Best Practices for ACB Affiliate List Moderators

ACB Email Lists

The purpose of this document is to define guidelines and due process procedures designed for managing and moderating of American Council of the Blind, (ACB) affiliate email lists. The Internet Oversight committee, (IOC) believes that adherence to these best practices will ensure that affiliate lists are operated in accordance with the principles of ACB and that said adherence will promote the smooth operation of ACB email lists.

Part I. GUIDELINES

  1. FREEDOM OF SPEECH. ACB has a proud history of promoting free speech and vigorous discussions. Each member of an ACB affiliate list should be encouraged to express his/her point of view. No list member should be moderated, suspended or banned for expressing points of view that differ with those of the moderators, affiliate leaders or leaders of ACB.
  2. MUTUAL RESPECT AND CIVILITY. List moderators should ensure that all persons and opinions are treated with respect and civility. IT is the tradition of ACB to be accepting of a wide range of both abilities and points of view. While vigorous discussions should be encouraged, it should be expected that all list members will present points of view with respect and civility. In other words, it should be expected that list members will disagree in an agreeable manner.
  3. BALANCE. Moderators should endeavor to maintain a balance between principles one and two. In other words, disagreements regarding points of view are perfectly acceptable. Personal attacks and flaming are not acceptable. Implementation of moderations, suspensions or bans should be done in the spirit of balance.
  4. WELCOMING ATMOSPHERE. Moderators should endeavor to see to it that all members feel welcome to participate in list discussions. Moderators should also make every effort to help members who may find it difficult to deal with technical issues such as subscribing and unsubscribing to lists, replying to messages, subject line consistency, etc. While moderators should encourage members to keep subject lines relevant and to adhere to list rules, they should also keep in mind that some members who are either new to blindness or new to the use of assistive technology require a good deal of assistance an patience in dealing with technical issues. Assisting list members with technical issues is an important component of moderator responsibility.
  5. COMMUNICATION. Moderators must communicate with any member who is to be moderated, suspended or banned from an ACB affiliate list. All such communication should be done with respect and civility and should be devoid of emotion and sarcasm.
  6. TIMELINESS. Moderators should endeavor to act upon the requests of members within two days. It is a good idea to have more than one moderator for lists so that the absence or illness of one moderator will not impact upon the ability of the moderating team to act upon requests in a timely manner...

Part II. DUE PROCESS PROCEDURES

The affiliate or chapter should establish and administer clearly defined “Due Process” procedures to ensure that all list rules are fairly applied to all list members, to provide all subscribers with the opportunity to be informed of conduct which the list moderators consider to be in violation of list policies, to allow any action taken by list moderators against a subscriber to be reexamined by a neutral third party in the event that the subscriber feels his/her rights as a subscriber have been violated, and to establish procedures and time frames for allowing individuals to rejoin the list after having been suspended. What follows is an explanation of each of these critical elements with additional information which an affiliate can use to ensure that its Due Process Procedure delivers on each critical due process element.

  1. Fair Application of List Rules
    List rules must apply equally to all subscribers, including not only rank and file subscribers, but also to affiliate leaders and to the moderators themselves. The keys for ensuring the fair application of list rules include:

    • Oversight of the list moderator(s) by a neutral party, e.g. a member of the Board, a committee, etc. The entity responsible for overseeing the moderator(s) should monitor list traffic to ensure fair application of list rules.
    • Ideally, there should be more than one moderator. Although moderator duties can be rotated in order to share work load, all moderators should routinely monitor list traffic to ensure that each moderator’s management of list traffic is being observed by at least one other individual who understands list management and the list rules.
    • Decisions to suspend subscribers should be taken in consultation with other moderators, and the entity overseeing the moderators should be informed of all subscribers who are being suspended and the reasons for the suspensions.
  2. Informing Subscribers of List Rules
    Every list should have list rules available to all subscribers. List rules should thoroughly address the purpose for the list, any requirements for subscribers, any guidelines for appropriate or inappropriate topics or conduct, posting limits, etc. List rules should also address how violations of the list rules will be treated by the moderators. The key to informing subscribers is occasional repetition. This will ensure that new members get the information they need and that all members get occasional reminders of any expectations established for the list in question. Here is a basic but effective approach for ensuring that all list members understand list expectations.

    • Distribution of the list rules to each subscriber upon his/her subscription to the list
    • Publication of the rules in a location which is easily accessible to any list subscriber at any time
    • Occasional redistribution of list rules to all subscribers—for example quarterly or annually
    • Easy availability of information which a subscriber can use to contact a moderator for assistance or to gain clarity on list rules – Many lists are set up to provide this information at the end of each email posted to the list.
    • In those instances where the moderator(s) feel that a subscriber should be sanctioned, the sanction should specifically site the list rule or rules which have been violated.
  3. Disciplining Subscribers
    A strong list management approach that includes clearly defined rules and a convenient way for subscribers to communicate with moderators will result in fewer conflicts among subscribers and fewer violations of list rules. However, even in well run lists, some subscribers will engage in conduct which is in violation of list rules and/or which is offensive or hurtful to other subscribers. For this reason, it is imperative that each list include a clear set of behaviors which are considered unacceptable, consequences for those who engage in them, and a process for those accused of such conduct to have their actions scrutinized in a fair and open manner. Here are some guidelines which we believe will help you to improve list management.

    • Misconduct should be clearly defined, with examples provided. Examples of typical misconduct include: violation of posting limits, postings which are not relevant to list content guidelines, posting of advertising, forwarding of list emails without the permission of the authors, the use of inappropriate, abusive or suggestive language, personal attacks against other list subscribers, etc.
    • List guidelines should include progressively more serious consequences for repeat offenders and/or for people who engage in particularly bad conduct such as the use of abusive language, repeated personal attacks, etc. Typically, the progressive steps for misconduct include an off-list warning, a public warning, a short suspension, a longer suspension and then expulsion for a specified period of time such as one year.
    • All sanctions should have fixed beginning and ending dates. For example, an initial suspension is for one week, the second suspension for one month, and the third suspension for one year. There should never be an open-ended sanction with no specified ending date.
    • At some pre-determined interval, or in the event of no misconduct for a specified period of time (such as one year), any prior incidences of misconduct should be cleared so that the subscriber can start again with a clean slate. This will help to motivate subscribers to adhere to list guidelines more carefully going forward.
    • All subscribers should have the right to appeal any serious sanction such as a suspension or expulsion. In such cases, the appeal should be heard and decided by a neutral third party, such as the entity who oversees the list and the list moderators. In no instance should any person who had any role in issuing the sanction under appeal have any role in hearing or deciding the appeal.

These best practices have been approved by the ACB Board of Publications, (BOP) and all ACB affiliates are encouraged to adhere to these practices in the operation of their email lists. Any affiliate leaders who have questions or who need assistance or guidance in the operation of their email lists are encouraged to contact Bob Hachey, Internet Oversight Committee chair at bhachey@verizon.net.

This web page was last updated March 10, 2014.