Imagine the following (hypothetical) situation: "User Q doxxes User T in a PM with User W. User T becomes suspicious that they have been doxxed, and reports Users Q and W to moderation. Users Q and W deny any wrongdoing and offer (selectively chosen or doctored) screenshots to 'verify' their innocence. Users Q and W in turn accuse User T of framing them/lying about them to moderation." The only means moderation has of resolving this dilemma would be to access the PMs of the users involved through the moderation portal. However, the ability of mods to access users' PM would naturally raise substantial privacy concerns.
Virt and I, and I believe Mike as well (but I will let him speak for himself), feel that it is occasionally necessary that mods have access to users' PMs to resolve situations like the one described above. That said, because of the substantial privacy concerns implicated by such a power, we believe that such authority should be limited. As a limiting measure, we believe that Virt, Mike, and I must all approve access to a user's PM in order for that access to be granted to any one of us. In other words, in order for any one of us to gain access to any PM, the three of us would need to unanimously agree that (a) reasonable suspicion of a COC violation exists, (b) the violation of the COC may be severe, and (c) accessing the PM is the only way to definitively resolve the issue (i.e. there are no less intrusive ways for moderation to resolve the issue). This tripartite test and the requirement for unanimity would act as checks against spurious or inappropriate use of any power to access users' PMs.
However, I can imagine that many may feel as if moderation should never, in any circumstance, no matter how grave, have such authority. While I disagree with that position, it is one which I can respect and abide by if the community decides that is best. For the record, this is not a power mods currently have. Therefore, I am using this post to pose the following questions to the DART usership:
1. Should moderators be able to access a user's PM if (1) all three admin officials unanimously agree that (2) the three part test outlines above is met?
2. Should moderators never--in any circumstance--have the ability to access a user's PM
3. Is there another solution to this problem or a suggestion for how to improve the proposed checks?
Please feel free to comment or to ask questions. Moderation will respect any majority decision reached by the community.