Imagine the following scenario. A user gets suspended (fairly) on some site, then creates a new account and asks an on-topic question (the new account asks the question and does nothing else). The IP address, writing style or some other information allow to identify the new account as a sockpuppet beyond reasonable doubt. Is it OK for the moderators to delete or close the on-topic question then, purely because of the past actions of the person who asked it?

Since MSE is not about discussion, I am looking for a generally agreed upon policy. My personal opinion is that it is not OK because Stack Exchange is about content, not about people, and on-topic questions should be welcomed from any source.

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    "Since MSE is not about discussion" You've literally tagged this question as, discussion....
    – Servy
    Jul 18, 2019 at 18:19

5 Answers 5


From the Terms of Service:

If your actions are determined by us to violate these Public Network Terms, Stack Overflow may, in its sole discretion, try to remediate that violation by working with you individually, but is under no obligation to do so, and if any such remediation efforts are unsuccessful (in Stack Overflow’s sole discretion), then Stack Overflow may revoke your rights to the Network.

This includes the right to post questions, so therefore ♦ moderators have the right to close and delete questions posted by secondary accounts of suspended users.

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    I meant something like "is it OK according to the SE philosophy", not in the legal terms (though admittedly that was not clear from the post). In legal terms, as far as I understand, a single off-topic question can be enough to get you suspended for eternity so it is a slightly different thing.
    – sis
    Jul 18, 2019 at 18:38
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    "SE philosophy" is what drives SE's rules, so no, it's not ethically, SEithically, philosophically or whateverically in any way an acceptable thing to do, nor will rephrasing that question in any way make it so. You're suspended and aren't allowed to ask questions anymore, that's the whole truth and the "generally agreed upon policy", no matter from what "clever" viewpoint. Jul 18, 2019 at 19:40
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    @sis: "is it OK according to the SE philosophy" Turn that around a different way. We generally as a society believe that denying someone freedom of personal actions is bad. But we still incarcerate people for breaking the law. Is prison a violation of our society's philosophy? No; if you break the law, you have violated the social contract that we as members of the society agreed to, and thus aren't afforded those protections anymore. By breaking the rules of the site, you have violated the social contract for using SO, and therefore you cannot do so for the suspension time. Period. Jul 18, 2019 at 22:37
  • @NicolBolas I see your point of view, it just seems to me that in the SE interaction model, there is no easily enforceable way to identify a human being (as opposed to an account) so I don't know who is "you". I therefore think that to indiscriminately delete good content from a given human being is not in line with the SE philosophy. I found Chris Stratton's position in the comments debate (electronics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/3089) to more or less express my point of view (and in fact, jail has also been brought up there).
    – sis
    Jul 19, 2019 at 8:46
  • It may also be noted that there is not necessarily a human behind an account. For example, there was a case of a bot on SO who earned 100 reputation or something like that. Imagine that that bot's account was suspended and then someone copied its code and ran it on a different machine on a different account. Should that bot's contributions be automatically deleted as well (or should he receive the warnings one receives before being suspended)?
    – sis
    Jul 19, 2019 at 8:50
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    @sis That's a weird example because the bot didn't open an account on its own free will. A person did, and a person programmed it. If such an account would be reopened and the system recognized it is an old account that was problematic before, the same conditions apply, bot or not.
    – user204841
    Jul 19, 2019 at 9:25

"My personal opinion is that it is not OK because Stack Exchange is about content, not about people, and on-topic questions should be welcomed from any source."

If that were true, then we wouldn't ever have suspensions in the first place. People misbehave, and when they do, it's sometimes necessary to make content from them no longer welcome. If you want to ensure that content is welcomed from you then don't behave so poorly you get suspended, and if you do, use your suspension to figure out what you did wrong and ensure that when you are able to return to the site, you can contribute positively, rather than demanding your unwelcome contributions be allowed.

