The Coral Project Guides
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Manage a User Who Crosses the Line

There are basic measures you can take ahead of time to reduce bad behavior in your system. These include:

  1. Set the first few comments from any new user to go to pre-moderation (if your system allows)
  2. Encourage users to report/flag bad behavior through clear onboarding and messaging. (Ideally, also have a system like Talk that accounts for unreliable flaggers.)
  3. Highlight good contributions – this models how users can get the newsroom’s attention through more than just bad behavior
  4. Create a list of places you can point users to – e.g. Crash Override1HeartmobTrollbusters – to get support if they are being targeted.
  5. Respond with empathy to those who cross the line – they might not have understood the community guidelines. If appropriate and possible, consider giving them a time out from posting instead of banning them for life.

However, sometimes a user acts in a way that is deliberately abusive by repeatedly targeting one or more people, and banning them from your community has no effect.

How you respond depends on the situation, but some themes are common across them all: it is important to work with the person being targeted, and where you can, to reach out to the abuser to try and discover what might have triggered this behavior.

Situation 1: Another user is the target

  1. Contact the person being targeted and ask what they would like to happen. They might have good reasons for being very wary of the police. Work with them on your proposed solutions. Keep them informed of any developments.
  2. Make a public statement about what’s happening, that it’s not ok, and what you’re doing about it. Also enlist the community to tell you if they come back again.
  3. If the person keeps coming back with new accounts, try slowing down allowing new users.. at least set new users’ comments to premod for the first comment or two.
  4. Contact the person doing it, and simply ask what is going on with them. There is often a triggering reason that made them first act this way. See if that can be addressed or at least acknowledged. Sometimes just recognizing and validating the existence of the situation that started the behavior can be enough.

Situation 2: A journalist/member of your team is the target

  1. Contact the journalist being targeted. If it seems to be a specific and genuine threat, make sure they’re safe, make sure they know what to do if the person tries to call/go to the office. Inform security at the office. Offer for them to work from home or to cover hotel costs if they feel genuinely targeted.
  2. Work with them on your proposed solutions. Keep them informed of any developments.
  3. Make sure the journalist isn’t expected to read their own comments at this time. See if you or one of your team can give specific attention to comments on their piece for a period of time.
  4. Contact the police if the journalist agrees, and you believe there is a genuine threat of harm.
  5. Again, contact the person doing it, and simply ask what is going on with them. There is often a triggering reason that made them first act this way. See if that can be addressed or at least acknowledged. Sometimes just recognizing and validating the existence of the situation that started the behavior can be enough.

Situation 3: General, repeated, non-targeted abuse

  1. Set your system to pre-moderate everything
  2. Look at the abuser’s history of contributions. Look for patterns. If they keep creating new accounts, how can you tell each new account is the same person returning? Is there something you can do to make repetition of these patterns go straight to pre-moderation or somehow be flagged for moderator attention?
  3. Again, contact the person doing it, and simply ask what is going on with them. There is often a triggering reason that made them first act this way. See if that can be addressed or at least acknowledged. Sometimes just recognizing and validating the existence of the situation that started the behavior can be enough.
  4. Encourage your trusted community to use Ignore/Mute functions (where available – we have it in Talk), and to contact you privately if the abuser seems to have returned with a new account.Was that helpful? How does that match the policies you have in place? What did we miss?

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