I tried to find how the comment moderation works under the hood and I wasn't able to find the data. (I asked a bit in the chat too.)

My specific question is, how does MSE decide punitive steps, and where is it stored?

I found this: Moderator Cheat Sheet that talks about general moderation tasks.

I also found this: A guide to moderating comments but again it's only general data.

without finding some information, some questions come to my mind:

  1. Do flagged comments from a user impact the other sites they've joined, or do only the moderators from the site where the comment got flagged see it, handle it, and know that the user was rude? As such, can a user be rude on two sites; does that allow him to bypass to get noticed?

  2. Smoke Detector quickly bans rude or abusive questions and answers (sd tpv-, etc.). Is the same monitoring done for comments? It's not logical to me that a user can be banned in 5 minutes with Smokey, but the same text in a comment can just trigger a comment deletion later on.

  3. I saw some user in the past get a temporary suspension after some rudeness, so how much rudeness was tolerated? Can a high rep user go over that limit before they get warned?

Having in mind questions 1 and 3, I will talk about the ban example that leaded to my question today. I will name no one, but the said user had a pattern of toxic comments. After some warnings he got banned for 1 year some time ago. While he was banned I saw the same pattern from him on another site and the users were like, "please stop that". Do we forget the toxic pattern from the user too quickly, to restart from start the punitive step on other site?

That's why I'm asking today how it works, as from what I've seen, each warning and punitive step seem to be a manual step discussed between per-site moderators.

  • 1
    I'm guessing you don't specifically mean MSE? You seem to be talking about a variety of sites.
    – Catija
    May 2, 2018 at 2:13

2 Answers 2


It... works oddly.

More or less though There's no formal cross site awareness of flags at all. Sometimes we talk, but quite honestly, comments are a second class citizen even when it comes to flags. In theory and in practice - there should be no direct bearing on your activities elsewhere - unless a CM feels there's need for a cross site ban. Some people just have issues with specific environments, and not others, and penalising them for a mistake elsewhere is not cool.

If you really feel its an issue, it might be worth highlighting in a custom flag so people know the context, and mods can have a chat about the user.

There's no SD equivalent when it comes to comments - some sites have been playing with bots that dump all the comments into the chatrooms, but it's not something anyone's formally started working on yet. In theory, you could do something with the API?

As for rudeness? We need to be aware of it, and to decide a suspension is the best course of action. I'd just treat it as something for the site mods to be made aware of. There's no real formal guidelines for this, and mods typically are trusted to use their discretion. High reputation isn't a get out of suspension card though. On the contrary - they're folks who should know better and set the standard.

Comment moderation is one of those things we kinda feel is a work in progress. We kind of work out best practices as we go along, and the nature of them kinda makes them challenging.

  • SmokeDetector takes advantage of some systems that scale well across the network. It's not really feasible to do this with the API network-wide and maintain decent response times.
    – Undo
    May 2, 2018 at 3:06
  • Thanks for the API's idea, I might look into it even if it would lag.
    – yagmoth555
    May 2, 2018 at 14:42
  1. Do flagged comments from a user impact the other sites they've joined?

Nope. The only cross-site section of the Stack Exchange Network is Chat, which is broken up into three servers; chat.stackoverflow.com, chat.stackexchange.com and chat.meta.stackexchange.com. Otherwise, all of your actions on sites pertain to that site only and only the diamond moderators of that site (and the Community Managers, who have access to all sites) see your history there.

We don't see it as "bypassing" the suspension system, instead, we allow users to have the chance to participate anywhere they're not currently suspended. Most users who get suspensions on one site are still productive on the other sites they use. Network suspensions are quite rare and require Community Manager intervention. They generally require that the user has behaved in the same way across multiple sites on the network, often dragging their baggage along with them.

  1. Smoke Detector quickly bans rude or abusive questions and answers

Smoke Detector is a user project. It is not an official part of Stack Exchange. Creating a similar system for comments would be up to those users. My understanding is that on Stack Overflow they have something called "Heat Detector" which does check comments but I'm not knowledgeable in what it does.

  1. I saw some user in the past get a temporary suspension after some rudeness, so how much rudeness was tolerated?

This varies on a case-by-case basis. Site moderators are given free reign on how they act, with the one stipulation being that they must be able to explain their actions if requested. We can ask for advice from other moderators or the Community Managers but, generally, we figure out what works for ourselves. As a result, some sites may be more strict than others.

Can a high rep user go over that limit before they get warned?

High reputation users are complicated bundles of sticks. The answer to this is "it shouldn't". We should expect all users to be held to the same standards.

  • Thanks for the explaination, I agree that we must let the user to have a chance on other site. It's just that if a user was warned and got a suspension for a bad pattern he have in comment. Does on the other sites he's on, the mod will start lightly with a warning again if the user get flagged, does a mod can see that background easily ?
    – yagmoth555
    May 2, 2018 at 14:52
  • We can't see it. We can only ask other mods about it (if we think about it)... We've requested cross-site annotations but we haven't gotten them yet. I think that's a combination of making it technically possible but also a concern that the annotations may change how mods interact with someone if they're already biased against them.
    – Catija
    May 2, 2018 at 15:01

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