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Problem Scenario

  1. User gets banned on a site for a week for the first time.
  2. User responds to the moderator message appealing the ban.
  3. Seeing no response from the mods, user writes to SE staff using the Help Center > Contact page, appealing the ban.
  4. A month later, SE opens a ticket for the user in their defect tracking/online public grievance portal.
  5. Two more months later, SE concludes the investigation and says the ban was issued in error.
  6. Since the initial ban period has already passed, SE says they cannot do anything about it.
  7. SE, however, promises the user the initial ban will not be taken into account for any future, possibly longer bans.
  8. User gets banned again for a month. User is reminded of the same stuff stated in the moderator message from the first ban possible implication being the user is a repeat offender so deserves a longer ban (30 days vs. 7 days) this time.
  9. Confused user writes to SE staff again, reminding them that when the reasons stated for the first ban itself were deemed unfair after review how can the same be used against the user for an even longer ban. Also, whatever happened to the promise made to the user?
  10. SE investigates again and after 1-2 months responds to the user either reducing the second ban to 7 days or reversing it.
  11. By this time, the user has already served two bans (7 days from the first and 30 days from the second).
  12. User sees something is fundamentally wrong with this whole SE user ban/appeal process. As for the bans themselves, user feels they were less to do with violating CoC or other SE norms and more to do with ideological/philosophical/political differences with site mods and few other users. Both very good reasons from user's POV to stop participating or quit the site for good. Continued participation can only lead to more such bans and more such appeals.

Possible Remedy

To compensate and keep users, who have successfully appealed a ban, still interested in the site and also serve as a reminder that not all hope is lost, I suggest a new gold badge ("successfully appealed a ban") be awarded to them along with a rep. award of at least 500 points.

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    How does rep really help? Are you saying that a user who has been forcefully kept from interacting with site features for over a month is better suited for moderating content? – VLAZ May 27 at 13:03
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    Not "a user who has been forcefully kept from interacting with site features" but a user "who has successfully appealed a ban" following due process. I believe there's considerable difference between the two. If the additional rep will give a new user moderator privileges, then a gold badge will do. @VLAZ – Say No To Censorship May 27 at 13:12
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    I suggest we give people who succesfully appeal an extension of another 7 days to every consecutive suspension to make up for wasted time for mods – Luuklag May 27 at 13:13
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    Are there any instances of this scenario actually occurring? I'm unsure whether SE would be willing to devote development time to remedying something that - as far as they know - has never actually happened. – F1Krazy May 27 at 13:13
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    "Are there any instances of this scenario actually occurring?" - I know at least one instance, there could be more, only SE staff will know. @F1Krazy – Say No To Censorship May 27 at 13:17
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    @sv_ the moderation privileges for regular users have nothing in common with appeals. Going through the appeals process doesn't mean you're better trusted to make edits or reviews. I readily agree that having to go through two appeals (and appeals in general) shouldn't happen. In an ideal world, mistakes won't happen or if they do, they'd be swiftly corrected. With that said, rep as a consolation prise doesn't really make sense. – VLAZ May 27 at 13:22
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    This is why the SE staff second guessing a mod team's decision to suspend a user is a bad idea. @F1Krazy I know of once instance where staff had a conversation with a user and reduced the suspension length once they were convinced that the user wouldn't repeat the behavior that got them suspended. We didn't have to suspend that user a second time though and SE coordinated with the mod team so we knew what had happened. The "reward" for that user was getting their suspension reduced. The ban wasn't unwarranted. It accomplished its goal, so there was no point in dragging it out. – ColleenV May 27 at 13:24
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    Should users who appeal suspensions and fail have their suspension interval doubled? – Martin James May 27 at 14:10
  • @MartinJames are you sharing real life experience? – rene May 27 at 14:17
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    You are compensated by the fact that you're allowed to use the site again after your suspension and we don't hold grudges – rene May 27 at 15:19
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    Part of the issue is that when moderators issue suspensions, there's a system that tells them how long hey should suspend for, which always takes into account past suspensions and there's no way to make it ignore a past suspension. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog May 27 at 15:59
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    The case is interesting but unfortunately the "Possible Remedy" , I think, makes this post to be not well received. I think that this kind of situations occurs very rarely and as such, as a study case, it might help to improve how the exceptions are handled and in improving staff and mod "training" / "knowledge base" – Rubén May 27 at 16:00
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    @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog Unless something has changed, that's only guidance. When I was a moderator we were able to choose whether to give a suspension and its duration regardless of past infractions. – ColleenV May 27 at 16:17
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    I also find it unlikely that the team would respond to appeals of short suspensions. From what I've seen, the Support team (the initial handlers of support requests) simply close them without action, as by the time the Community team gets to them, they're already expired. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog May 27 at 18:32
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    @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog I only have experience with a small site, but we generally reviewed a user's recent mod contacts/annotations before deciding what length was appropriate. We rarely used the recommended length. If a suspension was lifted or reduced, it should have been explained in an annotation. We have adjusted suspensions based on responses to mod messages with no staff involved (some were lengthened and others shortened). The goal is always to correct the behavior, not to punish. Some folks need a couple thumps with the stick, even though we prefered to use the carrot. – ColleenV May 27 at 19:06
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A few thoughts.

Rarity

This doesn't sound like a common occurrence. If successful appeals/ wrongful suspensions are uncommon, then having a formal process for this doesn't necessarily make sense; it's an exception. It's okay to handle exceptions as what they are: uncommon occurrences which are best handled on a case by case basis, giving space to decide what's right based on the circumstances specific to each given instance.

