69

While this question is inspired by recent events, it is an independent question and not tied down to any specific moderator or situation.

There's precedent for a moderator who resigned their diamond to simply ask Stack Exchange for their diamond back, without having to stand for reelection. Obviously, this may not apply if the moderator did not resign, but was removed for cause by Stack Exchange.

If a moderator has been "fired" by Stack Exchange (has had their diamond removed involuntarily by corporate action), is the person eligible to pull a Marion Barry and regain a diamond through the democratic process on one of our sites, or would any such attempt be blocked? I'm aware that there is a restriction on users who have received a full site suspension in the past year from standing for election, but this is not the same thing as being stripped of a diamond (fired moderators, IME, aren't also given a full site suspension unless their behavior goes beyond "possibly not a very good moderator" into "supervillain" territory).

If there is no particular rule, what should that rule be?

  • Should fired moderators be immediately eligible to stand for election, subject only to community approval of them returning?
  • Should fired moderators have to go through a separate re-vetting process with Stack Exchange to regain eligibility to stand for office?
  • Should fired moderators have an ineligibility window in a similar way that suspended users have one (e.g. after X months or years after being fired, they may stand for election).
  • Should fired moderators be forever banned from election?

In no way am I asking about the process for a fired moderator to seek restoration through corporate appeals, etc. I'm asking only about the community election process - if a site's community wants to elect a previously fired moderator, is this inherently objectionable to Stack Exchange?

  • 6
    I would posit that this is judged on a case-by-case basis. SE would need to be sure that the said moderator would continue to add value to the side and users, in the same way as moderators do now. I can't see there being a set policy for this. – Snow Oct 8 at 13:43
  • I agree with @Snow they'll probably asess it on a case by case basis. If irreconcilable differences between staff/rules and the moderator led to the firing, I'd imagine these differences don't vanish on election, and they would not be reinstated. – mag Oct 8 at 13:44
  • It appears (from personal experience) that SE are involved in deciding whether resigned moderators should be reinstated (it wasn't automatic as far as I could tell). It seems appropriate to assume that reinstating a suspended moderator would involve more in the way of corporate chin-scratching. – Snow Oct 8 at 13:49
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    Possible duplicate of Will we really have "democratic" moderator elections? – Script47 Oct 8 at 13:50
  • 3
    Relevant answer by animuson. You need to be in good standing. – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Oct 8 at 13:54
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    @AnneDaunted Do (Can) we, as regular SE users (or potential voters), whether hi rep or not, or mods, know the status of a person, in re "need to be in good standing?" i.e. what is the definition of "in good standing?" suspended, or not? banned, or not? – CGCampbell Oct 8 at 13:58
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    @CGCampbell No, it's an elastic concept. That makes it quite useful for the company. – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Oct 8 at 13:59
  • De facto no: SE would presumably immediately fire the re-elected moderator. – Raedwald Oct 8 at 14:21
  • @Anne thanks, but that really doesn't answer the question. If someone was fired as a moderator, but any timed site suspension expired over a year ago (or was never imposed), are they now "in good standing", or does the old firing still impact their account? A possibly similar issue exists in how US citizenship law defines "good moral character" required for naturalization. Some things (e.g. a Murder conviction) bar you for life from ever being deemed of good moral character, other deeds (halfway-decent person but not a good Scout-type things) have time bars, other things are discretionary. – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Oct 8 at 14:39
  • 1
    I just posted the link because a) it's an answer by an SE employee and b) it seems relevant to this question. – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Oct 8 at 14:44
  • From an automated standpoint, any user that meets the requirements can post a nomination. Whether SE accepts it or not...requires manual effort to change. So, technically, yes, they can. Pragmatically, though, chances are good that the actual answer is no. – fbueckert Oct 8 at 14:50
  • Possible duplicate of What is the process for reinstating a moderator? – Mari-Lou A Oct 22 at 14:32
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA That post doesn't seem to resolve this question though. – Rand al'Thor Oct 22 at 14:53
  • 2
    @Mari-LouA The new process post doesn't, however, answer the question of whether a moderator who's been fired and hasn't been reinstated could still be elected. (Also, this question isn't specifically about Monica.) – Rand al'Thor Oct 22 at 15:02
  • 1
    In addition to Marion Barry, Buddy Cianci also was elected mayor after being forced to resigned due to criminal conviction. – isaacg Oct 29 at 16:46
67

Past events indicate that whatever senior staff thinks is appropriate is what will be allowed or disallowed, regardless of what has gone before, what staff has said on Meta, or what written policy is. Stack Exchange is under no obligation to follow published policy in this area; if a policy doesn't produce the desired result for a particular situation, they are within their rights to change it to get the result they want.

