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Please leave any feedback or questions about this process on this other post.


From time to time, moderators will step down or be removed from their positions — they may have expressed their wish to step down due to time constraints or they may have had behaviors unfitting of a moderator and have been forcefully removed, along with a number of other possibilities that fall somewhere between those two.

What is the process for evaluating moderator reinstatement or removal appeal requests?


Note: Feedback on the original version of this post can still be found here.

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Moderator Reinstatement and Appeal Process:

This post formalizes a process by which moderators may:

  • Request reinstatement to a position they left voluntarily or through inactivity.
  • Appeal a decision to remove them from a position involuntarily.

The central goals of this process are:

  • To provide a fair and consistent process for when a former moderator asks for their moderator status to be reinstated.
  • To ensure that decisions are based on an examination of the record and history of the former moderator requesting reinstatement, giving a chance for a number of different parties to give their input and recommendations, and making the process as open and transparent as possible.
  • To rely on open and frequent communication between all parties involved, throughout all sections.
  • In cases where there are red flags, it also results in a documented history that will expedite future interactions with said moderator.

This process is available to all moderators, whether elected or appointed, regardless of whether they stepped down on their own or were removed from their position for any reason including inactivity or through the moderator removal processes (except as a result of a site leaving beta).

Pro-tem moderators that didn't participate or win in their site's first “full” (or any other subsequent) election should nominate themselves as a candidate in a future election if they wish to return to their previous position, provided they stepped down from it voluntarily. Moderators (pro-tem or otherwise) who were removed for any other reason are ineligible for nominating themselves in an election, and must complete this process to become a moderator again (or to become eligible to nominate in their first "full" election, if removed while serving as a pro-tem).

We have included as many details as possible without making this outline overly long. The full process is significantly longer, details how and why each of these steps exists, and does not deviate from the letter or spirit of what is specified here. This is intended to be a clean outline of the full process without being cluttered with minutiae that have no bearing on the overall process itself.

In the outline below, the responsible party for each step is indicated in parentheses after the step name.The reinstatement process is split into three sections, each of which are outlined below.

All communications between staff and the PM, Current Moderator Team, and Moderator Council should be carried out via email with a record of all communications (including those in chat) copied into a shared internal document.


Glossary

  • CLT - Community Leadership Team: Leaders from the different teams and groups that work with the community.
  • CM (also CM1, CM2, CM3) - Community Manager
  • PM - Previous Moderator who is applying for reinstatement
  • Mod Council - a group of moderators elected by all other mods to represent them for a number of different purposes.
  • (Current) Mod Team - the current team of moderators active on the site(s) for which the PM is applying for reinstatement or appealing removal.

Reinstatement vs. Appeal

There are two main groups of requests this process is designed to address, as mentioned earlier. When moderators step down voluntarily or are removed due to inactivity, and would like to return to duty, that is considered a "reinstatement." Most of the requests that come in are reinstatement requests because it's extremely rare for a moderator to be removed involuntarily.

"Appeals" are a special case where a moderator was removed involuntarily and wants to contest whether that removal was valid - this includes through both the processes outlined in this post. This is not intended to replace the review process that already exists as part of the emergency removal process (as seen in the Moderator Conduct Review Process). All emergency removals will automatically include a review and will often end with moderator access being restored. In the cases where CM review shows that restoring access after an emergency removal is not appropriate, the moderator can use the appeal process to contest that decision.

In both cases, the process is largely the same with the important difference that an appeal can end with the removal expunged from their record in addition to the other outcomes.

Possible Outcomes

There are several final outcomes for each section in this process. They are:

  • Reinstate with no preconditions - For cases where the former moderator stepped down voluntarily or by inactivity and they have had no concerning behavior in the interim.
  • Reinstate with preconditions - For cases where reinstatement is allowed as long as the former moderator agrees to follow guidelines specified by one or more of the groups involved in the process.
  • Reinstate with removal expunged - For involuntary removals where it is found in the course of examination that the removal was invalid and the former moderator was not at fault. The CLT will always need to approve this recommendation.
  • Do not reinstate, but can run in election on any site - For cases where there is a barrier to reinstatement immediately but there is nothing generally preventing the former moderator from becoming a moderator again in the future.
  • Do not reinstate, and can’t run in election on any site - For cases where there are outstanding concerns. The former moderator will need to apply for reinstatement again in the future if they wish to be reinstated or be allowed to run in an election. In extreme cases, the moderator may be permanently banned.

