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Why should moderators have the right to remove misinformation rather than correct misinformation?

I think we should correct rather than remove just like we combat falsehoods with education rather than censorship. This isn't mathematics, this is a subjective matter called politics. The fact that moderators are permitted to remove rather than correct sounds like a cowardly move. This is a political discussion site, right?

Removing misinformation poses several questions:

  1. What decides what is misinformation or not?

  2. How does it help to educate people? All it does is indicate that "the moderators think your answer is wrong so it has been deleted". Sure you can cite sources that state why the answer is wrong but wouldn't it be easier to understand why if you had the answer still present for reference on the Q page (without being moved to another edit history link)

  3. Are all the good questions on this site all able to be answered objectively? If not, then misinformation becomes not the deletion of falsehoods but rather the deletion of opinions which other users find "ungood"

  4. What is the principle behind misinformation anyway? John Stuart Mill did write "If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."

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  • This seems like too general to be on the meta.politics. It should be asked on meta.stackexchange.com. Be prepared to receive some pushback if you do ask it there because any challenge of moderators' authority is usually seen as a disguised form of complaining about a particular instance of moderation. But if you are genuinely curious, and don't care about rep on meta.SE, you may get lucky and get an interesting answer.
    – wrod
    Nov 3 at 2:32
  • Yeah u want to know the context? The context was when another user (not me) got moderated for a question about Trump and I was wondering why such a practice occurs. This IS actually a form of complaining about moderating "misinformation". It is a legitimate question.
    – Lawrence
    Nov 3 at 3:51
  • 3
    ok, and "because that's how the site is setup" is a legitimate answer. It's really the answer. If you want to change how the site is setup, you can bring it up on the main meta site. I am not judging here. I am just letting you know what is likely to happen when you do (if you do). You are mostly just talking to other other users on meta.politics. Even the mods are just other users.
    – wrod
    Nov 3 at 7:41
  • 2
    It could help if you can provide some examples of what you are talking about censorship wise.
    – Joe W
    Nov 4 at 22:08
  • 2
    @JoeW This question appears to have been prompted by this answer, in which a moderator removed part of a user's answer on the basis that it was "part of a misinformation campaign". I'll note that the moderator in question did include a link to an article about the misinformation campaign, so the assertion that they didn't "correct" or "combat" it appears to be false.
    – F1Krazy
    Nov 6 at 12:40
  • @F1Krazy I did not say this specific user did not correct or combat. I also mentioned in my question in regards to citing external sources above. Check.
    – Lawrence
    Nov 6 at 22:15
  • 1
    "What decides what is misinformation or not?" It's a judgement call. Sometimes it's clear, sometimes less. We simply have to make our best call. Isn't it always like this with difficult topics? "Are all the good questions on this site all able to be answered objectively?" In my opinion, yes. The really useful questions on this site are those who are preferentially answered objectively (either by citing facts or by citing opinions of others or by citing statistics). No original thought of the answerer is necessary, in principle. Just be a good searcher, find relevant information and present it.
    – Trilarion
    Nov 19 at 13:24

3 Answers 3

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This is a political discussion site, right?

No. Politics SE is a question and answer (Q&A) site. Perhaps, that distinction is important for understanding why the site does not work as you request.

Who decides what is misinformation or not? Just the moderators?

Any user may decide, not just moderators. Those users with at least 50 reputation can comment on any question or answer to identify misinformation, so that it may be corrected by the original poster (OP). Any user, even anonymous users, may suggest edits to remove or correct misinformation. Users with at least 1000 reputation will have corrective edits applied immediately.

How does it help to educate people?

Educate whom? As a Q&A site, the goal is to provide informative answers to well-formed questions. For that reason, posts with low quality may be removed. That includes removal (deletion) of those posts containing misinformation that has not been corrected or are considered as not reasonable attempts to answer a question, such as comments posted as answers. Even a deleted post may be edited by the OP to correct any problems before being undeleted. Undeletion of a post does not happen often, but it is possible.

Further, deletion of posts is not limited to moderators. Those with sufficient reputation ("trusted users", for example,) may also vote to delete (and undelete) posts.

Are all the good questions on this site all able to be answered objectively?

