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A refresher on Community Guidelines and moderation

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NBA: Boston Celtics at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

This was originally posted on July 23, 2016 and edited on October 18, 2018. The content below is mostly the same as the 2016 piece, but some edits have been made.

Hello everyone! Thank you all for commenting on Bullets Forever. Here is a refresher on Community Guidelines on our site and SB Nation as a whole.

SB Nation rolled out its standardized community guidelines in the summer of 2016. This came after a number of internal discussions over the past month among the moderators of our community sites, as well as SB Nation’s national team.

For most of you, there isn’t much to worry about. So continue being the respected members that you are.

However, we get new commenters who aren’t as familiar with our guidelines so now is a good time for them to get better familiarized. And from time to time, I see more profanity in the comments than necessary. In addition, some other recurring issues such as defining sexist comments, and misuse of the FanPosts section have also compelled me to address that.

In this admittedly very long post, we will go through SB Nation’s guidelines, explain what they mean, and also add additional site rules that are specific to us. But again, even with our additional site rules, most other sites implement them too in some way.

The 11 things that thou shalt not do

There are 11 specific things that are part of SB Nation’s standard community guidelines.

You can read them on their page, but I’ve gone ahead and re-written them here. The rules here are pretty self-explanatory, and aren’t breaking news.

1. Comments, FanPosts or usernames that are intolerant or prejudiced (sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, anti-religion etc.) in nature.

If you’re thinking about calling some one a maggot with an f at the front, it’s not going to fly. If you’re going to write that Emma Meesseman needs to go back to the kitchen to cook you some mussels and frites, that will also not fly. Or if you call Elena Delle Donne a “dyke,” that’s also just not cool.

Misogyny and sexual objectification are things that SB Nation and all of its sites aim to eliminate. I have kept a closer eye on things that can be perceived that way in recent weeks. This focus is something that will not go away.

So if you comment, write a FanPost, have a username, or are about to post a picture that is likely going to earn some frowns from some folks at a public venue, don’t post it.

2. Personal attacks or threats on community members.

Don’t attack someone’s character or threaten to get someone to beat them up. Not cool.

3. Gendered insults of any kind in comments, FanPosts or usernames.

Calling a user a “pussy” or being “a little bitch,” would be in this category. A username with these words is also not allowed.

4. Posting or creating FanPosts for the sole purpose of trolling or disrupting the community is not permitted. Posts made for such purposes are subject to deletion without notice. Creating multiple user names for this purpose is not permitted. Persons creating such user names will have those names banned and/or deleted without notice.

All the moderators on this site have the ability to see your IP address that you created your account from as well as the address where you last logged in. Our system will alert us when there are multiple users logging in from the same IP address.

Often times, a banned user may create a new account and use it either to troll further or to circumvent the ban. Since we do have reports of new users to our community and do check them regularly, don’t create new accounts to “talk to yourself” or to circumvent bans because they’ll be banned.

Of course, there are times where you could have multiple users from the same IP address. For example, if you and several coworkers are all BF commenters, that can and does happen. This does not happen very often however.

In regard to FanPost topics that are intended to troll, it’s a bit of a gray area when they focus on the Wizards or the Mystics’ play on the court as opposed to a topic that says “USER X Sucks!” But in the summer of 2018, the topic of whether John Wall is expendable certainly sparked a lot of debate. A FanPost that advocates trading John Wall certainly isn’t trolling in a vacuum. But a user who continually advocates that, argues with other users, and then makes a FanPost calling out other users while advocating that position is trolling.

