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Context

A facebook group about a game in beta stage.
The group itself is 1000 members big. The game itself is made by a single developer; I and a few others have moderation rights to accept people into the group. The group is invite only for reasons I don't know right now. Presumably to keep the beta at least "kind of" private before the release version of the game goes live. The developer is the admin of the group, and he's said the admin rights are just to accept people who want in the group; He doesn't expect there to be much to moderate. Additionally, I am not to remove any content without asking the original poster first (apparently he had a moderator like that before and it went sour, ... presumably due to a lack of transparency).

Situation

One of those users has been going a bit off-topic in various posts, posting meme-style pictures with various captions, often unrelated to the topic. They were pretty funny (I didn't comment on it, neither did others... well, maybe others posted a single reaction to it, but on a thread of 100 comments to a main topic, that's pretty insignificant).

Yesterday, said user was frustrated with the notifications he received from other people posting on topics he had commented on, and he began to post pictures of Rick Astley's videoclip "Never gonna give you up" (or whatever the song is called), captioned with "Never gonna give a fuck". Another user pointed out they could unsubscribe; this led to another picture. I forgot what the picture was, but it was similar in nature.

I removed these pictures and the relevant comments about 6-8 hours after they were posted, without notification. I did so because I felt they added nothing to the conversation and only served to offend other people. Furthermore, the specific format (images) makes me believe the user doesn't actually have a problem with the use of facebook and instead is just seeking for attention.

...

The next day, as I'm answering questions and commenting on posts, the guy starts again. He makes a joke how slightly arranging the letters in someone's name makes it suitable as a brothel name, then proceeds posting more pictures with impact-font text of them. One of them included a bestiality picture on a thread where someone asked how to store animals in the game. The text that went along with the post was "don't worry, this guy will take care of them". I have removed that image, along with other images ("what time is it? ur a faggot time", arm with wristwatch, second comment in the watch) and a repost of the rick astley image.

I then warned him. My exact wording:

These stupid picture responses are getting out of hand. I've removed a bunch of them, but if you're gonna post them, at least make them related to the discussed topic.

Looking back, that's not a very smart response. Oh well.

His reply were a message "make me", an image of Pingu with "maek me u cnt", and then a repost of the rick astley image on a separate topic.

My reaction was to remove the images and the user from the group. Clearly this user is actively disrupting the group.

I relayed this to the group with a reply to his message, stating:

And then he was gone. If someone felt I made a wrong decision here let me know, I'm not sure just removing him from the group was the right decision. For the record, two more pictures were posted after this, including rick astley with the caption "never gonna give a fuck" and a pingu photo with something along the lines of "mk me u cheeky cnt"

I then got a chat message from that user.

It's an image of Snow White, captioned with "You're a cunt", all caps.

I replied back "I know!", then reported him via facebook's reporting system and blocked him from chat. Apparently chat blocks are broken, because I got another image (rick astley again) and the message that

Already got the game bro, couldn't give a shit about the group lol. Turned out shit anyways.

(I have replaced the name of the game with "the game").

I'm not going to reply to his repeated actions, so I went to his user profile instead and blocked him there from contacting me. Then, I replied to the thread where I had posted my previous message, stating the following:

Of course, this didn't stop him from sending me more pictures over private chat (snowwhite, caption "you're a cunt"), so I had to report and block him there too. Bit of a shame.

And that's where we are now.

Update

Other users are replying to my statements:

Well that was rude of him. I get that he only wanted to have some fun, but if he has to do it, he has to post it somewhere else. Conclusion: Had to be done.


I prefer you keep a strong hand moderating here, if that's any guidance

Questions

  • What could I have done differently to prevent this situation from escalating?
  • Was I within my rights to remove the images and the user, despite not having asked him to remove said images?
  • Should I notify the admin and other moderators about this issue? (I have never talked to any of the other moderators in private before, this is the first time I've seen any event like this in the group, usually no moderation is needed as per the admin's words)
  • Is there a way to guide these users back to being friendly again? (I know that in chat moderation, saying hello to a spammer can make them shut up and begin an actual conversation.)
  • Am I being transparent enough to the group? I make the statement that offensive images have been posted, but I removed them. Nobody can see them anymore, and there has been a previous issue with moderators deleting things as they see fit...
  • I notified the admin when he came online and his response started off with "what? Why?" then gradually turned into "It's a shame because he was quite active, but you did the right thing". – Pimgd Aug 20 '14 at 10:10
  • "Am I being transparent enough to the group?" I'm somewhat surprised people didn't complain about this user sooner if all he was doing was posting off-topic images. Particularly if they started becoming obscene. – Powerlord Aug 20 '14 at 16:48
  • 1
    The only thing I saw that was wrong is 'I replied back "I know!"' - from the moment he's banned on, your only reactions to his activity outside the group would be reviewing his ban appeals (declining or accepting, as you see fit). Do not engage in petty squabbles. – SF. Aug 21 '14 at 9:04
8

Once you get to the point of ultimatum ("stop posting this nonsense or else") you have two viable choices:

  • Follow through, and exclude them.
  • Reverse previous thought and let them carry on.