Yes and somewhat dependent on one's definition of good; but the issue (deletion) is about answers for questions that are not answered objectively. Misinformation may arise because the facts that may be used to support an answer are not consistent with objectively, which may be defined as "in a way that is not influenced by personal feelings or prejudices" or "in a way that can be known, measured, or proven".

Answers that are pure opinion or provide facts out of context tend to be removed, while there are cases where an objectively answered question also containing opinion are not removed.

What is the principle behind misinformation anyway?

Misinformation on Politics SE may be seen as the misstatement or misapplication of facts within a context.

For example, a question about socialism cannot be answered by an opinion that capitalism is better regardless of what facts may be used to support the claim. This is because every question on Politics SE has a context and every answer must be consistent with that context. Because Politics SE is not a discussion site, answers outside that context (or otherwise not meeting SE guidelines) will be silenced.

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  • again, you say people with a certain number of reputation can make "corrective edits" or remove misinformation. You state who can make the do these but not what criteria determines what is misinformation. Let me ask: are all good questions on this site able to be objectively answered or no?
    – Lawrence
    Nov 3 at 22:00
  • @Meemaw When you say not what determines what is misinformation that is the problem is how do you determine what is misinformation that should be edited out and what just deserves downvotes and comments.
    – Joe W
    Nov 4 at 22:10
  • @Joe W. The answer seems to me that you can't unless there is factual, 100% objective evidence that cannot be refuted on any standard such as "I am thinking a thought". I thinking downvoting and commenting is fine but not deleting info that you can't even prove wrong on God's level.
    – Lawrence
    Nov 5 at 0:16
  • @Meemaw The problem comes from the fact that not everyone agrees what is fact and what is misinformation. As an example there are many cases in America where you can lay out the objective facts and one or more sides will disagree with them.
    – Joe W
    Nov 5 at 6:55
  • @Meemaw You know, I did study philosophy. And yes, truth is a social construct and there is no such thing as "Capital-T-Truth", ultimately because language meaning or "what our symbols and sounds stand for" is constructed interpersonally. Does that mean that language use or the use of "truth" and "misinformation" are arbitrary? Definitely not! Moderators have to follow certain standard usage. Call it "mainstream" if you like but using a derogatory term does not change the fact that it is the not-mainstream that is using the terms differently and need to explain and justify their usage. Nov 5 at 7:26
  • Also, there are pragmatic limits to claiming truth. If I go out there and find that you cannot extract anything that keeps you young out of kids, no matter their physical and psychological state, there is a pragmatic limitation to Q-Anon narratives, namely that the world does not react to my actions the way this belief predicts. Nov 5 at 7:30
  • @ Phillip I ask you now, Is there anything in this world which we can be 100% sure of that is absolutely infallible?
    – Lawrence
    Nov 6 at 22:00
  • @Joe W. And since "there are many cases" where one or more sides will disagree with the one who lays out what he perceives to be "objective facts", are we to remove those dissenting opinions from the main page then?
    – Lawrence
    Nov 6 at 22:03
  • @Phillip It is not simply a pragmatic limitation to claiming truth. It is a perceived pragmatic limitation to truth. In the practical world such as in law, we have agreed on basic moral truths (with pragmatic limitations) but in a forum like this, we don't just seek practical answers - we seek truthful answers whatever the word "truth " appears to us.
    – Lawrence
    Nov 6 at 22:09
  • 1
    @ Phillip You say truth is a social construct - that is your opinion. I and many others dispute this claim that truth is a social construct. Since there is this disagreement over what truth is, then SA shouldn't be obliged to have this delete "perceived misinformation" practice (since this practice assumes what truth is for all users).
    – Lawrence
    Nov 6 at 22:13
5

As a moderator on a different SE site that sees similar discussions (Philosophy.SE), I'd like to add a different perspective on this, although the first answer covers the main points pretty well already.

This is a political discussion site, right?

No, this is Politics.SE. That means that this site is part of the StackExchange network and thus has to obey its principles and model, for which the ultimate source is this FAQ. The model includes that questions and answers should only state verifiable, ideally sourced facts, that misinformation is discouraged, and that discussion in general is not part of the main sites but should happen in chat. As per the (compared to the FAQ) much less voluminous help center, the following parts are essential to the StackExchange model:

Above all, be honest. If you see misinformation, vote it down. Add comments indicating what, specifically, is wrong. [from Expected behavior]

Misinformation is considered wrong and should not be a part of either questions or answers.

