Borrowing from Wikipedia's Biographies of Living People policies, should there be a be stronger notability criteria for claims about living people?

I'm worried that skeptics could be used for spreading negative claims about people, rather than skeptically examining already existing notable or notorious claims about that person. Especially when the OP also answers the question saying that the claim is true, which happened with Malala Yousafzai.

On the other hand, I suppose it's good if Skeptics is able to dispel negative claims about a person, such as the David Attenborough question (kind of about him, kind of about Israel). (FWIW, a mod initially thought I was trying to promote a negative claim, whereas I was intending for it to be debunked)

Perhaps one possibility would be to only require increased notability when the person has been the target of serious unlawful harassment. That would cover Adria Richards (targetted by brogrammers) and Malala Yousafzai (targetted by the Taliban), but not David Attenborough (not harassed) or Osama bin Laden (Target of more or less lawful harassment. Incidentally, not a living person.)

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    Interesting question. I've been peddling with the idea of categorizing claims as "not disprovable", "disprovable and provable" and "provable in one direction". While we already ban the first kind and we certainly do well with the second kind, we tend to do not so well with the third kind. Maybe this kind of claims could be disallowed in cases which have notoriously little proof (like current events, living people...)?
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 10:09
  • @Sklivvz Just to clarify, when I talked about "negative", I meant "Of a nature detrimental to a person", not as in "Not existing".
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 11:39
  • In this usage, does the "notability" refer to the source of the claims, the target of the claims, or the claims themselves?
    – Gabe
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 6:59
  • @Gabe Good question. I was thinking of the claims themselves.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 7:09
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    So you're suggesting that the claim made against Malala Yousafzai, while correct, is not terribly notable and thus probably not worthy of a page on this site? I think you're probably right.
    – Gabe
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 0:32
  • I keep coming back to this question, wanting to post an answer, but I don't have one. I share your worry about being used to spread noxious claims. I'm not sure I could clearly define where a claim became noxious. Sometimes judgement is required, so maybe a clear definition isn't critical, but I would rather trigger fewer claims of mod censorship rather than more.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 4:08
  • Oh, and for the record: It was I who thought the David Attenborough claim was negative, through my own poor reading comprehension and ignorance of Attenborough's views. In my defence, I did nothing to censor the question. I merely made a surprised comment in chat about the timing (the question was asked shortly after Attenborough's brother died.) However, this demonstrates why we should be careful about giving mods the decision to judge borderline claims as noxious.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 4:12

1 Answer 1


I disliked the question about Stevie Wonder.

But anyone who's notable enough to attract a question about them, probably has better things to do than to care about what's being written about them on Skeptics.

As for Malala's supporting a local socialist group, well done her. If you have a better answer than "socialism", make it known.

The questions I really disliked was when someone was posting questions about alleged/reported crime victims, to ask whether the reported news really happened. Those could be closed these days by the "no news" rule.

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    "As for Malala's supporting a local socialist group, well done her. If you have a better answer than "socialism", make it known." What does this mean?
    – user76284
    Commented Dec 30, 2022 at 20:16

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