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I wonder whether a moderator on an SE site is allowed to apply to be a moderator on another SE site using another SE account.

For example, the use of another SE account prevents others from seeing the mod's actions on the other site: does that conflict with the policy on having multiple accounts?

The policy on having multiple accounts states:

A good rule of thumb for identifying abusive socks is: if the second account allows you to do something on the site that your normal account would be prevented from doing, it is abuse.

I don't know whether that precludes a moderator on an SE site from applying to be a moderator on another SE site using another SE account.

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    I'd imagine it would be prohibited if it's used to conceal the fact that the user was previously suspended on another site. However, this is still an interesting question if the user hasn't been recently suspended. Sep 16, 2023 at 19:20
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    (I did earlier this year post a question asking what happens to existing moderators for whom it's found that they didn't qualify to run for election at the time they ran - such as if they had a prior suspension within the past year or gained the required 300 reputation to nominate through voting fraud, but my question was heavily downvoted and was slated for automatic deletion. The comment thread was archived to chat, however, and remains publicly visible.) Sep 16, 2023 at 19:22
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    Let's keep this question 'generic', everyone. I know there's loads of bickering going on elsewhere, but the question can work as is and answered as if that bickering isn't happening.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Sep 18, 2023 at 8:33
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    Related: Can bots with moderator powers operate on SE? - this covers users wanting to use alternate accounts with mod rights in the specific case where the other account would be used to run a bot. The consensus there was a resounding no. Oct 5, 2023 at 2:11

3 Answers 3

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TL;DR: There is no policy on this and we plan to handle any events on a per-case basis.

The best policies are based on studying and understanding situations fully so that the policy reflects actual behaviors and needs rather than our preconceptions of possible behaviors and needs. While there are situations where preemptively creating policy is necessary, it should be based on the risks of the situation and how likely the policy will be needed.

In this situation, we've considered the risks - there are some, such as a candidate potentially circumventing system-imposed restrictions if one of the two accounts has been recently suspended, but they aren't insurmountable. Other risks involve the moderator Team but can also be addressed as needed.

We've also considered the need - there is none. In the 15 years of Stack Overflow, we're not aware of any cases where a sock puppet account actually nominated in an election. While we're aware of cases where a sock has expressed interest, even those are minimal - possibly only a single case.

As such, we see no benefit to creating policy at this time. We will address any occasions of this occurring that are raised to our attention or that we discover on a case-by-case basis as we feel that we don't have enough information to guide a policy or reason to create one at this time.

If users find themselves in a situation where they're concerned that a sock puppet is being used to run in an election, they are free to flag the nomination and explain their concerns, which will be shared with the Community Manager leading the election directly.

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There is no rule against this that I know of. But I do think that becoming a mod on separate accounts can potentially be problematic if you do not disclose it.

To become a mod you need to get appointed or elected. In both cases the people selecting you or voting for you need to evaluate your conduct and decide whether to support you. Using socks does mean that part of that conduct isn't visible for that decision.

In the nomination users that are already mods on another site essentially always mention this fact. It is relevant to the voters and is something that candidates should disclose. It is usually a positive aspect, but also has some negative parts e.g. regarding the time you can commit to that additional site. If you use a sock for the nomination and don't declare it, this hides that aspect from your nomination

Now I think there are valid reasons to use socks and I don't want to forbid this. As long as you're careful about avoiding interacting with your other accounts and are not using them to hide any problematic behaviour it's perfectly fine. But if you have behaved in some problematic way and hide this by using separate accounts, I think that is a problem for a moderator.

But I also don't expect this to be a big issue in practice, I'm not aware of any case like this. So I don't think we necessarily need an explicit rule here, but I would expect aspiring and current mods to exercise good judgement in cases where using different accounts might hide relevant information from the people appointing or electing you as a mod.

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Well -there's literally no rule against it as far as I know as of now.

The one potential problem I see is if the user's other account(s) are ineligible, by means of suspension within the last year - which would be doubly messy as a moderator.

You might also be in a situation where the second account meets the requirements and not the first - say if you maintain separate work and personal accounts, and happen to be active in a certain field asking work accounts.

I'd say that to an extent, the additional complexity of eligibility checking in general is a downside to such alternate accounts being nominated, moderator or otherwise.

I'd personally consider juggling 2 accounts as a moderator impractical - with my specific style of boots on the ground moderation. However on a site you're periodically checking in and have good reason to use an alternate account? It can be made to work.

I'd say its both in the spirit and letter of the rules, but dear $deity, its gonna be a lot of work. I'd probably discourage it but its still legit.

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    So no Aibobot running for moderator? What a shame… That's a user with true patience, especially after getting so many suspensions that happened through no fault of their own, able to work through conflicts so well they get almost instantly unsuspended XD
    – Laurel
    Sep 17, 2023 at 0:46
  • Alas no. Aibot's services for moderatorial science are appreciated however, and he does an admirable job propping up the bar in the chat sandbox. I think we can consider the honorary RO-ship there a wooden spoon prize Sep 17, 2023 at 0:51

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