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If you disagree with a moderator/high rep user is there any way to flag this for further review? Or to even keep track of moderators/high rep users who consistently are disagreed with by the community? Sort of like how on Slashdot you metamoderate and the if enough people think the moderator was wrong, the moderation will be undone and a penalty applied to the moderator. Otherwise, looking on the surface it seems like it is quite easy for a moderator/high rep user to abuse their authority without any checks.

Now I'm not saying every challenge is right. No doubt even good moderators/high rep users will have some disagreements. But if a moderator/high rep user has their decisions consistently voted against, that may indicate abuse or just someone not made to moderate...

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On both the site where I am currently moderating there is a constant background chatter between the moderators where we keep asking each other "Did I do the right thing?", plus we have a global moderation chat room in which to seek the opinion of a larger community, plus we do read the comments directed at us. –  dmckee Jul 23 '11 at 23:35
I don't know, I am thinking that downvoters are downvoting this question because they disagree rather than a valid reason. I think this another examples of what lack of accountability does. It seems to have generated some discussion and some good answers so it seems like a valid question to me. –  Cervo Jul 24 '11 at 0:35
Disagreement is considered a valid reason to downvote on Meta. –  McCannot Jul 24 '11 at 0:58
On meta disagreement is a valid reason for downvotes. Yes, it breaks the semantics you're used to, but that is what we get for eating our own dogfood. –  dmckee Jul 24 '11 at 0:59
Wooops sorry I didn't see that part of the FAQ but yeah you're right. So I guess here people who think too far outside the accepted way will have low rep :) –  Cervo Jul 24 '11 at 1:36
@Cervo Yup, Meta.SO is a system designed to crush individuality. ;) –  muntoo Jul 24 '11 at 3:07
Any specific examples of abusive behavior that you've seen? Accountability for its own purposes is a noble proposition, but we have an entire site dedicated to that end, and you've clearly already found it. Discussing specific, contextualized examples is far more productive than vague "what-if" scenarios. Also keep in mind that there is a big difference between moderators and users with various levels of reputation. Moderators have diamonds after their names, the rest of us just have the power to make suggestions to those moderators. –  Cody Gray Jul 24 '11 at 3:32
@dmckee: I wonder whether this "global moderation chat room" thingy in some caes rather tends to support the herd instinct instead of raising independent voices / opinions. –  Jens Piegsa Dec 16 '13 at 16:15

5 Answers 5

up vote 24 down vote accepted

Every time you run into an issue with a moderator, take it up on the appropriate meta site. Hopefully, the moderator will be able to explain why the action was taken, or may choose to reverse it upon further reflection.

If you continue to disagree, ask for another moderator to review the decision or poll the community.

If the moderator is continually at odds with the community and the other moderators, make a list of these cases and post them on meta, asking the moderator to either shift his/her position in the future, or email team@stackexchange.com

Any blatant abuse of moderator powers can go directly to team@stackexchange.com, but this would only apply in the most extreme of cases.

As for high-rep users, most actions require consensus (e.g. 5 close votes, 3 delete votes, etc.), so those actions generally do reflect the community's opinions. You can always ask on the appropriate meta for a mod to look at it, but generally, not much will happen because the votors are the community.

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Actually, the five or three votes do not really reflect a consensus, as the people who were against this had no chance to vote against it - they would had to wait until it is closed and then vote to reopen (or undelete), which is not quite the same as voting against closing (or deleting). –  Paŭlo Ebermann Jul 23 '11 at 23:16
Well thanks for the advice. Still it seems there is no system for tracking this built in. Also most of the time it isn't worth wasting that much energy to make a post and have to defend it so the user gets a pass. Also even if every case was pursued, if a user gets 1 decision overturned per week in the short term it's not so much, but over a year that is 52 bad decisions and probably merits action. Still it would be better if a community could somehow vote against a user and if 50/100 people disagree in a 30 day period that user is scrutinized or something.... –  Cervo Jul 23 '11 at 23:16
@Cervo: If it's not worth the effort to write a post, it's not an important enough issue. –  Robert Harvey Jul 24 '11 at 1:17
@RobertHarvey any one issue may not be important but add a bunch of small ones and suddenly you have an important enough issue.... –  Cervo Jul 24 '11 at 1:39
@Cervo: So why wouldn't you assemble all of those small issues together and write a post about them? I really don't understand why we need to add more complexity to the system in the form of "voting on users" when we already have a site (Meta) designed to air grievances and discuss these types of issues. The voting system is designed specifically so that you are not voting on users, but rather on individual posts. I think adding the ability to vote on users would be an overall negative addition to the site. We're not user-focused around here. –  Cody Gray Jul 24 '11 at 3:34
@Cody Gray: SO is very user-focused, and that user is Jon Skeet. Everyone else is just a detail. ;] –  McCannot Jul 24 '11 at 4:21
important caveat: meta issues about moderation should address that class of moderation actions not a specific moderator by name (though example URLs of evidence are of course OK). Any rants of the form "moderator {x} is an unfair poopy head" will be closed. –  Jeff Atwood Jul 26 '11 at 8:15

