Meta Question

Seek's avatar

Who do we clear up rumours with now?

Asked by Seek (30186 points ) May 30th, 2014

Once upon a time, if a user was banned and then jumped on social media to complain about their banning, and how unjust it was, we could PM Auggie and she would clear things up. Not in terrible detail, but enough to let us know the “mod’s side” of the story.

Recently a newer, active user was banned and they have contacted me to say so, and that it was done without provocation. I don’t want to believe that is true, so I tried contacting a few members of the mod team to get their side of it. I was met with only evasion.

Being a fan of transparency, and of clear guidelines that are followed by both plebians and enforcers, I’d like to know which of the guidelines this user has violated, and whether this banning was actualy justified.

I was under the impression that we were looking to gain more active members, not kick them out as soon as possible.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

59 Answers

ucme's avatar

Very strange that you were met with brick bats from the mods, nowt wrong with asking for a bit of clarity.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Usually at least a jelly or two know, but I’d think a mod would clear it up. Odd.

Symbeline's avatar

Auggie always did clear it up, often times, she did it publicly as well. I think that is very legit, and as a community, we have a right to know what’s going on with our members.

canidmajor's avatar

I imagine that there was provocation that perhaps the bannee either didn’t understand or felt was unjust, so didn’t tell you.
I personally don’t feel that this is any business of ours, I would not want the powers that be telling 3rd parties about my business related to being banned.
This is a privately owned and operated site, they don’t owe us explanations.

Symbeline's avatar

@canidmajor You strike some excellent points. But if said user was a regular here that everyone knew, of course people will get curious, and are going to ask.

Seek's avatar

I don’t like the idea that the mods have the power to ban people without explanation. The mods don’t own the website, they are volunteers and users. Fluther cannot be a club where only the mods’ friends are allowed to play.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

And if I’m involved in the situation or has close ties to the banned jelly I feel I deserve some idea why the actions were taken. If I’m not involved I don’t need an explanation.

ucme's avatar

#impartiality #thisisnottwtitter

thorninmud's avatar

I don’t know to which user this Q is referring (I wasn’t ever contacted about it), but suppose that the “ban” were actually just a suspension, and that the door was open for the user to return after a given time. Would it be fair to publicly air their infractions while they’re gone? How would it feel to them to return with that kind of public record? And really, telling one or two people isn’t much different from posting something on their profile.

Seek's avatar

If their infractions merited banning, we should know about it already. What with the actions having been visible by anyone on any thread they may have posted on.

Unless of course it was PM abuse, and we all know warnings of that spread like wildfire.

Seek's avatar

And I’m also concerned at the notion that a moderator would be unaware of a recent banning.

Symbeline's avatar

I was also of the mind that all mods were aware of decisions being made on the site. :/ I thought you guys worked it out together?

thorninmud's avatar

There’s a difference between a ban and a suspension. You can’t tell from looking at a profile whether a user was banned, suspended, or left of their own accord.

I’m aware of recent bannings and suspensions, I just don’t know which you’re asking about.

Seek's avatar

Can I have one-time permission to name a name?

thorninmud's avatar

PM it if you want, but let’s not mention names, please.

Seek's avatar

PM sent.

thorninmud's avatar

Clarification: By “I wasn’t ever contacted about it” I mean that I wasn’t one of the mods Seek says she asked.

Seek's avatar

You’re right, I misread your comment, I apologise.

thorninmud's avatar

No sweat

Seek's avatar

Case in point: The user was not banned as they claimed to me. They were suspended with cause.

This question would not have been asked had someone simply answered my request for clarification earlier.

Sheesh.

tinyfaery's avatar

You know, now that Auggie has left and the makers of Fluther don’t really have much to do with the site, things like this are going to happen.

Call me Debby Downer, but I never even bother to flag or reach the mods. I don’t think this site has much time left. Just enjoy it while you can.

canidmajor's avatar

Still not sure why any of us, other than the suspended/banned person, is owed any clarification. I understand that people can be upset if a user whose posts they look forward to is suddenly gone, but if you care enough about the user, befriend them elsewhere so they can tell you why, so no one else is breaching their privacy.

