US presidential election is drawing closer, and some of our users are quite emotionally invested in the event.

That means we currently see a greater than usual activity of users on this website which mistake it for a campaigning platform and consider it their duty to make their preferred candidate look good and the opposing candidate look bad at whatever opportunity presents itself.

That means we will see a larger amount of low-quality questions and answers which covertly aim to influence US voters to vote in a specific way and users to upvote them just because they want to support that. We can also expect people to downvote high-quality questions and answers just because they make their preferred candidate look bad.

What can we do to ensure that Politics.SE stays an informative and unbiased knowledge base during this troubling time and doesn't degenerate into a Trump vs. Clinton flamewar platform?

  • 1
    I haven't noticed such activity. I'm more worried about the increasing activity by anti-semitic conspiracy theorists over the past couple of months.
    – Golden Cuy
    Jun 14, 2016 at 3:36
  • 1
    Perhaps you're referring to my post, where I asked certain things regarding Trump's opinion. The best we could do to keep the site useful and informative is to require sources every time we ask questions on those harsh topics. In this sense, I edited my question to request sources for Trump's opinion. Jun 15, 2016 at 19:07
  • @LuisMasuelli I wasn't referring so much to your question but rather to the currently only answer to it. Shills are the reason why I decided to write this.
    – Philipp Mod
    Jun 15, 2016 at 19:43
  • Yes, that's what I meant. I understand what you said. Jun 15, 2016 at 19:49

4 Answers 4


I suggest that we hold questioners and answerers to a high standard of verifiable facts. Specifically, many questioners will make assertions about something (e.g. "Hillary Clinton is currently under investigation by the FBI") and we should require that they provide a citation from a reputable source. Likewise, any factual statements in answers need to be similarly sourced.

It is important that 'reputable source' doesn't become a sticking point in discussion, we should allow the community to police what is reliable, rather than make a list, or a set of criteria. If something becomes controversial about whether or no it is "reliably" correct, then the community should hash it out in the discussion, and draw in additional sources confirming or refuting the truthfulness of the original source.

Having multiple and even conflicting answers, seems to me to be fine, but regular users need to up and down vote regularly. Additionally, questions that are arguments posed as questions should be closed ASAP, and deleted if possible. That said, questions that are relevant, possibly inflammatory, but still well written should be allowed, and perhaps even encouraged. I can imagine that people might come to the board seeking legitimate answers for questions on "Can someone run for President while under indictment for security violations?" or "Does the country incur liability for an elected President's civil judgements?" and stay for better questions.

One last issue, that I believe falls to the mods who have access to analytics, is to find potential agents provocateurs, or people operating directly on behalf of a campaign. Both the Clinton and Trump campaigns have used significant online resources to muddy the waters, with spam, astro-turfing, and sock-puppetry. This has, so far, been mostly noted on social media like Twitter (the infamous eggs) and Facebook, but there is no reason why it might not continue here. If there is a way to track IPs, that would be easiest, although using Tor could complicate that issue. Another question should be asked on how to deal with that.

