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Moderation

May 7, 2012
Moderation
  • This page explains how moderation works on these forums.

    It explains the purpose of moderation, what moderators do when a breach of the rules is reported to us, and the steps we go through before deciding to suspend or ban a member.

    It also explains how members should respond when they are attacked or offended by another member's post, how to report posts, and how to help the moderators do their job by reporting posts and posting helpfully on contentious threads.


    Purpose of moderation

    The primary purpose of moderation is to maintain a civil and respectful tone of discussion on the forums and to protect the community and its individual members from bullying and personal attacks.

    Moderators maintain order on the forums by quietly enforcing the rules, handling discussions that have spun out of control in a manner that results in the least amount of stress possible to the community and, when necessary, removing persons who disrupt the community by persistently breaking those rules.

    Moderators do not intervene in order to promote a particular point of view, they intervene in order to keep the conversation civil and respectful. Suspensions and bans are a last resort, and moderators always try first to help members understand the standards of behaviour we expect here.

    Moderators also assist the community by answering forum-related questions, by keeping the forum tidy, and by handling technical support questions in liaison with system administrators.


    What moderators do

    Moderators have a wide range of jobs, including:

    • removing spammers and advertisers from the forums
    • correcting spelling or changing titles of threads
    • moving, merging and splitting threads
    • deleting posts or threads in response to reasonable requests
    • editing posts after the expiry of the time limit for members to edit their own posts
    • assisting members with technical issues related to the forums
    • attending to reported posts, Conversations, and chat room issues


    How to respond if you feel attacked or offended

    If you feel attacked or offended by a forum post, a private conversation, a blog post or a chat message, please do not respond by getting angry with the member in question or responding with a counter-attack that focuses on them in a personal manner. It is very important to avoid escalating the situation because this makes it much more difficult for moderators to deal with and adds to the stress of the situation for other members.

    If you are able to do so, you can choose to calmly refute or counter the offending message with information that focuses on the content, not on the person. The best thing to do is to report the post, conversation or chat message to the moderators, who can then deal with the situation in a timely fashion. It is better for everyone if offensive posts are reported at an early stage, so that moderators are able to deal with the situation before matters get out of hand.


    How and when to report

    If you feel attacked or offended by a forum post, a private conversation, a blog post or a chat room conversation, it is better to report it as soon as you see it.

    You should report any comment that you feel is rude, offensive or of an aggressive, personal or threatening nature, that attacks you or other members personally, that contains advertising or spam links, or that breaches any of the Forum Rules.

    Sometimes an offensive post does not get reported because members assume that others have already reported it. Even if the problem is not yet a serious one, it is very helpful to the moderators if you report a situation before it gets out of control. You do not need to worry that by reporting a post you are 'telling tales' or might get another member into trouble. Moderators deal with reported posts sensitively and fairly, and disciplinary action is rare - if we can handle a situation at an early stage with minimal intervention, that is less stressful and more efficient for everyone.

    If you find a pattern of behaviour exhibited by a certain member offensive, which is not related to just one post, you can report a typical example of a problematic post and note in your reasons for reporting that it is a pattern of behaviour that you are concerned about. Alternatively, you can contact any moderator for a discussion. In such cases, it is helpful if you can link to any threads or posts that illustrate the pattern of behaviour. Please do not expect that the moderators will have been following the whole history of an incident - we normally have to investigate such history, and that takes time.

    To Report a Forum Post

    • Click on the 'report' button below the post.
    • In the text box that pops up, enter the reasons why you find the post offensive or why you feel attacked. It is helpful if you can quote any forum rule that you think applies.
    • Click on 'Report Post'.

    To Report a Conversation

    • Click on the 'report' button below the Conversation message.
    • In the text box of the pop-up that appears, enter the reason why you are reporting the message.
    • Click on 'Report Conversation Message'.

    To Report an Incident in the Chat Rooms

    You can report an issue in chat by clicking on the flag beside the username. This will inform the Moderation Team that there is a problem. It is worth flagging a guest in chat, because non-members can also be banned.

    Issues flagged in chat are not immediately reported to the moderators, so you should also contact a moderator about the issue by starting a Conversation with a moderator. When contacting a moderator regarding an issue in chat, it is helpful if you can provide a copy of the chat in question, or state the time and day when the chat took place.


    How to contact a moderator

    You can directly report posts and Conversations by clicking on the 'report' button beneath the post or conversation in question.

    You can start a private conversation with any moderator by clicking on their avatar, and then clicking on 'start a conversation' in the pop-up that appears.

    See Moderation Team for a list of moderators and further information about who you should contact about different kinds of problems.


