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A recent post has indicated that the use of "Z" imagery related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine falls under the "intimidation and harassment" policy and is banned on the network, most specifically on profile pages and profile images.

My question is, should this policy be extended to the use of imagery supporting any invasion?

For example, would adding imagery to my profile praising the British naval seige of Baltimore, Maryland in 1814 count as "intimidation and harassment" of Americans? Similarly, would adding "Las Malvinas son argentinas" to my profile be considered intimidation or just an expression of a legitimate political viewpoint? Would sharing this image on my profile be considered intimidation of Anglo-Saxons, or is 1066 too remote in history to be considered relevant to today? If a future invasion happens somewhere else in the world (e.g. Zimbabwe invades Mozambique), what criteria should I use to determine whether I can make statements praising the aggressor without falling afoul of the Code of Conduct?

If some invasions are ok to praise and others are not, what criteria should be used to distinguish the cases?

Some ideas:

  • Praising an invasion is intimidation only during the period of active hostilities. Once the guns have gone silent and the affected area reaches a "new normal", imagery in support of the (now historical) invasion becomes acceptable and no different from adding ordinary political material to one's profile page.
  • Praising an invasion is intimidation if and only if the invasion is associated with significant human rights abuses (e.g. massacre of children). If the invader makes a substantial effort to obey the laws of war (e.g. only targeting enemy soldiers, not torturing POW's, etc.), then praising them is ok.
  • Praising an invasion is intimidation if and only if community consensus deems it so. If the community has rallied behind an invading party or at least decided not to condemn it, then imagery in support of the invasion is not a violation. This would require, at a minimum, separate discussion threads for each invasion. For example, "As of January 4, 2025, Florin has invaded Guilder. Does the community support banning the Grand Army Flag of Florin and/or some or all of the division symbols of Florin Special Forces in profiles? Please discuss."
  • Whether praising an invasion constitutes intimidation depends on whether the invaded population has requested that such materials be banned. For example, if the consensus among Americans is that they do not support censorship of pro-British War of 1812 propaganda, then posting such materials on Stack Exchange profiles does not constitute intimidation and harassment under the Code of Conduct.
  • The policy should cover only "recent" invasions, or invasions for which there are still living victims. Invasions that are today known only through history books or archaeological digs (not testimonies of living survivors) are fair game. This would permit the praise of Age of Sail conquests, medieval campaigns, and city-state warfare of classical antiquity, even when it is clear that the poster's favorite side was the aggressor. This would also mean that while posting materials in favor of the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939 is currently banned, it will most likely cease to contravene the rule as the last living witnesses die in the coming decades and the invasion becomes a purely "historical" one with no living survivors.

If it's not clear, I don't personally consider the Bayeux Tapestry image to be a hate symbol in 2022. My purpose is to get discussion going and demonstrate that "pro-invasion" can mean almost anything.

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    Why would anyone post the Bayeux Tapestry in their... oh wait, you're a History mod. :-p Mar 18, 2022 at 5:42
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    A problem here is that terms like invasion, war and agressor are often contested, and human rights abuses even more so. To avoid that problem, we can defer to the judgement of the united nations, and say praising an invasion is intimidation if the UN GA adopts a resolution with a large majority support (say, over 70-80%) to condemn it.
    – Erik A
    Mar 18, 2022 at 7:33
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    @ErikA that is an interesting idea, but it is hobbled by the fact that the UN GA adopts such resolutions extremely rarely. Too rarely to be used as you suggest, I fear.
    – terdon
    Mar 18, 2022 at 9:33
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    That's a lot of words for "Do we support Fascism?". To which the answer should be "no".
    – Andy
    Mar 20, 2022 at 17:45
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    @Andy Here I was reading this as "why is American nationalism acceptable when the USA is one of the biggest and most cynical aggressors of all time."
    – tripleee
    Mar 23, 2022 at 5:52

2 Answers 2

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I think there was some discussions along these lines.

tldr: It's less about 'invasion' and more being a symbol of oppression and aggression.

I think the critical part of the post about the Z used in this context is

this iconography in particular can contribute to an atmosphere of harassment, intimidation, and indirect threats against other users.

