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As you certainly noticed, there is currently a war going on in Ukraine. As you know, the first victim in every war is the truth. Organized and unorganized actors will fight online to control the narrative of the conflict and try to convince the world to accept the narrative of the side they support.

This is very detrimental for a site like Politics Stack Exchange which is dedicated to providing neutral and factual information about politics and political processes.

We, the moderators, have consulted with the community team and decided to take a couple measures to prevent Politics Stack Exchange from becoming another battleground for online activists:

  • Any questions about the conflict get preemptively protected. This means they can not be answered by new users (including new users who already have reputation from other SE sites). Those users who participated on the site before (at least 10 reputation) should not be affected by this.
  • Questions will experience a lot more scrutiny. Questions which invite speculation or soapboxing, or contain soapboxing themselves, will get closed as "Promotes or discredits a political cause", "Speculative" or "Opinion-Based". As regular users of this site will be aware, this is not a new policy. Posts like that were never welcome on this website. But during this time we will put in additional effort to enforce it thoroughly.
  • When questions about the conflict make it to the hot network question list, and we have the slightest expectation that they might attract propaganda answers, then we will take them off the HNQ list.
  • We will keep a close eye on certain accounts which posted opinion-based content about the Russia-Ukraine conflict in the past and intervene if we spot them doing it again.

We would also like to ask you to support our efforts by responsibly using the community moderation tools available to you.

  • Please use your upvotes and downvotes appropriately.
  • Vote to close off-topic questions.
  • Vote to delete answers which are clearly biased for one side or the other, even if it is the side you personally support
  • Flag interactions that breach the Code of Conduct for our attention.
  • Point out when users use questionable sources in their questions and answers which might be spreading misinformation. This includes any information that comes directly from the belligerents, from social media or from sources which have a reputation for spreading fake news about this conflict.
  • Propose or perform edits to questions and answers which are useful, but contain unnecessary editorializing and rambling.
  • Please also try to avoid engaging in long discussions in the comments of questions/answers - these may be deleted without notice. Instead, consider joining the dedicated chat room we created specifically for discussing the conflict.

We are aware that this approach to moderation might cause a couple conflicts and lead to individual site members feeling mistreated. In that case we would like to remind you that you always have the option to appeal individual decisions by moderators or by the community by posting here on meta, and to escalate matters to the Stack Exchange community team via this contact form.

Note that our goal is not to censor the conflict, downplay its importance or to sway the narrative in any particular way. You are still welcome to ask and answer questions about the war and the conflicts which triggered and result from it. But when you do so, remember what this site is about. We are a Q&A website, not a discussion forum. We host information, not opinion. We are a platform for learning and teaching about politics and political processes, not for political activism.

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    Its the only way to go IMHO. Free speech and all that is good stuff, but people come to the stack sites because they know theres a high standard of filtering, and the folks on it are smart enough to not go ranting about evil lizard conspiracies or daft nationalist propaganda. This really is just making sure the site performs its role that way we expect it to.
    – Shayne
    Mar 2 at 13:47
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    Being an active fan and junkie of the HNQuniverse "...and we have the slightest expectation that they might attract propaganda answers, then we will take them off the HNQ list." feels draconian and "guilty until proven innocent", but I'm not a mod and have no first-hand experience with propaganda storms. I assume this is handled on a case-by-case basis.
    – uhoh
    Mar 2 at 23:33
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    "Vote to close off-topic questions" leads to voting on a vote, which is never good. The same thing goes for opinion based questions and answers or questions that simply have a lot of down votes. If there is two things that are to be expected under these circumstances, it's unpopular questions and unpopular answers. Not liking a question, doesn't make it off topic either Avoid blind voting..
    – user36811
    Mar 7 at 1:09
  • @Philipp Excellent Q (with an excellent self-A embedded), thank you for your proactive, thoughtful approach and its application in practice! As I mentioned before, moderation is very hard during a war. On a related topic: for the future, sometimes I want to provide Q and self-A. Should I use this post as a template (question and self-answer all in one), or should I use separate question and answer, where one can vote for Q and for the self-A (among other answers) independently? Maybe I should not ask you here in the comment, but rather ask this as a separate Q on meta? TYIA. Apr 1 at 14:19
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    @TimurShtatland I think a separate question and answer is almost always preferable. In this case, the meta post is more of a statement than a question. This post was discussed among the mod team and the community management team. Although this post is open to feedback in the answer box, it's not really looking for a specific input to resolve the discussion. On the main site, I don't think you'd ever find a post like this; there it's always about questions and answers, each of which go in their own box.
    – JJJ Mod
    Apr 1 at 14:25
  • "We are a platform for learning and teaching about politics and political processes, not for political activism" which in practice seems to mean a US centric conservative with a small c PoV good, anything else is "activism". As long as Russian sock puppets can appear to follow this PoV they can make propaganda just fine on here
    – Vorsprung
    Apr 11 at 6:34

