One guiding principle in the moderation of SE sites is that users deserve a second chance. This means we avoid shaming them if they were suspended once, in the ideal case the user learns from the suspension and we never mention it again.

I think this is a very reasonable guideline for the common cases, but it does break down for a certain group of repeat offenders. Information about suspensions is not shared across sites, so a user can repeat the same kind of behaviour on multiple sites, and in most cases they will be treated as if this offense was their first one.

In the worst case, this means a user can roam the SE network, misbehave on one site until they're suspended, and then simply move onto the next SE site. There is no mechanism to prevent this, and the moderators on the next site won't necessarily know that the user has behaved in that manner on many sites before.

History matters. We do treat a user that made a single mistake in a very different way than a user that repeats the same offense over and over again. But we don't share that kind of information about users across SE sites. Which means, users misbehaving on multiple sites in the same manner will often be treated just like first-offenders, while they actually repeated the same pattern of misbehaviour again and again on different sites.

To preserve the original idea of rehabilitation, I think sharing the history of user misbehaviour should only happen for repeat offenders. I'm thinking about something like at least three suspensions, maybe even with the restriction that they can't be all on the same site. But from that point on, the guiding principle shouldn't be giving the user the benefit of the doubt, but to provide the SE communities with the information they need to deal with the troublemaker. So a user that meets these criteria would have an annotations visible on their profile (for moderators) detailing all annotations and all suspensions network-wide.

This shouldn't affect users that make a single mistake, but it should mean that users that repeat bad behaviour will face moderators aware of that fact, no matter which SE site they're on.

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    Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/112595/…
    – M.A.R.
    Oct 5, 2016 at 22:08
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    I'm in favor of sharing info, but wouldn't set the bar quite so high. If, for example, a user is suspended for running sockpuppets, that information is usually relevant now, not just after 3+ offenses.
    – elixenide
    Oct 6, 2016 at 17:42
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    Yes yes yes. I'd also even consider a threshold on number of non-suspension annotations or private contacts. Right now, if you do small bad things on 10 sites, enough for mods to take note but not suspend, no one can really put the pattern together.
    – Cascabel
    Dec 10, 2016 at 3:41
  • If they SPAM on a couple of sites within an hour or two the fine people at Charcoal HQ are quick. If it happens once they likely get a watch and will be highlighted if they return. Sometimes mods drop by to see what is up but perhaps they might benefit from an abbreviated feed in their tools showing hits on their own site only, with a link they could click to visit the Charcoal HQ.
    – Rob
    Oct 15, 2018 at 13:46

1 Answer 1


Instead of annotations being automatically visible to all moderators when some threshold is met, let's enable intentional, explicit annotations at the network level, like we have for chat. This has the following advantages:

  • It allows the annotating moderator to explain the problem. Sometimes the canned suspension reasons don't convey all the important information (evidence: cross-site queries in TL about why someone was suspended). And it's not like they could link to the mod messages that explain them, because that would be too much of a privacy leak.

  • Sometimes annotations contain links to deleted content or messages in the site's mod chat room; these would (and should) not be visible to moderators from other sites. Exposing these annotations would at best be noisy and at worst lead to mods on other sites pinging the local mods in TL to ask for more information.

  • It excludes things that shouldn't contribute to a network-wide rap sheet. If somebody's account was compromised and that user was suspended for a day to prevent further damage, that's not something mods need to worry about in the future. Especially if the user asked for the freeze, which I have seen happen once (the user couldn't immediately close the hole). If a suspension was an accident (rare but happens), it won't count against the user.

  • It won't load up a lot of "old news" on initial deployment. SO is ten years old, and several other sites are nearly that old. Do we need to know that some user got suspended three times in 2011 and 2012 and then cleaned up and has been productive since? We don't currently have a way to remove annotations anywhere, so let's not auto-generate ones that 600 people might act on. (On the other hand, some old news is relevant, so you can't just set a date threshold.)

Annotations on the network account probably wouldn't be visible on the individual sites (guessing based on what I understand of the SE architecture). That's ok, actually; we don't need to see those details all the time. What we probably do need, though, is some indication on site accounts that there are network annotations, so mods get reminded to go look when investigating something. This is true regardless of how network annotations get added. Profiles have a handy place to put such an indicator (with a counter, even): next to the other annotations.

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    You had me at intentional. This totally works for me. We see what mods on other sites have deemed important to share. Nov 7, 2018 at 23:23
  • And with more durability than TL pings that some people won't see and others will see but later forget. Nov 7, 2018 at 23:25
  • I worry that often the information might not be available. It requires moderators to take an extra step to make the annotation visible network-wide, which I worry will mean that most of the time that I need to see the information, it won't be visible, because other moderators won't have thought to take that step. It'd be better than nothing, though.
    – D.W.
    Nov 8, 2018 at 0:35
  • @D.W. think about how many times you've seen TL conversations like: "does $user have a history of trolling?" and mods from six other sites say "oh, him". Even if none of them thought to annotate before then, somebody'll go do it at that point and the next iteration of that conversation six months later will benefit from it. Nov 8, 2018 at 0:45
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    The one (slight) shortcoming I see for this approach is that a lot of network-wide issues start out as site-specific problems, and it's not often clear that they would be of interest to mods from other sites until someone asks about them. So it might be useful to augment this with something that proactively creates network-wide annotations under certain circumstances. E.g. perhaps when issuing the second suspension on a given site, there could be an extra prompt to remind the moderator that they can make a network-wide annotation if warranted.
    – David Z
    Nov 8, 2018 at 1:27
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    @DavidZ a reminder makes sense. On my sites, the vast majority of users who get suspended once don't get suspended again; either they fix the problem or they go away. So it's only when there's a second one that it might be interesting and it's worth a reminder. Nov 8, 2018 at 4:37
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    Remember we can annotate with mitigating/positive information too! It can be helpful to mention, for instance, that the user was blatantly baited into the behavior that led to a suspension. Nov 8, 2018 at 7:06

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