Meta Question

SmashTheState's avatar

What rationale is used by moderators for judging whether or not to censor questions and answers?

Asked by SmashTheState (12772points) June 5th, 2010

I came here from Yahoo!Answers as a result of having experienced massive amounts of censorship with no seeming rationale at all. Questions and answers—often entirely uncontroversial ones—would simply disappear with no explanation as to why. There was an appeal process, but in the two years I was there and all the appeals I had filed, I never had a single successful appeal; indeed, given that the only responses I received were identical form letters, I suspect there really is no appeal process at all. I certainly have never heard of an appeal there succeeding.

I came to Fluther because I was referred by someone who told me people here are somewhat smarter than AnswerBag (and wildly smarter than Y!A, but then clams are smarter than the neanderthals at Y!A.)

And indeed, Fluther seems to garner more thoughtful responses to questions, but I’ve been growing increasingly puzzled at the sort of censorship which occurs here. It’s nice that questions get sent for re-editing rather than simply being dropped into the Memory Hole, but some of the choices made by the moderators is… well, frankly, it’s weird.

For example, as a result of a dialectical discussion I had with a couple of acquaintances about the relative merits of von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu, I asked a question this morning about it. I figured, it’s a matter of opinion rather than a dry factual answer, so it goes into “social.” So far so good. But I had the question sent back for editing because of the title. My original title was: “Philosophy of War: East VS West.” This seemed to me to cover the topic pretty well, and I’m scratching my head about what was wrong with it.

I’m asking this question here rather than sending a private note to the moderators because, while this particular question prodded my question, I’m more interested in what sort of rationale the moderators are using to make these decisions. Please don’t just point me at the rules, I’ve read them and understand them. What I’d like to know is whether there’s any equivalent to the news agency style guides that moderators here use, or if it’s simply left to the personal whim of each individual (which might account for some of the odd editorial choices I’ve seen; I was a bit puzzled why a recent answer about licorice by zenele got deleted, for example).

I’m not complaining, I’m just a bit mystified.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

68 Answers

tinyfaery's avatar

There is no check-sheet or anything. If you have a problem with the moderation, or just want to understand why q or a was removed, just pm augustlan.

marinelife's avatar

What doesn’t make sense to me is why you would not ask the people who removed your question about the title. They are the ones who did it.

Right off the top of my head, if that was the title, I do not see a question in it.

To answer your larger question, the guidelines serve as the moderators guidelines as well. Within those guidelines, the moderators discuss issues and exercise their judgment.

jaytkay's avatar

“Has Clausewitz’s Western philosophy of war proven superior to Sun Tzu’s Eastern philosophy of war?
is a lot better than
“Philosophy of War: East VS West.”

Even before Sun Tzu lived , there have been mass armies in the East, West, North and South, and guerrillas, too,

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“I was referred by someone who told me people here are somewhat smarter than AnswerBag (and wildly smarter than Y!A, but then clams are smarter than the neanderthals at Y!A.)”

Oh yes, we’re very very smart here. Very smart indeed. We’re super smart. How did you get through the door without taking the IQ test? You must think you’re pretty smart by doing that. Well I’ve got news for you. We’re smarter.

cookieman's avatar

Don’t know. Not a moderator. Perhaps, as has been suggested, you should ask them. They do not bite. Unless you ask them to. Then all bets are off.

and yes…we are all wicked smaht here.

Seek's avatar

<Alex Trebek voice> I’m sorry, you did not phrase your title in the form of a question. </Alex Trebek voice>

I’m half-tempted to make a thread in Meta where everyone can list the seemingly mundane comments that were moderated. My favourite are the ironic mods like my recent “I think you’ll find few Flutherites who support the suppression of free speech”.

perspicacious's avatar

beats the heck out of me

SmashTheState's avatar

To the folks asking why I didn’t send this as a private note to the moderator(s), please see the last paragraph where I… explain why I didn’t send this as a private note to the moderator(s). O.o

zenele's avatar

It’s been asked and answered many a time. It’s nice that they allowed this one to slide – though a simple search would have shown it has been asked again and again.

