Consolidating ToS to add clarity around rules and responsibilities

[posted on behalf of @CodePotent]

Per Slack conversation, I’ve compiled the following list of documents that might be consolidated to bring additional clarity to the expected behaviors, rights, and responsibilities of the parties, the goal being to create a “single source of truth” which can be shared in various locations around the project and to leave no question about “which document prevails.” If I’ve missed any documents, please link them.

https://forums.classicpress.net/tos
https://forums.classicpress.net/faq
https://petitions.classicpress.net/terms
https://www.classicpress.net/democracy/ (code of conduct section)

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I will list here some of the points suggested in the conversation. Note these are just ideas put forward, so they are talking points really. Nothing is decided yet. Please add anything I missed, or if you would like to contribute further.

  • Modify the T&Cs to make clear that comments cannot be edited or deleted after a certain point. That will maintain the integrity of a thread. The question then becomes what the cut-off point should be. [Q. Will this cause problems with reference threads that are continually edited?, eg “Plugins Confirmed Working on ClassicPress v1” has 58 edits going back to Dec 2018]
  • Retain a contributor’s ability to have the comment anonymized (which we must permit under GDPR, for example). In other words, whether someone wants to take ownership of their comments is up to them, but how a thread’s content appears is up to us. [Q. Is this to be on a post-by-post basis or would anonymization apply to all posts by that user?]
  • It is unclear whether we can retroactively enforce a condition so that existing posts can’t be deleted.
  • Tighten T&Cs so they are more rules than guidelines.
  • If a post is removed by a moderator, a reason should always be displayed and include some sort of a “talk to a mod” link so it can be discussed in case the user feels confused or aggrieved. Posts should never just mysteriously “disappear”.
  • Consolidate all the existing documents into one T&Cs document. It can be displayed in multiple places but there should only be one version.
  • Include a system so that mods can be flagged by users for abuse of power, and if this is ongoing the mod’s decisions can then be investigated. This could perhaps be done as an escalation procedure to a higher authority such as senior mod or admin. Persistent abuse would see mod lose their position.
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I’d like to add to this discussion one more opinion from the Slack:

I think any user can flag any user, regardless of either’s role.

(The author is @CodePotent, but this does not matter at this context. I have to mention him just because using direct quotation)

So, my note. I think we should flag separate posts only. Not users. And all moderator actions should be also applied to separate posts only, but not users (accounts/IPs). Some reasons:

  1. If a user breaks some rules this doesn’t mean that all his posts/actions are bad for community. There still can be 99% of harm and 1% of extreme profit. The mod task is to fix those 99%, yes, but also to keep the profitable 1%.

  2. Accounts are not absolutely safe. They can be sometimes hacked, used by spammers etc. If any sanctions/penalties are applied to a user in whole, this will maximize all harmfull effects for both sides (user and community).

So each post/action should be estimated separately. And the user (person) is untouchable.

This could be even generalized to an ideological/philosophical point of view. Flagging a post is a request for cleaning, which is normal. Flagging a user is a requiest for punishment, which is rather ambicious and police-alike. I really think that first method is the key.

And one more note about IPs (a bit offtopic but has very similar logic/ethic background):
To my mind IP-address should never be used for user identification (e.g. for detecting spammers, bans, limitations etc). Many providers across the world use dynamic IP-adresses. There are also proxies and specific situations with gateways (for example, this forum tells me that I’m connected from Germany, but I’m not). Dynamic means that 1 external IP may be occasionaly used by different people within a large subnet. Even more specific markers such as system fonts cash and browser detailes are not always reliable. So any automatic actions depending on this are objectionable. If antispam system fires on normal users even once, it should be removed. 1 community member is more important than potential threat from 100 spammers.

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Some great points, thanks @norske

This brings to mind a question. What do we do with serial offenders? One forum I use has something like a “sin bin” as a first warning. But shouldn’t there be a process to ban a user if they continually break the rules?

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I think serial or ongoing offenses would fall under the purview of the moderators, and one of their options would be to ban a user with several offenses? (there should be other options as well)

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Something else I would like to raise is the issue of editing posts.

In my opinion, it should be a firm rule that posts can not be edited by moderators or admin. If there is something against the rules in a post then the entire post should be removed, with the reason for removal stated. If the user wants to revise the wording and try again, then it’s up to them.

So in the recent example, we would not simply edit the post to remove the link. We take down the post. Allowing mods to go in a start rewording and reworking something that would still remain published under a user’s name has too much scope for ongoing problems and abuse.

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