In both cases posting (publicly) about the decision helps other people understand what has happened and clarifies the rules surrounding the problem.

In your case the user has seemingly crossed several lines (I personally would have banned them a long time ago). If they're nobody, pull the trigger and forget all about it. If they're the cornerstone of the community, explain why you're kicking them out and if need be, cite a few examples.

The basis for good moderation is keeping calm. If people can see that you apply solid reasoning to your decisions, they won't flip out and storm the castle with pitchforks.

Now in direct answer to your sub-questions:

What could I have done differently to prevent this situation from escalating?

Obviously your choice of language wasn't great initially. But other than that, dealing with single-user issues is always tough. You can post about it and see what other people think. If others agree with you, that can help show somebody that their disruptions aren't warranted. Of course if your users like what they're doing, that can hurt your case.

Was I within my rights to remove the images and the user, despite not having asked him to remove said images?

I don't think "stay on topic" is the hardest implicit rule to infer from a group. It's been a base rule along with respectful behaviour on most of the internet (not that you would know it from looking at it) since it began.

Of course your "rights" aren't really the problem here. You're dealing with users' expectations. I think you're still okay though.

Should I notify the admin and other moderators about this issue?

Oh definitely. Generally speaking, the more staff-level opinion you can get, the better. They might not agree with you but that's great too. You'll get a resolution for your community.

Is there a way to guide these users back to being friendly again?

That really depends on the maturity of the user. Some will never agree that what they were doing was destructive. In their minds you were the one at fault so they won't modify their behaviour.

This is where being cool and collected really helps. If you can enumerate the problems (with examples) and explain why it's not great behaviour, they have a better chance of seeing things from your point of view and understanding the boundaries of acceptable behaviour in your house.

In your case you have two separate problems. The off-topic posting takes a user who likes being silly and doesn't know the bounds. They're a dime a dozen. Calling a moderator a cunt shows a very much nastier behavioural problem.

Am I being transparent enough to the group?

I wouldn't think twice about removing offensive material in one-off incidences but if there's a systemic problem (with one or multiple community members) then spelling out the rules that they're breaking might help other users stay the right side of things.

The worst thing (after pitchforks) is other members thinking that swearing at mods and posting off-topic, offensive images is acceptable behaviour. A post can help stop this.

  • Thanks for taking the time to answer each of my subquestions. This was my first case within this group. The group is a group of players of the series. It used to be a group for just the first game in the series, but with the second one now in beta, there's people talking about the second one too. This has led to a doubling of group size in the past two weeks. The group itself is about 3-4 years old. – Pimgd Aug 20 '14 at 11:01
3

Basically it's "your community, your rules", so if you have to enforce them you shouldn't care about how the violator reacts. you shouldn't provoke it, but sometimes things just go this way. sometimes people want to escalate things and look how the moderation reacts. in this case the only way is to be professional and ignore those assaults via direct chat.

if there are questionable images and contents it's your duty as moderator to remove it - so why ask the user, especially if the user tends to post questionable things. i would have messaged the user to remove it only iff the content is not too questionable and the user is a well known regular to who you can talk in a professional way. sometimes regulars are also fed up and start to post destructive things (eg. trolls/rants) but if you message them they say "oh sorry, something went wrong, i'll fix it). it depends on the user and on your personal style and the atmosphere within the community

moderating a community with others is always a matter of communication, if you don't do the daily tasks (spam removal, etc). so in case of an exception i would always communicate with the others (maybe with a facebook group conversation) to get them informed. your team and the admin can cover your back if they are informed and agree with your decision. communicating with your team could make also another bonus: you can talk to them before dealing with some issues so you can get there opinions.

on facebook and othere communites there might not be a public moderationlog, but the others might saw the posts and your reaction (=deletion) during the day. but if the community distrusts you that much it wouldn't help because screenshots could be faked, etc. so if you make a statement like "this was removed during X" it should be enough iff the community trusts your action. you are not the other moderator who removed content as it fits – it's important to show the community this fact: maybe with talking to regular users during the "daily communication" but it should not be seen as as attention seeking attempt

  • The rule "ask the user first before removing it" is because of the prior lack of transparency; Specifically removing things like spoilers about the plot might be seen as a bit too agressive. Additionally as a moderator on facebook you don't have edit rights so you can't redact things. – Pimgd Aug 20 '14 at 9:46
  • yes but it depends on the content the user posts. i would delete some questionable content (after a screenshot sent to the administrator) right after seeing it – jwacalex Aug 20 '14 at 11:27

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