Are there standard guidelines on SE regarding how many rude and/or offensive posts does it take before someone earns a suspension?

Or is that more subjective, up to moderator discretion and varied from site to site?

(for the purposes of precision, let's define "rude/offensive" post as question, answer, or comment that (1) had at least one rude and/or offensive flag raised and (2) that flag was marked as "helpful" by moderators).

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    You've ignored the possibility that there are different levels of rude/offensive. Someone may say something that's only mildly offensive or rude but the mod (for the sake of keeping the peace) opts to delete it because it's unnecessary... and then there are blatant, over the top extreme cases that would probably result in an instant ban.
    – Catija
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 4:35
  • @Catija - that's a valid approach to viewing the issue, but “Quantity has a quality all its own”. At some point, 20, 50 or 100 "mildly offensive" comments would presumably hit some sort of a limit as well.
    – DVK
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 4:41
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    It depends. Rude/offence can be of different types. For example, in comments sayin I will flag this will not considered to be rude even OP think it is rude. But instead I will bomb your house is highly offensive and I think immediate action will be taken by mods. It also depends upon the mods Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 4:50
  • I'm not a mod, and so will not post an answer; from what I understand from discussions with mods, suspensions are more for when communication has completely broken down. In most cases, mods will reach out to the user privately and see how they respond before suspending. (There probably are cases of really clear abusive behavior that doesn't deserve that, though)
    – MTL
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 12:50

4 Answers 4


I'm not aware of an SE guideline, but as commented by @Catija:

there are blatant, over the top extreme cases that would probably result in an instant ban

so I think the guideline should be that it can take as few as one rude and/or offensive posts to earn a suspension.

However, there is much moderator discretion when it comes to whether to suspend, and how long to suspend for.


No. That's why SE is moderated by humans and not bots.

If there were specific guidelines for how many rude/offensive posts were needed to cause a suspension, then suspensions could be handed out by the system - which they aren't. Suspensions are always issued by humans, whether mods or CMs (except when a destroyed account is recreated when the same credentials, and even that can't happen without a human destroying the account in the first place). It needs subjective judgement to decide when someone has been 'bad' enough to suspend - that's built in to the way the SE system works.

The same is true in real life, at least in most contexts. Certain film ratings are decided by quantifying the amount of swearing involved, but most people would probably agree that this is quite silly - a film with exactly one "fuck" in it is obviously not necessarily going to be more child-friendly than a film with two or ten. If someone was going to be, say, kicked out of a pub for being too rowdy, I bet the bouncer wouldn't count exactly how many drinks they'd had or how many times they'd been rude - he'd just make a decision based on his own judgement of whether this person should be allowed to stay.

As other answers have pointed out, there are different levels of rudeness, and one extremely egregious post might be enough to earn a suspension even if a hundred iffy borderline comments aren't. I should also add that there's no way of objectively defining these levels of rudeness. Moderators aren't supplied with a checklist where rape threats count as 10 points, comparing someone to Hitler as 5 points, calling a post stupid as 1 point, etc. and told to suspend someone whenever they exceed n points. It takes subjective human judgement to determine how rude a particular post is, in context, and then it takes more subjective human judgement to decide whether someone's made sufficiently many sufficiently rude posts to deserve a timeout.

  • Well said, Rand. :o) Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 13:55
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    I'm not a bot? :O
    – Mithical
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 14:24
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    @Mithrandir No, you're a wizard. Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 14:25
  • @Mithrandir And you're evidently not a ninja either - youtube.com/watch?v=O4rGj9ynH0Q
    – JohnP
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 20:20
  • I think this checklist would be quite funny :-) The other parts, I don't agree, but this checklist idea deserves 100 ups :-)
    – peterh
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 1:04


It's left up to moderators and CMs to determine when "enough is enough".

But I'm pretty sure you already know that. You know that not every offense bears the same weight... some things are petty and barely offensive and some things are blatant and horrid and result in instant banning. There's no rating system for rudeness severity that lines up on a chart where you get, say, five low "level one" offenses before a warning but a "level eight" offense goes straight to a suspension.

Also remember that mods are people... and there's usually more than one mod on a site... which means that, in the case of the former, minor offenses (particularly if they occur over a long period of time), it's possible that they're handled by different mods and they just sort of pass generally unnoticed until they reach a number that the mods can't help but recognize.

If you feel like you're seeing a specific user repeatedly crossing the line, it's time to stop using generic "rude/offensive" flags and start using custom flags. Help the mods out. Explain the issue. Point out the pattern. All site users are part of the moderation team whether they have a diamond after their name or not.


As a mod, in such situations, I tend to use whatever I consider necessary and sufficient to encourage better behaviour in this respect.

In a sense, the ideal is deescalation and education rather than punishment

Sometimes a gentle warning as things are getting impolite, and good old moral suasion works. Sometimes I mod message for more serious patterns, and sometimes have to suspend people.

In one case, with an escalating series of events that was intentional trolling... we called in a CM to give an extended suspension.

And let me say, I hate suspending people in most situations. Its necessary some times.

There's no red line that goes "this is when someone gets suspended" - We look at context, and the people involved. Try to see if there's any subtext or if the user has any history of doing it. In some cases, I've even recognised someone's distinct writing style when he generated a new account.

So, if you've been provoked, and we go "Guys, play nice" and everyone involved deals with it like a grownup, we don't need to suspend. I've even poked my nose into a site where I don't moderate, but I know the mods well and went "Hey, this isn't nice" and got the expected response (OP self deleted.). No suspensions were handed out as far as I know, and the individual realises folk don't tolerate it as a community.

Lets not forget that suspensions are designed to address an overall pattern of poor behaviour and their effect on the community as a whole (least as I understand Jeff's old post on this). If we didn't need to look at the "big picture" - I'm pretty sure someone in SE (or even the community) could automate the whole process.

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