40

Related: Why was Robert Harvey suspended?

I would like to get some statistics about comments of this user that were deleted in two weeks between October, 8 and October, 22. Specifically, I would want to learn:

  • How many of these comments were deleted by moving to chat, by moderators, by regular users flags, and by the author.

  • How many flags were cast on these deleted comments.

  • How many different users cast these flags.

  • How many flags were cast by top 3 (or better top 5 or 10) of these users.

I expect requested stats to help me estimate how probable it is that some kind of coordinated comments flagging is going on at MSE lately.

  • 7
    side note to those who might not know: diamond moderators can see who cast comment flag since July 2018 – gnat Oct 23 at 7:57
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    I've cast a multitude of flags on both comments and answers and that was all very coordinated. Now what? – rene Oct 23 at 8:03
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    @gnat so if I happen to be on the side that tried to keep exchanges respectful instead of adding more fuel to this dumpster fire I'm now at risk for seeing consequences for that? Happy witch hunting ... – rene Oct 23 at 8:12
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    @rene do I understand it correctly that you equate site moderators reviewing particular comment flags to witch hunting? – gnat Oct 23 at 8:14
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    In the way you phrased this question, yes. You assume ill-intent and invite them to go on witch hunting. – rene Oct 23 at 8:15
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    @rene I object against this interpretation. The way you say it was definitely not on my mind, nor I can find anything in the wording of this post that can be interpreted as such. As mentioned in my prior comment "at this point I am... only willing to get some data helping to estimate whether this is something worth to be concerned about". If something in this request may possibly misread as something different, please let me know and I'll try to correct – gnat Oct 23 at 8:18
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    @rene I am sorry but specific user makes a critical point in my request and dropping them off will essentially make stats useless for me. Thing is, I have seen many "too heated" comments from different users lately and stats on these would obscure things I want to learn about too much (I have no slightest interest to learn about deletion of obviously poor comments). This specific user provides just the kind of data I am interested in, because I know of their ability to self control and because I have seen their claim that they consciously tried to abstain of rough edges in comments wording – gnat Oct 23 at 8:30
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    @rene I totally agree - it's witch hunting and the site has taken a sinister turn. When previously sound and reliable people are trying to dig up dirt and it's gathering momentum, I don't know what we can do. – Nobody Oct 23 at 8:32
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    @YvetteColomb I can only repeat what I have asked above, do I understand it correctly that you equate site moderators reviewing particular comment flags to witch hunting? – gnat Oct 23 at 8:38
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    @gnat site moderators have already reviewed them, that's why they issued a suspension. You seem to be requesting confidential information and for what? To be able to then accuse people of coordinated flagging? This sort of detail has never been public. Why change that now? Haven't we had enough problems because things that should be private have been handled in public? Do we really need yet another episode of the same? – terdon - stop harming Monica Oct 23 at 8:42
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    @terdon I have an experience with similar reviews (not to the point of being suspended but still) and I can assure you that in cases like that it may be helpful to double-check. I honestly can't imagine how additional moderator scrutiny may do any harm – gnat Oct 23 at 9:14
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    You're not asking for additional moderator scrutiny. You are asking for things to be made public that are best kept private. It really comes down to whether or not you trust the mods. And, seeing as none of us trust SE anymore, so there is nobody to escalate to, if you don't trust the mods either, then there's even less point in asking for this. You would have no reason to believe anything they say. So I just can't see any point to asking for data you wouldn't believe anyway. – terdon - stop harming Monica Oct 23 at 9:16
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    @terdon quoting what I am asking: "How many flags were cast on these deleted comments. How many different users cast these flags. How many flags were cast by top 3 (or better top 5 or 10) of these users." I can't see what harm could be in making this public (especially assuming that at this point I find it entirely possible that outcome will be that there is no coordination worth worrying about). As for the trust, it has nothing to do with this, it may be that moderators did not notice something useful and I am only willing to check whether there was a mistake or not – gnat Oct 23 at 9:20
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    @YvetteColomb you probably need more experience with flagging. Then you will learn that mod review is the best thing for flagger. No matter if it's positive or negative, it helps learn how to do better. I cast tens thousands flags on multiple sites and I still keep checking flag history and learning. I dropped worrying about possible negative reviews few years ago and recommend you do the same. If you feel anxious try to convince self that it will be positive and will confirm that you're doing it right. If it later turns negative, just try to figure how to do better next time – gnat Oct 23 at 21:24
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    ...you see, with right attitude there is just no place for anxiety – gnat Oct 23 at 21:24
34

One of the main reasons we're in this mess is because SE chose to disregard one of the oldest most cherished rules in the network: we do not discuss the details of moderation actions in public. Can we please try to do better and stop trying to drag all the ugly into the light?

