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In a question Why didn't Thatcher give Hong Kong to Taiwan? there was a deleted off topic answer of some nervous Chinese from the Mainland, user Guibao Wang:

Off-topic...

I'm from China. I really love StackOverflow as it is an excellent technology source. But... This politics.stackexchange.com, especially questions like this one is a bit getting out of line.

I guess everyone knows there's Internet censorship around China. If the content on some website gets serious enough to attract the governors' attention, they will block it. We have seen Google, Wikipedia, Quora, and many other sites being blocked. I Don't wanna StackOverflow added to the list. I really love StackOverflow, so let's keep it a technology place (or at least politics-free), so that it keeps open to China.

Thanks.

User AntC:

Welcome, Guibao. I understand Chinese culture doesn't like openly talking about politics or history. I live in an Open Society. So facts about politics or history are just as much something to ask questions about as 'technology'. Xi Jinping allows you to come to StackOverflow to steal the Intellectual Property of Western culture; but not to take part in the Open Society. Sorry, that's very selfish and arrogant of the PRC. No deal.

User Luffydude:

Don't you see that problem here is the actual censorship? It makes no sense to change a whole website just to cater to one country. If something gets banned then just get a VPN, I know many Chinese that do the same –

User inappropriateCode:

As George Orwell said: “The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.” To say the discussion of politics is 'getting out of line' and to 'keep it free of politics' is to deprive people of their ability to tell the truth. This is unacceptable. The problem you are describing is with the Communist Party, not with Stack Overflow for having a politics section.

User walen:

Hi there, Guibao Wang! Please notice that this is not Stack Overflow, the technology place that you love; but Politics.SE, a member site of the Stack Exchange network, created specifically to talk about politics. While your concerns about censorship are legitimate and we all understand them, it seems rather selfish to try to silence political debate on other countries on the grounds of your own country not allowing for it. Also, bear in mind that Stack Overflow is accessed through stackoverflow.com, while for most other SE sites it's stackexchange.com — different domain ;)

User Philipp answered:

If you would like to discuss the Politics Stack Exchange site policy, please raise your concerns on politics.meta.stackexchange.com. But I believe that this request would fall on deaf ears, because the democratic world has no intention to accomodate the Chinese government wishes to suppress information about politics. It is sad that you have to live under an oppressive government, but there is no reason for people who are lucky enough to live in free countries to voluntarily extend that oppression to themselves.

OK, we may we simply consider it as narrow case - China has here an excessively restrictive regulations, we love free speech and marketplace of ideas, we would not bow to that - case closed. But what about general case of local cultural sensitivities when they start go in to conflict with each other?

I pick this example just because I'm familiar with it and shows that my issue is not purely academic - User Phillip a while ago deleted my answer, under rather stretched accusation of antisemitism. Maybe I could try to express myself even more carefully, but it was already controversial issue in subsequent discussion. It would become even more complicated if we take in to account different cultural sensitivities - in Poland we have ultra high support for freedom of speech, no PC-culture and government which even by my expectations is somewhat overly nationalistic. So, yes, in hindsight values clash was inevitable. On top of it, in further discussion in meta the whole issue was addressed by a Chinese, suggesting to explain Jewish success in terms of "race realism" and their higher genetic IQ. So again we had another taboo violation, just in this case Chinese culture actually was much more permissible in discussing that particular contentious issue. (by Polish standards "race realism" is mostly unknown, but would be tolerated)

OK, so when a some issue or way of expressing is not a taboo in North American/Western Europe - then it seems fine and uncontroversial. But what to do in the opposite situation? When some issue is actually taboo there and users from other cultures look bewildered? Be more flexible towards freedom of speech because of cultural differences? Or maybe pick some soft form of simple majoritarian view - if majority of users comes from one cultural circle, then their cultural sensitivities are right by default, even when it may look a bit like cultural chauvinism from those from other cultures?

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    Can you give some examples? I guess it highly depends on the example whether or not it is allowed by site rules (e.g. CoC) or whether it's unwanted even if it's allowed by the CoC. – JJ for Transparency and Monica Sep 21 at 22:00
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    @JJJ As mentioned discussing technically speaking legal issues, which because of PC reasons are considered ultra touchy and in practice are being hit by selectively enforced CoC. For example this alleged "antisemitism" or race realism. The impression of people from different cultures is as if one had been allowed to discuss evolution, but would be expected to be ultra sensitive to feelings of creationists in the US Bible Belt. – Shadow1024 Sep 22 at 8:11
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As with all things internet, a site follows the rules of where it's operating -- in this case the US -- with some wiggle room to accommodate the laws of friendly nations. (See e.g. LICRA vs Yahoo!)

If you make accommodations and enforce everyone's laws at the same time, you'd end up needing to follow the laws of China, Iran, [laundry list of other countries]. That's not very workable.

  • I don't think you read the entire question. At the end it asks what to do when something is taboo in Europe and North America but commonplace in most other places. – JJ for Transparency and Monica Sep 21 at 22:01
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    @JJJ: I actually did, and answered that bit too. See LICRA vs Yahoo, which specifically addresses how EU-based hate speech laws interact with US laws. – Denis de Bernardy Sep 21 at 22:07
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The issue with talking about "race realism", "genetic IQ", and "Jewish success" in this context is that it conflicts with the code of conduct:

No bigotry. We don’t tolerate any language likely to offend or alienate people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion — and those are just a few examples. When in doubt, just don’t.

The COC applies regardless of cultural differences, and posts which violate it should be deleted.

But from what I can see, nothing in the Taiwan question relates to this (if it does, please flag it).

The other confining issue in addition to stackexchanges self-imposed COC are laws, as mentioned by Denis de Bernardy.

Avoiding censorship of stackexchange by China seems like an entirely different issue, and one that we can't really solve at politics.SE by restricting certain topics. It affects a lot of other sites (history for example), and would need to be delt with at a higher level.

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    Aren't you stretching CoC? I mean following this way of reasoning we should also reach a conclusion that talking about "white privilege" is off limits too as it may "offend or alienate" whites. Sure, according to your culture there are people belonging to protected classes which one should care, but that's not universal. By imposing those norms we're approaching some cultural chauvinism. BTW: I thought that Jews were on average highly successful people, which could be judged by their over representation among Noble Prize Laureates, and if anything claiming otherwise would be bigotry. – Shadow1024 Sep 22 at 8:40
  • @Shadow1024: Ultimately the Code of Conduct will be judged from a US perspective, because Stack Exchange is a US company. You may not like it, but it's reality. Just look at what happens to Facebook, etc. Calls from Congress for regulating it and so forth. Facebook had to hire an army to look for offensive materials and so on. Before it even gets to that level of external pressure, the company's own view as to what material they think unacceptable will prevail. See politics.stackexchange.com/questions/320/… for more – Fizz Sep 25 at 3:33

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