Clarification of SDMB rule against calls to action

In light of recent events, we thought it wise to clarify the SDMB’s rule against calls to action and related activities:

No calls to action. Do not instigate members to take specific action for or against any issue or entity. Do not post phone numbers, email addresses or any other personally identifiable information of any entity in this regard. Threads calling for folks to take specific actions (political, charitable, personal, etc.) are prohibited unless there is prior approval from a moderator or administrator. Specificity is the key. A reminder to vote in an upcoming election does not violate this rule. “We’re meeting at 3 p.m. to march to Cong. Smith’s house” does.

No advocacy of harassment, violence or lawbreaking. Do not advocate harassment, violence or lawbreaking as a form of protest or for any other reason. We realize civil disobedience has a long, honorable history, but one person’s civil disobedience can be another’s antisocial act. We don’t want to have to make this distinction.

Discussion of future actions. It is not against our rules to discuss future political actions, protests, campaigns, and the like in general terms, provided you avoid specifics and do not advocate or seem to advocate harassment, violence or lawbreaking. If we believe you have crossed the line from discussion into prohibited territory, we will ask you to stop; please do so or face revocation of your posting privileges.

Helping women get abortions. Discussion of what is and isn’t legal in different places is permissible, as is general discussion of the options available to someone in a jurisdiction in which abortion is illegal. Do not offer specific legal or medical advice, even if you’re an expert in such matters; users have no way to assess your credentials. Referrals to Planned Parenthood or other trustworthy resources are permissible; we will be the judge of trustworthiness.

Does this apply as strictly in breaking news threads?

If the media reports that there is a protest going on that very day in a particular neighborhood outside a named individual’s house (the article names the intersection), I assume we will still be able to link to and discuss the story. Right? As was recently done here.

Another example, the highland park shooting thread included links to the suspect’s father’s Facebook page, during a time when people were trying to learn more about the suspect.

I don’t think either were calls to action but the links certainly approached a prohibition on posting personally identifiable information.



Well, so much for fighting ignorance I guess.

In many places the rule is you can post personally identifiable information if you are reposting it from the media–but not if you found it via internet sleuthing.

Okay, so a while ago I started this thread with the specific intent of asking more politically savvy Dopers for advice on which Democratic races my wife and I might help out to achieve the greatest impact.

As it happens, most of the discussion focused on non-political issues, and we have since found volunteer opportunities we are happy with, but would those posters who mentioned specific candidates in response to my OP be in violation of this rule?

Is advocating support in any form for a specific candidate now verboten? Or only marches, protests, etc.?

You mentioned specificity is the key, apparently with respect to individuals, but what forms of “specific action” fall afoul of the rule? I get that “Let’s go down to Congressman X’s house at 123 Main Street tonight and string him up,” would be beyond the pale.

But am I allowed to post, “I urge my fellow voters to vote for candidate X”? Or “Vote for party X”?

You also mentioned charitable causes. I can’t say, “Please support [charity name here]”? Really?!?

We need more clarity about what this rule is intended to prevent and allow.

Could this be a bit more narrowly defined? The example you gave (‘a reminder to vote in an upcoming election’ vs ‘we’re meeting at 3pm to march to Cong. Smith’s house’) are apples and oranges.

Presumably a ‘reminder’ about a march to someone’s house would be against this rule, but what “we’re meeting at 3pm at the polling place to cast our votes”?

I guess what I’m looking for is how the board is going to define a ‘call to action’ or at least what types calls to action are allowed vs not allowed?
Just from the OP I see these two statements:
“Threads calling for folks to take specific actions (political, charitable, personal, etc.) are prohibited” and
“A reminder to vote in an upcoming election does not violate this rule”
as contradictory.
You’re saying that calling for folks to take specific [political/personal] actions is prohibited, but reminding people to vote (an inherently political action) isn’t prohibited.

Kinda. So I think a call to Vote, DAMMIT, VOTE! would be okay, but how about a “Please vote (D)”?

I personally made a post once asking people not to vote for a candidate (who has since been convicted of voter fraud). It’s not clear whether that runs afoul of the new rule clarification.


I don’t think I’d be crossing a line by simply providing all the exact details someone would need to vote as far as voter registration deadlines. Also, accurate information on some of the bizarre rules for Presidential primaries and caucuses. ‘You need to be registered 60 days in advance AND registered with the party’ for example.

I guess I missed the recent events. Is this in response to one of the threads about abortion?

Yes; it seems to have been the offshoot of several threads by @Roger_That, looking for discussion on outside-the-box thinking on civil disobedience activities, and other activities, which could be more effective in protesting the Supreme Court’s repeal of the Roe v. Wade decision, and then him trying to understand what was and was not allowable within board rules, and why.

This was the first one:

Further threads:

Oh my. An addition to the great plethora of rules.
The rules lawyers will have a field day.

I don’t understand this quest for some sort or pure (negative) neutrality. Yeah, people disagree on whether something is noble or not. So what? The purpose of the rule against calls to action and recommending illegal activity is to prevent the board from being sued. Not because some people might object.

I don’t really see how these rules really clarify anything. Can someone come here and workshop ideas for how to fight back against a horribly decided, clearly partisan law? I think we should be able to, as long as said poster doesn’t then say “Okay, guys, let’s meet up at 3 to enact these new ideas.” Unless they push for a specific action, there’s no legal trouble for the board, which should make it okay.

(That wouldn’t be true if we were dealing with something genuinely wrong, like bigotry. But it should be true for situations like this. The only reason we have these restrictions is self-preservation. Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to ask a mod to make an exception.)

BTW, is that still part of the rules? The mods previously could approve of anything that might be considered a “call to action” as long as you asked them ahead of time. Is that still possible?

(16 shortish sentences.)

I still don’t understand what I was being admonished for, and what I wrote that’s (now?) OK and what I wrote that’s (now?) not.

Neither of the cases you cite involved a call to action.

Personally identifiable information was an expression used in the original rule. We’re giving that part further thought.

Was What Exit? completely offbase in admonishing me for making a “call of action” in my initial post? I didn’t think I did, and now have even less idea what he was trying to say.

Ordinary political advocacy is fine. What we’re trying to avoid is people using the board to cook up mischief. A rule against harassment may be sufficient. We’re giving it some more thought.

Financial appeals have always required prior approval, for fear of scams. We usually grant it.

just a question … does union activities count? like SEIU or UAW etc?

You’re right, we didn’t express ourselves clearly. We’re discussing it internally and will try again.