Can the mods require a poster to reply to a question?

Raised by this thread:

So you have all the details:

I don’t think I overstepped, but if I did I will accept my admonishment.
I’m just helping out this week in GD & P&E.

Well, in this case, I think so, since that post is pretty much on the cusp of trolling. I suppose the idea was to see if that poster had anything behind that post or was just trolling, and clearly the answer is- trolling.

Hah, my post went in as this was coming is, and yes, I agree.

It appeared trolling and What Exit was giving the troll a chance to explain if it was a honestly held opinion.

It’s hard to say that anyone can or should be compelled to post anything on this message board.

However, I certainly could see requiring a response as a condition of continuing to post in that thread.

Just my 2c, but I think this hits the right note. If someone just drops out of the thread entirely, it’s hard to distinguish between “they’ve stopped reading that thread altogether” / “they haven’t gotten around to it yet” / “they were just trolling.” But if you make continued participation in the thread contingent on answering the question, it gets around that ambiguity.

FWIW, I applaud the renewed vigor in rooting out this kind of useless trolling.

IMHO: Normally, a mod asking a poster to substantiate a questionable claim should be asked as a poster rather than as a mod, but the key word here being “normally”. I was not aware of Kearson1’s prior history of warnings and suspensions, and report of trolling. With that background in mind, and given his hostile reaction to mod instructions, I have no issue with the outcome here or the way it was handled. In fact I appreciate the proactive modding.

Also, I might add that all this just increases my suspicions of anyone self-describing themselves as a “liberal” or, as in this case, a “centrist”, and then demonstrating by their posts that they’re anything but what they claim. To me it tends to strongly suggest “troll”. We’ve had a number of those that I’m aware of. I think eventually they were all banned. I think it’s fair to say that this board welcomes posters of all political persuasions, provided they argue honestly and factually, and with some degree of civility and intelligence.

In GQ, I have sometimes asked a poster who keeps reasserting statements which have been refuted by evidence cited by other posters to either begin providing factual cites or to drop out of the thread.

I think you were justified and handled it very well. I would have preferred if you gave the explicit rationale alongside the modhat request:

Just so that people who haven’t been following the whole thread know right then and there that you suspect him of trolling. As opposed to, putting on your modhat just to tell him he’s wrong in P&E (in context, you clearly did not do that).


I’m not posting anything I don’t want to. I don’t think most would.

I think it is reasonable to suspend someone from a topic (or take more severe action) if they appear to be asking lots of questions and ignoring/dodging other people’s questions in bad faith.

I also think it is reasonable to give that person a chance to reedeem themselves by addressing some questions directed at them.

Do you think this is unreasonable?


I think the mods should be able to do their jobs. If that requires booting someone out of a thread or a forum for a period of time then do so. There needs to be order to have productive conversations. My problem is ad hoc and random policy applied unpredictably or in one direction only. If the standard is such that exaggerated claims must be proven and that is applied to all sides of the ideological spectrum well I have no problem with it.

I definitely don’t think the right response to someone trying to maintain order on a message board as a volunteer is to be verbally abused. Outside the pit or whatever.

Would it satisfy your concerns, for the time being, if the moderators pledged to treat all trolls alike, regardless of ideology? Do you have some examples where you reported someone for JAQ/trolling and the moderators declined to intervene? (Don’t give them here, you can PM me or @ me in a Pit topic).

We can agree on that. Kearsen1 was way out of line.


I agree with that as a general principle, but I disagree that that’s what was happening here.

Kearsen made one claim which was challenged, which is that the number of people harmed by ACA was greater than the number which was helped. That’s something which is difficult to back up without an enormous amount of research and even with an enormous amount of research it would be tough and probably very debatable. That doesn’t mean that the claim was completely bogus or made in bad faith. People believe and say all sorts of things based on evidence that they’ve seen over the years, even if they can’t trot out all that evidence every time they’re challenged.

Now, if someone says, well if you can’t back your claim, then I’m going to disregard it, then that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean the other guy is trolling or posting in bad faith.

So a moderator command to back it up is inappropriate, especially if, as is the case here, the moderator themselves is a partisan of the other side of the argument, and apt to see things as more black and white than they actually are.

And the important thing is that people do that type of thing here all the time. Really, really, all the time. I’ve never seen a moderator command someone to respond to a specific argument as was done here, and it looks like no one else has either. This was a new tack invented for this specific situation, and again, for one in which the moderator was partisan to the argument at hand.

As for the over-the-top response by kearsen, I agree that it was inconsistent with SDMB rules. But I don’t think the moderator was covered in glory here either. I don’t believe the mod’s claim that she was trying to help him out here. People who are trying to help other people out don’t use that tone and language. That wording was intended as a moderator smackdown, and the attitude it provoked was unsurprising.

IIRC, Jonathan Chance (or some other mod) stated, months ago, that he often gets complaints sent to him “So-and-So is not replying to my posts” and that - well, that is just a right of a poster - to not reply to things that he/she does not want to reply to.

It would be a slippery slope, IMHO, to start a policy stating that so-and-so must reply to people here, here, and there.

He, for the record. Not she.

Thank you,

He could have simply said “That’s something which is difficult to back up without an enormous amount of research and even with an enormous amount of research it would be tough and probably very debatable.” He could have said, “it’s just my opinion.” But he asserted it as a fact but didn’t respond when asked to support it. So, he was asked to support it or refrain from posting in one particular thread. Not the end of the world. His response was so out of proportion to the request, and the rest followed as night follows day.

What_Exit put the modhat on for this specifically,

The “essentially… both sides” “incorrect claim” is probably this:

The incorrect and demonstrably false part would ostensibly be that the Democratic party was not trying to work with Republicans on a replacement for the Affordable Care Act (I don’t know for certain that they were, but I am aware of proposals coming out of that party). Kearsen1 claimed that both parties should be working together, which implies that the parties were not working together, which is actually true. Then he says politicians (?) from “both parties” are a “[b]unch of lazy fat rich punks”, which implies that neither party tried to work with the other to replace the ACA.

I think that is the claim Kearsen1 was called out on, and told he could not ignore.


I think a request to make good-faith arguments going forward is fine, but it’s problematic for a mod to require a response to a specific argument the mod is making. We’re all human, and certainly I would have liked the ability to force someone to respond to the way I’ve framed an argument, but it’s probably best that I (and everyone else) not have that power.

So, a mod who points out that a poster has been dodging questions and refusing to engage in good faith argument is fine. What What_Exit did in that specific thread should not be accepted going forward.

Yet asking lots of questions and ignoring/dodging other people’s questions can indicate bad faith. I agree that it would be improper to write down a general policy stating “so-and-so must reply to people here, here, and there”, or else we ban you for trolling. I also think it is entirely proper for a moderator to exercise that option at his or her discretion.