When consulting the Current Mod Team, any member objecting to or proposing preconditions for the reinstatement should back their recommendation up with reasonable and strong arguments.


A: Community Manager and Mod Team Evaluation

All requests will go through this section but only a minority should go through the others. The vast majority of reinstatement requests are routinely approved by the CMs and current mod team for the given site, and do not require any extensive review.

In this section the request is received, assigned to the CMs, and reviewed by a CM who is then tasked with ensuring that sufficient information is available from the applicant to make an informed decision. After communicating with the current site mods and the applicant, two CMs will discuss. If they disagree, a third CM will be brought in to decide whether a reinstatement should be approved or not.

The end result of this section is either reinstatement (with or without conditions) or a recommendation from the CMs to reject the reinstatement request, with the applicant having the option to request escalation to the CLT, or a recommendation from the CMs to reinstate with removal expunged.

1. Mod Applies for reinstatement (PM)

  1. Through contact form, routed to our support ticketing system.
  2. Should include their reason for requesting reinstatement or appealing the removal, (accounting for circumstances surrounding removal) to be taken into account during evaluation of their request.

2. CM Appointment (CMs)

  1. Community Managers (CMs) can voluntarily recuse themselves.
  2. If only one CM was involved in an involuntary removal, they are auto-recused.
    1. If more than one CM was involved with the removal, no CMs are auto-recused.
  3. CM1, CM2, CM3 appointed from the remaining pool, at random.
  4. If the number of CMs recused reduces the remaining pool of available CMs to be less than 3, the roles of CM2 and CM3 will be filled by other employees who are former CMs.
  5. The names and roles of CM1, CM2, and CM3 will be recorded in the documentation that is to be compiled, and will be shared with the PM. The PM may include questions regarding CM selection during possible subsequent escalations.

3. Documentation and CM Evaluation (CMs)

  1. CM1 reviews circumstances surrounding removal and records of recent interactions or any other correspondence or material relating to the request including the reinstatement request.
  2. CM1 reviews PM’s network account annotations for any that may indicate ineligibility for reinstatement and will investigate them fully:
    1. If any annotations indicate the existence of private correspondence relevant to the reinstatement that was sent to designated members of the CLT through the Contact Review Process, CM1 should request the details from the relevant CLT member.
    2. Annotations will include any red-flags or details on issues that should lead to a recommendation to deny the reinstatement.
  3. If the annotation or correspondence note that reinstatement should not be possible:
    1. If this information has never been presented to the PM, or there is new material for consideration that addresses it, they’re able to escalate the issue for CLT Evaluation. Do not reinstate; proceed to “CLT Evaluation” section.
    2. If this information has been presented to the PM before and no new material is being presented for consideration, do not reinstate; process ends here.
  4. If any of the above raises red flags, documentation is created and catalogued
  5. Before finalizing recommendation, CM1 reaches out to the PM to provide any relevant clarifications regarding PM’s initial email’s content (surrounding their removal, for instance) and to request any missing context that may be needed in response to the data uncovered by CM1 (added to documentation if it exists).
  6. CM2 reviews. If CM2 disagrees with recommendation of CM1, CM3 reviews
    1. Documentation may need to be created if any CM raises red flags.
    2. Go with the majority CM decision as the recommendation.
  7. Possible recommendations are as outlined in “Possible Outcomes”.

4. Mod Team Evaluation (Current Mod Team with CM facilitation)

  1. CM1 goes to the current mod team (via email, with chat follow-up possible if relevant) with all relevant context surrounding the request, to assess if they object to reinstatement and to solicit their opinion and feedback of the PM in relation to their role as a moderator (allowing 3-5 business days for feedback).
  2. CM1 will serve as go-between to convey any questions and answers to/from the current mod team to the PM.
  3. Any single current mod objecting to reinstatement is enough to block the request (or for a site with > 6 mods, at least two mods voting against). Similarly, any mod requesting a precondition will normally be enough to have it in place.
    1. Preconditions or reasons for blocking should be backed up by reasonable and strong arguments.
  4. If documentation doesn’t exist at this point, it should be created if any mod raises a red flag.
  5. Possible recommendations are as outlined in “Possible Outcomes” for the Current Mod Team.