The nice thing here is that you can interact with the mods and manager. Say you are flunking (fluthering while drunk) and think your question is God’s gift to fluther – but in reality it’s just another crappy, drunken statement that has nothing to do with anything. Upon awakening, you won’t find it gone – but rather, it will be waiting there for editing with an explanation of why you are an ass, only in nicer words.

You can debate with them – but your question sucks. It will eventually dawn on you why. Or maybe it won’t – in which case, nothing will help.

Sometimes a question has been asked many times already – you just don’t know it.
Sometimes your standards are different from the mod’s – and it’s their prerogative.
Sometimes your wisecrack, though brilliant in your own mind, is just a wisecrack – and not a conversation provoking question.

I get modded all the time and I’ve asked about 500 questions. I should know how to by now – but I guess I don’t. And that’s fine. I know the mods are volunteers, doing a great job of keeping this place sane, and they’ve got my back. Sometimes, we need a little modding.

Cheers to the best bunch of mods on the net!

anartist's avatar

@SmashTheState Marinelife’s got the answer, and I may be wrong, but marinelife may have been a moderator at one time. Although I am surprised your Q didn’t just get kicked back for editing the title.
And I agree with @zenele, we do have a good group of mods.
Maybe anyone who has doubts about the moderating process should volunteer to be one for a time.

HungryGuy's avatar

There are guidelines about what can be asked and said here. I’ve pissed and moaned plenty of times about the censorship here. and the mods just say they’re following the guidelines. Many users here will even defend the censorship (“It’s not censorship if the moderator has the authorty under the rules to censor something.”), so it’s rather pointless to grumble about it. I, too, have familiarized myself with the guidelines, and the guidelines don’t require the mods to censor half the stuff they do. Interpretation of the guidelines is highy subjective, and the mods here tend to be more authoritarian-minded than elsewhere and and so are overzealous in their interpretation of the rules here. If you do PM a mod, they’ll just say they’re adhering to the guidelines; and if you persist after that, they’ll ignore you. So there’s no appeal process here, either.

Other Q&A sites (BlurTit, SodaHead) have their problems, too: censorship, cumbersome design, etc., etc.

All we can do is hope that a new Q&A site like the old Answerbag emerges (the way it used to work before their upgrade last December).

Aethelwine's avatar

sigh. I’ve done my share of bitching in the past, but at least I can blame it on flunking. I like it here and I’m not hoping for a site like Answerbag to emerge.

BoBo1946's avatar

they own this railroad and they allow us to play!

Just come here to have fun…don’t always agree with mods, but I would not have their job! For the most part, they are fair!

And, love the new social section.

Their rules can be seen by clicking on the ‘The Guidelines’ icon!

HungryGuy's avatar

Well of course, people who think we need to be protected from each other or that their brains would explode if exposed to irony or something tongue-in-cheek, and who think that censorship isn’t really censorship if it’s censorship of stuff they don’t agree with, have no reason to want the old Answebag back…

tinyfaery's avatar

Go start your own site and quitcherbitchin.

SmashTheState's avatar

I’m starting to become annoyed. Asking a question is not tantamount to declaring jihad and cutting off heads, and I’m clearly not complaining, either. The administration here owns the keys to the server room, and I’m no threat to their power. They don’t need anyone to leap to their defence because they’re not being attacked, and even if they were being attacked, they wouldn’t need your help. The only thing that annoys me more than a bully is an apple-polisher.

PS: Thanks, marinelife, for the answer.

13thpagoda's avatar

With people like @tinyfaery and @RealEyesRealizeRealLies, it’s a wonder anyone other than their precious friends ever stays at fluther.

Fight the good fight, @SmashTheState. This place needs you!

Response moderated
BoBo1946's avatar

@SmashTheState well said!

New members do need help…know that i did…and still learning! The best help is to go to the ‘The Guidelines’ icon and read the rules. I’ve read them about 25 times…lmao!

zenele's avatar

Ca va, mon ami Bobo?

