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I have never written a post like this before, because I generally do not care how StackOverflow is moderated or run. I apologize if this is overly wordy.

There is an active question which asks about another of the interchangeable antivaccine theories. To support that this theory is notable, the author links to a very antisemitic article on a crank website, where the specific question is surrounded by a very lengthy piece which blames the Jews for both the pandemic, and for vaccine-caused genocides.

I would argue that these sources should not be allowed to support notable claims. If the only source for something is a bunch of jewish space laser cranks, it's not notable. Find something that isn't horrible to link to.

That however, is not the position of the moderation team, which is not great. I don't think this platform is obligated to allow these people to spread their hate, but I can write skeptical responses to horrible anti-jew tropes. There's merit to allowing these people to talk so that you can smash their terrible ideas, and it's a position I can at least live with.

I wrote an answer to this question, which also specifically addressed the antisemitism that was all over the link advertised in the question. This answer had some upvotes, and had some downvotes (a reasonable number of people thought that parts of the answer were somewhat off-topic because the question itself didn't actually blame the jews for anything).

Then one moderator vandalized my answer, and another moderator told me to delete the part of the answer that addressed the antisemitism. When I declined, it was deleted by the moderation team. This is not acceptable. Allowing people to spread their horrible racisms or antisemitisms and specifically prohibiting skeptical analysis of these positions is not acceptable.

It does not matter that the policy you are enforcing is ostensibly position-neutral (for the record, I do not believe that the moderators would have enforced the policy in the same way if the position in question was anti-white racism instead of antisemitism). You have created a set of policies that allows me to fill a question with horrible racisms, and as long as I carefully ask a question that's tangential to the racisms, I get to spread my terrible opinions while nobody is allowed to respond.

You need to either change your policies to prohibit links to this type of content or you need to allow people to tear these terrible ideas to pieces. This is not the first time someone has brought up the problem with bad sources. I would like to specifically note that the moderator who deleted the answer that prompted this post has an opinion about why these links should be allowed:

We don't want idiots to become martyrs

By refusing to directly tackle bad ideas, we allow the proponents of those ideas to paint themselves as unfairly treated, and suggest that the ideas they have are so dangerously effective, the establishment is stopping them from sharing them.

By demolishing the ideas with evidence, we remove this opportunity.

We want the claims to be challenged

When someone naive tries to investigate these claims, trying to decide whether the denialists have a point, we want there to be Google hits to demolish their arguments. We want the aggrieved parties of the defamatory falsehoods to have a platform where they can present the evidence for the truth.

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  • For the record, I support strongly tim's recent revision, which replaced the crank antisemitic site with a different notable source. I also support any user making such edits, not just mods. Additionally, I'm confident the other mods agree. When that's not possible, you can vtc (assuming you have the privilege).
    – fredsbend Mod
    Dec 4 '21 at 20:00
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    I do appreciate that edit - I'm fine with my answer getting nuked if the nonsense I was answering goes away. It wasn't a great answer anyway.
    – CJR
    Dec 4 '21 at 20:10
  • Am I correct to read the Qtitle here as a question about what to do with such sources in questions? Can you clarify the title? (It also reads as if you raise a big bunch of issues: Qsources, notability criteria, 'push questions', (de-)platforming, answer quality policy, moderation practices, maybe more? If all these are within this Q, & to be addressed in As here, I think it might help if you categorise those by spelling all these issues out in the structure of your post? Dec 4 '21 at 21:53
  • @fredsbend agreed, this is a better solution, however I wasn't happy that the question is now in German (most people are not German speakers) and even with translations, nuances are lost. Secondly, Dr Campra's name was erased which was the foundation for the claim in the first place. Dec 7 '21 at 17:21
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    @LangLаngС The issue isn't what to do with racist nonsense questions. The issue is what do you do with questions that link to racist nonsense but ask about a tangential topic. The specific example asks about an antivaccine conspiracy, but linked to a blog post which mentioned the conspiracy in the middle of a lot of antisemitic nonsense. Do you let answers go off-topic from the question to address the racist nonsense? Does the racism being a click away make it immune to criticism?
    – CJR
    Dec 8 '21 at 18:32
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    It's not clear, at least to me, what the utility of filtering racism might be -- especially in this context, on a site devoted to skepticism, and where the racism is tied together with conspiracy theory that's being critiqued. If anything, having racism appear in such contexts would seem to bring it yet further disrepute.
    – Nat
    Dec 11 '21 at 21:27
  • @Nat On the contrary, it makes it all that much harder to have honest discussion and questions and answers on race. Kind of like poisoning the well.
    – fredsbend Mod
    Dec 28 '21 at 14:24
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I take three key points from this question:

  1. A rehash of a previous meta-question (that you cite).
  2. A complaint that your answer was unfairly treated.
  3. A casual accusation of casual racism amongst the mods.

