How do you handle off-forum harassment on your forum?

Hentai

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So this is a quandary that has been troubling my moderation team over the last week and we have failed to reach consensus amongst ourselves. I was hoping some outside input could help put things in perspective and help me reach a decision.

How do you handle harassment amongst your community members that happens on platforms you don't control? How should we as stewards of a community handle negative interactions off-site on non-official channels?

What about things as serious as death threats or unwanted sexual advances? Does your off-forum policy change based on the severity and context of said supposed harassment and the manner it is reported to you?

IE: Community members harassing other community members on social media: Twitter/Tumblr/Discord/etc.
 

zappaDPJ

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There is a similar thread here that you might find useful or it would if I could find it... I'll keep looking.

In general I'd only be concerned about what occurs on my forum. There have been a few very rare occasions when I've acted on something that has happened elsewhere but only because a serious crime was involved.
 

Hentai

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In general I'd only be concerned about what occurs on my forum. There have been a few very rare occasions when I've acted on something that has happened elsewhere but only because a serious crime was involved.
I am of the same mind, I definitely don't want to be the internet police.

In my case, a certain clique of users has used that hands-off policy to say "X forum staff doesn't care about harassment" on social media. It definitely feels like a brigading-style attack on my forum's reputation, especially with people doing callout posts specifically mentioning admins.

Until now we have avoided responding directly as we want to handle things as tactfully as possible but I am not sure if any action is in our best interests. I don't think it is possible to appease the "woke" audience but at the same time doing nothing and hoping everything blows over feels very bad.
 

zappaDPJ

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but at the same time doing nothing and hoping everything blows over feels very bad.
It certainly does, I've face a similar situation here but sometimes (not all the time) it's the best way to defuse a situation with the minimum fall out. You may alienate a few members but the majority stay loyal. I can't say if that's your best option but It's worth considering :)
 

MagicalAzareal

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It's not my problem. Handling such problems is the responsibility of the staff on that other site.
If such problems happen on my site, then I will intervene. Playing internet police is an intractable position, nor can I do it effectively or fairly.

I have dealt with very problematic users before who have doctored screenshots to try to frame people they didn't like.
 

overcast

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So I know a woman who moves from forum to forum and she tends to create drama on most of the forum where I am part of. I have seen her contacting every forum admin and telling them which people to keep and let go on the forums. I think such toxic backbitching behavior has caused many admins to lose members and activity on forums. I don't know how to handle such type of members on forums. I personally have sternly asked that woman to stay in her limits and not cause issues on forums where I moderate or own.
 

MagicalAzareal

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So I know a woman who moves from forum to forum and she tends to create drama on most of the forum where I am part of. I have seen her contacting every forum admin and telling them which people to keep and let go on the forums. I think such toxic backbitching behavior has caused many admins to lose members and activity on forums. I don't know how to handle such type of members on forums. I personally have sternly asked that woman to stay in her limits and not cause issues on forums where I moderate or own.
These types of troublemakers are very difficult to deal with, but luckily, very rare. People occasionally get emotional about controversial subjects, sometimes even myself (for better or worse), but there is rarely any actual malice or lingering resentment. There isn't much you can really do, other than keeping your wits about you, and making sure that you keep things in order.

There is a name for this type of person, but it escapes me. I hope that giving them a warning will serve as a deterrent and to show that you don't tolerate such conduct, sometimes people will do it because they think they can get away with it.
 

Nev_Dull

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I don't think it is possible to appease the "woke" audience but at the same time doing nothing and hoping everything blows over feels very bad.
The question is, what can you hope to accomplish by responding to them? To the outside observer, I think it would look very much like a forum airing it's dirty laundry in public. Better to take the high road and let them have their rant without adding to the drama.
 

LeadCrow

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Easy, it's just not our responsibility to police.

Any investigation into offsite harassment is done purely for informative purposes and usually doesnt result in action other than recommendations on how best to avoid harassment (disabling notifications, pm reception from non-contact, editing out personal information or access to it...).

Any abuse committed on platforms like FB and Discord actually needs to be reported to their own moderation services (board/group admins) unless participants prefer talking things out peacefully. An account suspension there could however lead to more significant escalation than a ban on a dinky forum...
 

Ingenious

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There is no "off forum" policy IMHO... it's not our jobs as forum admins to police what goes on outside of the forum unless it directly involves us. There is also a great danger in being sucked into disputes where we have no idea who is telling the truth.

In my case, a certain clique of users has used that hands-off policy to say "X forum staff doesn't care about harassment" on social media. It definitely feels like a brigading-style attack on my forum's reputation, especially with people doing callout posts specifically mentioning admins.

