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Update, May 31st, 2023: The updated code of conduct has been released network-wide.

A good Code of Conduct is a handshake agreement between users and the company. It is a document that inspires trust that situations around online conduct have been thoughtfully considered and will be handled properly, and users are free to safely engage. It is with that in mind that we are now releasing our 2023 update to the Code of Conduct. (Here's an image version, if you'd prefer that; it may not be entirely up-to-date as we make edits.)

This update has come after months of planning, research, as well as internal and external review. Our Trust & Safety, Legal, and Community teams (along with members of the Senior Leadership Team) have spent hundreds of hours crafting this document to alleviate pain points we have found with our current Code. In addition, moderators have been provided with advanced access to this document and the opportunity to propose changes. We carefully considered suggested changes, spent a considerable amount of time talking about it with them, and incorporated a good number of suggestions, sometimes copy-pasting text directly from moderators.

Why update the Code?

  • There are certain things that the current Code of Conduct does not address. The world is ever-changing and it is our responsibility to ensure the safety of users of this network.

  • Upcoming regulatory pressures from Brazil, the EU, and elsewhere demand that our content moderation practices are able to stand up to scrutiny. We do not believe that our current code delivers on those requirements.

How will it look?

We are still working with design but we plan to segment the CoC with a landing page that will include the Mission Statement, Our expectations for users, and Unacceptable behavior. See this image for how the landing page will look.

The policies bulleted on the landing page will link to a more in-depth version. We also want to incorporate site-specific guidance to the "How to ask a good question" and "How to write a good answer," portions so we hope to include links to individual site Help Centers to filter users to more detailed site-specific guidance.

A call for input

I said earlier that a good Code of Conduct is a handshake agreement between users and the company. It is a document that inspires trust that situations will be handled properly so that users are free to engage safely. For that handshake to mean something, we need input from you. We plan on going live with this update later in May, but until then, this is a very real chance for you to provide actionable feedback on the Code. Particularly, we'd like to make sure we've captured the correct expectations in the "Our expectations for users" and we're very open to improving it further.

If you have an idea of how something could be better worded, or if you have found something that we have missed, please suggest an alternate draft for that section. We will be monitoring this post and will review all feedback.

The decision to update the Code was not made lightly, but we truly believe that these changes will better serve the community and the legacy that it has built. Those who use this network - in whatever capacity, as contributor or content consumer - deserve a clear, understandable, legally compliant set of expectations, and we believe this is a step toward best-in-class practices.

A chatroom

In order to allow for broader discussion, including back-and-forth conversations, we've created this chatroom so that comments don't get unwieldy. Please feel free to join and have conversations there; we'll also pop in and be around when possible.

Feedback cutoff date

We will be processing feedback given here by May 24th. This date gives us a couple of days to wrap up changes and make this update official by the end of May. Thank you everyone for participating, providing your thoughts, and helping us make this document better. We sincerely appreciate your efforts to engage and discuss with us.

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    is there a list anywhere of what the substantial changes are, relative to the previous CoC? at first glance it appears to more or less be the previous CoC but using more specific terminology rather than the more... open one we had before
    – Kevin B
    May 3, 2023 at 16:37
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    @KevinB We have not created a list but the most notable changes include: 1) A more in-depth Expectations for users section. 2.) A more thorough list of Abusive behaviors 3.) The addition of Misleading information, Political content, Disruptive use of tooling, and Inauthentic usage policies
    – Bella_Blue StaffMod
    May 3, 2023 at 17:45
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    I really liked the examples under Unacceptable Behavior: "No subtle put downs or unfriendly language... Cont'd": meta.stackexchange.com/conduct. This new version is a wall of text that not everyone would read. I am not against the additions per se, but taking away those bullet points in the current version that were really helpful is a questionable decision.
    – M--
    May 3, 2023 at 18:54
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    I would like to see the Code make explicit acknowledgement of the fact that sense of humor may legitimately vary among individuals. And I would like to see it explicitly call out as misconduct attempts to weaponize the Code itself. (For example, explaining in a comment that a question is poorly posed is not misconduct merely because the questioner is a new contributor.)
    – matt
    May 4, 2023 at 13:04
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    Is this CoC for SE, or for SE family? Supporting the first interpretation, after following links that are, ultimately, part of your CoC: avoid trying to answer questions that "are not about programming as defined in the help center." Supporting the second interpretation: posting on Featured in family sites; directly in CoC, "some sites may have stricter requirements or use different policies for questions/answers/comments." May 4, 2023 at 21:19
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    @user2206636: It is network-wide. Any Help Center links will actually end up being relative links to the Help Center on the current site (it's not SO-specific). For the specific quote in your comment, the Markdown on the network-wide /help/how-to-answer Help Center page simply includes a variable that refers to the current site's topic, and then links to the current site's /help/on-topic page – so on the MSE version, that line says "not about the software that powers the Stack Exchange network" instead, and points to MSE's on-topic Help Center page.
    – V2Blast
    May 4, 2023 at 21:25
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    @V2Blast I would reword the CoC to make that clear. Currently, part of the CoC is "ask a good question; <link> read more to write a good question." Of course, "good question" is highly ambiguous without clarification. That means that the effective CoC is different for every site. A better way to handle this would be to have a blanket CoC, with site-specific CoCs, and the blanket site CoC specifies that you need to also follow site-specific CoCs. This is especially important when we get to further parts of the CoC: is solipsism "misleading" on Phil? Is erotica dehumanizing on art sites? May 4, 2023 at 21:35
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    Just so long as we keep it short and resist the impulse to get more and more and more specific, to the point of essentially crafting legislation, like some online platforms I could name.
    – Wildcard
    May 5, 2023 at 10:26
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    The usual problem of 'the comments are unwieldy' has cropped up. If y'all have substantiative points to make, it belongs in an answer. We'll be going through and pruning the comments over the weekend and beyond. If its not Specifically involving the COC, it shouldn't be here. May 5, 2023 at 22:49
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    Why does the CoC spend so many words and details on "wrong behaviour". For example, reading about "abusive tooling" (I didn't know what that was) basically gives readers detailed instructions and even recipes (e.g. targeted voting) on how to abuse the system. That's opposite of what a Code should do in my opinion. Outline the desired behaviour in the Code, and as a moderator, if you see bad behaviour, implement your own moderation support tools to deal with that (e.g. detect and moderate suspected targeted voting).
    – Brandin
    May 16, 2023 at 9:05
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    After reading the proposed CoC through, it seems like a well intentioned attempt to provide guidelines and safeguards against potential abuse on the site while promoting the free flow of high quality information among contributors and participants. Good application by Moderators should be within the general approach that moderation is primarily “hands-off”, allowing sharing of information for the betterment of all. May 16, 2023 at 11:06
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    Not enough for a "full" answer, but I don't understand the following sentence: "Additionally, we will not allow political misinformation or widely disproven allegations against a political figure not supported by reasonable evidence to be promoted on the platform." How can something be both "widely disproven" and "supported by reasonable evidence"? May 16, 2023 at 21:39
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    @EJoshuaS-StandwithUkraine Newton's law is supported by reasonable evidence, but widely-disproven. I don't know of any examples where this applies to an allegation, but it's not too hard to imagine one.
    – wizzwizz4
    May 18, 2023 at 20:40
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    Looks like a minor typo was introduced in the "Commenting" section of "Our expectations for users": "... They're largely regarded as potentially temporary and liberally deleted when not longer needed. ..."
    – zcoop98
    May 19, 2023 at 16:49
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    You say you want our feedback...but you do nothing with it Jun 1, 2023 at 14:50