Can someone explain, please?

Symbeline's avatar

Still not sure why any of us, other than the suspended/banned person, is owed any clarification.

Part of the issue here is that the member in question doesn’t even seem to be 100% sure why they were banned/suspended.

muppetish's avatar

A few different (important) points are being raised here that I would like to address.

If there is a rumour floating around that users wish to inquire about, the fastest way to get a response is to use the feedback button from the contact page. It will send an e-mail to all of the current moderators. At least one of us is bound to see it in a given 24-hour period and provide a response as soon as possible. Sometimes, we need to discuss the issue first, so it may take longer as a result.

When a user is suspended, they are sent an e-mail from one of the moderators detailing the reason for their suspension and the length of their suspension. For full transparency, I am the moderator that sent out the e-mail to the user in question. He knows why he was suspended. He knows when the suspension will be lifted. If, for some reason, he has not received said e-mail, then he should use the contact button for moderation inquiries.

Symbeline's avatar

@muppetish Thanks for posting in here and explaining how it all works. :)

thorninmud's avatar

And, just for the record, no one ever feels they were rightfully suspended or banned. People who are capable of seeing that aren’t the ones who get suspended or banned.

Seek's avatar

I’m talking with them on Facebook now, kind of explaining the ropes. They do feel hurt and angry, and they were curious as to why it looks like they were obliterated when it’s only supposed to be a suspension, so I’m explaining the Neptune thing and all that.

And I’ve found the fastest way to get a response is to call for a chat and see who shows up. ^_^

Symbeline's avatar

And for anyone who’s all like, none of your business; I’m not asking what that person did. They’ll tell me if it ever gets around to it. For example, Auggie would often go; so and so has left the building, or whichever. Knowing that I don’t think is a crime, is it?

But yeah haha, I probably should stop getting involved in this kind of shit.

Seek's avatar

I do like to know what rules were broken. Same as, say, if someone is arrested – the mugshot shows the charge. When someone you’ve been hanging out with online has vanished, and then they show up saying they were banned for no reason, I don’t think a response of (for example) “Profile spam” or “Pushing an agenda” is giving away too much information, no would be “They deleted their own account”.

It’s a whole lot better than letting rumours fly, and building up to a major “anti-mod” sentiment, which is what happens when people think the mods are making decisions on the fly and just deciding they don’t like people.

Seek's avatar

But again, I am a big fan of transparency between the plebians and the powerful.

hominid's avatar

^ Same here. Admittedly, I have a bit of a anti-authoritarian reflex. If someone disappears and I don’t know why, my instinct is to think that I could be next and that I need to know what went down. My gut reaction is to start experimenting to see if I can duplicate it.

Not claiming this is a healthy attitude. But it would be nice to know what went down. I know it’s not a democracy, and I know that there are decent people here working as mods. But I wouldn’t trust anyone with power without transparency. Power – even small amounts, such as the ability to suspend a user – requires constant justification or full transparency.

canidmajor's avatar

Well, I guess that’s where we differ in attitude. I don’t believe that everything is a slippery slope. I don’t think that an unexplained-to-the-masses banning/suspension on a small Q&A site on the Internet will necessarily lead to jack-booted thugs pulling me from my bed in the night and sending me to a camp. Going back through many Qs on this topic I see that again and again the mods or Augustlan explain that they notified the person and told them why. Maybe I missed something. Do we have any reason to believe that they were lying about that?
I get the curiosity, I’m as curious as the next guy, but in these smaller matters I don’t feel someone’s privacy should be breached.
Again, not sure why it is anyone else’s business unless the banned/suspended party chooses to disclose.

hominid's avatar

@canidmajor: “Again, not sure why it is anyone else’s business unless the banned/suspended party chooses to disclose.”

