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Today, we’re announcing that the new moderator agreement is live and the existing moderators are being asked to accept it. This has been a great collaboration to get from a draft in November 2019 to the final agreement in July 2020. It’s gone through several phases of review internally, including with the Community Leadership Team, the Community Management Team, our Legal department, and we have had the assistance of our Public Platform team to build in some tooling to support a sixty-day transition period between the old and new agreements.

In addition to that, this has been reviewed on the Moderator Team which led to over 35 answers and at least five additional questions to dig deeper into specific concerns, and help get the moderators and Stack Exchange, Inc. on the same page. We spent time coming to understand those concerns and discussing how to best address them and that’s represented in this new document. In the two months since that last review, text has been adjusted, some points have been removed, and others have been added to bring this document to where it is now.

A note about terminology:

For easier reference, I’m going to be calling the two agreements “V1” (the old agreement) and “V2” (the new agreement). You can review the difference between them by looking at the version pages for the agreement. The current page /legal/moderator-agreement on any site (here's Stack Overflow's) will now host the most-recent version of the agreement, currently V2. But specific versions can be viewed by adding the URL /legal/moderator-agreement/versions/[number]. So, right now you could replace [number] with 1 or 2 to see V1 and V2.

Some of the differences and why these changes were made

With 550+ moderators, I can be sure that some of the mods may not be as comfortable with the new agreement as with the old. This agreement has grown considerably to cover much more than it once did. Some of the new elements are site policies that didn’t exist at the time, such as the Code of Conduct, while others are privacy rules that didn’t exist, like GDPR. These changes were long overdue to keep the agreement current and clear.

"Other Policies"

While we still have a bucket for “other policies”, the policies that fall into this category will now be linked together through a Help Center article and, in the case where they’re MSE posts, a tag (). This is designed to keep the scope of this point limited while also giving us the flexibility to add small network-relevant policies that we need moderators to follow without having to update the mod agreement. Any policies that will be added to this list must be released to the moderators for review so that they are aware of them in advance.

Accepting guidance about policy

In V2 we’ve added a point about accepting guidance from Community Team members and the Senior Leadership Team. While we do our best to make policy clear, there are times where it will require some interpretation. Because of their experience in developing and working with that policy, these staff members know or have the context to better explain the intent so that moderators can better interpret what that policy is expecting of them - and, thus, what users are expecting.

Protecting user privacy, particularly their PII

When users join our sites, they expect us to protect their privacy and the personally identifiable information (PII) we collect about them is a big part of that. We grant moderators access to some of this information so that they can do their work, but we take it very seriously when this access is misused. That’s why the biggest part of V1 is still an important part of V2 - it’s designed to protect our users’ private information and prevent misuse by making our expectations for usage of PII clear.

This section has been adjusted slightly but, overall, it’s largely the same. For example, to allow collaboration between mods on the same site - as was pointed out during discussion with the mods, V1 (and an earlier draft of V2) was overly restrictive of who a moderator could disclose PII to:

V1: I will not disclose this information to anyone,

This would prevent the mods from even talking about it in a private room with co-moderators or even mentioning it to staff in a CM escalation, so the agreement has been updated to state,

V2: I will not disclose or share this information with anyone that is not a moderator or employee of Stack Exchange, Inc.

Moderator removal

While we must retain the ability to remove moderators at any time for legal reasons, we have added specific statements that we will use one of the three moderator removal processes whenever possible and that all moderators have the option to appeal all terminations through the newly-updated reinstatement and appeal process.

Whenever possible, moderator removal will follow Stack Exchange, Inc.’s moderator removal processes. I will be informed via written communication of the specific reason that I have been terminated. I have the option to appeal termination through the moderator reinstatement and appeal process.

I predict that some of y’all will ask why we need to say “whenever possible” - and I understand that. Because we can’t predict all future events, there may come times when we need to remove a moderator or can not follow one of the three processes for some reason - for example, if we attempt to communicate about an issue with a mod and they refuse to take part. This is not intended to be an excuse to never use them but an admission that, however unlikely, we legally need to retain the full right to remove someone outside of these processes. Committing to make it clear why a moderator was removed regardless of how it happens is a big improvement from the existing agreement and, along with the appeal process, should help any mods removed without a process to feel they have a recourse.

A two-way agreement - Stack Exchange, Inc. makes promises to our mods

The biggest change to this agreement is that we’ve added a section that makes the agreement two-way. The old agreement, and even early drafts of V2, made no guarantees for the moderators. This is something that we felt was important to add. In it, we explicitly grant them the protection of policies like the Press Policy, and codify that they have the freedom to speak out publicly about policies without reprisal (provided the CoC is followed) and that we will support the moderators whenever they have questions or need assistance.

As I noted, V2 is significantly longer than V1 so I’m not going into perfect detail here but please feel free to review it. We hope you feel, as we do, that this is a reasonable update to the original agreement.


Technical aspects of the new agreement

For those of you who are interested in the behind-the scenes stuff, I thought I’d talk through how the versioning works. Starting today moderators have sixty days to accept V2 or decline it and request to step down. They can review the agreement by visiting /legal/moderator-agreement on any site, though they will need to visit it on the site/s they moderate to accept it. They will also need to accept it once on each site they moderate but do not need to accept it on both main and meta any more (in progress - this apparently didn't get built but we're working on it).

During this period, existing moderators can continue to moderate under V1 before they’ve accepted the new agreement. This is designed to give them time to consider this decision and because we know that many people are busy with life in a very complicated world right now. They can also continue to moderate even if they’ve declined the new agreement; while we hope that everyone can accept the new agreement, we understand that there may be some who cannot and we want to make sure we have time to make sure a site has sufficient coverage if one of its mods doesn’t accept.

If a moderator is newly-elected during the interim period or after, they will only have the new agreement to accept and it will act like accepting the old agreement - access to PII and many other mod tools will be withheld until the agreement is accepted. The reasoning here is that the new mods must have accepted an agreement to have access and we are not making the old agreement available for them, even during the interim. If a newly-elected moderator does not want to accept the new agreement, the CMs will reach out to them and the other moderators on their site.

The CMs will be checking in with the accept/decline status on a regular basis and will start working with mod teams during the interim period. Removing diamonds will be done manually, so it will happen gradually as we review the responses. Once the sixty days have passed, any moderator who has either declined the new agreement or hasn’t responded to the notifications to accept the new agreement but who still has their diamond will lose access to PII and some moderator tools. The CMs will contact any moderators who haven't accepted the agreement along with their teams before removing a diamond.

We will be very sensitive to moderator coverage on sites. We don’t want to leave sites with insufficient or no moderators to support them so if someone from a moderation team decides to decline the agreement, we will reach out to them and the rest of the team to determine if an election is necessary.

We do have the option to extend the deadline if it seems like the 60-day cutoff will leave sites unmoderated. If this happens, the extension will apply to all sites, not only the ones that need more time.


A huge amount of work has gone into this agreement and I’d like to thank all of the people who helped shepherd it through the process, both my coworkers and within the moderator community. Your expertise helped make this document what it is today and - particularly to the mods - I hope you feel like this agreement is an improvement over the old one.

If anyone has questions about the agreement itself or the rollout, please post them as an answer.

