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Moderation of DNA Community Sites and Messageboards

Welcome to the guidelines for moderation, where you can find answers to questions about the moderation process applied across all of the DNA community sites.

Contents of this Section

What is moderation?

Moderation systems are used on messageboards and other community applications to ensure that illegal, rule breaking or otherwise offensive material isn't published on the BBC servers.

What moderation is not is a censorship system that's designed to prevent people from saying what they want to say, its just there to prevent material appearing that breaks the House Rules

There are three main types of moderation. The type of moderation policy that is applied within any community depends on the subject matter being discussed, and the nature and demographics of the audience and community members. For instance, childrens' communities are often pre-moderated, for safety reasons, whereas a more well established adult centred community might be reactively moderated. Here's a brief explanation of the three types of moderation systems used at the BBC:


All of the BBC messageboards and communities aimed at teenagers and children are pre-moderated. This means that when anyone posts, their message will not go live and be read by others in the community until a moderator has read and approved the content of the posting. Some other subject areas may be pre-moderated as well, particularly if the subject matter is particularly sensitive or emotive.

It is possible to put a whole DNA site or messageboard into pre-moderation, so that everyone is effectively pre-moderated. This is rarely used, and then only in extreme circumstances.


When a site is post moderated all content created by community members is looked at by a Moderator. All of the content is instantly visible when it is posted, but at the same time it is added to the moderation queue. The Moderators work through the queue 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and aim to read every piece of new content within an hour of it being posted.

Reactive Moderation

When a site is reactively moderated the Moderators only look at content that community members and readers of the site have alerted them to by using the complaints button. DNA contains a complaints system that has been specifically designed with a reactively moderated community in mind, which enables the community members to alert the moderators and site hosts to unsuitable content.

As any community takes on more and more of the mantle of responsibility for developing itself, it will hopefully move towards reactive moderation and self-policing. Community members generally prefer to be reactively moderated than moderated, because it enables members of the community to uphold their own communities' conventions and ethics; by asking other people not to swear on site, not to be nasty to others, and so on. Reactively moderated communities have a lot of trust placed in the members, since they are responsible for making sure their area doesn't contain illegal content (such as defamatory or copyright material).

In a reactively moderated community it is important that members try not to be over-protective about moderating the site, they should just enjoy posting as usual, but be aware that they are now helping the BBC to be responsible for the content. We don't want vigilante moderation police groups to form and patrol the site, that shouldn't ever be necessary. We'd just like you, the members, in reactive communities to take care of their own areas, a bit like a neighbourhood watch scheme.

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How does moderation work?

If your content doesn't break any of the House Rules, then you won't even notice the Moderators. However, if you see a moderation message on one of your articles or Postings then it has either failed moderation, or has been referred by a Moderator to the in-house team for a decision. (as described below). The message will tell you more.

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How does moderation affect Members?

If you are the sort of person who abides by the House Rules, then you won't notice a thing. Your content will appear straight away, and when the Moderators read it, they will leave it alone. The vast majority of Postings and articles are absolutely fine.

However, if a Moderator sees something that potentially breaks the House Rules, they will have to do something about it; the steps they will take are outlined below in the next section.

The House Rules are effectively our guide to online etiquette, and sit alongside the site's legal Terms and Conditions as part of the agreement all Members sign on registering. Please make sure you read them both before contributing to any of the sites.

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What do the Moderators do with content that breaks the House Rules?

For every piece of content seen by the Moderators, they will do one of the following:

  • Pass it - When your content is passed, you won't notice a thing. A Posting that has been passed will be visible forever (unless a complaint is made about it and upheld - see below). An article that has been passed will remain visible until it is edited, or a complaint upheld about it, at which time it is flagged for moderation again, and the whole process is re-applied.

  • Refer it - In this case the Moderator is unsure about whether the content should be passed or failed, so they queue it, pending a decision by their supervisor, or the individual boards' Hosts and/or Producers. Because the Hosts are not available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, this act of referring has to hide the Posting or article while the decision is being made. This doesn't mean that your content has been removed; it just means that the content has been referred. Instead of the content, the site shows a message saying that the message has been referred, pending a decision.

  • Edit it - In some very specific cases the Moderators will edit content to fit the House Rules. Content will only be edited by Moderators in the following, very strict circumstances. It's vital that Members do not feel that their content is being hacked around unnecessarily.