Can you direct me to where a banned/suspended party can choose to disclose what happened?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@hominid Yes, curious minds want to know. ;)

I think it’s curious that the person banned didn’t get the full details which led to the whole misunderstanding.

turtlesandbox's avatar

Where would the mods put a response detailing why a user was banned? Do we all need to be a Mrs. Kravitz?

Do our volunteer mods really need more work for a dying site just to please a bunch of nosey nellies?

SavoirFaire's avatar

I understand the desire for transparency, and I suspect that most members understand the need to balance that with user privacy. But one thing we need to keep in mind is that Auggie had more experience than most of the mods and more authority than all of them. She never made decisions unilaterally (in my experience), but she was in charge. If she wanted the final say, she could have had it.

And that’s why she was the one to clear up rumors: she was the one with both the power and the responsibility to draw the line between transparency and privacy. She took all of our advice, of course, but she was the one who knew the most about the community and the founders. Without a person in charge of it all, the current team is stuck with clarifying nothing until they’ve discussed it with each other.

In fact, one of the few times I was modded during my tenure as a mod was when I jumped the gun on giving an explanation (and rightly so, in retrospect, though the explanation was eventually reinstated). One of the most common complaints about the moderation here is that it is heavy-handed or hasty—even when it’s clearly not—so it is no surprise that the current team is erring on the side of not acting until they’re sure.

But of course, moderation is always lose-lose: move fast and you’re a fascist; move slow and you’re an obstructionist; move at just the right speed and everyone assumes you don’t do anything. Though in fact, the last of these is the mark of good moderation: you have no idea why someone was banned (until some explanation is offered) precisely because the problems were dealt with before most of the community saw them.

@KNOWITALL Read the reply from @muppetish: they did get the full details; they just misunderstood it or else thought something had changed without their knowledge when they saw King Neptune on their profile. It’s an understandable mistake, but it’s not on the mods.

canidmajor's avatar

@hominid: I can’t “direct” you anywhere, but I suspect you know that and are just trying to make a point. I would imagine there would be a way to contact Fluther by email, and request that another user be notified of the banned/suspended person’s email so contact could be made if the other so chose.
And, if one cares enough about the banned/suspended user, one might have friended them on social media or exchanged contact info.
And even if not, as this is still a site that can be publicly viewed, I still think it’s none of our business.

hominid's avatar

@SavoirFaire: “I understand the desire for transparency, and I suspect that most members understand the need to balance that with user privacy.”

I’m not sure privacy in this situation is that valuable. The thing is – I have no idea what could get the person in question suspended. None. I watch people say all kinds of asinine things here all the time. The person in question was one of them. Was that what got him suspended?

If I have a really bad day and I come on here and go ape shit all over everyone, would I be suspended? Banned? What if there was a post in meta or someplace explaining that the mods had to suspend @hominid for two weeks because he had a meltdown and sent PMs to everyone expressing his wish that they would die? Are we that concerned about my privacy? Can’t we just say something like ”@hominid was suspended for personal attacks. We asked him to stop, but he sent us a photo of his genitals.”?

I’m not sure the privacy thing has any play here. If the user just disappears and has no recourse – no way to say goodbye or plead his/her case, then privacy certainly would seem like a pretty flimsy excuse. If anything, privacy can be used to keep mod’s actions from scrutiny. Sure, they’re all volunteers. That’s great. But if they are doing what they feel is a solid job in moderation, there should be nothing to hide.

@SavoirFaire: “move slow and you’re an obstructionist”

Are you serious that there is sentiment here that mods are too slow or lenient?

@canidmajor: “but I suspect you know that and are just trying to make a point”

Really? Sure. My point was that you made a nonsensical statement regarding fluther users’ ability to disclose what went down. Now you’re ok with the fact that s/he can’t disclose it, but feel it’s ok because there are extra-fluther ways to do so. All you had to type was, “I trust the mods to look out for me.” No need to pretend that this was about the banned user’s right to disclose.