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    I have to say that the company offering mods support in an official way is positive. It's a step towards building that confidence in the company. If things continue in this direction I have great hope that we can rebuild the trust between the community and the company. If we can achieve that the site will succeed. – user808464 Jul 8 at 21:26
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    Has this been vetted by the moderator council? Is it possible to get a response from them on this announcement? – Mast Jul 9 at 6:09
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    @Mast The Mod agreement has been in the works long enough that it went through the Proto-pro-tem council for review. The Council is welcome to make a statement if they wish - I've let them know about your comment. – Catija Jul 9 at 6:15
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    I'll post a proper answer in a bit but the body that predated the proper mod council vetted it. There were some changes from what we saw but mostly more pleasant surprises. – Journeyman Geek Jul 9 at 8:24
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    Not to discredit the work that has gone into this (catijia I know you have been working on this for months), but two lines in the summery scare me. "...Community Leadership Team, the Community Management Team, our Legal department..." and the Moderator removal process "should help any mods removed without a process to feel they have a recourse." Both brought up lots of bad memories, old frustrations, and disappointed feelings. I know this is probably a need step in the right direction, but I'm still reluctant to believe any new change from SE is good. – David Jul 10 at 14:48
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    Is this agreement in its current format still changing? I ask because there seems to be some really good feedback here, and there seems to have even been some support/acknowledgement from the SO team. Elections are on at the moment, and it's not clear to me what exactly the new mods will be expected to agree to. – ouflak Jul 13 at 12:24
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    @ouflak The new agreement is live and it is the agreement. Other than minor textual errors or adding links to help explain things, the content won't be changing any time soon. I'm happy to help clarify things here where I can but this has gone through six months of review by many people and it is the V2 Mod Agreement. Any other changes would require switching to V3. Mods elected after the posting date of this question will only have the new agreement to accept. – Catija Jul 13 at 13:41
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    @Catija Would SE be willing to clarify that the "I will accept additional guidance" clause isn't an "SE can give orders to mods" clause in a help center post? If the agreement itself is not subject to change, that does seem to be the only way to clarify that aspect. – Mad Scientist Jul 13 at 21:08
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    @MadScientist That's a bit broad - a mod can always refuse to act on what we say because - well... we don't want to make people do things they feel are inappropriate. If we feel strongly enough, we'll do it ourselves... but that doesn't mean that a mod who won't perform an action that we see as necessary for moderation can't be told that their failure to act or their specific actions put them at risk of losing their position as a moderator. That has always been the case. We can't make someone act but we can make it clear that it's expected from moderators. – Catija Jul 13 at 21:17
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    So, if I get a report from a user that they were being harassed and I see that a moderator declined flags against the harassing comments, I'm going to ask why the mod didn't delete the comments - but I'm also going to delete the comments myself. I'm the one choosing to moderate, not the mod. I can't think of a time when I've forced a mod to ever do something they were against... – Catija Jul 13 at 21:19
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    @Catija But that case violates another clause of the mod agreement, specifically the one about upholding the Code of Conduct. I'm not talking about any situation where the action itself violates any other clause of the mod agreement. But that specific clause I mentioned allows for "orders" to be issued by SE that are not covered by the CoC or PII rules or any other of the big rules in the mod agreement. I can't actually imagine a legitimate situation where SE would require a mod to do something that wasn't covered by the CoC, ToS or PII rules, and take their diamond if they refuse. – Mad Scientist Jul 13 at 21:33
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    @MadScientist Sure. So... you're worried about illegitimate ones - which I can understand. Trust is... maybe a bit better than it was but not a ton. I know the wording is a bit weird. I can say that the mods did bring it up - this isn't something that's just being noticed now and we don't intend to be tricky. In fact, the original version didn't limit which staff could offer guidance. So, we chose to address concerns by restricting who gives that guidance than by rearranging the sentence. – Catija Jul 13 at 22:13
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    @Catija: You've already said that by "accept guidance" is meant merely "listen to guidance & be open to it". If for some reason it's troublesome to move to a Version 3 of the agreement, this gloss still deserves more prominence than a comment under an answer, as clearly many people find the current wording ambiguous. – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Jul 13 at 23:55
  • Can you please explain to me why a Mod might need someone's personal information? – Lambie Jul 20 at 18:07
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    Well, SE dosen't keep very much pii. IP addresses and email addresses can be useful in spotting spammers, trolls and other issues. – Journeyman Geek Jul 20 at 22:07

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I do want to bring out something that definitely needs to be brought out. The CM team, especially Catija and JNat, have been working really hard on this new moderator agreement. There were loads and loads of answers, and lots more comments on it when it was first shown to the moderator team (some 60 days back). Cat and JNat did manage to leave a reply to most, if not all, of them. I really do appreciate this work which they did. This shows that even though the times are different, where the staff take arbitrary and random decisions, at least the CMs are with us and want to help out the community in general.

I haven't yet read the final version of the agreement, and don't know about the issues with it currently, but the work put together by these two CMs does deserve praise. Thanks for your work.

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    Do you have recent examples (i.e., in the last 6 months) "where the staff take arbitrary and random decisions"? – PM 2Ring Jul 9 at 3:05
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    Yep, @Pm2. The thanks reaction and the vote tool tip (which was later reverted) are two that happened in the past month. – Bhargav Rao Jul 9 at 3:21
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    Ok. And I guess another example is the various changes to the closed question notices which now encourage the OP to post a new question instead of repairing the closed question. – PM 2Ring Jul 9 at 3:32
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    Thanks a lot, Bhargav. It means a lot to have you say this. 💚 – Catija Jul 9 at 14:06
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There are a few parts that have loopholes big enough to drive trucks through; but I expected that given the level of trust the company and moderator community share right now.

This agreement, along with the moderator removal and the moderator reinstatement process are the three major ways to show the company is listening and wants to rebuild trust. Keep in mind, they have to satisfy two different groups, even though obstensibly the moderator agreement only affects moderators. They have to satisfy moderators, of course, but also the community at large.

The things we write down are the things we care about. The things we tout as our written policies even more so. Policies are a reflection of a company's mindset, and in order for people to be willing to work with the company, the company needs to be worthy of that work. These agreements are your best way (right now) to do that.

I've left my feedback on the moderator reinstatement process, such as it is. The reinstatement process needs serious work, but that's because the moderator removal process needs serious work.

You spawned the removal process mere days and weeks after the ill-conceived firing of a Meta.SE moderator.

This moderator agreement shows that we can achieve a more equitable solution when more effort is put into the process.

Put more effort into your removal process; resolve the many issues we've brought up. Work to endear trust with your community -- where else would future moderators come from, if not the community they work to serve?

Outside of those loopholes that codify the problems that caused the moderator exodus past October, it’s a good agreement. Since those loopholes have been codified, it is reasonable to say the events of last October could repeat themselves.

The exodus started due to an ill-timed firing that happened after questions were raised in moderator chat. An edict was given and that was that. No follow up. This policy codifies those "give the edict and leave" actions into binding upon moderators.

Particularly sections v and vi:

v. I will abide by all other officially announced moderator and user policies made available to me.

vi. I will accept additional guidance given by members of the Stack Exchange, Inc. Community Team and Senior Leadership Team, whether in response to questions, concerns or discussions regarding existing network-wide policies.