Let's go through those:

Should we allow hate sites in notability links?

As you mention, we have discussed this before: Non notable claims, made only on hate and or conspiracy sites, should be deleted

You disagree with my top answer there (while also saying you can live with it), but what you don't do is provide any substantive argument against it. You quote parts of it, without suggesting why it might be wrong. I don't want to just repeat my arguments if they weren't persuasive the first time, but I have no reason to change them.

I think it is worth emphasizing that notability is not veracity.

We don't exclude questions because they come from unreliable sources. If we did, not only would we would be begging the question, but we would be defeating the whole purpose of the site (and giving mods too much discretion).

Notability is defined here as widely believed, and as horrible as it is, antisemitic claims are widely believed.

If we can replace the notability references with less objectionable sources or mark them with a content warning, it would be an improvement. But we shouldn't confuse that with the claim not being notable.

Was your answer vandalized and unfairly removed?

You describe your answer as a skeptical analysis of the antisemitic claims in the original source.

It wasn't a skeptical analysis. It was snark built on poorly-constructed theories, basic fallacies and no evidence. That is the reason it was edited and removed.

If you graffiti a public wall with your political views, and someone comes and repaints the wall removing the graffiti, it is not them who is doing vandalism.

Firstly, we have to accept anti-semites can be right on other topics.

Philipp Lenard was a pro-Nazi, antisemitic... chucklehead. (I feel constrained on the language I can use here.) He was also right about the shape of rain drops.

That doesn't make his racism okay. But it means we cannot simply argue "Because he is wrong about Jews and he is causing more harm to science and society with those views than he is helping with his experiments, we can conclude he is wrong about the shape of rain drops."

That would be a classic ad hominem fallacy.

It is not unreasonable to ask or answer a question about Henry Ford here without reference to his chucklehead views about Judaism.

Similarly, it is not unreasonable to ask if this chucklehead is right about vaccine ingredients, even though he is offensively wrong about other topics.

So, tackling the antisemiticism isn't enough. You need to tackle the claim.

Here is an example of a question about a claim from a hate group, where I first addressed the claim, and then addressed the antisemiticism derived from the claim.

Your answer argued that vaccines could not contain Graphene Hydroxide because the original claimant had not been "executed by the Rothschild-controlled central banks" - the first mention of such a theory in the question or answer. You didn't even give evidence that the claimant was still alive. That is NOT addressing antisemitism and it is NOT addressing the question.

Your answer had some weird digression about Australian death camps - nothing to do with the question nor the antisemitism. It linked to an unrelated conspiracy theory blog which, inevitably, has antisemitic blood libel content too. [Forgive me for not linking it here.] If questions having links to sites with hate-filled content is bad, answers having such links is much worse.

The strongest part of the answer was that Belgium (why cherry-pick Belgium?) has a moderately high vaccination rate and you claim (without reference, just that you would have heard) there have been not been a high number of deaths after vaccinations there.

We don't accept unreferenced political posturing. We don't accept theoretical answers without references. You explicitly refused to fix the answer, and it was deleted.

Do we have casual antisemitism amongst the mods?

You write:

for the record, I do not believe that the moderators would have enforced the policy in the same way if the position in question was anti-white racism instead of antisemitism

This is an irresponsible and uncalled for accusation. You should take more care before throwing around such insults.

Fortunately, we can show that have a long record of dealing with antisemitic and racist claims responsibly:

Here are a smattering or related questions:

I think the results of these questions - which often required careful editing and moderation, as users with 10K rep can confirm - reflects well on Skeptics.SE as a site dealing with such claims.

While I maintain that we haven't recognised any taboos on this site, I have a couple of caveats. One is that, we used to be bothered by a very, very persistent, but not very bright, Holocaust-denying chucklehead troll asking questions in bad faith to promote stupid ideas. As a result, if a question touches on Holocaust denial, the mods tend to scrutinise it more carefully and give very little latitude. The topic isn't banned, as the questions above demonstrate, but it needs to follow the rules.

