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Just today (December 2, 2020), a new moderator agreement policy was enacted, which requires moderators to report users that they find to be underage:

If you find a user claiming to be under 16 escalate it to us through the "Contact Community Team" button and select the "underage user" template - this will flag the on-duty CM for action so we can investigate and, if deemed necessary, delete that account and all personal data associated with it.

[...]

This policy only applies to sites where you are a moderator. If you see things on a site where you’re not, there is no obligation to escalate.

Being part of the , moderators are required to follow the instructions there, and not following them is considered a violation of the moderator agreement.

However, this contradicts a previous statement from staff, which states (bold added):

Users and moderators are not legally responsible for underage users and are under no obligation to report them to us. If out of concern you would like to report it, [...]

As part of the re-enaction of the policy on December 2, the text "and moderators" in the above quote was edited out of that statement.

Why are moderators now required as per policy to report underage users that they come across? Is there a legal explanation as to why SE's stance on this changed?

I'm aware of this 2014 post from a then-employee, which stated that moderators are expected, but not required as a condition of remaining a moderator, to report underage users. However, the new policy requires reporting them. Why?

An example of a case where a moderator may not want to report an underage user is if the user claims to be from an EU country that has reduced the required age from 16. While SE's Terms of Use specify a blanket limit of 16 to comply with regulations in all EU countries, individual member states do have the ability to reduce the limit, so long as it's not below 13. There is no law violation if, say, a 15-year-old user from an EU country that has reduced the age limit to 14 registers, so a moderator may not feel like reporting them (since in that case they're merely enforcing the Terms of Use, which they're not otherwise expected to do).


The policy was recanted a few days after it was originally enacted on October 15, 2020, but was enacted again on December 2 after minor revisions following a review among moderators. The same question still applies to the revised policy, however.

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    I don't feel like anything has changed. Oct 15 '20 at 23:43
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    @BryanKrause As I said in the bottom paragraph, moderators have always been expected to report underage users. The question here is why it's now being enacted as a requirement to do so, whereas it wasn't explicitly required in the past. Oct 15 '20 at 23:44
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    I don't see much/any daylight between "expected to" and "requirement to do so", and I think it's pretty clear Robert was referring to external legal obligations which isn't changed. Mods aren't employees, and aren't legally responsible for keeping the site free of minors. We don't have to investigate anything or discover minors on the site. In the rare case someone makes very clear they are are minor, we are expected to escalate. Frankly I suspect those situations are likely to invite a flurry of flags anyways. This is just restating policy that's always been policy (like the suicide one also) Oct 15 '20 at 23:51
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    It more likely means that they want you to, but of course you are not legally responsible for the site having minors. So you technically don't have to LEGALLY, but you might be removed from the mod position if you don't.
    – Penguin
    Oct 16 '20 at 4:20
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    My guess: It's a.) Weird to have a rule that no one enforces anyways and b.) largely inconsistent if you have some mods reporting underage users and others not. This fixes both.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Oct 16 '20 at 5:52
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    @Penguin The past statement doesn't say "under no legal obligation", simply "under no obligation". While what you're saying may be right, I'm wondering why SE decided just now that moderators are required to report such users, whereas they weren't explicitly required to do so in the past (as a condition of remaining a moderator). Oct 16 '20 at 6:23
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    @Sonic part of being more strict and enforcing order, most likely. Probably they noticed too many cases where moderators were aware of underage users and didn't report it, and this is an attempt to end it. Oct 16 '20 at 8:07
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    I'm wondering why SE decided just now... @SonictheMaskedWerehog Five bucks says its the result of some kind of audit of their policies and someone decided that diamond moderators need to report it. They don't want a situation where someone underage uses the site, there's a legal thing regarding their data, there's proof a moderator knew the user was underage, and then someone's arguing that the mods knowing = the company knowing and that means they knowingly collected the private information of a minor.
    – BSMP
    Oct 16 '20 at 9:38
  • And I'm not saying that would hold up in any kind of legal proceeding (I am nothing close to a lawyer), I'm saying I can see someone insisting that they don't want to allow the possibility of that argument. My other guess is that something happened that they can't discuss openly for legal reasons and are just trying to prevent from happening again.
    – BSMP
    Oct 16 '20 at 9:42
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    The big difference is that the new moderator agreement explicitly requires following these guidelines. So the combination of this new change and the new mod agreement means that not reporting underage users is a violation of the mod agreement and could result in losing your diamond. That is a very significant change compared to the situation when the original guidance was posted on meta. Of course this whole topic is very annoying because it involved legal aspects. Oct 16 '20 at 10:09
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    It's exactly the sort of scope-creep I feared the new "Do whatever we tell you" mod agreement would bring. I didn't expect it to happen quite so quickly. Oct 16 '20 at 21:15
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    @AndrewLeach The relationship between SE and moderators has always been "do what we tell you; if you don't, you may not be a moderator." Moderators have been and always will be "at will", even more than employees. What the new moderator agreement did in that regard was A) make it more clear that was so; B) make it clearer what moderators could not be dismissed for; and C) made it such that any such requirements have to be public, rather than previously permitted private requirements. Overall, the new mod agreement is much better for moderators. It's only the perception that's worse.
    – Makyen
    Oct 18 '20 at 1:24
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    @Makyen It used to be that SE was expected to communicate what we were supposed to do. We're not even notified when new mod-agreement-policy Q&A pairs come out, except when SE employees manually let us know about them – and there's no way to detect changes to them without running our own system to do so.
    – wizzwizz4
    Oct 18 '20 at 17:19
  • It's probably to better comply with the law, I guess. It's not exactly as if SO is verifying the age of every newly registered user. So they may operate in some kind of grey zone all the time. Not sure though.
    – Trilarion
    Oct 19 '20 at 13:02
  • Hah, I was right, it was the result of an audit!
    – BSMP
    Oct 19 '20 at 22:35
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As I explained in this post, this was the result of us auditing and solidifying our policies. We don't want moderators having to deal with "unspoken" rules, so this is now public. It was already the case that we wanted moderators to report - now it's clear and enforceable.

As for your scenario:

An example of a case where a moderator may not want to report an underage user is if the user claims to be from an EU country that has reduced the required age from 16. While SE's Terms of Use specify a blanket limit of 16 to comply with regulations in all EU countries, individual member states do have the ability to reduce the limit, so long as it's not below 13. There is no law violation if, say, a 15-year-old user from an EU country that has reduced the age limit to 14 registers, so a moderator may not feel like reporting them (since in that case they're merely enforcing the Terms of Use, which they're not otherwise expected to do).

Moderators have to report anything below 16. CMs will then investigate accordingly and apply EU rules stated in our Terms of Service.

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    Good to know that this was indeed private policy before the new moderator agreement was finalized. When was that policy enacted, and why was the relevant text in the public FAQ (stating "Users and moderators...") never changed at that time? Dec 2 '20 at 19:44
  • @SonictheK-DayHedgehog honestly pretty sure it just feel through the cracks. Also it wasn't "private policy" in the sense because it was never formalized anywhere, it was just something some moderators did and we expected them to do, but no one ever documented it.
    – Cesar M StaffMod
    Dec 2 '20 at 19:51

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