If you see a post where many comments should be deleted, especially if there's an ongoing discussion, there’s no need to flag each comment individually. Instead, flag the post itself for moderator attention, choose the "in need of moderator intervention" reason, and explain what's going on. [from What if I see something bad]

Comments should not be used for discussions. As a matter of fact, there is a message template for "excessive discussion in comments" for moderators to choose when they contact a user to make them aware of problematic behavior. Continuing with that behavior is a potential reason for suspension of the account. If you want to add a comment, the box always says "Use comments to ask for more information or suggest improvements". That is meant as a rule, not a kind suggestion. For more on comments, see this Meta.SE post. The fact that the mods here tend to be lenient regarding comments (as am I on Philosophy) does not change the fact that comments that do not meet these criteria can be deleted at any time simply for that reason alone.

Who decides what is misinformation or not? Just the moderators?

Ideally, moderators should not have to decide on such cases much because high-rep users can cover much of the moderation duties by themselves. Smaller sites are not ideal in that regard though, both because they tend to have fewer high-rep users in the first place and less of them being online at the same time. As you can see from the above, every user above 125 reputation can and should decide whether something is misinformation, simply by voting down if they think so. That is what StackExchange is about: the community as a whole decides all individual cases and, ultimately, even the rules themselves. Mods are nothing more that some trusted community members enforcing these rules to the best of their abilities. They have to decide more on smaller sites and believe me, they wouldn't if they had the choice.

How does it help to educate people? All it does is indicate that "the moderators think your answer is wrong so it has been deleted". Sure you can cite sources that state why the answer is wrong but wouldn't it be easier to understand why if you had the answer still present for reference on the Q page (without being moved to another edit history link)

This helpful post on Meta.SE states everything you need to know on who can delete for what reasons on answers specifically (since comments were covered above). Regarding reasons, it has the following to say:

For answers, any post that is not an answer (should be a comment, doesn't answer the question, etc.) should be deleted. Answers that are wrong or that dispense poor advice should be downvoted, not deleted.

Therefore, in general, misinformation (being wrong) as such is not a reason for deletion. Not answering the question as it stands (and offering an alternative narrative to that in the question instead) is, though. Also this is only part of the story, since the next paragraph says:

These are general guidelines; some communities in the network may uphold more specific reasons to delete posts or not. For example, on Puzzling.SE, answers to a puzzle without explanation are subject to deletion, and some technical sites will delete answers which are not only wrong but also harmful when tried.

Therefore, it could be argued that opinionated answers that do nothing more than giving a political view that is verifiably based on and promoting misinformation are harmful for a community that is supposed to be delivering facts on political matters. On the other hand, only the highest rep users can see answers with a score of -4 or lower, so downvotes and comments may still be preferable.

This does no mean that this could not be part of an answer at all. It should be clarified that this is the misinformation a given political party is promoting in an answer though.

Are all the good questions on this site all able to be answered objectively? If not, then misinformation becomes not the deletion of falsehoods but rather the deletion of opinions which other users find "ungood"

Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Yes, questions on SE should be answerable "objectively" in the sense that there should be reliable, reputable, external sources that can be used to base an answer on. Every question that soliticts opinions should not be answered and downvoted instead:

Some subjective questions are allowed, but “subjective” does not mean “anything goes”. All subjective questions are expected to be constructive. What does that mean? Constructive subjective questions:

• inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”
• tend to have long, not short, answers
• have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone
• invite sharing experiences over opinions
• insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references
• are more than just mindless social fun

What is the principle behind misinformation anyway? John Stuart Mill did write "If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."

Now this is borderline trolling and I think you know that. SE is a private company that provides a vast framework in terms of software, hardware, and personnel, not a state. It is perfectly within their rights to determine limits of behaviour for the users of these sites. As a matter of fact, you agreed with these rules when you registered your account.