5. Determination and Communication (CM)

  1. If the PM has applied for reinstatement with appeal and the reinstatement is approved as detailed below, this may be carried out immediately once the PM has accepted the terms of the reinstatement (if relevant). The appeal will proceed to the next section (wherein the reinstatement itself will not be up for deliberation) for CLT deliberation.
  2. If both CMs and the current mod team recommend approving the reinstatement:
    1. If preconditions exist, they must be accepted by the PM before access is re-granted. If they are, the request is approved and mod access re-granted. Reinstate; process ends here.
    2. The PM may appeal the terms of the preconditions. However, once an appeal has been made, the actual reinstatement decision as well as the precondition are subject to change in the next sections. Do not reinstate; proceed to “CLT Evaluation” section.
  3. If CMs and/or the current mod team recommend against reinstatement, they must have deliberated on the PM's ability to run in future elections. CM1 communicates with PM the explanation of the decision and any reasoning for denying reinstatement along with clear instructions for how to submit more material for consideration:
    1. PM can choose to end the reinstatement request. Do not reinstate; process ends here.
    2. PM can choose to escalate their request for CLT evaluation and is able to add additional material/arguments for further consideration. Do not reinstate; proceed to “CLT Evaluation” section.

Occasionally, a multi-site PM may request reinstatement on more than one site at the same time. In that case, it is possible for there to be different outcomes based on the site requested.

B: Community Leadership Team Evaluation

In cases where the CMs and/or mod team(s) have recommended to deny the applicant’s reinstatement request, the applicant can escalate their request to the CLT for review. The CLT will make their decision based on the documentation created in the previous section, which includes statements from the PM and the current site mods (though the CLT will never reinstate the PM over the objections of the current site mods).

The steps below include the option for a CLT veto, which is reserved for rare and extreme cases. Examples include (but are not limited to) cases where the CLT feels that for legal reasons, or due to repeated egregious violations of the Mod Agreement, an applicant could never be a moderator on the network again.

The outcomes here are the same as for section A, with the head of the CLT making the final recommendation. In cases where the request is still rejected but not vetoed, the applicant may escalate their request for review by the Moderator Council (outlined in section C).

1a. CLT Evaluation (CLT)

  1. CLT members may recuse themselves from the reinstatement, due to questions of impartiality related to previous interactions with the PM.
  2. CLT reviews documentation, and recommendations of CMs and current mod team
  3. If CLT denies the request outright (veto), proceed to 1b.
  4. Before finalizing their recommendation, the CLT can request that CM1 reach out to the PM for any missing context to be added to documentation.
  5. Head of CLT provides recommendation, taking into consideration all reviewed material, and CLT members’ feedback. Proceed to 2.
  6. Possible recommendations are as outlined in “Possible Outcomes”.

1b. CLT Outright Denial/“Veto” (CLT)

  1. CLT must maintain the possibility of veto for legal/business purposes.
  2. Potential reasons for vetoing reinstatement: violation of Mod Agreement or ToS so egregious that PM cannot be reinstated under any circumstances; potential legal liability; repeat offense after previous reinstatement.
  3. In the event of a CLT veto, the PM will be informed of decision and reasoning. If the PM approves, the Mod Council and current site mods will be informed of occurrence as well with as much detail as can be provided and are approved by the PM (at a minimum, the Mod Council will be informed that a veto took place and that the PM requested that no details be shared with the Mod Council). Do not reinstate; process ends here.

2. Mod Team 2nd Evaluation (Current Mod Team, CM facilitation)

  1. CM1 goes to the current mod team with all new context surrounding the request.
  2. Mod team is given 5 business days to potentially reevaluate their position and revise recommendations. Possible recommendations are as outlined in “Possible Outcomes” for the Current Mod Team.

3. Determination and Communication (CLT & CM)

  1. If both the CLT and the current mod team recommend approving the reinstatement, the request is approved and mod access re-granted (if preconditions exist, they must be accepted by the PM before doing so). Reinstate; process ends here.
  2. If the CLT and/or the current mod team recommend against reinstatement, they must have deliberated on the PM's ability to run in future elections. CM1 communicates with PM the explanation of the decision and any reasoning for denying reinstatement along with clear instructions for how to submit more material for consideration):
    1. PM can choose to end the reinstatement request. Do not reinstate; process ends here.
    2. PM can choose to escalate their request for Mod Council evaluation and is able to add additional material/arguments for further consideration. Do not reinstate; proceed to the “Mod Council Evaluation” section.
  3. In the case where proceeding to Mod Council Evaluation, the PM is given the option to withhold and/or summarize sections of documentation from mod council for privacy reasons with CM1 working with PM to get to a good place:
    1. If withdrawal and summary of these sections paints an accurate picture, do not reinstate; proceed to the “Mod Council Evaluation” section.
    2. Otherwise, if withdrawal and summary of these sections doesn’t paint an accurate picture even after discussion with CM1, the request can’t be further escalated. Do not reinstate; process ends here.

