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We have not made any significant changes to the current moderator reinstatement policy since it was released. Though it has functioned well for the cases to which it was applied, we acknowledge that the Community has some concerns that need to be addressed (especially given events of the end of 2019).

In our original version of this policy we omitted some elements from the public view, such as the opportunities for communication between the applicant and CM1. The changes to the policy include both fixing that by including more details of the policy in the post and also addressing other existing concerns that the policy did not adequately cover.

It is with this in mind that we present the linked policy for an updated moderator reinstatement and appeal process.

We recognize that the main concern brought up by the community with regards to the previous version was a lack of trust that the process would be carried out fairly in all cases. And while trust is something that can be freely given, in cases where it is lost it must be actively earned anew. The intention of this improved process is to provide a framework through which this can take place, in a way that is as open and transparent to all parties as possible. To add to that, the old version of the process left the responsibility for denying reinstatements solely in the hands of the CM team, which with a lack of formalized openness (even if in practice the communication and openness is consistently happening outside of the formal process) further contributed to community distrust.

With these in mind, some of the main changes aimed at addressing those concerns and focus on:

  • Allowing for more Community involvement (through the Mod Council) in moderator reinstatements in cases where there is a recommendation for denial.
  • Formalizing the ways in which the previous mod requesting reinstatement can see the claims against them and be able to respond to them (at multiple points during the process).
  • Adding more transparency to what had been a black-box process from the perspective of the community.
  • Involving staff from a wider range of backgrounds and perspectives to be part of this decision making process, when necessary.
  • Allowing the reinstatement process to also serve as an appeals process for mods who feel that they were dealt with unfairly during their removal.

A couple of scenarios for reinstatements are being included at the bottom of this post, to demonstrate in practical terms how the process could unfold.

The new process was co-authored by myself (Yaakov), JNat and Catija from the Community Management team, and Teresa Dietrich. It was further reviewed by all members of the Community Leadership Team, by representatives of the Community Members at Large group and the Mod Council, as well as being available to all other moderators for review.

We expect that some of you may have questions about the revised process and want some clarifications. This post is a place for you to ask them. We very much respect the value of meta discussion but would like to keep the process posts clean. Having the discussion here makes that easier. We have cross-linked the posts so that they're easy to find.


Example Reinstatement Scenarios

The new process is quite lengthy in order to account for the different ways that the process can go, and to allow for as much transparency and openness as possible in each of these steps. Because of the variables in every case, it is impossible to be able to predict how things will go in most scenarios that are even a little bit complicated. That said, we would like to present two example scenarios for reinstatements and how they might play out in the actual process:

  • Scenario 1 (Routine Reinstatement):

    • The PM (Previous Moderator) reaches out to the CM team to apply for reinstatement, explaining the circumstances surrounding their removal: they stepped down due to a change in personal circumstances that left them without enough time to perform their mod duties. After the PM’s circumstances changed again and they had more time, they requested to be reinstated.
    • CMs are assigned and investigate the circumstances of the removal. Upon seeing that the removal was requested by the mod with no other extenuating circumstances, CM1 reaches out to the current Mod team on the site for which PM is requesting reinstatement to see if they have any objections.
    • None of the current mods have objections, the reinstatement is approved, and the PM has their moderator status restored. Total time: around one week from the initial request for reinstatement.
  • Scenario 2 (violation of moderator agreement):

    • The PM is appealing an involuntary removal and requesting reinstatement, and contests the claims of any wrongdoing in the cases that led to removal.
    • (CM and Mod Team Evaluation): CMs are assigned and investigate the circumstances of the removal: CM1 finds that the PM was removed after being warned several times regarding potential violations of the Mod Agreement (specifically: questionable access of user PII). After seeing this, CM1 relates these details to the PM and asks the PM if they have anything to add or clarify, or if any details are missing. The PM admits accessing the user's PII, but claims to have not done anything with the information or saved it in any way, and provides evidence to substantiate that the data was not misused (evidence had not been given during the removal process). CM1 checks with the Current Mod team, who do not express objections to the reinstatement. CM1 and CM2 agree to the reinstatement (since the PM was able to satisfy them that they had not shared the PII), with the precondition that PM should participate in an online Privacy and Personal Security training module. The PM maintains that they should not have the precondition as they had not shared the PII, and appeals to the Community Leadership Team (CLT). (Time elapsed since initial request: 2 weeks.)
    • (Escalation 1): The CLT goes over all relevant records and affirms this recommendation. The current Mod team maintains their original position. The PM rejects these options and asks for a review by the Mod Council. (Time elapsed since initial request: 3 weeks.)
    • (Escalation 2): The Mod Council selects five members to participate in this evaluation and is provided with all materials gathered thus far. They ask (through CM1) some follow-up questions to the PM regarding the circumstances that surrounded the access of PII. Following their deliberation, they agree with the recommendation of the CM team and the CLT (and submit a request for the training module to be made optionally available to all moderators). The CLT reviews all recommendations and affirms the decision from Escalation 1. The PM decides to accept the precondition, and after they have gone through the Privacy training module and reaffirmed their mod agreement, they are reinstated. (Time elapsed since initial request: 5 weeks.)

