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Consider the following question:

https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/154497/harassment-inside-a-certain-mathematics-department

It specifically names two people and accuses them of stuff. Is there any guideline for what should be done in that situation? Don't want to use my real account as this seems sensitive.

I am leaning towards sending the URL to the people involved so they can defend themselves.

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  • Don't use the names or other identifiables, it is not needed, it doesn't help. And probably something to ask on meta? – Tymoteusz Paul Mar 6 at 8:53
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    Yes, these question are quickly deleted, as the one you linked. Additionally your question should be on meta, because it is not a question about the workplace as such but rather about what qeustions to ask and how. – quarague Mar 6 at 8:54
  • @quarague fair point, it does belong on meta. – dealwithdoxxing Mar 6 at 8:54
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    Between the troll who didn't get a raise and now this, DarkCygnus chose a heck of a time to join as a mod. – Matthew Gaiser Mar 6 at 10:55
  • @MatthewGaiser :) – DarkCygnus Mar 6 at 18:43
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Doxing is unacceptable. The real life identities of the people involved have no general bearing on what advice will be given to OP, so their inclusion serves no knowledge-sharing or Q/A purpose.

We're not a court of law here. Usually all we have to go on to answer questions is exactly what OP says, and the accused cannot defend themselves. (Indeed if the accused were to find such a post and post a rebuttal, that rebuttal would likely be deleted as not-an-answer quickly). We have no way of verifying allegations, nor a way to adjudicate them. And this site ranks fairly highly in search engine results for specific terms, so we have an incumbent responsibility to be careful talking about specific people.

As such, any directly identifying information should be removed from the post immediately, and, depending on the severity (I'd argue this merits it if it wasn't already deleted) the post should be flagged for moderator attention.

Moderators can redact revisions to remove personally identifying information even from the revision history.

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Stack Exchange is not a court of law. So please don't forward to the people involved.

Content should be about behaviour not people. Naming specifics doesn't have any benefit and instead can make the answers less applicable to others.

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  • If the question is otherwise good - you can edit out the names to be initials or just X,Y etc. – Bee Mar 6 at 10:01
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    "Stack Exchange is not a court of law. So please don't forward to the people involved." What does being a court of law have anything to do with it? If someone comes and besmirches another person, openly and willingly, I wouldn't blame anyone who wants to then notify the said person. This shouldn't be a rule that somehow we enforce, but if someone feels like it, go for it, as people have the right to protect their reputation. – Tymoteusz Paul Mar 6 at 10:07
  • @TymoteuszPaul It means we are not here to hear each side of the story and pass judgement which is what would happen in court. Even if we answer a question that is not a fair reflection of the truth of the matter, the answers may be applicable to others. Names should simply be removed. – Gregory Currie Mar 6 at 10:16
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    @GregoryCurrie I agree with that, but how is that related to not forwarding this story to the person named in the post? – Tymoteusz Paul Mar 6 at 10:19
  • @TymoteuszPaul I don't see why it's in the communities interest. I really don't see any possible positive outcome, and a lot of potential very negative ones, but maybe I am missing a positive outcome. What do you think would happen? – Gregory Currie Mar 6 at 10:22
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    @GregoryCurrieI If people come here to besmirch someone publicly (like OP wanted to do with his initial post, check the comments) and we also openly advise people to not report it to the victim, then we are siding with OP. And I don't think that's right for anyone, including /workplace as it will invite more of those posts as they will be effective, even if with limited audience. So if someone feels that the thing said is bad enough to report, they should not be discouraged from doing so. – Tymoteusz Paul Mar 6 at 10:27
  • @TymoteuszPaul I am aware of the history of both posts. It is not our job to side with anyone. So inactivity surely cannot be construed as "siding" with someone. Whatever "siding" means. I think we should actively discourage behaviour that is likely to lead to conflict. People, of course, have their own agency and can do whatever they want, and chose to ignore any discouragement. – Gregory Currie Mar 6 at 10:38
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In 99.99999999% of cases here on TWP actually naming specific individuals (or even companies to be honest) is completely unnessecary, and particularly where it's accusing people of negative things it crosses into squarely into the realms of the unpleasant. Even vauge and unsubstantiated inferences regarding a person's behavior and character can have serious consequences to people's reputations and even safety in extreme cases.

This may sound like hyperbole but I think recent events involving SE Inc and a certain former moderator would suggest otherwise.

This is not an area to be f##king around so if you see it - edit it out, replace with fake names or general terms as appropriate but get it gone. If the doxxing/naming isn't intentionally malicious that should be all that's needed (and FWIW I think the poster in this case wasn't trying to be malicious)- if the poster (or others) are persistent in doing it then flag it, report it to the CM team if need be.

I am leaning towards sending the URL to the people involved so they can defend themselves.

While I can understand the urge to give people a right of reply as it were it's always better to de-escalate wherever possible - and this would only pour fuel on the fire IMO.

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    This is good advice, we should never stray into letting negative accusations against named individuals stay up, we are not equipped to judge or discern their validity. In addition to this, a mod flag is also prudent, especially if the post stays undeleted. Mods can redact revisions to remove potentially damaging personal information. – mag Mar 6 at 11:45
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Personally identifiable information (PII) does not belong on StackExchange with the obvious exception of whatever information individual users volunteer to share about themselves.

Whenever you see specific people being identified:

  • edit the PII out of the post
  • leave a comment explaining why so the OP knows why it's gone and that they shouldn't edit it back in
  • flag the post for moderator attention

I would always recommend flagging this just so the mod team can take a look, redact PII out of the revision history if needed, and potentially keep an eye on the question in case the OP is on a quest for revenge rather than advice.

Note that this also applies to companies or organisations being "named and shamed".

For the record: the three other answers posted here before mine are all sound advice. This is mostly to confirm it from the mod angle.

I am leaning towards sending the URL to the people involved so they can defend themselves.

I can argue this both ways but in the end what people do outside the network with the information they find here is always up to them. (What the professional course of action is in this situation would actually make for a good question on Main.)

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