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Usually I like moderator actions and the reasons for them to be public. The community can examine them and is either convinced that they are correct, or they can make an argument why they were not.

But there are certain actions that are based on secret or private information that can not or should not be made public. Making that information public might reveal details about abuse prevention mechanism that need to be secret to work, or it might infringe on the privacy of a third user.

Such cases can be rather problematic because the community can't see why the action is justified and there is plenty of room for speculation. And sometimes just repeating "Trust me, we have our reasons" doesn't cut it.

What are ways to deal with such situations more effectively?

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    A good example of this problem is when you have evidence of voting manipulation, and the user demands to know which user was "allegedly" upvoting them unfairly. – nhinkle Jul 29 '14 at 18:33
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    @nhinkle I intentionally avoided any specific examples to avoid making this question SE-specific. But that was certainly one of the examples I was thinking of. – user21 Jul 29 '14 at 18:42
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    I think that's wise for the question to be SE agnostic, and my example is from SE experience, but it could certainly apply on other sites as well. – nhinkle Jul 29 '14 at 18:49
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First, make sure you explain why the information is secret. If the community understands why certain information cannot be disclosed, they're a lot more willing to accept decisions based on that information, even if they're not allowed access to it.

Second, make sure there is oversight. If one moderator's decision is questioned, bring in other moderators to look at the facts and weigh in.

Last, make sure there's an appeals process. On Stack Exchange sites users can appeal to Community Managers via email if they're not satisfied with moderator decisions.

One other point that I would stress is to give community members the benefit of the doubt if there is any. You want to establish a reputation of making fair decisions, especially when the information you make those decisions based on is kept secret. You can't do that without the trust of your community.

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    This basically covers it all but I'd like to add that you should also strictly enforce consistency. This enforces your first point: Users aren't going to believe your excuse for privacy if you don't follow your own excuse in every situation. – MrHen Aug 19 '14 at 14:46

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