I dared to express an unpopular opinion?

I have just recently described a similar practice concerning comments here.

Users are punished without knowing the reason. They are defenceless against the Community user and flags and they cannot improve without proper feedback. Am I right by assuming that moderators do not review automatically deleted posts?

So, I am asking you now. Was it really rude (then please quote me and suggest an alternative so that I can do better in future - so that we all can) or was it just an unpleasant truth that the aforementioned group could not stand seeing?


6 Answers 6


I can agree with the general idea of your deleted answer ("all users should be treated equally, all flags should be treated equally") and I wouldn't flag it as offensive, however it's easy to understand why your answer is seen as too aggressive by many users.

Several key points:

  1. Instead of "reading the real intentions" of OP who criticizes delayed moderation and assuming demands for prioroties, you can explain that the only technical solution to the problem is implementing such priorities and that it wouldn't be fair.

  2. You make assumptions about whether members of LGBTQ+ are harassed more or less. If you can't provide scientific sources for these pretty strong assumptions, you should refrain from them. Instead of comparing the volume of harassment, you can explain that other people are harassed too and furthermore, there're many more issues which need handling.

  3. You're focusing too much on the intentions of people discussing topics rather on real tangible problems which cause delayed moderation, like increased activity on MSE and less moderators.

  4. The author of the question says that they're suffering from anxiety and depression. While "learning to ignore" is a correct approach in general, this is really, really not something which is appropriate to say to someone who suffers from depression here and now, especially not in this form.

  5. Quoting many little pieces (which aren't questions) and commenting on every single one is usually unnecessary, requires too much change of focus and is better suited for heated debates. It's usually better idea to write a coherent post which goes from point to point naturally rather than jumps based on random quotes and bombards them with similar responses.

I doubt there's an organized group that targeted your answer. There're too many issues, so it's easy for people to ignore what you wanted to say and only see how you said it. I think an answer written from scratch without any quotes, but with the same key points (equal treatment etc.), would be appropriate, but it's hard for me to judge.

It must be noted that the original post isn't exactly very friendly and understanding either. This is probably why it has received so many downvotes (+68/−36 at the time of writing). However, given the circumstances, you should try to defuse the conflict rather than add more flame.

The debate on CoC and all related issues is very heated, so we all should try present our thoughts and ideas carefully to avoid angering any side.

  • 1
    Thank you for taking a look at it. I see your points and I find your answer very instructive. I will keep that in mind in future posts. The green tick is yours ;-) Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 11:20
  • 35
    "can't provide scientific sources for these pretty strong assumptions" - That's peculiar. Very few answers meet this standard. It seems arbitrary. Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 12:24
  • 4
    You are saying, in point 5, that giving a specific response addressing individual passages by 'quoting many little pieces' automatically means the discussion is 'heated'? What? Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 14:24
  • @ScottHannen These are the standards I try to follow myself. The requirements are higher when discussing highly controversial topics.
    – Athari
    Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 19:36
  • @SridharRatnakumar It's hard to explain without the text of the deleted answer. The practice of addressing individual passages isn't bad by itself, but it tends to promote focusing on wording of every sentence and cause missing the bigger picture. Answers with numerous quotes (which aren't points/questions) and short responses to each are often hard to follow. Quoting should be used in moderation and when appropriate.
    – Athari
    Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 19:48
  • 4
    I like all the suggestions in this post and see them as valid reasons to downvote but I'm not really convinced that deletion is in order. The 4th point kind of convinces me but only half. Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 21:26
  • 2
    @Trilarion To be frank, my post doesn't convince me either and I'd rather not to have to write it, but when a force of nature purges everything around you there're not many choices left.
    – Athari
    Commented Oct 20, 2019 at 1:17
  • "I doubt there's an organized group that targeted your answer." - I have seen many mentions of just such organized groups in chat. Heck, I've personally observed such organized groups (though they were wholly unrelated to MSE or the recent happenings)
    – DVK
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 2:01

My answer too was deleted by a staff member. I flagged it for attention explaining that it did answer the OP's questions, but the flag was declined without further explanation.

