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I'm more of a lurker here. I usually just read a little here and there, but I get into it every now and then if the right HNQ caught my eye. So I'm not super familiar with this community.

I flagged nine (9) comments as unfriendly and unkind in the last half day and they were all declined. I felt the flag description was true: "this comment is rude or condescending". Most of the comments were not directed at me, so I didn't really take personal offense, but they were just all around rude and crappy kind of comments. For one or two of the comments I might have even called them abusive, since "This comment attacks a person or group".

I moderated Skeptics for a year and certainly would have deleted them there. Clearly I don't know what the line is on Politics SE.


Little disclaimer that the mods might notice: all the flags I made were on only one user, so maybe that was interpreted as revenge or something and this was a misunderstanding on who was being a turd. Again, not a mod here, but on Skeptics I might have been digging deep to see if there was a pattern here that needed a mod message, and honestly, I kind of did that with the comments I can see as a regular user.

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    Yea, looking at some of those comments and the context threads in which they were made I deleted a bunch. Some of those were rude in and of themselves and I'm not sure why those flags were declined. Others were part of a discussion which didn't seem to really go anywhere so in those cases I deleted some more. Didn't come to a decision on all of them so if you see some that you think should be deleted, feel free to flag again, maybe with a custom message if that makes it easier.
    – JJJ Mod
    Dec 17, 2022 at 8:07
  • In 2021, the last year for which complete statistics are available, the moderators deleted 11,714 comments, or about 32 per day. In 2020 it was 12,946 I think that the moderation team does an excellent job and if there are complaints it's usually about "censorship" of comments; so there may be some day-to-day variation on the borderline cases. I often choose the "other" reason and give a short sentence explaining why it's not helpful to the post, ending "So, no longer needed?"
    – uhoh
    Dec 18, 2022 at 6:53
  • Anyway, bringing it up in meta as you have is the correct thing to do. Just curious, was there a lot of use of the word "you" in the comments? "you think..." or "you're saying that..." type of stuff? I think a "you" detector would be pretty helpful, and I always stop and think twice before leaving a comment that contains even one instance of "you".
    – uhoh
    Dec 18, 2022 at 6:55
  • potentially relevant to the aforementioned variability
    – uhoh
    Dec 18, 2022 at 7:08
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    @uhoh Honestly, I don't remember the comments...
    – user2578
    Dec 18, 2022 at 16:46

2 Answers 2

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I'll try for an actual answer to your question, but I'm fairly confident it's not going to be easy to come to a consensus on this site.1 Without examples of what was flagged, I can't really comment though about the specific things that you flagged so I think I have to keep it pretty general.

One particular hurdle I think we face as a community is that the moderators here are a bit more constrained than on other sites in the network. On Skeptics the boundary conditions between what is acceptable and unacceptable are much clearer. Here is the first sentence from our Help Center Tour:

Politics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people interested in governments, policies, and political processes.

The scope of this community is incredibly broad, a large number of topics are affected by governments and their policies so are fair game to ask questions about. Someone even convinced me once that questions about media companies and their funding are explicitly on-topic. Additionally, "political processes" itself is quite vague and can span a wide range of topics (see for example the roberts-rules-of-order tag, which isn't necessarily about government political processes at all).

My point is that in order to balance the large range of viewpoints on a large range of topics, moderators are presented with a bit of a conundrum2. Any action they take to remove comments (or not) is easily seen as motivated by political bias. There's plenty of regular contributors who already make waves now and again about how the entire site is biased one way or the other, so I can understand from the moderators' point of view that it may be easier to wait until the dust settles and then just go in behind after everyone has moved on to clean up the mess. It's not always an option if things get completely out of control I'm sure, but for borderline cases it may just represent the path of least resistance.3 They're already donating their time for us, and many times have to do double work to defend their actions here on meta regardless of what action they take. This is important for a website that purports to be about "governments and politics," since perceived political bias of the moderators is a surefire way to detract from the quality of contributions of the community as well as the relevance of the site as a whole.

Moderators just so happen to also be individuals and may have individual viewpoints on what constitutes "rudeness". My personal suggestion would be to just accept all flags sent in and delete everything everywhere all the time. That way everyone will be happy, right?4


1 - I'm ready to be proven wrong
2 - Heavy is the head that wears the crown
3 - Complaining complainers are going to complain anyway
4 - Merry Christmas

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It's difficult to define the threshold between normal and unkind/unfriendly comments in words. The practical definition is that everything that the mods delete as unfriendly is really unfriendly and everything else not.

If the mods would for example display the last 100 comments that they deleted as unfriendly and the last 100 comments that were flagged as unfriendly but declined to delete, everyone could try to narrow down the exact border. However, different mods may judge differently, mods may decide differently under slightly different circumstances. It's all a bit fuzzy and there is a grey area. Additionally, I would not want to invite people to try to push that border as far as possible.

To be more specific, if the comments you flagged were on the level of "you're dumb" that would clearly be an ad hominem attack and should always be deleted if you ask me. The more difficult case is if comments are more subtle like "the thing you seem to believe in is not very smart". There is definitely a grey area there. I think that the general attitude should be respect and curiosity to learn without suppressing any controversy at all.

And comments should be used less for discussions. People should write answers instead.

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    A correction, "comments should be used not at all for discussions". This is Stack Exchange, not Facebook or Reddit. Chat is only two clicks away if chat is what somebody wants to do.
    – Nij
    Dec 21, 2022 at 21:05
  • @Nij You're right in theory but in practice there is a considerable amount of discussion contained in comments here that isn't deleted. Just wanted to stay true to that. Dec 21, 2022 at 22:55
  • Eh, you used the word "should". What does happen is irrelevant to that.
    – Nij
    Dec 22, 2022 at 0:09

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