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Recently, I have been receiving comments from a particular (unnamed for anonymity) moderator which fall under harassment and rude/condescending (use of vulgar/strong language) category of the Code of Conduct. I have reported the moderator's comments on two separate occasions, but there doesn't seem to be any action that is being taken against the moderator. What should I do in this case?

P.S. I have nothing against the moderator personally and, on several occasions, the moderator has suggested several good changes as well. However, I think this doesn't atone for the instances of harassment that I have faced.

Example

I received the following comment on one of my answers:

In place of randomly searching the web and drawing a conclusion from the most popular results that your search engine spoon-feeds you with, I recommend to develop a habit of referring to the authoritative sources directly. Here, I suggest reading sections 2.3.1 Base units and 5.3 Unit names of the SI Brochure. Alternatively, just avoid crap and read good literature that follow conventions and you will automatically write correctly because you will visually memorize how the term or its symbol should be formatted for a suitable occasion.

Now, some of you may not consider this to be rude, but I do.

First, I only verified what the moderator said. I already trusted what the moderator has said, but, nonetheless, I wanted to be sure. And Web-search is a very good way to quickly, albeit somewhat unreliably, fact-check suppositions. However, I always look for authentic sources when I do so. The web spoon-feeding me information is not the case here. What am I supposed to do, take the moderator's word at face-value? As someone who loves to research, I always give another check to the information I receive. Did the moderator make any reference while suggesting changes in the first comment, which I did incorporate? The answer is no. I never disagree with what is right.

Second, the moderator suggesting that I read crap literature is just beyond acceptable. If you see any of my answers, I always refer to authentic (mostly published work in peer-reviewed journals) and academic websites.

Now I am new to the website and still learning all the norms and it might take some time to get used to everything. However, such comments, while being rude and sometimes harassing, are extremely discouraging. I would have appreciated if the moderator

  1. had stated the references the first time the suggestion was made. The moderator seems to think their word-of-mouth is enough.
  2. would have conveyed their concerns in an appropriate, civil manner, without making snark remarks.

By the way, all this for capitalizing kelvin, which I thought was appropriate since it is named after Lord Kelvin (William Thompson). However, several users have pointed out that this is not how using the units works, albeit in much more encouraging tone than the said moderator.

Edit: Thank you to the CSE community and the moderators that looked into this. I feel happy that some action has been taken and the comment was modified to abate its rudeness.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, or in Chemistry Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. $\endgroup$
    – Karsten Mod
    May 9, 2023 at 2:34
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    $\begingroup$ Ananta, take a deep breath and calm down. Nobody here has intention to harass anyone. They will achieve anything. We are all here to improve the quality of the site. Considering a comment "rude" is subjective and personally, I can't understand where this "harassment" is coming from so please give a thought before doing anything. $\endgroup$ May 12, 2023 at 2:45
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    $\begingroup$ (Cont) When I was a beginner, I used to get snarky and sarcastic comments from a particular someone (who is still active btw) and I used to get very annoyed. As time passed, I understood that they are trying to help me, although keeping their style of writing intact and they know what they are talking about. Please keep in mind: being snarky or rude doesn't mean they are wrong. $\endgroup$ May 12, 2023 at 2:47
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    $\begingroup$ If there is a pattern to the behaviour described by @Nilay we usually catch that and find ways to mediate. Emails have been sent to users before when necessary. Rudeness is generally not harassment though. It might coincide of course. We of course will always investigate these claims. $\endgroup$ May 26, 2023 at 13:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Martin-マーチン Ananta should also watch her own actions not to be reported herself. Some of her communication to several users is in par with what she has reported, but quite fierce. There are people, not necessarily including her, who cannot withstand behavior of others that they manifest themselves. I have personally decided to follow andselisk's exemplary decision for future interaction. $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    May 26, 2023 at 13:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Poutnik I am sorry our last interaction was not very polite, and it was displeasing for you. I will surely check my tone in future and be more courteous. I do have an issue with people making claims without making references. In order to create CSE a reputable source, which when I discussed with my acquaintances, is not considered to be so, it is important we provided references from well-established and reputable sources when making claims. In this particular case, what was common knowledge for you all was not so for me and I was discovering the fluoronium ion for the first time. $\endgroup$
    – ananta
    May 26, 2023 at 15:08

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You have a lot of options. Rather than answering "what should I do", I will answer "what are my options". It is up to you to decide what to do, and I don't know the specific circumstances (and did not retrace all the interactions you had on the site the last couple of days).

There are multiple ways of de-escalating. You can delete your answer - this will also delete the comments you felt harassed by. You can log out of the site for a couple of days - this will bury the posts and comments with new questions, and chances are few will remember or find the post.

