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aSK:Civility breach

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This page describes a civility breach.

If you have been directed here by an Umpire telling you that you have committed one, this page explains why your comment was a breach and further explains what you need to do about it.

  • You are advised to read this page carefully, as failure to do so may result in you being sanctioned because you've not understood the situation properly.

This page comprises three main parts:

  • Explaining what constitutes a breach (Definitions).
  • Explaining how an Umpire may respond to what he considers a breach (Umpire response).
  • Listing what you can do about being cited for a breach (Remedies).



Civility breach

For this policy, a civility breach is the use of

  • a pure insult,
  • offensive language,
  • the Lord's name as an exclamation, or
  • a negative objective description that is inaccurate.
... name-calling, epithets and hate-filled diatribes not only fail to contribute to enlightened discourse and to the enhancement of social well-being, they silence their targets and harm the marketplace of ideas...[1]

What one person considers uncivil another may not, or one person may consider a comment mildly uncivil whilst another considers it to be more serious. This page does not attempt to define precisely what is uncivil and what is not, but to give some general guidelines.


A person, for this policy, could be an individual or a group of people. It may or may not be a member or contributor to this site. In some respects, being uncivil about a person not contributing to this site is worse, as they don't have opportunity to defend themselves.

The person could be implicit, as in the person responsible for an action or idea or holding a view, although, as noted below, this will less likely constitute a breach.


For this policy, a negative term is one that denotes something inadequate, insufficient, or sinful.

Pure insult

A pure insult is referring to a person in a negative way with terms that cannot be considered objective descriptions.

Examples include idiotic, moronic, and stupid.

Negative objective description

An objective description is one which is able to be objectively tested for authenticity. For example, calling a person's actions "criminal" is clearly true if their actions are in breach of an applicable law, but false if not.

Other such negative terms include adulterer, bigot, deceitful, dishonest, homosexual, liar, racist, and sexist.

Note that negative objective descriptions are not considered civility breaches if they are used accurately, i.e. if the adjective can be shown to be correct, and in a context where the description is relevant. Evidence of the truth of the term need not be court cases or self-confession, but will need to be convincing.

If the term is widely accepted as being applicable to a person, such as calling Hitler a madman, it is likely that an Umpire will not declare a breach unless he considers the use of the term unacceptable anyway. Similarly, an Umpire may be less likely to declare a breach for a dead person. However, once an umpire has declared your comments to be a breach, neither the description being widely accepted nor the person being dead will constitute justification for using the description.

Misusing the Lord's name

Misusing the Lord's name is a breach (Exodus 20:7). This includes using the term "God" as an exclamation.

Using terms derived from the Lord's name can also be considered a breach, on the judgment of the Umpire. This includes, for example, "Gawd".

Offensive language

Words or phrases that are considered offensive, including swear words and crude references to sexual organs or acts, constitute a breach.

Note also the following:

  • This site strives to be family-friendly, and has a Christian basis. Therefore the Umpires may more readily consider language to be offensive than would many other people.
  • This site has contributors and readers from many countries and cultures. Language considered acceptable in one culture may not be considered acceptable in another culture.

Umpire response

When an Umpire sees what he considers a civility breach, he has the choice of actions listed below. He will choose which action to take depending on his opinion of the severity of the comments, how new the contributor is, and the contributor's history of past offences.

The Umpire may...

  • Simply delete the offending words or perhaps the entire comment.
  • Warn the offender, but take no further action.
  • Require justification for the comments. See "Remedies", below.
  • Instruct the offender to retract the offending language and apologise. See "Remedies" below.
  • Sanction the offender, according to the Sanction policy page.

An Umpire is less likely to declare a breach in the following cases.

  • Referring to an idea—rather than a person—as (for example) stupid will not normally be grounds for declaring a breach.
  • Expressing an opinion that something is the case—rather than asserting that it is—will also not normally be grounds for declaring a breach.

However, persistent or belligerent use in any form may constitute a breach, as may be uses which appear to be pushing the boundaries.

An umpire can declare a civility breach for any of the following:

The use of a pure insult or offensive language or misusing the Lord's name.
In these cases, the Umpire may delete, warn, instruct, or sanction.
The use of a negative objective description, if he considers it to be inaccurate or likely to be inaccurate.
In this case, the Umpire may require justification. If the offence is a repeat one, the Umpire may choose to sanction instead.


Depending on the circumstances, an offender has the following options available.


If the Umpire gives the offender the opportunity to justify a negative objective description, the offender has two choices:

  • Demonstrate in a convincing way that the description is justified. The offender may have called someone a criminal, and the umpire is unaware that they are a criminal. Producing evidence to support that they are a criminal constitutes justification.
  • Retract the description and apologise. This includes either deleting or striking out the original description.

A refusal to justify will be considered a further breach, of failing to follow the Umpire's instructions. The Umpire may also declare a breach of failing to follow instructions if he considers that the justification is frivolous or not made in good faith.

Retract and apologise

If the Umpire gives the offender opportunity to retract and apologise, then that is what should be done. A refusal to do so constitutes a further breach, of failing to follow an Umpire's instructions.

The Umpire may also declare a breach of failing to follow instructions if he considers that the apology is frivolous or not made in good faith.


In all circumstances, the offender may appeal, first to the Umpire who sanctioned him, or, failing that, to the Sanction Review Committee.

If the offender has been blocked, he will normally be able to post on his own talk page. Alternatively, he may appeal by e-mail. In this case, the relevant content of the e-mail (justification or retraction and apology) will then be posted on the talk page where the offence occurred.


  1. Susan Dente Ross, Deciding Communication Law: Key Cases in Context, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004., p.7.1. Ross was speaking of the views of other scholars.
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