SDMB rules have been reorganized and are restated below. This version incorporates all recent revisions and adds a new rule about troublesome posters, which is highlighted. Most of these rules are of long standing and in our opinion are reasonably clear. However, if it becomes apparent some misunderstandings remain, we may consider further revisions.
The agreement below spells out the rules by which SDMB users are expected to abide.
We have one guiding principle: Don’t be a jerk.
Registration. Registration is required to post messages on the Straight Dope Message Board (“the SDMB”). Registration is free. We don’t request personal information other than your e-mail address (although you may include such information in your user profile if desired).
Responsibility for posts. Considering the real-time nature of this bulletin board and the volume of messages received, it is impossible for us to verify the information posted. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. Users should be particularly wary of medical, legal or other professional advice posted on the message board and recognize that it is no substitute for in-person consultation with a competent professional. Messages express the views of their authors, not necessarily the views of the operator of the SDMB, namely Sun-Times Media, LLC (“STM”), or any entity associated with it. We reserve the right to delete any message for any or no reason whatsoever. You remain solely responsible for the content of your messages, and you agree to indemnify and hold harmless STM, Discourse (the developer of the bulletin board software), and their agents with respect to any claim based upon transmission of your message(s).
Deletion of posts. We delete posts or threads primarily when we consider them to be spam or otherwise in violation of our terms of service. We will consider requests to delete posts or threads when there is a compelling reason, such as libel or invasion of privacy – we will be the judge of what constitutes a compelling reason. If we believe action is warranted, we will delete identifying details rather than entire posts when possible. We do not delete posts or threads solely because the poster (including the thread starter) or subject of the post or thread finds it problematic or no longer wishes to be associated with the SDMB.
Prohibited practices. You agree, through your use of this service, that you will not use the SDMB to post any material that you know or should know is defamatory, abusive, hateful, harassing, pornographic, threatening, invasive of a person’s privacy, or in violation of U.S. law. We reserve the right to revoke the posting privileges of persons misrepresenting themselves on the SDMB.
Illegal activity. Do not post material that in our opinion encourages or facilitates activity that is illegal in the U.S., including but not limited to how to use virtual private networks (VPNs) to conduct illegal activity or peer-to-peer file sharing technology to evade copyright law. Discussion of the legality of such practices is permissible. We encourage people to abide by local U.S. law, which varies by jurisdiction. Please do not post suggestions or advice on how to evade local U.S. law. We do not expect rigorous compliance with laws in other countries, especially censorship laws in authoritarian states. Nonetheless, please consult with SDMB staff before posting advice on such laws.
Betting. Betting is not permitted for any purpose, including but not limited to fun, charity, or for the sake of argument.
Hate speech. Do not post hate speech directed against any race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, or gender in any forum.
Personal insults. Do not directly insult or personally attack other posters. The general rule when disagreeing is to comment on the post, not the poster – that is, focus on the argument rather than the poster’s personal shortcomings. This rule applies to all insults, including those meant as jokes and quotes from books and movies – we don’t wish to draw fine distinctions between joke insults and real ones. The rule against insults doesn’t apply to off-board individuals, nor does it apply in the BBQ Pit, where you can insult anybody, including other posters, subject to some limitations – see next section.
Special rules in the BBQ Pit. The BBQ Pit forum is for rants about the world or quarrels with other posters. The following special rules apply in the Pit:
Insulting another poster is permissible, except that insults are not to be used in thread titles. We reserve the right to modify thread titles we consider excessively salty.
Notwithstanding the preceding rule, do not harass other posters. If you follow a poster from thread to thread and attempt to pick fights or otherwise make their lives miserable, that’s harassment and may get you warned or banned.
The rules against hijacks and threadshitting, as defined below, do not apply in the Pit. If you start a rant in the Pit and wind up getting pitted yourself, don’t complain to us.
If you are pitting another poster for a specific post or posts, please include links thereto. Similarly, if you’re posting a thread parody, please include a link to the thread being parodied.
Criticism of SDMB staff for actions taken in an official capacity is not permitted in the Pit. All such commentary must be posted in the About This Message Board forum. SDMB staff can be pitted for things they do as ordinary posters.
Mind the moderators. If we feel a Pit thread is getting out of hand, or we see behavior we consider too low even for the Pit, we may tell you or the thread participants generally to back off. Refusal to cooperate or persisting in arguing with a mod after you’ve been told to stop may result in disciplinary action.
All other SDMB rules apply in the BBQ Pit, including but not limited to the rules against trolling, hate speech, and threats of violence.
