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Is this account suspension abuse of moderator power?

My account had been suspended for one year. As some of you know, some users don't like my questions in the main because I tend to answer my own question. Answering your own question is not only allowed but encouraged by Stack Exchange, by the way. So they tend to vote to close my questions with various reasons which I find unreasonable. When my question was closed by them, I usually posted a meta question asking for the reason of the closure. Most of my questions were reopened thanks to those meta questions of mine.

Posting a meta question asking the validity of the closure is encouraged by the site. https://math.stackexchange.com/help/reopen-questions "If you're simply unsure about the validity of the closure, the best place to ask is on the community's meta site. Asking in the meta site allows those who took the action to comment, and will help others to learn about the issues being discussed."

One day I received a private moderator message announcing my account suspension for 30 days.

Hello,

I'm writing in reference to your Mathematics Stack Exchange account:

https://math.stackexchange.com/users/28422/makoto-kato

In short, your participation in meta has become disruptive to the community.

Primarily, you have asked a very large number of questions along the lines of "why was my question closed/locked/deleted/other?" Here is the list of such questions you have asked so far in 2014:

  1. Why this question on AC in proof of FLT was marked as duplicate?
  2. Why should this question asking a reference to an easier exposition of triangulation of a differentiable manifold be closed?
  3. Why was this meta question closed?
  4. Why should this meta question asking about the closure of a main question be deleted?
  5. Why was this question about Cantor's set theory closed?
  6. Should asking a meta question which was discussed a few years ago be frowned upon?
  7. Why was this question asking non-noetherian examples of tensor products closed?
  8. Why was this question asking an algorithm to determine whether a power of a prime ideal is primary voted to close?
  9. What's wrong with posting a meta question asking for the reason for the closure of a main thread?
  10. Public question to Moderator Alex Becker
  11. Why was this question on quasi-compactness of a product space put on hold?
  12. Why was this meta question closed as duplicate?
  13. Reopen request for this question on compactness of a product space
  14. Why was this question on compactness of a product space locked by a moderator?

These constitute low quality submissions, and are considered noise by the majority of users. Over a very long period numerous users and moderators have indicated this to you, and have attempted to inform you of less disruptive ways to go about things. Unfortunately, you seem to have decided to willfully ignore them, and your persistence in posting such questions has become perhaps the main distraction on math.SE.

Secondly, we have also noticed that you have been harassing users in comments to posts on both main and meta. For example, in a recent meta-thread about homework questions, you posted the following unrelated comment:

@Carl Mummert [I did provide a lengthy explanation for the motivation of that question, even though, as you say, I didn't know the answer.] The fact remains that you didn't show any effort. In short, you have double standard. You demand other members show effort while you don't.

Such activities are harmful to the general atmosphere of the site, and will not be permitted.

Because of the above, your account is being placed on a timed 30 day suspension.

When your suspension has ended you are welcome to continue using math.SE, but only insofar as you cease these disruptive activities. We understand that your experiences to date on math.SE have not been all positive. But we also feel that making an concerted effort to conform to community norms and follow the advice and nudges given to you by other community members will go a long way to improve these experiences in the future. Many users (moderators, even!) have gained a lot from the questions and answers you have posted on the main site.

Regards,
Arthur Fischer
Mathematics Stack Exchange moderator

I had never be warned by a moderator before the 30 day account suspension. It was a bolt out of the blue. After the 30 day suspension period was expired, I posted a few meta questions concerning the suspension. Then I received a private moderator message announcing my account suspension for one year.

Hello,

I'm writing in reference to your Mathematics Stack Exchange account:

https://math.stackexchange.com/users/28422/makoto-kato

Despite your previous warnings, you have resumed your campaign of low quality posts on the meta site.

  • Public question to the moderators
  • How do I contact the MSE moderator team?
  • Should you not ask about the reason for your suspension in the meta?
  • What can be the reason(s) behind voting to delete(not close) a question

We have been very patient with you in hopes that you would cease your disruptive behavior and resume constructive participation in the site. It has become clear that you have no intention to comply. Whether or not you choose to listen, this has been explained to you many, many times in the past, both by the moderators and other members of the community.