5. Offensive imagery of any kind is not allowed, including violent, explicit and demeaning imagery.

The word “offensive” can be very subjective, so let’s specify some of these things:

  • Racist acts - This includes, but isn’t limited to acts like lynching, showing swastikas, etc. Showing a picture of racist and terrorist groups promoting violence also qualifies.
  • Images that show excessive amounts of blood - If it’s on LiveLeak with a mature rating, that isn’t something we need here.
  • Illicit drug use - This includes, but isn’t limited to cocaine, PCP, Molly, meth, heroin, etc.
  • Marijuana use - I get that marijuana is legal or decriminalized in parts of the U.S. You can also smoke it in a coffeeshop throughout the Netherlands. And in 2018, Canada legalized recreational marijuana, which will probably hurt Dutch tourism from the USA. But that’s another topic for another day on another site. That’s where we are based and where over 80 percent of our readers come from. So if you’re a Dutch or Canadian reader who enjoys that stuff, great! But it’s illegal here in most of the USA. So let’s not show those green cannabis leaves here please.
  • Pornography and sexual services - Most readers are adults, but kids read this site too. If you want that stuff, please go elsewhere for it.

6. Comments, FanPosts or usernames that make light of serious crime of any kind; specifically domestic violence, DUI, sexual assault.

Don’t say that “this team was raped” when a team got blown out. There are other ways to express a beatdown, like ... “that team didn’t show up.” Same emphasis, but it doesn’t make light of rape. Same thing goes with domestic violence, DUI’s, human/drug trafficking, murder, terrorism, you get the point.

Also, SB Nation is a partner with the It’s On Us campaign which is to increase awareness of sexual assault on college campuses. You can read SB Nation’s section on it and the national campaign’s site here.

7. Comments, FanPosts or usernames that make light of any physical, mental, behavioral or psychological disorder.

Let’s not call each other retards, schizophrenics, etc., especially when most of us aren’t experts at diagnosing that kind of stuff.

8. Excessive profanity is not permitted. Different SB Nation sites have different guidelines regarding profanity -- i.e., some do not allow it at all -- but across all of our communities, please keep use of profanity within reason.

I thought long and hard about whether to ban profanity on Bullets Forever. Ultimately, keep it to a minimum.

I get that in sports, profanity is common. Randy Wittman’s college coach can tell you what that’s all about (NSFW):

Sometimes, a word or two flies in our stories once in a while and even in the comments. But a Bob Knight rant is over the top and isn’t necessary.

There is no hard and fast rule on what too much profanity is, or how many cuss words per 1,000 words a commenter will equal a ban. However, it’s clear when someone is cursing too much. When that happens, we will delete those comments and/or ban repeat offenders.

In short, a comment like Bob Knight’s rant above will be taken down. And the same goes for a comment like the Late Wesley Willis’ musical works (NSFW):

Please keep in mind that some other SB Nation community sites do ban profanity altogether and will not hesitate to ban you for saying “Da*n it” or “Oh $***!” We won’t ban profanity altogether, but again, keep it to a minimum so we won’t have to.

9. Posts created for the sole purpose of advertising or other commercial purposes will be deleted without notice.

Don’t advertise erectile dysfunction pills or those cheap $20 NBA jerseys here. The former category is a prescription drug generally speaking. As for the latter, a swingman Nike NBA jersey costs $109.99 regular price. So if someone claims to be selling a $20 NBA jersey, it is too good to be true.

So don’t buy the illegal knockoff products. Buy Nike or any leftover Adidas swingman and authentic gear. If you want a more cost effective NBA jersey, Fanatics.com has a replica for $69.99.

This hasn’t been a problem for us, but it has for some other sites, including SBNation.com.

10. The sharing of illegal game streams is not allowed. Legal streams (via NBC Sports, WatchESPN, etc.) can be shared freely, but links to or requests for illegal, pirated streams are not allowed.

Keep in mind that comments that ask for streaming options are often asking for illegal links in an implicit manner. Any replies to that should be the legal options, never the illegal ones.

If someone mentions or links the names of illegal streams on GameThreads, we will at a minimum take the comment down.

11. The “first post” rule: if you break any of the above guidelines in your first post at the site, it likely means that you are creating an account just to disrupt the community, and that won’t be tolerated. We will ban your account, and you can reach out to us via email if you believe there was a misunderstanding.

