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What is a Personal Attack?

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What is a Personal Attack?

Postby maoman » 26 Jan 2005, 14:17

What is a Personal Attack?

Our goal is to provide a forum where foreigners can discuss life in Taiwan, current events and other topics of interest in an atmosphere of mutual respect. While we know that we can never be 100% successful, we are committed to doing whatever we can, within reason, to make this goal a reality. has rules against posting personal attacks. We have learned that there exists a broad range of opinion about what constitutes a personal attack. It is our opinion that any negative comment about another member of this message board is a personal attack, and such comments should not be posted on our message board. In practice, however, not all personal attacks get removed by the moderators. If there is a specific example of rule-breaking that you feel should be dealt with, PM the moderator of the relevant forum, with a link to the post in question.

Occasionally mistakes are made, as the moderators are human. If a member feels that a moderator has acted inappropriately, that member should send an email to The administrators will always respond to specific complaints.

In an effort to standardize the enforcement of our personal attacks rules, and to increase understanding among our members, here are some guidelines and issues relating to our personal attacks rules.

The importance of having a thick skin

If you are a human being with feelings, you might read things on that you find offensive. That is to be expected. Discussions of political topics, cultural differences, and even daily life in Taiwan can be passionate and contentious. The administrators of this message board have little interest in catering to the most oversensitive members. If you get offended by many of the things you read on, you might have to learn to deal with it.

Types of Personal Attacks

There are two types of personal attacks.

Saying bad things about another member of this message board. For example: "You are an idiot."
Hurling insults at another member of this message board. For example: "Screw you."

What Personal Attacks Get Removed By The Moderators?

A personal attack is removed by the moderator if it has the following characteristics:

  1. The attack is against a member of this message board, rather than a non-member. If you attack another member of this message board, your post will be removed. We do not remove attacks against public figures, such as presidential candidates, entertainers, or other prominent individuals. If a public figure is also a member of Forumosa, then attacks against that person are allowed, but only if they are narrowly focused on that person's public activity. Attacks unrelated to that person's public activity are not allowed.
  2. The attack is against an individual, rather than a group. If an attack is against an individual member of this message board, then it will be removed. However, if someone posts a diffuse attack against a very generalized, non-discrete group of people it is not considered a personal attack for enforcement purposes. (Be aware that such group attacks may still be removed as bigotry or flame bait, following the guidelines listed below.)
  3. The attack is directed at a person, rather than at an idea. If an attack is against an idea, then it will be allowed to stay. For example, it is permissible to say that an idea is "stupid" but it is not permissible to say that an individual member of this message board is "stupid".
  4. The attack is clearly intended to smear, insult, or otherwise attack. If an attack is obviously intended to be malicious, then it will be removed. In practice, however, not all attacks are clear-cut. If a member makes a relatively harmless assertion about another member that is based on fact and not necessarily negative, it will generally be allowed to stay. For example, if someone posts "you frequently make negative comments about Group X," that would be allowed to stay. This is a reasonable conclusion to draw about someone's activity on this message board, and it isn't necessarily a negative personal characteristic. However, if someone says "you are a liar" or "you frequently tell lies," then that would be crossing the line into attacking because the comment asserts a negative personal characteristic.
  5. The attack is direct, rather than inferred by the listener. For example, if someone says "that is a stupid idea," that is not considered to be a personal attack. Often, in cases like this, people will infer that the speaker is calling the other person "stupid" even though the comment is narrowly targeted to the idea. We will not consider such inferred attacks to be prohibited personal attacks. Occasionally, however, an attack is so obvious and mean-spirited that we will nonetheless assume that it was intended as a personal insult by the author and remove the post.

What Attacks Against Groups Are Removed By The Moderators?

We do not have a strict rule against attacks against groups of people. However, group attacks can still be removed if they break other rules, such as our rule against bigotry, and our rule against posting blatant flame bait. Here are some thoughts about attacks against groups.

  • If an attack is against a discrete group of individual members, then it will be removed under the personal attacks rule. For example: If someone says "Person X, Person Y, and Person Z can kiss my ass" then that would be considered to be three individual personal attacks, and the post would be removed. However, if someone posts "All Geminis can kiss my ass" we would consider the target to be sufficiently diffuse that it does not constitute a personal attack. (Under certain circumstances, we might delete such a post under our flame-bait rule.)
  • If an attack is racist or hateful in nature, then it will be removed under our bigotry rule. The person who posts the attack might also get their account shut off. Our rules forbid racist, sexist, homophobic, ethnic, or anti-religious bigotry.
  • If a group attack is particularly vicious, pointless, or disruptive, then it might be removed under our flame bait rule. The judgment of what constitutes flame bait is highly subjective, but we will occasionally delete posts that cross a very arbitrary line of acceptability. If a group attack is particularly vicious, pointless, or disruptive, the moderators have the right to remove it. In such cases, moderators of a forum are expected to confer with each other and reach a clear consensus before taking action.

Closing The Loopholes

Occasionally members will post messages which aren't strictly against the rules, but are deliberately rude, offensive, uncivil, or disruptive. The moderators have the right to remove those posts, too.

Hopefully these guidelines will help our moderators enforce our personal attacks rule more fairly and evenly. Our intent is not to give a "green light" to anti-social behavior that is not specifically outlawed. We hope that all of our members will make an effort to participate on our message board in a civil and productive manner. Please be aware that members who choose to repeatedly engage in anti-social behavior (even behavior that is not specifically prohibited) will be banned for disrupting the message board.
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