This is your third suspension for the same behavior, so the length of your suspension is one year. I am genuinely sorry to see that you have chosen this path once again. I hope that you return when your suspension is lifted and resume positive participation at that time.

Regards,
Alexander Gruber
Mathematics Stack Exchange moderator

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    $\begingroup$ You mention your first and your third suspensions. What about your second suspension? Do you think the moderators abused their powers for the second suspension? $\endgroup$ – Joel Reyes Noche Nov 28 '15 at 0:21
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    $\begingroup$ @JoelReyesNoche I don't understand your question. I mentioned two suspensions of my account. Why do you think they were the first and the third? $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Nov 28 '15 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ Those interested in the actual meta-treads can find links in earlier revisions of the post. (Many of them are deleted though and thus restricted to 10k users.) $\endgroup$ – quid Dec 11 '15 at 7:36
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    $\begingroup$ The links to the meta threads, and the current most-recent edit of the question authorized by the OP, is at meta.math.stackexchange.com/revisions/22044/21 . I would be interesting in seeing the complete list of links to deleted/closed/locked posts from @MakotoKato on the meta and main sites (other than self-deleted posts). $\endgroup$ – zyx Dec 14 '15 at 0:00
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    $\begingroup$ I feel afraid to talk here because I am a new user and you tend to demean people in comments in the form of quoting. Why must you question every thing that someone else does? Maybe the fact that this happens is because these posts are overall just rude and intentionally a jab at other users. Again, I know I will be insulted, but now that you have taken a break from MSE Meta, could you possibly regroup and take a deep breath? $\endgroup$ – user331275 Apr 14 '16 at 5:10
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If you actually, truly and honestly believe that there was an abuse of moderator power, the appropriate thing to do would be to contact the SE staff using the contact us link found in the footer of every page of math.se and meta.math.se. Site moderators do not have access to messages sent to the SE team in this way. I believe you can also email them at team@stackexchange.com. The only people with the power to reprimand us for "abuses of power" are the SE staff. Such reprimands are not unprecedented, either on the wider Stack Exchange network, or even on Math.SE.

That being said, before the 30-day suspension you mention above, we did chat with at least one Community Manager about your specific case fairly extensively.

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    $\begingroup$ &!#&%^ quit it!!! ALL OF YOU!! There is a be nice policy. I suggest you all take a look at it. $\endgroup$ – user642796 Nov 28 '15 at 15:54
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Makoto Kato: You wanted community to respond to the question whether you were abused by the moderators. Look at the voting on your question: 6 votes say that you were, 24 votes say that you were not. That is the answer from the community (may be not final yet).

My friendly advice. Concentrate on the math. In meta you only aggravate people. If you can manage to stick to math on the main site, the moderators will see to it that your questions won't be closed for extramathematical reasons. If you continue trolling in meta, the three strikes rule will be applied.


The comment thread below gives me the impression that it is not clear to all that my statement above (regarding protection of Makoto Kato's questions on the main site) was made in good faith. Apparently I failed to communicate that well. To get something positive happening I am trying to figure out an answer to one interesting question Makoto Kato asked last June. Why don't you try as well?


For the record: I was NOT the moderator who realized this need for an "umbrella". I don't have enough social intelligence to come up with something like that. But after this fellow diamond explained his reasoning, I accepted it.