There are a lot of checks and balances. In fact, it's quite difficult for a moderator to simply use the site for their own need without receiving extra attention. The following story is somewhat humorous, but illustrates why we must be extremely careful regarding what we say and do when there is a ♦ next to our name.

I've been working on improving my Python skills over the last few weeks. This means getting lots of errors, feeding those errors to Google and usually ending up on Stack Overflow. I'm beginning to wonder why I even bother with Google, but I'm digressing. I ended up on a question related to what I was doing, which did not have any accepted or even up-voted answers. I had to go through them and see what might work for me. The first one I saw was nearly a carbon copy of things I had already tried, so I left a comment similar to "I don't think this is going to work at all ..", the user replied quickly apologizing and saying that they'd do better. In other words, they took my comment (just coming from someone working on a Python problem) as a notice from a site moderator.

The reason I went through the bother of relaying that experience is to illustrate that sometimes, moderators need to use Stack Overflow too. We're also still members of the community and we do have opinions from time to time. If you feel offended, make sure you've looked closely at the context.

With that being said, let's get more into the controls that are in place.

Every single thing we do is recorded and can be undone

Every annotation, deletion, super vote, migration, and every other tool in our box has a paper trail. With the exception of restoring a destroyed account (such as what we'd do in the case of "buy Nike shoes here" SPAM), moderators are self checking. This means, any moderator can reverse any other moderator. When there is a paper trail, there is a history. Where there is a history there can be periodic audits. I've gotten several e-mails from Jeff Atwood asking me to explain certain actions. They were valid, just not obvious and this illustrates that people in authority are watching what moderators do.

Your first step is to simply flag the post in question and ask that another moderator review the action.

Part of our job is accountability

I can say, factually that every moderator on Stack Overflow has a low error rate. If a moderator has taken 8,000 - 10,000 actions since being elected or appointed and less than 10 of those actions were found questionable enough to raise here, the moderator is doing a good job. Each site does have rules, some of those rules aren't so popular and we are obligated to enforce them. We're not going to please everyone. I should note, I'm taking these statistics from Stack Overflow, don't superimpose the numbers onto other sites.

I have never seen a case of a moderator being questioned here where the moderator did not respond in a helpful way, at least since I was elected. If you raise an issue here it will be discussed, unless your issue is identical to an issue that has been discussed many, many times.

Community managers are your friends

Stack Exchange employs a bunch of great folks to make sure each community stays healthy and vibrant. As moderators are part of the community, we ask these nice folks for things. As Community managers have the responsibility of handling the community, they often ask us for things. We work together extremely well.

If you feel that a moderator is in some way out of control, you can contact the community team directly. They, more than any other employees of Stack Exchange communicate with us on a frequent basis.

If you want to e-mail Stack Exchange directly, this is the best way to do it. The community managers can and will take action when needed.

To my knowledge, there's never been a case of a moderator 'picking on' another user. Sometimes, the rules that we enforce will clash quite abruptly with the way a specific user feels the site should work, resulting in us interacting with that user quite frequently. Still, anyone is welcome to question any action we take using the channels listed above, just remember that a moderator's chief agenda is the rules that they promised to enforce.

If you are consistently having a bad experience with a moderator, it's probably because you strongly disagree with one of the rules we're enforcing. In that case, the problem isn't the moderator.

