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There is a policy that the details regarding a site suspension aren't released publicly, and that the only one who is allowed to bring it up publicly is the suspended user themselves. Officially, this policy exists to protect the suspended user, and so that they aren't put in a position where they can't defend themselves.

However, on occasion, a suspended user may choose to waive such protection, giving explicit consent for moderators to publicly release details about their suspension, or stating that they are OK with their case being discussed in public or that they prefer that their case be publicly discussed.

If a suspended user gives explicit consent for moderators to fully release the details of their suspension publicly, are the moderators allowed to do so, or are they still bound by the policy even in that case?

I'd prefer an answer where a staff member makes an official ruling regarding this.

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    Note that there is some history of elaborating on suspensions. – Erik Reinstate MonicA Oct 22 at 20:27
  • I would be more convinced if these links pointed to MSE, not MSO. – Frédéric Hamidi Oct 22 at 20:31
  • @ErikA As well as prior history on elaborating on emergency moderator removals. (Note that compared to Monica's case, this case was most definitely valid.) – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog Oct 22 at 20:34
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    how is this not a question? It's stated twice what the question is. Not agreeing with the premise doesn't make it not a question. – rlemon Oct 22 at 20:40
  • Indeed, might they be released to the suspended user? – hayd Oct 22 at 21:13
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    It's probably a reasonable policy in normal times, of which these aren't. – James Reinstate Monica Polk Oct 23 at 0:49
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According to an answer by a Stack Exchange Community Manager:

What can moderators share publicly?

During a suspension, anyone can see that a user has been suspended and broadly why. There's not a lot of benefit for a moderator to do more than point inquisitive users to that part of a suspended user's profile. Since suspended users are unable to tell their side of the story on meta or chat, the less said the better. Hard to think of a better way to turn a user bitter than to humiliate them when they are helpless.

Sometimes, however, the questions about a suspension are . . . pointed. Secretive systems of justice don't tend to be very fair. Since users on the site clean up after bad behavior, it's not very easy for people to even see what the suspended user was doing. It comes down to trusting either the word of a moderator (with inscrutable power) or a fellow user. In these cases, my guiding principles for moderators and CMs are:

Be honest. That might mean telling truths that aren't very flattering of yourself or other people. It might mean highlighting the mistakes of a moderator or community manager. It might mean summarizing information that's not publicly available. It might mean publishing moderator messages and responses. It does not mean publishing potentially personally-identifying information, which is never allowed under the moderator agreement. But honesty must always be balanced with:

Be respectful. I'd say be nice, but that might be misunderstood. Correct misinformation, but don't go out of your way to make people look bad. Focus on the evidence of what happened and avoid assigning motives. Assume good faith and take the time needed to remain civil. Believe it or not, people sometimes respond positively (and rarely negatively) to this sort of generosity of spirit.

In other words, the purpose of secrecy isn't to hide from public scrutiny, but to protect users and the site from needless gossip and drama. If you already have that (and especially if the suspended user instigated it) there's no real reason to keep mum. Better to have informed turmoil than misinformed. Meanwhile, don't stoke the fire by bringing out salacious details that could be left quiet. Nobody said the job of a moderator is easy.

Why we don't keep public records of suspensions

And in a comment:

Certainly if the user gives permission or is clearly out to mislead that would be a good time to reveal clarifying details

Why we don't keep public records of suspensions

In circumstances where the suspension is of great concern to the community, & the suspended user has explicitly given permission for their suspension to be discussed, it would seem a little odd to take refuge in "no comment".

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The official ruling by a staff member already exists (though the recent situation may have changed the company's position on this matter). Quoting Jon Ericson:

In other words, the purpose of secrecy isn't to hide from public scrutiny, but to protect users and the site from needless gossip and drama. If you already have that (and especially if the suspended user instigated it) there's no real reason to keep mum. Better to have informed turmoil than misinformed. Meanwhile, don't stoke the fire by bringing out salacious details that could be left quiet. Nobody said the job of a moderator is easy.

I'd say there's enough gossip and drama at the moment (I can hardly imagine a worse situation than what's been happening here for the past three weeks) so yes, a moderator is allowed to share some information about the suspension. Note that that ruling doesn't stated they're required to reveal the information.

Without knowing the specifics, we can't know if revealing (parts of) them wouldn't add more fuel to the fire. Therefore, I think her reaction makes sense.

There's not much more to say, besides that normal processes were followed: Robert was warned first, and didn't improve so a suspension followed.

  • There is prior justification to let the skeletons out of the closet upon user request. If this case is not meeting the criteria for that to happen, a note on that would be nice. – rlemon Oct 22 at 20:49
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    First of all, that answer was posted before Robert gave his consent, so it was a valid application of policy at the time. Second of all, that quote never mentions the possibility that the suspended user may give their consent: just the normal response of what to do in response to usual questions. – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog Oct 22 at 20:50
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    I also like quoting Jon: "Certainly if the user gives permission or is clearly out to mislead that would be a good time to reveal clarifying details." (meta.stackexchange.com/questions/293213/…) – Tom Oct 22 at 20:50
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I think it's a good general policy, no matter what the situation.

The main reason for not talking about a suspension is to be fair to the suspended person who can't talk back. But the overall goal of a suspension (at least for an initial one) is to impose a short time-out to let things cool off. The suspension enforces that time-out on the person suspended, and the policy of not talking about it is a corresponding time-out on the part of the moderator(s) who imposed the suspension.

Yes, in this case, it's silencing a strong voice on one side of the debate who hasn't (as far as I've seen) crossed any lines, but there are still lots of other voices to carry on in the meantime.

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    Yes, in this case, it's silencing a strong voice on one side of the debate who hasn't (as far as I've seen) crossed any lines, but there are still lots of other voices to carry on in the meantime. First, they came for the strong voices, and I did not speak out, because... well, I don't have a strong voice. – Frédéric Hamidi Oct 22 at 20:35

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