4 Answers 4

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Is there maybe some reputable independent site on the Internet where fake news about the war between Russia and Ukraine are documented. If that would exist, it might make it easier to cross-check for possible misinformation here.

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    Wikipedia's Disinformation in the 2021–2022 Russo-Ukrainian crisis article?
    – JJJ Mod
    Mar 1 at 14:20
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    How do you guarantee independence of such a site? Should it be run by a state that abstained from voting on Ukraine-Russian conflict in the UN? Some would say that this also constitutes a bias. Mar 3 at 14:35
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    @RogerVadim How do we decide what is a reputable source here on politics.SE? If we have that then we would only need to apply these standards to any fake news collection site and would use that. The Wikipedia page linked by JJJ is unfortunately not exhaustive by far.
    – Trilarion
    Mar 3 at 14:48
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    @Trilarion Ideally one compares several sources, coming from different sides in the debate and keeps the information that is non-contradictory. Mar 3 at 14:59
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    @Trilarion Good idea, as almost always from you, so +1. But here is my story. I am subscribed to literally hundreds of folks on Twitter, & listen to Russian state-controlled, Ukrainian "independent" & US NPR (~10% state-sponsored) media, & let me tell you, the truth is incredibly hard to get. It is a miracle I can find any relatively non-self-contradictory narratives (specifically 2 of them, RU & UA). But one source of Truth? Well, I did pick Vitaly Portnikov as my main source, to be taken with a huge grain of NaCl. I am sure 85% of pro-Putin folks here would vote my choice down... Apr 1 at 12:49
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    @TimurShtatland At least for facts (like for example how many tanks were destroyed) there must exist an objective truth and the question is basically how well (with which error margin) is this truth known and what are the biases of each report. So I thought most about obvious fakes (things that really never happened). But of course in a war it's difficult to establish the facts. Still it's worthwhile.
    – Trilarion
    Apr 1 at 13:52
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Given the circumstances, wouldn't it be best to prevent questions about the conflict hitting the HNQ in the first place? Prevention is better than fire-fighting.

