Community Moderation

Learn how we encourage debate and interaction around the content we publish on our website and throughout social networks, and our moderation process works.

F.A.Q. Centre

Have a question? Here you may find the answers for the most common questions asked by our users.

Community Moderation

Editorial

We welcome and encourage debate and interaction around the articles we publish, both on our website (via comments) and off it (via Twitter, blogs etc).

In general, we want to open comments up on our content wherever possible, but time and attention is finite (particularly in moderation resource) and we have learned from experience that some subjects and types of article attract less constructive or engaging debate than others.

With that in mind, we have devised some general operating guidelines for which articles we should prioritise commenting on.

Comments will generally be open across the website, features which are discursive and likely to engender thoughtful, insightful, and collaborative responses plus multimedia interviews, events, roundtables and conversations, where the content is clearly discursive itself or user participation is part of the story.

Comments will generally not be open on content which is sensitive for legal reasons (e.g. where there is a high risk of libel or contempt), or editorial reasons (could include: announcements of deaths, breaking news, stories about particularly divisive or emotional issues).

In addition, where a number of threads are already open on a specific topic or story, we try to keep comments to a single thread, to make it easier for people to find and follow the unfolding conversation.

In short, where comments are likely to add value (for us and other readers) in terms of additional insight, perspective or knowledge, and where we have time and resource to be involved in the conversation, we try to ensure commenting is turned on.

We ask everyone interacting on the website to abide by our community standards and participation guidelines.

These set out clearly the main behavioural and social norms for the site, but in general, we want this to continue to be a safe place for stimulating discussion about issues and we welcome community participation which supports and extends this.

Contributions which are deliberately offensive, off-topic or otherwise troll-like are likely to be dealt with in line with these community guidelines.

Please be careful about deciding to add personal information such as contact details to your comments: remember this is a public conversation.

Exactly what you might imagine.

The main things we want to avoid are (but are not limited to) vicious or persistent name-calling or accusatory comments; comments which attack the individual rather than the argument or the position; abusive or defamatory phrases (epithets, especially those attached to religious, sexual, racial, gender or ethnic contexts); extreme or contextually-inappropriate profanity directed at an individual; and ad hominem arguments (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem).

In other words, comment on the content, not on the contributor.

The main reason is that we want to ensure conversations are relevant and topical, which makes sense considering so much of what we publish on the website is related to or inspired by either contemporaneous or historical events. In order to keep conversations fresh, we generally close them after a couple of days, or whenever the conversation strays too wildly off topic. This also enables us to be more effectively involved in all current conversations, because we are not spread so thinly.

All community interaction is subject to some level of moderation, in order to ensure the spirit of the community standards is upheld.

In general, we post-moderate community interaction, which keeps the conversation lively. However, this, unfortunately, means we cannot guarantee all comments live on the website are appropriate or in the spirit of the community standards.

While the website staff try to keep an eye on all community activity, we rely on our users to report abusive, offensive or otherwise inappropriate comments when they appear by clicking on the “report abuse” link which appears next to each comment.

This alerts us to problems and areas of concern to the community, which means we can make the space better for everyone: we are grateful for your help with this.

We encourage authors to participate in the discussions sparked off by their articles, when feasible.

Obviously, for various reasons, this is not always possible. But remember that the website staff (including moderators) do regularly spend time in the community areas of the site and will ensure that any particularly interesting, entertaining, and insightful comments are highlighted to the author.

None. Authors cannot moderate comments on their own (or anyone else’s) articles.

If an author wants a particular comment removed, they need to make a complaint via the report link (as above) and it will be assessed by the moderation team in due course and dealt with accordingly.

The moderators work closely with editorial staff to determine and maintain an appropriate, context-specific community environment, informed and supported by the sitewide community standards.

No. Our terms of use clearly state that users should not maliciously create additional registration accounts for the purpose of abusing the functionality of the website, or other users, nor seek to pass themselves off as another user.

Setting up and using multiple usernames to try to fool people or subvert the moderation of the site will lead to a user’s account being banned completely.

Our moderators do keep an eye out for multiple usernames and will ban them when they spot them.

We encourage contributors to the website to include hyperlinks to content which is revealing, relevant, informative and/or provides more background or context about a particular perspective, situation or topic.

That means it is acceptable to link to specific posts on your own blog when it is appropriate, given the guidelines above.

However, regular linking to any site without providing context or adding value to the conversation (e.g. at the end of every comment) will probably look a lot like spamming, and may cause comments to be deleted.

This is covered in our Terms and Conditions which states that by posting any text on the site you are agreeing to “grant us a non-exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free, worldwide licence to republish any material you submit to us in any format, including without limitation print and electronic format.”