Changes in this version

  • 2020-07-13:
    • Renamed main sections to start with A, B, C to make them easier to reference
    • Added A.1.2.5: made it clear that we will share with the PM the names of the CMs involved, and that they may include questions regarding CM selection on subsequent escalations.
    • In A.5.1: specified that in case of a reinstatement being approved and an appeal pending, the reinstatement may proceed before a decision is made regarding the appeal, if all other requirements for the reinstatement are met.
    • In A.5.2.2: made it clear that the PM may appeal preconditions.
    • In B.1b.3: clarified that the PM must approve of any details shared with the mod council in the case of a veto.
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    Given that SE last year royally screwed this up and ignored their own rules, making better rules seems like a joke. Your problem cannot be solved by new rules. Your problem could have been solved by actually apologizing and meaning it. So please don't insult us with a marginally better process of handling people you screwed over in the first place. – nvoigt Jul 1 at 5:08
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    @Trilarion in the old days, it was pretty much one person deciding. It sometimes didn't go too well cause of various things. – Journeyman Geek Jul 1 at 9:50
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    @Trilarion as JourneymanGeek pointed out, we started out very simple, and that worked for many years. Then we went to something a bit more complex, and now we are here. Admittedly, many of the reasons that we got this far are related to trust (or lack thereof) between the different parties involved. And that is the reason why we now have this lengthy one (the internal process is even longer) - to formalize all of the different requirements for disclosures and communication, and to make it clear who is making decisions, and based on what, at every step. – Yaakov Ellis Jul 1 at 12:08
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    I must say that neither of those two scenarios covers actual most likely scenario: moderators that stepped down last year (and this one) as form of protest. And in Monica's case I don't think any reinstatement process should apply anyway because there was no process at all followed in her removal - it was just an arbitrary decision. – Resistance Is Futile Jul 1 at 13:44
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    @ResistanceIsFutile As for the mods who stepped down, the situation is practically identical to situation 1. While it may be easy to imagine that we harbor some amount of ill will towards those mods, we don't. We understand their actions and respect their decision. If they choose to return, they're generally going to be welcome. :) There may be some cases where their actions on site caused something that may block their reinstatement but, in most cases, I'm not aware of any barriers for these mods. – Catija Jul 1 at 18:03
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    @fbueckert: The company has no need to bypass the process. It already has an absolute veto baked into the process. – Kevin Jul 1 at 18:09
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    @Catija "they're generally going to be welcome. :)" until they are not. There is currently at least one mod I am aware of that haven't been reinstated and AFAIK there were no red flags in that case. And in this particular case mod has stepped down purely for personal reasons before whole hell broke lose here. So it is not even "the protesting" case. – Resistance Is Futile Jul 1 at 20:12
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    @ResistanceIsFutile I can't comment on specific cases. The important thing is that, in all cases where someone's had their request denied, it was paired with detailed explanations of why and suggestions for the next steps that former moderator could take. Both the old and the new policy have that as a central theme and moderators can initiate reinstatement requests more than once, even after being declined. The big difference here is that the appeal process is built-in so that the request isn't just starting from scratch at the beginning - it's escalated to other PoVs. – Catija Jul 1 at 20:19
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    @Catija I know that you cannot comment and I mentioned it merely to point out there are real life examples (so it is possibility, not imagined problem) where what should be simple reinstatement process turned out to be less than simple.. – Resistance Is Futile Jul 1 at 21:14
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    @Catija currently everyone is being focused on preventing company being "the bad guy" and adding mods in the process. But this also opens possibility that "bad" mod prevents reinstatement of "good" mod that stepped down for personal reasons unrelated to the site. I am talking about theoretical situations here (and "bad" is exaggeration). My point is mods are people after all, and there could be animosity between them that has potential to escalate in situation where one mod has more power at some point than the other while essentially they should be all equals and are elected by community. – Resistance Is Futile Jul 1 at 21:22
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    @Catija Well, yes... It is not that company is "bad" just because it want's to have final word. Problem is how to prevent it to being "bad" guy in particular case where removing mod is not warranted. On the other, hand mod team and council have the same potential to be "bad" now. I am not saying this will happen, but my imagination is running wild... I think we have come to the point where there is so little trust going all around that basically any process you can come up with will have some holes that can potentially be abused. – Resistance Is Futile Jul 2 at 7:17
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    @Catija in analogies, what people want is a constitutional monarchy, not an absolute one. You're not going to regain trust unless SE accepts that the community wants to impose checks and balances on its power over how this place is run. – mag Jul 3 at 11:39
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    Why do the escalation processes only have the option of agreeing with the prior people? What happens in the event they disagree with the prior people and against the PM (I assume reinstatement is denied?), or even against the prior people and they agree with the PM? Why is the PM always in the wrong? – Larnu Jul 3 at 13:45
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    It's hard to see the usefulness of rules or "process" when we already know from previous incidences that SE does not follow them anyway. – Remember Monica Jul 4 at 4:36
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    @YaakovEllis: If StackExchange wants to fix the problem, they need to remove their own capacity to fire a mod for political reasons. – Joshua Jul 7 at 16:31

18 Answers 18

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This process is fundamentally flawed because the moderator removal process is fundamentally flawed.

We're trying to use a reinstatement and appeals process to clean up issues of a lack of fundamental due process in the first instance.

This is not going to build trust; nor will it ensure that the community and the company have a symbiotic relationship.

Take, for instance, the American Justice system (which itself is an evolution of the Magna Carta and fundamental 'common law' rights). It is a justice system that is founded upon a few principles:

  • every person going through it is presumed innocent until the process finds them guilty
  • They are entitled to counsel to help them navigate the process
  • they are entitled to see all evidence against them
  • They are entitled to a trial where their peers are judging them; not the power that prosecuted them

Or, more basically, fundamental principles of:

  • Impartiality
  • Fairness
  • Transparency

The interesting part of using a Jury is that it provides a check against the power of the prosecution in another way, Nullification -- the idea that even if the person is guilty of breaking the law, the law itself is unjust.

These are sound principles, present according to the level of due process required by the situation.

Even if you believe that's too much due process for removing a moderator; remember that there has to be a level of due process that shows that the process is transparent, fair, and impartial.

The moderator removal process is not currently transparent, fair, or impartial.

Therefore, this appeals and reinstatement process is fundamentally flawed until you fix the original removal process.

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    First thing I thought upon seeing the original post. Its like they think if they post enough walls of text that ignore the underlying problem, people will perceive that change is being done and not recognize what is really happening: an attempt to paper over and get people to ignore the real issue. They refuse to make any meaningful change, and instead hope people will forget over time without them having to really change anything. Sadly they wont do what you are proposing, as they arent willing to give up any power. – Steven Penny Jun 30 at 21:56
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    I'm not sure that those ideals are actually helpful here. The appeals process is not asking for restoration of a basic right common to all users, it is asking for restoration of special privileges. If we're not sure whether an individual can be trusted with modship, then we should not trust them. Presumption of innocence is directly contrary to that. – Kevin Jun 30 at 22:56
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    @StevenPenny - It's very noticeable that there's still a black box happening here, the internal decision-making from SE to reject/overrule/refuse to countenance any suggestion that they themselves have erred. – Richard Jun 30 at 23:25
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    While it's fine to argue that due process is good to follow in principle, it's just plain wrong to assert that it has to/must exist in this particular context. SE could decide tomorrow to arbitrarily revoke 50% of moderatorships at random, with no reinstatement allowed. Call it the Thanos protocol. No due process, no transparency, no fairness. Just snap, poof, gone. That's entirely within SE's purview as the owner and operator of a private online service. It's their castle, we're all just guests. Guidelines/documents on how to run a nation/government don't apply in any nontheoretical sense. – aroth Jul 1 at 5:28
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    @aroth there’s a wide gulf between “this is what we can do because it’s our software and our network” and “this is what we should do in order to foster a viable community that wants to stick around to help run this thing.” Incidentally I spoke with two former Stack Overflow CMs on my podcast about this issue: buildbettersoftware.fm/4 – George Stocker Jul 1 at 11:05
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    @GeorgeStocker however, I disagree with you that this process (for reinstatement) is fundamentally flawed because of your perceived shortcomings from the removal process, and would claim the opposite - that this process can function to help build trust, and add more impartiality, fairness, and transparency to the process than existed before, even while the current removal process is in place. – Yaakov Ellis Jul 1 at 12:18
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    @YaakovEllis it's OK to disagree, but understand that if you believe the metrics on answers as an indicator of general sentiment, then you dismiss this point of view at your own peril. – George Stocker Jul 1 at 12:20
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    @YaakovEllis Put simply: The process here is the cart before the proverbial horse. If and when you fix the Moderator Removal process; all of the process here should immediately become irrelevant and change based on that new process. That means that while you can ask for particularized feedback; if your intent really is to fix your removal process, it's premature to ask for feedback on this process. However, if you don't want to change your removal process; then my feedback stands: This process is a sandcastle built on wet sand and there's a tide coming in. (I'm currently at the beach) – George Stocker Jul 1 at 12:31
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    @Vogel612'sShadow Transparency here refers to transparency of the record to the accused. The accused should have access to all the evidence; and the proceedings should be documented thoroughly. Otter.ai provides a meeting transcripting service that isn't half bad. – George Stocker Jul 1 at 12:52
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    These are problems that have been solved by innumerable councils for millennia: have someone appointed to take notes, have the council sign off on them. We have detailed records of far more consequential debates from hundreds of years past; this is hardly a sticking point. – Shog9 Jul 1 at 15:50
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    @richard there is nothing preventing whatever scenario you can concoct, including this one. I am saying though that this process was made in good faith, and that we intend to follow it and be as open as we can be. And the old process was "torn up" in order to create this one where we commit ourselves publicly to all of this. If our intention was to just not be open at all, then why would we go through this? – Yaakov Ellis Jul 1 at 20:38
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    Fix the process and unconditionally reverse the mistakes that were made under the old process. Until then, the company deserves zero trust or respect. – StackOverthrow Jul 2 at 4:51
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    @YaakovEllis "Why would we go through all this?" See Steven Penny's first comment: "If they post enough walls of text that ignore the underlying problem, people will perceive that change is being done and not recognize what is really happening: an attempt to paper over and get people to ignore the real issue." This change is fine, but insubstantial given the underlying problems. In a world where SO hadn't lost so much community trust, you'd probably receive more positive feedback on it, but in this world it seems a red herring at best and actively deceitful at worst. – Jeff Bowman Jul 2 at 18:13
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    @JeffBowman Sorry you feel that way. All I can do is be honest here: This is not a red herring, nor is it an attempt at being deceitful in any way. – Yaakov Ellis Jul 2 at 18:57
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    @YaakovEllis the point the OP is making is simple. Before removing any moderator the evidence supporting that decision must be solid. There must be proof of wrongdoing, or evidence of complete utter inactivity for at least six months, as an inactive mod is of no use to anyone. If the staff consulted the mod team, the CLT and the mod council and 80% agree to the "firing" then there's no need for the reinstatement process for any scenario except for the first: when a moderator leaves their position for personal reasons, health or extended inactivity. If I am mistaken, please correct me. – Mari-Lou A Jul 4 at 11:43
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What exactly happens in the ugliest possible case, when the moderator council supports/denies reinstatement, and SE overrides that?

