I have been seeing two scenarios that you may want additional close or flag options for. Admittedly, they do not come up too often, so this may be a general question with no action. I am cool with that.

Here are the two scenarios:

The OP has a questionable motive: The OP sometimes seems to be a bad actor looking for information on how to carry out unsavory practices. There are times where the request is legitimate but needs clarification. Other times, it may be a question that if answered opens up a liability for the site.

The OP has a legal question: The OP sometimes is looking for legal advice and this is not a legal site and any answer would be an unprofessional answer. I have answered copyright questions and can competently comment as an amateur, however asking for legal advice generally means that the OP is about to step into something that could get them into real trouble for which the proper answer would be seek legal advice. Again a potential liability.

Just a couple of thoughts. It may be that some of the current close or flag options are good enough or could be modified or new ones added to cover this. I leave it up to the masses and the Mods.

  • As far as the close options go, look out for a discussion on that. Like Stephen said, we have one open slot available and we need to figure out how to best use it.
    – John Conde Mod
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 20:15
  • Good question(s). It's hard, if not nearly impossible, for users to know what's available to Moderators, so these sorts of Meta questions provide an opportunity to convey what is, as well as discuss what's considered on/off-topic and why. I think you've got two pretty solid answers here. I'd only add, or reiterate, that my measuring rod for determining if a post is on-topic is if it's meant to learn something and might be informational to others too. If it's a simple: "Is this legal?" yes/no question, that usually will result in opinionated answers best addressed by those who practice law...
    – dan Mod
    Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 5:43
  • If it's clear that the OP is looking to do some harm, and has little to no reputation on Stack Exchange sites, then flagging the question would likely be helpful. As John indicated, we'll be opening up related Meta discussions soon, and welcome any input to help the community become even better.
    – dan Mod
    Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 5:54
  • @dan Thanks! I was mostly thinking that at times it would be clearer for the OP not that these questions cannot not be closed for another reason if they go over the line. I also happen to think in terms of liability having started so many start-ups over my life so I might get a bit too carried away with thinking about CYA sometimes.
    – closetnoc
    Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 5:54
  • I've thought about the same questions myself, so it's good to discuss them here. I wish we had more close reasons to chose from and customize, but alas we're limited to just three, so we're forced to use a "general" close reason for any that don't fit those and comment to explain why it was put on hold instead. By the way, "holds" previously were termed as "closed" until they were edited, so you'll often see these used interchangeably. Questions can often be edited/improved, even some "craptastic" ones (trademark goes to John), which I'm always glad to see happen.
    – dan Mod
    Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 6:10

2 Answers 2


According to Meta SO:

How do we handle questions that are potentially or blatantly illegal or malicious?

Your question here is not materially different than the click-fraud one, and the answer is essentially the same: close if it's crap, or if it clearly intends to harm someone else. Questions that clearly seek to defraud or otherwise harm are not allowed here.

There is, of course, nothing to prevent people from asking general questions about a technique such as injecting code into a DLL. The question you have to ask yourself is this: does the technique have any possible legitimate uses? If you're a white hat, the answer is often "yes," because understanding the technique can help you defend yourself against black hats.

In any case, if the question doesn't appear to have any redeeming value (even to white hats), or targets a specific individual or organization (help me hack this website), then vote to close accordingly.

Basically, if there is a reasonable chance the question can be used for "good" purposes, leave it alone. If it is blatant crap, vote to close.

Also, feel free to flag it if it's really bad. If it really is craptastic a mod can close it quickly and put it out of its misery.

  • Another excellent answer! I have been doing these things. I just thought it would be a good flag/notification for the OP that there is concern and not so much operationally since the system has been working as is.
    – closetnoc
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 20:16
  • Unfortunately we don't control the flag choices available to chose from so in these cases you'll always have to use the custom flag and describe why you flagged it.
    – John Conde Mod
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 20:23
  • You are absolutely right. Thanks!
    – closetnoc
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 20:44

We can't add two more off-topic close reason because we are limited to three. We just combined two of our reasons "software recommendations" and "3rd party resources", so we have only one slot available. I believe that John Conde has a proposal that he wants to make for the currently empty slot.

As for your specific recommendations, my opinions are:

Question about how to carry out something unsavory

This seems like a valid reason to close a question for me. I can think of one instance in which I used this reason recently: When the question was about how to set up a file sharing site to enable copyright infringement. I'm not sure that it is a common enough option that it should take up one of the three slots. I'd recommend commenting something like:

What you are asking about is illegal, immoral, or nefarious. We don't support or condone those activities on this site and this question should be closed as off-topic.

We have the ability to use individual custom reasons when we close questions as off-topic.

Legal questions

The only way get "real" legal advice is to retain a lawyer. That doesn't mean that we can't provide good answers to questions that ask about how practices on their website relate to the law. When I answer such questions I always try to find references on sites such as Groklaw that explain the law and include the phrase "I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. If you want legal advice, you need to hire a lawyer." I don't think we should be summarily closing questions here just because they are asking about whether something is legal or not.

"Legal Questions" have been discussed on this meta site several times before:

The best answers from those are (summarized here):

  • Anna Lear♦'s answer -- Decide as a community whether you want to accept legal questions, don't add blanket disclaimers to all of them
  • Su's answer -- Don't leave people ignorant. Answer their question or at the very least provide a catch all question.
  • toomanyairmiles's answer -- OK to answer, just say that you are not a lawyer.
  • Anagio's answer -- Legal questions are fine. The EFF says StackExchange would have no legal liability for legal questions.
  • Great answer! I do not think that it should be automatic to close all legal questions necessarily. I have always been very cautious and suggested contacting a lawyer. Thanks also for the insight on the limitations. I just thought I would throw the idea out there. I just was curious especially since there could be real trouble associated with the question/answer from time to time. Thanks again!
    – closetnoc
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 20:08

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