Someone mentioned in chat the possibility of interpersonal conflicts between Stack Exchange participants spilling over into the real world and resulting in socially inappropriate behavior off-site.

Does the Code of Conduct (CoC) regulate our behavior off-site as it pertains to interactions with or affecting the community or company? Another way of asking the same question is whether the CoC has extraterritorial jurisdiction. For example, if I want to post a message on Reddit about my experiences on Stack Exchange, is it sufficient to obey Reddit's code of conduct or do I need to be concerned about potentially being suspended on Stack Exchange if my behavior would have been improper if it had been done here?

There are arguably two main possible scenarios here:

  • The behavior would be in violation of the CoC if done here, but is allowed according to the rules of the venue in which it is actually performed.
  • The behavior is a violation both here and there, but the other venue already has a system in place to investigate violations and issue sanctions (e.g. being banned from Reddit, having one's Tweets drastically rate-limited, expulsion from a university, being escorted out of the mall, etc.). In law, this principle is sometimes referred to as "double criminality".

If Stack Exchange's response would be different depending on which of the above happens, what is the rule?

In response to a comment by Tinkeringbell, if I want to interact with Stack Exchange participants off-site and/or engage in behavior potentially affecting them, do I have to follow the SE CoC in order to not get banned here or do I simply need to obey the rules of the venue where I am?

In response to a comment by Sonic, Wikipedia's concept of "off-wiki harassment" could apply here. That is, does Stack Exchange prohibit or provide for specific remedies for "off-Stack harassment" or does it defer such off-site activity to the codes of conduct of the places where said harassment might occur (e.g. if someone uses Wikipedia as the venue to engage in a harassment campaign against a Stack Exchange user, then Stack Exchange will refer and defer any complaints about said harassment to Wikipedia)?

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    First they'll have to prove it's really you, they can't do it without the help of the other side. Anyone can take your name and post horrible things on "your behalf" anywhere. Dec 10, 2019 at 15:33
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    I can't answer the question fully, but I can say that yes, if you do inappropriately harass lots of people who you meet on Stack Exchange, you may be suspended there. Also, Wikipedia has "off-wiki harassment" as a valid reason to block a user. Dec 10, 2019 at 15:33
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    There's... a bit of a difference between what was suggested as happening in chat and your Reddit example, I think. Either way, both are going to be notoriously hard to moderate, but harassing people off this site is different than writing about your experiences on SE, the latter seems... much more benign to me. I must admit I have no clue what to do with either :|
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Dec 10, 2019 at 15:36
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    @Tinkeringbell true, but I wanted to propose an example that many people could relate to. The question isn't about what was mentioned in chat per se but the greater question of jurisdiction - if I want to interact with Stack Exchange participants off-site and/or engage in behavior potentially affecting them, do I have to follow the SE CoC in order to not get banned here or do I simply need to obey the rules of the venue where I am? I hesitate to provide another example because I don't want this to become an argument over how we should all be at our best behavior at all times, etc. Dec 10, 2019 at 15:39
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    Ehhhhh, I feel like like any support for enforcing the CoC off-site will lead to stalking and witch hunts, trying to get dirt on someone so you can get them suspended here. It encourages incredibly bad (and seriously creepy) behaviour on the off-chance maybe they can catch them doing a bad. It's just asking for moderators, especially, to be held to standards everywhere they interact, and that's a massive overreach.
    – fbueckert
    Dec 10, 2019 at 16:01
  • You seem to be asking about being suspended by "Stack Exchange" rather than e.g. by one of the site moderators. As a site moderator I barely/rarely even notice or know what you do on other SE sites.
    – ChrisW
    Dec 10, 2019 at 16:31
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    @ChrisW either or. The focus of the question is whether behavior off-site can result in site suspension. Dec 10, 2019 at 16:33
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    @ShadowThePrincessWizard re: they'll have to prove it's really you. They should have to prove it's really you, but I don't think you can count on that. SE hasn't entered into any agreement with you that enforces fair treatment or any particular standard of evidence, other than "their sole discretion"
    – De Novo
    Dec 10, 2019 at 19:45
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    I really enjoyed the drama and hostility on StackExchange in the last few months and would really like to have them in real life too. Dec 11, 2019 at 12:04
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    "if I want to post a message on Reddit about my experiences on Stack Exchange" - I find it very interesting that despite not saying anything about harassing others, many answers focus on exactly that.
    – user
    Dec 11, 2019 at 17:02
  • Re your recent edits: Didn't Tim Post already answer that in 2019? His answer looks like it pretty clearly prohibits off-site harassment in particular.
    – Kevin
    May 5, 2021 at 18:19

5 Answers 5


I'm going to go with a hard no. SE's power ends at the bounds of the site. Any other interpretation leads to some staggering overreach and an incredible chilling effect.

Think about it: if any site (SE or otherwise) tries to enforce its norms of behaviour outside of its own site, how many people would invest themselves into it? Or only post under a pseudonym? It makes users (volunteers, who don't get paid) representatives of the site. I know I didn't agree to that. No site is the morality police. They're not Big Brother. Any site that tries will lose users en masse.

But let's try to apply it as an example. What happens when someone closes your question? That's a common occurrence for new users. The site rules (which they miraculously read) state that if someone notices a SE user behaving inappropriately elsewhere, to let them know. Okay, so now the user has targets. They can start digging into their profiles and trying to hunt them down elsewhere. This is the internet; it doesn't forget. If you can manage to link a profile on SE to somewhere else, congratulations! You've just doxxed them! Now you can dig further to try to find some dirt. It won't matter how old it is, or if it's even reasonable. All it has to do is demonstrate your target didn't act within the bounds of the CoC. Then you serve that up to SE for their judgement, and all of a sudden, the target is suspended! All right! The system worked!

