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This question from 2009 raised the concern of the Streisand effect happening with suspensions on Stack Exchange. When a user is suspended, other users will see it and wonder about the reason. The lack of information will lead to other users speculating about what happened, and this speculation might lead to resentment, or to the creation of wild theories that do not correspond to reality.

This question explains in great detail why SE does not keep public records of past suspensions. Keeping all information on previous suspensions private allows previously suspended users to rehabilitate and come back into the system with a clean slate, if they wish to do so. The question also explains that moderators are not allowed to share details about current suspensions publicly, as the suspended user would not be able to explain their side of the story.

But none of those questions explain why the fact that a user is currently suspended is shown publicly. From the first question,

It's generally quite easy to notice when a user gets thrown in The Penalty Box. You see the tell-tale 1 when viewing questions they've asked or answers they've provided. You visit their profile page. You see that big red message. And you're curious...

This is taken as a premise in that question: the reasons are not explained. It seems to me that a solution to both problems would be not to let users know when a user is currently suspended. This would mean showing their reputation as it was before the suspension, and not displaying any message on their profile page stating that the user is suspended. We all know that anything that is on the Internet at some point, may well be on the Internet for a long time. So if we really want no public record of past suspensions, it is best not to have a public record of current suspensions either.

Especially for one-week suspensions, in most cases this would be indistinguishable from a week of vacation, or a busy week away from SE. Maybe for longer suspensions it would make more sense to prevent the Streisand effect by displaying the suspension and short reason publicly, as in this case users are probably going to notice anyway.

I could not find any answer to this on Meta Stack Exchange, but maybe I did not search for the right terms. So my question is: why are current suspensions visible to the public?

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Some reasons I can think of:

  • Deterrence; when you're reminded now and then that suspensions are real, you'll be more inclined to follow the rules.
  • Transparency; it's good that you can see that a user whose suspicious behaviour you've reported to the moderators serve their deserved penalty.
    • An alternative here is to use custom flag responses for this, but they're not always read.
  • Preventing confusion; yes, a one-week suspension is almost indistinguishable from a one-week vacation, but it's still strange to see a user not responding to your comments / chat messages when their profile says they've been online in the last hour. This will only lead to speculation.
    • An option here would be to not update the 'last visible' indicator in the profile.

(For the record, this isn't meant as a definitive stance against not showing suspensions at all. Your ideas definitely have some merit.)

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