The moderator council is not allowed to make the details public in that case, and in many cases it would probably be unethical to do that anyway. SE is unlikely to make any details public that would harm their case, though hopefully they'd refrain from any negative public comments at all this time. But in the end we'd be pretty close to the mess that triggered the creation of this process in the first place.

What exactly are the moderator council members that have all the information about the case allowed to say publicly? Are they free to say publicly that SE is overriding their decision for their own nefarious goals, without revealing any details in public? Can they make their own conclusions public without revealing the information they're based on?

What happens if the moderator council is split? Is the minority allowed to make their opinion public?

I understand that SE can't put the actual decision into the hands of volunteers in any kind of unconditional way. But having only an advisory role feels too weak to me for the moderator council.

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    Presumably we all quit and let the company handle their own problems. Fundamentally that the mod council is advisory rather than regulatory is intentional. We have every desire to keep the company from shooting itself in the foot, but if they insist, there's little we can do. – Journeyman Geek Jun 30 at 22:03
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    @JourneymanGeek In the end that's the only power the council has. I'd still like to have some more formal powers that would at least make it harder for SE to override the council. For example, the guaranteed ability to post a network-wide featured response to any such override. In the end SE can always override the council no matter what is written now, but there has to be a real cost to doing that, or these checks and balances are entirely futile. – Mad Scientist Jun 30 at 22:13
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    "Are they free to say publicly that SE is overriding their decision for their own nefarious goals, without revealing any details in public?" - I'd be very surprised if the company honestly believed it could keep that a secret. The PM would likely be able to figure it out, especially if a whole bunch of mod council members suddenly resigned right after. At that point, the PM goes public with their side of the story, and it turns into the shitstorm you would expect to see. – Kevin Jun 30 at 22:51
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    This - public communication - is kinda the elephant in the room. In any process like this, you have to assume that someone will make the details public, particularly if they don't feel like they got a fair shake. Ideally, the mod council is able to play the role of objective 3rd party, keeping everyone else honest... But there is no "keeping everyone silent" option. – Shog9 Jul 1 at 3:05
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    If the moderator council can't speak publicly (with a single or multiple voices), it would be more like a secret council. I don't like this. It can surely discuss in private, but must have the power to always speak out when it feels necessary. – Trilarion Jul 1 at 7:49
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    "I'd be very surprised if the company honestly believed it could keep that a secret" - speaking pragmatically, so would I. – Yaakov Ellis Jul 1 at 12:19
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    @Kevin I'd be more worried about more complex situations where the stuff the moderators might want to say publicly is closely tied to the information they got under the agreement to keep it private. – Mad Scientist Jul 1 at 13:45
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    @MadScientist: We already know exactly what that would look like. It'd be Monicagate 2.0. I would like to say I believe the company learned its lesson the first time... but I don't think that's actually true. – Kevin Jul 1 at 17:54
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    Rule at my old workplace: if you’re worried about anyone seeing what you are doing, you shouldn’t be doing it. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 7 at 21:35
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Possible Outcomes

There are several final outcomes for each phase 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.

You are missing a very important outcome: Removal expunged without reinstatement.

Moderators who have been removed in error should be allowed to have their removal appealed, and if it was made in error, expunged, without them needing to want to be reinstated (or pretending that they do). Bridges may have been burnt, but that shouldn't stop wrongful judgements being corrected.

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    It might be simpler to just have this option be called "Removal expunged" and add "The moderator may also be reinstated upon their request." – Michael Seifert Jul 1 at 18:45
  • Could you clarify what practical (public) effects would be associated with this outcome? I mean I understand the desire for righting of wrongs but afaict the only change would be staff deletes an annotation that only they can see anyways. Or are you expecting SE would put out an apology post afterwards or something like that? (because if so, that should be explicitly stated as part of the process as well.) – Em C Jul 1 at 19:11
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    @EmC One example: a moderator is eligible for reinstatement as is, but doesn't want to be reinstated immediately; e.g. if they want to gauge their community support by running in an election. – Sonic the Masked Werehog Jul 1 at 19:16
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    @EmC I don't think a public apology would be necessary, but a private apology to the moderator who was removed in error would definitely be appropriate! – curiousdannii Jul 1 at 23:30
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    @MichaelSeifert "The moderator may also be reinstated upon their request" Why should they have to make a request when it was an error to remove them in the first place ? Surely it's up to SE to unconditionally offer (with an apology) a reinstatement and for the victim of this error to have the choice to accept it or not ? – StephenG Jul 4 at 1:48
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    @StephenG That would assume that StackExchange/StackOverflow (from here on: the company) somehow magically learns that they made a mistake. That didn't happen with Monica, who was a huge moderator, well loved by the community. If the company disposed of her with no regards for her IRL live and bashed her on the media, do you really think the company will do that without (or even with) a request? The company doesn't like to admit their errors when those errors are inconvenient to them. Obviously, I would love to be proven wrong. – Ismael Miguel Jul 14 at 9:15
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    @IsmaelMiguel Monica is the elephant in the room. Most people who were active late 2019 know about this. Until SE addresses this, there will be no trust. – Cool Fool Jul 18 at 6:20
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+50

What I gather from these discussions as someone who largely stopped coming here:

It may seem silly, but the lynchpin of all of this is that the community wants the company to bindingly cede the decision, be it to a mod council, a vote, what have you.

This is the core of that issue and unless the company binds itself to cede the right to have final say people will not be satisfied with this, now or ever, revisions or no revisions, no matter what else happens.