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    I don't think we want to make posts about the conflict less visible. It's just that we don't want to spread misinformation. If there's an informative post about the conflict then it might as well get featured on the network, right?
    – JJJ Mod
    Mar 2 at 2:21
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    @JJJ Problem is that you can't just add one post to the hot network queue. You add a blank canvass about a highly contentious issue and advertise it to people who don't normally use this site (and are therefore often less constrained in their behaviour). You'll get a huge number of answer posts and comments, and inevitably there will be some contentious partisan, probably racial and hot-blooded responses either in posts or comments. Maybe double the number of Mods you have first? (And HNQ questions on this topic are going to make it off the SE network for sure). Mar 2 at 2:37
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    @jjj Personally, I think it would be better to put the long-term interests of the site before the short terms benefits to it from the attention of the HNQ hydron collider. Mar 2 at 2:38
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    Users who don't normally use the site (as in haven't earned 10 rep here) can't post answers because all questions are being protected preemptively. As for comments, we mostly rely on flags (which regular and network visitors with the association bonus can do). I don't think a lack of moderators is an issue here, all flags are viewed within reasonable time. As for this answer, was there any particular question or issue that made you raise HNQ as an issue? Personally I haven't removed any question from HNQ (lately?) but I've seen the other mods do it.
    – JJJ Mod
    Mar 2 at 2:50
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    @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. Sorry, but we can't simply "double the number of mods" because cloning technology isn't advanced enough yet. The regular moderator election process takes a while. And we shouldn't fast-track it or we risk making people mods who cause more harm than good. However, we do get some support from Stack Exchange staff members who also have mod rights on all sites.
    – Philipp Mod
    Mar 2 at 7:55
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    @Philipp Sorry, that wasn't an entirely serious suggestion, but was an indirect way of saying that it could potentially involve a huge surge in work for the long-suffering Mods! Mar 2 at 14:41
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There is also an issue of facts being dismissed as Russian propaganda. Here is an answer of mine, where I give a rough timeline of the political history of Ukraine in the XXIst century. I supplied wikipedia links for every event, and all of them could be independently verified by googling, as reported in the mainstream media.

I don't think these facts vindicate Russian position, but they do require a more nuanced understanding of the situation. Yet, I am accused of spreading Russian propagand. Here is the first comment:

This may be a fine piece of pro-Russian propaganda, but it does not answer the question. – RedSonja

The issue of whether my answer actually answers the question is subject to interpretation. However, I wonder whether moderation policy is adjusted to dealing with such claims (I think of it as unfriendly, at least.)

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    I'm sure that your answer was given in good faith, and it would probably be a valid answer to the question "What is a rough timeline of the political history of Ukraine in the 21st century?", but it does not answer the question to which you posted it. Every post here is expected to be an explicit attempt to answer the given question; if you have a critique of the question, you can post a comment. See also: Ask questions, get answers, no distractions.
    – CDJB Mod
    Mar 7 at 13:26
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    @CDJB (1) The question specifically refers to the situation in Ukraine, which is however misunderstood by the OP. Hence, they pose a question which actually lead them astray. I could agree that the question is ambiguous - but then why taking action against my answer only, rather than the OP? (2) This is however not the subject of debate here, but rather - what measures are taken by moderators to avoid suppressing factually based answers and questions as simply propaganda. Mar 7 at 13:39
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    @CDJB I have used my answer to answer my own question (as suggested by at_JJJ). I appreciate your input. Mar 7 at 14:13
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    @CDJB The answer was deleted again - this time it was claimed to be propaganda. See the update here. I do not intend to complain further, just bringing it to your attention. Mar 7 at 15:39
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    You might want to open a separate meta question to discuss this specific answer if you want more detailed answers about why people think it's propaganda or off-topic.
    – divibisan
    Mar 7 at 18:20
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Can you tell us precisely what you mean by propaganda, and provide examples of such posts from here or anywhere else in the SE network?

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    I don't think specific examples are needed. This seems to be a reiteration/reminder of the already existing policies of Politics SE, within the specific context of the current situation between Russia and Ukraine. The takeaway should be that if a question or answer seems to be favouring particular sides or obviously promotional/supporting one side or the other, flag to close it as either "Promotes or discredits a political cause", "Speculative" or "Opinion-Based".
    – Robotnik
    Feb 28 at 22:42
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    "a precise definiton of propaganda" You have never seen or heard any propaganda before in your life and have basically no clue what propaganda is? It's difficult to believe but maybe true, so in this case you could read for example Wikipedia's entry on propaganda. Maybe afterwards you would have more specific (and probably more useful) questions about propaganda on this site.
    – Trilarion
    Mar 1 at 7:26
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    I would disagree with any effort to quantify precisely what is and is not considered propaganda and viewpoint pushing. All that will lead to is stepping an inch on the 'other side' which does not help. This is not a flag-waving forum.
    – CGCampbell
    Mar 1 at 16:35

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