It was a member of either the Senior Leadership team or the Community team that did it (I’m not so sure where they fell in the hierarchy then since it’s changed since then).

My questions are simple:

  • What is considered an official policy being communicated?

  • Is it something said in the Teacher's Lounge? Pinned there? Posted on teams? Posted on this meta? Posted on the blog? Emailed?

  • Same questions with "accepting guidance given by [employees]".

  • If I see an answer and another mod isn’t checking the TL and they don’t see it, can they be fired?

  • If they say "I'm not going to enforce it until we get some clarifications" can they be fired?

  • The moderator agreement says "I will accept" — are we talking military or monastic obedience?

These are thorny issues that need to be spelled out more clearly than they are.

But, there were 550 moderators that saw this new agreement, and I hope they brought up these points and received acceptable answers from Stack Overflow the Company. It’s one thing to address these things in private in a non-binding way; it’s another to codify those conversations into public policy.

The agreement has enough holes that nothing has been codified to prevent another October exodus, and that worries me.

NB: I initially left my feedback in a thread on twitter. For posterity, I've included that feedback here, in an extended form.

What I'd propose to change

Again, I'm just one person, and I'm not even a moderator; but if I were thinking about coming back, this is what I'd expect to see and what I'd consider to be fair (I'm only going to focus on the parts I'd change; assume for our conversation that I'm OK with the rest of it):

The Terms of the Agreement

v. I will abide by all other officially announced public moderator and user policies made available to me.

vi. I will accept additional public guidance given by members of the Stack Exchange, Inc. Community Team and Senior Leadership Team, whether in response to questions, concerns or discussions regarding existing network-wide policies.

(new clause) viii. Nothing in this agreement shall be construed as to deny the moderator the right to ask for public community guidance on proposed or existing policies.

Stack Exchange, Inc. agrees that it will:

vi. Announce changes to the moderator agreement and all other policies covered by this agreement on https://meta.stackexchange.com no less than sixty days before the deadline to accept the new agreement with a period of at least thirty days for public discussion and review.

Scope of changes

The changes I'd make are to ensure a public forum for discussing policy changes is mandated before expecting moderators to abide by those policies. I'd also ensure that moderators are free to raise proposed policy issues with their communities in order to ensure they've been able to consider community feedback.

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    Can you clarify what you expected/wanted to see here? In my view, some of those "loopholes" are either necessary or paradoxically protect mods. I don't see how you can prevent a company from dismissing a volunteer summarily without exposing that volunteer to substantial risk. What you can do is make that process transparent and reduce collateral damage, and this agreement does both by promising to communicate reasons, giving avenue for appeal, and establishing a policy of not commenting to media. – Bryan Krause Jul 9 at 16:01
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    (I'll add that moderators still have a right to leave en masse and have a lot of tools both on the site and on outside social media to raise hell when they do, and these are powerful tools) – Bryan Krause Jul 9 at 16:03
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    @BryanKrause I've enclosed the changes I'd make. Let me know your thoughts. – George Stocker Jul 9 at 17:00
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    Good update; those "public"s would be nice additional guarantees. – jscs Jul 9 at 17:08
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    Thanks. Can you opine on how crucial you feel these changes are? IMO the "and all other policies covered by this agreement" part is possibly most critical; the others seem to be mostly window dressing given the number of moderators and the freedom they have to resign if a privately-communicated policy is one they feel they cannot uphold. (I'm not personally convinced yet that making everything public is a good thing in that sometimes mods might interpret a privately-conceived policy as-intended, whereas the public will find the rules lawyer holes) – Bryan Krause Jul 9 at 17:11
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    @BryanKrause I think public consideration is important; To set up moderators for success, the company needs to include that. One of the issues is that Moderators may resign; but if we can keep good people from resigning by shedding sunlight on problematic policies, that's even better. – George Stocker Jul 9 at 17:29
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    @GeorgeStocker I think anything particularly controversial will make it to the public anyways - there are a lot of moderators left that think like you do. I think the suggestions are good but I'm not convinced its necessary. I also worry that too much requirement of "public" means too much vetting by "legal". – Bryan Krause Jul 9 at 17:52
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    (said another way, I don't want to constrain CM guidance around moderation with a clause that says XYZ needs public approval; I think that's still possible within your suggestions but I think it's important to consider) – Bryan Krause Jul 9 at 18:08
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    Ehhhh... I kinda disagree with that as a philosophy, @Bryan. For years, we considered private moderator guidance as effectively just, "pragmatic tips": ways of applying public rules in specific situations, often ways of applying rules without being overly "legalistic" - think, mediation tips and so on. Serious stuff had to be in public - moderators would frequently need to refer to it when discussing their actions! Remember: the vast, vast bulk of "moderation" on these sites is performed by ordinary users; thus, "private" guidance means they're using a different playbook. – Shog9 Jul 9 at 18:21
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    (also, come on... The elephant in the room that George is trying to point out is that situation last year where a moderator violated "private guidance" from a SLT member that no one - not moderators, not CMs - clearly understood or could explain. And yeah... It eventually did make it to public, but... I wouldn't recommend using any of that as an example of an ideal workflow.) – Shog9 Jul 9 at 18:26
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    @Shog9 (always good to hear from you even if it's in disagreement) I guess I do indeed view those "pragmatic tips" as the basis of the out-of-public feedback from the company. I'm also quite aware of the elephant in the room, and my personal view is that there is no way that this agreement or any agreement can prevent that kind of BS. What it does do is set out some specific ways the company commits to not screwing up in the future (eg, media comments). I'm maybe alone on this but I feel like the company took quite a beating from last year, and I think that is and remains the best recourse. – Bryan Krause Jul 9 at 19:09
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    @Shog9 I think the private elements are important to preserve in certain cases. For example, if there is a situation where a mod wanted to use PII access to report an incident to law enforcement, the company needs to have an agreed upon framework to say "stop! let us handle this!"; I think that actually protects mods. I trust that if these policies are used in an abusive fashion that mods (both as individuals and in solidarity) will rebel, as they have in the past. At that point the company can choose to ignore mods at their own detriment or listen to them, same as always. – Bryan Krause Jul 9 at 19:12
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    "Don't send Bryan's PII to the cops in <town>" is fine for private guidance, @BryanKrause. But... the PII handling rules this is grounded in very much SHOULD be public (and are, in the very agreement we're discussing). You & I both know that anyone suggesting a privacy policy of, "we won't tell you what we do with it, but we're cool, just trust us" is... Not the kind of policy that anyone wants to see! – Shog9 Jul 9 at 20:57
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    I'm not interested in preventing last fall, @Bryan... That's already lost. But the tradition of open moderation on these sites isn't, and I would hate to lose that! – Shog9 Jul 9 at 21:10
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    I'm not quite sure how to respond to this... it's... kinda a lot to do just in comments but people sometimes don't like me editing in responses to the answer. We are planning on revising the removal process, after just revisiting the reinstatement process. – Catija Jul 13 at 15:41
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+100

I like that it goes two ways now, that is a very clear and welcome improvement.

