So, I've been participating in the stack for a few months now. And I say the following to emphasize that I understand what it can mean to run a space for online discourse, and that these circles are fraught with all sorts of challenges. Over the last few years, I participated in multiple forums, moderated a few, and adminned others. Most recently, I was asked to join a mod team, where the community started at about 2-3k and grew to roughly 15 thousand members by the time I decided to move on.

And of all the places I've visited, or participated in, this stack has been probably the most inhospitable and unaccountable online environment I've seen so far. Which is saying something. It's nearly impenetrable for new users, and the 'guidance' to help them navigate the space is insufficient, at best, and actively antagonistic at worst.

Most places have some kind of process for addressing those issues. This community appears to have no such mechanism, the CoC simply had a link to a generic contact queue, which does not explain what to expect, or how any of that works.

I can't imagine the volume of users who come here, post once or twice, and never come back. I'm sure that's perfectly acceptable to some folks, but it shouldn't be the baseline for any healthy community.

After the last experience I had, where a mod not only deleted an answer I provided, for purely punitive reasons, but went on to delete comments critical of their behavior, it seemed like the time to post about this, because unaccountability, and disgruntled people continually leaving, is how this sort of thing keeps occurring, and will keep occurring.

What is the process for lodging complaints about moderator behavior, and how is that process resolved?

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    $\begingroup$ If you want to specifically complain about the misbehaviour of a moderator on this stack, then the contact form you found on the CoC seems to be the right place. If you wish to discuss what happened and find out where it went haywire, then posting in here is the right way. Also this is not an answer, but a comment; I don't think myself able to properly respond to the query you pose, simply able to comment $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Aug 12 '18 at 19:13
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    $\begingroup$ You really do need to link the things that you take issue with, we can't judge behaviour we can't look at. $\endgroup$ – Ash Aug 12 '18 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ After reading some of the comments below, it seems this question is about a specific post rather than a criticism of the community as a whole. If so, could you edit the question in order to get rid of the ambiguity? $\endgroup$ – Vincent Aug 12 '18 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ @vincent It is, most certainly, about the community as a whole. I've seen multiple issues that were not great, but the last instance prompted me to ask what the protocol is for this. I have better things to do than deal with drama on stack exchange, so it never seemed worth it, but if these sort of issues are going to crop up repeatedly, it needed to be asked. $\endgroup$ – user49466 Aug 12 '18 at 20:23
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    $\begingroup$ @user49466 --- If this is truly about the forum (and that's those of us who are not mods, as well as those who are!), then I think we all have a right to know of which your complain. To be honest with you, I have not noticed any particular "drama" or "inhospitability" here. I too have been a mod, an admin & an owner of forums in this domain so, yada-yada, I too am familiar with how to deal with these kinds of issues. As Ash said, please link to those threads & behaviours you're taking issue with! We can't judge the behaviour or the situation if we can't see what you're experiencing! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Aug 12 '18 at 20:33

What is the process for lodging complaints about moderator behavior, and how is that process resolved?

The typical process is to start by flagging the post your grievance is related to with a custom moderator flag and describe what you think should be changed. You've got only 600 characters for the custom flag text, so you'll have to be brief, but there's always the option for a moderator to contact you to get more details.

Now, I know what you're thinking; "how can flagging something for moderator attention be the proper way to lodge complaints about moderator behavior?". But it is.

Let's be clear about terminology, though: "moderator", on the Stack Exchange network, typically refers to those users who are either appointed by Stack Exchange (the company) employees to serve as "pro tem" moderators on a site that is still in beta, or on graduated sites refers to those users who are elected by the community to serve as moderators. These users are recognizable by having a diamond symbol attached to their name on the site(s) that they are a moderator on, and their profile page will indicate "moderator".

