The ClassicPress “Overton window” (the range of ideas allowed within the public discourse) tends to be very large.
However, not everything ought to be allowed.
It is possible to be too permissive at times, causing harm to others.
Then the question becomes how to avoid inconsistent application of the rules / community guidelines.
Unbridled moderator discretion can easily lead to abuse and unhealthy cliques.
However, if you are not going to give any discretion to moderators, you might just as well not have moderators and just rely on the forum’s AI.
We should identify observable behaviours, that on their own, or in combination, may point to the existence of an undesirable outcome.
This specific thread is aimed at the undesirable outcome of targeted harassment.
We should consider whether a particular behaviour is a
- weak indicator
- strong indicator
- very strong indicator
that an undesirable outcome exists.
Again, this specific thread defines that undesirable outcome as targeted harassment.
A very strong indicator would point to harassment beyond a reasonable doubt (not all doubt!), while a strong indicator would point to probable harassment (more likely than not), while a weak indicator would point to possible harassment (i.e. harassment is not MORE likely than not, but the possibility that it exists is not insignificant).
Consider a threshold of tolerance.
This would include considering what combination of particular behaviours would indicate an undesirable outcome (here, targeted harassment).
Consider appropriate actions that ought to be taken in response.
I suggest that the following may be very strong indicators of targeted harassment:
Publicly releasing someone’s personal information, including their home or work address, their telephone number, details of their movements or details of their family’s movements.
(Hereafter referred to as “doxing”).
Writing an article(s) about a specific person or small group of named individuals.
I suggest that the following may strong indicators of targeted harassment:
- Swearing at someone.
We need to make a distinction here between foul language and foul language directed at a specific person.
I suggest that the following may be weak indicators of targeted harassment:
- Repeatedly engaging in dis-proportionally large number of arguments with particular individuals, where the subject matter of those arguments are not “technical” in nature.
(Think flame wars.)
I propose that moderation actions ought not to be inconsistent with the likelihood that there is harassment.
So, for example, a very strong indicator of harassment may warrant a permanent ban, even for a first time offense.
A strong indicator of harassment may warrant removal of a thread.
Weak indicators of harassment ought to be treated like a syndrome / symptom.
So, let’s say something like when there is one weak indicator of harassment, the forum moderator should try to re-focus the conversation into a productive direction.
The more weak indicators are present, the more likely targeted harassment is considered to be and the more strict the action taken.
I propose that moderators should be allowed discretion and should be allowed to act outside of recommendations.
However, I propose that they should be required to document a short explanation for their choice.
I propose that a sample of such deviations ought to be reviewed by a senior moderator from time to time.