A user was given a short suspension by the MSE moderators. The details are already more public than they ever needed to be. You are now asking for data that are private and which we have no business knowing. Flags are anonymous and should be anonymous. There is absolutely no benefit in knowing who cast flags or how any flags were cast or anything else. If you have lost respect for the MSE moderators, then maybe you can talk about that, but asking for confidential information is not the right way to go about it.

This isn't about SE Inc doing something against the community's wishes. This was done by one of us, not an employee. Digging into the details will serve no purpose other than to stir up more drama. Robert will be back in a few days and we can move forward. Until then, we have more than enough drama to keep us occupied without trying to start a witch hunt against our fellow users. We've had enough problems because things that should be private have been handled in public. Do we really need yet another episode of the same?

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    There is absolutely no benefit in knowing who cast flags or how any flags were cast or anything else. Respectfully disagree. Robert Harvey has been suspended mostly because of flags, and it is true that some users have been ganging up in chat to flag comments they disagree with. Shedding more light on what happened is definitely something that must be done now, and that will bring us more understanding about this whole situation I believe. – Frédéric Hamidi Oct 23 at 8:44
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    200% agree and Robert is capable. He's capable of discussing this with the CMs if needed. I think it's time we supported the mods that are left on these sites, particularly this site, which would be a minefield to moderate at the moment. – Nobody Oct 23 at 8:44
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    @FrédéricHamidi if you think someone is targeting you, take it up with the mods. Flags are private and confidential and should absolutely remain that way. If you cannot trust the moderation team, I am afraid the only thing to do is leave the site. I would tell you to escalate to SE, but well... So if you can't trust the mods there's really nothing to be done. But making this sort of data public is unacceptable and should never happen. – terdon - stop harming Monica Oct 23 at 8:49
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    @FrédéricHamidi no, I am telling you that given the current lack of trust in SE, if you also cannot trust the local moderators, then there is nothing anyone can do. Normally, if you distrust the moderators, you would escalate the issue to SE. If you (understandably) also don't trust SE, then there is nobody left to escalate to. But requesting this sort of data is out of line: either you trust the mods and trust them to be fair, or you don't. – terdon - stop harming Monica Oct 23 at 8:53
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    SE should do some internal analysis on finding patterns of coordinated flagging brigades. Especially, since many comments have been targeted and deleted that merely expressed opinions. And, because users with many flags against them are eligible for receiving a penalty or suspension. – dfhwze Oct 23 at 10:16
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    Moderators, whether appointed or not, mostly act on flags. When you see, say, 10+ "rude or abusive" flags on some comment, it is very easy to believe that comment is indeed problematic (since 10+ users were offended by it). Mob mentality twists this around, and artificially inflates negativeness in the perception of comments that could very well be perfectly fine. Mods are not to blame in this process (although IMHO they should have realized something nasty was going on). Users are. – Frédéric Hamidi Oct 23 at 10:23
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    @FrédéricHamidi mods also go around and see things before they're flagged. And the mob mentality isn't very strong, you just see a comment was flagged and a bunch of usernames, you don't see multiple flags. – terdon - stop harming Monica Oct 23 at 10:25
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    If we start dragging up the details of flagging as suggested in the question, I'll stop flagging. – Mast Oct 23 at 11:49
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    no, the reason it blew up is because they libeled a person in a news article. – Richard says Reinstate Monica Oct 23 at 12:33
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    @DonThermidor_LobsterMobster yes, precisely. That falls under the general heading of making public things that should remain private. The talking to the press was just the absolute worst example of that, the trend started by making things public on the network and was taken to the unbelievable and harmful extreme of even talking to the press. I guess I'm arguing that we should do better than SE. – terdon - stop harming Monica Oct 23 at 12:44
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    @terdon no, it's the libel, and outright lies that have people angry. I'm not going to link the article, or what was stated publicly on the site, but SE told outright, and demonstrably so, lies. THAT is what has people so damn mad, along with the fact that there has been no apology and the continued insistence that they did nothing wrong, when some of what they did rises to the level of Libel per se – Richard says Reinstate Monica Oct 23 at 12:48
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    @DonThermidor_LobsterMobster I'm not disagreeing. That SE pilloried one of their users to the press is the single most outrageous and offensive thing I have seen this company do in the almost ten years I've been active as a user or a mod. I am just saying that those are the extreme examples of what happens when you start dealing with private things in a public manner. And sharing details of flags that were cast under the assumption that they would be kept private is just more of the same problem. Let's let the private stuff be private. – terdon - stop harming Monica Oct 23 at 12:55
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    @terdon to that point, it's not a public/private thing so much as inconsistency. With the event that triggered this mess, they at the same time slammed her publicly, while hiding behind their own privacy policy, making it one-sided. So, I guess I am agreeing to an extent. – Richard says Reinstate Monica Oct 23 at 13:17
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    @Mast I think that's the intention of at least some of the people calling for this. – divibisan Oct 23 at 15:46
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    @FrédéricHamidi by the way mods can't see 10+ "rude or abusive" flags on some comment, simply because 3 such flags remove comment without any mod intervention. One can argue that this feature carries a risk of misuse but so far the issue wasn't widespread (and I frankly can't see it becoming an issue at all, except for maybe meta and few smaller sites where comments sometimes make more influence than they deserve) – gnat Oct 24 at 6:51
33