Many moderation actions are taken by users who are not moderators. There are rather few things that moderators can do which ordinary community members cannot do, though moderators (those with the diamond) can normally do them unilaterally rather than having to wait for multiple users from the community to do something. This includes closing questions, deleting posts, and a number of other more or less mundane tasks needed to keep the community on track and free of irrelevant material. It's been likened elsewhere, rather aptly actually, to being elected to clean the toilets at summer camp.

If a moderator takes an action which you disagree with, then by flagging the post and describing your grievance, you bring this to the attention of the whole moderator team. And while there is nothing in the system to prevent it from happening, as a general rule, moderators are expected to not handle flags that they have a personal interest in. This can be because it's a flag on their own question or one they've answered, or a flag on an answer they've deleted, or something else. In that case, a different moderator will look at the issue, perhaps discuss it with the moderator who took the original action, and reach some kind of independent conclusion based on the facts at hand, and act on it. There are some situations where it's reasonable for a moderator to review their own actions, but it's rare. (As a corollary to this, if you flag and request a review, precisely because of this process it can take a while before the flag gets validated. Do rest assured that we check every custom flag raised, and stay on top of the others as well.)

If bringing the issue to the attention of the moderator team via a flag does not result in whatever your grievance is being resolved appropriately, then you can escalate the matter further. Typical venues in such cases is to bring it up on the site's Meta (as you have done here, but you'll normally get more positive results by sticking to the facts at hand) or contacting Stack Exchange directly (in which case you definitely want to stick to the facts) and request that they review the facts at hand. Just be aware that the people at Stack Exchange are really busy (that's one major reason why there are appointed and community-elected moderators for each site in the network) and that they might not be familiar with the culture of the particular site.

Why is there zero moderator accountability on this stack?

Well, as explained above, there is plenty of accountability if you raise an issue. Also, moderators routinely cross-check each others' actions, and will discuss among themselves if they see a moderator doing something strange. Moderator actions are also at times reviewed by Stack Exchange employees, and in cases of gross overstepping of bounds, there have actually been cases of moderators being stripped of their diamonds (and corresponding power) for violating the trust ultimately placed in them.

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    $\begingroup$ thank you for the response, and your time. $\endgroup$ – user49466 Aug 12 '18 at 20:09

I'll assume you're talking about this answer, this is almost the definition of a link-only answer, see point five of the list for Why and how are some answers deleted?. It relies on a series of links to external sources without given any information as to the content of those links, as it sits in the deletion queue it absolutely deserves to be there. If a Mod hadn't gotten to it first it would have been cut out by votes in the low quality content queue in short order. I can't speak to deleted comments but given the tone you took in what was left of the comment string I'm going to guess that you violated the be nice directive of the site. Such comments can and will also be culled without the need for any direct moderator input.

