Terms of Service

The agreement below spells out the rules of the Straight Dope Message Board (SDMB). By registering on this board, you agree to abide by these rules and any revisions thereto on penalty of losing your posting privileges.


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). Please do not register more than one account - see Sock puppets. Your account is solely for your personal use and is not to be shared with family or friends. Contact edzotti at gmail dot com if you are having trouble registering or accessing your account or if you believe your account has been compromised. You are responsible for all action taken using your account, whether authorized by you or not, until you either close your account or notify us that your account has been compromised. We reserve the right to refuse postings from screen names we find objectionable. Screen names may not be bought, sold, or otherwise traded.

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.

Disclaimer. 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.

Rights and responsibilities of posters. 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). You agree not to wrongly imply that content you submit to the SDMB is sponsored or approved by us. We are under no obligation to store, maintain, revise, or provide copies of content you submit. 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. 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.

Changes to rules. SDMB rules are subject to revision without notice, although we generally provide notice of major revisions in the About This Message Board forum. Revisions take effect upon posting.

Disputes. Illinois law will govern any dispute related to these terms or your use of the forum. You and STM agree to seek injunctions related to these terms only in state or federal court in Chicago. Neither you nor STM will object to jurisdiction, forum, or venue in those courts.

Other than to seek an injunction or for claims under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, you and STM will resolve any dispute by binding American Arbitration Association arbitration. Arbitration will follow the AAA’s Commercial Arbitration Rules and Supplementary Procedures for Consumer Related Disputes. Arbitration will be conducted in Chicago or other agreed-on location. You will settle any dispute as an individual, and not as part of a class action or other representative proceeding, whether as the plaintiff or a class member. No arbitrator will consolidate any dispute with any other arbitration without STM’s permission. Any arbitration award will include costs of the arbitration, reasonable attorneys’ fees, and reasonable costs for witnesses. You and STM may enter arbitration awards in any court with jurisdiction.

If a provision of these terms is unenforceable as written, but could be changed to make it enforceable, that provision shall be modified to the minimum extent necessary to make it enforceable. Otherwise, that provision shall be removed.

You may not assign your agreement with STM. STM may assign your agreement to any of its affiliates, any other company that obtains control of STM, or any other company that buys STM assets related to the SDMB. Neither the exercise of any right under this agreement, nor waiver of any breach of this agreement, waives any other breach of this agreement. These terms embody all the terms of agreement between you and STM regarding use of the SDMB and entirely replace any other agreements about your use of the SDMB, written or not.

Board organization. The SDMB is divided into sections called forums, each devoted to a specific type of discussion. For example, the Factual Questions forum is for questions lending themselves to a factual answer, whereas the In My Humble Opinion (IMHO) forum is for matters of opinion. The SDMB forum page at boards.straightdope.com/categories describes the intended use of each forum. Please familiarize yourself with these descriptions and post accordingly.

Glossary. For an explanation of terms commonly used on the SDMB, click here .


Rules are listed alphabetically by topic. Cross references are shown in bold italics and indicate the section in which further information may be found.

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. To cite an infamous example, we don’t want to hear defenses of pedophilia. We invoke this rule infrequently and are not trying 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 further action.

Abortion. 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.

Artificial intelligence (AI). AI-generated responses must be clearly marked as such. Do not use AI to generate entire posts. AI responses are often unreliable – if you use them as the primary source for your assertions, you’re likely to get a lot of flak on this board.

Banning. See Warnings, moderator notes, and other mod actions .

Betting. Betting is not permitted for any purpose, including but not limited to fun, charity, or for the sake of argument.

Bumping threads . 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.

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. See Harassment and abuse.
  • No fundraising appeals without prior permission. See Fundraising appeals.
  • 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. See Privacy.

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.

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.

Copyrighted material. Please observe the following rules regarding copyrighted material.

  • Fair use posting of copyrighted material only. 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.
  • File-sharing software. 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.
  • 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 license to reuse your posting in any manner it or they see fit without notice or compensation to you.

Deletion of posts. We reserve the right to delete any message for any or no reason whatsoever. 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.

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.

Flagging a post. See Reporting objectionable posts.

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. In particular, please note the Pit rules.

Fundraising appeals. 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.

Harassment and abuse. Do not use the SDMB to harass or abuse others, whether or not they are members of this board. Harassment includes but is not limited to intimidation, defamation, invasion of privacy, or other behavior we consider uncivil, including off-board activity. If we receive credible information that you are harassing an SDMB member in real life, we may ban you without notice. See also Pit rules.

Hate speech. Do not post hate speech directed against any race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or other group identity (except for political affiliation or leaning) in any forum. To elaborate:

  1. Hate speech – that is, slurs and other pejorative remarks about groups that in our opinion are clearly hateful – 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 groups rise to the level of hate speech. We recognize there are differences of opinion on what constitutes hate speech. We leave it to the SDMB community to debate such questions, with the understanding that final judgment on what constitutes hate speech is the responsibility of SDMB staff. If you believe a post is hateful, you are free to say so, provided you abide by our rule against insults – see point #10 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.