So, there's no way to predict whether someone will be allowed to stand for election, even if there is explicit documentation one way or the other. As soon as someone the senior staff wants to allow to run is in this situation, it will be allowed. As soon as someone who the senior staff doesn’t want to be elected is in this situation, it won’t be allowed.

  • I understand your cynicism, given what has been happening. But we don't have any data points yet as to what happens when a subscriber files with JAMS. Therefore, I think it's premature to take this as given. – aparente001 Oct 28 at 23:42
  • @aparente001 JAMS is irrelevant to the question which says In no way am I asking about the process for a fired moderator to seek restoration through corporate appeals, etc. – ColleenV Oct 29 at 17:15
  • But ultimately, the corporation controls the community election process, doesn't it? – aparente001 Oct 29 at 18:18
16

In the finest tradition of Dungeons & Dragons rules lawyers: in the absence of an explicit a prioiri policy against such a thing taking place, it must be allowed to happen.

Stack Exchange either needs to append the requirements for moderators, or accept that it may happen. Technically under this interpretation, users that were banned are allowed to be elected as moderator following the completion of their ban as well.

  • 19
    Fun fact, at least one user who at some point had a permanent network wide ban was unbanned and elected as a moderator. – mag Oct 8 at 13:51
  • 2
    I believe that if a user was banned/suspended, they cannot run for election for a year after the suspension is lifted. – JohnP Oct 8 at 15:50
  • @Magisch different case. That user was SE employee in the past, not just a mod. (If we talk about same person) – Shadow The Princess Wizard Oct 8 at 16:49
  • @JohnP forcibly taking away the diamond is worse than being banned or suspended. If they won't give the diamond back to her themselves, I'd say there's no chance they'll let her be elected ever again. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Oct 8 at 16:51
  • 1
    @Shadow that person was not a SE employee at any point. – mag Oct 8 at 16:54
  • @Magisch oh, so I'm out of the loop. Still, mod being fired while still active is worse than a user who was suspended before becoming a mod. It means the fired mod hurt SE badly with their mod actions, and can't be trusted as mod again. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Oct 8 at 16:57
  • 1
    @rjzii that makes sense, but the primary purpose of my question was to find out if such an explicit ban exists, or if explicit procedures were ever defined to adjudicate such a situation. For example, is there an obscure footnote hidden somewhere in the Help Center that covers this (e.g. "Mods removed for cause may normally only be elected after five years. If five years have not passed, they may complete a formal behavioral assessment and character review before a panel of three CT members to regain eligibility")? Did this happen at some point in the past and we can review what happened? – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Oct 8 at 17:54
  • They could simply change the rules before any new elections. So well know once elections are being held, and when a mod who got its diamond removed nominates itself. – Luuklag Oct 8 at 18:28
16

The OP asked:

Can a fired moderator be elected as a moderator?

  • Should fired moderators be immediately eligible to stand for election, subject only to community approval of them returning?

Yes, when a firing has been proven to be without just cause

Just cause means a legally sufficient reason. Just cause is sometimes referred to as good cause, lawful cause or sufficient cause. A litigant must often prove to a court that just cause exists and therefore the requested action or ruling should be granted.

Just cause, in the employment context, refers to the employer's right to discipline or terminate employees for misconduct or negligence. In many states employers must at least show just cause for terminating you. For example, if an employer punished an employee without just cause, a Court can order the employer to compensate the worker. Just cause is legal jargon for a legitimate business reason, such as wrongdoing on the employee's part. Just cause is often a matter of interpretation by the courts or arbitrators.

In addition, the website: US.Legal.com, proceeds to list the steps an employer is expected to take before taking disciplinary action or terminating an employee's contract. It is, therefore, not unreasonable to assume a similar procedure be in place to safeguard the reputation and good name of a volunteer; especially one who was appointed by the company itself.

As was the case on January 30, 2019 when Monica Cellio was appointed (not elected) as a moderator on Meta.SE.

enter image description here

Monica is an experienced moderator across the Stack Exchange network and we thought it would be presumptuous to ask her to step up yet again; that was a little short-sighted of us because she's been rocking it here and has the cycles to come on board. If we make more changes, we'll write a separate post. Things have been going very well, so we don't anticipate that being any time soon.


From the same public announcement, [emphasis in bold mine]

These folks [the appointed moderators] have quite a bit of moderation experience, some since the dawn of time the concept of pro-tem moderation itself. All of these individuals have been leaders on their respective sites, as well as leaders in the broader Stack Exchange moderator community. They're fair, even-keeled and most importantly, they're incredibly great at disagreeing with Stack Exchange!