I find the following section to be rather weird, though:

I will accept additional guidance given by members of the Stack Exchange, Inc. Community Team and Senior Leadership Team, whether in response to questions, concerns or discussions regarding existing network-wide policies.

The moderator agreement was a list of serious rules, and breaking any of them is likely to result in the loss of your diamond. This rule doesn't seem to fit entirely here, and I don't see why we need a formal agreement that mods should consider guidance by the CMs seriously.

Moderators accept guidance from the CMs all the time, and not because that is written in some agreement. But because they have a lot of experience handling difficult situations, know the network and because we trust them. Their advice can easily stand on its own, it doesn't need any formal rules to be backed up or enforced.

If I were still a moderator, I'd truly hope I'd never receive any guidance from a member of the Senior Leadership Team. The one case I remember where this happened was the infamous chat message in the Teacher's Lounge that started this whole mess. That was direct guidance by a high-level SE employee to all moderators given in pretty much the worst way possible.

Putting this rule about accepting guidance among the other rules about far more serious issues into a binding agreement puts a certain level of threat behind it. If I decide to ignore advice by an SE employee, I'm suddenly also close to breaking the moderator agreement. Though the language in this rule is much weaker than in the other parts of the agreement, probably based on feedback from moderators. But if you have to weaken the language this much to make the rule palatable, why is it in there in the first place? The only purpose for this rule I can imagine is to put more force behind SE employees giving directives to moderators.

There is no need for a formal rule about listening to the CMs and considering their advice carefully, that is the default position for moderators. And the Senior Leadership Team probably shouldn't interfere with moderation directly in this way, without going through the CMs. This rule should just be removed entirely from the moderator agreement.

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    I'm afraid this is, however, the primary rule that motivated a rework of the agreement. It is the one that is supposed to rein in the "rogue" moderators and to give the now distrusted (and possibly disrespected) SE employees more authority over them. A prime example of such a situation would be the (now aptly mod-agreement-policy tagged) featured debacle. SE can't afford SO moderators disobeying them. So this would likely be the last rule to get dropped, as without it there wouldn't need to be a new moderator agreement (from SE's point of view). It is codifying the command hierarchy. – Christian Rau Jul 10 at 13:30
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    The fuzzy wording is simply to soften the blow, but it's clear the intention is a lot less soft than its words suggest, however these will align in actual practice, though. – Christian Rau Jul 10 at 13:31
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    @ChristianRau They can always override the mods if they want to, they own the site. The only thing this clause achieves is to tempt someone higher up that doesn't know better to actually use that power. But no matter what is in the agreement, this is unlikely to end well, especially after recent events. If SE overrides mods in some aspect that actually matters, it is likely to lead to a serious amount of drama no matter if the mod agreement allows that or not. – Mad Scientist Jul 10 at 21:14
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    @MadScientist While a certain amount of drama may continue to happen, having a codified rule they can point to and say "See? It's not arbitrary, Monica broke the Moderator Agreement. That's where we put important things like not doing hate speech and not illegally stealing user information!" is designed to and will dampen public protest to continued unethical behavior by the company. – Please stop being evil Jul 12 at 17:10
  • @Pleasestopbeingevil It can be useful to have a policy in writing, before enforcing it. E.g. I usually invite a user to read the CoC before (not when or after) I suspend their account. – ChrisW Jul 13 at 18:03
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    "accept guidance" simply means to do as you are told. As you explain, if it meant anything different there wouldn't be a point to add that to the moderator agreement. – sth Jul 14 at 23:50
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    If any mod thought this "do as we say" rule, written or not, had not been in effect since day one they were mistaken. In all reality it is also self-understood. It would also be self-understood if the company were mod-owned: There must be means to take the privileges away from rogue mods. How this is used and handled practically (if at all) is a separate question. In Monica's case it was dramatically mishandled, but afaics that was an aberration. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Jul 24 at 7:31
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I will accept additional guidance given by members of the Stack Exchange, Inc. Community Team and Senior Leadership Team, whether in response to questions, concerns or discussions regarding existing network-wide policies.

Will this guidance be published for all users e.g. on Meta sites, or given just to moderators, collectively or individually? It would be concerning if there were to be one version of a policy for public consumption, and another that moderators were privately ordered to enforce.

Considering that the company get to (1) write the policies, (2) sack moderators who in their view are not abiding by or enforcing them as they'd like, & (3) take any action on any site that they see fit to, there seems to be no call for such a provision.

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    This guidance is, as I said in the question a way for us to encourage that moderators be open to listening to that guidance. We do create the policy and people interpret in many different ways. But language is not always perfect, particularly on an diverse and international platform, and there are times when helping to explain intent is necessary - and that's what this is doing. If a moderator is looking to understand how to interpret part of the CoC, we want them to listen to our guidance - they can choose how to act on that guidance, though. – Catija Jul 8 at 20:31
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    @Catija: So "accept" just means "listen to"? – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Jul 8 at 20:36
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    "Accept guidance" means listen to guidance and be open to it. We even want mods to feel like they can dig in and question things but there are definitely times that discussion should probably happen somewhere private because it may deal with specific users and it's possible that such a discussion, in public, would suffer from too many cooks in the kitchen. :) – Catija Jul 8 at 21:00
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    @Catija: The thing is, there's an exegesis of the agreement on the private moderator site by a member of the company's Senior Leadership Team in which it's indicated that we need to "follow guidance". This illustrates my point: there's one public interpretation & another private one, directed only to moderators, that appear to be at odds. – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Jul 8 at 23:52
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    I'm... not really sure what you're referring to. This says "accept guidance", not "follow guidance". – Catija Jul 8 at 23:54
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    So, Teresa is the community member on the SLT but Sara is on the Community Team. I wrote most of that post and the parts that refer to "following" aren't intended to be about following guidance - I'm happy to clarify that. You're expected to abide by the policies which includes following them. We ask that you accept guidance for how to act on and interpret those policies. – Catija Jul 9 at 0:10
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    @Catija: Sorry - I confused the teams. There's a section there that refers to following policies and guidance. I'm glad if that's not what was intended, but in any case, do you really think "accept guidance" is unambiguous, especially in the context of a legal agreement? How can you determine that someone wasn't accepting guidance in the sense of listening to it? If you can't, why have the requirement to in there? – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Jul 9 at 0:29
27

As you say in your post:

Once the sixty days have passed, any moderator who has either declined the new agreement or hasn’t responded to the notifications to accept the new agreement but who still has their diamond will lose access to PII and some moderator tools.

In other words, moderators who haven't accepted the new agreement by the time the deadline lapses will have their account placed in a state similar to when a moderator is newly granted their diamond but hasn't accepted the moderator agreement yet.

However, a moderator told me something different in chat:

The diamonds will get removed is what we have been told on the moderator-side announcement

(but that they'll also expedite requests for reinstatement if you missed the deadline)

Which is correct? Can the incorrect one please be edited?