This is a new rule that is going to be in effect immediately for all of our community sites. This may sound harsh, especially to the people who are banned for a first post (or a few). But please keep in mind that when a new user breaks many rules especially, those in regard to attacking others, it usually isn’t because he or she is intending on being a positive contributor to the online community.

If you are banned because of the “first post” rule, please email us at bulletsforevermoderators AT gmail DOT com and we’ll go from there.

Additional guidelines from BF

There are some additional things that we would like to stress here.

1. Your misconduct on both SB Nation and non-SB Nation Vox Media sites is grounds for us to warn or ban you on Bullets Forever.

You are probably well-aware at this point to where you know that if another SB Nation site warns or bans you, we will know about it too. And you are probably well aware to the point where we can and will take action as well.

That said, the moderation platform stretches beyond SB Nation. It’s because it is one of eight brands within Vox Media, our parent organization.

With your SB Nation account, you can also use it to comment or post on message boards at these sites:

If you were cause a ruckus on one of them and get warned or banned for it, we’ll see it too. And if you get banned here, the moderators at those sites will also know about it. Finally, they have very similar community guidelines to ours.

2. Moderation complaints must be handled via email.

We’re more than happy to talk about moderation decisions with you, in private.

If you have a question about a moderation decision (meaning you got warned, banned), do so at bulletsforevermoderators AT gmail DOT com.

If you don’t get a response within a day, you can also email:

  • me: aleeinthedmv AT gmail DOT com
  • Jake: monumentalair AT gmail DOT com

The vast majority of commenters are “law abiding” community members, so they don’t care about why your comment was removed. Writing comments asking why comments were taken down aren’t the best way to get moderators’ attention.

3. Do not use FanPosts to protest moderation decisions or coverage.

The FanPosts section is for you to talk about any Wizards or Mystics subject you’d like. Heck, I don’t even mind if you write something good about another team.

However, they are not a space for you to complain about why you were warned or why a comment was taken down.

When a user is banned or warned, we don’t write a front page post and a breaking news headline about it. So don’t do the same because it isn’t going to do you favors.

Going forward, FanPosts written to complain about moderation decisions are subject to be taken down without further notice. In addition, you will likely get a word from us.

Again, this is better served through email. The same applies with posts that make a side remark about it.

Finally, if you want to read a more detailed rationale on the Mystics being on this site, Jake and I wrote a long post on why they have a space here.

4. Flagging comments simply because of disagreements is not permitted

Over the years, I have seen two users get in a back and forth, then flag each other because they are bickering and don’t like the viewpoint of the person he or she is arguing with. This is frowned upon and you are likely to hear back from us on it.

5. Please keep dialogue about political, social, and religious issues to a minimum.

Sports is a place where people of all backgrounds and political leanings should feel welcome talking about and we prefer to keep things that way. There are plenty of sites to talk about political issues in depth. However, we don’t want to moderate discussions about political candidates or “hot button” issues in the news.

Of course, there will be some stories that will be on major political or social topics that also are relevant to us. However, let’s not get into an in-depth discussion on those political and social issues themselves.

6. Don’t rec comments that are clearly attacking another user or breaking community guidelines

From time to time, some comments that were clearly attacking another user, usually in a back and forth argument, get rec’ed. Perhaps you rec’ed that comment since you agree with the commenter who wrote the nasty remark. By rec’ing that comment, you are egging a user to continue going along a certain path. Yes, moderators can see every rec a user gives and receives.

You too, police the community

Our site gets hundreds of comments a day during the season and thousands per month. Though we do take down comments and posts as we see them, you also can help us out by flagging comments.

To flag a comment, click on the flag button on a particular comment you have an issue with. Please write a note why it breaks guidelines and hit submit. One of us will see the flag and determine what to do from there.

As written above, do not abuse this system because we don’t like seeing “false alarms” and don’t get yourself warned or banned for doing so.

