I must premise that the present OP, albeit motivated by a personal experience on Mathematical Stack Exchange, aims to solicit an open discussion about an important general issue concerning the common rules for a fair behavior in formulating comments on public chat rooms here on the Stack Exchange network.

For that reason, please do not focalize on the specific cases I'm referring to, but consider those just as a concrete example to better guide the discussion about the main questions.

Recently I have been suspended for 7 days for a comment in which I've expressed my own opinion about the lack in correctness and honesty by one user in his/her action on MSE. That comment has been considered rude and not tolerable by MSE Moderation Team, leading to my first suspension in 5 months of experience here.

Here below the message I've received on April 22 at UTC 6.18 PM from MSE Moderation Team to notify the suspension.

enter image description here

I fully respect the decision made by MSE Moderation Team, indeed my comment was of course out of place and eligible for some punitive/corrective action by the MSE Moderation Team.

What I can't really understand is why the same criteria for the suspension were not applied to a deliberate defamation action against my person perpetrated by some users and posted on public chat rooms named CRUDE and Math Mods Office which, I presume, are not aimed to manipulate someone else's reputation.

I’m referring notably to the following deliberate and reiterate public false accusations:

  1. First remarkable defamation on March 15 2018 at UTC 2.00 PM on Math Mods Office chat room

    enter image description here

  2. Second remarkable defamation on April 21 2018 at UTC 6.17 PM and 8.11 PM on CRUDE chat room

    enter image description here

  3. Third remarkable defamation on April 22 2018 at UTC 6.17 PM and 4.06 PM on Math Mods Office chat room (2 hours before suspension decision)

    enter image description here

Notably my questions are:

  1. Why a rude but extemporaneous opinion given during an open debate by a comment can lead to a 7 days suspension while a purposeful, deliberate and reiterate public senseless accusations (i.e. defamation), perpetrated through public chat rooms, which should be aimed to different scopes, can be tolerated and allowed by the community?

  2. Is that abusive use of the chat rooms compatible with the fair harmony of the community?

  3. Am I overestimating that issue?

I've formulated almost the same questions to the MSE Moderation Team after my suspension, but up to now I didn't receive any reply about that.

With reference to the abusive use of chat room, I’ve received the following reply from SE support.

Stack Overflow Team (Stack Overflow)

Apr 23, 10:45 EDT


This kind of behavior is not forbidden in a general sense, but it has resulted in problematic behavior in the past. Ultimately, it just requires keeping a close eye. Most of these groups across our network operate in a way where they only target clearly bad questions or answers, staying away from more subjective materials. If a group ever becomes abusive and starts closing clearly good questions or doing other things that become problematic to the site, the moderators can always step in and intervene.


Stack Overflow Team

Please feel free to express your opinions and suggestions in the most open and frank way.