You don't need all these stats. Coordinated flagging of dubious posts and comments has been done and is still done by at least some of those that watch / visit the Tavern on the Meta.

That is nothing new, The Tavern has done that since its inception as far as I'm aware. It's operation is not as codified as it is in SOCVR but I've not noticed that specific posts, comments and/or users were singled out. Despite the friction, heat and occasional fire I still hold the position that the room as a whole tried to act on the content and only referred to users when they proved to have a known track record for being disruptive.

It might well have been the case that the user you point out in your question was discussed in the Tavern or even his comments / posts linked. And given the uptick in regulars over the last 6 to 8 days it would have been easy to collect red-flags, if a comment or post was indeed over the edge.

Do know the transcript of the Tavern is public and so is the Trashcan, feel free to start your investigation there and advise me if I should have handled stuff differently.

Now we wait for the invite only Discord rooms to come forward.

  • 1
    Do we know that the chat room is the source of the flags? Maybe it was just a spontaneous, concerted action by non chat room users? – Trilarion Oct 23 at 15:20
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    @Trilarion No, nobody knows but I'm familiar with the assumptions and seen similar comments claiming the same prior to this. I always chose to be open about the role a chatroom might have played in any situation so others don't have to assume or speculate I try to hide stuff. Also prevents they need to go digging themselves. – rene Oct 23 at 15:36
  • It may be interesting to see how many of the flags came from users also visiting chat. Of course one should always keep in mind that correlation does not imply causation. – Trilarion Oct 23 at 16:01
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    @Trilarion I'm much more interested in how many came from around the network, from users with fresh accounts. – rene Oct 23 at 16:11
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    I think this practice is bad for the site, especially now, and you should stop it. – Sklivvz Oct 24 at 6:58
-10

Moderators do not suspend users because of flagged comments.

They suspend because the flagged comments are rude.

An auto rude flag is generated when there's too many helpful rude flags against a user. The moderator then manually reviews the user's flagged comments and decides whether or not they are being flagged correctly, i.e. rude and whether action needs to be taken.

As a former moderator on two sites and having handled a lot of comment flags (>75,000 flags in total note), in fact deleted >100,000 comments on Stack Overflow alone (not including Stack Overflow Meta) I can say, you get used to seeing who regularly flags and their flagging pattern. It's easy to pick up if a user is targeting a particular user unnecessarily and if a mod notices that, they will generally have a word with that user. As targeting a user for flags can be construed as a form of harassment, at the least it waste of moderator time.

There comes a point where the community needs to settle down and trust the remaining moderators left on the sites, particularly on MSE. The site has exploded and they're two mods down.

Tinkeringbell gave her answer here. Rather than make accusations, perhaps it's time people supported the moderators on the ground trying to keep the site clean. Robert Harvey has a load of experience on the site. I have the utmost respect for Robert, but that doesn't mean he is flawless. I have no idea whether or not a suspension was warranted, but I trust Tinkeringbell not to go out on a limb in this current climate and state her case as a moderator. If Robert wants to take this further, he is more than capable of doing so.

note: fun fact there are not many people in the history of the sites who have handled more flags. Ergo I understand the flagging system better than most.

