I am a moderator in an online game.

Recently I received an abuse complaint in very broken English. A user said that another user would threaten and insult them, which is against our terms of service. As a proof they sent me a screenshot showing a chat log. It shows a conversation between the user and the person they accuse, but it is in a language I don't understand.

I don't know any uninvolved people who knows the language, I don't feel that I am obliged to find someone and I would rather not rely on a machine translation when deciding whether or not to sanction a user.

How should I deal with this situation?

  • 4
    What is it that you do want to do, given that you're stating upfront that you're not willing to do spend any energy or time on figuring out whether the complaint is valid or not?
    – Jenny D
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 10:48
  • Has the complainer been explicit about the abuse? Is he just saying "that guy is threatening and insulting me", or has he told you what specifically the person said? (You wouldn't want to just take his word for it, but I'm asking what work the complainer has done already.) Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 12:59
  • One possibility would be to ask the user what the message(s) said (asking them what the key offensive phrases were) and then compare that to a few different translations. It's unlikely that multiple translators would spit out the same offensive thing that the user said, so you can probably trust this. Likely, the phrase is slang, so you may have to search Google for it or go to an online community. Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 22:17

2 Answers 2


Unless you just want to tell the complainant that there's nothing you can do, you really have to attempt to get a translation of the text.

In the first instance I would use machine translation just to see if the complaint was justified. While the results aren't guaranteed they should give you a good sense of what's being said. I agree that you shouldn't sanction someone based on the results, but it should give you a good idea of whether you want to proceed with the complaint or not.

At this point, if you want to take things further, you would have to find someone else who knows the language to confirm the translation - there might be a forum or Q&A site where you can ask if the machine translation is accurate for example - or you have to simply tell the complainant that there's nothing more you can do as you don't have the resources.

This is likely to leave them upset and will probably exacerbate the situation as they feel they have to take matters into their own hands to resolve their grievance.

In the longer term, you might want to consider making a rule that all in game conversations have to be in English and that any message not in English will be deleted. You might have to institute a flagging system so that people can bring these to your attention.

  • Thank you for repeating everything I explicitly said I won't do.
    – Philipp
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 9:35
  • 5
    @Philipp - I know what you said, but unless you just want to drop the complaint straight away you have to do something along these lines. I'll make that clearer in the answer.
    – ChrisF
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 9:36

Encourage people to use languages that you and other moderators that you may work with can understand. Make it part of the terms of use. If people do not adhere to this, it should be made clear that there may be consequences, such as not having the ability to send messages for a certain period or a temporary ban from playing the game.

This may seem quite severe, but it is a direct way to make it possible to ensure that users do not violate the terms of service, without having to use machine translation, find a person who speaks the language or learn the language yourself.

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