People don't trust SE to make this decision anymore, and they most likely never will again. Not every loss of trust can be remedied. I don't believe this one is salvageable.

George's answer goes into great detail of why common law is set up the way it is, and what the benefits of the various rights it grants are. But the core point of his answer isn't about common law or justice systems. It's that we're at a point where the absolute rule of SE the company is no longer accepted, and people want rights and protections against their overreach.

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    See meta.stackexchange.com/q/350265/51, relevant – Yaakov Ellis Jul 3 at 7:22
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    In my view the loss of trust and the push against the absolute rule of SE have very specific reasons. Getting rid of those reasons would help a lot, I think. Having more rules and flow charts could make things even worse. Keeping SE from having the final say looks unrealistic. I have hope that this is salvageable but not in this way. – Stop harming Monica Jul 6 at 8:12
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    @magisch quite right. We don't rule by "the king is never wrong" here. – George Stocker Jul 6 at 18:41
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    Actually that's not the lynchpin IMHO. – einpoklum Jul 7 at 15:22
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    @Magisch: For practical and legal reasons, I don’t think we can expect the company to give up the right to have the final say. However, what the company needs to show they understand is that when they exercise that right, overruling the mods/community, then they’ll lose a lot of community trust unless they can show a damn good reason (e.g. legal requirements). I can accept that they have the final say, but I want them to convince us they’ll be extremely cautious about when and how (if ever) they’ll use it. – PLL Jul 13 at 9:00
  • The Magna Carta wasn't formed when a bunch of dirt farmers looked up and said "Hey, our benevolent betters should write down all the great stuff they do to ensure our safety and happiness". It was a contentious document that averted a war. (Think French Revolution.) Today we don't have wars to fix SE overreach. But we might well have a federal law. SE, FB, et al assume their power is unlimited and eternal. It is in fact neither of those things. It is not good to be on the wrong side when the US DOJ, FTC ET AL come calling. Clean your house before the government cleans it for you! – Terry Jul 15 at 20:27
57

Moderators are volunteers not paid employees. They are people who deeply care about their site, who care about the users and ensure standards are upheld and guidelines are respected. The best moderators are loyal to the community's ethos, they are the ones who think twice, and three times, before suspending a user who has a short fuse but will not tolerate cheats, trolls or online bullyism. A moderator's primary aim is to help run the site and see that it thrives and in order to do this with efficacy they will sacrifice their free time. Their reward is a healthy and productive site.

When a former moderator loses their diamond because of accusations of harassment (see second scenario), there is no ‘mod-guild’ or ‘mod-union‘ who can speak in their defence. In this appeal court, they must first defend their actions to a community manager, then to the Community Leadership Team and finally to the mod council. Completely alone. A fairly harrowing and intimidating experience if you ask me. The process might be in the former moderator's favour if they are friends with four or more members of the team and/or council, as their previous encounters will obviously influence the final decision. The situation becomes less than idyllic when the former moderator is from a sparsely populated community, if three or more members have had disagreements with the fired moderator in the past and if the former moderator's first language is not English.

PM1 [Previous Moderator] posts a public apology on the Meta site to the users who were harassed. CM1 and CM2 add on to their recommendation that the PM should also participate in an online Diversity and Inclusion training module.

Who in their right mind would agree to such a public confession or be constrained to participate in a training course if their moderator privileges were wrongly removed in the first place? They either repeatedly violated the COC, in which case they pay the penalty, or they didn't violate any code. A fired moderator who hotly contests the accusations will find it hard to defend themself against three or more documented instances.

This reinstatement process, which claims to be transparent and equitable, is unnecessarily complicated; especially when it involves moderators who resigned last year out of principle but in the interim earned a network suspension or when a much admired and respected moderator is suddenly, and arbitrarily, demodded in public. Does this remind us of anyone? Nevermind, s/he who shall not be named (at least by the Stack Exchange staff) should not have lost their diamonds to begin with. To be clear, the updated and more transparent process was created precisely because of what happened between September and December 2019.

Users are more wary and suspicious today then they were before September 2019. And with good reason. Did the former mod earn back their six diamonds? No. Did the moderator(s) who resigned in support of the former, but received a week/month/year long suspension, get reinstated when they applied? No. Are these former moderators missed? Some of them, yes. Most noticeably today, I see fewer posts eloquently written by moderators from across the network disagreeing or disputing CMs and staff's actions and decisions. Why? [Rhetorical question]

And by the way, is the online diversity and inclusion course also obligatory for CMs and staff members? Will the community be informed of the results of the course undertaken by staff members or reinstated moderators? If there is increased transparency, let's see it.


Addendum July 6, 2020

In light of Journeyman Geek♦'s most recent post, here are my unsolicited thoughts on the matter. Where Monica's unique case is concerned, the company should just sweep aside the stale reinstatement procedure and just give back her diamond on Mi Yodeya. It may only be one diamond out of six, but it's the one closest to her heart, whose loss caused her the most hurt. Moreover, the community wants to believe in the company's good will to amend the wrongs committed in the past, so that everyone can begin rebuilding that lost trust. Monica's return, if she accepted the unconditional offer, would represent that turning point.

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    A moderator in who resigned last year out of principle who was in good standing at the time would probably have a very quick reinstatement, never leaving phase 1 (and only doing so if members of the current mod teams objected for valid reasons). Not every reinstatement will need to go through this whole process. – Yaakov Ellis Jul 2 at 19:07
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    Regarding Monica (I am not afraid to say her name), our invitation for Monica to apply for possible reinstatement (and appeal removal) on all six sites that she previously moderated is still open, using this new process. – Yaakov Ellis Jul 2 at 19:09
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    The online diversity course you are quoting is coming from a made up scenario above. This scenario was not based on any individual, and was listed for illustrative purposes (to give an idea what the full process would look like, since it can be a long read). That said, an online Diversity and Inclusion for mods is something that we are considering making available - if/when this happens, it will be publicized as well, it is not something that we would hide. – Yaakov Ellis Jul 2 at 19:11
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    As far as wanting representation during an appeals process - though it is not something that we thought of including in the process written above, it is potentially something that we might be able to accommodate on a case-by-case basis at the request of the Previous Mod. Our goal here is to encourage a process that includes openness and promotes trust, and to avoid circumstances that lead to any form of intimidation. – Yaakov Ellis Jul 2 at 19:14
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    @YaakovEllis I am not disputing scenario 1, I am expressing my deep disappointment that another former mod was not reinstated when they applied because of the suspension which was awarded, for something quite trivial too. A CM could have had an aside chat with the former mod. There were better options, this former mod has exceptional talent. It is foolish not to see that. I know of another mod who resigned for personal reasons, who did not get suspended I might be mistaken) but whose application was refused. – Mari-Lou A Jul 2 at 19:17
  • Sorry, but I cannot comment on the specifics of any reinstatement case in here. – Yaakov Ellis Jul 2 at 19:19
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    @YaakovEllis You know Monica will never apply for reinstatement, so that's a pretty safe offer to make; it's never going to be called on. The entire premise is based on a valid removal, which SE admitted to bypassing entirely. I doubt I'm the only one who feels stuffing someone into a brand new process, created after the old one was ignored, has shades of bureaucracy designed to avoid accountability. – fbueckert Jul 2 at 19:23
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    @fbueckert I don't know anything about what anyone will do. And I am unable to change what happened in the past. The offer was made before, and it was never rescinded. And the new process does feature a good deal more transparency and the option to appeal, which the previous one did not. I claim this new process is offered in good faith - everyone will of course reach their own opinion about whether or not to believe that. – Yaakov Ellis Jul 2 at 19:28
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    @YaakovEllis It would be an act of goodwill if you initiated an expungal appeal for Monica first. – curiousdannii Jul 2 at 23:27
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    This! We already have situation where mod that stepped down for personal reasons, had no red flags, was not reinstated because other mods objected. Mods are elected by community, each and every mod after election can be in position to disagree with other mods on the site and they cannot do a thing unless some rule violation happens, but as soon as mod steps down it opens doors for being reevaluated by their peers even if they have done nothing wrong. – Resistance Is Futile Jul 3 at 13:43
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    @YaakovEllis Inviting Monica to reapply is simply not acceptable. There is only one way for the company to rebuild trust, and that is to renegotiate your legal settlement with Monica (entirely on your dime) in a way that allows you to unconditionally apologize and offer her immediate reinstatement. – StackOverthrow Jul 6 at 16:44
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    @Mari-LouA while I can't go into the details, and I can't promise any party the resolution they want, I'm in a strange place where I can actually talk to people involved, get heard and hopefully convince people to work together in some way. If an unconditional, unilateral return of one or more diamonds could happen, it will. Unfortunately since I can't lock up all the parties in a room with nothing but stale bread and water until we make a resolution, I'm hoping try to work out a reasonable middle ground. – Journeyman Geek Jul 7 at 0:15
  • @JourneymanGeek - Was someone reading a biography of J.P.Morgan recently? :P – DVK Jul 7 at 13:15
  • .... Who? It quite literally was just what came to mind :D – Journeyman Geek Jul 7 at 13:43
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Considering the subject matter - I'd like it to be clear that I'm speaking for myself, not the mod council (and should this matter reach them, I'd recuse myself), not the MSE moderators (and I will work with them should we get that far on the best outcome)

