Moderator (communications)

A moderator is a person who monitors the quality of a comment posted on a site, message board or IRC channel. The purpose is to prevent trolling, abuse of the comment system, and ultimately ensure that posts are not clearly antagonizing others.

Moderators are usually chosen from among the members of the online community by the owner or administrator of the website, internet chatroom or message board (also known as discussion forums) in question, based on the quality of their past input to the community, their level of knowledge in the prime areas of discussions and, not the least, their behaviour. In some communities though, the moderators may be elected or chosen. Systems of moderation and selection of moderators vary widely from community to community.


Moderator Archetype

Moderators generally earn respect by their fair comments, impartial behaviour and being polite but firm while dealing with the rule-breakers. They usually possess fluent language skills and in-depth knowledge in the subject of the discussions they moderate. They usually do not participate in ongoing controversial discussions on sensitive topics (like religion or politics) or even if they do, they generally do not express strong or extreme opinions either way. When a topic under discussion is hijacked by somebody and the discussion threatens to go out of hand, they step in to prevent a war of words from breaking out. However, this is only the archetype. Depending on the size and nature of the board, moderators may be completely impartial or they may take active part in discussions, contributing to the controversy. This may lead to abuse of power by moderators who will silence any opposition to his/her viewpoint.

Moderator Privileges

Moderators usually have the power to edit or delete offensive comments, move a thread to a more appropriate board, stop a discussion from proceeding further by locking the topic, or in rare cases, delete a topic altogether. The ability to delete a topic is usually not exercised because all traces of the topic will be disappeared; instead, most moderators lock the thread and leave the last post explaining his or her rationale for locking it. In some cases, moderators also have the ability ban the regular rule-breakers and spammers from taking part in the discussions by taking away their ability to post messages. However, the ability to ban is usually left to administrators and not moderators. Administrators are distingushed from moderators in that administrators have full control over all aspects of the board, including the design of the board, implementation of new programs, banning, and standard moderator abilities. For the purposes of this article, administrators can be considered moderators because moderating is a subset of their duties.

In chat rooms, operators (chat room equivalents of moderators) have the power to kick users from the room as a warning. Users can easily rejoin a room after being kicked, and many modern IRC clients have auto-rejoin features. If the user rejoins and continues his unwanted behavior, operators can then choose to issue a ban on the user's alias, userid, or hostmask so that he may not rejoin. Bans can be temporary or permanent, depending on the severity of rule broken or the particular banning operator. "Blanket bans" can also be issued to prevent users from having profanity in their names or certain words such as "guest" instead of on an individual user.


Response to moderation is often split between positive and negative. Even if a moderator is simply attempting to keep members within the rules, there will be those who, possibly out of lack of understanding of the site's rules, are angered by his or her actions. At the same time, there will be those who support the moderator's decision.

Typically on larger websites, forums, and other online communities which attract a lot of traffic, a moderator's job will become tough as there will be a proportional increase in the number of rules broken and an increase in spamming. Moderators generally need to have a cool head while dealing with trolls (members who deliberately post provocative topics) and flaming (personal attacks between individual members). While under such attack, the moderator must allow the situation to cool down or, if the discussion goes out of hand, close the topic.

Even other moderators can be upset by a decision, sometimes spurring behind-the-scenes discussion of a decision. But a decision will rarely be reversed, for that would undermine the authority of the moderator in question.

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