I am struggling to find any notion of unethical content in the Unacceptable Behavior policy.

Is "unethical" (whatever it means) content actually prohibited?

This question comes from an edit by mod Philipp, which they commented as:

I've removed the highly unethical call for eugenics based on income from the question while retaining the core question itself. – Philipp ♦

Note: whether or not that particular content was actually unethical is beside the point. Let's not get sidetracked. Please answer just in general.

  • 3
    I don't understand the downvotes on this question. Whilst the original question could easily be considered objectionable the same doesn't apply to this meta post.
    – Ben Cohen
    Commented Feb 21 at 20:47
  • 1
    A I mentioned in an answer to one of your Qs, sterilization of specific groups is considered a crime against humanity in some treaties. While the CoC [which I seldom peruse] might only prohibit calls to actual genocide... I can see how some might think it should be interpreted more broadly. Commented Feb 22 at 10:31

2 Answers 2


From the Stack Exchange Code of Conduct:

We do not allow harassment nor any content that promotes, encourages, glorifies, or threatens acts of violence. We also do not allow causing or contributing to an atmosphere that excludes or marginalizes.

We also do not allow content that promotes, encourages, provides instruction for, or glorifies harm or cruelty.

We do not allow political content that encourages harm to others or that supports, celebrates, or furthers the cause of violent actors and hate organizations.

  • Are you equating being unethical with violence or harassment? Harm? Cruelty? Hate?
    – Greendrake
    Commented Feb 21 at 10:46
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    @Greendrake I consider harm, cruelty and hate unethical. I would not say that the reverse is necessarily the case, that every unethical behavior falls definitely into these categories. But that's more of a question for philosophy stack exchange. And yes, eugenics is something I would consider harm, cruelty and hate.
    – Philipp Mod
    Commented Feb 21 at 10:56
  • The very nature of politics is such that whatever policy one disagrees with can be seen by them as harm, cruelty and hate. I wonder how you reconcile the fact that such edits are essentially censorship according to your personal political preferences with the role of an impartial and objective applier of the rules that users have empowered you with.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Feb 21 at 11:11
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    @Greendrake Editing is a part of the Stack Exchange system. I did not use my mod powers here. And I do not believe that I acted outside of enforcing the code of conduct.
    – Philipp Mod
    Commented Feb 21 at 11:15
  • As I mentioned in one of my answers (forced) sterilization of specific groups is considered a crime against humanity in some treaties. So, I guess such calls, even if somewhat more vague in the OP's question, can be considered pretty close to that, so covered by the CoC. Commented Feb 22 at 10:36
  • OTOH, (as the OP challenged on that angle) China hasn't signed those treaties. So, I guess it's a rather Western morality viewpoint. Which is a bit related to: politics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6733/… Commented Feb 22 at 10:48
  • @Dolphin613Motorboat The Chinese one-child-policy was also really questionable from a human rights perspective. But it was at least applied undiscriminating across the whole population as a measure of controlling population growth. Not against a certain subset of the population of "undesirables".
    – Philipp Mod
    Commented Feb 22 at 11:17
  • Well, the US (at least) argues China has been more recently doing that in Xinjiang, after dropping their nationwide policy. The latter, if true, would however breach even the 1948 Genocide Convention [that China is a party to], because that one prohibits measures that limit birth in specific ethnic groups. Commented Feb 22 at 11:20

In most cases where "unethical content" is removed from posts, the problem isn't necessarily that such content is not allowed, or even that it's not ethical in the first place, but simply that it's not necessary.

When a post contains controversial statements - and I've seen this happen time and time again, network-wide - users will fixate on those statements at the expense of the rest of the post. Discussions and/or arguments about them will flare up in the comments, creating more work for moderators, and the post will receive downvotes, close-votes, and even delete votes that it may not otherwise have received or deserved. You're already familiar with that last part.

As a result, removing unethical statements is less about them being "unacceptable behaviour", and more about improving the quality of the post by removing noise and distractions. This is perfectly in line with Stack Exchange's role as a focused, collaborative Q&A site, where users are encouraged to edit and improve other users' posts. If a post can be edited to remove controversial material without changing the essence of the post, then that should be done, regardless of whether the material is "unethical" or whether it violates the CoC.

So in short: unethical content isn't inherently prohibited, but it is usually an unnecessary, harmful distraction that can and should be removed.

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