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I'm an active moderator/administrator of a 1.000+ member retro/nextgen gaming forum.

The community is very active with a lot of active, creative members. Recently we activated the main website that has reviews, trailers, editorials, etc... With the new website came a wave of new (young) members, and with them came some new problems.

We don't have a fixed avatar/signature policies. Max avatar dimensions are 300x300px, and signature images have a limit of 800x200px 400kb limit.

New members I mentioned seem to abuse this policy, often setting X rated avatars, flashing gifs, etc... And the same thing usually goes for signatures.

How do you handle a problem like this?

Should I lower the "standards" - i.e. 200x200px max avatar you cannot use an image that displays the following: ......... Or is it a better idea to selectively enable features based on registration date / post count?

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    This is why we have moderators. Change the pic – Cilan Jul 30 '14 at 23:24
  • @Doorhandle: Sometimes it is not possible, for instance I don't think Google Groups allows moderators to change people's avatar and signature. – Nicolas Raoul Sep 1 '16 at 6:42
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I used to have this problem...it was resolved by implementing a policy that restricts users from using annoying/inappropriate avatars and signatures. If users break the policy, a moderator will remove the offending content and notify the user that they did so. If they do it again, we revoke their access to set avatars and signatures.

Sometimes a heavy-handed approach works best rather than restricting things for everyone. This way, only people who break the policy will be (rightly) disciplined. If you don't have the resources to enforce the policy well enough, then you can look at more automated methods such as restricting setting avatars/signatures until they post enough so are "trusted" not to misuse the privilege.

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you cannot use an image that displays he following: .........

This type of specific rule is prone to users testing their limits. "This isn't a kitten, this is a adolescent cat." Or, "This isn't a kitten, this is a lion cub." Both violate the spirit of a "No kitten pictures" rule, but not the letter.

Instead, I'd focus on something much more generic. If you are concerned about adult images, add in a restriction about being "Safe for work". If you are concerned about flashing, seizure inducing images, add in a requirement that the image must be static.

Size limits are also important. You probably want to do this in terms of both pixel height/width and size on disk. This keeps the amount of screen real estate used under control and prevents users from uploading a file that is gigantic.


When a user violates these policies, step in and remove the violation or give the user a narrow time frame to do so themselves. If the behavior occurs again, restrict their ability to modify the signature or the avatar.

Some forum software allows you to set the policies mentioned above. For example, PHPBB allows an administrator to set the maximum number of characters, number of links, size of images, as well as where certain BBCodes are allowed. Having this technical solution is a great way to keep everything uniform and ensure that everyone meets the most basic of requirements.

PHPBB Signatures

It also has the ability to restrict setting on avatars:

Avatar settings

These cover the technical side of things, which means that is one less thing you need to worry about as a moderator. Now you can focus on flashy, adult images instead of worrying if this signature image is 5 pixels to wide or 4 KB to large.

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Rather than have a restrictive set of rules you need something general enough to allow most images but specific enough to be applied when necessary.

First set the maximum size of the image either in pixels or MB. If possible include some software in your site that shrinks larger images.

Second set a general policy on the image content. While a general rule would be preferable it would probably be a good idea to include some of the types of image that aren't allowed:

Image are allowed that would generally be considered PG-13 or "safe for work". Images that are not allowed would include those showing, but not limited to, nudity, sexually explicit situations, racist or homophobic language, banned organisations etc..

Then give your users a mechanism for flagging images that violate this rule, so that any violators can be dealt with. Having this means that you don't have to check each and every image as it's uploaded to the site. Yes, you might have an inappropriate image on the site for a while but it will soon be removed.

If you don't want to allow flashing GIFs then you could limit the types of file they can upload to just jpg or png.

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