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"Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation." Saint Augustine

BBC DNA Moderation Guidelines...

October 27, 2003

Apologies for the long-time absent - hopefully over the next few days I can catch up with the backlog of interesting links I've been sent, as well as write up some more guides to moderator techniques, technical or otherwise. But to start off with, I thought I'd draw people's attention to some of the published moderation guidelines for BBC's DNA-based sites. They are - for the most part - highly polished and thoughtful and manage to be clear about those circumstances where moderation might have to occur. More importantly they state precisely what will happen under those circumstances (which, for legal reasons, are hopefully rare) under which a post might be moderated. Here's one of the clearest expositions and statements of intent I've ever read:

For every single piece of new content, Moderators will do one of the following:
  • Pass it - When your content is passed, you won't notice a thing. A Posting that has been passed will be visible forever (unless a complaint is made about it and upheld - see below). An article that has been passed will remain visible until it is edited, or a complaint upheld about it, at which time it is flagged for moderation again, and the whole process is re-applied.
  • Refer it - In this case the Moderator is unsure about whether the content should be passed or failed, so they queue it, pending a decision by the Editors. Because the Editors are not available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, this act of referring has to hide the Posting or article while the decision is being made. This doesn't mean that your content has been removed; it just means that the content has been referred. Instead of the content, the site shows a message saying that it is currently referred.
  • Edit it - In some very specific cases the Moderators will edit content to fit the House Rules. Content will only be edited by Moderators in the following, very strict circumstances. In no way do we allow any other kind of editing, and if you think your content has been changed beyond these rules, please let us know by replying to the moderation email you receive, and we'll investigate. It's vital that Members do not feel that their content is being hacked around unnecessarily.
    • Swear-words will be ****'d out. The Moderators will **** out the entire word, except for the first and last letters.
    • Unsuitable URLs in Conversation Postings (not articles) will be removed, and replaced by [Unsuitable link removed by Moderator]. Broken links in Conversation Postings (not articles) will be removed, and replaced by [Broken link removed by Moderator]. We edit out the link rather than fail the Posting because Members cannot edit Postings and put them back up, and it's not fair to fail an entire Posting just because of an unsuitable URL or broken link. However, Postings which consist of nothing but unsuitable URLs will simply be failed. Please see the House Rules for information on what constitutes an unsuitable URL.
    • Personal addresses, telephone numbers and specific contact details (except for emails, instant messaging addresses and so on) will be removed, and replaced by [Personal details removed by Moderator].
  • Fail it - In this case the Posting or article will be hidden from view, as it breaks the House Rules sufficiently for us to remove it from the site (so it might be defamatory, plagiarised or something else serious). In the case of Postings, this means the Posting will be hidden forever and replaced by a message saying the Posting is removed (unless we later override the Moderator's decision - see below for information on contesting a Moderator's decision). Each article that fails moderation is hidden, but to fix this you can go to your Personal Space, pick out the relevant A number in the 'articles' section, click on the 'Edit' link, edit out the offending material, and reactivate it.

PS. You might also be interested in the more stringent House Rules that were brought into effect over the BBC's site during the war in Iraq: BBCi Guidelines for Discussions During the Iraq War.

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