I'm kinda spread thin trying to deal with multiple people not being all that co-operative and when things are too knotted to undo, sometimes it better to cut the knot - so here we go.

I've been trying to get Monica to go through the appeal process. There's issues - there's a certain lack of trust, as she's expressed before, with the process being delayed by a good many things.

In my conversation with her - I've been put under the impression that she thinks she's already appealed, previously. There's been public complaints on her part of a lack of communication. As such I'd like to ask if there had been previous appeals, still left pending, if they would go under the current framework, and if so, what would be the process to restart it under this.

There's active, ongoing damage to the community - and nearly every decision gets second guessed cause "what about Monica" - in my role as an active community member and a moderator this is difficult. The problem is no one wants to make the first move to do something about it.

I've been trying to mediate, but that needs the parties to talk to each other directly, in good faith and a position of trust. I've made the first move, hopefully but there's only so much I can do.

I do hope one of the other parties involved will pick things up and help resolve what's been a terribly dark time for the community.

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  • Excuse me for asking, but does Monica know about your posting? – Mari-Lou A Jul 6 at 7:51
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    Yes. She does, and I think she's pretty clear on my stand here – Journeyman Geek Jul 6 at 7:54
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    Thanks for your efforts at mediation here. They are very much appreciated. However, we can't respond here to questions relating to the existence or state of a specific reinstatement request without the party in question (in this case: Monica) being part of that request (and giving approval for us to answer publicly). – Yaakov Ellis Jul 6 at 7:55
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    I would not go through a reinstatement process if what had happened to Monica were to happen to me. It's humiliating. – einpoklum Jul 7 at 15:21
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    @einpoklum Agreed There's no reason on earth why the falsely accused should take the action. The effort is all on the accuser: reinstatement without any further discussion + public apology. If someone can't admit they messed up, then why are they in charge of anything? – BryanH Jul 13 at 17:05
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    "I've been trying to get Monica to go through the appeal process." <-- So, you're trying to make her follow a procedure placed by StackOverflow/StackExchange (from here on: the company) when the company simply stripped the diamond without following the company's own procedures? If I were Monica, I would just silently ignore that and pretend that such attrocious thing was never said/asked. Either the company goes through the process and finds where Monica broke the rules for the Code of Conduct at the time, or just give the diamond back without fussing. I'm not holding my breath on any of it... – Ismael Miguel Jul 14 at 9:29
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    [...] If the company can break their procedures to unilateraly decide to remove a moderator, they are capable of breaking those procedures to give the diamond back. Obviously, that would be admiting that they made a mistake, and no company wants to do that... Doesn't look good to the public outside (including stakeholders and whoever else funds the company). I understand why the company doesn't want to touch this with a 100 meter long pole, and just wants their distance and ignore it. But Monica shouldn't have to go through the reinstatement process. That's ridiculous! – Ismael Miguel Jul 14 at 9:32
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My complaint about this is the same as it was before: Monica was fired without due process, against the will of the community that elected her in the first place, and for a reason that no longer applies. The reinstatement process doesn't address that case.

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    But to be fair - it can't possibly address that case. – einpoklum Jul 7 at 21:36
  • @einpoklum On the other hand, there was nothing fair about Monica's dismissal. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Jul 17 at 22:41
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I submit a frame challenge to this entire political exercise:

Formalizing the ways in which the previous mod requesting reinstatement can see the claims against them and be able to respond to them (at multiple points during the process).

The fact that this is even a conceivable bullet point is an explicit acknowledgment that the formal policy is to shoot first and ask questions later. Perhaps SE misunderstood when members of the community have expressed enthusiasm for using Kafka to run business processes. Any talk of "revising the reinstatement process" that presumes the banned mod hasn't even been told what thoughtcrimes have been alleged seems like an active attempt at obeying Muggeridge's Law:

We live in an age in which it is no longer possible to be funny. There is nothing you can imagine, no matter how ludicrous, that will not promptly be enacted before your very eyes, probably by someone well known.

Such an attempt at evasion and misdirection should not be engaged with by the community.

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    This answer doesn't allow that a moderator who leaves voluntarily may have claims against them that were never part of removing them from their position... Someone can choose to step down and then, later, choose to request reinstatement and, in the interim, they've done things that generally block someone from being elected a moderator - for example, getting suspended on the network in the last year - so there may have been no reason to explain those reasons outside the reinstatement process. – Catija Jul 1 at 22:04
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    Similarly, but less likely, there are times I can imagine that a moderator was told to stop a behavior, else they would be removed from their position, and they continued that behavior... and so the moderator was removed by either of the processes... and then later some additional information was found about activities that were not OK - misusing PII, for example - but that may never have been conveyed to them, so we need to make sure that it should they request reinstatement and be denied. – Catija Jul 1 at 22:06
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    @Catija You're asking for good faith to be unilaterally extended in a case where the bridge has been burned and the entire forest clear-cut. Your hypotheticals don't line up cleanly with the text as presented, which could trivially be/have been modified to explain, and still don't address the facts on the ground that the black-box policy as observed has been exactly as I described. – chrylis -cautiouslyoptimistic- Jul 2 at 0:55
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So a couple of points.

This and the previous iteration of the mod-removal processes are complicated. There's a few checks in this case (Staff, whether in the community leadership team, mod team or the CM team)

At least in theory - the "complexity" of the process means it isn't possible to railroad a mod out of office, as has happened in the past, in short notice, even if you're high up in the company. I hope this is an outcome, and I hope twice as hard I'll never have to find out.

