Appealing moderation actions - a community court

Some way to appeal moderator actions is probably needed. However, given that there should not be an authoritative instance behind the project, except for development and legal-stuff, there is need for some specialized appeal procedure.

Here’s what I propose (similar to Wikipedia’s ArbCom):

There is a network-wide community-court (“Court/Committee of Appeal”) that is elected in moderator-like elections every X years (X=2?). These users have moderation powers on every instance within our networkcan obtain moderation powers on every instance within our network to enforce the court’s judgements and handle the following things:

  • complaints against moderator actions (i.e. suspension, formal warning, …)
  • not acceptable are complaints against simple actions (i.e. closure, deletion of posts, …), unless the action has already been disputed on the meta-discussions site, consensus was against the mod decision and the decision has not been reverted in a reasonable time
  • moderator removal procedures.

The court will need to follow principles of transparency and to give reasons for their decisions. Their judgement is binding.

I think it should not be the court’s task to resolve disputes between users (“arbitration”), that should be done on the meta-discussions site or, if needed, via mod actions.

What do you think?

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Good idea to have something like this in place, definitely.

Thoughts:

  • ’court’ is too formal and loaded a term, and not what I would want users to picture (lawyers; arcane, formal procedures; high cost). Courts are not usefully accessible to the average person. prefer a less laden term, like “Committee”, or “Mediators” or some variant on “Resolution” (Resolution Panel?) or similar

  • I would not grant these users mod powers. If we’re going to borrow from courts, I’d prefer to keep the police and judiciary separate. This has the nice benefit that anyone on that panel performs a mod action that needs resolved, there’s no conflict of interest from the rest of the panel.

  • I think it would be beneficial to have balanced members from different instances on the network, and ideally something that is balanced in terms of demographic representation as well

Other possibilities to consider:

  • a jury service/lottery system, whereby anyone senior enough (in whatever system we use to determine that) can opt-in to decide appeals, and are selected on a case-by-case basis as needed

  • a more restricted version of the above with @luap42’s suggestion: if the panel would be 5 members, elect 50 potential members and draw on them as cases need them

I would prefer to flesh the above out, but wanted to give some feedback on the initial idea


: if you intent is to have SE style CMs who have network wide mod powers, that’s grand, but I’d keep that separate

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Sure, we should change it. What about Appellation Committee?

If anyone has a better name proposal, please suggest it.

I think Committee/Court members should be able to get mod powers on a site, without being elected, in order to enforce judgements, if moderators are not following them. We might have some “clerks” or so that do this for the court, or it might be possible to allow a member to get mod privileges when approved by a second member.

This is intended as a way to secure the authority of the court/committee and its members should not perform normal mod duties.

This is something else that needs consideration, but is not within the scope of this thread. I think for now (read: for MVP) having a few core team developers doing the network-wide moderation-rights is okay, this should be reviewed later.

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Name: review board?

I agree that members of this review board shouldn’t have permanent moderator powers everywhere; there needs to be separation of interests. Reviewers might need to be granted temporary moderator powers on a particular site for purposes of investigating an appeal (so they can see mod-private information). At that stage it could be read-only access.

There’ll need to be some provision for somebody stepping in and enforcing a ruling in the exceptional condition where the site’s moderators fail to comply. This can be the same provision that gets sites “unstuck” if no mods are available for whatever reason, either temporarily or permanently. I’d argue that the review board itself shouldn’t enforce its decisions in this case but, rather, should present its ruling to whomever we designate as people who can step in as mods on an emergency basis.

(There are benign needs for this. For example, most of a community and all mods might be offline for a religious holiday or major tech conference or whatever; if a spammer decides to take advantage, you want somebody to be able to shut down the attack. This sort of thing has happened on one of my SE sites and we relied on the community managers to be custodians during our absence.)

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I think ‘appellation’ is still a bit formal. I’d be happy with @cellio’s Review Board, or Resolution Panel, or similar. There might be a naming overlap if we do ‘reviews’ in the similar sense to SE, but that to me doesn’t seem like it would cause to much confusion.

That I can get behind! :slight_smile:

Time limited, read-only (for investigation) or write (if needed for enforcement). Or, empowering a CM to act in a means consistent with a decision (nearly wrote ‘judgement’ ;-P) I’d prefer the minimum needed to act effectively.

Agreed. I think CM-equivalents will be very useful when we get to that stage. There may be other ways to provide cross-cover (eg spam flags get propagated for any mod to handle after a certain time); but not MVP, specifics can be decided later :slight_smile:

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Might be true, however I think this is the best “definition” of its tasks.

Review Board seems too much like having something to do with regular moderation (review queues). Resolution Panel sounds a bit strange to me (as non-native speaker), but may be okay. What about using Wikipedia’s “Arbitration Committee” name?

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I have to think a little about “Appellation” when I see it; it’s not a commonly-used word and my brain wants to think it’s naming something! Though perhaps that’s my half forgotten school-level French trying to remind me of its relevance.

