I have been banned for a month from the only SE site I really use. I do contest it, as do most I suppose, but that's not what this question is about. If curious see my profile.

Instead, while thinking about the ban, it occurred to me to research a little how a Community Moderator might tie into the License(s?) I have granted the Stack Exchange network for any/all content I may have contributed to it over time. And having read the TOS several times through now, as well as perusing the Creative Commons legal mumbo-jumbo, I am nowhere nearer to anything like a working understanding of how the moderators tie into it, if at all.

The little I do understand amounts to...

  1. Moderators are bound by (is it a?) contract not to disclose personal information about me to which they may be exposed (though I do not understand what that might be) but that Stack Exchange has promised to almost never share any of [my] personal information with non-agent third parties, with one exception, where you basically are asking us to do so... and then goes on to talk about Careers (which, I guess, is supposed to be the one exception?)...

    • Are moderators agents then?

    • If not agents, then how is it moderators might gain my personal information, and have I given them the legal right to do so in any way?

    • I did get an email from a moderator in my personal email account. What does that mean?

  2. Stack Exchange is almost perfectly indemnified of any obligation to me whatsoever, except that it will make all reasonable efforts to continue to allow me to access its network so long as I also keep the TOS and that, according to the Creative Commons, it must remove attributions to work which I license to it if I request it, and that it must not ever Adapt my work in such a way that might be deemed prejudicial to my repute... or something.

    • While ^that is a mouthful at least, I don't understand how an explicitly unaffiliated moderator can be the one who severs my access to my work. As near as I can tell, I have made no agreement with moderators in general, and so is it kosher in a legal way for an unaffiliated party to denounce me on Stack Exchange's behalf as unfit to edit my work?

    • Along those lines, in so doing is the moderator somehow prejudicing my repute? After all, it is the moderator who removes my 30k of repute and, as a consequence, at the bottom of every one of my posts to the site there's a little ghosty me depicted beside the number 1.

    • Not only that, but if you click the little ghost you're taken to a page which declaims my network account [a]s temporarily suspended to cool down. The suspension period ends...

  3. Have I, in some way, entered into an agreement with the Community Moderators at all...?

    • This is important to me. Whatever your opinion of my opinion might be, as I perceive it my ban has amounted to a censorship to which I object, and so if any information might be offered me along these lines which I can readily understand I will be most grateful to them that offer it.
  • 1
    Partial duplicate of meta.stackexchange.com/questions/264743/…. You're not the only one who's noticed that quirk. So far, I don't know what the real deal is. (I still have hopes of one day needing that resolved more immediately, even though I didn't win the election referenced.) Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 7:16
  • @NathanTuggy - Partially, yeah. I almost wanna close it voluntarily for preference of it - but its been a half-a-year since that was asked! At least this will help to bump it maybe. Oh - are you saying then that you know what of my personal information moderators have access to, by the way?
    – mikeserv
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 7:29
  • Yeah, I've gotten two upvotes in the last ten minutes, so it's certainly driven more traffic. (That's rather surprising, honestly.) I'd suggest leaving this question open and editing down to remove the part that duplicates mine; you might also tweak a little more to make this more neutral, although you've done a decent job of that under the circumstances. Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 7:31
  • 1
    @NathanTuggy - well... this is the first question I've ever asked here, and I rarely do the meta stuff even on U&L... Plus, its hard to be objective about a problem to which I am subjected... I welcome edits! (and one of those upvotes was mine...)
    – mikeserv
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 7:33
  • 1
    If you want a qualified legal opinion, ask a lawyer. Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 8:41
  • What kind of outcome are you looking for here?
    – Pekka
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 20:00
  • @Pëkka - just the answer kind.
    – mikeserv
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 20:01
  • But why do you care? Are you looking to contest your ban based on this?
    – Pekka
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 20:02
  • @Pëkka - because it occurred to me as inconsistent and because i like to know stuff. i feel like either i must be mistaken about moderator roles here, or else about my role, or else the moderators are. id like it clarified so that i can know better. i was banned, for example, without warning for being directly critical of a moderator and my criticisms of same were systematically removed from the record. that bothers me, and id like to know all about it that i can. and no, i dont think this will make for good contest, but i might like to delete my account after, as i tried once before...
    – mikeserv
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 20:08
  • But how would a clarification on the TOS (or even a change to make moderators' role more explicit) change moderators' decisions regarding your account?
    – Pekka
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 20:14
  • @Pëkka - this question is not about that, as i tried to make clear. and again, i dont think it could be cause for contest one way or the other. it is a question i would like answered. if it does not stand on its own merits, or if it is unclear what i am asking, then please either suggest some way i might clarify it or else help me to edit it, but otherwise i dont think this conversation is quite on-topic...
    – mikeserv
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 20:17
  • It's your right to ask the question of course, but I don't see a constructive outcome coming from this in its current form. It seems like it's just nitpicking over something that may not be 100% watertight in the TOS but is obvious to any individual with an understanding of how the place works. SE will likely not reply to it; there may be a bit of speculation from clueless third parties (like myself) but that's about the extent of feedback you'll get, I think. Seems like a waste of time from where I stand... I have no opinion on whether your ban was justified or not, mind
    – Pekka
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 20:39
  • 2
    @Pëkka - yeah, id wager youre correct. but if you are not, and, per chance, some less than clueless third party takes enough of an interest to offer a meaningful answer, then the constructive outcome will be a very good answer. already i have an answer from a moderator, and have definitely learned moderators have my sensitive personal information - which is not a thing i knew before - and so it is not a total wash regardless. and i had the privilege of your conversation, of course.
    – mikeserv
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 20:44

