This question was triggered by this one : Appstore application to assassinate anyone. I have a lot of troubles dealing with it.

Quoting it, the core of the question is something akin to that (Know you should read the whole question to have a clearer picture, different from mine) :

But here's the thing, I want this conspiracy to be true. I want this world to have a viable and public application where anyone of any age and gender or nation can pay for someone to be killed. Think of it like uberdrive or ubereats but now you pay someone to kill that girl who played you back in highschool 8 years ago and left you traumatized and transformed into an incel.

So the question would then be how to make payments safe and private for clients and assassins?

And around this fictitious condition :

there's no incognito mode for payments online... any kind of wacky crypto coin or online payment method is public, the blockchain is literally public and anyone can see what any stranger on the internet is doing with their money, and anyone buying something illegal on the internet is not gonna enjoy it for long

The illegal part is quite obvious, obviously. But as I see it, it could have other uses beyond just premeditated murders. I'm not detailing them as it would be irresponsible, but any not so foolish criminal network could find a use of it in their... Uh... "Domain".

So what should we do with this kind of questions? How should we handle them? I'm at a loss at what to do.

I'm not fundamentally against questions about criminal activities : Really unlikely-ones like asking about robberies with flight abilities, heavily past-related questions (How could you hide your alcohool contraband in a similar US country), or things which are known "internally", police or wrongdoers-side (how gold diggers hide their polluting activities in Amazon forests, which also had a French documentary). Those cases are either enough documented for a bad-willing person to find them or impossible to find an applicable use.

But here, we haven't solved the mathematic problem (don't recall its name) to decrypt today's encripted messages quickly enough yet. Therefore the context has a limiting factor on possible real-world uses, in the sense there are likely more efficient options right now. The problem lies in the "yet" and "now". Indeed, if I gave a serious enough answer, based on real-world principles, and that suddenly the condition become real.. Well, the answer can be used as a starting point to bad things, and we'd be more likely to be the "cause" of them. Not direct (Willing people will find a way), not legally (Or else some police novel writers and scriptwriters could be sent to prison for complicity), but morally speaking. Indeed, I am not up to give willingly advises on improving one's illegal activities1.

I wish the question was written to be more like "A group of individuals "à la Illuminati" want to keep their cookies baking and trading activities private from the government". First, this would avoid it to appear spontaneously on search engines (Google...) via dubious keywords even though the question's core is roughly the same. Then, I would not be bothered as much if I learned someone adapted this intel to their own "activities", as the effort and willingness to adapt it would be from their part, and not mine nor the asker. Finally, if it was written well enough, I wouldn't even notice a potential issue at all, so case-closed.

So how should we tackle these potentially legally sensible issues? On the one I am worried about and on similar questions in general?

1 : Illegal in the sense of "going against my ideals of law". I'm not against illegal activities if the reasons goes along my morals -humanitarian help for instance-.


3 Answers 3


The main problem I thìnk you're experiencing is that the actual question is very simple --- how to make payments safe and private for clients and assassins? --- but your judgement of it is being clouded by all the underlying and unnecessary fluff that precedes it.

Couple points:
First of all, and most importantly, this is not even an actual worldbuilding question. It's a question of app design and internet security. I'm sure there's a Stack for that! Wherever it is, it ain't here in WB! So I won't be voting to reopen.

Second of all, we are here, in this forum, to help people understand and construct their fictional worlds. Not all worlds are Diznee Tellytubby Veggietail Kiddy Friendly Cringe-o-matic Barfworlds. Fictional worlds are often dystopic. There is no good reason you can come up with that would ban such lines of questioning.

How we handle these questions is exactly how we handle any other query that gets asked here: we read the question and assuming it oughtn't be closed for a valid reason, we answer it given the specifications the OP laid out. We assume the conditions laid out for the fictional world are true and we answer accordingly.

For those unaware, there is a famous series of fantasy novels that plays with the fantasy trope of the assassins' guild. Fantasy and Sci-Fi (to say nothing of Mystery and True Crime) are chock full of these kinds of ideas that seem horribly untouchable but are really things that authors, writers, game designers, worldbuilders and geopoets have to consider within their worlds.

