26 Mar 2010
What are the ingredients needed to craft an appropriate moderation policy for a cross-cultural forum?
That's a question we've been trying to answer for some time. In many ways, it's a question we'll need to be asking as long as this project exists.
Meedan obviously brings together people of very different linguistic, cultural and religious backgrounds - which makes moderation challenging in two distinct respects.
One, there are not obvious cultural norms we can draw on. And two, we are necessarily bringing together divergent viewpoints which are more likely to disrupt sensitivities in any one particular community - often without users even being aware of it when they post.
Add to that - our aim is to generate better listening and better understanding (as opposed to most many media outlets which seek to elicit shock responses) so moderation becomes particularly important.
In our existing terms, we say:
The Meedan project is designed to enable cross-language cross-cultural dialogue and knowledge sharing. We request that Users help us pursue this goal when taking part on meedan.net and use the site accordingly. We are particularly aware that the varying political, social, and cultural sensitivities of our Users demand we take an active approach to ensuring everyone can enjoy meedan.net as a respectful, inclusive online environment.
Perhaps we should go further.
I was introduced to some useful ideas on how to build better relations on the Interfaith Network for the UK: http://www.interfaith.org.uk/publications/buildinggoodrelations.pdf
I particularly like the following suggestions:
learning to understand what others actually believe and letting them express it in their own terms
respecting the convictions of others
recognising that all of us fall short of the ideals of our own traditions
always seeking to avoid violence in our relationships
recognising that listening as well as speaking is necessary for a genuine conversation
not misrepresenting or disparaging other people's beliefs or practices
correcting misunderstandings whenever we come across them
being straightforward about our intentions
Could these approaches help with moderation?
Maybe a pop-up or some explainer text on every comment page could help to normalize a conversation built on respect and a genuine willingness to listen and learn.
Please tell us what you think.