Personally I think that this being a current and ongoing event of great emotive weight is important. I believe that generally - we're going to have to look at things on a case by case basis, and where there's no 'clear' right answer, we'd likely need to refer it to the trust and safety team to decide.

I feel there's parallels to a situation we had previously - and it depends very much on context, and intent IMO.

That's to say - it is a judgement call. This is a case where there's a clear aggressor and co-option of a symbol as a symbol of that aggression.

So - using a Z with the intent of supporting the Russian Invasion of Ukraine is not ok. I think we can make the call on wars hypothetical or potential as the situation develops.

As for historic wars and territorial disputes of all flavours - I would really look at context. The flag of Imperial Japan of the second world war would probably offend the victims, and descendants of victims of WW2 era Japan. Nazi Symbolism certainly is out (though their co-optation of a common religious symbol means we need to sometimes work out if it's a Hindu, Buddhist or other swastika).

British naval seige of Baltimore, Maryland in 1814

The Americans got over it, and kinda glorify it every time their anthem is sung

"O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,"

Similarly, would adding "Las Malvinas son argentinas" to my profile be considered intimidation or just an expression of a legitimate political viewpoint?

I suspect the British would be bemused

Would sharing this image on my profile be considered intimidation of Anglo-Saxons, or is 1066 too remote in history to be considered relevant to today?

This... feels like overthinking it

Fundamentally Its not about "what about these other things" - If something becomes a symbol becomes one of oppression, in a manner that's unmistakable and affects the users of this network we wouldn't want it. Even when there's no invasion, there may be symbols unwelcome here.

If you find something like this - its not going to hurt to talk to a mod, or flag a post. If its less than obvious, include an explanation. We'll take a look and try to assist. If we don't know, we'll ask for assistance from appropriate folks.

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    Exactly what Journeyman Geek said. We have full faith in moderators and the community as a whole to discern what is appropriate, but when in doubt, we are always here to provide support when needed.
    – Bella_Blue StaffMod
    Mar 18, 2022 at 14:03
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Yes, absolutely. Although I would not extend this to historical military actions, I do think that support of any invasion in living memory should absolutely be considered harassment. Or, more accurately, if we label support of one invasion as harassment, we should label support of any invasion as harassment.

With the possible exception of the second world war, I struggle to think of any military action that can be reduced to a simplistic view of "good" versus "evil". As a result, there will be perfectly reasonable people on both sides of pretty much any armed conflict we can imagine. So either we take a stand against war in general, or we don't take a stand. Banning imagery in support of one particular war of aggression just because most of us happen to agree it is a bad thing, but allowing imagery supporting others feels fundamentally wrong to me.

So either we come out and say that we ban anything that can be taken as supporting military action period, or we don't ban anything at all. If we are to ban something, then we should simply ban any show of support for either side of any ongoing or recent (living memory) armed conflict or, at least, for any aggressor, explicitly including cases where the aggressor is a "Western" democracy.

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    I'd replace "supporting military action period" with "supporting military invasions period" because not all military actions are about taking over land or overpowering another country. Mar 20, 2022 at 21:48
  • @Cerbrus as you correctly point out that is indeed pedantic. And wrong. Military involvement does not make something a military action. If you and forest want to go nitpicking and focus on a single sentence referring to military action in general instead of reading the entire post which clearly focuses on invasions, that's your choice but if at all possible please don't comment about it.
    – terdon
    Mar 21, 2022 at 8:33
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    "any military action" "stand against war in general" "we ban anything that can be taken as supporting military action" "any <...> armed conflict" Your answer isn't nearly as focused on invasions alone as you claim it is, terdon. Forest's point still stands, your answer could do with being a little more specific.
    – Cerbrus
    Mar 21, 2022 at 8:59
  • @Cerbrus yes I am against pretty much any armed conflict but the post does focus more on invasions. I am not against using military personnel for non violent actions, obviously, so talking about soldiers helping with vaccination drives is irrelevant.
    – terdon
    Mar 21, 2022 at 9:12
  • Okay, instead of repeating your comment about my bad example, please clarify your answer.
    – Cerbrus
    Mar 21, 2022 at 9:13

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