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I recently posted some comments to an answer on Math.SE. I pointed out (politely, I thought) some critical errors in the answer.

Later, on my personal blog (which is linked from my profile), someone with a similar username tried to post a large number of comments containing juvenile insults. The user's behavior on Math.SE itself has not been abusive, as far as I can tell.

Is it worth bringing this to the attention of moderators? Should I use a flag or the "Contact Us" button? Or is this beyond their purview, and I should just handle it like any other abuse on my blog?

I don't so much care about seeing the user punished, but it would be nice to help prevent anyone else from being similarly annoyed by this person.

(I haven't linked the answer here to avoid public escalation, but I can if it would help. Anyway, it's since been deleted.)

Edit: michaelb958's comments below suggest the user has also been posting similar insults on MathOverflow, so his abuse does include the SE network itself. I'm contacting team@stackoverflow.com and will pass along my logs.

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    Doubt if the mods would (can?) do anything here if the behavior on Math.SE is acceptable. – devnull Mar 23 '14 at 16:30
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    I've seen mods take action because of off-site activity in the past. It's absolutely worth informing a mod, or sending an E-Mail to the team - if you have solid evidence that it's the same person. – Pëkka Mar 23 '14 at 18:01
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    Certainly seems like they should be able to take action. From SE's point of view, if someone is taking an argument from SE and using it as basis to make harmful off-site comments, it is harmful to SE as it discourages the victim from participating in SE. – Joe Mar 23 '14 at 18:29
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    Just FYI: the Tavern picked up some ...um, highly interesting posts on MathOverflow, possibly related to this whole sorry saga. – michaelb958 Mar 23 '14 at 21:09
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    You probably have an IP on those comments, I'd suggest emailing the team and passing it along. If there is a match, they can take action if they want. And they should, even if it is on a different site, primarily because it is affecting users here. No need to go medieval on his ass immediately; they can perform checks to see if the user is upstanding or not at the minimum. – Won't Mar 23 '14 at 21:39
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    @michaelb958: Huh, thanks for the pointer. I don't have enough MO rep to read the deleted posts, but I can see the titles in the URL, and it matches the wording I got on my blog (and, as I've since discovered, also in emails to my work address). I think I can retract my claim that he hasn't been abusive on SE. I'll collect the records I have and pass them along to the team. – Nate Eldredge Mar 23 '14 at 22:16
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    @Nate Not only in the URL, but also on the page itself, under "Google search" -- where SE software helpfully forms a search query for the title. The title is actually extracted from the database, not from the URL: if one uses short /q/PostId format, the title of question is still shown. Perhaps the titles of deleted questions should not be shown, at least for the spam/offensive deletions. – How About a Nice Big Cup of Mar 24 '14 at 5:50
  • @Nate: Really, being "polite" is just making people feel important in their own way. Most of the time that's just saying the nicest thing you can think of about them that you actually mean. I hope that was some helpful advice. "How to Win Friends and Influence People" is a classic on the subject. – Eriek Nov 21 '14 at 4:54
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As a moderator I had such a case on my site and asked what if anything should be done, and the answer I got back from the community team was that moderators shouldn't try to do anything about off-site behavior: our responsibility is with things that happen on the site. If a pattern of abuse emerges (that is, this wasn't just a one-time burst and the user keeps harassing you), then you could drop a note to the team using the "contact us" link; if he's doing it to others too they might choose to investigate more. (This goes to the community managers, not to the moderators.)

While it can lead to frustration such as the kinds of comments you're getting now, if you publish a link to your blog you're sharing it with everybody on the network (and beyond), including the bad apples. I've gotten occasional rude comments that clearly originated from SE users, but I've also gotten good ones. To me the value of the latter exceeds the cost of the former. That's something each person has to decide for himself.

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While I understand the frustration/irritation I feel any action taken by SE, or its moderators, would be analogous to a school punishing a student for activities done elsewhere and would overstep the same bounds of responsibility.

By all means alert the moderators to such harassment (perhaps furnishing them with an IP address from the harassing party, and a link to demonstrative behaviour in the network, for verification that it is the same person, and not simply a passing troll), in order that they can observe this user's behaviour in the SE network; but unless behaviour on the network warrants correction I'd feel that it's absolutely not their duty to act in this matter at this time.

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As the other answers suggest, there may be nothing Stack Exchange or its moderators can do for you.

If it's really egregious and there is solid evidence it's the same user, it is always worth a try though.

Contact a moderator, or the team at team@stackoverflow.com.

Data with which you may be able to bolster your evidence (because mods/SE may be able to match it to their data internally) include:

  • Actual posts authored by the suspected user
  • E-Mail addresses and accounts used
  • IP addresses from which the abuse was posted
  • URLs pointing to the evidence

Don't be too disappointed if nothing comes out of it. Because stuff like this could be used to "frame" innocent users, the quality of any off-site evidence would likely have to be extremely good to be considered at all.

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Depending on what country you're in, you might be able to report online abuse/ harassement to the relevant authorities.

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