  • 2
    While I like the general idea, your proposed implementation (hey, let's only allow references to extremely-overwhelming-left-biased mass media) is quite contrary to your intent. If you want a non-biased test, use Skeptics.SE model (notability) which doesn't require a subjective judgement of what is and isn't reputable.
    – user4012
    Jun 13, 2016 at 19:21
  • @user4012 I don't mean only mass media. There are sources that are documentable, and there are others which are not. It doesn't have to be Mass Media—academic articles count, books count, web sites count—it only has to be a verifiable source that is in the information getting business. "Right wing" examples include the Washington Examiner, Breitbart News, Pajamas Media, etc. These are all sources which are collecting and distributing information. Purchased ads, propaganda outlets (e.g. RT), discussion boards, and personal blogs are unverifiable. Jun 13, 2016 at 19:36
  • If you include things like Pajamas Media, which is basically blog aggregator, I don't see how you can legitimately exclude ANY blogs. And yes, that means you have to include Stormfront or Huffington Post. Which leads us back to the fact that you need an objective (notability) rather than subjective (respectability) criteria.
    – user4012
    Jun 13, 2016 at 19:43
  • @user4012 I would include Huffington Post. The reason I wouldn't include Stormfront is that it is a discussion board, as opposed to a news outlet. Basically, anyone at all can post there, and the information isn't necessarily reliable. I also wouldn't include Reddit, for the same reason. We can't even verify who is reporting it, let alone whether or not it is true. Jun 13, 2016 at 19:51
  • @user4012 Also, PJMedia is less of an aggregator than, say RealClearPolitics. Most of their authors write only for PJMedia, or repub on their own sites, but are vetted by PJMedia. RCP has original content, but relies heavily on links to other sources, much like DrudgeReport. Any of these sites would be ok by me, as they are information sources, and at the very least we can go back and say "Well, Sean Trende said this, but he was wrong (or right)." and evaluate the topic. Jun 13, 2016 at 19:54
  • 1
    @user4012 If we enumerate what sources are and are not allowed, we will likely do it wrong. It is incredibly difficult to come up with an unbiased way of determining which news sources are and are not reliable, and even the big, well known news sources often have dubious fact-checking and analysis. I think it's best left up to the community to use their human Intelligence to make a judgement call, and to up or down vote accordingly. Jun 13, 2016 at 20:04
  • Anyone can post at HuffPost, if they fit specific ideology, as well. Therefore, I fail to appreciate any meaningful distinction between them and HuffPost, aside from subjective judgement of whose ideology is more objectionable. And aggregators can link to content of ANY level of verifyability/reliability, and rarely bother choosing which content to link to.
    – user4012
    Jun 13, 2016 at 20:04
  • @SamIam I agree with this assessment. I include examples only as examples, and if there is a better way to do it, I welcome input. Jun 13, 2016 at 20:05
  • @SamIam - that's basically the argument I'm making. Cull on the basis of notability (maybe, if cull at all), the way Skeptics does, to cut down on random BS from random blogger nobody else ever heard about - that can be done objectively by counting how many people believe/see something. Anything else won't work.
    – user4012
    Jun 13, 2016 at 20:05
  • 1
    Alright, I think I edited this to be closer to what we have agreed to in discussion, but I welcome feedback. Jun 13, 2016 at 20:17
  • -1 for unsourced statements about each campaign using sock puppets. How do we know that both campaigns used them? Is there spomething citable? This is mostly a humorous/ironic down vote based on your proposal, but I'm kinda curious now. Were there documented sock puppets, or at least fairly obvious ones? (I don't use social media, so maybe that's my problem).
    – uhoh
    Oct 5, 2020 at 7:08


In StackOverflow, which has far more activity than this site and a constant influx of new, uneducated users ("I want a program that does X"), questions by users that are new to the site are not automatically sent to the question list, but put on a "triage" queue.

This serves two purposes:

  1. If salvageable, the question usually gets a more "delicate" receivement that a bunch of downvotes and votes to close.

  2. The question list gets less polluted.

For this site and given the next elections for the POTUS, the main advantage would be point 2. Any "sniper" that creates a dummy account, posts a question and sees it in the list gets a warm, fuzzy feeling that s/he "is doing politics" and helping his/her candidate (and without having to get up from the chair!). This incentivates him/her to try again. If such a person sees that the questions get filtered at the triage stage and are never made public, they will lose interest.

The main drawback is the additional effort to review those questions; it is easier in SO due to the larger user base. The positive part is that, by their nature, the task here will be simpler (more about stopping false questions than editing and improving well intentioned questions).

This will mean some delay in the processing in the questions by new users, but I think it is justified. Additionally, maybe the SE team may provide a way to filter towards triage questions based upon their content (for example, I would vote for sending to triage any question containing both "Obama" and "Iran")1.

1 Still, I would vote to keep this implementation detail hidden so people do not try to game it (for example, with "0bama").

  • 1
    UPDATE: I have read other answers and feel some explanation is due. My proposal is aimed primarily at the kind of people who will use P.SE as a way to spread FUD disguised as questions, like the recent wave of "Iran-Obama" questions. Those are easy to find out because the exagerated accusations, the lack of sources and the fact that they do not want an answer (and in fact the user never rewords the question or answers comments in order to make it acceptable). It is not aimed at "honest", legitimate questions that are just poorly worded (althought it might be useful for those due to point 1)
    – SJuan76
    Jun 17, 2016 at 21:22
  • While this could be a good idea if the number of questions gets a lot larger, it's not necessary now. In addition, we're very unlikely to get this as this is only available on Stack Overflow (as far as I know). SO has some more of these handy moderation things which aren't available on other sites (even though some, not this one, really could use them).
    – JJJ Mod
    Mar 31, 2019 at 15:06

I would like to expand on Sam I am answer with many additional reminders:

OPs should ask non-opinionated questions. This should be a must in first place, but is not always the case unfortunately. People and mods should be specially wary these days regarding tags like donald-trump, to even close crap questions.

OPs should not ask futurology. They can ask What does Hillary/Trump think about X? but not What will Hillary/Trump do regarding X?. They look pretty similar but the latter allows crap like Hillary/Trump is a liar and will blow all of us. Stop it. Keep objective. We can ask about what we can know, and what is said, but not what will happen.

OPs should ask for sources the most they can. When I asked a Trump-related question (for an actual concern I have), I assumed people puts sources to the answers and forgot to require them. The answer -and few comments in the question- was opinionated and did not quote any source. This got relevant just because the comments on such answer seemed to cause a flame war.