Rants. Criticism of off-board parties, including the occasional insult, is permitted in all forums. Rants and abuse, on the other hand, should be confined to the BBQ Pit. For example, if you want to argue that public figure X is a jerk based on some recent revelation, this might unobjectionably be posted in any of several forums. If you simply want to testify to X’s continuing jerkitude, do so in the Pit. Threads that degenerate into rants may be closed; the OP (original poster) may request it be reopened in the Pit.
Other forum-specific rules. Many forum moderators post rules for posting in their forums. These are generally elaborations on the overall SDMB rules and may include tips on forum etiquette, FAQs, and other guidance. Please familiarize yourself with these rules and abide by them.
No jabs in breaking news threads in MPSIMS. Breaking news threads in MPSIMS can be a valuable resource, with links from many sources and occasional eyewitness accounts or local insight. However, since these threads commonly involve hot-button issues, they often fall prey to hijacks and rants. Please refrain from such commentary in breaking news threads. If you wish to use such a thread as a springboard for commentary, please start a new thread in Great Debates, Politics & Elections, or the Pit with a link to the breaking news thread.
Descriptive thread titles. Thread titles should indicate what the thread is about. Ambiguous (“Guess what?”) or misleading titles should be avoided and are subject to editing by a moderator.
Calls to action. Political advocacy and other calls to action are permitted on this board, subject to the rules below:
No advocacy of harassment, violence or lawbreaking. Do not advocate or encourage harassment, violence or lawbreaking (including civil disobedience) as a form of protest or for any other reason. Harassment for purposes of this rule includes but is not limited to intimidation, invasion of privacy, or other behavior we consider uncivil.
No fundraising appeals without prior approval. Do not post fundraising appeals for any purpose, including but not limited to charities, political campaigns, or other causes, without prior permission from staff. Be aware that our review of fundraising appeals is meant to weed out the obviously problematic; we don’t have the resources for thorough investigation. Proceed at your own risk. In approving fundraising appeals, we don’t plan to take sides for or against any individual, party or cause, provided said appeal or cause doesn’t violate our rules. If we find this creates more trouble than it’s worth, we may prohibit all political fundraising.
No spam. Notices or appeals posted by bots or individuals who appear to have registered solely to advertise a cause, event., etc., will be considered spam and removed, and the poster will be banned without notice.
Do not post private contact information. Do not post private contact information about yourself or others. Private contact information for purposes of this rule includes home address, home phone number or cell phone number, personal email address, or financial or security information of any kind. Private contact information does not include street addresses, phone numbers, email addresses or the like publicly posted by a business, public agency or official, or other entity to facilitate public contact.
Helping women get abortions. Discussion of what is and isn’t legal is permissible, as is general discussion of the options available to someone in a jurisdiction in which abortion is illegal. Legal and other professional advice should be cautiously expressed, even if you’re an expert; we do not want users making consequential decisions based solely on message board posts. Referrals to Planned Parenthood or other trustworthy resources are permissible; we will be the judge of trustworthiness.
No posting of personal information. To reiterate the above, do not post others’ private contact information (email, phone, mailing address, etc.), whether or not they are public figures. When speaking of others who are not public figures, do not use real names and be cautious in your use of details that could enable individuals to be identified.
Minimum age. Minimum age for registration on the SDMB is 13 years. Registrants found to be younger than 13 will have their posting privileges revoked.
Copyrighted material. You agree not to post any copyrighted material unless the copyright is owned by you or by the operator of the SDMB, except as permitted by the “fair use” provisions of U.S. copyright law (in general this means brief excerpts only). If you are quoting published material it is good etiquette to provide a link to the source. Posts on how to use peer-to-peer file sharing software, virtual private networks (VPNs) and similar technology to evade copyright law are prohibited. Do not ask questions such as “How do I get this peer-to-peer sharing software to work?” or “Can someone help me find a copy of [song or movie clip] using peer-to-peer sharing software?” Debates on the legality of peer-to-peer file sharing are permitted.
Cooperating with moderators. You agree to abide by the wishes of the board moderators in interpreting and enforcing these rules. Refusal to cooperate with board moderators or to abide by these rules is grounds for revocation of your posting privileges.
Complaints about the SDMB. If you have a complaint about administration of this message board, you are free to post it to the About This Message Board forum or to send it to a member of the SDMB staff directly via the direct message function, which can be accessed from your user profile page. Do not post complaints in other forums or direct them to STM management or the development team for Discourse, the message board software. If you wish to complain about a moderator, do so in a civil manner. Abusive or contemptuous remarks about moderators may result in revocation of your posting privileges.