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  • To clarify, I don't think y'all are antisemitic, but I do think you and your user base (as is generally true for stackoverflow) are very demographically homogeneous. The pushback for hate speech against that demographic seems to be a bit stronger than other hate speech (although several people did point it out in this specific example, and the mods eventually fixed the problem).
    – CJR
    Dec 6 '21 at 14:57
  • Also to clarify, the weird article about covid death camps was from the same source as the question (it was suggested as additional reading in a sidebar to me).
    – CJR
    Dec 6 '21 at 14:58
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    I wish there was some way I could test this claim - I wish even more there was some way to put money on it: The demographics of the user base of Skeptics.SE are seriously skewed compared to any of (a) the world, (b) the Internet, or (c) the USA, AND that demographic is over-represented with self-identifying Jews and ethnic Jews (maybe not practising Jews nor orthodox Jews).
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Dec 6 '21 at 15:15
  • Stackoverflow skews straight white dude so hard even a pretty large difference is gonna be off any normal population.I don't know about Jewish demographics though. Frankly, it's noticable based on what people assume the default position that doesn't require evidence is for a lot of things, imo.
    – CJR
    Dec 6 '21 at 16:07
  • +1 I totally agree with everything you say here. Reading the comments it seems that people are mistakingly getting hung up on the notability via the linked website, in reality the opposite was true; I used any website merely as an entry point because notability was so strong but ethereal. I could have just as easily linked to the search query. I think notability could be better quantified using metrics similar to trending hashtags or mentions rather than trying to find one 'legitimite' source. Dec 7 '21 at 20:48
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    @AdamNathan: Linking to search queries is fraught - we all get different results and they change over time.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Dec 8 '21 at 11:34
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    @CJR: Would you like to give a few examples so we can know what to watch for?
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Dec 8 '21 at 11:35
  • I opened a new question skeptics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4808/… to discuss my point above. Dec 8 '21 at 12:02
  • Is anyone else bothered by the subtle racism here? What does straight-white-men or disproportionate Jewish demographics have to do with anything? Dec 8 '21 at 19:47
  • If any answer on Skrptics is unsupported, poorly organised and does not succeed in debunking a claim, it should not be radically edited but left largely alone and the community allowed to express their disapproval or not.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 9 '21 at 7:47
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    @Mari-LouA: We have stricter rules than that. There needs to be references. It can't be just a speculation. It needs to answer the question. Because we don't want a discussion - we want answers. If you want us to totally change what is acceptable here, you'll need to argue your case on some meta-questions.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Dec 9 '21 at 12:44
  • Why don't you trust the users in the community to self-regulate themselves? Obviously, I would expect very low quality and troll answers to be flagged and, hopefully, handled quickly. Do you think the core user base needs to be spoon-fed for the benefit of the community?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 9 '21 at 13:57
  • @Mari-LouA: Please take it to a separate meta-question. (I would ask that any such question avoids the emotive terms, and clarifies what you mean by "self-regulate" if you also want flagging, and who the "core user base" and how it differs from Internet randoms.)
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Dec 9 '21 at 14:28
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I partly agree with you, though as a mod I feel like I can't put my personal believes over established, community-shaped policies. We are here to enforce site rules, not act as we please (that doesn't mean that we can't help shape the rules though).

If the only source for something is a bunch of jewish space laser cranks, it's not notable.

Sadly, I think that this isn't necessarily true. If we can show that a lot of people read these crank sources, then it's notable (the space laser claim eg would be notable, even if it weren't also picked up by non-crank media). I do have my doubt about the notability of this specific source, but not enough to mod-close. As a member, you are free to vote to close though (and of course, to downvote).

Find something that isn't horrible to link to.

Whenever possible, I'd edit questions which use antisemitic or racist sources with non-bigoted alternatives (I did not see the antisemitic content here; thanks for pointing it out, I have replaced the source).

Regarding your answer: Personally, I'm fine with an aside that addresses implied claims, or other claims in the source that aren't in the question. They shouldn't be the majority of the answer though, and they should be sourced (and ideally not contain too much sarcasm). The part of your answer that addressed the claim was largely theoretical, and as such your answer was deleted along with a number of other theoretical answers.

