This user asked this question (10K+ only) whose original title included the n-word (and not "n-word", the actual word...which I refuse to type). As I was flagging the question, the user changed the title to "n-word" repeated over and over again. I left a comment asking WTF the user was doing, edited the title to not include hate speech, and flagged the question. The user then left a comment to me on that question consisting of repeated n-words and then deleted his question.

A few minutes later, he opened up this question which was--modulo the hate speech--the same as his first. Someone else asked him (via comments) why he reposted the question and he said that someone else had edited it. I revealed that the user apparently gets a kick out of vomiting forth the n-word over and over again and flagged this second question. It was soon after deleted by the user.

However, the user only has a 7 day suspension. Why is he not banned--or at the very least suspended for well over a year? Why is hate speech punished with a slap on the wrist?

  • 6
    Still working on it behind the scenes. Suspension stops anything new being posted in the mean time. – Flexo Apr 7 '13 at 7:38
  • @Flexo - Thanks for the quick response. Once he's been completely dealt with, feel free to expand your comment (and what was done) into an answer. – user164207 Apr 7 '13 at 7:39
  • 1
    I don't see the N-word in the revisions. Did the OP ninja edit it out? Or did a community mod do a revision clean up? – Mysticial Apr 7 '13 at 7:40
  • 1
    Some people thoroughly confuse me. hehe. Good work, Jack and @Flexo – Andrew Barber Apr 7 '13 at 7:41
  • @Mysticial - I don't know (only at a bit over 8K on SO), but I still have the "n-word n-word n-word ...(etc)" comment in my inbox. – user164207 Apr 7 '13 at 7:42
  • @Mysticial Not sure about those; but he has a deleted answer that is simply that word spammed back-to-back. – Andrew Barber Apr 7 '13 at 7:42
  • @AndrewBarber For a moment, I thought you were referring to this one. But that seems to be a different account. Or it could be the same user coming back to rage... – Mysticial Apr 7 '13 at 7:45
  • 3
    Ah, the simple joys of being a teenager with a Eric Cartman mindset. – Pekka Apr 7 '13 at 7:46
  • @Mysticial If you really wanna see it, it's here 10k-only – Andrew Barber Apr 7 '13 at 7:48
  • @Mysticial and stackoverflow.com/questions/15859773/… – Flexo Apr 7 '13 at 7:49
  • @Mysticial and actually, that user is... interesting, too. – Andrew Barber Apr 7 '13 at 7:49
  • 2
    @Mysticial - if the OP edited during the grace period it will not be in a revision. – Oded Apr 7 '13 at 7:50
  • Yeah, neither of the questions were around for long before being deleted. – user164207 Apr 7 '13 at 7:51
  • @Oded Yeah, that's the only way I can it happening. But it seems unusual that a raging user would edit out the profanity. – Mysticial Apr 7 '13 at 7:51
  • 3
    @JackManey - Why would you want more than a 7 day suspension for a first offence? If it is a spammer, they will not return. If not, they should have learnt their lesson - and if they have not, the suspension will come back, for a longer period. – Oded Apr 7 '13 at 7:53

I'll speak to this in general, first.

While a timed suspension is consequential to disruptive behavior, it is in no way an attempt to punish a user. We simply want the user to stop whatever behavior was causing a disruption on the site. The length of the suspension therefore does not always match the cultural severity of the behavior, it more matches the moderator's sense of the minimum amount of intervention needed to stop it. Primarily, it is left to the moderator's discretion.

If five days is all it's going to take for a user to refrain from disruptive behavior in the future, and it's a first offense, then five days is indeed sufficient. When problematic behavior repeats, however, the severity of our actions do exponentially increase:

  • A next offense may get you 30, or possibly straight to 360 days in a timed suspension, depending on the infraction.

  • A third offense will almost definitely give you a year off from the site.

  • Subsequent offenses may result in a user being shown the proverbial door unceremoniously, possibly including the destruction of their account.

It all depends on the user's capacity to knock it off. Sometimes users need a few chances to ultimately get it right.

There are also cases where moderators need to first freeze the action, or simply remove the immediate sense of urgency in order to effectively investigate all aspects of an incident. Even well balanced people have off days, and do things they're later not very proud of. If there's no indication that the user is going to repeat the behavior, there's not much merit in keeping them from participating.

In this particular incident, it looks as if the moderators were doing just that - freezing the action. It's very likely that this particular issue is linked with others, and they're keeping the noise at bay while doing a more thorough investigation. I suspect more action will be taken in the future.

But, as policy, we reward the behavior that we want - and guide those displaying unacceptable behavior into the positive realm with the least amount of intervention required. While suspensions aren't always consistent with the perceived tragicness of the offense, they are consistent with our belief that we should do the least amount possible.

  • 5
    Hi Tim Post and welcome to Stack Exchange! We are a bit different from traditional discussion forums, when there's an earlier answer you agree with you don't really have to post yet another answer saying essentially the same. Instead you can simply upvote the earlier answer. kthxbai! – yannis Apr 7 '13 at 8:31
  • 4
    @Yannis I didn't notice you had one posted, and had spent the better part of 20 minutes working on this before I noticed, so I figured what the heck :P – Tim Post Apr 7 '13 at 8:32
  • 1
    20 minutes working on a Meta answer? On a Sunday? My first comment was a joke (obviously), but now I'm seriously concerned. /not really – yannis Apr 7 '13 at 8:34

A suspension isn't so much intended to be a punishment, but a warning and ideally a learning experience. Therefore it's not unusual for the length of the suspension to not fit the "crime".

I don't have any specifics of the situation, but from what you describe in your question I must say I don't have high hopes this user will use the week to calm down and self reflect. If they come back and pull the same crap, the moderators can suspend again for a longer period or if they decide it's a lost cause there's also the option of removing the account completely (an extremely rare action that always also involves Stack Exchange employees).

I do get where you are coming from, but I don't think a larger suspension would have been productive. Getting antagonistic with a user who's already in a certain mood never ends well, what's stopping them from creating another account and pulling the same crap in minutes? At least with a lighter touch (at first) you may have a chance of getting through to them. A small chance, I'll admit, but it's better than nothing.

Lastly, there's always the possibility that a short suspension was just a reaction to stop the obvious crap immediately and give the moderators and Stack Exchange employees some time to further investigate. If that's the case, it's quite easy to change the suspension to a longer period or take any other action they deem appropriate.

You must log in to answer this question.