BoBo1946's avatar

@zenele merci beaucoup!

zenele's avatar

I hope you and your answerbag are soon reunited @HungryGuy and take @SmashTheState with you.

anartist's avatar

What is an unmoderated site like? One with intelligent interesting people? Is there one?

zenele's avatar

@anartist Oh yes like – oops – no more. Because people don’t last 5 seconds without moderation. If there was no moderation I’d tell every little shithead racist dork who lives in their dorm and writes crap from their laptop while playing world of warcraft what I think of them. I’d tear them a new one and send them crying to their philosophy teachers. Armchair warriors, fat little snotty couch potato racists, quasi-pseudo-anarchists who use 10 cent words in the wrong place instead of dating girls because they are too ugly. That’s unmoderated.

syz's avatar

“Philosophy of War: East VS West” Um, were you expecting someone to write a thesis? I didn’t moderate your question, but I would have, had I seen it; that seems like a remarkably vague and open ended question to me.

You’ve asked 19 question, only one of which was considered too inflammatory or possibly too offensive to remain (you opted not to alter the title per the suggestion of the moderators, which is certainly your choice). I’m puzzled as to why, specifically, you’ve asked this particular question. Living up to your name, are you?

SmashTheState's avatar

At the risk of joining zenele in hir race to get as many moderations as possible in a single thread, the last comment of hirs makes me scratch my head a little bit. I’ll cop to being an anarchist, because I am, but I’m curious how sie comes to the conclusion that there’s anything “armchair” about me. I mean, no one knows who I am. For all you know, I could be very well known, the spokesperson for a noted organization frequently in the media. As for my linguistic skills, I’m pretty sure they’re up to snuff. Wouldn’t it be remarkable if it turned out that I’m a published author? Would make quips about my putative lack of writing talent sound a bit foolish, wouldn’t it? Good thing there’s no way to know for sure.

As for being fat and ugly, well… that’s my real picture as my avatar. Can’t really complain about the truth.

zenele's avatar

Oh give me a break: ”as a result of a dialectical discussion I had with a couple of acquaintances about the relative merits of von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu, ”


If you are an author – show us a link. I’ll buy a book.

SmashTheState's avatar

I’m guessing your problem is with the term “dialectical”? I was using it in the Socratic (rather than Kantian or Hegellian) sense of each of us taking a side, not necessarily because we agreed with it, but so that we could challenge each view properly. By mentioning this I was challenging people to pick a side in their responses (as I did in my question) so we could explore the question through the dialectic. I’m reasonably sure I used the word properly, but I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong.

BoBo1946's avatar

Well, appears to be a good time to go and water the tree of liberty and justice for all!

zenele's avatar

Waiting for the link to amazon and your book.

HungryGuy's avatar

@zenele – Someday, there probably will be a Q&A site once again where people can express themselves without being censored. And then you can all pretend that everybody thinks exactly alike. Until that day comes, you’re stuck with me here. So nyahhhh!

Aethelwine's avatar

@HungryGuy I’m curious. I’m fairly new to Q&A sites. Fluther is my first. I’ve looked at others but didn’t stay because I didn’t like them. Why do you stay involved with a site you aren’t happy with? I’m just trying to understand this mindset is all.

chyna's avatar

@13thpagoda You’ve only been here one day and you are already bad mouthing people? Really? Why?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@13thpagoda “With people like @tinyfaery and @RealEyesRealizeRealLies, it’s a wonder anyone other than their precious friends ever stays at fluther.”

Yes this site is filled with wonder. Would you like to be one of my special friends?


Hey thanks for giving everyone an opportunity to vent and blow off some steam. We need more questions like this. It’s fun to sling mud from time to time. No harm done. A little poke and jab never hurt anyone. Reminds us we are alive. And I for one would love it if people checked their sarcasm meters and realized the benefits of developing a wee bit thicker skin.

All in fun!

Response moderated
marinelife's avatar

I want to go on record as saying that I don’t agree with @zenele about @HungryGuy and @SmashTheState leaving and going back to AnswerBag.

