Limitations of freedom of speech?

That is very well said.

I would allow a more general description for the emotion e.g. “I feel like I would have lost my self-control”. But there is no need to be specific about the unacceptable behavior.


I voted no, but it’s more “not necessarily.” I wouldn’t consider it “inciting violence”, and I’m not particularly concerned about “normalizing violence” (if there’s anything that’s normal to the human condition, it’s violence). In the context in which the question was raised, it isn’t a threat. What might lead me to delete it, though, is that I’d have trouble seeing how it had anything to do with the subject matter of my forum–it’s focused on the life and works of C.S. Lewis. There’s a lot of flexibility in that focus–discussion of works of his friends and associates like Tolkien is allowed, discussion of Christian thought and apologetics is allowed, application of his work to current events is allowed–but I’d have trouble seeing how a statement like that described in the OP would fit anywhere in there. If it did, I’d most likely leave it. If I couldn’t see any connection, I’d probably delete it.


I would delete. If the poster had said he’d would have got into a heated argument with the person is one thing. But to said he would cause bodily harm is another. Depending upon your situation, if necessary, I’d delete the post and put a staff note/post indicating that such talk is not helpful to the forum discussion and that was the reason for deletion. (All it showed was the poster has a serious anger problem.)

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You know your audience best but ultimately, your community isn’t a democracy. You can remove it with impunity if you think that’s the most appropriate course of action.

I’d leave it until someone flagged it. The flagging system is designed to empower your community to make their own decisions about what is and isn’t appropriate.


Hi @HAWK, I haven’t really given my opinions thus far, as I didn’t want to influence the voting, but to me it is definitely a post I would not allow. This is despite me being someone who is usually very tolerant of different opinions and very much for freedom of expression. At a personal level I would not allow it because I abhor violence, and the user is talking about committing a violent act against someone. But more importantly, the user is talking about how they would have committed a criminal offence, because physically attacking someone IS a criminal offence. So it’s interesting that the moderators who have said they would not delete it would actually be allowing someone to talk about how they would have committed a criminal act, I find that quite astounding. Maybe this is because the question in the poll is worded poorly, and doesn’t contain the option to edit the post, thus allowing the moderator to remove the bit about the act of violence, whilst leaving the rest of the post there.


I suppose the issue is that it could still be considered rhetorical. I would delete in the basis that that is up to interpretation.


It TOTALLY and 100% is! I think what you meant to say is that it isn’t contrary and/or covered by the first amendment of the constitution of the USA (what I guess you’re referring to when saying “freedom of speech”). Note: Not anybody is from the US -user and/or community-.

But it sure is a limitation of the freedom of speech in your community, because you do not run on the same set of standards as the US as a country (your’re a private entity), and you do not have freedom of speech (at least, not to the same extent). You can if you want to. (Note: Depending how they are written, your community guidelines are probably already a limitation of freedom of speech in your community).

@JusticeUK Personally, I feel one problem is that supposed “moderation” has come down to deleting, suspending and banning. That’s not really “moderation” anymore. There is also the solution of letting as much as possible online, and answering to it. For example saying that violence isn’t the answer, even if you can sure disagree with or be angry at something.

Honestly, some may think it’s a stretch, but this kind of moderation is also a form of violence (very light, maybe, but some sort of violence nonetheless). => Shut up / what you wrote doesn’t deserve to be seen / It doesn’t deserve an answer. We’re just going to press a button to make it disappear => YOU don’t deserve to express yourself nor any answer and we’re just going to make you disappear. Because the poor little feelings of some people may be hurt by reading a few characters on their screen (Note: i may be presenting it a certain way and by exagerating a little, but it is to make a point)

The world seems mostly to have gone along with this. I don’t, and I don’t like it. Now, it’s your community, so you do as you want. Just, maybe, consider it. Cheers.

(PS: There may be a question if “punching in the face” is really “attacking”: Is it said “literally” or as a figure of speech, here? It doesn’t necessarily convey any real intent, and may just be a way to convey an idea)


Most people who say they would commit violent acts in hypothetical scenarios would do no such thing, for instance because, despite wanting to, they lack the minerals to act, or because they had no intention in the first place and just enjoyed saying it. Probably it’s no harm to that person to have said it. I suppose as forum moderator you also have to consider what effect it might have on the weaker brother. Ultimately it all depends (as has been said already) on the context: the nature of your forum, the topic, the people reading it, etc.


I don’t agree with the “it might not have been meant to have been taken seriously” argument. Whether the user would have actually carried out the violent act or not is irrelevant, it’s normalising violence, and if the recipient of the threat was to come across the post, it could cause them considerable distress.

@Mevo, I agree with most of what you say. I don’t like the moderation approach where a moderator says “our forum, our rules, if you don’t like it, go elsewhere”. I think this is used way too often, I would much rather let people say something they want to, however, everyone has a red line, and sometimes some posts do need to be edited out/deleted when that red line is crossed instead of leaving it and trying to counter it.


Yes, that’s what I meant by the effect on the weaker brother. Other people might either think it’s wrong for the person to have said it (and object to it being said) or think the opposite (and end up thinking it’s normal). But whether to accept it depends on the forum and who’s on it, and the context, as with any conversation.

It’s been an interesting discussion. I think we all mostly agree!


