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The moderator messaging system was recently changed so that the identity of the moderator who sends a message is hidden from the recipient:

The signature on the template moderator messages will be changed to say Site Moderation Team (meaning the elected/pro-tem diamond moderators). This makes the message appear to come from the entire moderator team instead of a single person. Moderators should not edit the signature and should avoid identifying themselves in the message to the user, unless they know they are already on good terms with the user being contacted.

The above quote emphasizes that moderators should avoid identifying themselves. However, if a moderator shares a link to a Stack Exchange post he might inadvertently identify himself because Stack Exchange links acquired from the "share" button on a post include the user's ID. For example, the URL https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/283910/299342 contains my Meta.SE user ID (299342). If the recipient of a moderator message sees a link like this as is, he can go to https://meta.stackexchange.com/users/299342/ and figure out which moderator likely sent the message. The moderator can remove his user ID from the link (https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/283910 works fine) but it's easy to forget to do this, especially if the moderator is linking to multiple posts and forgets to edit one of them.

Since moderator messages were anonymized I've manually removed my user ID from shared SE links. Is this necessary? Do moderators need to remove their user ID from shared SE links in order to avoid identifying themselves in moderator messages? Or does the system remove the user ID from the link before the message is actually sent? If the system does not remove the user ID from the link, should it?

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    Rather than using the share link you can always copy the URL from the address bar. Easy for questions, trickier for answers though. I don't think comment links include the user id.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Sep 5, 2017 at 15:19
  • @ChrisF Yes, that is another way to remain anonymous. I typically just use the share link in other situations, though -- so when sending a moderator message I either have to remember to not use the share button or to remove my user ID from the generated link. Either way seems error prone.
    – Null
    Sep 5, 2017 at 15:24
  • I'd be the first to admit the share link is the easier option :) I was just pointing out there was a workaround.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Sep 5, 2017 at 15:25
  • @ChrisF but if it's an answer, you won't necessarily have the link in the address bar, right?
    – Catija StaffMod
    Sep 5, 2017 at 15:44
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    @Catija - Indeed. Though if you click on the share link you will.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Sep 5, 2017 at 15:49
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    Related: Anonymize short links userscript does this automatically (except edge cases like an answer posted after page load, but those probably aren't posts you are linking to in mod messages)
    – user315433
    Sep 5, 2017 at 16:34
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    I always follow links before sharing them because the resulting URLs are more descriptive that way. Given there's no oppressive length constraints on mod messages, I would always err on the side of including descriptive links even if there wasn't a user ID in it.
    – Shog9
    Sep 5, 2017 at 18:44
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    It shouldn't be hard to implement such a filter as a user script, but (to make it specific to mod messages) you'd need to find a ♦ mod who is also a user script developer to write and test it. Ps. As a shameless plug, SOUP includes a feature that makes sharing anonymous post links easy (just press Tab before copying the link URL), even if it's not quite what you're asking for here. (And it works for answers loaded via Ajax, too.) Sep 6, 2017 at 11:40
  • @IlmariKaronen Thanks, that's a useful feature!
    – Null
    Sep 6, 2017 at 14:17
  • @V2Blast ironically (?) I found your user ID in links in some of the help center pages, planned to post something about it but forgot. ;) Nov 3 at 18:38
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    @ShadowTheKidWizard: Honestly, if it's just a matter of replacing shortlinks containing user IDs with the full URL, you can probably just ping me about those here or in chat and I can fix them. (I've just fixed one such link on the /help/deleted-questions page; let me know if there are any other links with user IDs in them that I've missed.) That said, I don't think it's really a privacy issue there, since it's already obvious from our profiles that we are staff :P
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Nov 3 at 18:46

1 Answer 1

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When we implemented this aka anonymous mod messages we didn't put in any code to strip out user ids from share links. That means yes, if you share a link to the post using the share option, then you would need to remove your user id.

You will either need to remove your user id or don't use the share link and instead copy the url to the post to send in the moderator message.

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    how difficult it would be for the system to check if a moderator user id is present in message draft and pop up some warning to let them re-check if it's there? "This mod message doesn't meet our privacy standards..." :)
    – gnat
    Sep 5, 2017 at 15:45
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    @gnat How difficult would it be? Not sure, I'd have to send it over to the devs to see if it's something that could be implemented.
    – Taryn
    Sep 5, 2017 at 15:46
  • Or instead of a warning as @gnat suggests, perhaps the system could remove the user ID. There's actually a feature request to remove the user ID from all such links within SE posts though there is no comment or answer to that request from an SE employee. Implementing that feature request would presumably also remove the need for moderators to remove their user IDs in moderator messages.
    – Null
    Sep 5, 2017 at 15:49
  • @Null I wouldn't rely on automatic deletion. User id can be accidentally a part of something legitimate, like post id or comment / review id or whatever else - so that deleting it would garble the message (since messages are free form it may be really hard to detect false positives)
    – gnat
    Sep 5, 2017 at 15:53
  • @Null It might be possible to remove the user id, but I'd have to send it to the devs to see how much work it would involve and if it would even be worth it to spend the hours on it. If it's something you think should be implemented, then I'd recommend submitting a feature-request for it.
    – Taryn
    Sep 5, 2017 at 16:45

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