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There have been a couple of controversial suspensions or bans now on this site. Current rules prevent the moderators from giving details of suspensions. This is bad, because it raises suspicions and undermines the community's trust in the moderators.

I'm not contesting any concrete suspension, but I believe such a drastic measure should only be applied completely transparently, for that reason.

So, I'm proposing the following change of rules:

  • In case of a suspension, the reasons of suspension must be clearly stated. Any posts that lead to the suspension shall be archived and publicly displayed, unless:

    • They contain strongly insulting, inflammatory or illegal content.
    • The suspended member wishes them to be removed (to respect his/her privacy).
    • Another person mentioned or involved wishes to be redacted from the posts.
  • The accused user should be allowed a statement to be posted together with the reasons of suspension.
  • Ideally, all of this should be displayed on the suspended user's profile.
  • As long this is not implemented in the SE software, a meta post shall be made in prominent cases, or on request of another SE user.
  • The new procedure can be waived in cases of minor suspensions (not more than a few days), or quick bans (e.g. spam bots).
  • If this conflicts the moderation agreement or any other document, that document shall be modified accordingly.

Again, I know that this might be in conflict with the moderation agreement. Still, if you sympathize with my suggestion, please upvote this. Rules can be changed. If you are a moderator, and in principle support this suggestion, but feel bound by the moderation agreement at the moment, please state that you think so in a comment!

I believe this change is necessary for a more civil and democratic atmosphere especially on the meta site.

Note this is not meant to be a public shaming or pilloring of the suspended user. Quite the contrary, the idea is to give the user his or her voice back, and let them make a plea for there case. Of course, they have the option of keeping it low profile, and have the reasons for suspension remain undisclosed (as it's handled currently). But, they also have the option to state their point of view (and let users decide what they think), or even - god forbid - write an apology or something reconciling, if the dispute has been settled.

The benefit of putting the reasons out in the open by default is that it prevents toxic speculation and suspicion about the reasons of suspension.

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    $\begingroup$ See meta.stackexchange.com/q/23385 $\endgroup$ – ChrisF Apr 30 '13 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ Evidently, Stack Exchange does not follow a democratic system, other than the fact that we voted these Moderators into power- they've got absolute power and authority. They probably wouldn't like you to challenge their power. $\endgroup$ – QuIcKmAtHs Aug 12 '18 at 13:31
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I can understand why you want this: without it there is a lack of transparency and you have to take the good intentions and allegedly judicious meditations of the moderators on trust.

And while I could simply refer you to the team as our oversight that only pushes the problem back a level, which is exactly the whole "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" dilemma.

But there are at least two reasons I disagree

  • To defend our actions would (at least sometimes) require making public other things that are usually handled on the QT: flags mostly, but sometime deleted comments and user's responses to moderator messages (and the messages themselves for that matter). So the request becomes one for complete openness. Which brings me to my other source of disagreement

  • My understanding of the job of a moderator includes moderating the discussion. Calming things down. Smoothing over the roughest edges.1

    That task is not well served by bringing up past conflicts or actions taken by users in the heat of the moment. At some point to keep an on-going interaction civil requires forgetfulness of old slights. And the moderators help that along with our editing and deletion super-powers and sometimes by first asking users to participate and then by giving enforced time to think it over.

    Asking us to defend those action in public will have the side effect of defeating the very purpose of them.

I don't really see a way to satisfy you that won't be as bad as the disease it is meant to cure.

At some point soon my life is going to get more complicated, and I may take a hiatus from moderation, and which time it may be necessary to elect some more suckers willing idiots janitors. Perhaps you'll get the opportunity to see the sausages being made.


1 Always a problem with physicists who are at home with fairly frank and robust exchanges of views.

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    $\begingroup$ Hi dmckee, why cant you stay? You are generally a fair, pragmatic, and nicely relaxed moderator who represents the interests of the physicists; even though I very sporadically disagree with you about closing (theoretical) questions here and there ;-) $\endgroup$ – Dilaton May 9 '13 at 21:12
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So basically, you want everyone who makes a mistake and has to have their access blocked for a while to be publicly pilloried for the amusement of passers-by?

That sounds like fun.

But for folks you'd actually like to see return to the site in good standing, it's probably a bad idea.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting, I'd evaluate my suggestion exactly in the opposite way. I don't view it as a public telling-off or shaming, but rather to preserve the suspended person's voice. If I were suspended, I wouldn't want to be dragged away silently. I'd want that the other users get a clear statement from a mod ("...was suspended because he called RandomUser an idiot here"), and I'd want to leave a short comment on my position ("RandomUser has been giving me belittling and rude responses for months, and he does know nothing about physics"), or maybe even apologize, especially if I'd like to come back. $\endgroup$ – jdm Apr 30 '13 at 14:30
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    $\begingroup$ If you're suspended, you can't respond to anything on the site. So there'd be no short comment on your position unless it was off-site. ...Which you could just as well do anyway, right now, with no permission needed. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Apr 30 '13 at 14:49
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    $\begingroup$ Right, but exactly that's what I'm suggesting. Mods write the reason of suspension on the user's site, and the suspended user gets to put one comment below if s/he likes. $\endgroup$ – jdm Apr 30 '13 at 14:52
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    $\begingroup$ @jdm Every suspension is accompanied by an explanation message from the moderators and the user can respond to it to open a dialog. $\endgroup$ – Adam Lear Apr 30 '13 at 15:40
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    $\begingroup$ I know that. (Did anyone read my post?) I'm suggesting that the user can make a public statement somewhere on the site, not to contact the mods, but for the other users, responding to the public allegations (if he/she doesn't decide to keep the allegations secret). Purpose is so that people don't start rumors in high-profile cases like "Dialtone was banned because he unearthed SE's protection-money scheme" or "Rob Maimer was banned because he believes in cold fusion". $\endgroup$ – jdm Apr 30 '13 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ @jdm I don't think that'd have the effect you anticipate. There are exceptions to this, but most folks when suspended aren't likely to make a public statement to calm the public. $\endgroup$ – Adam Lear Apr 30 '13 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ -1. The OP clearly mentions that this is not what he wants. $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Jul 3 '13 at 8:27
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Note this is not meant to be a public shaming or pilloring of the suspended user. Quite the contrary, the idea is to give the user his or her voice back, and let them make a plea for there case.

Given that suspending and unsuspending a user is a mod-only decision, allowing the whole community to debate the issue doesn't make any sense. It only satisfies some form of morbid curiosity, potentially results in shaming the suspended users and potentially enabling mobbing of the community moderators by a clique of users.

The user has a full voice already. They can reply to the relevant users that can help them, community managers and the moderators, and ask their case to be reevaluated if they think they have been mistreated. In rare cases suspensions have been shortened after discussion.

Also keep in mind that suspensions often involve more than one user. There may be a victim. There may be more than one user suspended, etc.

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