2 Answers 2


Answers to your questions:

The role of moderators, and what they can see about you:

Moderators are not agents or employees of Stack Exchange. They are community volunteers appointed by Stack Exchange employees, or democratically elected by the communities that they serve. They are emissaries bound by the terms of a moderator agreement.

Stack Exchange guides moderators to do as little as possible while upholding and enforcing our be nice policy. Occasionally, we will sponsor moderators to attend events related to the communities that they serve in the capacity of an ambassador or emissary of that respective community; as non-employees moderators can't speak in an official capacity on the company's behalf or enter the company into any agreements.

As moderators must sometimes enforce the rules of the site, they require access to the following details about you:

  • Your email address, in order to contact you privately. While it is the system that actually sends the e-mail, moderators need to be able to see if the email address appears to be valid. They also need to be able to see if multiple users not using the site properly appear to be from the same organization (e.g. students, people at the same office). This helps them better understand situations and take more appropriate steps to resolve them.

  • Your I.P. address, in order to detect patterns of abuse. This can range from spam to carefully orchestrated gaming of our voting system.

  • The private fields in your profile, in order to more accurately determine if an account has been compromised (along with the ability to forcibly log someone out if needed).

Access to personally-identifying information is logged, accessing this information can only be done deliberately. Stack Exchange routinely audits access patterns to look for anomalies.

When a user is suspended, a notification is sent to your global inbox on the site itself. Since we consider this type of notification to be extremely urgent, we send a courtesy copy to your email address, if you've provided one.

Moderation & Creative Commons

Moderators are charged with upholding the rules and general order of their sites. It's their job to ensure that other users continue to enjoy a constructive and productive atmosphere.

If someone is causing a disruption, and the moderator does not have confidence that the person will stop whatever they're doing on their own accord, the moderator may issue a timed suspension as a cooling off period.

This means that moderators have the authority to temporarily restrict your ability to use our services. They do not have the right to restrict you from using or redistributing your contributions, and at no point is this an issue. You're still free to do anything you like with them, you're just temporarily not permitted to do it on our platform.

As you noted, you have the right to be disassociated from your contributions. A timed suspension does not impede your ability to contact us in order to request this. If you wish to be disassociated from the overwhelming majority of your contributions, requesting deletion is probably your most expeditious option, but please do speak with us first so we can advise you.

We do not see having 1 reputation point as prejudicial to your honor or reputation, or we'd be prejudicial to every new user that signs up :) The number reflects the amount of things our software will allow you to do. As access to every potentially destructive feature of the site is determined by this number, there is no way to avoid reducing it to 1 in order to prevent things like:

  • Continuation of whatever problem resulted in the suspension (e.g. an argument)
  • Vandalizing content (including your own, as you grant us a perpetual license to display it)
  • Misuse of advanced (10k+) privileges

Timed suspensions are an exceptional situation that most users will never encounter and while we've put quite a bit of work into making them as not unpleasant as possible, our focus must remain on the experience that the majority of our users enjoy.