The "Compensation" Doesn't Fit the Wrong

Both reputation and badges were designed for very specific purposes across SE, and neither have a usage that covers "compensation for being mistreated".

Reputation

Reputation is specifically intended to represent your "trustworthiness" on a given site. Per the help center:

Reputation is a rough measurement of how much the community trusts you [. . .]  The more reputation you earn, the more privileges you gain and the more tools you'll have access to on the site...

Enduring mistreatment doesn't automatically make you a more trustworthy site member; there's no reason that anyone should be rewarded with site privileges for being unfairly punished. This would also open the door to possible abuse, incentivizing (to some extent) trying to get suspended for "unfair" reasons in order to game the system and get privileges without traditionally earning them.

Badges

Badges are designed to encourage desired behavior on the network with shinies. Badges have no intrinsic value, they don't earn you anything, they just "look cool" and serve to signify that you've done some action. The help center again comes in handy:

The badge system exists for two reasons:

  • to teach new users how Stack Exchange works

  • to encourage activities that are positive to the community

Being banned unfairly doesn't fit in either of these two categories. Unfair banning isn't something we want to teach new users about, and anything to do with getting banned surely isn't something we want to encourage. Appealing an unjust ban is definitely something worth doing, and when it does happen, it's most certainly positive, but it doesn't fit in as a badge.

The Wrong Focus

Circling back what I opened with, if successful appeals/ wrongful suspensions are more common than commonly thought, then something else most certainly needs to be done. Trying to address the (hypothetical) problem of moderator(s) handing out undue or unfair suspensions by paying off victims after the fact is a shockingly poor solution that does nothing to curb the actual "handing out unfair suspensions" part.

I can see why compensation like this is an attractive concept, especially if it's something you've encountered in the past, whether first-hand or otherwise. But if it's really a problem, then we would need to address it as an actual problem, rather than just bandaiding its effects.

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    On the issue of rarity, I believe we now have an appeal process for a moderator who is removed by SE. So a lay user like myself is left wondering why such a formal appeal process is only limited to moderators, not regular users. Do we really have that many mods getting removed and reinstated after an appeal? IIRC, it was a single incident that triggered the appeal process for mods. I agree with rest of your answer. – Say No To Censorship May 27 at 17:26
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    @sv_ The company removing an elected moderator is not even close to the same situation as a user appealing a temporary suspension that would likely be over long before a process similar to the removal/reinstatement process for moderators could conclude. – ColleenV May 27 at 18:17
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    @sv_ Suspensions eventually expire; on the other hand, moderator removals are permanent. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog May 27 at 19:10
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    @sv_ To add to what others have said, another major difference is that a moderator removal has many more rippling consequences for the given site than removing a user ever does, making a formal process more important. Another dimension of this is transparency and accountability, which is a significant reason as to why the formal process was put into place in this area (and later updated). – zcoop98 May 27 at 19:21
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I suggest a new gold badge ("successfully appealed a ban") be awarded to them along with a rep. award of at least 500 points.

I suggest we do no such thing. Badges are there to 'reward good behavior', behavior SE wants users to engage more in. Having a bunch of users try to get a suspension reversed so they can have the compensation probably isn't in that category of behavior SE wants to reward.

Besides, a moderator that's going to suspend you again isn't going to check your badge list or reputation history. So, instead, I propose in such cases the user is awarded with a bright and shiny annotation on their account (which is existing functionality), for every mod to see when they're considering issuing the next suspension. Much more useful.

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    ...and a feature change to clearly show such annotations in the dialog when issuing suspensions (AFAICT they're not shown unless a mod looks for them separately). The lack of them can cause a mod to not be aware that the prior suspension that's causing the system to recommend a longer suspension was successfully appealed after the fact or lifted early. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog May 27 at 18:48
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    @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog I tend to look at annotations anyways, I want to know what a previous suspension was for and don't just 'trust the tool'. Adding the actual list of previous annotations to a page could be nice... the mod tools currently do have a link to the last message sent to a user if there was any previous ones, and the tool doesn't seem to increase the suspension length by default for me when looking at a profile of a previously suspended user. – Tinkeringbell May 27 at 18:52
  • Ideally, there'd be a way to mark suspensions as "successfully appealed" so that they don't count toward the recommendation system, but as per the staff comment I linked earlier, it seems this would require more technical legwork. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog May 27 at 19:07
  • @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog Like I said, the system doesn't seem to recommend a bigger suspension to me anyways when looking at a profile for a user that was suspended before, so .... moot point? – Tinkeringbell May 27 at 19:09
  • Maybe something has changed, or maybe there's a time beyond which it ignores, because I've seen documented cases of it before. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog May 27 at 19:25
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This:

  • Encourages people to push the rules to get a suspension and then argue with anyone with the power to reverse it
  • Announces and celebrates the fact that someone made a mistake (either the moderator or the previously suspended user, depending on the circumstances)
  • Rewards a user who has created no value similar to someone who created a post that was upvoted 100+ times over a couple of days (if the 100+ votes all happened across 2 days, that's only 400 rep)
  • Instantly gives access to some review queues (and some other privileges), even if the user was at 1 rep before and doesn't know anything about the site

For these reasons, I vote no.

Also remember:

  • Any votes you get during a suspension count after the suspension ends
  • Being suspended doesn't prevent you from reading the site, or even writing answers to post after the suspension

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