The rule against hate speech includes the following prohibitions and clarifications:

  1. No slurs or cheap shots. Do not post slurs or other cheap shots based on race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, gender orientation, or other group identity except for political affiliation or leaning. 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 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Criticism of groups to be clearly framed as a debatable proposition. Criticism of groups or their members 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.
  3. 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 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.
  4. 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.
  5. We reserve the right to prohibit topics of which we have grown weary – see Tired topics for the current list.
  6. If we detect a pattern of pejorative or otherwise objectionable comments about groups 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.
  7. 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, slurs and other remarks that in our opinion are clearly hateful are a violation of SDMB rules. However, we do not wish to rule preemptively on every comment that could possibly be construed as hate speech and make such judgments on a case by case basis.

Hijacks. 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”).

Homework and other off-board projects. Please observe the following:

  • Homework. If you’re a student with a homework assignment and you need help understanding a concept, you’re welcome to post a question about it here. However, do not ask others to do work you’re supposed to do yourself.
  • Other offboard projects. Do not ask members to provide input for your article, paper, or other off-board project without prior permission from a moderator or administrator.

Illegal activity. Do not post material that in our opinion encourages or facilitates activity that is illegal in the U.S. Discussion of whether an activity should or should not be illegal 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.

Inaccuracy and other posting defects. 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 stop and expect them to do so. We also prohibit Hate speech. We do not warn posters merely for expressing views or starting threads on topics others find disagreeable.

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 Pit rules and Hate speech.

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.

Misrepresentation. We reserve the right to revoke the posting privileges of persons misrepresenting themselves on the SDMB.

Moderator notes. See Warnings, moderator notes, and other mod actions .

Parody threads. Parody threads, which by their nature are insulting, are allowed only in the BBQ Pit. Such threads 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. Parody threads and quotes cannot be attributed to a real user in the Pit or any other forum.

Pit rules. The BBQ Pit forum, commonly known as the Pit, is for rants about the world or quarrels with other posters. The following special rules apply in the Pit:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The rules against Hijacks and Threadshitting 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. All other SDMB rules apply in the BBQ Pit, including but not limited to the rules against Trolling, Hate speech, and Threats.

Pornography and potentially offensive material. 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. Alternatively, you may use the “spoiler” function – highlight the link, click on the Tool (gear) icon in the posting menu, and click on Blur Spoiler. Then provide an adequate, accurate description of what the blurred link points to. 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 flag it or contact the moderators of the affected forum by private message.

Privacy. Please observe the following rules:

  • Invasion of privacy. Do not post information that is invasive of another person’s privacy. If you feel a post has invaded your privacy, please contact us and we will take such action as we deem appropriate. See Deletion of posts.
  • Personal information. 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. 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”). We advise against posting personal revelations or other information that may come back to haunt you. If you post personal information and later regret it, you can request deletion but we do not guarantee we will comply. See Deletion of posts.
  • Private contact information. Do not post private contact information about yourself or others. Private contact information 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.
  • 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.
  • SDMB privacy policy. See our Privacy policy.

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 . Quotes 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.


  • 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.

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.

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.

Reporting objectionable posts. If you believe a post violates one of our rules, 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. Rule enforcement is the responsibility of SDMB staff. Do not take it upon yourself to chastise others for perceived rule violations (“junior modding”).

Sex and romance. 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.

Sock puppets. 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. If you have been banned from the SDMB and register under a different name, you will be banned again without notice.

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. You may not use the SDMB to gather addresses or other personal data for commercial mailing lists or databases. See also Worthy causes.

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.

Threadshitting. 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.

Trolling and obnoxious behavior. You are free to express your views in a forceful manner provided you remain civil. Hate speech, insults, purposely inflammatory remarks (i.e., trolling) and other obnoxious behavior will not be tolerated. Examples of obnoxious behavior include but are not limited to whataboutism, sealioning, asking endless questions and other tactics that in our opinion detract from productive discussion. If we tell you to refrain from behavior we regard as uncivil or obnoxious, 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. Public accusations of trolling are permitted only in the Pit.

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.

Tired topics. The following subjects have been beaten to death on this board and are cIosed to further discussion. 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:

  • Scientific racism - any argument about why a particular group of humans is objectively better or worse than any other group.
  • Holocaust denial. Seriously, folks. If you want to debate whether the Holocaust occurred, this is not the place for you.
  • Men’s rights advocacy, including threads about how men are somehow disadvantaged in society, women are genetically inferior or have a predisposition toward specific gender roles, and how men are naturally entitled to be in charge.
  • 9/11 truthers, including but not limited to claims that 9/11 didn’t happen or was a false flag operation by the government.
  • Climate change denialism. Much about climate change is open to debate, but the basic reality of the phenomenon has been established beyond reasonable doubt.

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”).

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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-related terms or expressions improperly and you wish to correct them, please do so in a civil manner.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Vandalism. Vandalism, tampering, or any other abuse of the site is grounds for immediate banning. Vandalism includes but is not limited to any activity that in our opinion places an unreasonable or unnecessary load on SDMB infrastructure, disabling or circumventing security or access restrictions, submitting content containing malicious computer code, or aiding or encouraging others in violating SDMB rules. We reserve the right to report violators to their Internet service provider and law enforcement.