Users younger than 13 are deleted immediately once SE is informed about the case. The reason for this is COPPA, the US law intended to protect children online.

The guidelines as far as I understand them for me as a moderator are that I should report such users to SE, and they'll use a special deletion procedure to comply with the law.

The recent post on MSO about this topic made me wonder, am I actually required to report such cases to SE? I don't think this specific law serves any useful purpose in the case of SE, and I'm not a US citizen anyway. From that point of view I don't see any reason why I should help to enforce this.

But I am also a moderator, so I'm bound by a few more rules, the main one being the moderator agreement we all have to agree to. I'm acting on behalf of SE to some extent, but not really in a legal way as far as I understand.

Do I as a moderator have an obligation to enforce the minimum age here on SE, do I have to report any user below that age that I notice, or am I free to ignore such cases?

  • 8
    Does any moderator technically have to report it, though? A moderator is not the entity storing or obtaining the information. I wouldn't think our physical location would matter at all. It's Stack Exchange, the company itself, that has to act when it is informed of such a case. I think this comes down to the most basic question "Do I have to report a crime I see?"
    – animuson StaffMod
    Jul 17 '14 at 22:15
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    @animuson There's a crime? Committed by whom?
    – user259867
    Jul 17 '14 at 23:34
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    @VotetoClose This is generally how state laws prohibiting sales to minors work in the USA. COPPA isn't the same thing, however. SE could be in violation if it knew the true age, and collected user's info anyway. COPPA covers operators of general audience websites or online services only where such operators have actual knowledge that a child under age 13 is the person providing personal information. The Rule does not require operators to ask the age of visitors. source
    – user259867
    Jul 17 '14 at 23:48
  • @MadScientist, Just take a trip through Quora, There are tons of people under 13, and I really mean tons. I've even seen a 9 yr old. Also see meta.stackexchange.com/a/51770/159916
    – Pacerier
    Apr 26 '15 at 13:51
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    A new moderator agreement policy was just enacted today, which supersedes the answer here: What are our policies regarding underage users? Oct 15 '20 at 23:04

Summary: It is NOT your job to actively go out and hunt this stuff down, but if you know a user is under 13, just click a few buttons so the team can handle it.

As a Moderator♦ you are not an employee, agent or representative of Stack Exchange, so technically you are not "legally" obligated to do anything.

But as a Moderator, you are also entrusted by your position to work on behalf of the best interests of the site.

Look at it this way — when it comes to legal issues like Copyright law or underage users or other illegal activities, legal frameworks like the DMCA and COPPA were written to give us considerable protection from liabilities for issues that we are not aware of. On the flip side, if we were to foster an culture of blatant disregard and obfuscation of these issues… the trouble starts when we lose many of those protections.

I'm not going to engage in parsing the Moderator Agreement to tell you what is common sense. If you see something (or someone) that doesn't belong on the site, this <wink-wink> don't tell anyone <wink-wink> doesn't make the problem just go away. It only leaves it for someone else to find… or the wrong person to find… or to multiply until it really is a problem.

  • 7
    Well said, I considered answering or commenting about the risk of "the wrong person to find" but guess it's too trivial. Jul 18 '14 at 0:00

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