Frequently Asked Questions

Most SB Nation sites haven’t talked about standardized guidelines. Why?

The reason why is because most, if not all of these guidelines are already being followed by every site and we were not mandated to post something on it.

Then why are you writing about this?

Every once in awhile, we should give a refresher on community guidelines. With the summer being a lull in the NBA season, now is a good time to talk about it. We’ll link back to this when we get closer to the Wizards’ regular season as well.

Have I done anything wrong?

If you’re a regular who hasn’t been warned or banned in the last several months, you are doing fine. Most of you are great, and have nothing to worry about. If you have been warned or banned in the past, now is a good time to review this so you won’t have to go through this again.

If you’re new, I hope this sets the tone on what will and will not be allowed on Bullets Forever and the other sites part of SB Nation and Vox Media.

Aren’t you censoring us?

Any comment that is taken down due to breaking guidelines is censorship, so yes.

It’s not because we want to silence people like the North Korean or Chinese government. It’s because we have to promote the cultivation of a good discussion on the stories and FanPosts we all write. AND we need to foster an online community where people of all backgrounds feel welcome here.

We aren’t going to censor comments that are within guidelines, but comments that break them are certainly bound to it.

Are you just trying to be politically correct now for everything?

I’ll leave it up to you to decide what politically correct means if you’re asking this question.

What we want is an inclusive online community. The fans who comment here shouldn’t feel uncomfortable about doing so. They should feel free to say what they like, provided that they follow community guidelines of course.

Are moderators going to take down comments they personally disagree with though they clearly aren’t breaking rules?

No.

How many comments are taken down then?

Of the thousands of comments we get per month, only a handful of them are taken down due to breaking community guidelines. That doesn’t mean that we would be moderating less, meaning keeping an eye on things.

I wrote a quick reply in a comment string and see that it’s gone. Was that at me?

When a specific comment is taken down, all replies to that comment are also taken down. There is a chance that you may have been in that boat.

I see a comment that is clearly breaking rules and it is not taken down. Why?

Flag it. If you don’t hear a response, feel free to email bulletsforevermoderators AT gmail DOT com.

You took down my comment, but it was rec’ed many times. That means people support me! I am the voice of The People!

Rec’s are overall a good thing, but they aren’t necessarily the be-all, end-all of what a good comment is. If a comment that breaks guidelines is rec’ed many times, it’s often in a back and forth when users are “taking sides” with which user they like more.

So rec’s have nothing to do with whether a comment is within community guidelines. They are a measure of whether other commenters like your comment in and of itself. Most of the time, rec’ed comments are good comments. But that isn’t always the case.

I was banned and want to be unbanned. What do I do?

Email bulletsforevermoderators AT gmail DOT com and we will go from there. Do NOT create a new username because chances are that we’ll know about it.

Many of the guidelines involve a lot of gray area. How much leeway do you give users before deciding to take down a comment, etc?

This is one of those things where there is no hard and fast rule.

But when you write a comment, take a quick second to think about how your parents or your family (depending on where you are in life) would think once your comment is out there.

If they’re going to blush in embarrassment for more reasons than one cuss word during a GameThread, then it’s a good idea NOT to post it.

The bottom line is to be respectful of others. When you are coming across as not respecting another user, you are beginning to lay the foundation of creating a downward spiral with him or her. And sometimes, it does get ugly. Commenters generally don’t want to read a back and forth between two or three users.

The moderators reserve the right to take down comments or close comments when they deem that it is appropriate at any time.

Questions?

So, that’s the scoop on the new guidelines, both from SB Nation and from us. In short, day to day moderation is not going to change. However, there is an increased focus on combating sexism, and anti-LGBTQ comments in our dictation. We all can do better in that respect, and that includes me as well.

Feel free to comment here, but do not use it to question moderation decisions as it pertains to you specifically. If you have questions or clarifications you’d like, those would be good comments to have. I probably won’t answer them here, because this can be elaborated on in a future post.

Thanks for reading.