Until now we have avoided responding directly as we want to handle things as tactfully as possible but I am not sure if any action is in our best interests. I don't think it is possible to appease the "woke" audience but at the same time doing nothing and hoping everything blows over feels very bad.
A sad fact of running a forum is you cannot please all of the people all of the time. You can show you do care about serious things like harassment by posting up a statement saying you are aware of some accusations being made and with advice encouraging victims to report it to the police but equally you can point out that the nature of the internet and social media means you can never know who is telling the truth and it is well beyond your remit to get involved. Why not update your forum rules or posting guides to cover the subject in broad terms ("Sadly, with the best will in the world we are unable to get involved with third party disputes or disputes that happen beyond our forum, such as on social media.")?

Or you can ignore it and come to terms with that another sad fact of running a forum: Someone, somewhere will always hate you for no reason whatsoever :rolleyes:
 

overcast

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There is no "off forum" policy IMHO... it's not our jobs as forum admins to police what goes on outside of the forum unless it directly involves us. There is also a great danger in being sucked into disputes where we have no idea who is telling the truth.
I personally don't see the need to police anyone at all. I think my only issue is that some of those people need to avoid chasing each other and cause issues.
 

ManagerJosh

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Oct 24, 2004
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So this is a quandary that has been troubling my moderation team over the last week and we have failed to reach consensus amongst ourselves. I was hoping some outside input could help put things in perspective and help me reach a decision.

How do you handle harassment amongst your community members that happens on platforms you don't control? How should we as stewards of a community handle negative interactions off-site on non-official channels?

What about things as serious as death threats or unwanted sexual advances? Does your off-forum policy change based on the severity and context of said supposed harassment and the manner it is reported to you?

IE: Community members harassing other community members on social media: Twitter/Tumblr/Discord/etc.
Don't get involved. You are not the internet police.
 

cheat_master30

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My answer here is the same as everyone else'... we don't handle complaints about user behaviour off site. It's not our job to play internet police, only to police our own communities.

As for dealing with the types of people that complain about this stuff... well the answer is simple; don't give them your time of day. These folks like causing drama, and (in the case of the 'cancel culture'/SJW types) only have any power because companies foolishly do listen to their whining on social media sites. Ignore them, and this type of drama will die down.
 

Leaf_Green

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I understand your concern. I think people's stances on this are partially determined by the type of board they administrate. If it's a larger board it can be bad news for an admin to get involved at all. If things get messy, your forum could topple like a house of cards. However, if you run a small and tight-knit community, many members (as well as you) may feel like a small family and you may feel compelled to keep the peace. This should be done within reason.

Places like the Steam community have power-hungry moderators who can be inconsiderate with their moderation. But with a small forum, I think what's important is trying to see both sides of a story. I know a lot of people say it's a bad idea for staff to make friends with members, but I really see nothing wrong with it in many cases. You'd just need to show that you're an effective leader who can be candid and stoic during tense situations.

Politics have probably increased this issue twofold at least. It can be tough to avoid taking sides. While it's important to keep in mind that members' business is their business, if you run a smaller board, members may be your friends but they can also be highly resourceful. If two members start a huge flame war and subsequently leave the forum, some others may follow suit. If you leave these bad situations unchecked. It could be quite chaotic for the collective community and your site's future.

In summary...

Do
  • Establish a good set of rules beforehand that remind members the consequences of bringing these feuds to the board
  • Allow freedom of expression (excluding the obvious, e.g. illegal content) but make it clear that personal attacks on the board are not allowed
  • Update members more subtly that you're hoping to keep things stable until the matter cools down, probably without naming the members in question—lock that thread
  • If given the chance, hear each member's side of the story while keeping an open mind

Do not
  • Divulge any direct details regarding the issue because that will put you in the middle of it
  • Punish a member because they did something you disagree with off the site (leave that until either member may start breaking rules on the forum)
  • Encourage either member to divulge information (like, dig up dirt) or anything that may escalate the problem (in other words, you should keep a cool head and mostly listen)
  • Get moderators involved if you have more site staff than yourself

Eh, that's what I can think of for the moment. I know many admins won't find my advice applicable. As I said, this is only intended for people who run a more close-knit community where as well as being an administrator you'll probably be an active leader to your members.
 

MagicalAzareal

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Allow freedom of expression (excluding the obvious, e.g. illegal content) but make it clear that personal attacks on the board are not allowed
In general, I don't really allow freedom of speech and of expression, per say. I won't go out of my way to censor people over stupid things, but people do need to follow common sense, otherwise it will be pure anarchy. If your line is what is purely illegal, then that is a very low bar, especially in the U.S. where the laws are generally quite liberal.