Seek's avatar

@hominid (Ha, I keep trying to tag you by your old name) There have been some complaints that spam or poorly written questions were allowed to stand for too long after being flagged. These comments happened on that other “F” site.

FWIW: The user claims they used a junk email account to sign up, and does not remember which account they used, and thus has not seen the email from moderation.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Call me Debby Downer, but I never even bother to flag or reach the mods. I don’t think this site has much time left. Just enjoy it while you can.
The most relevant thing I read here other than @SavoirFaire explanation ;-}

Seaofclouds's avatar

No user is suspended or banned without a warning first, except for spammers and underage users. When jellies are breaking the guidelines repeatedly, they are sent a warning that they need to stop with the behavior breaking the guidelines or face a suspension. The user in question here was given such a warning. When users choose to disregard that warning and continue the guideline breaking behavior, they are suspended. When a user is suspended or banned we send an email to the account they registered with since they would not be able to view their PMs here. That email includes the date their suspension ends. There is only one way the mods can disable the account, which is why it looks the same as it does for banned users.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

^ No user is suspended or banned without a warning first, except for spammers and underage users.
How can Fluther decipher who is underage when there is no verification, and no way to know if some user is lying about their age?

Seaofclouds's avatar

If a user says they are under 13 we take them at their word. We send them a message, explain they are currently too young for Fluther, and ask them to come back when they turn 13.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

^ If they are stupid enough to say what their age is.

Seaofclouds's avatar

There have been many that have.

SavoirFaire's avatar

(Apologies in advance for the novel. If anyone is wondering whether or not this is worth reading, it’s all just a response to @hominid‘s reply to me. I don’t say anything new here.)

@hominid “I’m not sure privacy in this situation is that valuable.”

I was speaking broadly. As a general rule, moderators need to balance transparency with privacy. Most people are unwilling to have the reasons they were modded publicly announced, and few are willing to frequent a site where the powers that be engage in such behavior. That’s why the line needs to be drawn: neither absolute transparency nor absolute privacy is a stable way of running things.

“The thing is – I have no idea what could get the person in question suspended. None.”

People are suspended for continuing to break the rules after being warned.

“I watch people say all kinds of asinine things here all the time. The person in question was one of them. Was that what got him suspended?”

I do not know who was suspended, nor do I know why the suspension occurred. Historically, though, merely being asinine was insufficient for moderator action. There’s plenty of evidence on Fluther to confirm this.

“If I have a really bad day and I come on here and go ape shit all over everyone, would I be suspended? Banned?”

No. You would, at minimum, be warned first.

“What if there was a post in meta or someplace explaining that the mods had to suspend @hominid for two weeks because he had a meltdown and sent PMs to everyone expressing his wish that they would die? Are we that concerned about my privacy? Can’t we just say something like ”@hominid was suspended for personal attacks. We asked him to stop, but he sent us a photo of his genitals.”?”

I’m not positive I get what you are trying to say here. If there were a post in meta like that, it wouldn’t show much concern for your privacy—which is why the mods in fact say something more like the second part. Except I think they’d be slightly more discrete and say “User @hominid was suspended for personal attacks. We asked him to stop, but his response suggested he was unwilling to change his behavior.” You seem to think that the mods just maintain silence, but that is false. They don’t always answer as fast as some would like, but time zone coverage has always been a problem for the mods here.

“If the user just disappears and has no recourse – no way to say goodbye or plead his/her case, then privacy certainly would seem like a pretty flimsy excuse.”

Except that the user does have recourse. They can email the mods and plead their case to their heart’s content. And if they continued breaking the rules after receiving a warning, then they have not lost their ability to say goodbye so much as forfeited it.

“If anything, privacy can be used to keep mod’s actions from scrutiny.”

Privacy rules can be abused, of course. But mostly they are abused by non-mods. I recall a few members from my tenure who would publicly complain about being moderator silence immediately after sending the mods an email reminding us that we’re not allowed to reveal details without their permission. It’s a great way to play both sides.

