7 Rules for Managing Internet Discussions

The free and open discussion that the Internet provides is awesome. Sadly there are those who abuse the privilege of being able to participate in an on-line discussion. Internet bullying, hate speech, and incorrect information are all encouraged by unlimited anonymous posting. If you run a discussion forum don’t forget that you privately own it and control it—and to those that read it, it represents your company or organization. You have a right and a responsibility to moderate it. And keep it appropriate for your readers, customers, or fans. Here are seven guidelines to help you manage:

1. Eliminate anonymous posting. Everyone must identify who they are somehow. Require users to register with a valid email address. If someone is sharing “expert” advice—require them to provide references.

2. Never allow un-moderated comments. Remember the days of “letters to the editor”? Used to be that someone had to prepare a thoughtful response, respectfully submit it, and also sign their name to it.

3. If necessary, turn OFF the comment feature and require readers to submit comments through email. This way you have the most control. Make it clear that you have the right to edit comments from users.

4. When something offensive does get posted—delete it immediately. Issue a warning or ban the user right away. Don’t ever let this go. Remember you have a responsibility to your readers and to those who took the time to respond thoughtfully.

5. Off-topic posts that somehow slip through should be deleted immediately. They don’t add anything and can sometimes take the discussion in a direction you may not want.

6. Clear any “spam” messages right away. These make it look like you don’t care about keeping things in order.

7. Any personal attacks on other users, inappropriate language, racial slurs, or something that demeans another user should never see the light of day. Internet bullying and hate speech are real problems. If an offensive post does get through, get rid of it and ban the offending user. No questions asked.

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