Concerning the following questions :

Those two questions have in common the fact of trying to get something which is obviously not free to take.

  • In the first question, I feel the web scraping mentioned is rather web stealing and it disturbs me.

  • In the second question, the asker mention "downloading its shp file is restricted." and tries to go around it by extracting a screenshot.

Both are just asking for a way to go around a legal or ethical limitation (it's property of someone or it's protected).

What is the behaviour one should use in those cases?

Is flagging the question with "in need of moderator intervention" the right course of action in theses cases? If yes, what will happen next?


3 Answers 3


Is flagging the question with "in need of moderator intervention" the right course of action in theses cases?

Before flagging please consider other community options available to you. Use the Down-vote, Comment, and/or Vote to close options to raise the problem to the attention of the community, that way if the community agrees then further votes will possibly end in the question being closed. The community can shut-down a Q&A through the close-vote queue if they agree with your votes and comments.

If a flag is needed, due to lack of community attention (in either direction), or because there are serious issues with the question, then Yes the flag for moderation intervention would be the correct flag to use.
When you flag for moderator intervention you get the opportunity to explain why, so please do so. Give detail about what you think is being asked for and why you think it is un-ethical (or any other reason). A moderator (or more than one) will review the flag and respond accordingly. If they agree the post may be closed or deleted.

Please don't assume though that the moderator will always agree.

Again please use the moderator flags sparingly - use down-votes, comments, and votes-to-close first. The community can shut-down a Q&A through the close-vote queue if they agree with your votes and comments.


Please don't jump to conclusions.

1) Your first example is gone, so I cannot comment but scraping is not necessarily unethical and is repeatedly deemed legal in courts in various countries. What the person does with the acquired data is their own choice.

2) It is not per se unethical to extract information from raster data or change values. The poster got a jpeg file and says downloading the matching shp is "restricted". This says nothing. It could be that the provider has a freemium like model where people can buy vector data for convenience, it could be that whatever rights the user had for downloading the jpeg allows them to process it in any way they like. It is a very low quality question for sure, but that's a different issue.

Generally, I think questions should try to be abstract so that the issue of moral ethics does not play a role in our exchange of technical knowledge.

Please don't let your inner moral compass force a community to be more strict than necessary.


It sounds like you think the questions should be deleted and, as a moderator, I would be happy to do that if the community sends a clear enough signal to me that they believe it is appropriate to do so. The guidelines I follow on when to delete come from:

How does deleting work? What can cause a post to be deleted, and what does that actually mean? What are the criteria for deletion?

What are the criteria for deletion?

For questions, a post that no longer adds anything to the site should be deleted. Basically, this includes most closed questions that cannot be improved and reopened. However, it may be beneficial to keep duplicates to aid future users in finding the canonical question, as different people may use different wordings that cause the canonical question to not show up in search.

For answers, any post that is not an answer (should be a comment, doesn't answer the question, etc.) should be deleted. Answers that are wrong or that dispense poor advice should be downvoted, not deleted.

If you simply flag a moderator to delete, even with an explanation, you may or may not see that happen because they may need to perform some research before deciding whether they agree with you.

If you bring it to Meta, like you have (which I applaud), then the community gets to build its case for that to happen, but as you may notice the questions you cited are still on the site, so any deletion takes time.

I think the best way to see something you think is bad in a question result in that question being deleted quickly is to downvote it quickly.

At the moment from 107 views of the first question the community seems split on whether it is bad because it has 2 upvotes and 4 downvotes, on the second the community seems ambivalent because from 48 views it has 1 upvote and 0 downvotes.

If either of these were at a net downvote of about -5 or more, and I came across it, or had my attention drawn to it by a flag or Meta Q&A, I would have no hesitation deleting it.

On this site we moderators VERY rarely delete questions. We often delete answers (that are really comments, new questions, spam, etc) and the Roomba often deletes unvoted and downvoted questions without answers, but we need a strong signal from the community or obvious spam, attempts at advertising, etc before deleting a question, especially if it has upvoted answers.


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