There is an easy solution for serious topics like that. You indeed have the danger to encounterof encountering trolls and flame wars, nevertheless you have the advantage to beof being on the internet. Nobody forces you, nor others, to look up certain content. So you could handle it like Reddit did (before Ellen Pao took over).
That's the easy solution but there is a more complex aswellone as well.
One basic step into the direction of controversial topics is to ask why these topics should be discussed on your site.
- Why do users think that your community is ready to discuss about sensitive matters?
- What is the advantage of discussing it on your site?
- Do users think it might help your community to develop?
These are key question you should consider before even starting a discussion toon any topic. As an administrator, moderator or staff member, it's your job to keep the site clean of harassment and trolls. You want to build up a community suitable for many people. I always ask myself these questions before introducing new discussions so I can avoid unnecessary disputes.
To determine if your users are ready or not, you should ask youyourself the following sub-questions:
- Can I rely on userusers reporting trolls?
- Can I rely on userusers who keep up a civil discussion?
- Is the age of my community appropriate for the topic?
The last one is really important for youyour decision: You don't want to discuss laws in a young community. Your users aren't ready for it since they most likely don't know what to say.
Probably it's worthworthwhile to introduce the discussion because of certain circumstances. Example: You want to discuss the issue of (cyber-)bullying in a young community because they are faced with it. This will most likely hardenstrengthen the bonds between your users. However, never lose sight of your real goal: You want to make people happy, as many as possible. So, even though you and your staff like the topic, if it's not beneficial for your community, you shouldn't begin a discussion.
Let's imagine you decided to get the ballsball rolling: Always consider that you have to put extra effort into a sensitive discussion. You have to clean up some insulting posts and have to calm both sides -— if you feel like the work part is bigger than the actual benefit of it, close the discussion and concentrate on something else.
It doesn't need to be you who definedefines the playground but someone who understands the complexity of the topic. You don't want your discussion to go into the wrong direction, the so-called off-topic. It should stay on-topic on its own as long as possible. To ensure this,
This is a tough thing to do. We don't live in North Korea -— censorship is referred as a bad thing here. Users don't want their post to be edited. Keep this in mind.
However, by entering the playground, they heard your warnings, hence you're legally allowed to take actions against anyone who leaves the playground and hurts your warnings. This simplesimply means that you should strictly censor insulting posts but refrain from censoring offensive posts. Trolls usually tend to clearly insult someone for not sharing their point of view, nevertheless there are non-trolls who are just trying to convince other people. Maybe they were too quick when they pressed "Submit" and just invited some misunderstandings. There is no problem with it since these users usually try to make clear what they actually meant. Normally, you can tell when a user is trying to annoy other users.
Yes, there may be users who think that this isn't right. But you can tell them that you want acclimate a good community where everybody is warmly welcomed. If you side with a mob of users, not everyone is warmly welcomed - at least that's what new users might think. By participating in a discussion about a sensitive topic, you can hardenstrengthen your bonds towith some users but you simultaneously weaken the bonds to users of another opinion. There might be users who feel suppressed because of this -— no jokes on this!