Private messages. Private messages are subject to the same rules as the SDMB. There is no guarantee of privacy in these messages. You assume the risk that any PM you send may be made public by the recipient.
Spam. This message board is intended as a medium for public discussion. Do not post spam, including but not limited to advertisements, chain letters, pyramid schemes, solicitations, offers to trade or barter, charitable appeals, or other messages primarily intended to promote a cause, venture, organization, event (except Straight Dope-related events), website, or other entity or activity, whether or not money is involved. Do not post spam in your signature or send it via the SDMB’s “private message” feature.
Promotion of worthy causes. We allow promotion of worthy causes (in our sole opinion) provided you obtain prior permission from a moderator or administrator. We do not require prior approval for non-commercial gift exchanges, e.g., “secret Santa” exchanges. STM and its agents, including the administrators and moderators of the Straight Dope Message Board, make no representation that they have investigated or vetted charitable appeals, gift exchanges, and similar activities promoted on this board or groups or individuals associated with them. We do not vouch for, monitor, sponsor, endorse, or have any formal association with such activities. Proceed at your own risk.
Excessive posts. Do not post the same or similar messages or threads to multiple forums; multiple threads on the same topic; or an excessive number of threads on any topic within a limited period of time. Do not start threads expressly for the purpose of meeting other posters for romantic or sexual purposes. We will notify the Internet service provider of any party posting objectionable messages.
Trolling and uncivil behavior. You are free to express your views in a forceful manner provided you remain civil. Hate speech, insults, and purposely inflammatory remarks (i.e., trolling) will not be tolerated. If we tell you to refrain from behavior we regard as uncivil, or that in our view detracts from productive discussion, do so or face revocation of your posting privileges. When reporting trolling, be aware that the fact that a poster consistently makes you mad doesn’t automatically make them a troll.
Troublesome posters. If we think you’re more trouble than you’re worth, and you seem unwilling or unable to change your ways, we reserve the right to revoke your posting privileges.
Hijacks and threadshitting. Do not attempt to abruptly change the subject or tone of a thread or behave in a manner that in our opinion disrupts or sidetracks a productive discussion (“hijacking” or “derailing”). Do not post in a thread for the sole purpose of disparaging the topic or the posters (“threadshitting”). If you want to have a discussion on a topic more to your liking, start a new thread.
Thread bumping. Thread bumping – that is, posting a short message solely to get a thread moved to the top of the thread list – is permitted once per thread only. Thanking thread participants for their contributions does not count as thread bumping.
Wishing harm on others. Do not state or imply that any individual or group is deserving of harm. We recognize this rule cannot be strictly applied in discussions of war, capital punishment and the like but urge users to express themselves in moderate terms nonetheless.
Abhorrent views. If you express yourself in a way we consider to be beyond the pale of civil discussion, whether in style or substance, we will warn you to stop, specifying what it is we want you to cease doing, on penalty of losing your posting privileges. This rule applies in all forums including the Pit. This is not an attempt to suppress discussion of sensitive topics. We cannot anticipate everything we would consider abhorrent and do not maintain a list of proscribed views. Except in extreme cases we will provide the offending party with a warning before taking any further action.
Threats. Threats of any kind against the SDMB, STM, or their affiliates, including without limitation SDMB posters, staff, advertisers or other entities, regardless of where and how expressed, are not permitted. Users making such threats are subject to banning without notice. This includes threats of legal action even if not directed specifically at the SDMB.
Topic and thread bans. The board is not intended to furnish you with a forum for promoting your personal agenda. We reserve the right to ask you to cease posting in a particular thread (“thread ban), limit postings on a particular topic, or refrain from posting on such topics altogether (“topic ban”).
Off-board projects. Please do not ask other members to do your homework or provide input for your article, paper, or other off-board project. We may waive this rule if you obtain prior permission from a moderator or administrator.
Pornography. Do not post links to pornography – we will be the judge of what constitutes pornography. Links to nudity or other potentially shocking or offensive material are permissible only in the context of a mature discussion – gratuitous posting of such links is grounds for revocation of your posting privileges. When posting a link to potentially shocking or offensive material, observe the “two click” rule – don’t link directly to the item, but rather to an intermediate page that in turns links to the item. If you’re not sure whether a link is appropriate, contact a moderator or administrator before posting it. Any user who feels a posted message is objectionable should contact the moderators of the affected forum by e-mail.
