I don't know why, but it seems like every day I log on here to see if there are any interesting questions to ponder, and another new user is frantically asking a question about what the exposure is for sexting a minor across international lines. Can there just be a blanket policy that these kind of questions get automatically taken down, even if phrased as a 'hypothetical?'


If it's the same sort of question you should VTC as "Duplicate" (and reference any of the other questions, closed or otherwise).

If it seems to be the same person asking the same question, or using different accounts to circumvent a closure or question ban, then you can flag it and note that (point to at least one of the other questions and/or accounts) so a moderator can ban/delete/merge or even IP-ban as appropriate.

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    @ColinLosey Even answered questions can be closed. (And there's no guarantee that a flag will be handled sooner than five users VTC.) If you mean that a question is clearly over the line and should be deleted ASAP you can flag it in addition to voting to close. But I can't think of any subjects, including "international sexting minors," that are a priori "over the line." – feetwet Mar 3 at 17:03

If the question involves significantly different aspects of such a situation than previous questions did, and is not asking for specific legal advice, it should be left open. As Feetwet says, if it is a duplicate, it can be marked and closed as such. If it is a RSLA it should ideally be rewritten to be on topic, but it can also be closed until and unless so re-written.

  • Well so what I'm saying is that even without explicitly asking for legal advice, I think we can infer that these questions are not hypotheticals. – user36183 Mar 3 at 2:52
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    Many of our questions here probably are not hypotheticals. That in and of itself is not a valid reason for closing them.. – David Siegel Mar 3 at 3:31
  • it absolutely is a valid reason, this site isn't for giving actual legal advice. – user36183 Mar 3 at 14:45
  • @ColinLosey ... which is why we have the site disclaimer emphasizing that legal information "is not a substitute for individualized advice from a qualified legal practitioner." And why we do regularly VTC questions that are RSLA. David Siegel merely points out that a RSLA can often be rewritten so that it is a "request for legal information," and that is arguably a worthwhile practice. – feetwet Mar 3 at 17:11
  • @ColinLosey . A "request for legal information," even when motivated by an actual, non-hypothetical situation, that is not a RSLA, is a perfectly fine question, and should not be closed on that basis. Consider the many questions we get about real situation from current news, for example. A person who posts "I am in Situation X, what is the law that applies" has a valid quotation. Indeed the general network-wide SE guidelines say that all questions should be about "actual, practical" problems, although that doesn't apply as much to sites such as this one, or say the SF&F site. – David Siegel Mar 3 at 17:18
  • @ColinLosey there is no practical way to exclude real situations from this site and have a site worth having, in my view. SE corporate was involved in drafting the site disclaimer, in think, and CDA section 230 would protect SE, which cannot be considered the author or publisher of any user post here. I do not think ther nis significant risk. I also think that we make a general rule that any question based on a real situation should be closed, we might as well shut down this stack. – David Siegel Mar 3 at 17:53
  • @DavidSiegel ah come on there's plenty of interesting legal questions that are purely hypothetical. – user36183 Mar 3 at 18:33
  • @ColinLosey I honestly think that a blanket ban on questions apparently derived from real situations would be fatally destructive to the site, leaving it merely as an exercise for law students. I also think it would be quite incompatible with the general nature of stack exchange. We will see how others feel on this point. – David Siegel Mar 3 at 18:44
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    @DavidSiegel alright. I just want to back up though. I'm not saying questions derived from real situations are necessarily a bad idea. I think it's fine for someone to open a newspaper, read about an interesting case, and then post on here about it. The Capital riot obviously generated a bunch of these questions. What I think is bad is when someone is asking a question because they or a friend actually want legal advice. And what I'm further saying is that taking those kind of questions and 'rephrasing' them as 'hypotheticals' doesn't solve that issue. – user36183 Mar 3 at 18:47

I am not in favour of this suggestion.

Sexting in itself is not unlawful, it only (mainly) becomes so when it involves children, so a blanket ban may prevent legitimate questions being asked by those purely curious about legal theory or wishing to pose hypertheticals for any number of innocent - and lawful - reasons.

Instead I prefer the current policing by self-regulation being practiced which, in my opinion, works perfectly well in weeding out posts via down votes, VTC or raising helpful flags.