You're making a mountain out of a molehill. I'm going to quote (not quite verbatim) from JBH's patent response: if someone really and truly discovered a way of making online payments 100% safe, private and foolproof (and governmentproof!) they wouldn't be squawking about it here. They'd be quietly developing and implementing it in anticipation of making a fortune.

The world this question is set in is fictional. The crimes committed are fictional. There's no reason we can't or oughtn't consider responses to these kinds of scenarios.

The question itself, I'd argue, is off topic. Just not because of the fictional scenario.

  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps, my own senses of things do indeed tend to lighter topics. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 7:24

Let's face facts: everyone on this Stack is probably on the U.S. terrorist watch list

This stack has entertained questions ranging from what's the best poison and how do I use it? to how do I build a weapon of mass destruction and how do I use it? Most of us post and/or answer those questions without thinking too much about a world full of police-like people (like the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) paying very close attention to what we're asking and how we're answering. We should all be grateful that they (so far) have ignored all the congenial kooks over here at Worldbuilding.SE who are usually thinking more in terms of Dr. Nefario than we are Ted Bundy.

But every once in a while we see a question that's asking how to commit a crime in the real world. Generally speaking — we don't answer those questions. (More honestly, they get shut down by the mods or senior users as quickly as possible despite the plethora of junior users who seem to have been raised to blindly trust the entire world and who can't honestly believe that those police-like people are actually out there quietly watching what happens here.)

However, as devoid as the linked question may have been of morals and/or ethics, I don't believe it was that type of question because the OP had included a condition that critically differentiates his/her world from ours: the lack of encryption.

But, should we answer immoral or unethical questions?

Believe me, this isn't even close to the most immoral or unethical question I've seen on this site. But should we host them? Near the end of the incredibly long Wheel of Time saga the principal character is shown the nature of the world should evil get its way. The scene was one of a poor and hungry child stealing an apple (as I recall) and the merchant, devoid of conscience in a world of evil, casually turning to gun the child down in the muddy street. The scene was immoral. It was sickening. And that was the point. I wouldn't read a book that was filled with that kind of behavior, but it was necessary to understand how the world would change should the protagonist make a particular choice.

Yeah... those are the kinds of questions we answer here. It's the point of the site.

But we do ask that the OPs have a sense of decorum for a number of reasons that were brought up when the SE Overlords told us questions involving graphic violence, etc. wouldn't be tolerated. We expect people to ask questions concisely and forthrightly — and in the case you linked the OP didn't do that, which made the situation seem worse than it actually was.


I agree with elemtilas that you are, probably, focusing too much attention on the wording of the world's description, while the actual question is about the payment system. (I do not agree, though, that this is not a worldbuilding question.)

I think that as a community WB.SE should refrain from moral or legal judgements: Always for the former, and unless the question specifically asks for them for the latter.


I believe that the community as a whole should adopt the position of moral relativism 1 and try to avoid any normative position (aka set of morals A is superior to set B). There are 3 reasons for this:

  1. Morals are not universal. Each culture has its own views (this is an empirical fact; if you need additional proof talk to people of other cultures/subcultures about their values and morals). What you find immoral might be perfectly moral for me and vice versa. In addition to these ethical plurality existing in the real world, fictional worlds can have their own ethical systems, quite different from what we are used to.

  2. Fictional worlds are often constructed with the goal of exploring various ethical notions (most fantasy narratives are like this) and intentionally create systems of morals that go against conventions. However, not all authors are capable of writing a philosophical paper examining their own ethical experiments and WB.SE is not a place to require world creators to come up with such papers.

  3. If WB.SE overconcerns itself with ethics it will result in:

    • culture wars (this community is not culturally homogenous and some people may turn to be moral universalists or moral absolutists insisting that their views are superior and the only true and proper ones);
    • closure of a significant number of questions (for example, questions that deal with war, human genetics, killings, poisons, and alike; in addition, we will have to examine all question related to superheroes [their actions tend to result in massive collateral damage including human lives] and magic [same reason — human deaths])

There are also inevitable problems with the consistent application and enforcement of whatever moral standards that could emerge from the culture wars. Currently, WB.SE cannot apply its own rules in a consistent manner and users often employ subjective rule interpretations when VTC. Ethical rules will cause an even worse nightmare.