For them. For everybody else, you've just sent a message that performing any action that can even be construed as negative will paint a giant target on your back. You don't even need to do anything; someone with an axe to grind is going to grind it, no matter how they have to justify it to themselves.

Want to kill quality standards really fast? This is how you do it.

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    Tyrants can do whatever they want and don't have to follow any sort of reasonable behavior. The current governance model of social media is essentially feudalism. Little prevents the feudal lords from doing whatever they see fit. Dec 10, 2019 at 19:21

We hope that our users are as awesome everywhere else as they are here. I've been an active participant here for over a decade and I've really enjoyed the opportunities I've encountered to do things with Stack folks outside of SE. The quality of people here is something I can't speak highly enough about.

We have not considered this question and currently do not have a policy addressing what users do when they are not on our online platform, or when users are at events that are not organized by Stack as a company.

Without laying out a policy, because we are NOT doing that here, I can take a second and walk through things that could be an issue under our CoC:

Any kind of harassment for something that originated on one of our sites.

Don't do that. Also, If people want to be contacted they'll include information on how to do so in their profile, but that doesn't constitute an invitation to harass them.

Failure to respect third-party rules when promoting sites and communities.

We get excited about new sites! That's fantastic! But, don't go spamming Usenet and a bunch of hobby forums in an effort to promote something. If the way you're promoting our sites is getting us in trouble, we'll have to ask you to stop.

Speaking on behalf of one of our communities.

If you are a hypothetical high-rep user on Mayonnaise SE, and you visit a forum for Miraculous Processed Sandwich Whip and say we at SE think all you sandwich whip noobs aren't even real emulsions lulz then we might need to have a chat.

Additionally, if you're in a position of being an emissary of one of our sites at some event, your actions reflect on the entire community, and you should keep the CoC in mind.

This isn't an exhaustive list. Use good judgement.

When in doubt, don't. What you do as you travel to the far corners of the Internet is your business, unless you (inadvertently or otherwise) pull your participation here into it.

The common theme is, we only get involved if it involves us and somehow created a problem.

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    ...aren't even real emulsions lulz would be a decent candidate for r/BrandNewSentence. Dec 11, 2019 at 5:28
  • "We hope that our users are as awesome everywhere else as they are here." - Oh that's so flattering, thank you. :)
    – user
    Dec 11, 2019 at 15:56
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    Regarding "emissaries". "you should keep the CoC in mind" - Do you mean they are obligated to follow the CoC or is it optional (asking specifically about pronouns)?
    – user
    Dec 11, 2019 at 15:59
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    Could you clarify the 3rd title? Can high rep users be banned for unapproved behavior outside of SE? Is your mayo a metaphor about genders?
    – user
    Dec 11, 2019 at 16:10
  • Please define "high-rep user". Is 100k defined here as high? 1k?
    – user
    Dec 12, 2019 at 9:06
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    @Fermiparadox That would be relative to the site. On newer sites that just get out of private beta, that could be 500 rep. For simplicity, you could just think of whatever level of participation would be sufficient for someone to be a well-known contributor.
    – Tim Post
    Dec 13, 2019 at 3:56
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    @Fermiparadox If you're representing one of our sites, yes, we would ask that you use people's stated pronouns if known. Events tend to have their own CoC as well (be wary of those that don't at least have a minimal one), so, it's a great idea to let us know in advance so we can help you and coordinate.
    – Tim Post
    Dec 13, 2019 at 3:59

If being a user of one website would force you to follow that website's code of conduct everywhere in the world how would you possibly follow contradicting codes of conduct from different sites that you use?

If ever you get suspended, try to argue that you are following Reddit's code of conduct, because you believe that it applies everywhere.


Based on a few things I've read on MSO, I think a specific part of the CoC can potentially apply to offsite interactions, namely "harassment". I don't get the impression that someone would be at risk of getting suspended here for just saying something elsewhere that goes against the CoC here, like your example of a Reddit post. But if they're targeting a specific stack user offsite in a way that can be associated with onsite interactions, it sounds like there could be consequences for their account here.

Some MSO posts I was referring to:

Are off-site abusive messages reported to Stack Overflow fed into the moderation system?

What do I do about receiving an offensive email from another user on Stack Overflow?

What do I do about being harassed by users outside of Stack Overflow?

Based on the answers to those, it sounds like the offsite behavior would have to be egregious for mods to act on it, but that it is possible for that to happen.


I don't think SE has any authority "de facto", "de jure" or otherwise, and policing actions of folks outside the bounds of the SE network seems like overreach.

Practically - I guess the company can choose to decline service to a user, or reach out to another organisation in order to get assistance on a matter that affects them.

If I'm being harassed offsite in relation to my activities in SE, by someone on SE, I would request assistance, sure, but that's between SE and that platform.

If I notice my arch nemesis Evil Master Cat doing non-SE-COC compliant activities on another platform - it's an issue for that platform, based on their TOS and rules - not SE.

In addition - some folks are not below, or beyond, engineering situations to get folks they don't like in trouble or digging up past things like with James Gunn. COCs typically stop with a platform and are a guide to interaction with each other.

There's a few exceptional situations where SE has to act of course. But this probably goes beyond expressing a viewpoint or refusing to interact with folks with SE norms.

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