There are a lot of interesting question here on Worldbuilding and some of them kind of skirt the line of what some people could consider 'socially acceptable'. That's because, from our perspective, this is a Question & Answer site dedicated to Worldbuidling and occasionally there will be worlds and cultures which are as strange and alien to us as we are to them and thus their standards of decency aren't our standards of decency. Basically, I'm trying to say that there can be some really off color question on this site which are genuine questions looking for answers. Now, obviously, some question are so distasteful and misguided that they're immediately closed and/or deleted, but some aren't. Sometimes there will be a question that a person could deem to be in incredibly bad taste to the point where no one should answer it, yet unfortunately the numbers aren't with them to close the question. Under those circumstances, is it right to downvotes the answers to a question you don't like?

In other words, if you run across a question that you find to be foul and repulsive, are you justified in downvoting answers to that question under the rationale of 'they shouldn't have answered that question in the first place'?

I ask this because that's pretty much what happened to this question, (all the answers received downvotes within a minute of each other) and if the general consensus of the site is that voting like this is bad, then we might be able to form a unified front and do something about it.

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    $\begingroup$ What makes you think that if I disdain a question asking how to torture a minor I might instead appreciate an answer to that same question? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch Mod
    Aug 7, 2020 at 5:30
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica I don't think that's the situation we're discussing here. If you give an answer that's bad on its own merits (i.e. instructions on how to torture a minor) I understand the downvoting. But if the answer isn't bad from a conceptual standpoint and only is bad from the association to the the disliked question, then is the answer bad by extension? $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Aug 7, 2020 at 19:13
  • $\begingroup$ See this. Despite the name, it does do a good job of addressing your question. $\endgroup$ Aug 12, 2020 at 1:05
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDaleks It doesn't address when the answer hasn't violated any of the rules, thought. The premise of that question is that the answer hasn't accidentally violated the guideline, this question leaves the prospect more open-ended. $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Aug 12, 2020 at 2:28

3 Answers 3


I left a comment in that question saying the premise was racist, but the OP then also commented that yep, that was a racist world. Then it came to me: sometimes we mistake representation of evil with support of evil. Were we to condemn representation of everything we condemn in stories, we would not have stories. Star Wars would not be the same without the Empire, The Last Airbender would not be the same without the Fire Nation and The Hunger Games would not be the same without the hunger games!

That question specifically did not sway me one way or another, so I didn't vote and I didn't check the answers. Knowing that this happened and everyone got a -1 like that, I just went there and gave everyone a +1 for balance.

IMO the ideal way to vote is to judge every single post, question or answer, according to its own merit. Downvoting an answer because you don't like the question misses the point of voting.

Finally, if you think a question is so distasteful that it should not be on the site, it should be either flagged for moderation attention or voted for closure (everything distasteful usually fits into a closure category). It happened before, with questions regarding rape and torture. I don't think it's the case for the question being discussed, though.


This has been addressed in a more specific form here.

Generally speaking, I'd argue the same: The real question to be addressed here is: does the answer in question warrant a downvote on its own merit or not?

I can certainly see how someone might take offence at the question's wording (and if Mephistopheles is living up to his namesake, then I suspect there was some kind deliberate provocation leaning towards sensationalism); though the question itself is relatively non-offensive. If you switch all the colours around, the basic query is the same.

The correct actions, obviously, upon reading a question one takes offence at include:

  • downvoting the question
  • leaving a comment expressing that one has taken offence
  • bringing up the matter here in Meta where it can be rationally & dispassionately discussed

Downvoting the answer because one takes offence at or otherwise dislikes the nature of a question is an immature response akin to "wokeness" in its current less than complimentary sense. The action does not address any real or perceived issue, does not question or seek clarification of any issue and, in fact, is really little more than an act of irrational, perhaps puerile, vandalism. The moreso in light of the fact that the OP actually straight up says "this society is racist".

In Conclusion
No, we really aren't justified in downvoting answers simply because we don't like the question.

Questions and answers are two separate and distinct entities. As I said in response to the other question: this is really more a matter of confounding one person's work with another. Whoever the vandal is seems to have expressed their "rage" (an irrational emotion) over an admittedly provocative question by taking that rage out on everyone who responded.

Also, this is all about worldbuilding. Cultures have their dark and evil sides, their failings. A well thought out world looks into these aspects of culture & history every bit as much it does the good stuff. We aren't here to pronounce moral judgements on question content based on real world morality and history. We're here to examine a question in light of whatever in-world context the querent gives us to work with.

What to Do?
Since no one can "undo" the damage at the back end, this could be done very easily by someone clicking the upvote on everything, thus cancelling out the direct effects of the vandalism, without any taint of "reverse vandalism".

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    $\begingroup$ +1, but with a caveat: I don't consider it appropriate -- ever -- for a Mod to change someone's vote (assuming they have that power). A vote is one's own, to be used however one chooses. You may disagree with how the vote is cast/used, but forcing a change is as much "vandalism" as your view of any widespread downvoting. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Aug 6, 2020 at 12:35
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    $\begingroup$ I do agree with @Frostfyre on that last part, and I can confirm that we have no power when it comes to changing votes (and I certainly hope that we never get that power). We can't see how folks voted on a post-by-post level, either - that sort of information is protected. (The anti-sockpuppet tools regarding votes en masse between accounts are different, and involve votes in the aggregate.) $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Aug 6, 2020 at 13:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre -- Generally speaking, I agree 100%. I think there are or at least could be valid circumstances for cancelling that vote. Even in real life, if you're engaging in voter fraud, your fraudulent votes get cancelled. Whether or not this rises to the level of fraud of some kind is a discussion for a different question! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 6, 2020 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 -- Very well. I'll amend my answer accordingly. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 6, 2020 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ Votes do get cancelled if accounts are removed (presumably for fraudulent mass voting it other rule breaches) as I've had notifications in past of rep lost due to accounts being removed. $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2020 at 11:54

In an absolutely perfect world the answer would be no, it's not acceptable.

Thankfully, it's not a perfect world. It's a world where there are a diversity of opinions, motivations, educational levels, political persuasions, etc., etc. Add the all-too-human propensity to reward what we enjoy and punish what we don't and what do you get?

Social voting.

According to the Help Center we should use more meritorious reasons for applying voting. But Stack Exchange encourages voting — they even have badges for doing it. Even we do it (I remember seeing a comment on one post, something along the lines of "seven answers to this question and not a single upvote? Why would you post an answer but not upvote the question?")

So, despite the Help Center suggesting otherwise, the site behavior being sought is to "vote early and often." (Thank you Chicago Mayor Daley.)

There will inevitably be social voting. It can't be stopped. I'm not sure it should be stopped. I conceded that there is socially bad behavior (like posting an answer then downvoting all the other answers to artificially promote your own) and, as I recall, SE's engine can actually detect some forms of bad social voting and reverse them — but I'm sure it's not perfect.

In the end, it should be remembered that one person's appropriate is another person's inappropriate and vice-versa. We should remember that we have all kinds of people who visit this site, from all kinds of backgrounds and (perhaps importantly) all kinds of ages. What might not be offensive to the adults could be (and in some cases very much is) inappropriate for children — children that visit this site.

To conclude, I remember some years ago an OP complaining that vulgarity had been removed from his post. "We're all adults here..." was the argument. Of course, if that were true, we'd all realize there are children here and act according to the better angels of our nature.

But, alas, what we'll actually do is what we want, rules or not.


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