Online forums often have rules that say "Discussion of illegal activity" is prohibited. By this, they want to prevent users from using the forum from doing things like planning crimes, or (in the case of a game) sharing ways to cheat.

However, the phrase is really too broad.

Taken literally, a user could not ask if something that happened to them was illegal, or if a venture they're planning would violate copyright. A gamer could not explain why a certain trick was prohibited - even if the game had been repaired so that the trick no longer worked.

I understand the sentiment. An article of "scams to avoid" is also a list of "scams you can try".

What's a better way to say "Planning or instructing on how to commit illegal activity is prohibited, but informing on how prevent or avoid illegal activity is allowed"?

  • "Everything bad is prohibited. Everything good is allowed."
    – Greendrake
    Nov 30, 2022 at 22:35
  • There's another problem with the phrase - "illegal activity" where? You might be surprised what different countries or other regions prohibit. That aside, usually such forum banners have no legal weight, as opposed to just being a notice of moderation intentions (since, at least in the US, sites can moderate users/messages mostly however they want, even for trivial or silly reasons). Dec 1, 2022 at 6:29

2 Answers 2


It isn’t too broad

English is not interpreted in isolation but in context. You understand that “discussion of illegal activity” means “doing things like planning crimes, or (in the case of a game) sharing ways to cheat”. So does everybody else.

Including the other things you mention in the phrase are a stretch and obviously so. Therefore, that’s not what it means.


We decided on "Instructional (as opposed to informational) discussions of illegal activity".

I'm not entirely satisfied with that, but it will do for the first draft.

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