And while I understand curiosity about the secret details of why certain people were banned, I’m not sure why anyone thinks they have the right to know every sordid detail. Sometimes horrible behavior is uncovered that the remaining victims would prefer not to hash out in public. And of course, the standards for banning are not the same as the standards for court. There are details of some bans that cannot be released for legal reasons. As such, I don’t see what’s wrong with vaguer statements like “he was sending inappropriate PMs and refused to stop” or “she abused the right to use multiple accounts.”

“But if they are doing what they feel is a solid job in moderation, there should be nothing to hide.”

As someone who has Auggie’s old job on another site, I am here to tell you that this is the purest, most grade-A bullshit line that people pull against moderators. For one thing, it’s just the same old fallacy trotted out every time someone wants to invade someone else’s privacy (“if you’ve got nothing to hide, then you’ve got nothing to fear”). For another, too much explanation will just lead to reinstating the removed content, which negates the purpose of moderating in the first place. Moderation is editorial work. Removing content from public view to avoid distractions is the name of the game—because there are lots of bad contributions to hide, and it’s for the good of the site and the conversations on it that those bad contributions are hidden.

“Are you serious that there is sentiment here that mods are too slow or lenient?”

Like @Seek already mentioned, yes. Some have complained that bad content was allowed to stand too long (sometimes so long that nothing was ever done about it). Those complaints have been made on Facebook, but they’ve also been made here from time to time.

Seek's avatar

As such, I don’t see what’s wrong with vaguer statements like “he was sending inappropriate PMs and refused to stop” or “she abused the right to use multiple accounts.”

I don’t either. That’s exactly the sort of thing I was looking for in this particular instance. All I got was “We can’t tell you anything”. Meanwhile I have a (now former) user blazing up my Facebook claiming to be wondering why they were kicked off. It would have been way easy for the mods I originally talked to to say (for example) “They engaged in profile spam”, and then I could tell them “They say you spammed on your profile.” and then they would either a) lie, and that would be obvious, or b) say “Yeah, I guess I deserved it.”

Seek's avatar

^ Edited.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Seek Meanwhile I have a (now former) user blazing up my Facebook claiming to be wondering why they were kicked off. The problem with this statement is we have no way to verify that. We have no way to know if someone asked you to find out for them or if you (general you) are just trying to find out for yourself. The suspended/banned user is able to contact us personally and clarify the issue. If they want to tell people what happened after that, it is up to them.

ucme's avatar

I’ve heard in the past from first hand information that users get banned then lie through their teeth as to the reasons why, throwing a temper tantrum like that of a three year old.
This behaviour left me confident that they were kicked for valid reasons, for they are plainly idiots.

hominid's avatar

@SavoirFaire – I will have to just assume we’ll have to agree to disagree here. I don’t see the benefits – for the site or its users – of keeping things the way they are. You do. But I do want to point out that you got uncharacteristically confused here…

@SavoirFaire: “For one thing, it’s just the same old fallacy trotted out every time someone wants to invade someone else’s privacy (“if you’ve got nothing to hide, then you’ve got nothing to fear”).”

It’s clear that you completely missed this one, and I’m surprised you didn’t see what you did here. The mods have more power than the general user. In a situation where there is a difference in power, the entity with more power should expect significantly-less privacy. A police officer has no justified expectation of privacy. Let’s try this…

If a police officer and a citizen has the same level of privacy, then we have a problem.
If a non-mod and a mod have the same level of privacy, then we have a problem.

“Bullshit line”? Really? I would imagine you do not maintain this standard concerning the NSA, government accountability, or anything non-fluther. You used the logic of those of us who support privacy against the concept of privacy.

And just to be clear….

@hominid: “But if they are doing what they feel is a solid job in moderation, there should be nothing to hide.”

…re-read this in the context of everything I said, and then try to make the following statement without the ~....