The mod council doesn't have the power to overrule the CLT - on the other hand, at this point, multiple people have had to make a case for removing the mod in question and I feel like it is in the best interests of the moderator community to push the company hard on any request for reinstatement that might be denied for anything that doesn't feel like a cast iron reason.

I've personally felt, and still do feel that the moderator council represents the moderator community, but we're not some sort of super-moderator. With at least the current iteration - its possible we don't see eye to eye on quite a few topics, but that's natural. I suspect should we get called to review a moderator reinstatement, you'll get an answer most of the council members reviewing can accept, even if its not their ideal.

And here's a critical thing. The biggest strength the community has is the ability to work together. I might not personally like someone, but damn if I see them get shafted for something they didn't do, or a misunderstanding. If there's the slightest possibility of a misunderstanding, or worse, intentional malfeasance to remove a moderator, I hope which ever moderator council members are in office at the time, and even staff do their best to make it right. This hasn't always been the case (and I have no idea how complicated making things right will be now for some past cases), but I hope it will be for future cases.

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    Bit perplexed by the squeamishness around "supermoderators"; the role of moderators is to serve their community - surely the role of a council member should be to serve the moderators? – Shog9 Jul 1 at 15:43
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    I guess we would rather be a voice for moderators and stick to an advisory role than be first amongst equals. We do serve the mod community but not by being the watchers who watch the watchers or essentially unpaid CMs 😁 – Journeyman Geek Jul 1 at 19:12
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    If you wish to be a voice, then you must be willing to speak; if you speak, you must know that your words carry weight. You may not wish to be a watchman, but I doubt that you relish the role of a muzzled dog either; embrace what you are. – Shog9 Jul 1 at 19:54
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    I suspect that why we picked this particular rock to stand on, or hill to die on is probably worth a meta post/question on its own. And I can't think of anyone better to ask it :D. I've actually been pretty vocal about "being a representative group of mods" over "being a council over mods". Leadership comes in many forms, and I suspect the aspect the mod council has taken. I'd also say, the weight a person's words have comes not from the position they hold, but the roles they play in the community.If you do ask, let me know, and I'll make sure its seen by as much of the mod council as possible – Journeyman Geek Jul 2 at 0:37
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    Ok, here you go: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/350265/… – Shog9 Jul 2 at 1:26
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Eh, okay I have a problem with this part of scenario 2 right here:

Following their deliberation, they agree with the recommendation of the CM team and the CLT.

The way this is written makes the Mod Council sound less like a community representative and more like "yes men". What happens if the Mod Council rejects the recommendation of the CM team and the CLT? Is reinstatement still denied, or does the PM get reinstatement?

This is a critical question because if the Mod Council is supposed to represent the Community in this process, but you reject and override their decision, is the Community truly represented in this process? I for one don't think so.

I'm sure this isn't necessarily intentionally worded like this. But you need to address this. Otherwise, this just feels pointless.

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    Oh, we can disagree quite vociferously with the company, and possibly each other. Ideally that should result in a more favourable outcome for, well, the truth – Journeyman Geek Jul 1 at 9:25
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    " What happens if the Mod Council rejects the recommendation of the CM team and the CLT?" - in this case, then the discussion in the CLT on the final decision will be much more involved, and will try to take into account all of the different recommendations and viewpoints that were made to this point (docs, PM, CMs, Current Mod Team, Mod Council). But this isn't a good one for the scenario above, since it is now completely based on the details and context of the case. The scenarios are just meant to demonstrate how the workflow proceeds in simple and involved cases. – Yaakov Ellis Jul 1 at 12:31
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    In the end, the community has no presentation and no real power in the company, only indirectly via for example not contributing. That was always kind of clear, wasn't it? – Trilarion Jul 2 at 8:38
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Seeing as how removal expungings are now on the table, it should be possible for additional parties to initiate the appeal process for any involuntary removal that occurred before this process was followed. It shouldn't require the former moderator themselves. That is, the Mod Council, the Current Mod Team of the former mod's site, Community Managers, and the Community Leadership Team, should all be able to request a formal appeal if they think a mod was in the past removed unjustly.

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    I hear what you say, but the PM must also themselves want to return to Mod duties. The best indication that such a desire exists is to start the reinstatement process. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Jul 2 at 12:45
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    @Bart Why? Removals done in error should be expunged whether the former mod wants to return or not. (See my other answer above.) – curiousdannii Jul 2 at 13:55
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    The possibility should exist for a PM removed unjustly to be informed that their removal has been found to be unjust, and that their reinstatement may proceed on the same basis as any PM who has stepped down voluntarily and who has otherwise remained in good standing since they stepped down, if the unjustly removed PM has remained in good standing other than the falsely alleged misconduct that led to their unjust removal... in other words, "We acknowledge that you were removed unjustly, there's no reason why you can't come back, so please do so whenever you like". – Monty Wild Jul 3 at 16:53
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    After careful consideration of this proposal, I'm reluctantly going to oppose it. If a mod was removed unjustly, and then someone else launches an appeal in that former mod's name, the appeal will be less effective, since the former mod will (presumably) not be participating in the process and will be unable to provide evidence and direct testimony. If the appeal is unsuccessful for that reason, it could prejudice future appeals and ultimately prevent the former mod from getting satisfaction out of the whole process. In general, I would prefer that the former mod has control over the process. – Kevin Jul 4 at 23:12
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    @Kevin That's a good point. – curiousdannii Jul 4 at 23:28
  • @Kevin I don't see why. it's not as though there's a finite supply of appeals and once we've used them up no-one can ever appeal again. I should be able to appeal someone else's suspension, as should anyone else including the suspendee. There's grounds for saying "multiple appeals may be combined", and also "once a decision is annulled no further appeals of that decision can be heard" or similar – Code Abominator Jul 7 at 23:36
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    @CodeAbominator: As I said before, I'm leery of giving people other than the PM control over the process. An appeal will necessarily involve a certain amount of probing of the PM's past conduct and likely future behavior. I don't like the idea of people holding that discussion behind the PM's back and coming to conclusions which the PM might otherwise have been able to rebut. Once someone has made up their mind, it's very hard to change it, and I see nothing in the existing process about requiring past participants to recuse themselves from future appeals. – Kevin Jul 7 at 23:46
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Scenario 1 seems to cover the most uncontroversial reinstatements, where the Previous Moderator (PM) resigned voluntarily. One of the steps involves "CM1 reaches out to the current Mod team on the site for which PM is requesting reinstatement to see if they have any objections.". What happens if the mod team objects?

  • Does this flip the PM to Scenario 2?
  • Does this result in a retroactive moderator removal proceeding (i.e. the moderator's previous voluntary resignation is voided and they are brought up on formal moderator removal "charges", the disposition of which determines how the reinstatement proceeding will run)?
  • Does the restoration happen anyway, but a Moderator Action Review Process is started immediately afterwards to seek involuntary removal?
  • Is there a separate "Scenario 1 contested" proceeding, more in-depth than an uncontested restoration but less onerous than a Scenario 2 proceeding?
  • Is the requirement to consult with the current moderators simply a pro forma social ritual not intended to result in actual objections (e.g. "ok moderators, when I ask you for any objections, I'm not asking for your personal opinions or assessment of the PM, but only whether you are aware of any extremely grave reasons why they should not be allowed back, like maybe if they are an active serial killer or something.")?

