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Suppose I have some users that have a history of arguing with each other on other sites. They have now followed each other to my site and are continuing this behavior.

How can I try to defuse their arguments, given that they can continue to incite each other on the sites they originally came from?

3 Answers 3

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Communicate to them that this is not an appropriate forum for their arguments, but remember that it is possible for people to disagree constructively, even if they disagree everywhere.

So, when looking at these cases, ask yourself:

  1. Is this argument/debate on-topic? Such arguments have a tendency to devolve away from the topic of a situation. If the argument in question does, then remove it, and let the users know that it isn't on-topic.

  2. Is this argument/debate out-of-line? If it's too disruptive or generates significant noise, take moderative action, and let the users know the behavior isn't relevant.

If it's on-topic and not out-of-line, let it be. It's alright to keep.

If it is vaguely irritating, and grows to be too much of a site disturbance cumulatively, just send the users a message to let them know you'd like them to cool it. Be sure to send them the same message, and be sure not to implicate either one of them.

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First of all, just talk to them and tell them about your site's policies and say that you don't think that this is the best place for their argument. You might want to also formally contact someone with the site it originated on letting them know what is going on. They might be able to solve the problem there at its root.

If you tried to settle the argument yourself by telling them not to fight on your site, tried contacting the other site to see if they can help any, and they still continue to fight, you probably don't have any other option than temporarily suspending them both. If they continue to fight after the ban is over, a ban might be needed to solve this.

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The solution would depend on how the moderator views moderation of the community. If he/she believes that a moderator should only carry out moderation duties, then as this answer suggests, the moderator should try to prevent the argument/debate from becoming off-topic or out-of-line by taking required moderation actions, which have been already determined for the community.

However, in this answer I want to add some tips on how to exceptionally moderate such a conflict, which are certainly beyond the usual moderation duties of a community:

  • Disagreement between community members, which often entails arguments, should be regarded as the most invaluable and irreplaceable component of a flourishing community, so it should not be threatened by some (even reasonable) moderation actions.

    For example, in the case mentioned in the OP the moderator could reasonably ask the parties to end an out-of-line argument; however there could be an alternative: Having acknowledged the users involved in the argument for devoting their time and energy to help the community flourish, the moderator could guide the argument in a proper way and kindly advise them how to express their opinions constructively and respectfully, say, by substituting proper words for existing vulgar ones.
  • Due to the human nature of community members, conflict between them, coming from inside or outside of the community, is unavoidable. Again, in such situations a moderator could reasonably take some disciplinary actions like suspending the parties to seemingly resolve the conflict; but, is this the best remedy for reducing prospective conflicts between the same members or between other ones?

    In my opinion, the answer to the question above is negative for the same reason that one, for example, cannot cure cancer by only taking pain relievers, and the tumor should be removed; such disciplinary actions would act like pain relievers. So, how should the tumor be removed? Regarding the example mentioned in the OP, the moderator could try to reconcile them with each other, say, by inviting the users to an online chat room, appreciating their contribution to the community, and kindly advising them to treat each other cordially. In my opinion, the art of moderation of a community is more of handling relationships between its members as human beings than managing issues between its members as users of a platform.

P.S. As already implicitly mentioned, this answer seems to be too idealistic to be of use for our current real world. However, what would prevent us from enjoying imagining living in a (very nearly) ideal world? Anyway, I hope that such a world's beings would find this answer helpful.

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