Moderation policy guidelines?
September 3, 2016 4:14 PM   Subscribe

A friend belongs to an organization with an email list (I know, how archaic!). The organization has moderators for the list, but I think they aren’t nearly active enough. Comments that would get deleted here at MeFi as being sexist, ageist, racist, etc., go out as messages to the list. This has predictable results—some people argue/push back, while the majority just disengage. This leaves the overall impression that the organization is full of terrible people.

My friend is newly in a position of influence with this organization, and he is willing to take up the cause. Can you help me point him to other organizations’ policies that help guide effective moderation?
posted by msbubbaclees to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Here is one for a non-profit and shows some jargon from that group. Definitely based on the work of others as credited at the end. Good luck. We had some pretty toxic email and just posting this to everyone seemed to help a bit, but the discussion leading up to it probably helped more. (It took over a year to reach a consensus!)
posted by Gotanda at 5:03 PM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

First, a practical question: Is the email list set so that each email is posted to the group automatically, or is it sent past a moderator for approval first? The second could make moderation easier (but more annoying for list members) because there is no situation where a moderator doesn't find the offending messages. Switching to a new system is going to get pushback from people, though. (Always.)

I can't find any good examples myself right now (not on public forums that I can link to anyway) but the people over at The Community Roundtable might have some examples. They're mostly focused on community management for businesses, but I've found some useful things there in my roles as community manager for other types of organisations.

Also, just do a Google search on the phrase "setting community guidelines" to see what comes up. That should point you in the right direction as well :)
posted by easternblot at 7:08 AM on September 5, 2016

I was a moderator for an email list years ago. Two of my policies were a) greet everyone new the first time they post and b) do not leave any questions completely ignored. If it got no reply, after three days, I would say something in response, even if I did not have an answer. This served to "bump" the question back into awareness and sometimes that caused other people to answer. Even when that was not the result, the asker did not feel frozen out, ignored and unwanted.

In other words, give positive attention to things you want more of and try to put people at ease. It isn't perfect and it doesn't remove the need to sometimes crab at people or ban them, but it fostered more positive engagement, so much so that it helped crowd out crappy stuff or, at least, made the positive stuff outnumber the negative.

The list owner had prior experience and talked about having set some list to full moderation to stop ugliness. In other words, all messages had to be read and approved by a moderator to go to the list at all. The list slowed to a crawl, but the toxic environment was stopped.

So it depends in part on how bad things are currently.

I don't know if the official policies have changed over the years. I think it is the oldest set of gifted lists online. If you go to their website and click on "policies," you can read their current policies. My personal policies as a moderator were not officially codified at any point. So I do not believe you will find mention of them.
posted by Michele in California at 8:56 AM on September 5, 2016

[This is from a user who prefers to remain anonymous.]
know of two places that have done some meta-level analysis of the Codes of Conduct used by various organizations/communities/websites. Though a code of conduct is not necessarily a set of moderation guidelines, decisions about when and how to moderate are often based in whether the user violated a CoC policy.

First, one I am not personally involved with: Geek Feminism Wiki's list of Codes of Conduct is probably the gold standard as far as comparing moderation/code of conduct policies, though it focuses heavily on tech orgs/sites as opposed to general social media. Second, one I am personally involved with, so caveat emptor: My coworkers and I recently posted an informal research project on Wikimedia's "meta" wiki, summarizing the individual Codes of Conduct used on about a dozen social media and/or tech websites, MeFi among them. We looked at what the policies said, how they had developed, how they were enforced, etc. We are hoping to do a comparative analysis (strengths/weaknesses) of these policies down the road, but we don't have a timeline on that right now.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:15 PM on September 7, 2016

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