I could make a post saying that we should gas all the jews and that still would not be a violation of U.S. Law (although, it would be a violation of Canadian Law and the statutes of some other countries), this is still not a post you would actually want to have on a site either way. There is free speech and then there is free speech. This will spark a flame war btw.

I've written about this at length elsewhere. Most importantly, it needs to be a positive and welcoming environment, not a place where you go in and get smacked in the face by politics, I allow some politics, but politcs can and will spark flame wars, if you allow it to. Politics isn't even necessary on many kinds of sites.

There are certain kinds of sites which cater to different kinds and levels of speech, but those are generally different niches from mine.
 

Leaf_Green

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In general, I don't really allow freedom of speech and of expression, per say. I won't go out of my way to censor people over stupid things, but people do need to follow common sense, otherwise it will be pure anarchy. If your line is what is purely illegal, then that is a very low bar, especially in the U.S. where the laws are generally quite liberal.

I could make a post saying that we should gas all the jews and that still would not be a violation of U.S. Law (although, it would be a violation of Canadian Law and the statutes of some other countries), this is still not a post you would actually want to have on a site either way. There is free speech and then there is free speech. This will spark a flame war btw.

I've written about this at length elsewhere. Most importantly, it needs to be a positive and welcoming environment, not a place where you go in and get smacked in the face by politics, I allow some politics, but politcs can and will spark flame wars, if you allow it to. Politics isn't even necessary on many kinds of sites.

There are certain kinds of sites which cater to different kinds and levels of speech, but those are generally different niches from mine.
Yeah, I probably should have elaborated on that. Trolling for the sake of trolling is something the majority of admins should keep out. But if you start questioning members who have a different opinion that they express without trying to get a rise out of others, that's when you start walking on eggshells. I don't disagree with taking the focus off politics being a good idea, but since it's 2019 that isn't easy, even with forums that cater to particular niches.

The issue is that many people like to talk about politics. Banning politics outright can work against you is all I'm saying. (Which is why some politics can be a bit vague.) My forum has two general talk forums. One is for more light-hearted discussion. You won't find politics or debates there. The other is far more open (mostly exists for debates, etc.) and both receive a similar number of posts. (Edit: Seems I'm quite forgetful today! :halo: The casual one has around double the serious forum's posts.) It makes it easier for members to choose whether or not to avoid politics.
 

MagicalAzareal

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Yeah, I probably should have elaborated on that. Trolling for the sake of trolling is something the majority of admins should keep out. But if you start questioning members who have a different opinion that they express without trying to get a rise out of others, that's when you start walking on eggshells. I don't disagree with taking the focus off politics being a good idea, but since it's 2019 that isn't easy, even with forums that cater to particular niches.

The issue is that many people like to talk about politics. Banning politics outright can work against you is all I'm saying. (Which is why some politics can be a bit vague.) My forum has two general talk forums. One is for more light-hearted discussion. You won't find politics or debates there. The other is far more open (mostly exists for debates, etc.) and both receive a similar number of posts. (Edit: Seems I'm quite forgetful today! :halo: The casual one has around double the serious forum's posts.) It makes it easier for members to choose whether or not to avoid politics.
If it's one of these filter laws, copyright laws, link taxes, or any other manner of ridiculousness, that is usually okay to discuss.

If someone invokes "the children", I can even tell you Congress could very easily amend laws to catch a lot more of that crime without impinging upon other people's rights (higher budget, longer evidence retainment periods, and so on).

The LGBTQ+ / identity politics / immigration / race / religion / sex is a bit of a no-no.
Some people get fussed over other things too, but those are usually the most controversial and most likely to devolve into flame wars.
 

Joel R

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I don't know if I agree with a lot of the above responses, which universally say "it's off forum, which means it's off my responsibility." For the most part, I agree with the gist of that sentiment, but I think it's also important to:
1. Consider the extent of the problem
2. Consider the disruption (or potential for disruption) to your community
3. Thoughtfully explain your thinking to your community
4. Privately contact the member to outline site guidance, if needed
5. Document, if needed

A person with a history of behavioral issues elsewhere is going to be someone who will continue to have behavioral issues on your site. I think that's important to remember.

Communities have been dealing with this issue for thousands of years. In ancient times, a person may have murdered / raped / pillaged in the town next over. Then he comes to your town. Does his behavior in that town impact his conduct in your town? What if he murders/ rapes / pillages in your town? Were you asking for it since you knew about his history of problems?
 
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