It received 11+ and -8 votes but it is not the voting that is bothering me, I have had posts heavily downvoted before on Meta, it's part of the game. It is the deletion and silence that followed which is more disturbing. The deletion occurred after I had edited it but by then it was too late. Had I known about the flags, a staff member would not have deleted it otherwise, I might have acted earlier.

Users with less than 10k cannot view deleted posts, so I cannot say whether Christine H. Richards’ post deserved to be deleted but I suspect, not.

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Update. My second flag was also declined but an explanation was included.

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If the OP wishes to see their post undeleted, they will probably have to edit the content until its tone sounds conciliatory and less inflammatory, and then flag it for the attention of the mod team. Then, perhaps, @Christine H. Richards will be more successful than I was.

  • 1
    Do you mean I can flag my answer for a review? I did not know that. It is really a pity that after your post having been deleted you sill not know what you have done wrong and how to avoid doing it in future :-( Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 7:49
  • 3
    As far as I'm aware, that type of decline can only appear on a comment flag, not a post flag, and when declining a post flag, moderators are required to provide a reason (even if it's something canned like "a moderator reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it"). You sure you flagged the answer itself, and not some comment on the answer? Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 8:09
  • @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog it could be that the flag's message was ambiguous. I shall try again. Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 11:20
  • [Edited] @Sonic I have flagged for it to be undeleted, I might have flagged the comment which said: Removing this because it doesn't answer the question, I don't remember, it was likely that I took it for granted that if the post answered the question, the reason for its deletion was void. Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 13:00
  • A decline reason is not required for post flags, @Sonic. The difference with comment flags is just that moderators cannot provide an explanation. Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 3:06

Its as much about what you say it as how you say it.

I don't want to particularly dissect it bit by bit - and give the ideas in the answer a direct airing but the answer was pretty much an attack on the person posting the question and the community she was a part of.

The nice thing about SE is we have a bit of an immune system. Looking at it - the tone (very aggressive and dismissive) wasn't nice. Having seen it for the first time, I'd say it seems fair to have flagged it as such, and I'd have done the same.

You can't fix some answers without losing the intent of the user. If you removed the agressive and hurtful part of the answer, you'd be left with what OP said.

I'd also actually consider it worth a suspension - but that's a tool I currently don't have. The post is pretty much what I'd consider rude and abusive.

Its worth thinking of how we can rebuild our community than trying to tear people down.

If there's a pattern of such posts, or suspicious flagging, I'm sure someone would have a word.

  • 35
    So you'd rather flag an answer than help the author rephrase it so it is not perceived as unfriendly? What happend to the assume good faith principle? This only hides the problem and does not solve it. If you know what is wrong, what keeps you from giving a constructive feedback? Thank you for doing it at least now but I wish I had known this before it was too late. Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 8:38
  • 13
    Oh, I have just seen your edit where you even suggest a supension which is like super radical. I would consider this only in extreme situations where the only purpose of a post is to insult someone. Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 8:44
  • 10
    I think we totally agree there, actually. That's exactly what I am saying is wrong with your answer. Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 8:46
  • 1
    Being dismissive is somewhat a valid opinion too, even if you disagree with it. And I agree with the OP with one thing: if there is no meaningful feedback, there would be no improvement. Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 13:15
  • 1
    Also, there is another option: Posting a comment saying "this part was considered bad for some users, could you reword that?" - This actually happened to me sometimes in other sites and I also had seen happening with other people, including here on meta. Moderation is much more orienting people than just deleting stuff and suspending people. Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 13:17
  • 7
    And just as a normal immune system, when it starts over protecting, you get really bad outcomes in the end. Allergies, diabetes, fibrosis and death.
    – Stian
    Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 13:25
  • 3
    @ChristineH.Richards I wonder if a new (arguably inferior) style of communication is being instated in tech. See this article for a larger context: twitter.com/jonhaidt/status/1167034460417794053 Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 14:30
  • 2
    @SridharRatnakumar Thank you for the link. I had not intended to read The Coddling of the American Mind, but recent events and your comment have caused me to reconsider that choice. I read about 3 books a month, so I will try to get to that one sometime next month. Again, thanks
    – Allen Han
    Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 21:58
  • Kudos for stepping up and saying this JG. It's hard at this time to take a firm stand and I admire you for that. I owe you a debt of respect.
    – user310756
    Commented Oct 20, 2019 at 9:49
  • -1 for suggesting that anaphylactic shock is something that's a good thing (and yes, that is the most apropos analogy to this attitude, if you wish to use immune related analogies).
    – DVK
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 2:05