One screen name per user. Only one screen name is permitted per user. Use of multiple screen names (“sock puppets” or “socks”) is grounds for revocation of your right to post under ANY screen name. We reserve the right to refuse postings from screen names we find objectionable.
Vandalism. Vandalism, tampering, or any other abuse of the site is grounds for immediate banning. We reserve the right to report violators to their Internet service provider and law enforcement.
Reuse of posted material. All postings and other material on the SDMB are copyrighted by STM. Republication of material appearing on the SDMB without express written permission of STM is prohibited, except that users retain the right to republish their own work. By posting on this board you grant STM and its successors and assigns a nonexclusive irrevocable right to reuse your posting in any manner it or they see fit without notice or compensation to you.
Real-life meetings. STM and its agents, including the administrators and moderators of the SDMB, are not responsible for anything associated with any real life meeting of our members. While we permit SDMB users to post announcements and other discussion of meetings and events on the Straight Dope Message Board, we don’t organize, sponsor, endorse, approve, or have any formal association with such events or any activities that may occur at them. We don’t vouch for any individual or group organizing or participating in an event. Attend at your own risk. SDMB moderators and administrators who attend events do so as private individuals and not as representatives or agents of STM. We encourage all attendees at these events to obey the laws of the jurisdiction in which they are held.
Rights of posters. Please remember that you are our guest here, and that we reserve the right to exclude you at our whim, for any or no reason whatsoever. If you have been banned from the SDMB and register under a different name, you will be banned again without notice. By registering and using the board you acknowledge this right and agree to abide by our rules and to submit to their interpretation and enforcement by our moderators and editors.
Reporting objectionable posts. Rule enforcement is the responsibility of SDMB staff. Do not take it upon yourself to chastise others for perceived rule violations (“junior modding”). If you believe a post violates a rule, report it using the “flag post” function – this is the flag icon that appears after clicking on the three dots (…) at the bottom right of any post.
Warnings, notes, and other mod actions. Moderators have several ways to enforce SDMB rules:
Warnings. A warning is a formal notice that a poster has broken an SDMB rule. An accumulation of warnings may result in suspension or banning. We do not have a point system; we take into account the number and frequency of warnings, the seriousness of the rule violations, and the poster’s overall board behavior when considering whether to take further action. Unless rescinded by moderation staff, a warning remains on a poster’s record indefinitely. However, older warnings are given less weight when considering additional sanctions.
Moderator notes. A moderator note is usually addressed to a poster, group of posters, or all participants in a particular thread to head off problems and promote civil discussion. Unlike warnings, mod notes are not tracked. Failure to heed mod notes may result in a warning or other action.
Thread or topic ban. A thread ban means the poster must stop posting in a particular thread – such bans can be issued unilaterally by a moderator. A topic ban means the poster cannot post on a particular topic. Topic bans are decided by consensus among the moderating staff and are typically issued to posters who have a history of rule violations when discussing a particular subject.
Suspensions. Posters may be sanctioned with a temporary suspension of posting privileges. Suspensions of more than one day are imposed following discussion among moderation staff and are not decided unilaterally.
Banning. Repeated violations of the rules, or indications that a poster has no intention of following the rules, can result in permanent banning from the SDMB. Banning is decided by consensus among the moderating staff except for spammers and previously banned posters who have returned under another screen name (“socks”). In general, we will issue at least one warning before banning a poster, but we reserve the right to ban without notice.
Any post by a mod acting in an official capacity will be indicated as such. Questions, comments, and complaints about moderation should be posted in the About This Message Board forum. Moderators will do their best to explain the reasoning behind their actions.
Quoting. Falsely attributing a quote to another SDMB user, or modifying another’s post in order to cast him/her in a bad light, is grounds for revocation of your posting privileges. We allow parody quotes under certain conditions. Here are the permissible options:
Quote attributed to real SDMB user. Quote must be accurate, whether displayed using the message board’s quote function or ordinary quotation marks. Normal editorial rules apply: you may indicate omitted portions of a quote by the use of ellipses “…” or devices such as [snip]. You may add text to clarify a word using square brackets (e.g., “her [the sister’s] friend”), but you may not add editorial comments or edit a quote to change the substantive meaning; nor may you substitute text such as “some blather” or “more nonsense” inside the [QUOTE] tags or quotation marks. This applies to all forums including the Pit.
Unattributed quote (no name). Unattributed parody quotes are permitted in all forums provided they don’t violate other SDMB rules.