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    Just a bit of an informed guess, but I'm guessing "both" are true. I suspect they've programmed an automatic revoking of the tools (that is, reversion to the status a moderator account is in when they have their diamond but haven't yet agreed) at 60 days. They'll also remove the diamonds, but that's a more manual process and will probably include additional attempts to contact the moderator and make sure there isn't a technical issue or personal circumstances causing them to be away temporarily. I don't think it's meant to be a punitive removal but rather a policy one. – Bryan Krause Jul 8 at 19:55
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    @BryanKrause that's correct. We'll remove diamonds at various times depending on the site and when we're aware a mod isn't accepting the agreement. For people who don't respond, that will require some specific effort to communicate with the mod and their fellow moderators. I've updated to make this more clear in the question, too. – Catija Jul 8 at 20:01
27

Speaking as someone who was pretty disappointed to just barely lose a moderator election last March,* I find the items making up the other half of the "two-way agreement" almost startlingly insufficient. These people are volunteers who by and large are offering its-their-livelihood levels of devotion to help this company keep its public face from collapsing into irrelevance. This agreement offers little if anything -- most importantly in the realm of protection from the company itself -- above what applies to every user.

Items i. and ii. under the "Stack Exchange, Inc. agrees" heading just confirm that moderators' privacy will be respected the same as every other user.

iii. Allow you to resign your position for any reason without penalty or repercussions.

I'm really struggling with how to respond to this one. What reasonable penalty or repercussion could possibly be applied to a resigning volunteer? The company agrees not to nuke the moderator's account?

It's simultaneously sorta nice that "the company respects your not volunteering" is affirmed, and terrifying that anyone thought it needed to be. There's certainly no comparably explicit "I will not use my mod powers to sabotage the site" in the top section -- that seems to go without saying.

vii. Provide support for your questions, requests and concerns [...]

I'm not sure how this could possibly be otherwise given the above "iv. I will abide by all other [...] policies" and "v. I will accept additional guidance given by [the company]". Responding to discussion about policies and guidance that they're expected to follow and enforce seems to be common courtesy. How about some kind of basic SLA here?

viii. Respect your right to speak openly to question and challenge policy without reprisal so long as such speech does not break the Code of Conduct.

Again, this is something that applies to every user.** This needs to be worded much more strongly for moderators, as a commitment to listen to and consider feedback that's offered from these dedicated and responsible volunteers.

[...] there may come times when we need to remove a moderator or can not follow one of the three processes for some reason [...]

Stack Exchange, Inc. reserves the right to suspend or terminate my privileges as a moderator [...]

Nope, sorry. This just isn't good enough any more. To suspend a moderator without prior notice, but pending investigation, would be perfectly understandable. For termination, the company needs to commit itself -- bind itself -- to treating moderators with a fair process commensurate with the responsibility and work it is expecting of them.

As I said, I'm not a moderator, so my opinion is perhaps not directly relevant. But I thought it was worth saying that I wouldn't even consider a mod position again after the past year if the company is going to stipulate these points and nothing more. The commitment to me as a trusted volunteer would have to be substantially strengthened.

If nothing else, it needs a Ninth Amendment:

The enumeration here of certain tenets of respect and decency shall not be construed to deny or dilute Stack Exchange's obligation to treat you with all the respect and decency due a volunteer.


*And then after the rest of the year unfolded decided he had dodged a grenade...
**Or if it doesn't any more, just another reason for all of us to think hard about participating here.

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    I feel like I should add that mods who decide to accept this agreement still have my respect. We all have to make our own choices about what's acceptable -- this is just my calculus. – jscs Jul 9 at 15:08
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    Point viii was added based on my feedback; it was a callback to Monica's situation where she did question a policy, politely, and got summarily booted for doing so. After that scenario, putting that in writing was important. I'm not sure I'm totally happy with what we got, but I thought I'd put that out there. – fbueckert Jul 9 at 16:46
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    Sure, thanks for that note. I guess the line I'm trying to make -- and I'm still not sure I've gotten it across despite how many times I've edited this -- is that "you can discuss and disagree with network policy in public" should be a rock-bottom fundamental that's accorded to everyone. To elevate that bare minimum as a special heres-a-carrot guarantee just for mods is...insufficient. – jscs Jul 9 at 17:07
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    It should be. But it wasn't. And many of us (mods) felt afraid to ask or disagree for fear of losing our diamonds and then being pilloried in the press. You are absolutely right that these things shouldn't be needed and should have been self-evident. Indeed, they were self-evident when most of us started using this network of sites. However, given how much trust has been lost, seeing those clauses there make me feel much more comfortable signing. Yes, I wish they weren't needed , but they are, so I am very glad they're here. – terdon Jul 9 at 19:40
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    Yeah, I'm definitely not getting my point across. I agree with everything you've said, @terdon. But "these precise 1,2,3,4 terrible things are now off limits" is no guarantee for anything else. To quote George's answer "The things we write down are the things we care about". This list, to me, indicates care about not repeating past mistakes. It is does not expand on that; it is not forward thinking. – jscs Jul 9 at 20:20
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    Regarding iii, what they could do and have done is illegally harass and defame you in real life, obviously. I wouldn't take iii as any real indication that they won't do that, though-- why would you expect them to follow these new policies when they didn't follow the old ones or even the bare minimum conduct required by law? – Please stop being evil Jul 12 at 17:17
24

I have one question, it's focused on the precise language used in the agreement.

Points (i), (ii), (iii), and (iv) begin with the words: "I will abide by…" but in point (v) the wording changes to "I will accept…

(i) I will abide by the current Code of Conduct […].
(ii) I will abide by the current Terms of Service of Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange sites […].
(iii) I will abide by the Privacy Policy.
(iv) I will abide by all other officially announced moderator and user policies made available to me.
(v) I will accept additional guidance given by members of the Stack Exchange, Inc. Community Team and Senior Leadership Team, whether in response to questions, concerns or discussions regarding existing network-wide policies.

For me “I will accept“ and “I will abide” carry the same meaning. Is there some subtle difference between the two?

Room for improvement?

At this point, changing the text of the agreement would require creating V3. I understand your point but, other than non-impactful changes like adding the link to the help center, we aren't going to be rewording the agreement. @Catija♦ (July 8)

I have since reflected on that comment, and I'm slightly puzzled. What is wrong with tweaking things if it leads to clarification and helps avoid misinterpretation? Looking at the posts submitted so far, it seems that the sticking point for many is indeed point (v). We all appreciate the time and attention that was poured into this agreement; it is the fruit of several months of drafting and negotiation, but a small edit in the "I will accept additional guidance" clause would clarify.