I would like to see the rhetoric in this thread toned down a little bit. The asker was a new user.

zenele's avatar

He isn’ t that new, dear:

Last visit:
June 5th, 2010
Member since:
May 28th, 2010
Questions asked:
Responses written:

anartist's avatar

@SmashTheState only one who said @zenele was describing you was you.
if the shoe fits . . .
BTW I thought your avatar was of a young Castro.
You joined about a week after I did.

And, I agree with @marinelife you and @HungryGuy shouldn’t go. This is what makes fluther interesting. I am sure the moderators are enjoying this one too.

HungryGuy's avatar

@jonsblond – I’m not really unhappy with Fluther. I actually like Fluther. I just wish the mods wouldn’t be so heavy-handed in the way they interpret the guidelines, is all. Of all the Q&A sites that exist right now, each has its good and bad points. For examble, Answerbag has no censorship (except to remove spam and personal attacks), but they redesigned themselves as a content provider rather than a social site, and member Q&A seems almost like an afterthought now. Fluther is probably the best overall, even though the censorship here annoys me.

Aethelwine's avatar

@HungryGuy Thanks for answering. :)

tinyfaery's avatar

I have friends? That’s new to me.

There is nothing worse than a complainer who has no intention of doing anything about it.

SmashTheState's avatar

For the record, I’m neither a racist nor an anti-semite. As for whether I’m a pseudo-intellectual asshole, I humbly leave that to the reader’s judgement.

zenele's avatar

The book?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


A walk down memory lane when I first joined fluther. It seemed like everyone hated me. Not only did the majority of my Q’s get removed, and lost, but I was banned for three months at a time.

Stick around. You’ll get used to it. It’s not perfect, but one thing fluther has taught me is… neither am I.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] A) Let’s stop the personal attacks, please. B) I believe this question was asked with good (or at least neutral) intentions, so let’s try to answer it based on that assumption. C) I wasn’t online when your question was returned to you for editing, but I’ll be happy to look into it and report back. D) To actually answer your question:

The guidelines you all see are the same ones we use. That said, It is a bit subjective because we are human beings. Sometimes we disagree with one another. In those cases, we discuss the issue. Occasionally, we reverse a decision. Finally, we want your questions to succeed. We are always happy to work with you with that goal in mind.

13thpagoda's avatar


@tinyfaery said, “Go start your own site and quitcherbitchin.”
and, “There is nothing worse than a complainer who has no intention of doing anything about it”

Anyone remember “America, love it or leave it?” Ring a bell?

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this isn’t the first time she’s said this. It’s quite ironic, too, since she tells people to quit bitchin and, of course, that’s the first step to making change.

And @RealEyesRealizeRealLies says, “Oh yes, we’re very very smart here. Very smart indeed. We’re super smart. How did you get through the door without taking the IQ test? You must think you’re pretty smart by doing that. Well I’ve got news for you. We’re smarter.”

Wow! How passive-aggressive can you get? And this to someone who actually compliments the site: “And indeed, Fluther seems to garner more thoughtful responses to questions” That’s what the questioner wrote. Go read it for yourself.

Then @zenele chimes in, “Oh give me a break: ”as a result of a dialectical discussion I had with a couple of acquaintances about the relative merits of von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu,”...”

Here’s a guy (the questioner) who clearly writes intelligently and well, and you all act like little chickens running around with your heads cut off. You act like you think he’s being pretentious by displaying his knowledge. Are you afraid of intelligence? Are you afraid of anyone outside your little group being intelligent? You sure act that way.

And @chyna: it sounds like you think new people should just shut up and pay their dues before ever saying anything. Where I come from, a place that I am now regretting leaving, even toads are treated better than you treat intelligent newcomers, what with your prejudices and small-minded attitudes about what is good and proper. Besides which, how do you know I haven’t been lurking for a long while?

Maybe @tinyfaery is right. The best thing to do is drop this place like a hot coal, and go someplace with more friendly and sympathetic people who actually appreciate intellectual discussion.

@SmashTheState is aptly named, I think. What makes this so funny is that the “state” here seems to set itself up on it’s own glass pedestal and beg to be smashed.

I find the sea air to be very bracing. Don’t you? I’m glad I’m on shore though. That boat out there looks like it’s about to sink.

