I have just noted two much admired contributors have "disappeared". One has the sense of operating in an Orwellian/dystopian environment when people suddenly disappear. One is said to have been "temporarily suspended" - it seems for one year. Where has the other gone? Do we have the right to know, or even to ask?
You are allowed to ask and it's expected that community members will be curious if they discover that other members are suspended or deleted.
However, we don't disclose specifics about suspensions or deletions for a few reasons:
Suspensions are not intended to be a shaming punishment. They are given to allow a member time to calm down, take a break, get a clear head, and reflect on what community expectations of behavior are. It's hard to calm down when you feel like everyone is looking at you, which is why we don't announce suspensions.
The member who has been suspended cannot chat or post, so they are not able to present their point of view to the community. Additionally, hashing it out publicly tends to draw out the corrective process both by keeping emotions high and by giving the community the illusion that decisions about suspension are debatable. The moderation team has the authority to enact suspensions. The community does not. That said, if you feel a suspension (either your own or someone else's) is unwarranted or unjust, you may contact the community moderation (CM) team (who are paid employees of StackExchange) and they will investigate. They are the ones who watch the watchers. You can reach them at email@example.com.
The moderation team has access to a variety of tools and information that help us do our job. If we post the details and evidence of how we know when the rules are being broken, then we make those tools less useful. In short, if we must prove publicly that suspension is warranted, our jobs become much harder. I know that requires a lot of trust from the community and that is one reason why I will reiterate that if you feel there is something hinky going on with the moderation team, please contact the CMs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What I can tell you about suspensions is:
- there aren't a lot of reasons to suspend an account
- suspensions follow a prescribed progression: 0-day (warning), 7-day, 30-day, 365-day
- we sometimes vary the length if the rule violations are different, but it will never be less than the previous suspension
With regard to Little Eva, as Dan Bron mentioned, you can tell that the account is deleted because it reverts to the generic username (user#####) and the name is greyed out. That means that user does not or no longer has an account on EL&U. We don't usually give out details about account deletions either, although there are also very few reasons to delete an account (by request, sockpuppet, spammer). I will go out on a limb and tell you that she requested to delete her account. I think it is OK for me to say so. I don't have any further information about why.
Another way of looking at the second question:
Do we have the right to know, or even to ask?
The person involved can tell you anything. And if they are willing to be contacted, they can include contact information on their profile page, such as an email address. For privacy reasons, the site does not provide another way to send unsolicited messages to a person.
Volunteer moderators and Stack Exchange employees are not free to tell you anything. Volunteer moderators must accept the Moderator Agreement. Here is my synopsis:
The Moderator Agreement protects user privacy. Moderators sometimes see information about a user that is not public. Moderators agree never to disclose such information, and to use it only in their capacity as moderator.
I have not seen the agreement that Stack Exchange employees accept as a condition of their employment. Presumably it is the same.
This gloss treats all non-public information about a user as potentially personal, and therefore subject to the Moderator Agreement, for two reasons.
It is a clear standard.
That is how we are told to understand the agreement.
The alternative would be for moderators to make judgment calls about what is potentially personal. That’s broader and less clearly defined than personal. And dismissal is the likely outcome of violating the Moderator Agreement. For these reasons, it is unlikely in practice that moderators would feel comfortable disclosing any non-public information. The end result would be the same. That is my impression as the “new guy”, anyway.
In her answer, Kit Z. Fox notes the following:
suspensions follow a prescribed progression: 0-day (warning), 7-day, 30-day, 365-day
So (presumably) the progressive series of suspension durations applies to all Stack Exchange sites, and (also presumably) introducing a different-duration suspension is not within the power of our citizen moderators at English Language & Usage.
I think that this lack of flexibility is extremely unfortunate—especially when we are talking about valuable contributors to this community. I understand that it is dangerous for moderators to ignore rule violations on grounds that the violator's contributions justify special leniency. But on the other hand, having no alternative in the face of a repeat violation by someone who is on or who in the past has received a 30-day suspension but to increase the suspension to a full year forces mods to be harsher in a particular case than they might wish to be.
In my view, Stack Exchange would be better off if moderators had the discretionary power to double or triple or sextuple a suspension when a previously or currently suspended person committed a further breach of the rules, instead of their having to impose a twelvefold increase in the suspension. In most settings, doubling or tripling the duration of a suspension wouldn't seem to be especially lenient—and it certainly wouldn't qualify as ignoring the subsequent violation. If moderators had the option to impose an intermediate punishment—without thereby establishing that every violator had to be stepped through the additional suspension periods—they would be in a better position to determine a penalty truly appropriate for a particular repeat violation, and the community might benefit from the earlier return of the chastened contributor.
I am talking here about the general rule governing progressive suspensions—not about any specific instance of suspension in actual operation. To me, the jump from a one-month suspension after two previous incidents to a one-year suspension after three seems draconian—especially as a one-size-fits-all approach to repeated site rule violations. In effect, it's the Stack Exchange equivalent to mandatory sentencing. And denying moderators the power to take a more nuanced approach if they considered it appropriate puts them (I think) in an uncomfortable and very unenviable position.