A couple of days ago there was a rather benign incident (in a now-deleted thread). Essentially, a moderator (which one is irrelevant, and anyway I forger) made a comment which was meant as a joke but the comment wasn't exactly..."constructive". Under the usual circumstances I would have ignored this joke, but it was by a moderator. And moderators are different.

My main is the following. Note that this is a question to the community as to how we feel that the moderators, as the people elected by us into their positions of supreme power, should behave. So although I would be happy for a moderator to answer they are not really they people I am asking...

Should moderators be held to a higher standard of behavior than ordinary users?

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    $\begingroup$ Moderators are human beings. Human beings have human weaknesses. Ergo... Also, I would not want us to have moderators without emotions, which is what would take to be detatched from all arguments like the one you refer to. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2014 at 10:35
  • $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen Although I agree that moderators are human, I suppose I am really wondering what should happen if a moderator strays too close to the line. Sure, they have emotions, but unlike a politician any rash display of their emotions can be removed by the click of a button. I suppose my question is: should this button be clicked more for moderators than for other users? And is it clicked more? $\endgroup$
    – user1729
    Mar 28, 2014 at 10:43
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    $\begingroup$ Also, I am uncomfortable with the downvote. I am not meaning to criticise the moderators, and not am I putting forward a thesis which you can agree or disagree with (I am not saying we should make them adhere to higher standard, but rather asking if we should). Therefore, the downvote makes me feel uncomfortable because it feels like you (whoever you are) are saying that discussing the moderators is taboo... $\endgroup$
    – user1729
    Mar 28, 2014 at 10:46
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    $\begingroup$ -1 I don't see any problem that a moderator is making a joke. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2014 at 11:55
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    $\begingroup$ @achille: The fact the comment was in the form of a joke isn't what user1729 is complaining about. Nor is user1729 objecting to (what I believe to be) intended message of the comment. It was the connotations of the delivery that some found to be questionable. $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Mar 28, 2014 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ I was the moderator who made the comment. The comment was not flagged as "not constructive", it was flagged as "rude or offensive". I fail to see how offensiveness depends on being a moderator. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2014 at 12:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl: In that comment thread one user (not the current OP) did object to moderators making jokes, saying "...a moderator never should be allowed to make any joking comments...." $\endgroup$
    – user642796
    Mar 28, 2014 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Arthur: Interesting; I could even play devil's advocate for such a claim. However, I expect the comment is more about "making fun of" than "joking". $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Mar 28, 2014 at 16:00
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    $\begingroup$ I think it's hard to make any headway when the question is this general. I think the downvotes are not really saying "don't agree," but saying "too general to address well." Or maybe other things come to voters minds that you aren't particularly thinking. Maybe there is a useful subquestion (about joking?)to restrict to? That would help eliminate these problems. $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Mar 28, 2014 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ It is quite trivial to cast flaming/bullying in the disguise of a joke. A moderator should avoid such borderline expressions. $\endgroup$
    – Lord Soth
    Mar 28, 2014 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ @rschwieb I have edited my post to get rid of the secondary questions. $\endgroup$
    – user1729
    Mar 30, 2014 at 20:05
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    $\begingroup$ So, you are saying that moderators should be ... moderate ?? $\endgroup$
    – GEdgar
    Mar 31, 2014 at 13:28

2 Answers 2


There should only be one standard of behaviour. Moderator should neither be judged more strictly nor should they be allowed any behaviour a regular user is not. The rules apply to every user, period.

That said, I personally have higher expectations for a moderator and I expect them to stay calm even in situations where I can certainly understand why someone would react badly. This personal expectation is something I apply when voting for a candidate, but it is my own expectation, not a site rule.

If that comment was non-constructive, why should it not have been deleted regardless of which user posted it? My observation is that this site is far less likely to remove comments than almost every other SE site, and that discussions that get heated or non-constructive are allowed to continue until they either blow up completely or fade away. If you'd want to change anything about non-constructive comments, formulate some general rules and apply them equally to all users, moderators and non-moderators alike.

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    $\begingroup$ +1: I definitely agree with the sentiment. But maybe the question the OP should have asked is less about standards, and more about how lenient to be with the standards? $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Mar 28, 2014 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ Why aren't moderators held to a higher standard? They are no longer ordinary users. They are a representative of stack exchange itself. They affect its reputation as a community and as a business.They definitely should have no leniency whatsoever. They need to be held to a perfect standard. A random user making a joke is just that... a user making a joke. However, moderators shouldn't be allowed to joke around at all. They are here to keep the site maintained and not to goof around and make the site look bad. $\endgroup$
    – user64742
    Apr 6, 2017 at 5:18

(I want to echo some of what @Mad Scientist said.)

I wanted to point out that "A theory of Moderation" actually states that

As a moderator, your actions now represent the community, so you will be held to a higher standard of behavior. You are an ambassador of trust, with the same sorts of rights that the official development team and community coordinators have.

I hope that all the moderators we have here agree with this ...

I think the situation is comparable to how with view people in law enforcement and judges. Here everyone has to obey the same laws. The police are not above the law, but since they are enforcing it, people for good reasons get upset when they do break the law. If you get a speeding ticket from a police officer who then him/herself breaks the speeding limits when he/she drives home from work, then of course it is going to seem unfair.

I think the key issue in this whole situation is that we give power to moderators and police officers. Police officers have the power to take your personal freedom away by detaining you. And when they have this power, it should come with serious responsibilities. The misuse of power should be punished.

Also, who arrests the police officer who violates the law? The police does. Who moderates the moderators? The moderators do. And it is not uncommon that the police will attempt to protect one of its own when charges of abuse are brought forth.

All this underlines how big a responsibility the moderator has. It is extremely important, in my opinion, that the moderator has the support of the community just as it is important that a community trusts and supports its law enforcement officers. When a moderator makes what is a degrading comment, then they should be aware that this might hit harder than when if another user had made the same comment. Why do we have this meta question? Because it is about a moderator.

What happens when a person in power breaks the law (that is the same for everyone) is that that trust is diminished.

So it is not a question of holding moderators to a higher standard in the sense of them having to obey stricter laws. But they should certainly know that their comments and actions will be scrutinized more so than the average user. And so in that sense, I think it that a higher standard is imposed on the moderators implicitly.


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