I believe it's still possible to answer you without seeing the actual content of the answer, but based on the content you describe:

anything that criticizes the LGBT+ community (or some of its members) seems to be now a suicide because the answer will not be a conversation but a flag-attack.

Constructive criticism should focus on opinions and facts, rather than on the people that hold them. Voicing (negative) opinions about a community (race, gender, religion...) , or even "some of it's members" could lead to flagging.

was it just an unpleasant truth that the aforementioned group could not stand seeing?

This is an exact instance of disrespect. For the sake of explicitness, implying here the "aforementioned group" to be too sensitive to stand truth, is offensive. You should avoid this kind of phrasing.

  • This is an exact instance of disrespect. For the sake of explicitness, implying here the "aforementioned group" to be too sensitive to stand truth, is offensive. If you mean to imply that it's not possible for that group to be too sensitive to something, then your statement (and it's premise) are both completely off-base. Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 16:38
  • Basically, no group is perfect, and as such, no group reacts perfectly. Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 16:39

Sensitive subjects need some sensitivity. I had a comment deleted as rude/abusive because I said "you", to mean a theoretical person, but it could have been interpreted as meaning the person I was responding to. The deletion was right. Next time I'll be more careful.

Ultimately the person responsible for the tone of a post is the poster. Other people might correct its tone. But to suggest other people have some kind of duty to do so is wrong. This is true of all aspects of posts on SE, isn't it? Other people might edit a post to correct minor factual errors or to make it clearer, but poor posts ultimately face the risk of downvotes, closure and deletion. And moderators have no more duty than normal users to correct posts. Especially in the current situation, where the moderators must face a flood of bad content. They don't have the time to "educate" posters of rude or abusive content. The system for handling rude or abusive content must act quickly, because we don't want that content hanging around. So that content will be deleted without comment. This is how it has always been.

Instead of complaining about the post being flagged as rude/abusive, why not reflect on your own on what might have been rude/abusive about it? And then consider how you might rephrase what you want to say in a more sensitive manner?

  • 16
    I disagree with the point you're making - posting shouldn't be a minefield and deletion should be reserved for abuse, especially so if the context is a discussion about being less hostile and more welcoming. Downvotes, comments and edits are plenty to adddress an ambiguous "you" . Still, I think the answer captures the excuse for the deletion, so +1.
    – Peter
    Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 10:09
  • 3
    'Instead of complaining about the post being flagged as rude/abusive, why not reflect on what might have been rude/abusive about it? And then consider how you might rephrase what you want to say in a more sensitive manner?' - isn't that exactly what the OP is doing with this post? More importantly, if the OP (a general OP, not this one) can't see what's wrong with the post, surely coming to meta is the best option?
    – Script47
    Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 14:54

As it's not already clear from another answer.

Also, I can't see your deleted answer so this isn't a review of it, in any way.

You can flag your deleted answer, to be reviewed for undeleting however it's worth considering if you can edit it first to make it more acceptable. Obviously this isn't always easy to figure out what's wrong, if you didn't think anything was wrong with your original answer.

Good luck.

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