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    $\begingroup$ I've deleted a bunch of pointless comments here. The thread didn't seem to get anywhere. Except personal. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Nov 26 '15 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ "If you can manage to stick to math on the main site, the moderators will see to it that your questions won't be closed for extramathematical reasons." How do the moderators avoid my questions from being closed for extramathematical reasons? $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Nov 26 '15 at 23:48
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato: Moderators have the power to reopen a question with a single click. We cannot stop the users from voting to close, but we can overrule, when we judge it to be prudent. We discussed your case, and recognized the need to monitor the fate of your future questions. After all, it is possible that some users will vote to close them out of inertia. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Nov 27 '15 at 5:00
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    $\begingroup$ Jyrki, a protective umbrella for MK is nice. What about protecting the community, though? What happens if he starts to behave badly on main, leaving the meta site alone? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Nov 27 '15 at 5:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf: A fair question. For now I am mostly concerned about his behavior in meta, because A) most of the sh##storms listed above took place here, B) the introduction of the sandbox (thanks to Bill and you IIRC) improved the situation in main. Normal rules about conduct do apply everywhere. The extra protection is targeting "votes to close out of inertia", which unfortunately can happen in main. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Nov 27 '15 at 8:04
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    $\begingroup$ Jyrki, fair answer (I take no credit in the sandbox's formation, though). I'm just relying here on history where MK had followed the "rules" to the letter, so if he is "protected" on main as long as the meta is clear, he might not be as receptive as you or me to "rules about conduct do apply everywhere". Because supposedly he's protected on main. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Nov 27 '15 at 8:08
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato. If you study the recent history of meta, you will see that ALL (may be just ... MANY) threads dedicated to closing/deletion of a single question are frowned upon. Each and every poster of such threads is referred to the thread dedicated to the discussion of R/C/U/D. You can post there. That thread has its share of heated discussions. Whenever the discussion becomes too disruptive, moderators will intervene. If your posts become disruptive, the intervention will be forceful. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Nov 27 '15 at 10:08
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    $\begingroup$ I strongly advise that you use only that thread. The community is self-correcting in R/C/U/D -matters. But that corrective process takes time. Give it always at least one week. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Nov 27 '15 at 10:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Makoto: It often seems that you're not interesting in "why was my question closed", but rather you are saying "I protest that my question is closed". The former still might have merits, if the OP is truly interested in improving the situation. In the past you were given sincere answers, but mostly to the effect of "this is your opinion" or "I disagree with that". If you intend to learn from your mistakes, that's wonderful and I'm sure that no one will have problems with you actually asking why something was closed or deleted; if you intend to protest, then it's a different story altogether. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Nov 27 '15 at 10:24
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    $\begingroup$ I think this extra moderator supervision is a good idea. While I assume you and I agree on this anyway could we still pin down a bit more what "extramathematical reasons" is supposed to mean. Especially I would prefer if it were made explicit that missing context and motivation or generally very poor presentation is not "extramathematical." Possibly "reasons unrelated to the content of the question post (plus comments)" could capture what is meant while leaving less room for misunderstanding. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 27 '15 at 11:49
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    $\begingroup$ That was surprisingly difficult - may be most of them are closed :-). This was the first match. I don't think I want to spend any more time on this. Also, read what Asaf says above. Don't ask why a question was closed, if you don't want to hear the reason, and are not willing to change your conduct. If you want to debate the closing reasons, then ... $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Nov 27 '15 at 18:18
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    $\begingroup$ Re the "literally." Indeed, this is precisely my worry with "extramathematical." Many legitimate and common objections to posts are not mathematical. If the intent is (and I understood it like this) that the posts should be evaluated according to usual standards then I feel this is not really captured by the phrasing with extramathematical reasons. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 27 '15 at 19:47
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    $\begingroup$ Deleted another tangent. You really want this thread locked, don't you. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Nov 27 '15 at 20:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Jyrki: It might be worth pointing out that sometimes the final result (before any wars/moderators get involved) is not the satisfaction of the OP. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Nov 28 '15 at 8:04
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    $\begingroup$ I brought up those wars as examples of situations when the process fails to converge. I am not making a judgement of how likely it is that you would take part in such a skirmish personally. The posts in that thread are about re-evaluating the decision made by users on main. The goal is not necessarily to overrule but simply to collect more opinions. They cannot be used as venues for keeping some single user's point-of-view endlessly on the agenda. Community decides - if it does not reach a conclusion a moderator makes a ruling. That's how we operate here. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Nov 28 '15 at 9:14
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I thank Makoto Kato for letting us know what moderator actions were taken. Note that the moderators themselves maintain a policy of not publicizing actions taken to discipline community members.