On Agreements

By using the site, you agree to be bound by our terms of service. Moderators as well as employees enforce these terms. In this context, moderators most frequently:

  • Handle spam
  • Handle cases involving plagiarism
  • Handle cases where users are removing large amounts of previous contributions (intervening, to let users know disassociation is an option and guiding them to contact us)
  • Remove extremely low-quality posts, obsolete comments, sensitive information that shouldn't have been posted (you'd be amazed how many people post credentials)
  • Handle janitorial tasks with their elevated privileges

Employees handle anything more complicated than what's above, including anything to do with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, threats of suicide or self-harm, threats directed at other people and the like. It's also not uncommon for a moderator to begin working on something and figure out it's not at all routine, and escalate it to us.

We work together.

The way that we handle this is unique

It's never about punishing anyone, it's all about returning to a state where everyone feels good about why they're here and what they're doing. We never take anything away from folks if they break the rules - it doesn't cost them anything other than a period of time where they can't use most features of our software. Again, this is only to prevent further disruption.

A system that punished people would take points away for suspensions. Our system has always been about encouraging the behavior that we want, while some others have a big focus on discouraging what they don't want.

Anyway, that was long; much longer than I intended. I think I've answered everything (with necessary background as needed) pretty well, but let me know if I missed something, or should elaborate on something more.

  • thank you. i did try the contact us thing. otherwise this is an altogether excellent answer, but how can you say: we do not see having 1 rep... as prejudicial to your... rep? i think it pretty clearly is - as is any amount of rep. in honesty i dont care but i would think you guys should address that somehow in official words. its a hole, i think - if a small one - that leaving open will only expose you to frivolous lawsuit. as to the rest - i will accept this answer because i dig monkeys.
    – mikeserv
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 17:05
  • @mikeserv I'm open to a new discussion here on MSE about how we show suspended users, if you'd like to open one, though there have been plenty. (I answered this breadth-first; if you'd like to expand on any parts of it, a separate discussion would be ideal)
    – user50049
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 17:21
  • no - i dont mean regarding suspended users - i was wrong about that. a suspended user's rep count is no more prejudicial than any other user's rep count - but they are both prejudicial. see what i mean? and if you wanna continue elsewhere, just take me there as you like.
    – mikeserv
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 17:23

I can't answer the legal questions, I'm not a laywer. But I think I can give some answers on the ideas behind it.

We moderators don't represent SE in any legal way, we're not employed or paid by SE. SE does grant us the ability and the mandate to moderate our sites. But that power is limited to the SE site we moderate, and we can't e.g. negotiate with third parties on the behalf of SE. Our moderator abilities are bound by the moderator agreement, but not only by it. SE can remove our abilities at any point if they deem it necessary. SE can also overturn any of our decisions if they disagree with them. You can always contact the SE team and let them review a suspension if you disagree with it.

In the specific area of moderation our SE site, SE has delegated some responsibilities to the moderators, but SE is not bound by any of our decisions.

The following is the part of the CC license you refer to in point 2:

You must not distort, mutilate, modify or take other derogatory action in relation to the Work which would be prejudicial to the Original Author's honor or reputation.

Again, I'm not a lawyer, but I don't see how temporarily reducing your SE internet points (they're not reputation as mentioned in the license) would harm your honor or reputation. A suspension isn't a denouncment or anything like that, it is a specific moderation tool used on SE sites.

As for point 3, you can always bring a dispute over moderation to SE, just use the "contact us" link in the footer. After that it won't be the decision of a moderator alone anymore, but SE will either confirm the moderator's actions or revert them.

  • 1
    thank you. do you care to remark on what, if any, of my personal information is known to moderators, though? otherwise, this answers nearly everything, but i am very curious about that as well.
    – mikeserv
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 9:10
  • 1
    @mikeserv Moderators can see the private fields in your profile as well as IP addresses. So yes, they have access to PII Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 9:13
  • 2
    oh - about the prejudicial thing - your interpretation is as good as mine as far as i know, and mine is very likely not very good, but you did leave off the opening to that sentence which begins: if You Reproduce, Distribute or Publicly Perform the Work either by itself or as part of any Adaptations or Collections, You must not... and stack exchange doesnt call them internet points, but calls it reputation. i dont know about all that - and, thinking about it, i guess putting a 30k next to the ghost under my work is just as prejudicial as putting a 1 next to it...
    – mikeserv
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 9:33

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