Off-topic refers to contributions which are not related to the specific matter under discussion.

Obviously, this is contextually-flexible; sometimes conversations are wide-ranging, and so more things can be perceived to be appropriate, topical and relevant. In other cases, off-topic relates to the general subject area of a particular series or section (e.g. the media blog).

While it is always possible to introduce new topics into a conversation, they should at least bear some relevance to the primary discussion.

Contributions will be perceived as off-topic if they veer substantively and wildly from the current conversation topic, either as an attempt to derail the conversation or as completely irrelevant.

Moderation

The moderation staff is responsible for moderation services on the website.

There is a small pool of dedicated moderators employed by us, rotating duties and coverage across all community areas.

We advertise open Community Moderator (and other) positions within the community team when they come up, both online on our website and in social networks.

If you are interested in applying, it might be worth setting up a job alert on our website so that you will be the first to know when a new role is advertised.

We welcome applications from anyone with the relevant skills and experience.

It is definitely useful to have previous experience of participating in online communities and social media themselves since that can help them to understand some of the motivations and social situations which can occur in online discussions.

No. Moderators are not employed on the basis of any affiliation, and are required to enforce the community standards neutrally and consistently across the site, whatever their personal perspectives.

Although they sometimes need to make decisions which may be unpopular, their actions should not be interpreted as being revealing of pro- or anti- leanings apart from pro-[our community standards] and anti-[behaviour which goes against them].

We do not publish specific hours of operation, but there is moderation coverage throughout the day and overnight, seven days a week.

Obviously, sometimes are busier and some periods have more cover than others, so we ask community members to be understanding if we do not always manage to deal with things straight away.

Our moderators are part of the central Community Staff which is part of the website and reports to the head of community and to editor-in-chief, audience.

All moderators work closely with editors and editorial staff across the website and some have specialist knowledge or experience which means they work predominantly in one or more subject areas.

However, the community standards, which the moderators are responsible for enforcing, are set centrally, although we consult with the senior editorial staff when revising them.

Additionally, the Community Staff regularly reviews activity on the site with relevant editorial departments, as well as updating them on any policy or approach changes.

While website editors do not directly influence moderation policy or daily process, moderation decisions are sometimes taken after consulting with editors who have specialist knowledge about particular subject areas.

Incidentally, we ask staff members and blog contributors (e.g. freelance authors) to report potential problems in participation areas using exactly the same method as everyone else.

If a staff member spots an issue, they report it in the normal way to bring it to the attention of a moderator, who will then make a decision based on the usual criteria.

Authors do not moderate their own content.

Unfortunately, the massive quantity of user content on the website means that we cannot enter into correspondence regarding specific moderation activity, although all correspondence will be read.

If you have suggestions or questions about any aspect of moderation and community participation on the website, you can always contact us.

Process

Of course, it would be lovely if we did not need to have anyone looking out for the quality of conversation on the website. But the fact is that as a big media organisation we have a responsibility to maintain the quality of content which appears on our website and so we employ a small team to monitor and manage community participation.

The aim of moderation is not censorship, but ensuring that the community participation areas of the website remain appropriate, intelligent and lawful.

Because then the conversation could be derailed into talking about moderation rather than the established or initial topic.

We occasionally create threads specifically to discuss moderation, but even then, we would not discuss specific situations, cases or decisions in public, because we feel that is inappropriate.

Comments are removed by moderators if they go against the Community Standards & Participation Guidelines, which every participant on the website is bound by.

Because moderators are not editors.

Participants should bear in mind that even if only one little bit (or line, or paragraph) of a comment is problematic, the whole comment will be removed.

This is partly to avoid moderators editing your contribution to remove the offending bit (which might inadvertently change the meaning) but also to encourage contributors to think carefully before posting.

In some cases, comments may have to be removed if they quote from or refer explicitly to an earlier comment which fell foul of the Community Standards.

For example, a comment which says “I cannot believe you said XXXXXX. I completely disagree!” where “XXXXXX” is an offensive, legally problematic or otherwise abusive statement, means that this comment just repeats it and so also needs to be removed.

Please, try and avoid perpetuating issues by referring to them.

When comments are removed by moderators, a marker is automatically left in the conversation thread to say that something has been removed.

Exceptions to the marker rule occur when moderators remove duplicate posts, spam, or sometimes when a comment or post is removed, it has been necessary to delete subsequent messages which refer to explicitly or quote from the original (removed) comment, in order to preserve some notion of conversational thread.

In such cases, not every deletion will be marked individually, as this then clutters the comments.

If your comment has disappeared with no marker left, it is generally because it was referring to an earlier comment that has been moderated.

Comments about moderation will usually be treated in this manner, as they usually refer to moderation that is taken place up thread.

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