Although most questions tagged torture and execution are unquestionably well within the scope of Worldbuilding, some were or might have been inappropriate causing a discussion about the validity of continuing the tags. The discussion is not new. But this time it captured the attention of the SE Overlords.
As is normal with high authority, the statements made by SE were delivered with a hammer. However, it has always been the culture of Stack Exchange to let the individual Stacks set their own rules — within limits. I have come to the opinion that @CesarM's Meta post was not a dictatorial action to shut down the torture and execution tags, but a warning that we must better police ourselves.
So, why am I posting this Meta question? Because as time has passed, it appears we have not settled on how do police ourselves. A recent comment chain argued that a question about the limits of human pain perception should be closed due to the warning given by our SE Overlords.1 The discussion was predictably all-or-nothing. The goal of this policy is to create a standard that will help reviewers judge whether or not a question tagged torture and/or execution is "too much."2
@Elemtilas points out a simple truth: everyone will have a different tolerance to vice. In the (in)famous U.S. court case Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184 (1964), Nico Jacobellis, manager of the Heights Art Theatre in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, was convicted of public obscenity for showing Louis Malle's 1958 movie The Lovers, which the State of Ohio felt was obscene. In the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the matter, we learn the basics of our problem:
The most famous opinion from Jacobellis, however, was Justice Potter Stewart's concurrence, stating that the Constitution protected all obscenity except "hard-core pornography". He wrote, "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that."
And that's our problem: when a question crosses the line, we're supposed to know it when we see it. Using violence as an example (although this can be applied to any vice), the complexity is that some will think little of depictions of violence that others would blanche over, some will react badly to violence where others seek to have nothing to do with it. And all that rests on the answer to a single question, "what's violence?"
The SE Overlords don't know any better than we do, save for one possibility: when somebody's parent contacts SE because they believe what we've posted on a publicly accessible site is objectionable, the threat of that lawsuit draws a line in the sand that I never expect SE to cross (nor should anyone here). As painful as it may seem, we are responsible for helping the company that provides the services we enjoy using free-of-charge to avoid unnecessary scrutiny — which means erring on the side of "decency," which is a word just as difficult to define as "violence." (Yup, we know it when we see it.)
Worldbuilding is about creating and consistently using rules for a fictional world of an individual's own creation. Questions about torture and execution are acceptable in a worldbuilding context under the following conditions:
Questions asked here must be suitable for asking on Biology or Medical Sciences. If the method of asking the question would be considered too gratuitous for those sites, it's too gratuitous here. ("We accept a lot here as long as it's written in a clinical voice.")
We allow real-world questions with worldbuilding context, but the purpose of this site is not to help a querent find the most3 gruesome, disgusting, disturbing, objectionable, or upsetting way to express a torture or execution — all of which are storybuilding. We will only help create the rules of torture and execution. This includes questions about methods, procedures, and consequences so long as the previous bullet is strictly adhered to and a specific and objective question is asked. Open-ended questions are strictly forbidden (as per the Help Center).4
Questions that ask about the rules of torture and/or execution that are not tagged appropriately shall be immediately edited (by anyone) to include one or both tags as appropriate. This allows users who do not want to subject themselves to those topics to more easily avoid them. Users who disagree with the application of the tags are encouraged to ask about the issue here, in Meta, rather than engaging in an edit-war over the matter.
It is further proposed that the torture and execution tags be updated to include a link to this post so that querents interested in asking such questions have easy access to the discussion that led to this policy.
1 If you haven't realized by now that I'm still upset by how SE treated Monica Ciello... I can't help you.
2 "Too much" is obviously a subjective term. It is highly unlikely that we will come up with an entirely objective criteria by which all tagged questions can be easily judged.
3 Please do not accept the superlative word "most" too literally. We're not here to help anyone find those descriptions to any extent. Per our help center, we don't help people build stories.
4 Worldbuilding.SE is generally casual about open-ended "How could I X?" questions. But in this case, we will hold querents to a higher standard. It is not our job to explain to you how to create as much pain as possible or how to keep someone alive as long as possible. Perhaps the difference is, "could I do X and not kill someone instantly?" would be on-topic as an objective, clinical question while "how do I keep someone alive as long as possible?" would be closed as open-ended and gratuitous.