Answerers should provide sources, even when not asked for them. It is just community common sense: what you say must be useful.

Sources should have the same standards:

  1. If you want to quote a speech, the best source is a video chunk with the actual candidate saying the actual quote. To this extent, the video becomes a true fact and the source talking about true facts, is good.
  2. If you want to talk about a specific decision or project, you should put the according source. I remember the times of SOPA and PIPA. Even when those projects did not get approved, their drafts were available online and I had the chance to read them. Law projects, decrees, law approval votes, impeachments, trial decisions... they all can be sourced (with the except of trial decisions of civic/private scopes).
  3. If you want to argue about a law's interpretation and Trump/Hillary's approach regarding it, ensure an article written by a judge or lawyer in the relevant state (or national scope, perhaps) exists and can be quoted.
  4. Sources cannot play divination. To be objective they should not say "This was done in order to X", unless X was an explicitly stated intention by the politician or another one in their team.
  5. Sources should not lie. This should be a must that everyone takes for settled when reading anything, but a lot of crap existed for long time which is a plain lie: Chemtrails, Zeitgeist, Reptilians, Anthroposophy, several mentions on CIA, Hercolubus, NWO, Secret stuff like nazi's Feuerball and Kugelblitz, revisionisms like Jewish Holocaust Denialism (all this crap existed for at lease a decade and the most relevants for even more time)... Please, when you quote a source ensure that the facts they mention are not plain lies. (I'm sorry I could not quote plain lies regarding actual candidates; this is pretty new to me since I'm not from the US)
  6. Limit the opinions. They are allowed, yes, but ensure there is not a big amount of opinions casting shadow on the actual facts, and that the expressed opinions are related to the mentioned facts.

These guidelines applies to anything, not just Trump/Hillary dilemma. I did not add pretty much any value not known beforehand. Perhaps I could add a point for those who detect wrong behaviors:

  1. Rants and opinions should be closed ASAP. If the question asks regarding a specific, tangible, matter it is good. OTOH if it does not seem to expect an answer but just a support, then VtC ASAP.
  2. Participate the most of you that can. Even moderators (please do not take it for bad) are subject to bias and should be seconded by community. There's a chance that, if you support either of the candidates, you will detect less flaws in the supporting questions or answers. Encourage diseenting opinions to the analysis of a allegedly harmful question.
  3. Administrators should evaluate statistics on users' activity. This was already mentioned and I couldn't go deeper.
  4. Other off-topic and unfitting questions should be closed as normal.
  5. Opinionated answers, and poor questions, should be downvoted as usual. Enjoy your power to downvote and upvote, but be responsible! I understand this is the hardest part because spammy people will not be responsible since they are campaign-related. Fortunately it does not seem to be the biggest case here. Said this: don't hesitate either on dv or uv.

We need to treat low-quality Election-related content the same way we treat all low-quality content. We need to downvote it, and we need to be much more serious about that then we have been lately.

1. Downvote the crap

Take this question for example. That is straight up not a serious question.

5 people voted to close this question, but there is only one downvote, and that was from me. I don't always down vote questions I vote to close, but this did not look like a question that was asked in good faith, and if that is the conclusion that the other 5 people came to, then they should have downvoted it.

2. Don't upvote the noise

I am constantly amazed by how many upvotes I see on off-topic and un-authoritative answers. Usually these are answers that might resonate with people, and often these are well-written, long, and well-formatted answers.

Often these answers will have a small part that kinda-sorta qualifies as an answer, and then a much longer part that goes off on a tangent that is out of scope.

Even if these answers are well-written and well-though out, if they're not focused and on-topic then they're more noise than signal, and you shouldn't encourage that.

The next time you think to yourself "this answer makes some good points", Stop, and ask yourself:

  • Is it focused?
  • Is it On topic?
  • Is it Authoritative?
  • Are it's references Authoritative?

Remember, We're Q&A, not a discussion forum. Even a post that is well written and well thought out can be out of place as an answer.

3. When you downvote, politely explain why you downvoted.

Let people know what you want to discourage. When you downvote a post, let them know why. If you've downvoted a well-written post like the example in point 2, the author might not understand why you downvoted. You need to explain it to them, so they know what we're trying to discourage.

  • 1
    I'm sorry, but your answer is not really on-topic. You are just describing guidelines of how to deal with low-quality contributions in general, but not specific regarding the current US election.
    – Philipp Mod
    Jun 14, 2016 at 7:30
  • @Philipp You're right in that it is about how to deal with low-quality and off-topic consent in general. That doesn't mean that it does not apply to content that is specifically about the US election Jun 14, 2016 at 14:21

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