Community Moderation

Explore the most common questions on how we encourage debate and social interaction through our network and our moderation process.

F.A.Q. Centre

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

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 open comments on our content wherever possible.

However, time and attention are finite (particularly in moderation resource). We have learned from experience that some subjects and types of articles attract less constructive or engaging debate than others.

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

Comments will generally be open across the website. These features are discursive and likely to engender thoughtful, insightful, and coordinated responses plus multimedia interviews, events, roundtables, and conversations.

The content is discursive itself, or user participation is part of the story.

Comments will generally not be open on content that 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 several threads are already open on a specific topic or story, we try to keep comments to a single thread. This allows us to make it easier for people to find and follow the unfolding conversation.

In short, where comments are likely to add value (for other readers and us) 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 the central behavioral and social norms for the site. However, in general, we want this to continue to be a safe place for stimulating discussion about issues.

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 adding 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.

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.

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 thinly.

All community interaction is subject to some level of moderation 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 that all comments live on the website are appropriate or in the spirit of the community standards.

While the website staff tries 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.

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) regularly spend time in the community areas of the site and will ensure that any exciting, 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 to abuse the functionality of the website, or other users, nor seek to pass themselves off as another user.

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

Our moderators 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 revealing, relevant, informative sources or information that provides more background or context about a particular perspective, situation, or topic.

That means it is acceptable to link to specific posts on your blog when 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 agree to “grant us a non-exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free, worldwide license to republish any material you submit to us in any format, including without limitation print and electronic format.”

Off-topic refers to contributions that 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 preceding 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 entirely 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 announce any open Community Moderator (and other) positions when they come up online on our Careers website and 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 announced.

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

It is 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 based on any affiliation.

They are required to enforce the community standards neutrally and consistently across the site, whatever their perspectives.

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

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

Sometimes we 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 report directly to the head of the community and our chief of public relations.

All moderators work closely with editors and editorial staff across the website. 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 website with relevant editorial departments. It updates 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 with 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 the same method as everyone else.

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

Authors do not moderate their 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 anyone looking out for the quality of conversation on the website. But the fact is that as a big media organization, we have a responsibility to maintain the quality of content which appears on our website. 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 the conversation could derail to talking about moderation instead of the initial topic.

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

Moderators remove comments if they go against the Community Standards and Participation Guidelines.

This happens because moderators are not comment 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) and 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 statement that 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 repeats it and so also needs to be removed.

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

When moderators remove comments, 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 that refer to explicitly or quote from the original (removed) comment to preserve some notion of conversational thread.

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

Suppose your comment has disappeared with no marker left. In that case, it is because it was referring to an earlier statement that has been moderated.

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

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