I had shied away from anything with ‘Arbitration’ partly on the basis that your original post said that wasn’t what it was about (resolving ordinary disputes between regular users) and partly to keep us distinct from Wikipedia.

I’m not convinced I like the ‘Panel’ in ‘Resolution Panel’ as it feels a bit clunky/stuffy. Maybe “Resolution Team” as in “Dispute Resolution Team” ?

That aside, I’d be happy to set aside a final name for whatever it is we will be calling it for now, and decide later :slight_smile:

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This is where I mention:

  • (Nearly) every “title” needs to be a configuration item so that different instances of Codidact (that’s different installations, not separate topical areas).
  • These configuration items could be one configuration file or a table in the database
  • Examples include:
    • System title
    • Domain
    • “Review Board” name
    • “Badge” name
    • “Reputation” name
    • Email addresses for key things
    • etc.

In other words, anything that can be configured system-wide, which especially any “name of a thing or action that we don’t instantly agree on as a group” should be a configuration item. So “Question” and “Answer” are pretty much set in stone. But almost anything else configurable.

That isn’t so much for us - if we get to a consensus on something we won’t be changing it frequently. It is so that the software can be used by others without coding changes.

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The best thing we can do here is to make the review board out of the moderators across the sites themselves. Having foreign people as review board members is not the ideal step. This is not a court as you already stated and it’s a bit too formal. I think the review board should consist of the moderators only. They collectively can take decisions for mod actions and formulate conclusions for what to do next

My view is that moderators i) should already be keeping an eye on each other informally anyways¹, and ii) there should be a way to ask for a ‘second opinion’ from other mods on the site. This is likely to have the same outcome as the original mod’s actions in most cases, but it’s a useful ‘second line’ to have.

I would like to see non-moderator representation on any ‘final appeal’-style review board however. This is helpful for the perspective of a non-mod users, and in avoiding accusations of “it’s the mods against me/my group/X”.

Generally speaking, for various reasons I would prefer people reviewing decisions to be wholly independent of those who made them:

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? — Juvenal

Who will guard the guards themselves?


¹: I mean this in a generally supportive way, of course! By and large mod decisions are routine and uncontroversial; largely independent working is fine. There will be handfuls (small %) of times where someone might say "eh, I’d have handled that slightly differently…’ (but the outcome is largely the same) where a second opinion might be needed. This ‘review board’ would be used sparingly and very rarely (hopefully), if ever.

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I disagree with this - unless the reviewers are intended to be site-specific, there should be no reason that they cannot be moderators on a site but be unable to review cases on that site.

And if they are site-specific, then would they be allowed mod powers on other sites? I see no reason why not.

Can we come to consensus on this? I feel this is important.

Consensus:

  • We will have some sort of review board
  • Its name will be a configurable item
  • Its jurors (for want of a better word) will be able to enforce judgements somehow (which could be an ability to get mod powers if they need them, or could be having “clerks” with mod powers)

Other items, such as whether jurors are made up of a mixture of mods and non-mods or not, will be down to site policy.

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Arriving late to the party, but I would propose something different.

Don’t elect moderators. Let moderators recruit moderators among the user base, people who they feel are already doing a great job with user mod tool privileges and with whom they’d like to work. A trial period could be a good solution. Similarly, auto-retire inactive moderators (who can get recruited back should they become active).

Instead elect jurors/reviewers. These should represent the voice of the community in cases where one is needed, and are kept separate from moderators.

Let moderators moderate and be janitors, without worrying about “representing the people”. Back on SO we had lots of people who would make excellent moderators but couldn’t get through the obstacle that was the mod election. Some probably avoided it simply because they didn’t like to stick their neck out in a massive election. A good moderator isn’t necessarily someone who’s good at creating a public image and appeal to the masses. Rather, it is those people who silently and flawlessly grind down review queues, over and over, every day. Continuous dedication is what matters the most.

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I’d dispute this. Continuous dedication is absolutely what matters most, of course. However, an ability to review (posts, or, in a moderator’s case, flags) is not the be all and end all of good moderation. There is a degree to which you must be able to work the queue, of course, but the best moderators we have on SE are those with excellent people skills. That’s what made Monica such a good moderator.

Journeyman Geek and the Root Access chatroom also come to mind - the room self-moderates now, with very little to no moderator involvement even when trolls show up, because of the room culture that JMG created and maintained. No amount of queue-working can teach those skills. The best moderator teams have both - people who can work the queues for hours on end, and people who can bring the community along with them.

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But you can have good people skills without being charismatic and willing to participate in some public election. On SO, the election acts as an obstacle.

Also, user-elected moderators can get strange ideas just because they are user-elected, like a couple of mods at SO got this summer when they wanted to implement mass-censorship of comments at meta.

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This causes issues with people getting mod because they’re friends with another mod. I like the intention, but it’s unlikely to happen that way.

Also, this seems to be in the wrong thread. We have a moderation election thread for this, rather than this completely unrelated thread.

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