See ya! :-)

chyna's avatar

@13thpagoda I have no doubt you have been lurking. I would even venture to guess you have been on here under another idenity which makes me wonder if you are using this one to trash people? I honestly don’t care if you stay or go. However, this is a question and answer site, not real life, so if you get your panties in a wad over this question, and answers that were not directed towards you, maybe Q&A sites aren’t for you.

augustlan's avatar

Ok, I looked into it, and indeed the reason that particular question was returned to you for editing was the title. It didn’t adequately explain your question. The question was reposted after you changed the title.

cookieman's avatar

why would you pick up a hot coal in the first place?

HungryGuy's avatar

When I first came to Fluther, I held off criticizing for the very reason that old-timers resent newcomers joining and wanting changes. Now that I’ve been here for a while, I think I’m now entitled to criticize the status-quo. And there are, indeed, several ex-ABusers developing sites that work like the old AB used to. But it takes many months to develop a web site, and I wish them all well.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@13thpagoda ”...and go someplace with more friendly and sympathetic people who actually appreciate intellectual discussion.”

What on earth gave you the idea that an intelligent discussion was possible here?

As much as I appreciate you quoting my entire comment, and @tinyfaery,‘s and @zenele,‘s just so @chyna might be more, uh… “sympathetic”… to your position, I’m afraid that @chyna is already familiar with our personalities. Your quick analysis isn’t really telling her anything she doesn’t already know about us.

Now look @13thpagoda, I know you mean well. I know you think you’re righting a great wrong by sticking up for your perceived abuse of @SmashTheState. That’s commendable. So keep on fighting the good fight and set the world right. But in doing so, weigh your noble quest against the benefits of testing someone’s metal.

As I said before, it’s all in fun, no harm is done. And a little poke and jab illustrates a persons true personality, quickly weeding out the overly sensitive type.

Give the General Section a try. No sarcasm or horsing around there at all.

13thpagoda's avatar

General looks terribly boring. However, I don’t think picking on people is funny, or horsing around. I think it’s just mean.

If you want to see the kind of humor I like, read my first post.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Well then on the other side of things, if you really perceived that I was sarcastically picking on someone, how mature is it to answer with a more insulting comment than was originally made?

I blew off your insult as tripe. You obviously didn’t get my sarcasm. That’s ok, I’m not here to improve your sense of humor. But what purpose exactly did your intentional insulting rebuttal seek to accomplish? You answered joking sarcasm with an intentional insult.

You’re 62 lurve into this forum, and as is typical with naive know it all newbies, ya can’t take a joke. And as much as I appreciate your willingness to ride in on your white horse to save what’s left of @SmashTheState‘s fragile ego, I’m not so sure he isn’t capable of dealing with a little rub on his own.

And no, sorry. I’ve no desire to “see the kind of humor” you like. You’re obviously just looking for an excuse to speak. I do so hope you stick around though. It will be nice to see how this site helps you to relax, chill out, marinate a little, and not be so sensitive as you are currently.

anartist's avatar

This started out being fun, funny, informing, and argumentative. Now it is just argumentative and dull.

@augustlan has actually dealt with the issue behind the issue, which is what I said was a most likely outcome in my first post. Hey you are all boring! Goodnight!

FutureMemory's avatar

Maybe @tinyfaery is right. The best thing to do is drop this place like a hot coal, and go someplace with more friendly and sympathetic people who actually appreciate intellectual discussion.

Let me know if you ever find such a place…I’m not sure one exists at the moment.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


Meet me over at or I am QuinticNon over there. Practically NO moderation, and things can definitely get heated compared to here. But alas, its discussion is limited to philosophy, politics, religion, science, culture and poetry. We can’t discuss our SO’s cheating habits, or our diarrhea problems over there.

lillycoyote's avatar

I’m not a big fan of censorship or moderation, really for that matter, but…. that being said, there is a difference between the moderator “censoring” a question and the moderator asking you to clarify it or rewrite it or make it better in a way that suits the format here. In this particular instance your question was not actually question and that’s what puts the Q in Q&A. And if you are a published author then you have probably worked with an editor. The process here is similar. That’s why questions are sent to “editing,” not simply removed forever.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@13thpagoda Well I did check out your first post. You’re an imaginative and talented writer. I hope you stick around and offer your talents to the collective.