A search of LawSE reveals there have been four questions this calendar year containing "sext" out of a grand total of 17 questions since May 2015, so we are not really experiencing a deluge.

I echo Iñaki Viggers' observations about spiralling blanket bans, and surmise there may more than 17 questions about other potentially unlawful activities so why not ban these as well?

  • Well I'm not suggesting to ban all questions about potentially unlawful activities. Just those relating to international sexting between minors. They may not literally use the stem "sext" btw. – user36183 Mar 3 at 18:36
  • My search using "sext" captured all words containing those four consecutive letters eg sexted and sexting. So if these are not used by an OP how do you propose to achieve a blanket ban? I doubt the mods would be willing to sit with their finger poised above the delete button bearing in mind how infrequent such posts are? – Rock Ape Mar 3 at 18:39
  • Also, there's not much interesting legal theory involved in laws about sexting minors. As you pointed out, it's pretty black and white: it's legal if its between consenting adults, and illegal otherwise. So, there's little downside to such a ban. It's not like banning all criminal law questions, or something where you'd be cutting off a whole area of legal theory. – user36183 Mar 3 at 18:39
  • Right I'm saying there could be a post about this issue that doesn't use any word that contains 'sext' in it. – user36183 Mar 3 at 18:39

Can we just have a blanket policy that these kind of questions get automatically taken down, even if phrased as a 'hypothetical?'

We shouldn't.

I personally distrust and altogether skip questions related to child pornography and sex involving minors. I sense those questions to be some people's attempt to know their way around a topic that is plain repugnant. But implementing a blanket policy for this could start up a spiral of automated blanket policies for truly edifying topics.

If you perceive someone "is frantically asking [...] about what the exposure is", tipping Law Enforcement would be more effective.

  • Why would it start a spiral of blanket policies? – user36183 Mar 3 at 14:44
  • @ColinLosey "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds ..." etc. – feetwet Mar 3 at 17:06
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    @ColinLosey "Why would it start a spiral of blanket policies?" Because then one person or another will request a blanket policy to automatically take down posts about Trump, posts that are not in English, posts seeking legal advice, posts written in 1st-person, and so forth for every imaginable thing that might not be to someone's liking. – Iñaki Viggers Mar 3 at 17:27
  • @IñakiViggers But, and maybe I'm missing something here, it seems like those requests for blanket policies could be just...not granted. Except for posts seeking legal advice, which this site already has a blanket policy against. – user36183 Mar 3 at 17:29
  • @ColinLosey There is no objective way of drawing a line on which requests for blanket policies for automatic closing ought to be granted. Hence the VTC functionality that the other two answers have pointed out. The policy about seeking legal advice [luckily] does not automatically close questions. Instead, it relies on said VTC mechanism. – Iñaki Viggers Mar 3 at 17:35
  • @IñakiViggers ok so when someone has a request for a blanket policy (like I do), the moderators can just consider whether that blanket policy would be a good one and then say yes or no. – user36183 Mar 3 at 17:36
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    We already have a policy against questions not in English. They're simply not allowed on the network but for specific exceptions, and Law is not one of them. We already have a policy against questions seeking specific legal advice. They're not allowed either, and there is a custom VTC reason for it. If these are meant to be examples of where policy requests go wrong and should not be assented, they have very definitely missed the mark. – Nij Mar 3 at 23:50
  • @Nij "We already have a policy". You are missing the point. Existence of policies does not imply automatic closing of a post. The OP basically wants some implementation so that "questions get automatically taken down" (emphasis added) instead of allowing the community to self-regulate. I edited to add "automated" and thus make this even clearer. – Iñaki Viggers Mar 5 at 21:17
  • If by automatic you choose the most limited definition, then of course not, almost nothing is ever automatically closed or deleted. But arguing the most limited definition instead of looking at context to determine what is meant, well, I'm not interested in teaching that when it's already been refused. – Nij Mar 5 at 21:22
  • @Nij "arguing the most limited definition instead of looking at context". Nobody is ignoring the context. The context is that the OP wants posts automatically taken down, which is why also other contributors are reminding him of the VTC & flags functionality instead of having the policy automated (or whatever milder definition of automation you'd like to adopt). – Iñaki Viggers Mar 5 at 21:42

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