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Consider adding language about what this does not cover. One is the deluge of low quality questions and actual spam from the same source(s). I don't see where this code is presented when a question is asked. Perhaps it should be, along with examples of the same question(s) that are asked every day/week and are routinely closed.

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    see the section on "Our expectations for users", where there is even language on "minimum quality standard" for asking questions. So technically, it is covered, which I think is great. See also my post making this observation, and wizzwizz4's post that touches on visibility of this page (part of me thinks this answer post says things that are already covered by other posts). May 8, 2023 at 15:25
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Oftentimes the use of downvoting is done out of spite instead of how the question is asked. Even if someone is very verbose and follows the posting guidelines 100%, some people will downvote that person.

If someone downvotes a question, the code of conduct should specify the person is required to provide feedback and information about why the posting does not follow the guidelines. There also should be some way to have downvoted messages reviewed to either confirm it is a valid downvote or if someone is abusing their privileges.

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    And THIS is what I've been talking about. Thanks for proving my point. Again... We probably don't need more proof, though.
    – VLAZ
    May 18, 2023 at 17:39
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    Absolutely not.
    – E_net4
    May 19, 2023 at 7:28
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    @E_net4 - At least you made a comment about not adding accountability to down voting. Can you please be a little more verbose and explain why? I'm sure I am not seeing the bigger picture, but it seems to me accountability adds credibility and fairness.
    – Mr. Coz
    May 19, 2023 at 13:31
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    @Mr.Coz also provides a convenient target which can be attacked. And yes, it does happen often enough to be a real concern. From revenge votes, to attacks. This has even spilled over off-site to the extent of threats being sent via private channels. That's not the sort of "accountability" we want here. The fact that you don't suggest "accountability" for upvotes speaks volumes for whether you actually want people to be accountable for voting or just the things you disagree with.
    – VLAZ
    May 19, 2023 at 13:39
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    Are upvotes never abused? Are they never invalid? Your answer very definitely points to this being your position. Tightening the restrictions on downvotes and not even tackling anything remotely similar for upvotes is your attempt to crack down on just half the content feedback. If you really thought voting was a problem, you would have spared half a word on upvotes. You didn't. So, if you're now trying to come up with "Sure, we can extend the same for upvotes" (I see it way too often) - why wasn't that a concern before?
    – VLAZ
    May 19, 2023 at 13:42
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    @Mr.Coz VLAZ already exposed part of the problem with your suggestion, and the multitude of links posted by rene continue to extend on why you are not going to see changes on the freedom and anonymity of voting any time soon. Maybe you received some downvotes and just took them personally like they're attacks. You need to reconsider those feelings and take the votes for their content rating nature, nothing more, nothing less.
    – E_net4
    May 19, 2023 at 13:57
  • I'm not opposed to also adding credibility to upvotes, although I don't see them as damaging as downvotes. I don't understand how manipulating upvotes creates harm, but apparently there is. On the other hand, there are various levels of cognitive and learning abilities here just like everywhere else in the world. Excessive downvotes can prevent those with lesser abilities from using this site to learn and better themselves. Providing info about the vote (up or down) would be useful to help users grow.
    – Mr. Coz
    May 19, 2023 at 15:52
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    The sites aren't user-centrict. They are content-centric. We vote on content and how useful it is for others, not on users and how well they are doing.
    – VLAZ
    May 19, 2023 at 16:00
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    1) upvotes can be harmful when they are granted on problematic answers, and on questions they might deceive potential answerers; 2) Receiving downvotes does not prevent anyone from perusing the contents of the site, although it does prevent them from continuing with negative contributions.
    – E_net4
    May 19, 2023 at 16:30
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    Re "various levels of cognitive and learning abilities": Subscribing to the minimum-effort attitude is more likely. How are you going to distinguish between the two? In any case, the upcoming Staging Ground may mitigate some of it. May 20, 2023 at 16:22
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