Who makes the final decision whether someone on our site (e.g., SOja) is following the Code of Conduct or not? The community? Moderators? Or employees of Stack Exchange?

(I intentionally distinguish moderators from the community here, although moderators are also a part of the community as well as the normal users.)


Translator's Note for Context

This question is originally posted to Meta Stack Overflow for Japanese by a user of SOja, and I translated it to English. The original post is: 行動規範に沿っているか否か最終的に判断するのは誰ですか?

For us on SOja, the new CoC is something like rules given from a high position which we must follow. Of course the Meta.SE community discussed the CoC a lot and the discussion was also announced on Meta SOja, but almost all SOja users didn't join the discussion on Meta.SE because it was done in English, not in Japanese. Therefore a lot of SOja users don't know either what was changed from the old "Be Nice" policy or why it was changed. So the CoC confused SOja users. Many users aren't sure how to moderate our site according to the CoC.

Therefore I post this question here because we cannot decide the principle of moderation only on our own. I also try to get a wider attention to our issue because similar things may happen on other sites on the network.

  • 2
    I opened this question with the understanding of 'Who is most to blame for the new CoC?'. Imagine my disappointment when it turned out to be a mundane question:( – Martin James Oct 4 at 18:38

I'd say there is "chain of command" here.

The ordinary users are the first layer: they report any post or comment that they think is violating the CoC.

Second layer are the moderators: they see the reports, and act upon them: either agree it's violation of the CoC and delete the content, or disagree and let it stay.

Usually this stops here, with the moderators. In case someone notice their content (post or comment) was removed, and realize it's due to violating the CoC, they can appeal to the Stack Exchange team by submitting a "contact us" form.

The third and final layer is SE team, namely the Community Team: they handle those emails, and their decision is final.

Ultimately, Stack Exchange employees.

We rely on the community to do 'peer judgement' by commenting on and/or flagging violations of the Code of Conduct; ♦ moderators enforce those rules, having more tools (flag queues, searching for deleted posts, annotations, moderator messages, suspensions, etc.) at their hand to do so; if users feel those rules aren't applied correctly (be it too lenient or too strict), they can appeal on Meta or, via the Contact Us form, contacting the Stack Exchange employees.

Since culture and language may play a role in determining if something is a violation of the Code of Conduct (e.g. from what I've heard, some words in Spanish are quite acceptable but if you translate them literally into English, they're not), in the ja.SO case this could be a final call from the Japanese speaking Community Manager.

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    "they can appeal on Meta or, via the Contact Us form". So, if employee violates rules, you will write via Contact form. And this employee will read it. Hmmmm. – Suvitruf Oct 5 at 12:55
  • You can always e-mail another employee directly. – Glorfindel Oct 5 at 12:56
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    Not sure, how it calls in english, but in russian it calls "круговая порука". I think, collective responsibility would be the right term. Other employes, obviously, will defend their teammates. I've seen this before multiple times here. – Suvitruf Oct 5 at 12:59

There's vaguely a chain of command here and the "means" folks use to enforce the CoC is just as important as who does it.

Fundamentally, each of us is responsible for our own conduct, and our understanding/misunderstanding of it literally determines whether we're following it.

As a community, gentle reminders and flagging let regular users help enforce the CoC. We can tell each other, "Hey, this isn't cool", or flag the worst things. I'm not a fan of using the CoC as a bludgeon, of course, so I'd rarely advocate saying "Hey, this is against the CoC", rather focusing on how it's undesirable.

Based off flags and other feedback, moderators may sometimes need to step in. In the case of ja.SO, since there's no Japanese-speaking CM I know of, the mods are likely going to be the ones best capable of understanding linguistic and cultural quirks, and (hopefully) will be acting as an interface between the CM team and community. With other sites, this may be more direct.

Therefore I post this question here because we cannot decide the principle of moderation only on our own. I also try to get a wider attention to our issue because similar things may happen on other sites on the network.

Well, to a certain extent that's true, and something that the SE CMs seem to be aware of - though I certainly recommend chipping in there. On the other hand, the CoC is more of a formalization of the older "Be Nice" policy - and there's often little change in the day-to-day running of sites.

So more or less, it's the same people it was before, just that it's wordier rules.

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