You can strengthen your position by doing more research before answering or commenting. When I google "kelvin capitalized or lowercase", I get a hit for Kelvin on Wikipedia, a question about capitalization of units on SE English, and many other answers. None of these are primary sources, but the SE English site links to the Wikipedia site on SI units, which cites the official SI brochure from 2022, which I think is the most recent one. I find this research fun. I learned that units written out are to be treated as common nouns (like "house") and not proper nouns (like "Mexico"). Depending on the language, these are written in lower case (like in English) or in upper case (like in German). Moderators, unless they know a subject particularly well, probably do some research before writing anything, so you have to do your research as well if you think they got their facts wrong.

Finally, you can escalate. Here, I am paraphrasing from this Meta answer because I don't have personal experience with this on the chemistry site. You can flag the comment, asking for a different moderator to look at it. You can post on the meta site, asking the community to weigh in. The current post is about procedure, not about site culture or chemistry content (i.e. not about whether the comments had merit in terms of content), so my answer is about procedure (I'd rather discuss the chemistry, though). You can discuss the situation in chat, or you can contact the StackExchange employees.

I liked the "unsolicited advice" in one of the meta answers, quoted below:

It's often best for you to try to work things out at as low a level as possible. If you have a problem with one moderator, it's faster for you to reach any of the other elected "Diamond Moderators" on your site as they have the most experience with your specific site and may even have seen other actions you have taken that give context to the issue at hand. Sometimes you want to go above someone's head (or even straight to the top) with a complaint or request, but realize that the recipient will wonder why this person with a complaint couldn't resolve it with the team of moderators that were put in place to do just that.

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I generally appreciate Karsten's answer, but I have a different opinion how this should be addressed.

Since this is a post that will be retained for the foreseeable future we need to address the elephant in the room first. I will keep this very general and therefore will not consider the special circumstances presented here.

What should you do when a someone harasses you?

This is important stuff, you need to seek help.

As such, I think you should escalate this immediately.

Harassment is a serious offense and it should swiftly and rigorously be handled. However, the accusation of harassment is also quite serious and should probably not be thrown around likely.

A one time rude comment is probably not harassment, but it still violates the code of conduct. Raise the appropriate flag for it.
The flag will initially be handled by one of the moderators. I personally dealt with a couple of cases that were clear cut and I deleted these then; but there were also times where I dismissed such flags. Moderators are humans and have their own opinions and tolerances, so they might see things differently. Usually they come as a third party to this and can be fairly objective though. Check back on your profile to see how your flag was handled. If it was dismissed, choose another option.

If these instances are recurring, raise a custom flag telling the moderators about this. This is very important. Flags are handled on a first come, first serve basis. A moderator will probably not pick up a pattern if they only handle a couple of these flags.
You can oftentimes find some help in the chat room. You might even find a moderator to ping there.
In a custom flag you can also ask to be chatted with in private. We'll reach out to you if we know about this.
Speaking only for me, you can leave a comment on any of my posts asking to see me in a moderating capacity. I will come back to you.

If you feel uncomfortable with that, reach out to the site support via the contact form: https://chemistry.stackexchange.com/contact
Chose "Trust and Safety" and "I want to report a Code of Conduct violation" and describe you problem. Add links and be descriptive. This will not be handled by site moderators.

What should you do when that someone is a moderator?

You can hope that a different moderator will see your flag first and will get in touch.
You might want to try this first, but if it is that serious of an offense, you need to contact the Stack Exchange team via the contact form.

What is probably not in your best interest, is taking this to the site's meta. This is too public for these matters and if necessary this step can be taken later on.


A few words for these special circumstances.

I have not retraced all your interactions, but it is fairly obvious from the one example that you had issues with a user who is also a moderator and not a moderator as such. This is an important distinction, because the latter also implies that they would use their status and the tools as a moderator to harass.
This one comment, in my very own opinion, does not constitute harassment. I personally don't find it offensive either. In my opinion, it is not very nice, but I don't really see a CoC violation here.

A parting note: At the time of writing, I am one moderator of five, and we are public figures on this site. There is no anonymity. When bringing this to meta, you should be absolutely aware of this. Such accusation always hits all of us and there might be more damage done in the long run.

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Could it have been said nicer? Probably yes. But, you shouldn't take it as something against something of you personally, but rather your action. In a sense, this site is purely for creating a repository of answers and questions.

When you first create an account on the site, you're completely anonymous, no one knows who you are. The reason is that the identity of the person asking/questioning is irrelevant to the action.

I thank you for giving your opinion. When good responses are given by moderators on accusations prompted against them, it would increase the overall trust of users with the moderators. So, it has given also an opportunity for the moderator to improve their relationship with the community.

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