  • 13
    $\begingroup$ Public speculation that you're breaking the voting rules is not rude, per se, nor is it a direct insult. And it certainly isn't defamatory. Your recourse is to flag the content you don't like, or to contact SE if you think the moderators' actions aren't enough. I'm voting to close this question as off-topic. $\endgroup$ – T. Bongers Apr 29 '18 at 21:26
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    $\begingroup$ @T.Bongers Why is it not equivalent to an accuse of lack in "correctness and honesty"? Please explain what is the difference? Please also avoid targeted downvoting and deleting for a while, at least here on Meta. $\endgroup$ – gimusi Apr 29 '18 at 21:29
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    $\begingroup$ As you already did post about this to the main meta. It could make sense to include a link to that post. $\endgroup$ – quid Apr 29 '18 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ I stumbled on this particular post you mention and its comments in the midst of them happening. I was surprised to see that you were suspended for them (most of the ones which I saw were the defense of a point of view against conflicting ones). The particular comment that was mentioned in the mod message is one which I disapprove heavily and would like inexistent on this site (and should be rightly deleted), but I feel it is heavily (and I can't stress this enough) inconsistent for people to say that it is the kind to go "way too far to be tolerated". Worse is frequently tolerated. $\endgroup$ – Aloizio Macedo Apr 30 '18 at 3:28
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    $\begingroup$ @AloizioMacedo: Like this? $\endgroup$ – user 170039 Apr 30 '18 at 4:17
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    $\begingroup$ @user170039 I disapprove of that comment as well (there was some conversation about that, which can be read in the CRUDE room), but I've engaged in constructive conversation with the user that made that comment. It could be taken as an example, but there are even worse ones out there, which range from veiled toxic comments to outright rude and childish ones. $\endgroup$ – Aloizio Macedo Apr 30 '18 at 5:57
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    $\begingroup$ I am disturbed by the fact that someone suggested that this question should be closed (It won't, at least no right now. I voted agains it as did two other reviewers.) Why would anyone suggest that? Aren't discussions about etiquette appropriate here? $\endgroup$ – José Carlos Santos Apr 30 '18 at 9:16
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    $\begingroup$ @AloizioMacedo: Just in case you aren't aware, some cranks (as defined here) have fanatic supporters, who insist on ignoring even clear evidence (such as here) and here and here). I suggest you think very carefully about the moral/ethical implications of letting cranks run wild. $\endgroup$ – user21820 Apr 30 '18 at 10:35
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    $\begingroup$ "How to deal with defamations perpetrated through public chat rooms?": Ans: One must first and foremost recognize those instances when one is merely perceiving what might by or could strike one as a defamation.. And just as immediately, one refrains from accusing others of defamation when in fact observations have been well document to warrant honest, questions posted in good faith, or posting meta posts asking "How to deal with defamations perpetrated through public chat rooms?" (when in fact there are no demamations?). $\endgroup$ – Namaste Apr 30 '18 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy I don’t know what is your idea of defamation but since I do not have any sock-puppets account, I would suggest that this kind of accusations promoted by chat rooms shouldn’t be allowed and not tolerated by moderators. $\endgroup$ – gimusi Apr 30 '18 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ @user21820 I do not want to let cranks run wild. However, I don't want witchhunts. One thing that sets apart our society from a medieval one is the right to a fair trial. A trial which begins with difamations and/or insults is, almost by definition, not a fair trial (I'm not referring to OP here, but to the kinds of comments I mention). Furthermore, if we treat cranks without a proper logical reasoning, justification and impartiality, I am afraid we are sharing some similiarities with them for the sake of the ends justifying the means. $\endgroup$ – Aloizio Macedo Apr 30 '18 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ @AloizioMacedo "How is it not tolerated, then?" So you are of the opinion that you must be informed about each and every action a moderator might take because otherwise it does not count? $\endgroup$ – quid Apr 30 '18 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ @user21820 I don't believe life is so binary and deterministic like that. I also think that claiming to know assertively what a duck, nut and evil person is, and even when a judgement is true (this one is particularly worrisome for me), is not a good habit, and also a common trait of cranks. If the duck is a problem because it quacks, then let the reason of judgement be that it quacks. Relying on it being a duck as a justification is begging the question, and calling it a duck preemptively without a proper reasoning instills bias. $\endgroup$ – Aloizio Macedo Apr 30 '18 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ @gimusi: Twice now, you both seem to wish to evade my analogy; is calling a murderer a murderer defamatory? No, if it is a fact. Neither have you acknowledged that I have the opinions of professional mathematicians to back me up when I call a crank a crank, while you do not. $\endgroup$ – user21820 May 1 '18 at 7:26
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    $\begingroup$ @AloizioMacedo: So let me repeat, in case it is still not clear. I agree that "implying someone is defective in [honesty] should be carefully handled, for reasons of basic etiquette". For reasons I stated earlier, "correctness" is not a virtue, so it is a different matter if we want to assert that someone is incorrect. Concerning establishing objective accusations beyond reasonable doubt, you should acknowledge that I do exactly that before I use the term "crank" or "nut". If you take issue with that, then define "reasonable doubt". Bottom-line: you've supported my point. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – user21820 May 1 '18 at 7:53

You were not suspended for a single comment but for a pattern of behavior over an extended period of time.

The comments in chat are not simply an attack on you, they raise legitimate questions based on observed facts. It is admissible, even desirable, that users that observe unusual voting patterns report them. Many cases of cheating were caught in this way. Some think it might be preferable not to raise them publicly (you can note that I suggested to inform us directly/privately), but there is also an argument to be made that it is more open (honest, if you like) to raise them publicly.

Note that the comments do not only propose sock-puppets as explanation. While you can exclude that you have sock-puppets, you cannot control and know how others vote for you. In that sense, you cannot even know if the questions are without substance.

