How To Moderate Well – “Banning” Guideline

I’d like to provide a good reference from “Managing Online Forums” book, p.208, on the “Banning” subject. This is a guideline that Mods will use to develop our own policy to handle violation process properly. Users may browse this guideline to understand the approach we are coming from.


In a perfect world, you’d never have to ban anyone. Of course, this is far from a perfect world. Idiots and bad people exist and you’ll be dealing with them. Some people will do things that will make you ban them without warning. Most others will be worth of receiving at least one warning, if not many more. But, at the end of the day, your warnings have to have meaning when people defy them. You will have to ban people to protect your community.

Really, I don’t ban people – they ban themselves. As an administrator, you are simply reacting to what a member does. The decision to ban a person is made by his own actions and that is the way that it should be approached. 

1. Give Every User a Chance

First and foremost, be sure to give people the opportunity to rehabilitate when it’s possible. With rare exceptions (multiple spam posts all at the same time, a post with 50 pharmaceutical links, non-English spam, racial slurs, porn, etc.), you should not ban a user on the first offense, so by making her aware of violations in a respectful tone, you are helping her to get a feel for your community. Everyone makes mistakes, so you should try to be rather forgiving as long as the violations are not of the worst kind and/or too frequent. If a user makes 1 violation this month and 1 violations 6 months from now, she shouldn’t be trated the same as a user who does something today and then after you have told her not to, does the same thing tomorrow.

Some users just may not care. They have no vested interest and it could just be a game of hit and run with their only purpose being to act like a fool and agitate your community. However, you don’t know whom you are dealing with, so don’t assume – treat everyone fairly and act once you have a good reason to do so.

Of course, there are some users who think they have some sort of right to do whatever it is that they want to do, without regard for your guidelines or your staff. These are the types of users that you need to get rid of.

2. Public Humiliation

When you ban a user, don’t fool around. Don’t give the user a user title that says “Banned” or something similar, don’t have a banned users list, don’t advertise the fact that people are banned, etc. I find this type of behavior to be kind of unprofessional. A banned user is not something to celebrate or commemorate (publicly). Public humiliation like this does not have a place in a professionally run community.

3. When Should You Ban?

The time to ban is not really an exact science and should usually be at your discretion. Generally, you should give a user at least a couple of chances to correct his behavior. The type of violation, the time period between violations, whether a particular violation is being repeated, how long the member has belonged to the community, and how many posts he’s made should all be taken into account. Some generic situations where I would look to ban include:

  • The user has just registered and posted multiple advertising threads, made a post with 50 links in it, or posted non-English spam right off the bat.
  • The user has recently received several warnings and continues to violate our user guidelines, looking as though he doesn’t care.
  • After being warned, the user responds with a nasty, disrespectful, and/or condescending mesage to a staff member
  • The user does or says something so terribly offensive that it is beyond warning. An example would be a racial slur or a link to a por-n site.
  • The user sends out a number of advertising private messages.
  • After being warned about doing something, the user does the same exact same thing shortly thereafter.

This list is ceratinly not all-encompassing, and not all circumstances can be completely described on paper. The biggest and most important thing that I do is always to monitor the threads in our problem users forum. I make decisions based on the documentation of violation in each thread. This allows me to make decisions consistently. Develop your own system of discretion.

4. Lifting a Ban

You don’t want to be 100% against lifting a ban. It all depends on the situation. If the user was just a total idiot who treated the community, you, and/or your staff like a piece of trash, you probably never want to see him again. If he did something that was very harsh and very serious, it may not be a good idea to lift his ban. <b>Assuming the ban is reversible, the main thing that you need to see from a user is an expression of guild or remorse and an apology.</b> If he realizes he did something wrong and he’s sorry for doing it, it may be worth considering depending on the situation surrounding his ban. On the other hand, if he says something like, “I didn’t do anything wrong, unban me,” he can go to some other community, because you don’t really want him.

I rarely lift a ban, but it has happened. I think, in a majority of cases, I have not had to ban the person again. But when it has happened, I have never lifted the ban. That’s not to say it won’t ever happen. If someone gets himself banned twice, chances are it is for the best.

to be continued ..

This is a guideline that Mods will use to develop our own policy to handle violation process properly. Users may browse this guideline to understand the approach we are coming from.