Addendum regarding high reputation users

High reputation users have some moderator abilities, the same checks and balances are in place. The key difference is, high reputation users can't cast a single binding vote. For instance, they can't close or migrate a question on their own, several other users have to agree with them.

If you feel that another user at any reputation level is behaving inappropriately, flag one of their posts (preferably, one that demonstrates the behavior) for diamond moderator attention and let us know what is going on.

If you feel like you've hit on a large problem that isn't isolated to just one person, raise the topic here on Meta Stack Overflow. Try, if you can, to avoid calling out individual users unless it is absolutely necessary. If you feel like one user with 20k is doing something that isn't constructive, let us know about that single user privately. If you feel like 20 users with 20k are doing something that isn't constructive, address the group in meta terms as a whole here instead.

Still, since actions taken by high reputation users require several votes to be binding, you might want to ponder why several people would be in agreement prior to flagging or raising the issue here.

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I'm thinking that actual diamond moderators are not as big a problem as just normal high rep users and there are a lot of them. Moderators may have checks and balances but there are many users with a few thousand rep and does anyone really have time to audit/police every one of their decisions? –  Cervo Jul 24 '11 at 1:49
@Cervo - Sure, Diamond Moderators :) Just flag for our attention, we'll deal with it. I've edited my post accordingly. –  Tim Post Jul 24 '11 at 2:42
+1 This is a very insightful post, and I think the beginning does illustrate a very important problem. People for some reason have it in their minds that moderators cannot also be regular community members. Your anecdote is one I've seen played out many times before in only my short time as a moderator on a SE 2.0 site. And we've had more than a few discussions on Meta inquiring why moderators are unable to cast non binding close votes, for example. Not sure how we fix this, but it's good to point it out. –  Cody Gray Jul 24 '11 at 3:36
Seems like this should be an FAQ answer. –  Richard Jul 24 '11 at 6:23
@Richard - Lately, I've been trying to write comprehensive answers to questions that keep incarnating differently enough to not really qualify as a duplicate. I do plan to FAQ some, after editing more. I've also been working on an 'unofficial' user's guide. –  Tim Post Jul 24 '11 at 6:31
  1. Ask a Question on Meta. If the community agrees that the moderator has gone rogue... well, see what happens.
  2. If the problem continues, you should email team@stackoverflow.com. They'll take care of it!
  3. If the moderator is on team@stackoverflow.com, jump off the nearest bridge.

Moderators can, apparently, look at what other moderators are doing.

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Moderators can, indeed, look at what other moderators are doing; there is a complete audit trail. This is done for both accountability and training reasons. –  Robert Harvey Jul 24 '11 at 1:20

If you think a moderator is misbehaving, or abusing his powers, you can send an email address reported at the bottom of the SE site, the one that appear as "contact us."

That is the only way to report when you think there is an abuse from a moderator. You can also ask information about what done in the meta site, or here.

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Questions like this seem to indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of the identity and activity of 'moderators'. There are not very many diamond mods. They are the only people with unilateral powers. In my experience, at least, they use those powers rather sparingly, leaving more of the gardening to be done by people who merely have some rep. Something has to be pretty flagrantly awful for a diamond mod to bother with it. They're trying to respond to all the flags, and there are a lot of flags, and they need to triage.

The vast majority of the closes and deletes are the result of multiple users voting. This requirement for multiple voters is what prevents the 'mods gone wild' problem that you are hinting at, without citing any examples, in your question.

If your question had specified a particular site, or given some example questions, you might have received a more sympathetic reaction.

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That's why I said high rep users as well. Really it's more high rep users than anything. After all if one user votes to close a post for a wrong reason, it only takes 4 more to agree with him/her and the 30 users who disagree have no way to register their vote other than maybe to vote to re-open after it is closed.... –  Cervo Jul 24 '11 at 1:42
Closes yes, deletes no. Most deletes are mod deletes now, that can't be voted on to undelete. –  Lance Roberts Jul 24 '11 at 7:49
Re-open votes are, in fact, common. @Lan I had no idea. –  Rosinante Jul 24 '11 at 12:11
@Cervo - Having 4 other people agree on an incorrect close vote is not an "only". I see posts with 1-2 close votes all the time. If the votes are not obvious, it stays there. The way to disagree is to leave those votes where they are and add an answer instead. –  Bo Persson Jul 24 '11 at 13:36

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