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We've recently had the following question Where is this Utah triangle monolith located? and received a comment from @phoog:

This is not an excellent question. It is a terrible question. Some people on this site vote to close at the slightest suggestion of encouraging breaking the law, but this question encourages people to put their lives in danger.

I’m voting to close this question because it could encourage people to put their lives at risk.

On the one hand I fully agree - someone inexperienced could put their lives in danger by using the wrong vehicle to drive there or by hiking through dangerous terrain without the right equipment. However we have numerous questions on similarly dangerous tourism:

  1. Can you still do train surfing in India?
  2. Are some parts of Iraq currently possible to visit for the brave, adventurous, and open-minded traveller?
  3. How can you get into the San Pedro prison in La Paz? (*and* out again)
  4. Is it possible to travel the route Kamchatka-Kurils-Hokkaido alone at the end of Sept-Oct?
  5. Are there countries aside from the US where I can go on storm chasing (tornado) tours?
  6. Mount Everest climb cost and total time
  7. Is it dangerous to drive through Death Valley?
  8. How can a tourist obtain an 'authentic' duelling scar?

While driving (or even hiking) to the Utah monolith would certainly be a challenge, there are many people who have the right skills and equipment to do it safely. Youtube user HeavyDSparks made it by helicopter, which is a safe option for anyone willing to pay ~$2000 for the ride. The land where the monolith is located is public, so visiting it is perfectly legal. And while authorities 'discourage' people from going there, they didn't outright ban it.

Given the above information, should we try and ban questions that might encourage people to put themselves in danger? If so, what is the line between 'dangerous' and 'safe'?

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  • A comment (to the answer) was also made about the Utah Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau (which cannot forbid peaple entering the area since it is public land) statement: Note: BBC: Metal monolith found by helicopter crew in Utah desert: The department [Utah Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau] has not disclosed the exact location of the monolith, fearing explorers may try to seek it out and "become stranded". This was intended as a hint that this was inappropriate. Nov 27 '20 at 19:33
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    @MarkJohnson there are thousands of hikes in America where its easy for people to become stranded. In my own state of Washington I could drive for ~2 hours, then hike for a couple of hours and be miles away from the closest human. How do we differentiate between travel that's too dangerous for Travel.SE and travel that's not?
    – JonathanReez Mod
    Nov 27 '20 at 19:38
  • A similar problem today: trains - Travel to Denmark, where the answer is giving tips to bypass the law. The monitor's reply : If someone else asks about going to a place they can not legally go to, do not tell them to do it illegally. Reaction of the user to this was: The onus to make the moral assessment is on the traveller, not us. Nov 27 '20 at 19:47
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    For the Utah case: nothing more than a repeat of the warning, since it was only not advised (as apposed to the Denmark case where it is illegal). Nov 27 '20 at 19:51
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    Possibly related/comparable to The Great Outdoors's How do we deal with “dangerous” questions?
    – Andrew T.
    Dec 1 '20 at 14:44
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It is pretty standard in my experience for any "wilderness" location, including places like highly visited national parks as well as obscure remote places, to post warnings like what the Utah Dept. of Public Safety has said. Being commonplace does not mean the warning is not real or is just "pro forma". But it does mean that this particular location is not necessarily different from literally 10,000s of other wild places which each have their own risks and require people with an appropriate level of experience to navigate safely.

On a scale where one extreme is "do nothing to warn readers" and the other might be "aggressively identify and delete content deemed to have unreasonable hazards" there are probably a lot of possible gradations. I'll note that simply closing a question won't have the effect of avoiding people from walking into a hazard above their skill level because closed questions are still publicly visible. But is there community consensus around deletion?

As a suggestion, if some type of consistent and objective criteria could be decided upon to identify unreasonable or excessive risks to travelers, perhaps questions meeting such criteria could be specially marked with a visible extra warning. Visually this could be similar to a closed-question banner, perhaps, but with a clear warning message instead. This type of proactive statement might be more effective overall.

Bear in mind that even if we do delete such content, surely the internet is full of other sources where the community might not share these concerns. Are readers better getting their information here where we have the opportunity to curate it in a responsible way? Or on random other internet sites which don't even consider the morality of sharing such information?

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    As soon as the photo of 'the Monolith' was published, the first people started to work their way to visiting it. Not waiting for us to have the information. So us closing the question about it would not have done much to stop the first people, maybe it would have discouraged later ones, maybe not.
    – Willeke Mod
    Nov 29 '20 at 16:33
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What is dangerous is also subjective, so I'd say no - we leave them. Eg I've mountainbiked "the world's most dangerous road" in Bolivia - so by that logic, we shouldn't stop any travel on a road? Most National Parks etc have warnings, and we're not encouraging people to go, we're just advising how it might be done.

Regardless, the monolith has now vanished again ;)

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I don't see how to do this without a uniform standard for "dangerous." If risk of death is the primary metric, some of the listed questions have a lower risk of death than visiting a country with a high covid-19 transmission rate, and we field questions about this latter topic all the time.

In other examples, the question is literally "what are the risks of doing x" and answering "there are a lot of risks, here are some of them" may be more helpful for the asker's safety than simply closing the question without further comment.

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