Parody attribution. In the Pit only, quotes (including parody quotes) may be attributed to a parody username, provided that (a) the parody username is obviously satirical – we’ll be the judge of obviousness; and (b) no other rules are violated. Quotes attributed to parody usernames are not permitted in other forums.
SDMB moderators do not routinely check quotes for accuracy. If you see a violation of the above rules, please report it.
The above rules apply to quotes of SDMB users only. We encourage accurate quoting of off-board individuals in a serious discussion; links are recommended. If you derail a discussion with fake or misleading quotes of off-board individuals, we reserve the right to take action.
Guidelines for discussion of transgender issues. Discussions of transgender issues are often fraught and opinions tend to be polarized. Nonetheless, the SDMB believes frank conversation reflecting a wide diversity of views is the surest way to establish common ground. To facilitate such discussion, please observe the following guidelines, which apply to all forums except the Pit, where guidelines 2 through 6 apply. (The first two guidelines apply to all discussion regardless of subject.)
- You are welcome to express your views forcefully but please do so in a civil manner. If you continually use inflammatory language, treat others with contempt, or otherwise behave in a manner we consider uncivil and we tell you to stop, please do so or face revocation of your posting privileges.
- We do not mod posts based on inaccuracy, illogic, lack of cites, etc. We leave it to other posters to point out such defects. If a poster demonstrates a pattern of deliberate misrepresentation, lying or other uncivil behavior, we may tell them to knock it off and expect them to do so. We do not warn posters merely for expressing views or starting threads on topics others find disagreeable.
- Please do not state or imply that transgender people are mentally ill. We realize the question remains controversial. However, we’re not going to settle the matter here, and raising it tends to poison other discussion of transgender issues. Please keep your opinions on the subject to yourself.
- Do not deliberately misgender another poster – that is, refer to them by a pronoun or other sex-specific term indicating a gender other than the one they identify as. This applies only in cases where a poster’s gender identity is reasonably clear. Likewise, do not deliberately misgender off-board figures.
- The use of the term cisgender or the prefix cis- to refer to individuals whose gender identity matches their biological sex is not required but can be helpful in avoiding ambiguity when discussing transgender issues. That said, we do not have a code of acceptable gender-related expressions and do not wish to referee terminology. Please be considerate of the feelings of others and avoid needless provocation when using gender-related terms. If you feel others are using gender-relating terms or expressions improperly and you wish to correct them, please do so in a civil manner.
- Above all, please remember it’s a wide world and you and those who agree with you aren’t the only ones in it.
Confidential information. STM respects your confidential information. Confidential information is information you are required to submit in order to participate on the SDMB and that is not publicly available. We will not release confidential information about you except in the following circumstances: (a) we have your consent; or (b) we believe in good faith that we are legally required to do so; or (c) there is an emergency involving personal danger; or (d) you have vandalized our site or otherwise behaved in a manner that warrants our contacting the authorities or your Internet service provider.
Nonconfidential but sensitive information. From time to time we may acquire nonconfidential but sensitive information about you, some of which you may have posted yourself to our board. We won’t disclose or repeat such information except as (a) reasonable and necessary to manage our business, or (b) required by law, or (c) consistent with good citizenship, e.g., to prevent or report a crime or to respond to inquiries from law enforcement.
Disclosure of sensitive information. If you privately provide us with sensitive information related to the SDMB, we’ll act on it as we feel prudent, with the understanding that we’ll take reasonable measures to prevent your being identified as the source of the information without your consent, provided we’re not shielding a wrongdoer or acting against the public interest in doing so.
E-mail address. You are required to submit and maintain a valid e-mail address. If you do not wish to receive e-mail from other SDMB users you may so indicate in your user profile. However, we retain your e-mail address in our database and reserve the right to have SDMB staff contact you. We won’t give or sell your e-mail address to bulk mailers, brokers, or similar entities.
IP number. We log your Internet address (IP number) each time you post. The IP number tells us your Internet service provider. We reserve the right to reveal the IP numbers and e-mail address (but no other confidential information) of chronic SDMB rule violators to other bulletin board operators. We do this to identify guests registering under multiple screen names. One of our third-party advertising providers, Google, uses IP numbers to customize ads served up to SDMB users.
Posting of personal information. Please remember that postings on this board are visible to anyone with access to the Internet, and are retained in a database indefinitely. In addition, the SDMB is open to third-party search engines (“spiders”). Please do not post personal revelations or other information that may come back to haunt you. In particular, do not post your telephone number or address.