If a low reputation user posts a question about the Holocaust, rather than being immediately posted, it should receive a notification telling the user that the question will remain visible (and editable) by that user, but will not be published until it’s approved by either the community or a diamond moderator.

The question should remain invisible even if the user edits it. That way, users won’t be able to circumvent the filter once it’s been triggered. In addition, users won’t receive any warning before the question is submitted. This will avoid people trying to misspell the word to circumvent the filter.

Update: I had a look at a sample of questions, based on which ones I flagged. It looks like a sizeable proportion lasted longer than 2 hours (if you define it as precisely 120 minutes). While the questions I flag may be a biased sample (for example, I can only flag questions which haven't already been deleted, and I'm more likely to flag questions which were posted when Australians are awake), I think that "virtually all ... within 2 hours" is an exaggeration.

Less than 120 minutes: https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/43439 https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/38788 https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/38322 https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/38264 https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/36478

More than 120 minutes: https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/42754 https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/39608 https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/38317 https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/36450 https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/36336 https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/36245 https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/36103

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    +1 great idea. But I'm not sure if the platform supports something like it. This might need to be raised at meta.SE. – tim Feb 10 at 20:40
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    I am not sure how this could work. What is "programmatically speaking" a question about the Holocaust? – Sklivvz Feb 10 at 21:09
  • @sklivvz just regex for Holocaust and maybe “holohaux”. – Andrew Grimm Feb 10 at 21:25
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    there is no existing mechanism that we could use for this as far as I know, so I think it is very unlikely that we would get something like this. I think we can handle this the usual way, by flags, close votes and mod actions. And I also think you're severely underestimating the creativity and determination of some kind of trolls, dumb word filters rarely stop them for long. – Mad Scientist Feb 10 at 21:34
  • @Mad Scientist - that’s why I advocated not being given any warning before the question is submitted. – Andrew Grimm Feb 11 at 1:02

This is a feature-request. It is worth understanding the status quo.

First, we should understand that genuine, good faith, questions about the Holocaust are not taboo here. We have many examples, including at least one that goes directly to the claims of holocaust deniers:

That said, Skeptics.SE is not alone in the SE network of regularly (once or twice per month) receiving bad faith questions from Holocaust denialist trolls trying to advance their political positions.

I personally find Holocaust denialism rather offensive. I appreciate that many people find it deeply offensive and upsetting. I am keen to strike the right balance: we allow light to shine on the question, while not giving oxygen to the anti-semitic trolls.

Users with sufficient rep can see deleted questions about the Holocaust.

Some were deleted by mods. Some were automatically deleted by users flagging the questions. Some were deleted by automated systems, based on the users behaviour on this and other sites.

I looked at a sample. Virtually all of them were deleted within two hours of being posted. Some within a few minutes.

This one was an exception. It took 48 hours to be deleted by a background process, even though it had an upvoted answer; I don't understand why it was deleted, but I imagine it was based on the OP's behaviour on other sites.

So, the critical question is: does a question once or twice a month surviving for less than a couple of hours give sufficient oxygen to the trolls to warrant adding a new feature to let mods decide whether a controversial question should be seen at all?

I'm leaning towards No, but this is a result of weighing up of several factors, and I completely understand some people would conclude the answer was Yes.

  • only mods can see the list with deleted questions. And the one question that was deleted 48 hours later was deleted because I destroyed that user at that time. – Mad Scientist Feb 11 at 7:13
  • @MadScientist: *scratches head* Can't 10K rep users see deleted questions? What am I missing? [Destroyed the user? That explains it. Thanks.] – Oddthinking Feb 11 at 7:41
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    @Oddthinking For your search query, I'm getting "Note: only content you own is returned when searching for deleted content". I can view deleted questions/answers if I have a link to the question, but I can't search for them. – tim Feb 11 at 7:55
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    @tim: Thank you. I didn't realise that. I am disappointed, because I thought 10K users could keep a watchful eye on mods and what they were deleting. – Oddthinking Feb 11 at 8:06
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    Maybe it’s only 2 hours but feels like longer! – Andrew Grimm Feb 11 at 11:02
  • Maybe more like: "+10k users can "donate an eye", occasionally, if pointed towards such a deleted post?" – Without someone raising awareness (eg on meta), the deletion thing is quickly hidden from almost all views – LangLangC Feb 11 at 22:06
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    This question about the Sandy Hook shootings is the furthest I've ever seen a troll get on this site. Despite getting a little bit of reputation (maybe as high as 30 or 40 points), OP decided to post "answers" to the question and some comments on my answer until their account was deleted (and probably also with new accounts until the question got protected)—4 troll answers total. All that is left is a (heavily edited) question that doesn't look all that trollish and a semi-high-voted answer by me, which is not really that bad of an outcome. – Laurel Feb 12 at 20:59
  • I've done my own survey of how long such questions last - it is different from what you described in this answer. – Andrew Grimm 5 hours ago
  • @AndrewGrimm: tell us more. I didn't research this systematically and am ready to be down to be wrong. – Oddthinking 1 hour ago
  • @Oddthinking Sorry - I posted it in the question. – Andrew Grimm 1 hour ago

Seems to me that questions on that topic are the lesser problem, often being 'just' a tedious nuisance if well-intended, and really quickly shot down if on that level of easy recognisability that would be handled by regex, review queue or mod-action.