I don't expect this kind of thing will happen often, but it is plausible that it could. This could happen in a few ways:

  • A PM resigned voluntarily under honorable circumstances (e.g. reduction in available time to commit to moderation, loss of interest in moderation, a philosophical or policy disagreement not resulting in misconduct, etc.), but then later developed a reputation as a "problem user". I recall something like this actually happening, with a voluntarily-resigned PM (name omitted to avoid stirring up past drama) later posting some inflammatory stuff that got him an actual Suspension from the site he used to moderate.
  • A PM resigned under apparently honorable circumstances, but a prior act of moderator misconduct surfaced after the resignation was complete (e.g. a moderator resigned in 2019, the resignation was accepted, but it was discovered in 2020 that the moderator engaged in abusive suspensions in 2017 and wronged users are now demanding justice).
  • A PM was involved in a dispute or controversy surrounding their moderatorship, but preemptively resigned before formal moderator removal proceedings could be started. This happens semi-frequently in politics, where a politician under investigation for alleged misconduct will resign rather than face the ordeal of impeachment proceedings (e.g. Richard Nixon).
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    If the Mod Team objects, then the PM has the ability to escalate the process to CLT (and possibly Mod Council) Evaluation — so it could turn into Scenario 2, yes. Though it wouldn't retroactively do anything: the reasons surrounding their removal would remain as they were, and they wouldn't be subjected to the Moderator Conduct Review Process... because they are not moderators at that time. The two scenarios provided are supposed to be the simplest and favorable (and most common) outcome, and a negative and more complicated possible outcome. (1/2) – JNat Jun 30 at 14:15
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    (cont'd) There's a variety of possible scenarios in between those two, from the CM Team consultation with the Current Mod Team resulting in two conflicting recommendations being shifted towards the same one; to the CLT evaluation providing a perspective the Mod Team was lacking and resulting in an approval (or vice-versa); etc. (2/2) – JNat Jun 30 at 14:16
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Traditionally the removal and reinstatement processes were CM lead, and unless the moderator in question made a request to make it public it was not.

Right now, with the current checks and balances in place, there's at least 4 different sets of people, CMs, CLT, Mod council and local mods.

I believe radical openness and transparency to the parties involved is essential and critical for any process to work. However, in the case of a broader community, there's risk of fall out - both to other parties uninvolved in the direct issues and those who are, as well as a certain aspect of curiosity that is sometimes not productive.

Is the "defacto" policy of "We do not discuss removals and reinstatements without express permission of the moderator" in question still in place? In theory, in the case of a contentious removal - is it possible for a moderator to choose exactly how much information they would have revealed?

On the other hand - should a moderator choose to talk about it, is there a plan in place to what the company will and won't talk about?

Likewise how would this extend to non employee stakeholders - the mod council and local mods should they get involved?

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The process as written offers the PM multiple opportunities to add context to their request. This is clearly appropriate and necessary to protect the PM from the process, but it also means the process can potentially drag on for a very long time (in Yaakov Ellis's scenario #2, five weeks) as we need to keep going back to the current mod team and asking for further input. While the process does not explicitly say so, it's also plausible that the CM/CLT position might evolve in response to whatever the PM says (which could create the appearance of impropriety, under some circumstances).

My compromise is this: the PM should be provided with the opportunity to fully develop their request as early as possible, to minimize unnecessary back-and-forth between the PM and the CMs/CLT. In other words, this step should be more than a mere formality:

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).

CM1 should have an open and honest conversation with the PM, including any context that can reasonably be shared with the PM, and this conversation should continue until the PM has had a reasonable opportunity to explicitly respond to each piece of evidence. If there is uncertainty as to whether some important information can be shared with the PM, it may be appropriate to bypass CM review and jump directly to a CLT escalation (so that we can have a firm answer to that question immediately, and avoid "ambushing" the PM with new evidence at a later stage in the process). The end result should be that the PM's position is fully developed and documented, and does not need to be further clarified or expanded upon later. The PM would still be permitted to do so, of course, but this should rarely be necessary.

Finally, if any evidence cannot be shared with the PM, the CLT should only consider that evidence for the purposes of a CLT veto (and nobody else should consider it at all). If the company is going to withhold evidence from the PM, then it should give up the pretense of holding a fair process and just call it a veto. I do not dispute that this will occasionally be necessary (e.g. if the PM has engaged in a campaign of targeted harassment against one or more complainants, whom the company does not wish to name), but in my opinion, it's better to call a veto a veto than to pretend to hold an appeals process that won't actually let the PM respond to allegations against them. If you truly do not trust the PM with some piece of evidence, then you do not trust them to become a mod again (mods have access to lots of private information), so you've already made up your mind.

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  • I think that the circumstances behind any controversial situation (that is, one that requires any back-and-forth) will be complex enough that 5 weeks is by no means a long timeline. – Bryan Krause Jun 30 at 17:27
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    @BryanKrause: Even so, it would be a contentious timeline if the PM and the CMs are constantly "adding context" on every go-around. I think we should try to minimize that, and get everything out in the open as early as possible. – Kevin Jun 30 at 17:28
  • Yeah, that's fair. My read is that those steps are meant as opportunities to increase clarity from the initial conditions, presuming that if reinstatement is not trivial that further information is needed. Frontloading things too much both makes the process less flexible and makes it more tedious for cases that are simple. – Bryan Krause Jun 30 at 17:32
  • In a trivial case, yes, you can probably skip this. But according to Yaakov Ellis's scenario 1, they would already skip this whole step anyway. – Kevin Jun 30 at 17:34
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    Yeah, I wouldn't dwell too much on those scenarios, they are just examples. I think the first one is meant to show how the process is fairly straightforward when the reinstatement is straightforward, and the second is meant to show the avenues available for appeal. I think most actual cases will either be similar to the first or fall someplace in the middle. A case that goes through all the steps is probably pretty borderline and likely to lead to a unanimous negative decision, and I think those steps are mostly there for transparency and confirmation rather than being expected and ordinary. – Bryan Krause Jun 30 at 17:39
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    "the PM should be provided with the opportunity to fully develop their request as early as possible" - they are provided this. We do not go into full detail here about how we will contact them, but the intention is that they are afforded this opportunity early. And then given the opportunity to add to this and to respond to questions every step of the way. – Yaakov Ellis Jul 1 at 12:29
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Consider allowing the past moderator to involve the moderator council earlier-on (bypass the first escalation) if they desire to do so.

I can imagine cases where a moderator wants to appeal to the moderator council directly instead of first going for a "second run" with the same parties involved. The process for the first appeal seems very similar to the initial reinstatement process, and that's not always desirable.

I think allowing the past moderator to skip the first escalation and allowing them to directly escalate to the council will both expedite the process in some cases and result in fewer frustrations (the moderator team being asked again while nothing has changed, the past moderator receiving the same rejection). Especially if the moderator team opposes reinstatement and the CMs don't.

