As per our stated rules, the mod team occasionally removes approved authors’ posting access and/or ban users from the forum. As there have been some questions about this process, we wished to dedicate a mod talk to how we approach this process and how we handle it afterwards.
To de-author someone means to remove their ability to start new posts on Groupthink, share posts to the forum, and follow/unfollow other users. They can still post replies and comment on other posts; they just can’t start new threads. We do not unfollow (“grey”) them for the site, though as we all know, anyone with authorship can do that if they want to. The mods consider this a warning step — if we’ve felt the need to de-author but not ban someone, we feel that there is an issue of some sort that might be able to be overcome, or that the person’s posting style (be it content or ability to handle feedback, etc.) is not the right fit for the forum. While we have de-authored people and then regranted their posting rights back later on, if we’ve removed them more than once, it’s not likely that we’ll give that person a third chance.
To ban someone is just that — they are removed as an author (if they were one) and blocked from commenting on GT under that handle. Depending on what Kinja is up to, this may or may not remove all of their previous posts and comments from the forum, allow them to continue to participate in a thread they are already involved in, leave comments that simply don’t show up, or some permutation of the above. This is not something the mods can control. The mods have un-banned individuals in the past who have requested it and we felt had addressed the issues that lead to the action in the first place, to varying levels of success. If we’ve banned you twice, it’s not likely that we’ll give that person a third chance.
In general, if we see issues on the forum, we attempt to work with the commenters directly to resolve whatever is going on. This is often accomplished by leaving mod comments on the threads or posts in question and/or dismissing or removing problematic posts. If we have contact information for the commenters and the situation seems to warrant it, we usually contact them via email as well.
To be frank, we understand that banning someone can be hurtful, especially if they feel they haven’t done anything wrong. But (generally speaking) there’s a series of events that leads us to removing someone’s authorship or banning them. It is not a decision that is ever taken lightly.
Thanks to the peculiarities of Kinja, those series of events may not be visible to other forum members (because posts or comments have been dismissed), or because the mod team has been in contact with those individuals off forum. We give people lots of chances on GT—we’re all real people here, with real stresses and problems and triumphs that can often bleed into our online lives. People can have bad days, and we don’t swoop in and ban someone for acting like a jackass – we ask you to stop. Sometimes we have to ask you to stop repeatedly, and with increasing amounts of frustration. However, if you can’t stop, or you become combative or aggressive with other commenters or us when we have to wade in, that’s usually a warning sign to us that this may be an ongoing pattern of behavior.
While we have no way of tracking how many times we’ve had to intervene with any commenter or groups of commenters, the mod team is in regular contact with each other. People who we repeatedly need to speak to or that we receive multiple complaints about are discussed amongst the team and are watched a little closer. Most de-authorings or bannings are discussed and agreed upon (which may take some time, depending on our availability) before we act on them.* The community may become aware of the action if the individual chooses to publicize it, or if the message needed to be passed on via the forum.
The mods try to refrain from commenting about people’s bannings or de-authorings, especially if the individual takes to another forum to complain about our decisions. We know that a banning or de-authoring can cause bad feelings and people need to be able to vent or complain without us swooping into to ‘set the record straight’. This does not mean we agree with their presentation of events, or that we believe the situation is being presented without bias or agenda. Silence does not indicate agreement. There may be cases where we may address individual points raised or complaints because the situation calls for it, but we largely try to refrain from this. The nature of Kinja forums often exaggerates how people feel after a banning or deauthoring — publicly wading in to argue with people who’s feelings are hurt rarely results in a positive outcome, and we have no interest in making people feel worse than they might already do.
* Obvious trolls and assholes don’t merit that level of coordination.