  • $\begingroup$ That is not correct. My answer was as follows: "You'd likely want some sort of [..] that uses [...] and some sort of [...]" I then provided supplemental links. That is the answer which was claimed to be link only, which it clearly is not. And I know that it is not because the exact same content with the links removed was deemed acceptable. An answer cannot rationally be "link only" if it suddenly becomes acceptable when the links are removed. On top of that, another user provided an answer with even less detail which was not deleted. (Continued) $\endgroup$ – user49466 Aug 12 '18 at 19:51
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    $\begingroup$ "relies on external sources" not solely contains external sources just relies on them which that answer does as there is no synopsis of the link content in the answer, it therefore relies on the external sites. $\endgroup$ – Ash Aug 12 '18 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ In addition, the response was not deleted until I pointed out the problems with the decision. It wasn't deleted for being "link only". It was deleted because I made no reservations about disagreement. And furthermore, additional comments on the new answer were deleted, and are no longer present at all. I'm not here for additional review of the comment thread. There's no way that "You'd likely want some sort of [..] that uses [...] and some sort of [...]" can be deemed link only, but someone replying with "the answer is certainly [x]" can be deemed by a different standard (cont) $\endgroup$ – user49466 Aug 12 '18 at 19:56
  • $\begingroup$ The decision is not, at all, justifiable, and the mod in question chose to delete the answer outright, without so much as a word about even more egregious "problems" in comparable responses. Given the lack of internal consistency in that standard, I have zero desire to revisit that. What I do want to understand is what, if any, accountability process is present. $\endgroup$ – user49466 Aug 12 '18 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ Yes it is, totally justified. $\endgroup$ – Ash Aug 12 '18 at 20:00
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    $\begingroup$ Again: An answer cannot rationally be "link only" if it becomes acceptable when the links are removed. If an answer is "link only" that implies there would either be no content without links, or, at best, the content is incomprehensible without links. Neither of those things are true. If an answer is acceptable on its own, which this one was, then the addition of links is supplemental, not central, to the answer. There is a glaring, and obvious inconsistency, at multiple points here. Nor is that, at all, relevant to my question, which is what mechanisms exist to lodge complaints. $\endgroup$ – user49466 Aug 12 '18 at 20:07
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    $\begingroup$ To be honest, it was edited & deleted & locked & unlocked mostly because you were behaving immaturely. Links in an answer are fine. I insert links & images all the time. I can't see your original original answer, so can't comment on that. But clearly, you went off the rails with your "offending the mods" bit. That's not a helpful answer and it is quite appropriate for that portion to be edited out. If I'd seen your answer, I would have edited it out & I'm not even a mod! You shot yourself in the foot by insisting on rolling back. It's no wonder this answer has such a long edit history! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Aug 12 '18 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas That's not the answer we are referring to. The tone you are critical of is the result of the original response being deleted, condescension, and having additional comments removed. So yeah, given that, I felt the need to explain to the OP why the response to their question suddenly vanished. And per HDE bothering to have a (shock) respectful conversation, I edited the second answer. Which is exactly what I would have done the first time around if it were handled properly. $\endgroup$ – user49466 Aug 12 '18 at 20:54
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    $\begingroup$ Like I said, I can only comment on the sequellae. Your "explanation" I think was not helpful and would have best been addressed in the comments. That you continue behaving somewhat disrespectfully here doesn't speak well. From the outside, it looks like the mods handled the later parts of the issue very well (editing out the snarky bits) without resorting to insult or negative language. If it helps, undelete the deleted answer and let everyone see! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Aug 12 '18 at 21:10
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas Your suggestion that the context would be better addressed in the comments is precisely what I did. The comments were deleted because the mod did not like the criticism. And they cannot be undeleted because they are comments. $\endgroup$ – user49466 Aug 12 '18 at 21:35
  • $\begingroup$ I've been critical, and I have the right and reason to level that critique. Michael addressed my question here, and that's all I needed. I'm tired of seeing rules inequitably applied, and now I understand the process if this becomes an issue in the future. The answer was, literally, identical to the one that was deleted, sans links, so I'll let it stand the way that it is. $\endgroup$ – user49466 Aug 12 '18 at 21:47
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    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas The deleted answer was similar to the current one, but with less elaboration on certain points. (If you want a screenshot, see i.stack.imgur.com/oSd0p.png) $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Aug 13 '18 at 1:45
  • $\begingroup$ ^That is the original answer. That was deemed unacceptable. By comparison, my second answer was deemed acceptable, by the same mod: imgur.com/a/oD3sxfT $\endgroup$ – user49466 Aug 13 '18 at 3:22
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    $\begingroup$ @user49466, the additional answer you refer to went down even harder, heavily downvoted and community deleted. Question is now on hold for being opinion based. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Aug 13 '18 at 11:37
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    $\begingroup$ @user49466 Your original answer would have hit the low quality queue immediately because the bots would have pinged it for "length and content" based on the high percentage of overall characters being used for hyperlink text, the mods being onto it and good at their jobs would have seen it almost immediately and acted appropriately. You decided not to take on their constructive criticism which is is where the issues started. $\endgroup$ – Ash Aug 13 '18 at 12:05

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