In my question Do an overwhelming majority of rapes not involve relatives? , I asked about a factual claim (about who engages in sexual abuse) which has been used to support an abhorrent opinion (that women should not meet men without a male relative present).

I could have made my question merely mention the advocacy group which was cited as the source of the claim, but that could have taken away some of the notability and relevance of the claim.

Does asking about a factual claim act as an endorsement of either a person making a claim, or the argument the claim is being used in? Or to put it another way, should users avoid asking questions where the context of the claim is unsavoury?

Related question: Non notable claims, made only on hate and or conspiracy sites, should be deleted , which seems to advocate treating questions differently depending on whether those who assert the claims asked about are unsavoury.


2 Answers 2


When asking about a particular claim here, we always present that claim to the audience here on the site, and sometimes also the entire SE network. We're essentially distributing the claim to more people, and that is something we can't avoid.

When the claim is something racist, sexist, xenophobic or offensive in some other way, that means we are exposing more people to this offensive material. In most cases I think the ability to debunk this kind of offensive material is worth it, but it is an inherent problem in dealing with this kind of material.

Without additional information I would not assume that the asker is endorsing a particular claim, to the contrary I think that most users ask about claims they personally don't believe. But what the author thinks doesn't matter much, in the case of a Hot Network Question we're exposing whatever claim this is directly to a few thousand more people.

This problem that we can't avoid drawing more attention to a claim even if our only goal is to debunk it is part of the reason for the notability requirements. If the claim is already making rounds and millions are exposed to it, we can't really do any additional damage. But if someone publishes extreme fringe theories that most people would never encounter otherwise, we might actually contribute to the distribution of offensive material.

It's hard to draw any lines here, this will always come down to a judgement call. We should be aware of the potential that we cause more harm by publishing certain material than the benefit we get from answering. But that doesn't mean we can't ask about offensive or problematic claims, many of those are the most important ones to debunk.


It would have been better to use the more authoritative and focused version of the claim

The claim your question seems (to me) to be about is made by RAINN, which seems like a reasonable organization and the infographic appears to list a link for further information about their methods and/or data. An ideal version of the question would also include more details about why you are questioning the claim; a comment indicates that you've read about "a lot of anecdotes" which disagree, but that information should be in the question and should have links.

Essentially what I'm saying is that your thought of "that could have taken away some of the notability and relevance of the claim" is not just incorrect, but entirely the opposite of the truth; a tweet from some guy with the claim "women should be imprisoned" is a much less notable and relevant source for the claim "the majority of sexual assault is not from family" than the non-profit organization that collected the data. Additionally, based on that prior discussion you linked, the fact that the twitter source is advocating a particular opinion at the same time makes it even less of a good choice for sourcing the claim.

EDIT: On further consideration, I've realized that the reason RAINN's claim directly doesn't seem like a good source to you is that the official "claim" of that infographic is "rapists are usually known by their victims" rather than "rapists are usually not relatives of their victims". However, I still think my above points stand and that using the infographic as the source for your claim would be better.

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