If I'm 16, can I be a moderator on one of the Stack Exchange network sites? I know that due to COPPA and GDPR users have to be a specific age before they can have accounts on Stack Exchange - are there similar rules about the ages for moderators?
TL;DR: Users have to be at least 18 to be a moderator on a Stack Exchange site.
As of 2 December 2020 we established a policy requiring all moderators to be at least 18 years of age. Because the Moderator Agreement is considered a legal contract and minors can not legally be held by the agreement, we need to set this policy in place.
Over the years, we've had many excellent moderators, and some of them were under 18 when they started moderating. We appreciate all of the work they've done for their sites, and we don't want to cast doubt on their abilities to moderate effectively. This policy has gone into effect not because of any action that one of our under-18 mods has taken, but because we need to safeguard the publicly identifiable information (PII) of all of the users who access our sites.
When we announced this policy to the moderators prior to making the policy live, they had a lot of questions about why we were enacting this. I think one of Sara's responses has been helpful in explaining our line of reasoning -
What I heard from our legal team is that they were concerned about young people’s well being, and privacy issues that arise when having mods under 18 because of their inability to sign our agreement. We are trying to protect our mods as well as our users by not having mods under 18. It’s not that we are looking to “enforce against” anyone. We take privacy compliance seriously and want to ensure that the people we share non-public user PII with are of the “age of majority” because we feel that is the most responsible way to handle such PII.
Mods have access to some PII that is deemed “sensitive” under privacy laws, and we need to take all precautions we can to respectfully and appropriately handle that information. Ultimately, the goal is to protect our moderators, and our users’ PII, and we can’t effectively do that when a mod is under 18.
We will rely on our Moderators to self-report for this policy. When nominating you'll say you're above 18 and we'll trust you. If you're already a Moderator, let us know if you're under 18. Moderators who let us know or who are discovered to be under age will have their diamond removed until they reach the age of 18, at which point they can request reinstatement in an abbreviated process.
What does this mean for future moderators?
It means that all future mods will be asked to affirm that they're 18 or older. We're making two changes to support this new policy and avoid surprising moderator candidates.
The nomination process for elections will have two features to support this change, with the intent that we'll avoid someone nominating or winning an election who then can't accept the agreement.
A new notice that states "You must be 18 years or older to become a moderator."
An accept checkbox on the nomination edit page that reads "I am 18 years old or older, or I will be 18 by the end of the election." There's also a helpful error message if you don't click the box.
The Moderator Agreement page will have a checkbox added that must be ticked to accept the agreement that reads "I confirm that I am 18 years old or older."
Will there be any exceptions?
We're following the US law on this, so if you're in a country that allows under-18s to be held to contracts, we're not going to make any exceptions. There are also times when parents can grant permission or sign the contracts for their minor children; we do not plan to make exceptions for this case, either.