13thpagoda's avatar

I’m sorry @RealEyesRealizeRealLies. Could you tell me which comment of mine insulted you? I certainly had no intention of insulting you. I was trying to explain the facts as I see them.

Yes, I obviously didn’t get your sarcasm, although even if I had, I would still find it mean. Just because it’s sarcasm doesn’t mean it can’t be mean at the same time. In fact, I have found, over the years, that sarcasm is often used to hide some underlying hostility.

Oh. Don’t worry. I was just being sarcastic. Maybe when you get to know me better, you’ll get it. Oh wait. You won’t get to know me better. You’ve no desire to see my kind of humor. Tant pis.

Damn. Wish I’d hit send on this a moment sooner. Now you’ve stolen my thunder.

gemiwing's avatar

Awww, y’all done got all het up

Firstly- your question wasn’t a question but rather a general subject area of a question. One thing I’ve found that helps keep my questions from editing is to figure out what the specific discussion is that I want to have. I have to be more specific and dig a bit. Cake or Pie should get pulled while What Makes People Feel They Have To Chose Cake Or Pie would most likely stay. That’s also assuming there haven’t been a multitude of questions asked in the same vein.

While each mod is a human, and as such will have a slightly different interpretation of the guidelines- eventually you start to see the pattern. It’s a Magic Eye book with editing.

One thing that separates Fluther is that instead of saying ‘you can’t talk about X’, they say ‘phrase this so it doesn’t sound like you’re a jackass, pushing an agenda with no regard to open discussion or that you’re drunk off your ass’.

Do some things get pulled for editing that should stay? Yes. Do some things that should be edited stay up? You bet. The world is an imperfect place, screws fall out all the time.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@13thpagoda “With people like @tinyfaery and @RealEyesRealizeRealLies, it’s a wonder anyone other than their precious friends ever stays at fluther.”

That comment. I blew it off. It’s no big deal. And though it was meant by you to actually be insulting, I was not insulted in the slightest. I fully expect for some people to take me the wrong way. So predictable. Consider it a social experiment. Get used to it, I run a lot of them on these forums.

Yet you cannot deny that your comment was intentionally meant to be insulting and mean. You unwittingly become the very thing you wish to vanquish.

However my comment to @SmashTheState was definitely in the tone of sarcasm.

Within the past 5 minutes, I’ve had no less than four comments removed by fluther moderators. It’s no big deal. It’s all in fun, and folks generally get a laugh out of it. Take a look through a persons comments and see if they have a history of actually insulting people in a mean way. You may find a dry sense of levity behind what was previously perceived as ugliness.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@gemiwing “One thing that separates Fluther is that instead of saying ‘you can’t talk about X’...”

Mostly yes, but I’ve recently been told that I cannot talk about certain subject matters. My question was moderated until I pulled 90% of the details out. These details were very specific questions to members about their experiences. I was told that I could not ask them, and after removing the details, this question was eventually re-posted.

I didn’t bother to argue with them. I never do any more. Just go with the flow and expect very little in response. At least the question got put back up. Although the answers I actually wanted will never be had on this forum.

gemiwing's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Perhaps there the problem lies with questions of legality and if Fluther ‘proper’ would be dipping their toes into something that could have legal ramifications for them? I honestly couldn’t say. I do feel that your question still stood- as based only on topical grounds. Perhaps the specific questions were what might have made trouble for Fluther?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Yes the reasons I was given were for legal concerns. Too bad. I think a lot could have been learned, and I see very little likelihood that some would get burned. No big deal. I was given enough links in the answers to pursue researching the experiences of others. Ultimately I got what I wanted.

BoBo1946's avatar

do i hear a voice from the past?

Interesting “cat fight!”

mattbrowne's avatar

When you sent a letter to the editor of a newspaper, will he or she print it no matter what you wrote?

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