For example,

  • “After consulting with staff for guidance, I will respect the spirit of the guidelines and adhere to follow them to the best of my abilities.” OR
  • I promise to be receptive to additional guidance given by members of the Stack Exchange, Inc. Community Team and Senior Leadership Team, whether in response to questions, concerns or discussions regarding existing network-wide policies.
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    My interpretation is the following: "I will abide" means you will act in accordance to the things mentioned. In my eyes, that is more binding and "stronger" than "I will accept"... now, the second one "I will accept additional guidance" means that you are committing to hear and take the advice given to you... but you are not committing to follow it by the letter, or even following it at all; that would fall into your interpretation and judgment as a mod and human being. – DarkCygnus Jul 8 at 19:59
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    @DarkCygnus if a moderator is not committed to follow the guidelines by the letter or even take the advice offered that suggests a certain leeway and freedom of interpretation. I'm not too sure whether that is the intention. It would be nice to hear it from the horse's mouth. – Mari-Lou A Jul 8 at 20:07
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    Points iv and v are paired. They refer to the same policies. As I note in the question, accepting additional guidance is as @DarkCygnus points out - the staff who created these policies and understand their intent are here to help moderators better interpret the policy. We offer guidance but we know that each site is slightly different and moderators may need to adjust our guidance to meet the needs of their site. We're asking them to listen to us but not forcing them to comply. – Catija Jul 8 at 20:27
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    @Catija good to know that there is some flexibility to point (v), maybe it could be stated more explicitly. – Mari-Lou A Jul 8 at 20:37
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    Slight clarification... v includes i through iv as the policies, not only iv. At this point, changing the text of the agreement would require creating V3. I understand your point but, other than non-impactful changes like adding the link to the help center, we aren't going to be rewording the agreement. – Catija Jul 8 at 21:52
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    @Catija What happens in the event that (v) someone accepts additional guidance from the Community Team or Leadership Team, but - for whatever reason - disagrees or disregards that guidance? Is the mod put in the bad books? What's stopping the employee from just writing a [mod-agreement-policy] to enforce their side of things? – Robotnik Jul 9 at 2:42
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    @Robotnik Are you saying that SE shouldn't write a formal policy when they feel very strongly that a gap in existing policy needs to be patched or something needs to be clarified in a more formal way? SE has committed to Post previews for review of all new official policies in the Moderators Teams instance and I doubt anyone wants to go through that process without good reason. – ColleenV Jul 9 at 16:19
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    @Robotnik It's going to depend a lot on what's going on. If we're talking about someone asking for advice in a situation, we'll give guidance when things are unclear. This is likely going to be in the form of "The intent of the policy is ____. Given that, does that help you decide how to act in your specific situation?" Giving guidance is not for the purpose of changing policy. It's about clarifying it. If the mod needs additional help, we may suggest a course of action but, in most cases, the final decision is up to the moderator. – Catija Jul 9 at 17:53
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    This is different from a moderator choosing to go against one of the policies. As an example, our CoC prohibits bigotry. If a moderator sees bigotry on their site and refuses to act to remove it, in some cases that may lead to a conduct review. But there's a difference between a mod refusing to accept guidance and refusing to uphold the CoC. The CMs won't guide the mod to delete the stuff. We will delete it if it's clearly bigotry and we'll work with the mods to help them understand how it's problematic. – Catija Jul 9 at 17:57
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    @Catija Imagine a controversial question being asked that is both valid and on-topic, but draws criticism & 'bad press' for SE, in a similar vein to the twitter HNQ incident. A CM steps in to help and offers the guidance of "it probably should just be deleted, yes?". The mod disagrees, because it is valid and on-topic for their site, and the mod team believes they can successfully contain any issues that arise on the question (delete comments, lock posts, etc) - but obviously they can't control the wider internet's response. What would happen in this case? – Robotnik Jul 10 at 3:49
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    @ColleenV "Are you saying SE shouldn't write a formal policy when they feel...that a gap in existing policy needs to be patched..." Of course not. My worry is the idea that ultimately, if there is a conflict between a mod/community and SE, that SE has ultimate authority to simply just hand down a mandate and make it happen, regardless of the mod/community's position. "My experience is that civil objections are not going to be held against you." - I know at least one ex-mod who had a different experience to this. Starts with 'M' and ends with 'onica' (: – Robotnik Jul 10 at 3:55
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    @Robotnik and that's something that probably is on everyone's mind at this point of time. That there's an explicit promise means that if its broken, hopefully which ever mod who is involved has a better chance of recourse, and well, I think most of the current mod community will pack up and scatter to better climes. We're all still collectively dealing with the wreckage of that incident, and the toxic culture in the company at the time that lead to it. – Journeyman Geek Jul 10 at 9:22
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    @JourneymanGeek "..has a better chance of recourse.." or the events of last fall has had a chilling effect and any communication from a SE employee will make a moderator fold, afraid to have their life destroyed if they don't obey, at once, with a smile. I wouldn't trust SE until they unconditionally restored Monica's status and banned Sarah from having any community interactions. I'm sorry it is this way, but that is very honestly how I feel. – thebjorn Jul 10 at 19:31
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    @Catija At this point, changing the text of the agreement would require creating V3. I thought more carefully over what you said and I'm a bit puzzled. What's wrong with tweaking things if it means avoiding misunderstandings and misinterpretations? It seems that the sticking point with many observers is indeed with point (v). You want to avoid the V3 hassle? Just edit V2. – Mari-Lou A Jul 10 at 20:19
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    @ChristianRau The phrase begins with I will accept and in English "will" is a bit ambiguous in meaning, it can suggest (I'm not saying that is the interpretation meant) that the speaker has no freedom of choice, "will" can imply conformity. If you check a dictionary, "accept" is also a synonym of "abide". – Mari-Lou A Jul 14 at 9:37
22

This is designed to keep the scope of this point limited while also giving us the flexibility to add small network-relevant policies that we need moderators to follow without having to update the mod agreement.

It's the cynic in me, or isn't this "I'm altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further" Darth Vader stuff right here? I'm not comfortable in any situation where I'm elected to hold a post yet I'm not fully aware of what that post ensure since it may be modified at later time. Not only that, if I don't accept them my only option is to abandon the post I was elected to serve. Why? If you need to do small tweaks to the moderator agreement, why not doing it in the moderation agreement instead of having to follow a web of documentation? How would anyone be fully aware of their responsibilities as moderator if said responsibilities are fluid?

I prefer these "tweak" are called guidance and aren't part of the moderator agreement at all.

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15

In my role as part of the proto-pro-tem council - we reviewed this, though I'm under the impression the version we saw already had the rough edges knocked off. Changes were suggested (and I recognise some of the wording as mine and others) and it went through the mod team. There's a few surprises, but none of them unpleasant.

Admittedly more eyeballs finds more bugs - but I do hope we don't wait a decade before reviewing the mod agreement again. I feel like a good idea would be to have user concerns as shown here and elsewhere would find its way into future iterations of this.

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13

Minor nitpick

Could point v be adjusted to use unambiguous wording:

In the current wording, it's unclear if the specifier regarding existing network-wide policies only applies to discussion or applies to questions and concerns as well. The question clarifies that this seems to apply to all three, but the agreement should not need to rely on external texts to be unambiguous.

Previous:

v. I will accept additional guidance given by members of the Stack Exchange, Inc. Community Team and Senior Leadership Team, whether in response to questions, concerns or discussions regarding existing network-wide policies.

Suggestion:

v. I will accept additional guidance regarding existing network-wide policies given by members of the Stack Exchange, Inc. Community Team and Senior Leadership Team, whether in response to questions, concerns or discussions.

Or, even better in my opinion, since I don't see the purpose of the wether in response to section:

v. I will accept additional guidance regarding existing network-wide policies given by members of the Stack Exchange, Inc. Community Team and Senior Leadership Team.

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  • Yeah, I think this point was brought up in earlier discussions on the mod team as well. It's slightly ambiguous/awkward phrasing, but I believe it wasn't seen as enough of an issue to warrant changing the wording (and thus having to go through all the processes that this version of the agreement had to go through again). – V2Blast Jul 28 at 2:14
9

You say:

"to allow collaboration between mods on the same site..."

