I emphasis the term public, meaning not the OP asking the original question. There are similar questions regarding safety, but they focus on safety of the OP.


What is our policy on dangerous stuff?

What I want to focus on are third parties. Perhaps I've watched too many episodes of The Good Wife, but SE is an American site, so. I /we have recently been involved with two questions that have one involved the general public, and two potential employees. We have given detailed design advice with the express intent that the OP would follow it. Some here also claim to be experts, which can I believe alter the legal position of a statement. I'm not. I'm stupid, if any lawyers are listening. My examples:-

Multiple lights with button that turns one on at a time

I want to turn on-off 5 big machines within 2 KM radius by Arduino. Will a GSM module work for me, or any better idea?

If the OP goes ahead and builds devices based on our expert recommendations, where does that leave us if there are problems with third parties. Isn't it awkward to say the OP shouldn't have listened to us, and we also say are an expert forum with experienced engineers? It's further complicated in that SE is incorporated on the basis of expert opinion. The "multiple lights" question involved an arts display to the general public, and the "big machine" question may involve legal employees at their work place. In England, this would not be viewed equally as killing yourself by wiring plugs backwards.

This is an anonymous comment made here.

If a few want to kill themselves, what's the problem? Hand out extension cords with frayed ends, tell them to put pennies in the fuse holder, stand on a wetted concrete floor, and lean on a copper water pipe while installing live house wiring.

Yes it's funny and I know that it was meant in jest. But it's in print on the SE web site, in America, and has been read many thousands of times giving SE ample opportunity to remove it.

I too hate all the Health & Stupidity stuff, but I'm careful as to what I post in public. I believe that I have a moral responsibility to those who ask my advice, even though it's usually crap. Are there any constructive thoughts?


1 Answer 1


You can't use SE and sue somebody else (well I supposed you could, but you wouldn't get very far). If your reading an SE page, your making SE's terms and an agreement. See here: Any legal exposure from answering questions?

There are other ways that you could get into legal trouble, like posting code that isn't yours or infringe on a patent.

Secondly even without that, if something were to happen, somebody would have to take your advise and then sue you. Both are not likely.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Yeh, the only problem with the T&Cs is that they're meaningless. I didn't bother reading them, and they have no legal authority in Europe anyway. Similarly there are no software patents in Europe. This isn't the Wild West. \$\endgroup\$
    – Paul Uszak
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 22:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ But I was also thinking of our professional responsibility. There is a huge difference between an engineer and a professional engineer (professional in the UK Chartered sense). If we're involved in offering competent electrical advice to an electrically incompetent artist that will use our device to kill a member of the public, surely we have some ethical responsibility to be more circumspect than just answering his highly specific questions. That is what comes from experience and maturity. Might a senior review process be in order for questions affecting third parties? \$\endgroup\$
    – Paul Uszak
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 22:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ If your a professional engineer (which includes a stamp in most places), then you are taught about ethics and even legal practices. We don't differentiate between users that are PE's and those that are not (I'm willing to bet that most are not), unless you put it on your profile page no one would know the difference, the words that you type are held under the same SE CC license anyway. The T&C's are not meaningless if someone is trying to sue you and asks SE for your contact information or finds your contact information and takes you to court. \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike Mod
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 22:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ There are no 'ethics' on this site other than SE's terms of 'Be nice' model \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike Mod
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 22:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes this is the wild west: the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike Mod
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 22:51
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Ya the problem with the T&Cs is they protect stack exchange not the users. The T&C's just state stack exchange is not responsible or liable for whatever content is posted by the users. Basically... users are on their own. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trevor_G
    Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 15:42

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