Responsible Post Monitoring

There are many communities that operate in content that can allow for a wide range of info without concern. Add to the mix the different styles of administrators and their moderator team and you have a wide variety of content that is within the realm of acceptable content.

However there are issues that we need to be aware of as administrators and be involved (and make sure we've trained our mods to be involved) in responsible monitoring.

Suicide threats:
Create a policy for your site and be aware that becoming personally involved with a suicide threat can have long-range legal ramifications. Tell your staff to encourage anyone posting a suicide threat to PM the member with instructions for them to go to their local ER or call 911. Do not attempt to help them through your message boards unless you are a licensed site, capable and legally protected to handle such things.

I, also, suggest removing the suicide threat post in part or in whole so as not to upset your community. Your members will not understand if they find the post and the staff tell them to call 911 while the members beg the member not to do it. It can cause an upsetting scene which can take away from the community as a whole.

Medical Advice: Unless you or your members are medical professionals set up to provide medical advice online, be careful that your community's TOS includes "no medical advice, post with your experience only" in particular on medical/health support websites. Our TOS also says our site does not take the place of their relationship with their physician and to review all questions and information with them.

I run a medical/post-surgical support website and am careful that members asking medical questions are sent back to their personal physician for diagnosis and instructions. We have been relentless to maintain an atmosphere of *support* without medical input.

One member arrived at my website with a degree in nursing. She started to provide pre-op prep medical advice which we immediately <snipped> and notified her of the agreed TOS. Although we stopped her from public posts with her pre-surgery prep information, what we didn't know at the time was she was PMing pre-op members with the information.

One such member "listened" to this member without telling her surgeon about her prep the night before surgery. We were notified later in the week that this member went into dehydration shock in recovery. Her surgeon was furious with her that she had followed the advice of this women without his knowledge. She was in ICU for a while and didn't come home on normal schedule.

I banned the nurse member who gave the pre-op advice and emailed her telling about the episode of the member who listened to her. Yes, the member who had a difficult surgery should not have followed her advice but as a responsible administrator, I knew I needed to take strict action.

Legal Advise
: In the same light, unless you are in a professional environment that lends itself to this kind of exchange, it is not a good idea for you to allow members to exchange legal advice nor provide a means for them to collect info to aid them in lawsuits on your website. With frivilous lawsuits on the rise, it is not a good idea for your website/community to be the place where members make plans for legal action.

Libelous Content: Posts containing untrue, slanderous content aimed at any person whether a member or not should be removed. Rather than arguing about freedom of speech issues, remember that with freedom of speech comes responsible behavior. Freedom of speech extends to some areas but not privately owned property. The owner of the property is responsible for maintaining acceptable content. Be smart!

Copyright Infringement: Posts containing articles that someone else wrote do not belong on our websites without the written permission of the copyright owner. The member can post a synopsis with a link back to the original article but can not lift the article with the copy/paste funtion and put it into your forums without copyright infringement. Add this issue to your TOS as "unacceptable" and when you find someone has done this on your forums, edit the content out and put a link to the article instead.

There *are* exceptions to these suggestions. Be mindful of the responsibility that we carry as administrators of a community. Be consistent and be careful. Plan for your long-term future on the net as a safe, balanced community on the net.

copyright 2004 All rights reserved: The Admin Zone []