But right after that you say V2 says:

"I will not disclose or share this information with anyone that is not a moderator or employee of Stack Exchange, Inc."

Which doesn't make it clear that information can only be disclosed to "co-moderators", as the suggested purpose given here:

"This would prevent the mods from even talking about it in a private room with co-moderators or even mentioning it to staff in a CM escalation"

Users do not want 550+ moderators to know their name, email address and IP address, when in fact it says next to the box to fill in your email address: "Required, but never shown" when they first sign up. Without saying "this information will be available only to 550+ moderators" some users might think it's deceiving.

All you had to do was add 4 words:

"I will not disclose or share this information with anyone that is not a moderator [on the same site] or employee of Stack Exchange, Inc."

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    There are situations where you want to exchange PII with mods of other sites. Those situations are rare, but they happen. The default should be to not share that information with mods from other sites, but prohibiting that entirely would not work. – Mad Scientist Jul 10 at 22:21
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    You are misinterpeting what was written as the purpose or sole goal of the update. It was just an example of basic things that were technically prohibited in the original version and didn't make sense. There are situations where moderators on different sites would need to be able to discuss information about a user that is misbehaving on both those sites, and the current wording is intentional. – animuson Jul 10 at 22:56
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    @animuson If it's needed, then why was it technically not allowed for the last 12 years? – user1271772 Jul 10 at 23:35
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    I don't follow... The whole point of changing the verbiage was because all of those needed things were technically disallowed for years? As pointed out, the original verbiage technically meant a moderator could look at stuff and literally not type it anywhere to anyone whatsoever, even to staff. The verbiage has been fixed to match the intended behavior. – animuson Jul 10 at 23:49
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    @animuson If they were needed, why were they disallowed for years? Why wasn't a change made several years ago? – user1271772 Jul 11 at 0:00
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    Because nobody thought about it? The verbiage change isn't suddenly allowing moderators to do something new. It is aligning the agreement with what we've been allowing moderators to do for years and just didn't realize was prohibited by overly strict language in the agreement. – animuson Jul 11 at 0:03
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    @animuson I accept now that in your opinion it is needed for mods to sometimes share PII with mods from other sites. I accept that probably all other mods feel that way too. Catija's post mentions that mods might need to share PII with other mods from the same site or staff in a CM escalation, but nothing about sharing with mods on other sites. Anyway, would you consider making it more clear to users when they sign up, that their PII can be seen by mods and shared among 550 mods? It took 7 years for me to find out they can see my IP address & therefore every place I travel to with my phone on. – user1271772 Jul 11 at 0:12
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    It's specifically in the Privacy Policy - "Moderators, who have elevated access privileges, may access non-public user profile data as well as content in posts and other public data." – Catija Jul 11 at 0:51
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    @Catija that is true, but when signing up it just says "will not be shared publicly" next to the email address field. I was under the impression for many years that my email address was completely private. Maybe that's because I wasn't the smartest SO user, or maybe the privacy policy was different about 10 years ago. But I've been quite active here and am quite educated so if I didn't figure it out I'm sure some of the other 16 million users were in the same boat. I'd also not interpret "user profile data" to include IP address, since that's not part of my profile (my email address is). – user1271772 Jul 11 at 1:23
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    FWIW, 10 years ago it was all a lot more lax; moderator and admin privileges were very similar, moderators saw emails and other data just as readily as the owner of the account. Heck... They were expected to use this info to contact people if the need arose! – Shog9 Jul 11 at 5:11
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    @user1271772 Its worth clarifying I only have direct access to that on the sites I moderate (MSE and SU). Issues can go across sites - or sometimes, like issues on chat, cross site boundaries. We might discuss similarities between say, a troll we both deal with or sometimes even pass on issues on other sites someone's asked us to pass on in confidence. We might work together to deal with a spam flood on our sites using similar IPs and Emails (which needs us to share that information). – Journeyman Geek Jul 11 at 8:09
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    @JourneymanGeek You don't need to sell me on the idea that you feel it's necessary for a mod to communicate a user's PII to a mod on a different site. What you might not be able to appreciate is the perspective of non mods, as you have now been a mod for at least 6 years. I just double checked: To post as a guest it asks for the email address and says "Required, but never shown". This is also what I remember seeing when I signed up for SO about a decade ago. This absolutely does not make it clear that 500+ mods will see my email address. – user1271772 Jul 11 at 15:54
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    @Catija That is a different privacy policy from the one that new users are asked to agree to when they post an answer as a guest or sign up for a new account. It says "By clicking “Sign up”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy." When you go to that privacy, if you search "moderators" or "elevated" you get 0 results, which means that the sentence you have quoted, is not there. What you have referred to as "the Privacy Policy" is actually the "Privacy Notice for the Public Network" But another problem is that the – user1271772 Jul 11 at 16:01
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    statement <<By clicking “Sign up”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy>> does not appear until an inch below the "sign-up" button, so technically users can sign up without ever seeing that statement, and I'd argue that it is definitely not made clear that they are bound to the privacy policy or the "privacy notice" that you linked to. Furthermore, even if the user is bound to both of these, neither says that IP addresses will be seen by nearly a thousand people. – user1271772 Jul 11 at 16:03
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    @user1271772 Seems like this is something to raise in a separate meta question because it has little to do with the mod agreement itself. – Bryan Krause Jul 11 at 17:13
7

Thank you for explaining the intent of (v) :—

"Accept guidance" means listen to guidance and be open to it.

And:—

If a moderator is looking to understand how to interpret part of the CoC, we want them to listen to our guidance - they can choose how to act on that guidance, though.

And:—

We're asking them [moderators] to listen to us but not forcing them to comply

That's very welcome: it means that a fair judge of whether a moderator's abiding by or enforcing network-wide policies—say Community Managers involved in the Moderator Conduct Review Process, or members of the Moderator Council involved in the Moderator Reinstatement & Appeal Process—should consider only the import of those policies as written, & gives users some assurance that the moderators they elect can't be pressured, behind the scenes, into accepting interpretions that are at odds with, or that go beyond, what's written. It impels clarification of published policies through redaction rather than through scattered exegeses; whatever latitude in meaning remains is a matter for user communities to address if they see a need to.

All the same, is it not worth clarifying the intent in the Moderator Agreement itself? (I don't think it can be denied that people find "accept guidance" ambiguous—I count four posts querying the phrase here, & another six on the moderator-only site.) In a legal agreement especially, it must be liable to be read as "follow guidance", as it's hard to imagine how a moderator's failure to listen to or be open to guidance could be ascertained before sanctioning them. And, as a legal agreement, it's what's actually written that's authoritative.

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-6

Why has the new agreement gone live without any opportunity for non-moderator users to give feedback? Moderators did have the opportunity to give feedback, but not to discuss the draft agreement with other users on the sites they moderate–why not?