@SavoirFaire: “it’s just the same old fallacy trotted out every time someone wants to invade someone else’s privacy (“if you’ve got nothing to hide, then you’ve got nothing to fear”)”

Seek's avatar

So, as it stands, about half the mods are OK with a general statement explaining the nature of the offense as written in the Guidelines (“Profile Spam”, and not “They were peddling Penis-Gro to men with relationship issues”) and the other half support staunchly relying on users to assume the mods are justified when they are receiving one-sided information from an upset former user.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@hominid Not discussing the specifics of why a user is modded/suspended/banned is not about the mods privacy. It is about that users privacy. It is not fair for us to state a user was suspended for whatever reason and then they have the community looking at that when they return from the suspension. If they want to share, that’s their call. If we share, we could be causing a hardship for them on their return.

@Seek Being a spammer is a lot different than an established member that was suspended for violating specific guidelines. Some users would rather their indiscretions remain private so they don’t have to explain themselves to the community upon their return. Because we don’t know who wants privacy and who doesn’t, we respect everyone’s privacy.

ucme's avatar

Haha, I just had to edit a question for illegal use of “it’s”…made me smile.

hearkat's avatar

I thought I answered this yesterday, but I must have been interrupted and never finished; or Chrome on the tablet crashed again… which is more likely.

First of all, it is the individual person’s responsibility to keep track of which email accounts they use to sign up for various websites. It is not the fault of the site administrators or moderators if a user does not monitor the email accounts that they provided to the site for communication.

Remember that just because someone signs up with a “new” account on a website does not necessarily mean that they are new to the site. Since we allow it on Fluther, many Jellies have alternates or ‘reinvent’ themselves with new accounts after leaving for one reason or another. There are some examples of that within this very thread.

Virtually all privately owned websites have in their Terms and Conditions that anyone’s account can be disabled at any time for any reason, and Fluther has that as well. We could ban people without warning, but we don’t, except in cases of spam, trolling, deception, harassment, and underage users, as previously mentioned. If anything, Fluther tends to err on the side of caution and give people many chances, and we hear complaints about leniency for that, too. So no one needs to be afraid that they’ll wake up one morning and be unable to log in with no warning (as long as they are sure they are monitoring the email they gave us to reach them with off-site communications).

Re: ”The mods have more power than the general user. In a situation where there is a difference in power, the entity with more power should expect significantly-less privacy. A police officer has no justified expectation of privacy.
The privacy that is being protected is the user who has had moderation action taken against them – not the Mods’, as noted in the previous reply.

The argument for and against revealing who did what (such as leaving the avatar up after a comment has been pulled) has been debated and there is never a clear consensus (as well as no development on the site beyond minor revisions to the existing structure), so we continue to act according to the precedent of respecting privacy. Because of this, you may not have seen a user’s violations prior to them being pulled, which is is why you might be surprised when they’ve been banned or suspended, but again, the user themselves is usually very aware of which moderation actions have been taken against them, in addition to the warning(s) they have received.

Re: @SavoirFaire: “move slow and you’re an obstructionist”
Are you serious that there is sentiment here that mods are too slow or lenient?
It seems that the most common complain against the Mods is inconsistency, so they say that we’re too strict at times and too lenient at times, too fast at times, and too slow at times. We are volunteers with family and work and/or school obligations the reasons Auggie gave for stepping down so we can not see everything and respond as promptly as we might like. As I’ve mentioned so many times before, this is where the flagging system is most beneficial, and where the users have the opportunity to express their opinions on what they view as unacceptable content on the site.

There is no way to please everyone – especially on the world-wide web.

ucme's avatar

Even funnier, further editing was required because I missed another “it’s” when in fact there were two further examples.
So in fact the mods missed what they were picking up on, I feel refreshed.

hearkat's avatar

@ucme – Further evidence that we are as fallible as all other humans. None of us claim to be perfect, we just ask that people put forth their best effort, as we do.

ucme's avatar

@hearkat Absolutely, wasn’t having a dig, just amused me a touch.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Seek “I don’t either. That’s exactly the sort of thing I was looking for in this particular instance.”

