Are our moderators (♦) legally considered agents of Stack Exchange, Inc. from the standpoint of other non-moderator community members?
I've reviewed the moderator agreement, and note it says:
I acknowledge and agree that I am an independent volunteer moderator for one or more sites operated by Stack Exchange, Inc. and I am not an employee, agent or representative of Stack Exchange, Inc., and I have no authority to bind Stack Exchange, Inc. in any manner and I am solely responsible for my statements and actions. I attest that my statements and posts do not represent the views, opinions or actions of Stack Exchange, Inc.
I observe that the above is in a two-party agreement that regular users may not even be aware of. It seems evident that the paragraph that answers the question for any claim a moderator might bring directly against the network. But can a social media site disclaim the agency of moderators concerning other users?
Note that I'm assuming good faith applies here and that the moderator(s) have not knowingly violated any aspect of their agreement. But in the hypothetical, assume a moderator's words and actions have caused harm to one or more other users. For example, let's assume the harm is a common-law tort in the US.
I'm vaguely aware of CDA section 230 but don't understand how that might apply here.
The same question might equally hold for companies like Facebook and Twitter, but I don't know because I don't even like those services. Gosh no!
Note: If SE wouldn't assume responsibility for the well-intentioned acts of its moderators, it would seem unwise to agree to the company's terms. But I'm not a lawyer, nor am I considering acting as a moderator. Neither role would be well-suited to my admittedly skeptical thought processes. I'm just asking for general education.
Further hypothetical: Let's assume a moderator, in good faith, edits the contents of a question, and changes its meaning in a way that reflects badly on the original poster's intent and reputation. Even if well-intentioned, might that action of the moderator, while still associating with new text with the OP author's name, become a defamatory act?
Just to take this hypothetical to an extreme, perhaps the original question asks about a "Blackie Chen", who is a real person. The moderator, who might be unfamiliar with the fact that this is Blackie's well-documented nickname goes in and edits the name to "African American" or worse yet "African American Chen". Assume that Blackie is neither African nor American and that the moderator is operating from an entirely different cultural context than the author or subject, perhaps South Africa.
The driving, non-legal problem in the hypothetical is the overapplication of political correctness. But when an online service appoints moderators who are from different countries than the author, seems to create risk. For example, the moderator might be in a country where tort law doesn't apply.
Assumptions based on the hypothetical
New York law applies under the agreement(s)
In New York, defamation is strictly common law, not statutory. The case law is probably out there, but it's not the primary point of the question.
In the moderator's country, an entirely different interpretation of what the law is might be apparent. He's not a lawyer, but he keeps up with current events. This article describes the legal system from the POV of the moderator.
The moderator's system of laws has some basis in common law, so he's not totally unaware.
The South African constitution explicitly says:
- Human dignity
Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.