You remark instantly brought up this old memory:
Fifty-plus years ago my mother remarked, “He makes me so mad I could punch him in the face.” Of course she would never strike anyone, but her message was clear… that the person made her very angry (with what he had done/said). But that was expressing her feelings, not what she would do if the person walked into the room. So that was a figure of speech, not a threat of what she would actually do.

@JusticeUK, You should explain to the poster how you feel (and others may also) about his comment and ask him to re-word it… or it will be deleted. Also suggest that he refrain from making such remarks in the future. If he continues, suspend him for a week (giving the reason). If in the future he continues with such remarks, that’s when a ban comes in.

This will give the person the chance to edit his post or let’s him make the decision whether he gets suspended or not. You’ll be putting the ball in his hand. But do say he has to do it within x amount of time. And be firm with that.


@JusticeUK I get what you’re saying. The “how you take it/how you interpret it/what POV you view it from” is already complicated. For my part, I disagree with the post of @Jonathan5 about the portion

I feel the INTENTION of what is said is very important. That it actually results in something or not (I agree it usually won’t be the case in most scenarios) is pretty irrelevant in my view. We would agree on this, JusticeUK. But I (kind of) agree with the part coming next: If it’s not said in that way, like someone telling you “you’re dumb”, laughing at a joke you just made, it’s not that big of a deal it actually includes violence. “I would punch him in the face”, “I would love to punch him in the face” becomes maybe more and more common and less and less litteral (yes, maybe that’s not a good thing). Anyway, it depends how you view it, knowing that all your users may not view it/interpret it the same way (probably not). So yes, it IS complicated.

When you start to view everything as a “threat”, as “hate”, etc. and begin to think first about the poor feelings of everybody to whom it will cause “considerable distress” and whom will be unable to handle it, that’s not good either, IMHO. Even if it seems a little to become the trend these days. There is probably a right balance to find. Yes, a “red line”.

I’ve said it several times: Personally, I don’t really have any problem with “our forum, our rules” (it will be the case anyway!), nor with “if it isn’t a good fit for you, maybe go elsewhere”. But the rules have to be clear, fair and well applied. That’s not an easy task, and may be something not many people are really good at. I also highly dislike when it is “our rules”, but it’s some dictatorial rules. I think all the “catch all” rules are pretty bad. The “we reserve ourselves the right to do whatever we want, however we want”, often with some “and you don’t have a choice and you accept to not complain nor say anything about it” added. That’s bad, and usually the application is terrible (you can pretty much already know it just because this kind of rules are there in the first place: It tells you something about the people who did it).

I think it’s important to be very clear with yourself about all this, convey it correctly and then apply it correctly. You’re asking yourself the right questions, so, that’s good :+1: (all of the above is only my own personal opinion, of course).


I don’t understand my own position sufficiently to express it clearly - I partly agree with your criticism - but I think I mean it’s not necessarily wrong of the person to say it, but it might be wrong for it to go unremarked (or unremoved) on the forum.

What about this for a twist? What if the politician had just been convicted of the worst type of criminal offence, let’s say paedophilia? There are several local councillors in that category. Would the comment about punching one of them seem more understandable? It doesn’t make it right, but for those who aren’t in the “definitely delete” or “definitely ok” extremes it might lead to a different perception than if the concern was economic policy or whatever.

The idea mentioned above of leaving it to whether the forum members flag it as a problem maybe deals with the “context” issue.


Unless it’s an obvious troll, then no. Everyone has a right to an opinion.

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I voted No, as a community manager/ moderator because there are many different factors I would have to take into consideration. While I’ve never encountered an explicitly violent/ aggressive user such as the one proposed in the op, in such case I would most likely hide the post and ask the user to edit it appropriately. I make them responsible for cleaning up their own mess first.

This. And I agree with the rest of your post too. I handle these situations on a case by case basis. My community doesn’t specifically ban political discourse, so the user’s history is usually taken into consideration first. I only take a heavy-handed action against a user as a last resort after I have counseled with my other mods on the matter. That keeps us all on staff accountable; we’ve all been “called off the ledge” a few times now haha.


I voted yes, for the same reason. Flag the post as inappropriate, don’t outright delete it. Contact the user directly and explain the situation respectfully. Let them clean their mess, well put.


I think the poll was a little limited in it’s scope lol.


In most communities I join, all political discussion is generally banned for this exact reason. It gets controversial, and the deletion of political topics gets misinterpreted as impeding freedom of speech, when that is not the case. It’s that absolutely no political topics are allowed. If you feel that politics have no place in your community it is all within your rights to delete any political content.

Everyone can have their own (political) beliefs, but certain places may not be the best to air them.

Although sometimes political discussion can be allowed externally, i.e. a Discord server for that community where rules are generally much more lax, which is the case in a certain Discourse community I am in.


That doesn’t seem very respectful to me (calling it directly “mess” they have to clean). Or is the idea to only APPEAR as “respectful” to the user’s face? (Sure, this can be viewed as antagonistic or what you want, but it still is the truth and what your mention inspires me).

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Freedom of speech affords people the right to say what they like. It does not give them the right to say it wherever they like. That’s a very important distinction.

Yes, agreed. A good approach in this case might be to respond saying that it’s not really cool to talk like that in your community. That gives the message to everyone in a clear and concise way. Sometimes deleting things just creates confusion and distrust.

@JusticeUK have you got what you need from this discussion? I’m aware that it’s one that has the propensity to get pretty heated.