Some of us feel you (Makoto Kato) pursued a strategy in 2012 for gaining reputation by pleading unfair downvoting on Meta. The asymmetry of points for "balancing" upvoting versus downvoting means those who responded sympathetically to your pleas rewarded you with a rapid and possibly undeserved increase in reputation.

I don't know you personally, and certainly you deserve some credit for the Questions and Answers you post (often in relation to Galois theory). However the practice of complaining on Meta about how the community treats your posts on Main strikes me as calculated bad-faith. That practice tends to dissuade me from running for a moderator position since I would find it difficult to respond constructively if I were a moderator.

So again, I appreciate your letting us know how it was the moderators were able to affect your behavior here on Meta.

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    $\begingroup$ "However the practice of complaining on Meta about how the community treats your posts on Main strikes me as calculated bad-faith." Because you don't know the details of the bullying. For example, this question was once closed as being too localized. math.stackexchange.com/questions/183522/… This was reopened just because I opened a meta thread. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Nov 28 '15 at 17:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Makoto: It wasn't reopened by the community. It was the unilateral act of a single moderator. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Nov 28 '15 at 18:07
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila How do you know that? $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Nov 28 '15 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Makoto: Look at the history of that post, it was reopened by two users Leonid and Bill. Nothing can be reopened by only two users without some sort of special powers, while nowadays people with gold badges can close/reopen duplicate unilaterally, this was neither a duplicate nor available at the time of that post. Since Bill was in fact a moderator at the time, it is clearly an act of a single moderator overruling 5 regular user's opinions. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Nov 28 '15 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ @MakatoKato, do you think this unilateral act of a single moderator is an abuse of moderator power? $\endgroup$ – Joel Reyes Noche Nov 28 '15 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila "It wasn't reopened by the community." See the reps it acquired. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Nov 29 '15 at 1:07
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    $\begingroup$ If you read the edit history of the question, you can see that the moderators removed the lines telling the facts that are inconvenient for them. Moreover they locked the question to avoid further edits. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Nov 29 '15 at 2:17
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato The "reps" a question acquires is irrelevant when it comes to it being open or closed -- currently the most upvoted question on this site has a score of 912 but is closed! So if even that is not enough to get a post reopened, a mere score of 22 won't do either. No, it was a unilateral moderator action that reopened your question. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Nov 29 '15 at 8:12
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato it is the first in this list math.stackexchange.com/questions?sort=votes You might have been able to find it yourself. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 29 '15 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ @NajibIdrissi "currently the most upvoted question on this site has a score of 912 but is closed!" The question is obviously off topic(and it is open now). So it's not an example to support your claim. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 10 '15 at 17:18
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato: This is the sort of selective presentation of facts that detracts from the credibility of your arguments. You were the fifth vote to reopen on Dec. 4th, so you know perfectly well that Najib's example was valid until you actively changed its status. $\endgroup$ – hardmath Dec 10 '15 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato The question is obviously off topic Then why did you vote to reopen an "obviously off topic" question? Do you understand how this website works or are you just pushing buttons randomly? $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Dec 10 '15 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ @NajibIdrissi, one of the reopen voters was a moderator. Are you arguing he doesn't know how this website works? That question has 14 reopen voters versus 8 close voters. And 70 upvotes for each downvote, on the question. And 35 answers; I stopped at 10 when counting the number of those answers from experienced site users. I assume when MK says obviously off topic he means "the question is closed because it is an obvious target for the sort of people who like to declare questions to be off-topic", not because he shares that proclivity or thinks the question does not fit the website. $\endgroup$ – zyx Dec 25 '15 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ @zyx I don't know why you're stirring s*** up in a two-week old thread (on Christmas of all days), but here we go: the moderator in question didn't state publicly that he thought the question was off-topic. MK did. It's voting to reopen a question that one believes is obviously off-topic which means one doesn't understand the site, not simply reopening that particular question. Way to twist my words... The wording of "The question is obviously off-topic" seems rather unambiguous to me, and in any case I'm interested in MK's explanation of this, not your far-fetched explanation. Good day. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Dec 25 '15 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ (And moderators aren't infallible gods, BTW (sorry current moderators). They can even be suspended... Appealing to the fact that a moderator disagrees with other users on a matter of policy, and a controversial one at that, is weak sauce. Try to find better arguments.) $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Dec 25 '15 at 19:48
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I was not really active on this site for most of the story but I watched part of it from a distance, here is my take.

