Hundreds of Bioacoustics Stack Exchange users received the following private message that announced the suspension of their account:
We’re writing from the Stack Exchange Community Management Team with respect to your account. As you are likely aware, during the “Commitment” phase of the Area 51 process, we require that proposals receive at least 100 committers who have 200 reputation across the network.
You may not be aware that we have certain network-wide policies that govern the voting systems on Stack Exchange. First among these is the principle: “Vote for the post, not the person.” Historically, we have interpreted this to mean that the posts you vote on should be discovered organically — not biased for or against any specific person. This policy captures a broad spectrum of behaviors. The following are examples of voting practices that violate Stack Exchange network policies:
Voting repeatedly for a user by discovering posts through their profile. Voting for posts you are directly linked to > elsewhere (e.g., in Slack or by email)
Deliberately voting in order to circumvent Stack Exchange system restrictions. For example, voting for a user’s posts only so that the user gains the privilege to comment.
Creating additional accounts (“sockpuppets”) to upvote one’s own posts.
Actively soliciting votes that do any of the above.
Recently, we discovered a series of votes between committers to the Bioacoustics Area 51 proposal that appeared to violate our network policies. In this specific case, with the votes in question removed, the Bioacoustics Area 51 proposal would not have launched when it did: these voting violations materially changed the outcome of the proposal.
We take this issue very seriously: attempts to circumvent the Area 51 process by voting for other specific users across the network is a violation of multiple core Stack Exchange policies.
As a result of your active participation in these voting practices, your account has been suspended network-wide for 7 days. While you’re suspended, your reputation will show as 1 but will be restored once the suspension ends. And, once the suspension ends, for the most part, you may return to the site and participate as normal.
However, Stack Exchange does not allow users who have been suspended in the year preceding an election to become moderators on the network. As a result, when we open nominations for the Bioacoustics election, you will no longer be eligible to nominate yourself in this election. Although this notice is quite serious, we hope this message does not discourage you from contributing to Bioacoustics Stack Exchange in the future — in compliance with our voting policies.
We appreciate and respect your enthusiasm for contributing to the Stack Exchange network. During the course of our investigation, we discovered a significant number of training and guidance materials for folks in your field to help them grow familiar with the Stack Exchange format. We commend this work and have very real respect for the time and energy you’ve put into building this site.
We look forward to your future contributions to the Stack Exchange network.
Thanks, Stack Exchange Community Management Team
I write this message on behalf of many of them in addition to just myself. We totally understand that SE sometimes has to suspend accounts but here it seems that SE has suddenly over-reacted. The way SE decided to suspend hundreds of users is quite obscure but I believe SE may have trusted the quality of their detection algorithm too much? SE did not providing any evidence or examples of how suspended users violated the CoC. By not giving users detailed knowledge on how they broke the rules, how are they supposed to course correct? Additionally, this mass suspension action, which has no mechanism for users to appeal, is unfriendly and we have lost many users who were using the site in good faith but are now turned off by this and leaving the site.
Organizing ourselves in our small community to promote and energize a Beta site does not mean we want to cheat. On one hand, 1) SE pushes us to vote as much as possible to reach the metric requirements, 2) SE awards us when we vote more (e.g. Vox Populi badge), and on the other hand, SE suspends our account WITHOUT ANY WARNING (at least as far as I am concerned) when we apparently upvote too often for the same persons. Many other reasons other than "cheating" can explain that, including the fact that 2 members may share common issues/knowledge that will logically lead to inter-votes. In any case, we don't vote for persons, we vote for the quality of individual posts.
I think that SE is at least as responsible as the Bioacoustics members for what it is going on, however, unfortunately, they put all the responsibilities on the members. A warning could be far more efficient than a direct suspension, which will discourage many of us. For instance, SE suspended 5 (and most active) editors out of 6 (https://bioacoustics.stackexchange.com/users?tab=Editors&filter=all)! Last but not least, SE did this in the middle of a moderator election which they then cancelled...
As far as we are all concerned, I think this sudden "authoritarian" response is not respectful to the amount of work all of us have put in during the last few months. We would appreciate explicit evidence and documentation that warranted this behavior and how best to move forward in regaining users we have lost from this unfair action.