I realize that you don’t mind such responses. It seemed, however, that @hominid might. And while I understand your frustration with getting nothing, I have tried to explain why that might be happening right now. It’s not ideal, and I expect it will change. If it doesn’t—and if there is no plan on behalf of the moderation team to figure out how to handle this sort of thing in the absence of Auggie—then that is a problem worth complaining about. But if it’s a transitional problem, I think that is something to bear with for the moment.

So the question is, “which is it?” And unfortunately, I think it’s a very good question because it is not clear that we are dealing purely with a transitional problem. I’m not sure we need to publicly announce the general reason for every banning (though that’s what I do on my site), but I think it should be available via PM for the curious. I don’t think “trolling” or “PM abuse” are deep violations of privacy. And indeed, engaging in such actions probably forfeits one’s privacy rights to a certain degree (PM abuse, for instance, used to be the sole justification for Auggie reading others’ private messages). And if a long-standing member has engaged in long-term deception, those of us who are invested in the site—and possibly the specific users—surely have some right to learn about that deception.

I do think @Seaofclouds makes a good point about suspensions, however. If someone is coming back, then it seems perfectly legitimate to limit one’s explanation to “they were suspended, not banned; they can talk all about it when they get back.” In such a case, it seems fairly clear that it is only the user’s privacy being protected here.


@hominid “I don’t see the benefits – for the site or its users – of keeping things the way they are.”

Strictly speaking, I am not arguing in favor of how things are now. I am arguing in favor of some privacy rights on behalf of those who are banned and/or suspended. I think it is appropriate to release general details without getting into the specifics.

As for being confused, I’m afraid you are the one who is confused. You are attempting to justify the invasion of another user’s privacy (“I want to know what they did, and you know! Tell me, tell me, tell me!”). I am not suggesting that the mods should not have to give explanations. I am suggesting they should not have to reveal details that violate the user’s privacy, or perhaps the privacy of a banned user’s victims. There’s a difference between “Jim was sending abusive private messages” and “Jim was propositioning Sally via PM even after she asked him to stop.” Sally might not want everyone to know about the messages, and I don’t think you have a right to know about them.

In any case, I think “if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear” is equally bullshit whether applied to you and me, the mods, or the NSA—not because none of those need monitoring, but because the argument itself rests on faulty reasoning. Even an NSA doing its job legitimately has plenty to hide. It’s an intelligence operation, after all. So while I have no problem with the Guardian or the New York Times publishing whatever secret information they get hold of, and while I am quite critical of the abuses that we have discovered are happening, I in no way think that the NSA has any duty to tell me where someone’s secret hideout is. In other words “the NSA has some right to privacy” in no way entails “the NSA has a right to the same level of privacy as anyone else.” So your attempted comparison is a straw man.

So to reiterate: what I was calling bullshit was the tired “if you have nothing to hide” line. It’s bad reasoning, full stop. It is not useful as the basis for any argument about exactly how much privacy anyone should have and in what capacity (the “in what capacity” part being important since a police officer should have the same level of privacy as a private citizen insofar as they are also private citizens, but not the same level of privacy insofar as they are police officers; being entitled to information about how they do their job is not the same as being entitled to information about how they decorate their bedroom).

I also think it is inane to make straightforward comparisons between site moderators and law enforcement as if they were equivalents. No one on this site has the power to kill me, imprison me, monitor my every action, or systematically harm me in any way. Nor is this simply because I have refrained from revealing anything very personal here. My friends are hardly in any better a position to harm me in such ways. Friends and jellies can of course harm one another, and sometimes in deeply personal ways. But it makes no sense to treat these as being on the same level as what government overreach can do. If people were being banned out of spite or due to personal dislike on behalf of the moderators, that would obviously be bad. But to pretend it is equivalent to extraordinary rendition is fatuous.

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