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  • I think you bring up a good point, just because the source has issues doesn't mean it isn't believed and in need of serious debunking. Unless the post is an attempt to spread something instead of finding out the truth I don't think we should worry about it.
    – Joe W
    Dec 4 '21 at 20:02
  • Such edit practices are somehow inherently problematic: you introduce 2nd-hand quoting, in this case from an unreliable site that claims to be a sceptics site, but it can also be described as a hate-speech site ("Internetpranger"). Psiram is a source not neutral, but too often heavily bigoted itself. As a source for As I'd rate them very very low—for Qs I won't mind either src, preferring the directest. It is more important to frame the Q for a racist or otherwise 'bad' claim in a non bad way and not to allow such bad content in any As, which then are the place to shred dreck properly. Dec 4 '21 at 21:40
  • The current framing of the Q text is then leading answers: by labeling the claim as a conspiracy theory (which it probably is, mind you, but that is pushy in itself, even if well meant or even 'correct'). As a rule, Qs should all be more open ended? // That said, aren't there other ways to reduce the pushy-plus from links to terrible sites? Like making the link explicit but 'unclickable'? (to not feed the search engine algos… Not that too many users here are really following up to check the alleged source for correctness of claims quoted)? Dec 4 '21 at 21:46
  • @LangLаngС Sources in questions don't need to be reliable, they need to be notable. Psiram has a German wiki article, which - considering their very strict notability requirements - imho shows notability of the source. The original source wasn't reliable either, and of questionable notability. Calling a site that debunks conspiracy theories a "hate-speech site" seems like a reach and the other site was clearly antisemitic. The problem here is that the antisemitic stuff wasn't part of the claim, so answers are going off topic if they address the antisemitism, which is not a great situation.
    – tim Mod
    Dec 5 '21 at 9:15
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    Notable the claim is. If sources for claims in Qs are replaced by 2nd-hand sources: then we need these 2nd-hand ones to be reliable representations of the original claim! Psiram is a bad bet for that (& has its own big problems). Now your edit might also read as: - is Psiram's paraphrase/summary a correct one? (without title, I'd read strictly that one as the primaryQ here) - is 'this' really a 'conspiracy theory'? (unnecessary lead/label/framing here) - is Noack's claim indeed true/false? But only the latter should be answered. So caution is required when 'editing for greater good'? Dec 5 '21 at 10:34
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This is a really difficult topic. The purpose of our site is to debunk bad information, but every time we post a question here we also publish potentially bad information. There is no way around that, and I think in most cases it is worth the additional exposure we give those claims in order to be able to debunk them.

But if we have a question that was actually not widely published before, and it gets a hot network question we fail our primary purpose. We become a publisher of bad information instead of a site focused on debunking it. It only makes sense to debunk claims that people actually believe, in our case this specifically means that the additional exposure we give the claim must not be larger than the exposure it already has. That is one of the purposes of our notability requirements, to ensure that we can't easily be misused to spread misinformation instead of fighting it.

In practice this gets really, really messy. In the end it comes down to judgement calls by us moderators because for the non-obvious cases there are no good objective measures of notability.

One problem in this particular case is that the actual claim is completely separate from the offensive and anti-semitic conspiracy theories in that article. I didn't even notice these at first because they were not part of the quote. I think this is the primary reason why the moderation action here feel so wrong to you. Removing your answer is entirely correct if we consider the narrow version of this claim that only consists of the specific quote. I think that is the more useful version of the claim we should address, but that is not a completely obvious distinction and I don't think we can entirely ignore the offensive rest of the blog post.

I think we need to be able to tolerate questions with inherently offensive claims, if the value of debunking them outweighs the harm we do by giving them a bigger audience. But this case is just so much messier because the offensive parts are not the core of the claim. I think switching out the sources is the best we can do here.

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    Just to clarify, with the source changed I support the removal of the comments about the context within the source & the answers that targeted the side content. I would agree that it's the best option. When I initially posted this, the comments & answers had been removed, but the source link was not (and that was the basis for my concern).
    – CJR
    Dec 8 '21 at 21:05
  • How much extra-benefit does a dreck site get if its 'nofollow' linked and only the specific claim relevant bit quoted? + Wouldn't it be much better —in this case & in general— to switch sources that remain 'primary' ones? IE: Showing notability by linking to an instance that shows that it itself promotes an idea (the example shows that the 2nd hand source 'does not believe the claim to be true' already)? Dec 9 '21 at 8:23
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I wrote the original question the OP is referring to and personally I'm glad the mods did their job properly and deleted the 'non-answer' by said OP, which by then accrued the highest number of votes and over dominated the other answers.

In my opinion it felt closer to a rant and emotional rather than factual. I wrote the question with no ill-intent. I didn't peruse the site, had no awareness of any antisemitic rhetoric; it was the highest, (I think, but definitely towards the top of searching Graphene Hydroxide). If anyone has an issue about promoting antisemitic websites, I suggest to take it up with search engines and not here.

I don't believe Jews should be held to a different standard with regards to hate speech, and I take offense to suggest that moderators would behave differently with any other group. It's mind-reading and attributing motives.

Lastly, since a large part of SE is debunking conspiracy theories and a large overlap between conspiracies and Jew hatred exists, it's inevitable this will happen again, to clean an infected wound, expect a lot of blood and pus.

Shutting down conversation IMO is the wrong approach and actually adds fuel to the fire, that Jews control the media etc, or censorship proves it must be true. Sunlight is the best disinfectant!

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    The comments here are getting really problematic, I removed all of them now. I apologize for removing some relevant parts here as well, but I can't see a way to keep them in this case. This is a sensitive topic and I'd like to avoid having to interfere here even more.
    – Mad Scientist Mod
    Dec 8 '21 at 20:49

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