Recently, a particular user has been causing a lot of flak within the community. They've been posting a lot of things that don't necessarily break any rules, but the community at large has not been very happy with. Some of the posts have been deleted, and we've talked to the user about dialing it back and making sure that everything they post is something that will be well-received by the community.

Many people in the community, however, are not satisfied, and are pretty content with the user being suspended for some arbitrary amount of time. I don't think the suspension is strictly necessary and am willing to let the user continue to participate under a closer eye. How do I handle the situation with the rest of the community? Should a site's community be able to dictate when and how a user gets suspended, or should I just tell them all to stop worrying about it and let the moderation team handle it?

4 Answers 4


Consider these two points:

  • If you let the community decide who gets kicked out, you have a popularity contest or mob rule.

  • If your site has moderators, it's because they have been entrusted to care for the site.

I have seen this situation on sites I moderate. When faced with users calling for the eviction of another user, I make the following points (in the same venue where the complaint was brought -- publicly if made publicly, in other words):

  • As a moderator I will be fair to all involved -- the user (no lynch mobs) and the community (no tolerance for abusive behavior).

  • Not all information is public; you do not have all the relevant information and I will not violate any user's privacy. I have taken appropriate action and am monitoring the situation.

  • If new occurrences of the problem behavior occur, make me aware of them through the site's standard mechanisms. If problems continue I will deal with them.

  • If you have general concerns about the way moderation is done (that is, not about this user in particular but, say, what kinds of behavior should be acceptable), raise them in the site's venue for discussions about the site (such as a Stack Exchange meta site or a Wikipedia discussion page).

  • If the situation seems to call for it: here is how you can escalate your complaint above me.


I wanted to add to these answers and point out that it's a very bad idea to let users rally against a specific user. More often than not, this starts as just one or two users who've noticed something about another user that drives them nuts. Rather than contact the user or even the moderation team, they choose to post publicly about it and turn the entire community against them.

Issues concerning specific users belong in private conversations with whomever is responsible for dealing with it. Any sort of public post outing a specific user for their behavior should be stopped immediately. Close it down, lock it, whatever tools you have to prevent further discussion on the post. State that discussing specific users is inappropriate and guide them to the better alternatives for reporting such behavior.

If you can squash the topic before it really takes off, you can generally avoid getting yourself into an even stickier situation later on down the road.

  • It helps to have an explicit rule to point to when discouraging these witch hunts. They can be seen both as harassment of the user and as general disrespect for the moderation team. Rules concerning either are common.
    – Air
    Jul 31, 2014 at 19:30

Typically, I'd hope that the system you're moderating is one that has

  • multiple moderators
  • a means for those moderators to communicate away from the eyes of the public.

The situation you're describing is typically a judgment call, and if you're hesitant or unsure, the best option is to confer with the other moderators to provide a unified consensus and a unified front.

Consistent and unified moderation is key to the a sites health, and the last thing you want is to go your own route if it's not in the best interest of the site. By conferring with your fellow moderators, you're much more likely to make a good decision, and also help with providing a consistent message.

The wishes of the community do matter, but often the community, especially in the formative stages of a site, isn't always on-board with the site's guidelines.

  • 1
    So, just curious as to why this is a bad answer. I'm a new mod, and I'm looking for all the information I can on how to do a better job, and if this way of looking at things is flawed, I'd LOVE some feedback. (Although I do have to admit Monica's answer is far better.) Aug 2, 2014 at 3:10

You issue a "Last strike" warning to the offending user. You make it public. (If you already did issue it - make the fact public now.)

If they correct their ways, the community has nothing against them.

If they keep on with their shenanigans, Vox Populi has a legal backing.

  • 3
    If you do this, you risk an argument with the user over "it's not against the rules" and so forth...which would just make things worse.
    – Nathan C
    Jul 30, 2014 at 14:20
  • 3
    A public warning in response to community pressure is an incentive for the community to keep pushing. What if the user has correct their ways in the eyes of the moderator(s), but the community is less forgiving? You will have set a poor precedent.
    – Air
    Jul 31, 2014 at 19:33
  • @AirThomas: In that case the user has nothing to fear. And let the community pressure moderators into issuing warnings to their heart's desire. As long as the moderator has a choice of following up on the warning or not, they are quite meaningless.
    – SF.
    Aug 1, 2014 at 1:57
  • Also, most Terms contain an entry about "other disruptive activities, as deemed by moderator." It's unfair to outright punish a user immediately for such "other disruptive activity", but issuing a warning that this activity is not welcome and will be punished if repeated is the correct course of action when employing that specific point (handling offense "not on the list").
    – SF.
    Aug 1, 2014 at 2:03

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