To answer the question as asked: no, I do not think this is an abuse of moderator powers.

But, it is in my opinion true that you were treated quite harshly on occasions (not so much by the moderators but by part of the community), likely to such extent that it can be considered as unfair. Yet, life is just not always fair, and it can be better to cope with that fact than to insist on it.

The reason that this is definitely no abuse of moderator power is quite simply that you were the cause, not to say caused, an enormous amount of friction on the site. A main duty of a moderator is to guarantee the smooth working of the site. Of course a moderator should be balanced in their actions, but ultimately the over-riding concern is a practical one, the working of the site, not an abstract one of establishing some state of pure justice.

If I may give some advice: choses your battles wisely and do as Jyrki Lahtonen told you. The way you behave right now makes it quite difficult to support your cause.

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    $\begingroup$ If you read the edit history of the question, you can see that the moderators removed the lines telling the facts that are inconvenient for them. In particular they removed the links to my meta questions. They also deleted Bill Dubuque's comments saying that I had been a target of unprecedented extreme bullying. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 10 '15 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ I followed the editing quite closely. I believe you over interpret some things a bit. For example, you found it problematic that the list of moderator-names was removed, but really I cannot see the issue with this and find it rather an improvement as the list distracted from the fact which moderator actually sent the message. This information is preserved, while it could theoretically be more "inconvenient" for the concerned individual. Besides the comment of Bill Dubuque a great number of other comments was also deleted. I'd guess easily more than hundred in total on this thread. $\endgroup$ – quid Dec 10 '15 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ "I followed the editing quite closely. I believe you over interpret some things a bit." What do you think of the fact that they removed the links to my meta questions which are the very reasons why my account was suspended? $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 10 '15 at 18:57
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    $\begingroup$ I do not have any particular opinion on this. The links made the post more busy-locking, they are mostly dead-links for most readers, they could reignite olds debates. I can see why one might want to remove them, but I consider it not a necessity either. Furthermore, they were not there initially. It seems you did not consider having them as a priority yourself. Yet maybe their removal was even just incidental to the rollback to the last moderator-created revision. $\endgroup$ – quid Dec 10 '15 at 19:13
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    $\begingroup$ "The links made the post more busy-locking," I don't understand this. What do you mean? "they are mostly dead-links for most readers, they could reignite olds debates." I think they are important facts to discuss the matter. "Furthermore, they were not there initially. It seems you did not consider having them as a priority yourself." It was because I thought the abuse was obvious for everyone which I found later was not the case. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 10 '15 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ I meant it can be harder to read a text when there is a lot of links and other formatting. If you think the information is important I propose you either write a comment to say that links can be found in the revision history or ask a moderator if you can restore the links. $\endgroup$ – quid Dec 10 '15 at 19:59
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    $\begingroup$ It is like the evidence submitted by a plaintiff in law court. The moderators are like the defendants in this case. Removing it is abuse of moderator power. I did write a comment asking the reason why they did so, but they ignored it(and it was deleted). $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 11 '15 at 2:07
  • $\begingroup$ I assume you refer to a comment you wrote quite some time ago, not a recent one. Anyway I now wrote a comment myself. $\endgroup$ – quid Dec 11 '15 at 7:35
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    $\begingroup$ Defendant? LOL! I feel more like a parole officer :-) $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Dec 17 '15 at 12:24

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