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    I think a focus group of ~550 people should be more than sufficient for something like this. Given just how long this process has been, and no doubt tiring for those involved throughout the entire thing, at some point you have to call it finished. – Bryan Krause Jul 8 at 20:25
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    Perhaps I need to refill my cup of coffee, but why do you think non-mods should determine what happens to an agreement that does not involve them? – DarkCygnus Jul 8 at 20:42
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    The agreement is between the Mods and SE, and does not affect what mods can and can't do on their sites. – DavidPostill Jul 8 at 20:50
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    @DarkCygnus: I always thought the users were my bosses, not the company. It follows that it is their business what commitments I make to the company regarding my role as a moderator. – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Jul 8 at 21:54
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    As a mod I don't work for anyone. That's means getting paid. I work in the interests of my community, and I hopefully have spoken for them. In meta admittedly that definition is broad and includes people who may be unaware they are part of my community. It's out now. The powers that be may want to refine it in further in future. What actually needs fixing? What here could better reflect the needs of the non mod community? Since we have a version that many stakeholders have reviewed and is in place.. we have something new van build from. – Journeyman Geek Jul 9 at 8:29
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    @Scortchi-ReinstateMonica the users are absolutely our bosses, yes. But our relationship with them is hashed out on our metas. Our relationship with the company behind the sites is determined by the mod agreement. That has absolutely nothing to do with the community, it's an agreement between each of us mods as individuals and the legal entity Stack Exchange Inc. It is nobody's business but my own what commitments I make. – terdon Jul 9 at 9:55
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    @terdon: It's none of users' business what moderators are allowed to do with their PII? None of their business whether their moderators take orders from them or from the company? The agreement directly concerns how moderators go about doing their jobs; it's not some irrelevant, private matter to be settled between the (current) moderators & the company. In my view the primary stakeholders are the company & the user communities. – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Jul 9 at 14:51
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    @Scortchi-ReinstateMonica actually, the PII is handled by SE. So any concerns about how PII is handled should be addressed to SE, not mods. That is all under the general privacy policy. So yes, it is absolutely the user's business who SE chooses to share their PII with, but that's between SE and users. The mod agreement is (in my eyes, at least) between mods and SE. As for "taking orders", if we take orders from anyone it's the communities that elected us, yes, but that's another matter and not related to the mod agreement. – terdon Jul 9 at 15:19
  • I'd echo @terdon here; the mod agreement restricts mods in saying hey, y'all better follow our PII policies. That's...pretty standard and I'd expect users to demand no less. If users have an issue with it, it's between them and the company and as a mod I'm glad I can redirect a user towards the company rather than myself as the primary responsible entity for their personal information. – Bryan Krause Jul 9 at 16:56
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    @terdon: I really don't see your point about PII. Mine is simply that moderators have access to certain PII of users on the sites they moderate; it's the moderator agreement that restricts what they can do with that PII; & therefore it is users' business what the agreement says, despite their not being a party to it. I thought that'd be uncontroversial. On who we take orders from: I & several others have asked whether having to "accept guidance" amounts to having to take orders; thankfully we've been assured that's not the intended interpretation, but the question is surely all users' business – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Jul 10 at 0:33
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    @BryanKrause: I agree entirely with your last comment, but don't see how it contradicts anything I've said. A user here has an issue with the sharing of PII between moderators from different sites: it's the Moderator Agreement that explicitly allows this, so they're calling for it to be changed. Regardless of the merits of the case, the response surely can't be "The agreement's between moderators & the company - mind your own business!". – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Jul 13 at 10:09
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    That's a fair point. I think I see where you're coming from now, and I agree that users should know about the agreement since it affects how their data is handled, yes. I would still argue that users don't really need to be involved in the forging of the agreement since that is between mods and SE, but they should absolutely be aware of it. I guess the Right Thing® here would be for the SE privacy policy to clarify that mods get access to PII. – terdon Jul 13 at 12:53
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    @BryanKrause The point is, it's not in that document, meaning the users have not agreed to it. You are binding the moderators into doing something that the users may not want them to be able to do. We should get to say whether or not we want the mods sharing our personally identifying information at all. I personally can't see any reason it would need to be done at all. Moderation is only about what we do online, and can only interact with us online, so why would you need information from real life? The issue is that users agreed to "info will be kept private," but you are changing that. – trlkly Jul 15 at 17:25
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    @trlkly It's already in stackoverflow.com/legal/privacy-policy/public-network - this would be about clarifying the language there to be more explicit. Nothing in the policy says "only moderators of the site you are on", it says "moderators". The policy the moderators agree to is only more restrictive on moderators than the privacy policy allows, and this is not a new change. – Bryan Krause Jul 15 at 17:33
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I have to say I think this is a mistake:

Protecting user privacy, particularly their PII

When users join our sites, they expect us to protect their privacy and the personally identifiable information (PII) we collect about them is a big part of that. We grant moderators access to some of this information so that they can do their work, but we take it very seriously when this access is misused. That’s why the biggest part of V1 is still an important part of V2 - it’s designed to protect our users’ private information and prevent misuse by making our expectations for usage of PII clear.

One of the issues on the internet is that people hide behind anonymity and then behave badly. I run websites where I encourage people to use their real name, and as a result moderation is not an issue. Instead people are civil. Of course, I don't want my email address bandied around, but I'm quite happy for everybody to know who I am. I stand by what I say.

In addition I saw nothing in the new moderator agreement about openness. Without that, well I'm afraid to say power corrupts, and it's all too easy for moderators to morph into secret police. We have open justice in society for a reason. Without that, you will always have trouble with moderators. They say Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? for a reason too.

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    It's worth noting that whenever a moderator accesses a user's PII, the action is logged and visible to SE staff. – Sonic the Masked Werehog Jul 11 at 10:41
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    There's a certain balance between protecting privacy, and radical open-ness - when I was first a moderator, moderator messages were signed by the moderator who performed the action, (and is still logged under them). People took it personally and some even harassed the mods in question. We had to trade off openness to protect folks who were volunteering their time for their sites. Your email address won't be "bandied around" - while mods have access to it, we'd rarely need to, and every access to it is kept track of. – Journeyman Geek Jul 11 at 11:18
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    Many mods are quite happy to discuss issues you may face that are usually private with your permission. We'll respect folks privacy, but in many cases you may choose to waive that. We obviously can't do both at the same time, so... I'd say if you want to talk about something, you would need to explicitly initiate it, and give the mods freedom to discuss it fully. So, openness is built into how many mods do things, as long as its what you really want – Journeyman Geek Jul 11 at 11:21
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    Especially considering recent events - letting you know what's happening, and what may be the cause of conflict is absolutely in the forfront of many of our minds. So..we'll be as open as we can to you . While there's a update to it - I feel that the old theory of moderation post covers a lot of what a good mod does though we don't email users any more - mod messaging is a significantly better option there – Journeyman Geek Jul 11 at 11:27
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    @JourneymanGeek: all points noted. Thanks for the feedback. When it comes to moderation, I don't want privacy. I want it all out in the open. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. – John Duffield Jul 11 at 12:54
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    "One of the issues on the internet is that people hide behind anonymity and then behave badly." I thought Facebook and Twitter both thoroughly debunked GIFT - plenty of people using their real information also behave badly. Sometimes they get repercussions but also sometimes bad people bring unwanted repercussions upon others. For more than a decade I think we have enough evidence that anonymity does not play that big of a factor. Given all of that, I'm quite happy to remain "anonymous" to whatever extent I can. Take away that and I leave. – VLAZ Jul 13 at 7:48

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