I recently asked a question: Did Hunter Biden launder 3 million dollars of Ukrainian money? That question has a comment that says,

Voted to close since "questions about unresolved current events and issues currently under investigation by a court of law, government, or other similar investigative body are off-topic because there is insufficient data for a meaningful answer". For more information, see Handling current news questions. -- And I really don't get why something as blatantly off-topic is actually getting upvoted. – DevSolar 14 hours ago

It's not clear to me though how to read Handling news questions about current events though. For example, the selected answer is +2 and concludes that questions like this are off-topic,

Questions about unresolved current events and issues currently under investigation by a court of law, government, or other similar investigative body are off-topic.

But a different answer which wasn't selected is +7 and says,

I think most of the ISIS questions are getting good-quality answers.

Which seems to consent to asking these kinds of questions and concludes that the answers can still be valuable. Who decides the policy? The vote tally on the answers to the moderator's questions, or the moderator who just selects the answer that he agrees with? It would be my preference that moderators do not chose the answer when they solicit input from the community.

(And with all due respect to Sklivvz♦, he's one of the better mods on the site)

3 Answers 3


DevSolar is absolutely right, but also this question should stay closed because the process is ongoing. Whether subject matter like this is on or off topic, matters currently under investigation should be categorically off topic here.

Frankly nobody knows the answer to this, and the last thing we need is to become the kind of site where people chatter endlessly about their opinions of whether something is true or not.

(Pre-emptive reply to the nitpickers - yes there are a handful of people who know the answer, such as Hunter Biden, but they aren't posting here.)

  • That's not at all what DevSolar said, he said quite explicitly that his problem with the question is that it's on an "unproven allegation". If you can prove the allegation, I wouldn't be skeptical about it. DevSolar says quite explicitly he's against all questions not on "pseudoscience or biased results". That would exclude a lot of questions on this site which are about unproven allegations. Sep 25, 2019 at 14:38
  • I know my answer is different from DevSolar's that's why I wrote mine. I'm fine with the site covering things other than psuedoscience, but it should absolutely not be allowed to discuss questions which we know cannot be definitively answered yet. Sep 25, 2019 at 14:41
  • When the question seeks yes or no answers, and both answers have support, both answers can be and are made on this site, as you personally have recently demonstrated in an answer of you own. So all this talk about definitive answers is not ... definitive at all.
    – user11643
    Sep 25, 2019 at 16:47
  • 1
    Never mind that. This meta question asks why the less upvoted selected answer is taking precedence over the higher upvoted answer. You haven't addressed that.
    – user11643
    Sep 25, 2019 at 16:51
  • 1
    “Nobody knows the answer to this” has always seemed like a poor justification to close these types of questions because the same can be said of many medical questions (e.g. vape safety questions until recently) which never get closed. Closing also often causes the question to be deleted before the information becomes available for it to be reopened, and when it doesn’t it just is a barrier to getting the answer. We always get chatter but chatter always gets deleted, so is there actually a good reason for this close reason?
    – Laurel
    Sep 25, 2019 at 23:28

Let me copy @Oddthinking's comment from your question:

Law enforcement agencies have detectives. Newspapers have investigative journalists. Courts have lawyers, processes and the ability to punish. We have... Google Search. We summarise what researchers have found and published. With breaking stories, we need to give time for that. Hence the close reason.

Let me also point out that some people -- myself included -- understood this site to be more focussed on science related questions.

Also, one person's "fact checking" on what certain people said or did, especially with things that are just now making the news headlines, could easily be construed as mudslinging / FUD, even if that isn't the OP's intention.

I am willing to be told that Skeptics.SE is for general "fact checking", but my close-vote and comment on that question of yours was due to the fact that the subject was not about "pseudoscience or biased results", but a detective question on an unproven allegation.

