Meedan

The Meedan Blog Archive

Crafting a moderation policy for cross-cultural dialogue online

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:

Could these approaches help with moderation?

One big unanswered question is how you expose the average user to this language. Most users don't take much time to read Terms of Use if at all.

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.

Comments on this post

2010-03-26 08:14:20 -0700
There is no one set of guidelines that will ever satisfy any two different people regardless of religion, nationality, background etc. However the best way IMO is to create what in linguistics is called a Community of Practice, unique to your message boards. In other words, you ignore the "cultural practices" of your posters, and create a new practice relevant for the site to which all adhere to equally and regardless of language and background. The exact wording of a "policy" is largely unimportant - providing moderation is consistent, and explained to those "moderated" the community can accept it and grow.
2010-03-26 08:33:11 -0700
Thanks for this Matthew - a brilliant solution. There are two ways in which we could seek an agreed set of norms and practices that would inform our moderation: 1, to derive them from our mission and aims as at present; 2, to build from users' needs and values. Either way it would be fantastic to have some kind of buy-in from users beyond their initial registration. Do you have any suggestions for this? Can I also ask if you have direct experience of moderation you could point us to on other sites you've worked with or been involved with?
2010-03-26 09:18:02 -0700
I'm afraid I'm into applied linguistics and intercultural communication, not moderation! My suggestion would be to have a thread and get users to post what they think is acceptable, and what is not. In interactions, self-determined rules are much more likely to be adhered to, than externally imposed ones!
2010-03-26 15:14:20 -0700
There is no one set of guidelines that will ever satisfy any two different people regardless of religion, nationality, background etc. However the best way IMO is to create what in linguistics is called a Community of Practice, unique to your message boards. In other words, you ignore the 'cultural practices' of your posters, and create a new practice relevant for the site to which all adhere to equally and regardless of language and background. The exact wording of a 'policy' is largely unimportant - providing moderation is consistent, and explained to those 'moderated' the community can accept it and grow.
2010-03-26 15:33:11 -0700
Thanks for this Matthew - a brilliant solution. There are two ways in which we could seek an agreed set of norms and practices that would inform our moderation: 1, to derive them from our mission and aims as at present; 2, to build from users' needs and values. Either way it would be fantastic to have some kind of buy-in from users beyond their initial registration. Do you have any suggestions for this? Can I also ask if you have direct experience of moderation you could point us to on other sites you've worked with or been involved with?
2010-03-26 16:18:02 -0700
I'm afraid I'm into applied linguistics and intercultural communication, not moderation! My suggestion would be to have a thread and get users to post what they think is acceptable, and what is not. In interactions, self-determined rules are much more likely to be adhered to, than externally imposed ones!