C: Mod Council Evaluation and Final Determination

The purpose of the Mod Council review is to allow for a detailed review and discussion of the reinstatement request by experienced community members, as a last appeal option. The members of the mod council who will be part of this will be given access to as much relevant material as possible (with the exception of materials where details need to be redacted to protect the privacy or security of specific parties).

While the recommendation of the Mod Council is not binding, their recommendation and reasoning will be considered very seriously by the CLT when coming to a final decision. The involvement of the CLT here is to ensure that any negative repercussions for a decision against reinstatement have accountability at the highest levels of the company.

1. Mod Council Prep (Mod Council, CM facilitation)

  1. Mod Council informed of reinstatement request.
  2. Mod Council members who are on any of the same sites for which PM is applying to be reinstated are auto-recused.
  3. Mod Council members may choose to recuse themselves.
  4. Five Council members are chosen at random from those who remain.
  5. CM1 releases documentation to Mod Council members involved in review, which is to be kept private to them.
  6. Mod Council can submit questions to the PM which will be sent through CM1.

2. Mod Council Evaluation (Mod Council, CM facilitation)

  1. Mod Council members involved will meet to discuss.
  2. Mod Council will conduct the review (TBD: process and rules yet to be established by the Council)
  3. Mod Council recommendation will go according to the vote of majority of mods present or whose votes have submitted in advance.
  4. Possible recommendations are as outlined in “Possible Outcomes”.

3. Current Mod Team 3rd Evaluation (Current Mod Team, CM facilitation)

  1. CM1 goes to the current mod team with all new context surrounding the request.
  2. Mod team is given 5 business days to reevaluate their position and provide recommendations. Possible outputs are as outlined in “Possible Outcomes”.

4. Determination and Communication (CLT, CM)

  1. Final decision takes into account recommendations of Mod Council and current mod team, as well as any responses from PM
  2. The final deliberation will include all feedback from current mods and mod council (whose opinion will be given great weight) and will include:
    1. One member of the Community Members at Large group (includes a number of non-CM employees that have significant SE network experience) who was selected at random and given access to the relevant information at the beginning of this section
    2. CM1
    3. Quorum of CLT members
  3. The CLT will reach a final decision with the same final response options as are outlined in “Possible Outcomes”.
  4. If the final decision is for reinstatement, the request is approved and mod access re-granted (if preconditions exist, they must be accepted by the PM before doing so; mod agreement needs to be reaccepted). Reinstate; process ends here.
  5. If the final decision is against reinstatement, there must have also been a decision made regarding the PM's ability to run in future elections. CM1 communicates with the PM the explanation of the decision and any reasoning for denying reinstatement, any details that can be provided, and details of the vote breakdown. PM will also be informed of possible next steps (restart process when there’s significant new data to bring to the table). Additionally, the decision is conveyed to:
    1. Existing mod team, to inform them of the decision with summary: no names or details on vote.
    2. Mod Council, to inform them about the decision along with any more details that can be provided.
    3. Do not reinstate; process ends here.

Errata

1. Eligibility to run in future elections

  • When a reinstatement is denied, the response to the PM from CM1 will include information on whether or not the decision blocks eligibility to run in future elections
  • When a mod is blocked from running in future elections, this applies to any site on the network, and not only the site on which they were originally a mod.

2. Reapplying for reinstatement after being denied

  • If a mod reinstatement request was denied, the PM will be informed about if or when a new application for reinstatement will be entertained.
    • There can be cases where a reinstatement may be allowed once the PM has shown evidence of addressing the specific behavior or issue that led to their removal as a mod.
    • There can be cases where a certain amount of time must elapse before the reinstatement can be reconsidered (for example, in the case where the user’s account has been suspended and that suspension was deemed warranted).
    • There can be cases where the PM will be permanently barred from being a moderator on the network.

Workflow:

Here's a flowchart, showing the step-wise workflow of the process (doesn’t represent all of the details). Click to expand; high-contrast version:

Flowchart

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