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    Considering this is not something that would/should happen often, is expediting the process important? I can imagine doing it right has more focus. – Mast Jun 30 at 13:44
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    Do note that the moderators on the council aren't super-moderators. While this sounds nice, one of my main arguments against this was that it's also leaning dangerously close to letting whoever is on a changing body of council members at a particular moment decide who gets to moderate and who not. Especially if a moderator team recommends against reinstatement, what good will it do to let the council force reinstatement down that team's throat? I see the council as a last pair of eyes, more an extra check/balance to prevent mistakes being made, not a first line of defense against the company. – Tinkeringbell Jun 30 at 13:50
  • @Tinkeringbell My consideration here is the case where there's a personal grudge/dispute between an existing moderator and the past moderator. In the current process, if there's a dispute between the past moderator and one on the current team, that will require at least two rounds, and I think the point of frustration is more relevant than expediting the process. I imagine that this first escalation will also add to the frustration if the moderator is reinstated at the second escalation, since then the current team has objected not once but twice. – Erik A Jun 30 at 13:58
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    If the current mod team objects to reinstatement with a reasonable explanation as to why, @ErikA, nothing in the process as it stands will override that — neither the CLT nor the Council. – JNat Jun 30 at 14:02
  • @JNat Of course. But with personal conflicts, this might be different, and that's specifically the case where I imagine this first futile escalation would be most frustrating. – Erik A Jun 30 at 14:08
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    @ErikA Hmm. I'm guessing if the personal conflict would be over e.g. avatar colors, just saying that I don't want any green parrot avatars on a mod team will not block a reinstatement. On the other end of the scale, you have personal conflicts that result in involuntary removal of one of the mods because of e.g. repeated C.o.C. violations. In between, there's a whole grey area. To me there's little difference in the order of the 'three' rounds (CMs, CLT, Mod Council), as the current team is consulted at each stage and at any stage can't be overruled by the CMs, CLT, or council. – Tinkeringbell Jun 30 at 14:37
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    Having someone able to go straight to the council will only rob them of an extra round of chances to add extra context/refute arguments. A former mod doesn't have to go through with a CLT review or Mod Council review, as neither can override the current team, so they can quit at any stage and expedite. And then I also come back to my first point, which is that reinstatements should primarily be a company business, not one of the council, so having that step be the last resort seems best to me, to avoid having moderators get stuck in conflicts between other moderators as much as possible too. – Tinkeringbell Jun 30 at 14:37
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    If at any other stage, the mod who was removed is reinstated, they don't need us. In almost every other iteration of the reinstatement process, other than the original "Ask and we'll give it back" version, the mods on the site had the last word, and this shouldn't change. – Journeyman Geek Jul 1 at 9:41
5

Some concrete suggestions regarding Moderator removal and reinstatement:

  1. You have to separate the description of the scenario (= what had happened earlier) and the procedure. This is especially problematic in Scenario 2 - I just don't understand what the procedure is, nor how the bullets relate. (It might not be a bad idea to use a numbered list with "if X read Y1 else read Y2" lines.)
  2. Treat appeals and requests separately and differently. An appellant claims that the removal was faulty/illegitimate/etc. and should be undone; a petitioner does not contest the removal procedure, but wishes to be pardoned, or granted leeway etc. Those are quite different.
  3. In scenario 2 There needs to be some mechanism of appeal to a wider crowd. Something like - if a PM secures the support of X% of current moderators, they are automatically reinstated unless, say, Y% of the current moderators object to the reinstatement within a given period of time - and Y% needs to be bigger than X%.
  4. Same goes for scenario 1. If a couple of mods happen to dislike the PM, that should not prevent the reinstatement.
  5. In scenario 2, "specifically: questionable access" should read "a specific example: questionable access", right?
  6. Drop the Code of Conduct. It lays out a foundation of arbitrary and faulty-process handling of many issues, which underlies moderator removal and potential reinstatement. (It could theoretically be replaced with something else, but that would be a drawn out process all in itself; its removal it simple and would improve the situation greatly.) Particularly, it will preclude bad-faith reasons for moderator removal which are now legitimized and, well, codified.
  7. More keeping-of-transparent-records in procedures of removal appeals.

(I may add one or two point later if I have time to read the removal procedure.)

More generally - I agree with @GeorgeStocker's answer.

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5

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.

  1. Can you elaborate generally on the wisdom of this option above? Why allow someone to run for election again if their reinstatement was denied?

    It's my understanding that denial of reinstatement is only for a situation where the CM team or the Mod team definitely does not want a former moderator to have that position again.

    In other words, denying a reinstatement is for when you strongly believe team cohesion would suffer/fall apart, systems/access would be abused (perhaps even legal lines crossed), the community/brand would be harmed, or other egregious risks.

  2. And specifically, what kind of scenario would present a barrier to reinstatement now but not later?

    The only thing that I can think of that would make a former moderator not OK now but OK later is if they can't make the time commitment now, but that doesn't make sense here because then the moderator shouldn't/wouldn't be reapplying for reinstatement at this time.

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    I can certainly see myself wanting this option available; I have resigned as a mod (as of late last year) but - presuming all my concerns were to have been addressed at some point - would only be likely to seek to become a mod again via re-election (not simply by reinstatement). As it stands, I would have to go through the above process to do so (since even resigned mods in good standing do so), so I appreciate that the option is there. – Glen_b Jul 16 at 7:15
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    @Glen_b I'm not sure how that's relevant; these questions are about people who have been barred from reinstatement by others, not by some self-imposed principle. – TylerH Jul 16 at 14:14
1

Like the previous attempts at dealing with this situation, this seems to completely miss the point.

Moderators are elected by the "public" (the community) at large. They are SE's equivalent of a publicly elected official.

So late last year, SE's employees "fired" a moderator--essentially equivalent to a local police chief deciding to throw the city mayor (i.e., the publicly elected official) in jail, because the mayor had the temerity to ask about how a new "law" would actually work in practice.

In December of 2019, that was a bad idea, and a lousy thing to do.

But now it's mid-July 2020. We've just had weeks of protests and riots against police departments. And SE comes out with a policy essentially proclaiming: "We are the police, and as the police, we have the right to fire the mayor, and if that mayor wants their job back, they can come begging to us on their knees, and if we feel like it, we might decide to restore them to their former position."

This is a bad policy, and it's hard to imagine a worse time SE could have chosen to try to impose it.

I'll repeat: a moderator is a publicly elected official. Better still, their election uses ranked voting and no electoral college. As such, their selection honestly reflects the will of the community.

That being the case, I would suggest that dismissing a moderator should be taken extremely seriously. At minimum, I would suggest that:

  1. A normal SE employee can (at most) suspend, not dismiss a moderator--and even suspension should require somebody in a director or C-level position.
  2. A moderator can only actually be fired by a majority vote of the board of directors.
  3. Any such suspension will automatically trigger an investigation, unless the suspended moderator specifically requests otherwise.
  4. The investigation will be carried out by an independent third party.
  5. The investigator will be given complete access to all SE's records of the incident.
  6. The moderator is innocent until proven guilty.
    • If the investigator fails to send "charges" to the board within 30 days, the suspension is lifted automatically.
    • If the board fails to vote to remove within 30 days, the suspension is lifted automatically.
    • the investigator is equally able to refer "charges" against SE employees as against the moderator.

Yes, I realize that may sound to many employees as if I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. Moderators aren't even real employees, just volunteers.

Get that idea out of your head. Moderators are publicly elected officials, and employees are basically hired guns.

This "mayor" may not be able to directly fire the police chief--but the police can't be allowed to throw the mayor into jail, and sentence the mayor as a criminal without trial.

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