Clarification of rule against hate speech

The staff would like to clarify the SDMB’s long-standing rule against hate speech and our views on racist speech on the SDMB generally.

  1. Hate speech – that is, racial epithets and other pejorative remarks about minorities that in our opinion are clearly racist – is prohibited in all forums. If you see instances of hate speech on the SDMB, please flag the post and we will take such action as we think appropriate.

  2. Not all pejorative comments about minorities rise to the level of hate speech or, in our judgment, are clearly racist. We recognize there are differences of opinion on what constitutes racist speech. We leave it to the SDMB community to debate such questions. If you believe a post is racist, you are free to say so, provided you abide by our rule against insults – see point #6 below. Others are free to disagree with you. The belief that the truth will emerge from the clash of views in open debate is a cardinal principle of this board.

  3. Going forward, we’ll enforce the following elaborations of the rule against hate speech:

No slurs or racist cheap shots. Do not post slurs or other cheap shots against minorities, including but not limited to groups characterized by race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, or gender orientation. Example: In a discussion of Henry Ford ordering his engineers to examine a foreign aircraft so they could copy it, poster A commented, “What the h*ll–did Ford think he was Chinese or something?” This gratuitous remark in a thread having nothing to do with China plays to the stereotype that Chinese people as a class are ripoff artists. This is a racist cheap shot. Remarks of this type will be modded.

Please note that we would NOT object to fact-based discussions of whether Chinese entities engage in intellectual property theft. This is a debatable proposition. See further discussion below.

The rule against slurs applies to all ethnic groups including whites. This is a change from past practice. The goal of the SDMB is to promote civil discussion. Slurs impede this goal.

Criticism of minorities to be clearly framed as a debatable proposition. Criticism of minorities on factual grounds is not considered hate speech and is not a violation of SMDB rules, provided it is clearly framed as a debatable proposition. By this we mean that (a) the asserted criticism should be expressed in unambiguous language and not rely on innuendo, “dog whistles,” or the like, and (b) in principle, the criticism could be shown to be unfounded.

Example #1: In a thread about Will Smith’s slapping of Chris Rock at the Academy Awards, user B urged others to Google a photo of the event’s producer (who was Black) and “draw your own conclusions.” User B also said that pointing out the “truths at play here … would get me permanently banned.” This post relies entirely on innuendo, making it impossible to say what is being asserted, except that user B believes it constitutes a bannable offense. Such posts do not promote discussion. If you do not have the courage of your convictions and are unwilling or unable to express your claims clearly, do not make them.

Example #2: In a separate thread, user C cited the post by user B in the previous example and claimed it constituted hate speech. User B responded, “The reason that the person who assaulted another person wasn’t escorted from the room is because the Producer of record is also an African-American… We all look out for our own. It’s human nature… I think that the Producer was looking out for his own.” This is a debatable proposition – it is easy to imagine alternative explanations for the failure to eject Smith. The question of whether it is racist is also arguable. If something is debatable, our policy is to let people debate it.

  1. We reserve the right to prohibit topics of which we have grown weary – for example, claims that some group is better or worse than others for reasons that can be objectively demonstrated, also known as scientific racism. (For a complete list of tired topics, see “New Rules for Great Debates” at the top of the Great Debates forum.) If you feel new information has come to light that warrants reopening of a tired topic, you are free to petition the staff, but be aware that you face a high bar.

  2. If we detect a pattern of pejorative or otherwise objectionable comments about minorities by you that, taken individually, do not rise to the level of hate speech but that, in aggregate, detract from civil discussion, we may tell you to stop; failure to do so may result in suspension or revocation of your posting privileges.

  3. You are free to criticize a post as racist provided you refrain from insults. Direct your comments at the post, not the poster. “This post is racist” is not objectionable. “You are a racist” is an insult and may result in a warning or other mod action. Do not attempt to skirt this rule with remarks such as “only a racist would say such a thing” or other game-playing.

To summarize, hate speech and other remarks that in our opinion are clearly racist are a violation of SDMB rules. However, we do not wish to rule preemptively on every comment that could possibly be construed as racist. We leave such judgments to the collective wisdom of this board.

Thank you. This seems reasonably clear to me. I do expect to see all sorts of rules lawyering from the usual suspects, so you (moderators) have your work cut out for you to continue to flesh this out with new and ongoing cases.

Especially thank you for the clarification of why the innuendo posts of User B were not acceptable.

Is it? So until this post, someone making potshots at white people wouldn’t have been modded?

So vile racial epithets about majority groups are okay?

And if so, is this location-dependent? (A racial minority in one country may be a majority elsewhere.)

No. I quote: “The rule against slurs applies to all ethnic groups including whites.”

I don’t recall any specific cases, but the general feeling seemed to be that we hadn’t been modding slurs against whites (“white trash,” that kind of thing). From here on out we will. A slur is a slur and contributes nothing of value.

And two posts later…

Overall a positive change, and clearing up the lines seems a good goal overall. I’m sure (as usual) some people will feel it goes to far, and some that it goes not far enough.

And of course, once again, the mods, the poor sots, will get the slimy end of the stick with having to figure out where the line from honest debate to mealy mouthed ‘soft’ racism. Best of luck to them!

You really think this is a good thread to talk about the mods drinking habits? :slightly_smiling_face:


Okay, I had that coming.

Fine, if -I- had to do the job the mods do, I would be a drooling alcoholic or otherwise legal-substance abusing basket case with a hangover and an axe to grind.

If they can manage with such crutches, I nominate them for sainthood / superhero status and continue to envy them not at all.

Especially on this particular subject, where the free speech at all costs (or so they claim to protect, perhaps correctly) and those that are trying to make our speech reflect a better reality than we are stuck with go at it with wild abandon.

Perhaps a nitpick, but is “minorities” the best word to use here? It suggests that slurs and cheap shots against majority groups might be okay.

“against groups of people on the basis of a protected characteristic” is a mouthful, usually shortened to “protected groups”.


“Minorities” was used because “cheap shots against groups” sounded lame, and minorities historically have borne the brunt of most slurs. A little later we clarified that the rule against slurs applies to all ethnic groups, period.

Is this an established portmanteau of gender identity and sexual orientation? I don’t know if I’ve ever read gender orientation before.

Not being snarky, just curious.


We are boldly pushing the envelope of acceptable English usage.

I feel like a troll will make a borderline racist post and then the thread is totally hijacked by debate over whether it is racist.

ETA: Previously said accusation of racism would be relegated to the Pit, or ATMB. = no hijacks in thread.

How are mods supposed to respond if accusations of racism turn into hijacks? Are we going to risk getting warned anyways for accusing, or defending, an allegedly racist post?


Hijacks will still be closed, or moved to another thread. If the question of “was that post racist?” is peripheral to the thread, and attracts more than a handful of posts, we’ll still ask you to take it elsewhere. But it doesn’t need to be the pit.

(If the conversation is, “hey, PuzzleGal, you just used an offensive slur.” And i reply, “oops, i didn’t realize, i apologize and won’t do it against”, then it can live in the thread. I’ve actually had exactly that conversation on another board, by the way. I used what i thought was a “colorful” expression, and i got three PMs and an in-thread comment telling me i had made a serious mistake.)

Hijacks, not just ones about racism, are a perennial problem. The mods have shown great patience and ingenuity in dealing with such things in the past and I’m sure they’ll continue to do so.

That reminds me, I have to post another procedural clarification, so excuse me while I tend to that.