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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?

If you have questions about this policy, please see the discussion question.

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    "Sorry about all the diamonds at once". For me, there is no need to apologize if work is actually getting done :) – Maarten Bodewes Dec 5 '20 at 14:30
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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.

  1. 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.

    1. A new notice that states "You must be 18 years or older to become a moderator."
      Screenshot of new Election page during nominations.

    2. 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.
      Screenshot of new nomination edit page with an empty edit field and the checkbox and message between the field and the "Post your nomination" button.

  2. 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."
    Screenshot of the bottom of the Moderator Agreement showing the new check box.

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.

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    Is SE planning to implement an ID verification process to verify age, just like Wikipedia does for its CheckUser (access to PII) and Oversight (access to redacted info) privilege user rights? – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Dec 2 '20 at 20:14
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    @SonictheK-DayHedgehog I think they already answer that question: "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" Basically if you say you're 18 they'll 'trust you', no actual verification process I think being done? – Thomas Ward Dec 2 '20 at 20:15
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    @ThomasWard It's tricky. Many SE users are pseudonymous; ID verification would be an unwanted intrusion for many, a logistical nightmare, and really easy to spoof for whoever wanted to (just get an over-18 friend to provide their ID instead, or pretend to be from a country with easy-to-fake ID). There's no upside to them trying to implement it. And anyway, age is just a proxy for what SE really cares about (a messy combination of liability, legal contracts, protecting the vulnerable and a hundred other things); if they were able to check IDs, they wouldn't've picked an 18+ threshold. – wizzwizz4 Dec 2 '20 at 20:51
  • @wizzwizz4 think you need to point this to Sonic, not me. I don't care whether there's ID verification implemented (I already qualify and have multiple background checks and verifications in place lol). – Thomas Ward Dec 2 '20 at 22:12
  • @SonictheK-DayHedgehog See my comment. – wizzwizz4 Dec 2 '20 at 23:28
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    Maybe this was covered in something I didn't see before, but why is it okay for anyone 13+ to be on the site but 18+ to be a moderator? Don't they still have to agree to the terms of the site, which is apparently not legally binding if they're only 13? So it would seem the same rule preventing them from being moderators also prevents them from being users at all. – corsiKa Dec 3 '20 at 3:19
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    @corsiKa Regular users don't have access to PII. There's also thousands (millions?) of sites that allow sign-ups and they generally don't restrict them outside of what COPPA or GDPR requires, which is based on data collection and retention, not contracts law - so there's generally no concerns about ToS when it relates to regular user accounts. I... have no clue why this is the case, but it is... so we follow the standards of the web. Most sites don't give volunteers access to PII as part of being a moderator. – Catija Dec 3 '20 at 3:22
  • @Catija I dunno, most forums I've been on do have access to IPs and emails as a moderator. Although, the point on regular users not having it stands, I suppose. Hadn't considered that, I suppose. – corsiKa Dec 3 '20 at 4:55

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