    • Unsuitable URLs in Conversation Postings (not articles) will be removed, and replaced by [Unsuitable link removed by Moderator]. Broken links in Conversation Postings (not articles) will be removed, and replaced by [Broken link removed by Moderator]. We edit out the link rather than fail the Posting because Members cannot edit Postings and put them back up, and it's not fair to fail an entire Posting just because of an unsuitable URL or broken link. However, Postings which consist of nothing but unsuitable URLs will simply be failed. Please see the Editorial Guidelines for External URLs page for information on what constitutes an unsuitable URL.

      Unsuitable URLs in Articles will result in the Article being failed entirely, so that the person who wrote the Article can edit out or replace the broken or unsuitable link themselves. An email will be sent to inform the member which link or links are unsuitable.

    • Personal addresses, telephone numbers and specific contact details will be removed, and replaced by [Personal details removed by Moderator].

  • Fail it - In this case the Posting or article will be hidden from view, as it breaks the House Rules sufficiently for us to remove it from the site (so it might be defamatory, plagiarised or something else serious). In the case of Postings, this means the Posting will be hidden forever and replaced by a message saying the Posting is removed. Each article that fails moderation is hidden, but to fix this you can go to your Personal Space, pick out the relevant A number in the 'articles' section, click on the 'Edit' link, edit out the offending material, and reactivate it.

    If you have a new piece of content failed by a Moderator, you will be emailed with the details and the content that was failed.

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What happens to non-English content?

As the Moderators' first language is English, they cannot necessarily understand content that is not in English, and therefore whether it breaks the House Rules. We therefore ask you to contribute in English only. Please note that some sites may have been able to make special provisions to enable non-English Postings within their community, please refer to local House Rules.

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How does the complaints button work?

The complaint buttons and links1 enable readers to flag content that breaks the House Rules Complaining doesn't immediately remove the content from the board, otherwise it would be very easy to abuse this system by complaining about lots of posts to deliberately disrupt; all is does is flag this content for the immediate attention of the Moderators, so that the moderators can react to complaints promptly.

Only content that breaks the House Rules will be removed, and the same rules will be applied to complaints as to normal content undergoing moderation.

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Can an individual Account be set to pre-moderation?

If a Member breaks the House Rules seriously enough for the Hosts to be considering a suspension of their account, the Hosts may put that Member's Account into 'pre-moderation' instead of suspending them.

This means that everything they contribute to the site has to be approved by a Moderator before it appears on site; in the meantime, suitable messages are displayed instead of their Postings or articles.

The Moderation of Nicknames

Adopting an inappropriate Nickname is not allowed, and if you do pick a Nickname that isn't acceptable, we will fail it. All House Rules also apply to nicknames, so names that are vulgar, harassing, offensive, racist etc. are not acceptable.

Please don't impersonate others. Members are not allowed to impersonate other members of the public or public figures by adopting an identical name, or by claiming to be that person in the content they post.

Please note that we do not allow URLs, personal contact details, or email addresses to be included in Nicknames.

You are allowed to use 250 characters in your membername. However, please ensure that longer names include character breaks, if it is one long, continuous name without breaks, ie. 'The_man_in_the_moon_came_down_too_soon_with_a_balloon' your name may be failed, because it is distorting the appearance of the messageboard.

Your nickname may be reverted to your user number if you open new accounts in order to get around the premoderation or banning of one of your message board accounts.

Please do not include spoilers in your Nickname. Spoilers are comments that unnecessarily give away the plot of a narrative e.g. of a film or book.

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1 Sometimes referred to as the 'Yikes' button.

Discuss this Article

People have been talking about this Article. Here are the most recent Conversations:
Nickname (Last Posting: Jan 28, 2010)
The Moderation of Nicknames (Last Posting: Mar 4, 2007)
Nicknames (Last Posting: Jan 11, 2006)
More about Moderators than the job they do. (Last Posting: Oct 30, 2002)

Article Data
Article ID: A792821 (Help Page)
Edited by:

Date: 24   July   2002

Related BBC Pages
House Rules
House Rules
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Editorial Guidelines for External URLs
House Rules

Most of the content on this site is created by our Members, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here to alert our Moderation Team. For any other comments, please start a Conversation below.