My summation of the main points that are causing tension in this discussion (note: not my views, just my summation of the prevailing views) are that:
a) Moderators may, at times, be something of a law unto themselves, in some situations
b) Moderator actions do not appear to be readily up for review, either by a forum member requesting such, or other mods/CoG actively reviewing those actions
c) The official CoG position that discussion of individual issues should be done privately with either mods or CoG
d) There seems to be a certain distrust, or lack of belief, that any such review would be honest and meaningful if it did take place
My personal read of @jasonstevanhill’s, @dfabgmail’s and CoG’s collective responses via @KaiDeleon is that they are genuine about wanting to be responsive to all the issues raised here - and that their position to contact them directly is genuine.
From what I gather from official responses, is that very few people have ever raised a concern about any moderation actions directly with CoG - and of those that have been raised, CoG have nearly always (always?) agreed with the decision. I notice that as I am typing this, @ihauk has raised the exact same point above.
For me, it does pose a rhetroical question - have people raised individual issues with CoG directly? How has that gone? Do we actually have any evidence to suggest that CoG are not genuine in their position here? Because much of these issues might resolve if that avenue of appeal is in fact open, honest and actually used.
I don’t want to get into specifics, but there have been many comments about decisions made by individual moderators. It seems to me that the appropriate route here is to raise these issues with CoG directly and await the outcome and then revisit this topic from there. It feels to me that there is a little too much hypothetical judgement being cast on this whole process - that the idea of contacting CoG is being dismissed without being tried.
To be clear, I am not suggesting anyone rush off to write to CoG bashing any individual. I am talking about an instance where you feel a situation was handled inappropriately and you respectfully and politely raise that issue to CoG. @KaiDeleon, @dfabgmail, @jasonstevanhill - please correct me here if I am wrong in the intention of the idea of contacting CoG directly with issues (and edit this post if required)?
One other point I would raise again is about moderators acting individually versus acting on behalf of CoG. I know that the FAQ states that moderators are not representatives of CoG - unfortunately, moderators de facto represent the company and that is a fact that can never be changed.
The public view mods as representatives of the company, the community and all that it stands for and how it operates.
I don’t bring this up with respect to the issue of ‘moderators should be kept in line because they represent CoG’ - that’s an entirely internal business issue for CoG.
I bring it up because moderators are the interface between CoGs policies and their front-facing service and in almost all cases should be viewed as such. Thus, when an individual moderator undertakes a moderation action, first and foremost, that should be conceptualised as ‘CoG taking a moderation action’. The issues as to whether the forum rules and moderation actions are fair sits solely, and squarely, within the responsibility of CoG and no one else.
To re-state a previous point I have made: Our default approach should be to assume that everyone is acting in good faith and that cases where some tension arises are more likely due to misunderstandings and miscommunications. That goes for all sides in a discussion.
And, if you feel that a moderator has injected too much bias into their approach or actions, then you raise that to CoG - as per the above points.
As to introducing more accountability for moderation. I think that tying these two ends together might help with that - that when a moderator undertakes an action, the user is clearly signposted to the process for discussing and appealing the actions.
- If a moderator makes a ‘moderator post’ in a thread (i.e. ‘stay on topic’)
- If a moderator removes posts, then they send the user a DM (maybe this happens already)
- If a user is being warned, or alerted that they may be suspended
- If a user is suspended, then a DM is sent to the user
In all these cases, I think laying out clearly which rule(s) have been broken and why the action is being undertaken. But also clearly signposting within that message, the routes of discussion and appeal.
Would it help that when posts are deleted from a thread, that the moderator makes a mod post to explain why (and again, signpost to the appropriate routes)?