    How we respond to reported posts

    When a post is reported to the moderators, we first check to determine whether the post contains an obvious and serious breach of the rules. If the post does clearly breach the rules, we edit or delete the post as soon as possible, to remove the offending content, and we contact the person who posted it to notify them that their post has been moderated and to explain why. Our aim in contacting the member who breached the rules is not to 'punish' or blame them, but to explain our rules and to explain why their post was in breach of those rules. Often a private conversation between the poster and the moderators results, during which we attempt to help the poster to understand how they can make their point in a way that does not cause offense, so that they can avoid breaching the rules in future.

    If the reported post does not contain a serious breach, if there is any doubt about whether the reported post represents a rule breach serious enough to warrant moderation, or if there is an underlying issue surrounding the reported post which needs further consideration, we discuss the issue amongst the Moderation Team in order to decide together how we should proceed. Often we will simply post on the thread concerned, or contact any members who are involved in a dispute, asking them to be careful to comply with the rules and remain polite and respectful.

    In either case, we also investigate the thread on which the reported post appears and explore and discuss any other relevant history of the incident. If there are any other posts around the original reported post which also breach the rules, or if there are any posts which quote posts which we have deleted, we edit or delete those posts as well.

    We always aim to contact the member or members who reported the post to us, to thank them for reporting the post and to inform them of the action we have taken. However, this is not always practical, if many members have reported a post or if the issue is of a delicate or confidential nature and we are unable to disclose personal or confidential information relating to the action we have taken. Nevertheless, we are always grateful to members for reporting posts to us at an early stage, as this helps us greatly in maintaining order on the forums, and we do encourage members to report posts whenever they see a rule breach or the beginnings of an argument.


    Suspensions and bans

    Suspensions and bans are very much a last resort, and moderators always try very hard to prevent the need for a ban. With the exception of known spammers (who are banned immediately, and usually before they get a chance to post at all), members are given every opportunity to modify their pattern of posting and comply with the rules before a suspension or ban is considered.

    Moderators attempt to communicate with members who break the rules, in order to explain our rules and the reasons for those rules, and to suggest other ways that they can handle their frustration and get their point across without breaking the rules. If one moderator is unable to explain the standards of behaviour we require to a member who is persisting in breaking the rules, then other moderators will also try to communicate with that person. Only when all the moderators are agreed that this is a hopeless task do we consider a suspension or ban. Members are warned, during this process, when a suspension or ban may be considered if they do not change their pattern of behaviour - members are not suspended or banned without having been warned that this may happen.

    Sometimes, in cases where a member is actively causing severe disruption, moderators will temporarily suspend that member's posting privileges, or other user rights, while attempting to contact the person in a private Conversation. In such cases, the member is unable to post on the forums while these privileges are suspended, but the privileges may be restored after the conversation with moderators has taken place.

    When all other options have been exhausted, and a suspension or ban is considered, the moderators discuss the situation as a team, again with an emphasis on trying to avoid a ban if possible. The moderators consider factors such as the pattern of behaviour of the member concerned, the extent to which rules have been breached, the nature of the breaches, and the member's overall posting history. A suspension or ban is only implemented when all members of the Moderation Team, including the Moderation Team Lead, are in agreement that this is necessary.

    Temporary suspensions may be considered if the Moderation Team feel that a 'cooling-off' period might help the member to realise that their behaviour needs to change if they are to remain a member of the forums. More usually, when a decision has been made that the team are unable to work with a member who persistently breaks the rules, the member is banned permanently.

    When a member is banned from the forums, we do not publicly discuss the ban and the reasons for it with forum members. Although members are often curious to know whether somebody has been banned, and why they have been banned, we do not consider it fair to the banned member for us to describe the behaviour which prompted the ban because the banned member is not able to speak in their own defence. It is also important to note that the behaviour which prompted the ban is very likely to have been invisible to members, and may include offensive or upsetting material which has either been removed from the forums or which was posted in confidential Conversations. Members are not privy to the private Conversations which moderators have with other members, and so they are not in a position to judge the situation, nor are the moderators in a position to explain their decision. Since bans only take place as a last resort, by agreement of the whole team, and are not subject to appeal and cannot be overturned, Conversations between moderators and other members about such matters are pointless. Members can ask moderators, by private Conversation, to confirm whether a given member has been banned, and moderators will confirm or deny this, but further discussion is neither practical nor worthwhile.

    In the past, members have sometimes been banned without receiving an explanation of the reasons for the ban. It is now our policy to inform all members of their ban, and the reasons for it, by email to the account they used to register for the forums. At present, there is no appeals process for banned members to ask for their ban to be reviewed or revoked. Such procedures may be considered in the future if Phoenix Rising has enough staff and volunteers to be able to provide a separate committee to appeal to - at present, the only staff available to review such decisions are the Moderation Team who made the decisions in the first place, so an appeals process is currently not feasible.
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