I'm starting to write a novel about Terrorism. This novel will reference various IT communications and I am wondering if I might reference your URL (security.stackexchange.com) in my novel. To add a bit of realism to the novel. I, myself are not obsessively concerned with IT security, I do take some precautions, though I am not "tin-foil hat" obsessive.

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    I took the liberty of editing your e-mail address out; it'll only attract spam. Also, answers to questions here should be judged by the community, so they should be posted here, not mailed to the asker. I also removed the "Regards", as these things are considered noise on Stack Exchange. (Yes, that feels a little weird, but you'll get used to it). If you disagree with my edit, you can roll it back. To roll it back, click on the "edited ... ago" above my avatar. That takes you to the edit history. From there, you can roll your post back to a previous version. – S.L. Barth - Reinstate Monica Nov 4 '16 at 9:14
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    P.S. While @S.L.Barth is of course correct, personally I at least would agree for you to use my username, if you send me a copy of the book ;-) – AviD Nov 4 '16 at 9:27
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    I also accept free t-shirts :P – AviD Nov 4 '16 at 9:27
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    How could anyone stop you from using a URL in a work of fiction? – user7146 Nov 9 '16 at 13:00
  • I hope I'm not added to yet another list. – Mark Buffalo Nov 15 '16 at 3:49

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and I cannot speak for Stack Overflow (the company behind Stack Exchange) or the community. Voting, answers and comments on this page will hopefully show what the community consensus is.

That said - just mentioning the URL should be fine. I do hope you'll portray us in a positive light.
Obviously, mentioning specific users by (user)name is risky. I for one would advise against that, unless they explicitly allow it themselves. Fortunately, you seem well aware of this type of netiquette.

If your characters - or you yourself - post questions on Security Stack Exchange, they'll find that our primary rules are "show your effort" and "ask specific questions".

  • "Can somebody hack my phone?" is going to get downvoted and closed, because it is a very general question that has a million variables - what model phone, what type of attack, what defenses are in place, and so on.
  • "Can somebody use bug CVE-.... to gain root privileges on Android (version nr)" is a lot better, if you can show why you believe this particular attack would work against this particular target.
    If you've actually tried the attack on your own devices, and can show the results ("According to the CVE, I should get response X, but I'm getting Y") you're likely to get a warm welcome.

On closing, I'd like to point out that we also have a Stack Exchange site for writers - https://writers.stackexchange.com . I'm not active there myself, but it's a safe bet that the same advice applies: before asking, show that you've done some research.

EDIT: To get an official answer from Stack Overflow (the company), you can use the "contact us" link at the bottom of the page. Although my experience is that they handle these quickly, they do get a lot of mail, so be ready to wait for an answer.

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    Well, Rule #1 is of course "Be Nice" ;-) – AviD Nov 4 '16 at 9:26
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    Also worth noting that the "be specific" part also applies to "is this secure", newbies to the site tend to forget that could mean anything. – AviD Nov 4 '16 at 9:26
  • @AviD Agreed on both comments. I think the OP implicitly understood the "be nice" rule, or they wouldn't have asked the question. To be honest, though, being nice doesn't stop bad posts from being downvoted. At best it may slow the process down, or make people more inclined to leave constructive comments ("you could improve your post by..."). – S.L. Barth - Reinstate Monica Nov 4 '16 at 9:34
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    Oh totally :-). Just wanted to be explicit to the OP on expectations, maybe s/he was just being nice, but their characters would be rude... Actually this could turn out to be really interesting! – AviD Nov 4 '16 at 12:06
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    Of course I doubt any writer would be able to invent stranger posts than some of the crazy stuff we've seen here :P – AviD Nov 4 '16 at 12:07
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    Worldbuilding is another site in the network that just may be of interest to the OP. – a CVn Nov 6 '16 at 12:57
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    It's okay to mention me by name specifically. I give permission for this because I am an attention horse. It can be positive, negative, neutral, and you could turn me into either the main hero or villain... just as long as there's some sort of disclaimer stating I'm not actually a terrorist or anything. I hope I'm not on another list now. – Mark Buffalo Nov 15 '16 at 3:49
  • StackExchange is behind StackOverflow, not the other way around. ;) – Qix Nov 16 '16 at 21:32
  • @Qix Last year they changed the company's name from Stack Exchange to Stack Overflow (stackoverflow.blog/2015/09/…). Of course, I may have missed it if they changed it back again. – S.L. Barth - Reinstate Monica Nov 16 '16 at 21:37
  • @S.L.Barth Check footer of the sites, as well as wikipedia. – Qix Nov 16 '16 at 22:04

Stack Exchange's Terms of Service section 3 dictates that subscriber content (user content) is inherently released as the Creative Commons Share Alike license, and mandates that all content posted herein is permitted to be posted under such a license (e.g. code on Stack Overflow shouldn't be pasted from a closed-source or otherwise protected work that you company has created and not released itself, etc.)

Therefore, the terms of the usage of the contents of any Stack Exchange site are governed by that license.

IANAL, and you should really consult one, but as long as you're not targeting specific users you're most likely fine as long as you follow that license.

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    Isn't that section about content submitted to Stack Exchange and not content that merely references a Stack Exchange site? – Kodos Johnson Nov 16 '16 at 22:22
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    @KodosJohnson yes, but that license governs the use of the content as well. – Qix Nov 16 '16 at 22:25
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    Oh yes you are right. I guess it depends on whether the OP is going to actually use any content from the site. But I think it should be ok if they are just referencing the URL as S.L. Barth mentioned. – Kodos Johnson Nov 16 '16 at 22:30

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