But, as you said you were suspended for being rude and not for voting irregularities; indirectly, this supports your stance that you do not have sock-puppets.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Thank for your balanced answer. Let me observe and remark again that I'm not discussing at all about my suspension, I think that it was absolutely correct and of course I also know that I've not any sock-puppets account (that the reason why I'm using the term "defamation"). What I'm asking for is about the limits for a fair use of the chat rooms. From your answer I can argue that the public chat room CRUDE can be used also to speculate about lack in correctness and honesty by some user or group of users without run the risk to receive a suspension. $\endgroup$ – gimusi Apr 29 '18 at 22:32
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    $\begingroup$ A key criterion is whether the comments seem to be made in good-faith. Nobody asserted that you have sock-puppets. A plausible concern about voting on and around your posts was raised. If you have a plausible concern about the integrity of some users' actions you are free to raise them. As said, some think it is better to do so non-publicly. $\endgroup$ – quid Apr 29 '18 at 23:03
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    $\begingroup$ Let me observe that "I'm really beginning to believe that gimusi" and "take seriously our suspicion that gimusi" are really close to a fully assertion. Moreover when this kind of "plausible concerns" are made from a group of users inclined to insults and threats it is really difficult for me to consider those kind of comments to be made in good-faith. I understand your point but maybe it should be better if this kind of "plausible concern" should be handled by flagging directly to the moderators the indicted OP and using the chat rooms for their proper scope. $\endgroup$ – gimusi Apr 29 '18 at 23:26
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    $\begingroup$ I do not consider this as particularly close to an assertion, e.g., "beginning to believe" is weaker than "believe" which is weaker than "strongly believe" which is still no assertion, but that's maybe subjective. Further, if somebody insists that moderators investigate it is a strong sign that the claim is made in good-faith. If it would be intended in bad-faith knowing it is not true there'd be no point at all to ask moderators to investigate. It only makes sense if one sincerely believes it could be true. (Regarding the appropriate choice of medium, I think I addressed this already.) $\endgroup$ – quid Apr 30 '18 at 0:05
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    $\begingroup$ I don't see how this post answers @gimusi's question. Can you point out explicitly which parts of your post answers (or at least attempts to answer) which part of his/her question? $\endgroup$ – user 170039 Apr 30 '18 at 4:16
  • $\begingroup$ @user170039 Thanks for your comment, I think that the answer and the related comments by quid address the questions, even if not explicitely. It seems that this kind of use of chat rooms, out of their proper scope, even if it is not recommended, is allowed whether the comments seem to be made in good-faith by moderators. $\endgroup$ – gimusi Apr 30 '18 at 5:37
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    $\begingroup$ @user170039 I tried to explain along the lines of the examples given that things that are personal attacks plain and simple are not legitimate, while comments that raise an actual concern can be legitimate even if they could also be construed as an attack. Further, there are a variety of (implicit) claims in Q1, and I thus had to address those. $\endgroup$ – quid Apr 30 '18 at 8:34
  • $\begingroup$ You wrote, "there are a variety of (implicit) claims in Q1". What are they exactly and why didn't you address them in a comment? $\endgroup$ – user 170039 Apr 30 '18 at 16:31
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    $\begingroup$ @user170039 what is your point exactly? $\endgroup$ – quid Apr 30 '18 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ As stated in my previous comment. $\endgroup$ – user 170039 Apr 30 '18 at 16:35
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @user170039 the implicit claims in Q1 could be learned by reading Q1 but alright. "Why a rude but extemporaneous opinion given during an open debate by a comment can lead to a 7 days suspension" this is a claim. It happens to be false. "while a purposeful, deliberate and reiterate public senseless accusations (i.e. defamation), perpetrated through public chat rooms," this is a claim which happens to be false. "which should be aimed to different scopes," this is a claim which is at least debatable. Once all this would be removed, nothing would remain. Q2 and Q3 are not real questions. $\endgroup$ – quid Apr 30 '18 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ @quid let me point out that the first claim for Q1 happens to be false only after your explanation given here about the motivation for the suspension. By the notifications received about suspension it seems that the suspension was just motivated by the reported comment. $\endgroup$ – gimusi Apr 30 '18 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ @user170039 I would not describe what was said as senseless. It had a specific and legitimate purpose. I am not at liberty to discuss this in all detail, but I do consider the comments, especially those mentioned in OP, as useful to me as a moderator. Whether or not the form of transmitting the information followed best practices is something that can be discussed, but the substances of the observations was useful information to have. $\endgroup$ – quid May 1 '18 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ @gimusi I already confirmed in this very post that I do not have evidence for you having sock-puppets. Thus I am at the standard hypothesis that I have for any user that is to assume there are none. $\endgroup$ – quid May 2 '18 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ @user170039 honestly your position is pretty unclear to me. So you have no problem with those comments after all? What's your point then? $\endgroup$ – quid May 2 '18 at 21:10

In this circumstance, if the mods have some circumstantial evidence that the user in question does not have sock puppet accounts, e.g.:

  • different IP address
  • online at different times
  • other user uses different machine / browser / screen size etc.
  • different writing style
  • no common cookies
  • whatever evidence is available to mods

then upon the allegation being made, and gimusi objecting to it, they really have a duty to gimusi to declare the existence of such evidence. I don't think it would be right to declare what that evidence is, as to do so would arm sock-puppeteers with the knowledge to be more effective, but I don't think simply to say "there is no supporting evidence" is sufficient, if in actual fact "there is some limited circumstantial evidence to the contrary".

  • $\begingroup$ What you write makes (at best) sense under the implicit assumption there is a or a few particular other accounts that we/somebody suspects to be sock-puppets. This is not necessarily the case even. $\endgroup$ – quid Dec 9 '18 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ @quid I guess voting is anonymous then even to diamond mods. $\endgroup$ – user334732 Dec 9 '18 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ That's a non sequitur. But indeed per site moderators cannot see the origin of a particular vote. $\endgroup$ – quid Dec 9 '18 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ @quid It would seem to follow that if sock puppet accounts exist upvoting a particular user, then the ability to see the identity of up-voters would almost instantly lead to a collection of suspects to be eliminated from one's inquiries. $\endgroup$ – user334732 Dec 9 '18 at 18:11

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