  • This isn't a pro-tem appointment, this is an office that they'll hold until they don't want it anymore or lose the capacity to continue. While we're very deliberately seeking folks that can constructively disagree with us, 'constructively' is a very key modifier, and we need to see that over a period of time.

Consequently, it is safe to presume that the company's executives asked its Community Managers to perform a detailed background check on Monica Cellio before officially appointing her as a moderator on their website. In fact, we (the community) were later informed by a CM that Monica Cellio's record was unblemished until her moderating privileges and all her six diamonds were revoked on September 27, 2019.

enter image description here

The question we are asking today is:

Did Stack Exchange follow a procedure similar to the one below?

  1. Did the company warn the worker in advance of taking action?
  2. Is there a clearly communicated work rule which covers the conduct and which is reasonable and related to the orderly, efficient and safe operation of the employer’s business?
  3. Did the employer investigate before taking action?
  4. a) Was the investigation fair and objective? 4. b) Does the supervisor serve as prosecutor, judge and witness all rolled into one?
  5. Is there substantial evidence that the worker is guilty?
  6. a) Has the employer been fair and even-handed in its enforcement of the rule(s) in question? 6. b) Is there "disparate treatment?"
  7. Was the degree of discipline related to the seriousness of the worker’s offense and worker’s prior work record?

(source: the same page at definitions.uslegal.com as above)

No one, except the executives and directors of Stack Exchange, can say whether they adhered faithfully to their own guidelines, while one would hope that the answer to questions 3 and 6 a) is yes, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that the answer to the remaining five is a resounding and clamorous No.

If, for whatever reason, the company directors and executives dismissed a moderator unfairly, the moderator should be immediately reinstated and be allowed to candidate themself for any moderator election they see fit. The company should not tarnish or slur the candidate's good name further by refusing the nomination in any future election, be it in one or twelve month's time.

  • 1
    I think your answer is addressing "should a moderator fired for in my opinion unjust reasons be able to be re-elected" which is a moral position that you take and share with the majority of the community right now. The problem is, this question is materially about can, not should, and I think that will come down to a resounding no from SE. If they responded to this with "she can be elected again" I can guarantee you monica would win by a landslide any mod election she partook in next. But the actual answer is probably that they'll disallow her from running even. – mag Oct 28 at 9:35
  • 1
    @mag it's not a moral position, it's a rational and logical position. In the US, it is my limited understanding, that if someone has been fired without just cause they are entitled to either seek reemployment or compensation. – Mari-Lou A Oct 28 at 9:40
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    I'm not a lawyer so I can't comment on the legal side, but I think Monica wasn't technically employed. The can fire and refuse to ever rehire a moderator for any or no reason, with no recourse, as it is an informal volunteer position. I also think it'll be some more time then usual before any elections to replenish numbers of resigned mods will be held, to avoid the can of worms I mentioned above. It might be summer next year until we get any. – mag Oct 28 at 9:41
  • @mag as it is an informal volunteer position I've addressed that relevant point in the answer. Monica was appointed by the company. – Mari-Lou A Oct 28 at 9:41
  • 2
    Your answer is still arguing on the "should" level. As in (it is only fair and just that) "then that moderator should be immediately reinstated by the company". I agree with you on the merits, it's just that I can't ever see them allowing her to run again, to the point that I find it likely they'll delay elections to avoid kicking up a storm when they do. – mag Oct 28 at 9:44
  • @mag then I suggest posting your argument in an answer because lately comments are being wiped out by the barrel load, and with that in mind, I feel constrained to convert any comments or objections I may have in an answer. – Mari-Lou A Oct 28 at 9:45
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    1. No. 2. No. 3. Unknown. 4. No (yes). 5. No. 6. No (yes). 7. No. (Answers in parens are for the second question when a point contained two different questions.) – Monica Cellio Oct 28 at 15:05
  • @MonicaCellio have you recieved any word on if you could simply run again and get your diamonds back that way? – mag Oct 28 at 15:07
  • @mag no. I haven't asked that question. – Monica Cellio Oct 28 at 15:16
  • @MonicaCellio Just so it's absolutely clear: The answers for Qs 1-7 is No. It's Yes for No. 4.b Does the supervisor serve as prosecutor, judge and witness all rolled into one? and No. 6.b Is there "disparate treatment?" – Mari-Lou A Oct 28 at 15:53
  • @Mari-LouA correct. (3 is unknown, since their internal review is opaque.) Of course, those answers are based on the information available to me. If SE claims other answers they should do me the kindness of supporting their claims by responding to my repeated requests for information about the charges. – Monica Cellio Oct 28 at 15:55
8

Taking away the diamond(s) from active moderator is the worst penalty that exists, issued for the worst crime.