  • 27
    'There comes a point where the community needs to settle down and trust the remaining moderators left on the sites, particularly on MSE. The site has exploded and they're two mods down.' - One could argue that it's a little difficult to trust people when comments, posts, and in some cases, users are disappearing left, right, and center. The reasons we saw in the community wiki post clearly showed that the two examples were not worthy of suspension. [1/2] – Script47 Oct 23 at 8:52
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    'Rather than make accusations, perhaps it's time people supported the moderators on the ground trying to keep the site clean.' - Advocating blind support on the grounds of "keeping the site clean" is also problematic. People should be allowed to question and probe without being accused of stirring up trouble. I think you should extend OP the courtesy to assume good faith because there is no evidence to show the contrary, especially from the likes of @gnat. – Script47 Oct 23 at 8:54
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    @Script47 I'm saying to trust the elected moderators that stayed on. What is wrong with that? They were ok to trust 3 weeks ago and now they're not. It's got to stop. It gets to a point where people need to decide if they want to stay, as if they hate the site so much posting poisonous comments and flaming suspicion in questions is not helpful. The people on here are the same people. – Nobody Oct 23 at 8:57
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    @YvetteColomb There are no elected mods on this site, they were appointed. – samcarter Oct 23 at 8:59
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    'They were ok to trust 3 weeks ago and now they're not.' - A lot can happen in 3 weeks, as we've clearly seen. 'It gets to a point where people need to decide if they want to stay, as if they hate the site so much posting poisonous comments and flaming suspicion in questions is not helpful.' - Again, I really detest that if someone questions the shift in the status-quo then they are tarred with words such as 'poisonous' or 'flaming suspicion', to throw your words right back at you, those questioning the shift are still the same folk that they were 3 weeks ago. – Script47 Oct 23 at 9:01
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    'Yeh and the downvotes are not targeted. Maybe I should raise a flag asking ig my posts are being targeted for downvotes. I'm sure there will be an apparent pattern there.' @YvetteColomb the irony here is that the OP was trying to do exactly that, that is, get to the bottom of brigading, yet you said 'settle down and trust the moderators' so why not extend that advice onto yourself, or, admit that there might actually be a problem on either side and investigate it? – Script47 Oct 23 at 9:04
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    @YvetteColomb This is not intended to be an insult but most people see what they are shown. gnat has shown himself to be extremely scrupulous and genuine, maybe he's just fooled us all and he's really a tyrant looking to destroy the site, but until I've seen evidence of that, I have no reason to doubt that he's not fanning the flames of war and that this question is him just worrying about potential abuses. – Script47 Oct 23 at 9:09
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    Honestly, all I've been seeing is @YvetteColomb's answers bombarded with downvotes, even when the message that they're trying to convey isn't controversial at all. All she's doing here is stating that the mods tend to locate malicious flagging patterns and take appropriate action when that happens, and that (with the team having shrunk) we need to trust the existing mods to keep the ship afloat, and support them in doing that. +1 I agree with this sentiment – Kyle Fairns Oct 23 at 10:39
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    @KyleFairns I just sent an email to the community team. I'm at that point where I cannot stay on the site (the entire network) the way it is now. It's funny how people are defending Monica without the full facts and I'm being maligned in comments, in chat and with downvotes and funnily, I'm also being flagged. All I ever did was stand up for a minority group. It doesn't affect my life personally, it hurts me to see people marginalised, all for the sake of a few two - four letter pronouns. – Nobody Oct 23 at 11:14
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    "fun fact there are not many people in the history of the sites who have handled more flags. Ergo I understand the flagging system better than most." - Logical fallacy. To take an analogy, driving on the road for 50 years does not necessarily make you a better driver than most. – Sébastien Renauld Oct 23 at 11:30
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    @PeterTaylor enough rude flags from the community will delete a comment, so will post deletion - all the standard comment flags will be marked as helpful. – Nobody Oct 23 at 12:00
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    @Script47 one of my answers with a score of nearly 500 was deleted.... yeah, trust is not what I'm feeling right now. – Richard says Reinstate Monica Oct 23 at 12:34
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    I have seen my comments on Meta disappear. Some have fallen as victims of whole threads, some were carefully pruned. I have no idea if someone flagged them as rude or how close to potential suspension I might be. I have seen other people's comments that I don't consider rude deleted. There is valid concern that some flags were not handled fairly. – Resistance Is Futile Oct 23 at 12:37
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    @JJJ top answer is +25/-4, second answer +17/-4 and this answer +16/-20. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Oct 23 at 13:07
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    @YvetteColomb As for downvotes on your posts. I don't think they are targeted personal attacks (I may be wrong, but I doubt that so many people are specifically targeting you), more disagreement with your opinion. – Resistance Is Futile Oct 23 at 15:10

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