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  • Just because it is a private company does not mean it shouldn't have to amend its misinformation policy. The fatal flaw in most of these answers here is that you all mention "that's just how the site works". I am raising these questions because I think some things on the Politics site should change.
    – Lawrence
    Nov 3 at 21:57
  • 4
    @Meemaw That is not what I wrote. I wrote that you agreed to these rules when you made your account here and that these rules can be changed (within limits) by the community. The basic model of StackExchange, which is all about providing a knowledge database in Q&A format, is not up to discussion. Also, I mentioned that deletion, even according to the general guidelines, is not necessarily appropriate when it comes to answers. Nov 3 at 22:01
  • 4
    @Meemaw Added an answer to you newly-added point as well. Also, I think you fail to acknowledge that these rules built over almost two decades of continuous work of hundreds if not thousands of community members. It's not like they were made on a whim. Nov 3 at 22:20
  • It doesn't matter if it was work of hundreds of thousands or whatever. The question of how many people are involved is not relevant here. We are discussing the logistics behind this sort of "deleting misinformation" practice which I find troubling especially on a site devoted to politics. The number of people building SE is a different issue.
    – Lawrence
    Nov 5 at 0:20
  • @Phillip what was the point of mentioning that I agreed to these rules when I signed up if not to suggest that my call for change would not appropriate? You said at the bottom I was doing "borderline trolling" and said "it was perfectly within their rights to determine behaviour of users". What was the point of mentioning that?
    – Lawrence
    Nov 5 at 0:36
  • Furthermore regarding the "are all good questions on this site objectively answered", you didn't say "yes, they are" but used instead "yes they should". And you ignore that "reliable external sources" are not God-level, infallible sources. You then list contrastive subjective questions that inspire "why" or "how" - These questions are common on this platform!
    – Lawrence
    Nov 5 at 0:36
  • 1
    Hmm, only the highest rep users can see answers with a score of -4 or lower. Apparently not so on Politics SE. is:a score:..-12 shows 5 answers with scores of -15 to -12 on my phone when I am not logged in.
    – Rick Smith
    Nov 5 at 1:21
  • Questions with a score of -4 or lower are not shown on the front page, but are still perfectly visible. Only deletion prevents users with less than 10 krep from seeing them.
    – Nij
    Nov 6 at 10:37
2

Why should moderators have the right to remove misinformation rather than correct misinformation?

Moderators are hired to keep up community standards, not to answer questions. You can expect them to clearly detect misinformation, but they aren't experts in all political topics. They may not be able to correct misinformation. The only thing they can do then is to remove it.

It's our job as users to actually deliver the "correct" information and fill the site with content. Moderators are also users, so they can do it too sometimes, but it's not a requirement for them. The role of moderators is to clean up, not to grow. The role of users is to grow (the content), not (or less) to clean up. Both should complement each other.

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  • if you cannot correct it because you are lacking in information or knowledge or have a bad argument, then there is even less grounds for you to DELETE it.
    – Lawrence
    Nov 20 at 2:06
  • 1
    @Lawrence No that's not true. Recognizing is way easier than correcting. The latter requires additional knowledge that only domain experts have. Moderators are not experts in every field. Maybe they would not even recognize every misinformation but surely they will not be able to correct them all. And it's bit their job. Their job is to moderate. You and me, we can correct misinformation wherever we see them.
    – Trilarion
    Nov 20 at 7:24
  • SE is not a forum about doing things the most efficient way possible and compromising on the certainty of a piece of information. What you are advocating is basically a simplified form of censorship in place of the better option which is education.
    – Lawrence
    Nov 21 at 1:59
  • By deleting what you perceive to be misinformation, you are assuming infallibility.
    – Lawrence
    Nov 21 at 1:59
  • "By deleting what you perceive to be misinformation, you are assuming infallibility." No I don't. You can always discuss these things on meta. Users with high enough rep can see deleted questions (they are still in the database) and deleted questions can be undeleted (even by vote from users I think). That is the correction for mistakes. What I vote for is a workable site. I believe in education by information, not by misinformation. But if you think a particular piece of misinformation features an important educational aspect, by all means write an answer about it and discuss it critically.
    – Trilarion
    Nov 21 at 7:49
  • I meant don't delete it from the main Q page because u think it looks wrong.
    – Lawrence
    Nov 24 at 6:53
  • @Lawrence That's not what is done. Only the stuff that really looks as if it's only noise and not contributing in any way is deleted. Most of the stuff that isn't adequate yet is not deleted but only closed, waiting to be improved.
    – Trilarion
    Nov 24 at 7:14

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