Moderator tools: MVP

We need a way to deal with spammers or to intervene when somebody goes haywire in comments on a hot-button issue. In keeping with the “privileges earned for specific actions” idea, I propose restrictions based on action types and not (just) the coarse suspension.

  • A moderator can temporarily block a user from, individually: asking, answering, commenting, editing, voting.

  • Blocks are for a specified period of time.

  • A moderator can communicate the reason for the block to the user.

  • A history of a user’s blocks is available to moderators.

  • Blocks are not public.

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Can this be changed in “A moderator should…” or even “A moderator must…”? It is very frustrating to get blocked without knowing the reason for being blocked.

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I think mods should communicate this if the system itself doesn’t, yes. Users should not be left in the dark.

I was focusing on tooling not policy (so we can figure out what we need to build), but we do need to talk about policy stuff too.

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Thanks for the clarification!

Would IP-bans be viable either MVP or ever?

What else would the roles of moderators be, other than this and closing questions?

I don’t think they would be MVP. Having them will probably require some legal counsel with regards to privacy laws (storing the IP-addresses of all users, right to be forgotten, …). Maybe they are post-MVP, however it would need to be carefully examined.

I think - as on SE - that mods should be exception handlers, who are only intervening with mod powers, when they observe a problem normal users can’t solve with the tools we can give them. These issues are often communicated via something like flags (or however we call it) - short messages that are either selected from a list or can be entered manually. Otherwise they should participate like normal users.


One more thing @cellio, are you proposing these blocks instead of or in combination with temporary suspensions? I think we definitely need suspensions, blocks could be something that comes later. (even if suspension is for now: you can’t login and are shown a “You have been suspended”-page).

I don’t know the legal implications, if any, of IP blocks. But I can tell you from experience that the bigger a site is, the more likely there will be robotic activity that can be blocked easily and effectively via IP address. IP address is not, IMHO (but IANAL) privacy details - it is just a number that is part of the web traffic.

I would actually venture to say that if we don’t have some blocking options based on IP address, we will in short order end up in a situation where we have some variant of:

  • Attempts to create tons of accounts (which will never be verified via email because they’re all fake, but still overload the system)
  • Attempts to crack our authentication system
  • Attempts to pull data (aka web scraping) at speeds that cause server problems (i.e., the “good” ones like Google, Bing, etc. moderate their speed to avoid problems, but not the bad guys. And the bad guys do not care about robots.txt either)

All of which can at least partially be solved with (semi-)automated IP blocks.

I am not talking about User blocks. Those may or may not be IP-based but arguably should NOT be IP-based because if there is truly a User problem then blocking via the account is the way to solve it anyway as blocking by IP only works until they move to a different device.

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I see temporary suspension as a union of all the temporary blocks that can be handed out individually. So I can suspend a user from commenting (only), or from voting (only), or from more than one of those, or everything. I’m imagining a list of checkboxes + “select all” in the mod interface, but that’s just my mental schematic. If we only do “suspend (everything)” in MVP, let’s do it in a way that enables finer-grained blocks later using the same mechanism (which includes communicating it to the user, unlike some of SE’s blocks).

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A random idea I just had:

Maybe moderators could individually suspend or revoke individual earned privileges, For example, if one of the earned privilege is unlimited voting, and the user is found to abuse that privilege, but otherwise behave reasonably, then a moderator can suspend specifically that privilege, without affecting anything else the user does. Note that those earned privileges are conditional anyway, so the cost of implementation would be an additional condition in the availability check, and writing a moderator interface for individual privilege suspensions.

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That seems like a good idea in my opinion. That would allow us to have a fairly finely-grained way to stop specific problem behavior.

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Is this post about all moderator tools, just tools to moderate user actions, or tools to moderate content also? Maybe the title and body should be clarified.

Regarding content moderation, I would like to see more fine-grained “post locks” which don’t result in almost all actions blocked for all users against the post, but separated into:

  • Lock votes on a post
  • Lock comments on a post
    • Option to lock comment actions in addition to that (votes and reactions)
  • Lock edits of a post
  • Lock close/move/delete votes on announcement posts (these should really be their own separate type of post, but if we’re gonna be starting fast, this might be a viable hack for MVP until a better solution is implemented)
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