There are two aspects to consider:

  1. Laws applicable to the users and the StackExchange;
  2. Possible legal concerns associated with the questions.

I believe that 1. should be followed to the fullest extent. If the law explicitly forbids certain topics and/or discussions they should be excluded. However, decisions about the legality of these topics and/or discussions cannot be made by the users, especially if they are not legal experts2. This is a job for the legal team and moderators. Users must defer to their decisions.

For the second aspect, I think it is important to remember what WB.SE is:

Worldbuilding Stack Exchange is a site for designers, writers, artists, gamers and enthusiasts to get help creating imaginary worlds.

All situations, all events, all worlds are supposed to be imaginary. No matter how described scenarios make you feel or how they relate to existing laws, they are just hypotheticals and thought experiments. Some of the proposed solutions might end up in a book, a film, a game, etc. But most of them will never be implemented in reality.

Of course, there is a probability that some people come with questions about real life scenarios and look for solutions to the real life problems. However, how high is this risk? Is it sufficient to exclude all potentially troublesome topics? And how it would affect those who are trying to create worlds that are a bit more realistic and complex than children books?

Also, please do not call something 'illegal' because it is "going against [your] ideals of law", unless you are an absolute monarch talking to your subjects. Different people have different ideals of law. Some people believe that abortions should be legal and some believe that they should be illegal. Whose ideal of law is better? Should WB.SE take a stance when it comes to ideals of laws? And how would the community deal with dissenting opinions? Ban? Would it even be legal (permitted by existing and applicable law)?


If a question makes you uncomfortable just do not answer. Maybe write a comment expressing your concerns, but do not close questions (or question questioner's morals) because you feel that they do not fit your ideals of ethical and legal norms. Please try to be objective, focus on the problem instead of your feelings about it.


1 Disclosure: My own ethical position is close to moral relativism. I believe that morals exist relative to culture and society and that it is not proper to impose my own values and beliefs on other people or to judge other people's values and beliefs.

When it comes to WB.SE, it means that I am not concerned with 'right' and 'wrong', 'moral' and 'immoral', I see every question in technical terms: What are the conditions and limitations, what is the desired end-result, what theories, frameworks, and research are applicable, etc. I do not see WB.SE as a place for ethical debates and I do not think it is proper to pass any moral judgements.

2 Even legal experts may not be able to make a correct judgement if this particular area is not within their expertise or if they live in a different country.

  • $\begingroup$ You misunderstood me : I was having troubles with questions with reasonable real-world potential. Not superheroes increasing the debt of a state as they wreak havoc through a city or obviously sci-fi ones. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 10:25
  • $\begingroup$ Regarding taking a question objectively, I cannot. It's unreasonable to think one can divide their objective thinking over their subjective reasoning, and I doubt I would be honestly able to reach a quarter of that goal. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 10:36
  • $\begingroup$ Finally yes, morals would be a better definition than ideals of law. I didn't have the word in my head at the time x_x $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 10:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena I did not misunderstand you. But 1) where is the line between 'reasonable real-life potential' and not, and 2) if you insist on the implementation of a 'question morality gauge' why do you assume that there will be no one who will try to apply it to all questions? $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ As for objectivity, maybe you could try reading some of these. Ethical norms are not so different from other biases. And it is quite reasonable to think that one can try to minimise the influence of biases on certain decisions. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ I... never asked for a common morality gauge? Maybe I wasn't entirely clear and you are projecting my sayings as a generalization, but this question is actually quite egocentric in itself. I'm actually more worried about the potential consequences of my acts, not proposing a general way to handle anything. I probably used at the time the "we" pronoun as a way of generalizing it, but it's a lot more individual-wise, as shown with the related concerns. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 18:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ By the way, thanks for the link, even though it's nothing more than a... uh. Google search ;p. Though... Don't force yourself too much to find ways to "improve" my "spirit" (is there a better way of putting it XD?). I actually don't wish to and probably can't, not about this topic at least. Don't wish to because I embrace fully who I am, and cannot because... Well I don't wish to talkie walkie about it publicly }i{. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena Perhaps you should consider editing your query to clarify that you are talking about yourself and not looking for a solution applicable to the entire community. I am not familiar with you and I cannot know that 'we' in your questions refers to you only. It is reasonable for me to assume that 'we' refers to the community and not yourself since your usage of 'we' does not match any common patterns of nosism in English. I will edit my answer if you clarify your query. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 18:50

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