  • 1
    That's a bold redefinition of the site. There is currently nothing about this site that limits the subject matter to "pseudoscience or biased results". Currently, any definitive claim can be questioned here. Is your objection matter that the whole site should be redefined to exclude "unproven allegations" or that this has something to do with timeliness. If so, when and how does a question satisfy the criteria that sufficient time has passed and how should we expect the person asking the question to know that? Sep 25, 2019 at 14:36
  • @EvanCarroll: I don't think that it is a redefinition at all. The first line of the tour states that "Skeptics is a question and answer site for applying scientific scepticism" (emphasis mine). The paragraph closes with how it is about building "a library of detailed answers challenging unreferenced notable claims, pseudoscience and biased results". I am not redefining the site at all, I am asking (in my own meta) about redefining the currently rather permissive policy of allowing non-science-related questions, (tbc.)
    – DevSolar
    Sep 25, 2019 at 14:43
  • (ctd.) ...especially those that are, in my opinion, much more appropriate for FactCheck.org or Snopes. As for your question, I would consider it OT on Skeptics even in a couple of years (as it's not about science in the least). Possibly on-topic on History.SE at some point. Even with current policy, it's OT as it's an unproven allegation, and we are neither investigators nor a court.
    – DevSolar
    Sep 25, 2019 at 14:45
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    This meta question asks why the less upvoted selected answer is taking precedence over the higher upvoted answer. You haven't addressed that.
    – user11643
    Sep 25, 2019 at 16:52
  • @fredsbend This question is constucted explicitly around my comment linking to that other question (because the VtC template does). I reserve the right to have a different interpretation of what that link signifies than the OP, and set right what I meant.
    – DevSolar
    Sep 25, 2019 at 16:55

Stack Exchange is not a democracy.

Fundamentally it's owned by Stack Exchange the company. They get to decide. And that's a good thing.

Most other internet forums have decided that they are not democracies, especially Wikipedia, which requires that (for example) deletions are not decided simply by number of votes but by consensus and strength of argument. It's built into their system that the majority doesn't get to rule over the minority. Any successful site is going to want to do the same. It is simply to easy to game the system with online voting. Read Clay Shirky if you don't believe me.

More to the point, with a site like Skeptics whose aim is the truth, voting is not an indication of truth. More Republicans than Democrats visit? Then all the answers will show Trump is a champion of the people and victim of an elite media. More Democrats than Republicans? Donald Trump is guilty of multiple counts of treason.

Relying solely on votes for policy is a recipe for disaster on a site like this.

  • I think the question is about meta voting and site policy provenance. In that case, it is democratic, no?
    – user11643
    Sep 26, 2019 at 2:08
  • No. Policies are not necessarily decided by the number of votes on a question. And they shouldn't be. That's my point. Sep 26, 2019 at 2:09
  • That's not been my experience in 6 years of SErvice.
    – user11643
    Sep 26, 2019 at 2:18
  • @fredsbend This answer comes somewhat closer to the question above. But of course, one has to infer from this that "nobody knows the answer" as well (from other answer: question should therefore be closed). There are zero indicators from younger meta posts that anything became official policy? Policy isn't changing in any direction. And never on meta. We have an old constitution and community common law as it emerges from behaviour on main, that's it. DJ: if I am wrong please point to these indicators! Sep 26, 2019 at 10:03
  • @LangLangC I wasn't on skeptics in early days, and there is low meta participation here, but on other sites where I was, it was more democratic than DJ seems to say. We'd have an argument on a post, then someone would ask on meta. We'd flesh it out there, then sometimes that question, or a cleaner one synthesizing the points we mostly agreed on would be tagged FAQ. SE staff was mostly absent from this process. I don't know if the 18 questions here tagged faq were created this way.
    – user11643
    Sep 26, 2019 at 14:53
  • @fredsbend That's just the thing, arguing over one post is what works on meta. The question here goes from one of these (and gets a very mainQ related A from DevSolar) but is really about general policy. And for that there are no visible indicators anywhere of any discussion in the last years on meta being adopted officially and transparently anyhow into 'this is now policy'. It's abuffer for specific complaints on individual posts and self-reassurance about existing policy and otherwise nothing? I don't see anything from recent years that would indicate that something was changed, or how. Sep 26, 2019 at 14:59
  • @LangLangC I think all SE sites tend this way. Change for the sake of change won't happen. On sites whe I was part of the process, the formative years did see active metas, policy changes and updates, and overall comraderie in building something together. It was half the fun.
    – user11643
    Sep 26, 2019 at 15:24
  • @fredsbend Not only 'for the sake of it'. Even if there should be need for it, there is no way to initiate that and no way to tell. Sep 26, 2019 at 15:28
  • For others reading (lol) we've concurrently talked about this in chat too.
    – user11643
    Sep 26, 2019 at 15:33

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