Recently I encountered an SE-EE question that, to my mind, raised some ethical issues. Specifically, the question related to designing a constant-current source for making colloidal silver.

Question link here

My position on this is that in the context of this question, it’s not such a great leap to make that answering it would be abetting and promoting quack medicine, which at the very least is fraudulent if not unlawful. I feel that as an ethical answerer it’s a moral obligation to not answer, and discourage others from doing so. And I did exactly that.

Others felt that it’s a ‘clear engineering question’ and it’s not up to us as answerers to judge.

What say you, meta-SE?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: Do we have any guidelines toward weapons design?. Personal position: as long as answering the question is not illegal, we shouldn't have to care wether doing what is described in the question or answer is legal/safe/useful... or not. Now, if your own ethics tell you not to answer, that's perfectly fine, but this shouldn't be a reason to close/flag/delete/... A warning as a comment may make sense, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – dim
    Mar 15, 2020 at 20:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ How do you know they are not a chemist or a DIY person that needs colloidal silver for some other reason? \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike Mod
    Apr 22, 2020 at 20:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ The OP's phrasing, level of expertise conveyed, the utter silence on their part at the pushback I and others gave challenging their intent. That, and simple statistics: I'd say it's a safe bet that well over 99% of the Internet discussion of colloidal silver, and especially how to make it at home, is for its use as quack medicine, and not for legitimate medical and industrial use. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 22, 2020 at 20:43

2 Answers 2


If you feel that you have some ethical or moral obligation not to answer a question, then don't.

If you want to stop others from answering, you can cast a vote to close the question.

Then let the rest of us do as we see fit.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ "Ayn Rand, Rand Paul, and Paul Ryan walk into a bar. The bartender serves them tainted alcohol because there are no regulations. They die." See, the problem is, by answering this question about colloidal silver, it's very likely the answerer is abetting a fraud. That's a legal issue as well. Although there are industrial uses for colloidal silver, considering the context and content of the question and the sheer volume of misinformation and fraud surrounding it, it's not a big leap to infer that the OP intends to make the stuff for quack medicine, with potential harm from it. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 16, 2020 at 21:22
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @hacktastical If the union of everyone's morals will decide what is available for everyone else, there will be no content left. \$\endgroup\$
    – pipe
    Mar 16, 2020 at 21:46
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ That’s a naïve if not disingenuous argument that is so easily undercut it’s laughable. Whether you realize it or not, ethics always come into play when answering (or asking) a question on SE. For example, we aggressively shut down homework questions when the OP clearly has made no effort. That, in a way, is shutting down a fraud. You’ve done it, and so have I. This is not so different: making an ethical choice to not perpetuate a fraud. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 16, 2020 at 22:07
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ And the phrase ‘if you feel’ is a very much a wishy-washy cop-out. It’s not about what I or anyone else feels. It’s about promoting good science and discouraging widely-discredited ‘alternative medicine’ quackery that’s neither safe or effective. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 16, 2020 at 22:13
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @hacktastical It's definitely what you feel. You have written several long comments and one question about an issue that should have been a simple close vote, so you obviously feel very strongly about this. Homework question are closed because they are bad questions, not because of ethics. "Write this code for me" are also closed when they are from professional programmers. \$\endgroup\$
    – pipe
    Mar 17, 2020 at 17:30
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I have a point of view about the issue, yes. But don’t confuse or conflate the issue with your projection of my feelings about it. That’s lame. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 18, 2020 at 4:03

We don't really question the dangerousness of a circuit or idea. You can always leave a 'nice' comment suggesting that there is a better way (like 'use an isolation transformer', or '120V is dangerous')(this should happen with people that want to create their own power supply, especially circuits that tie into mains). Most people get the message, and find the high road.

I don't think that there is a person on this forum that hasn't come into contact with 120V or 220V whilst experimenting

Additionally most posts that could kill someone are usually closed for other reasons, like needing clarity or formatting or documentation issues. Most dangerous posts that are not clearly documented will be closed, and there is a high correlation between someone who doesn't know what their doing and can't write a good post.

Additional Resources

This question comes to mind:

Potentially dangerous and harmful (physically) activity related questions action

or this one:

What is our policy on dangerous stuff?


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