It's by far more severe than a suspension. It means the moderator did something really awful that hurt badly the company or community, and must be stopped ASAP.

So I'm sure that unless Stack Exchange undo their own decision, they will never let a fired moderator be elected again. (e.g. SE staff member will delete that mod nomination every time or just suspend that mod.)

  • 28
    "It means the moderator did something really awful that hurt badly the company or community, and must be stopped ASAP." No, not necessarily. In my case, the diamond was revoked because of my actions ~2 years prior to the election, and wasn't at all related to my moderation activities. However, I'm indeed barred from participating in SE elections for life...so yes, your last paragraph is true. – S.D. Oct 8 at 17:04
  • 2
    @Blue that's weird, without even a warning?? – Shadow The Princess Wizard Oct 8 at 17:16
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    Yup, no warning (screenshot). Though, I do agree with them that my past actions were pretty severe. :) – S.D. Oct 8 at 17:31
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    @Blue that's...frightening. It looks like you were a well-behaved mod, and they took it away based on some old dirt someone dug up. That exactly opposite how modern theories of behavior management are supposed to work - if someone did something bad then, but is behaving consistently well now, then the problem has been solved and no intervention is necessary. – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Oct 8 at 18:01
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    It means the moderator is alleged to have done something really awful. – Monica Cellio Oct 8 at 18:16
  • 8
    De-modding for previous bad behaviour is...a rather chilling effect; it means your history can and will be used against you, and would justify just about any de-modding, as I doubt anyone has a perfectly clean record. The whole, "keep your nose clean for a year" is supposed to do that. This sends a very different message. – fbueckert Oct 8 at 18:18
  • 7
    I disagree and think this take is backward; taking away someone's diamond does not prevent a user from using the site or contributing to it -- only that you no longer meet the incredibly stringent additional guidelines for being a moderator. Suspending a user prevents them from even contributing to the site, which is a much more heavy-handed sentence. To put it another way, in order to contribute to the site, you must only abide by basic CoC rules. To contribute as a moderator, you must abide by basic CoC rules and additional moderator gudelines/ethics. Thus, suspension is worse. – TylerH Oct 8 at 19:32
7

The latest revision of the election rules and qualifications can be found here:

https://stackoverflow.com/election/11

Notably there are subjective requirements:

Our general criteria for moderators are as follows:

  • patient and fair
  • leads by example
  • shows respect for their fellow community members in their actions and words
  • open to some light but firm moderation to keep the community on track and resolve (hopefully) uncommon disputes and exceptions.

So a moderator nomination may be withdrawn if they have violated any of those.

In addition to reputation and badge requirements, there is one objective requirement that may apply to situations like this:

  • …and cannot have been suspended during the past year.

So even without changing the rules, they merely need to suspend the moderator for a short period of time to prevent them being electable for one year.

I don't know if the act of firing a moderator counts as or results in a suspension, but they could add that, again, without changing the election rules.

  • 4
    From what I've seen, revocation of moderator privileges has not been associated with a suspension as we know it (blocked from posting, commenting, chatting, reputation locked at 1, etc.). If loss of moderatorship is considered "equivalent" to a suspension (e.g. in the way a GED is "equivalent" to high school graduation), can you cite a policy or administrative guidance indicating that? – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Oct 8 at 18:07
  • No, however there's nothing stating that it isn't either, and they could conclude, in their corporate wisdom, that it's similar enough without established precedent. – Adam Davis 'ze-zir-zem' Oct 8 at 18:10
  • Indeed, users may run for moderator after previously being suspended from the site. Assuming the user is not in an active or recent suspension, and thus is otherwise in good account standing, there is no public rule preventing a de-modded moderator from seeking moderatorship again. – TylerH Oct 8 at 19:35
  • 1
    @Tyler exactly. What I'm asking about are the unwritten rules, the ones where SE staff presumably start from some generalized guidelines or statement of philosophy (e.g. "People who have ever, even once, posted hate speech, commercial spam, or porn are rarely ever deemed rehabilitated even after 10 years, but everyone else is based on your reasonable judgment. See the case studies in Appendix R for specific examples to help align your thinking.") and then apply critical thinking and professional judgment skills to make a decision. – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Oct 8 at 20:21
  • "shows respect for their fellow community members in their actions and words" is pretty broad. – De Novo supports GoFundMonica Oct 27 at 15:13

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