After all, this would be the site on SE to handle this. Holocaust denial is a widely held belief, hence notable and in need of address (if it's not a duplicate).

Questions shouldn't be seen as reflective of the belief system of the asker. They sometimes are, which in this case is really not good. But as the default position it seems quite wrong to assume so.

That said

Has the Holocaust been exaggerated?

seems like quite the evil frame to set up, including personal belief system of the unwelcome kind. Going by views it seems to have made HNQ at some time (would it be worse were they coming from Google?).

The most problematic point to observe are the answers given.

And how they are handled by the mods, the community, foreign SE visitors.

In the example above about 'exaggeration' it looks to me that it attracts really bad answers. We should ask ourselves here whether that handling of answers can be improved?

On historySE the issues with answers of that calibre are as per current meta not of large enough interest to the community at large and too many do not recognise perfidious argumentations.

That is a problem much bigger than a daily troll trying to push his dreck.

On SkepticsSE a flag of mine on an answer to another question that was going into the exact direction of 'this is denialism and distortion' was declined with:

declined - please leave politics out of skeptics –

So I just downvoted this answer, that still has a vote count of +2/-7, in other words a net-rep-gain. (The fact that the flag-declined-comment is somewhat nonsensical should be clear, at the latest evidenced by having this post, at all)

Both of these experiences leave me with a preliminary conclusion that this problem keeps boiling, on a systematic level.

This should not be read of an accusation of MetaSkeptics readers, but for educational reasons in general, the following links need to be read again, and again in many cases:

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum article on "Holocaust Denial and Distortion"
Ask Historians Reddit – ELI5 - Holocaust Denial
Wikipedia: Holocaust denial

Especially the 'softcore denialism' and 'distortion' aspects are already in dire need of downvotes (and even deletions) –– in answers. These downvotes are much too rare on these attempts in answers. This distortion can happen even inadvertently, and is consequently hard to spot for many if not most users here on SE.

In summary, I don't think the questions on this are a problem here and now.
But the answers –– and how they are handled, even here –– *are, way too often!**

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    On the “exaggerated” question, there’s only one awful answer which hasn’t been deleted, and it’s been downvoted into oblivion. I don’t think I’m properly understanding what you’re saying. – Andrew Grimm Feb 12 at 11:45
  • @AndrewGrimm It's primarily answers to different Qs, including elsewhere on SE. But on that example I think it illustrates that the Q is less problematic than the As. One of the deleted ones is really awful. Imprecise, sloppy, relativist, distorting As are sometimes left scattered across the network, having upvotes (the 'really awful' eg having 3!) and adding in effect to holocaust distortion. Look here, where I say our system failed. Sklivvz comment may be well meaning, but the As lack perspective and explanation. – LangLangC Feb 12 at 12:02
  • @lang Regarding this, I disagree. I think the question and answers are fine. I think the voting on them represents well what reality is. In other words, you'll get a real and accurate answer on that page. – fredsbend Feb 13 at 18:13
  • @fredsbend What 'reality is '? Even the accepted A leaves "substantial" ill defined and "open" for debate. That is problematic. If A-writer hits the limits of his historical inquiry, 'fine'. As written it portrays the debate in historical science as "open". Not fine. This might be in need of discussion what "substantial" means (and the fact that there were ('some'?) "perpetrators" is sometimes indeed overlooked), but it remains an open invitation for relativists and denialists, as the history department would perhaps accept "astonishingly higher than zero" but 'substantial' wouldn't fly. – LangLangC Feb 13 at 18:24
  • @lang Ok, and is the holocaust a special topic here, or does everything else stand against this metric also? "relativists and denialists" are not useful terms here. The dogmatic defense of any history is more concerning to me, regardless of how tasteless any denial of it might be. – fredsbend Feb 13 at 22:03
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    Alas, denial isn't even in question on that page, so you have to invoke "relativism", a term I've never seen used in conjunction with the holocaust. And the takeaway is you are no longer taking reasonably. The take away is that you have an exact position and all others are not just factually incorrect (the purview of this site), but are morally wrong and should be stamped out (a dogmatically aggressive approach that I think is more tasteless than the denialism itself, and is certainly not the attitude of a respectable skeptic). – fredsbend Feb 13 at 22:03

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