  • the distinction here, in my opinion, is that content has already been posted. Users are suspended because of the high chance bad content is going to be posted by them. Here good content has already been posted, deleting it does not achieve the same benefit as a suspension.
    – sis
    Jul 18, 2019 at 18:27
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    @sis Users are not necessarily suspended because the entirety of all of the contributions are worthless. Their suspended because they're regularly engaging in problematic behaviors and need to be given time to consider the consequences of their actions and to reflect on how they can improve them going forward. Subverting the bad is a strong indication that they're failing to do that, as they are instead making the decision to continue to engage in abusive behaviors.
    – Servy
    Jul 18, 2019 at 18:33
  • I agree that users are not necessarily suspended because the entirety of all of the contributions are worthless, though I do not think that I ever claimed that. What I do not understand is what closing or deleting a question specifically achieves. Does it give the user the time to reflect on how they can improve their behaviour?
    – sis
    Jul 18, 2019 at 18:49
  • it seems to me that in other threads you expressed different opinions (e.g. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/193867/…). I did not intentionally go through your activity, I just searched this website for related questions. So did your opinion change since the time you posted those comments?
    – sis
    Jul 18, 2019 at 19:47
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    Servy's just addressing your flawed premise that SE is pure content. It'd be a fantastic ideal, but you throw people into anything, and we find a way to muck it up somehow. We focus on content most of all, but there needs to be some attention to the people posting; it can't be any other way.
    – fbueckert
    Jul 18, 2019 at 19:58
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    @sis I'm confused. You're now referring to an example of someone posting a good question who isn't banned but with poor motivations, which is very different than someone evading a ban (which, as I mention in the comment you link, would absolutely merit action). It's completely consistent with this answer.
    – Servy
    Jul 18, 2019 at 20:05
  • @Servy I agree with you that it merits action, but what kind of action? I think that it merits deleting or suspending the sockpuppet account and I do not think that it merits deleting/closing the on-topic question. This discussion may have become overwhelming so I am not insisting that we continue it.
    – sis
    Jul 18, 2019 at 21:13
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    @sis: If a user has been suspended, then they're not allowed to take actions on the site. If we allow those actions to be taken, even if they are anonymized, we are still allowing them to take actions on the site. Thus making a mockery of the concept of suspending the user. Maintaining the importance of suspensions as a punishment is (far) more important than any one piece of content. Jul 18, 2019 at 22:34

Is it OK for the moderators to delete or close the on-topic question then, purely because of the past actions of the person who asked it?

Yes. When you're suspended, or question banned, you're not supposed to just create a sock and use that to circumvent the restrictions placed on your account:

if the second account allows you to do something on the site that your normal account would be prevented from doing, it is abuse.

Moderators moderate abuse by cleaning it up.


When a user is suspended, that human being is suspended, and that human being has lost the right to post questions, or anything else, on the site.

If he tries to circumvent that embargo, he will be caught, and the embargo reinforced, restoring the site to the state it should be, given the user’s suspension.

Anything he posted should not have been posted, and will be removed as if he never did. Because that’s what a suspension means.

  • if a company account is suspended, which human being(s) is suspended then? I don't have a problem with your answer but it does not seem to address this point.
    – sis
    Jul 18, 2019 at 18:42
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    @sis Companies don’t create accounts. If some have, they shouldn’t, and you should flag them. Accounts are for individuals. The whole system is oriented and architected around individuals (eg rep). But even if companies could create accounts, then the whole company would be suspended, and no individual from, representing, or associated with that company would be permitted to post on the site. A suspension is a suspension. There is no clever wordsmithing that will get you around this foundational obstacle.
    – Dan Bron
    Jul 18, 2019 at 18:43
  • @sis It is even possible for IP adresses to be restricted if an unusal amount of posts originating from it is problematic.
    – user204841
    Jul 18, 2019 at 19:09
  • @ModusTollens Not just possible, but pretty much automated. Misbehave too much, and the system decides it's had enough from the origin.
    – fbueckert
    Jul 18, 2019 at 19:39

If you think one account is associated with another banned account flag one of the posts from one of the accounts for moderator attention. Explain what you think and then leave everything else to the moderators.

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