FORUM UPDATE: Our new disciplinary process!

Hello friends! Please see below for a new set of guidelines for addressing rulebreaking behavior in the forums.

Given that the last policy post spiraled into off-topic discussion, I’m very reluctantly leaving comments turned on for this post, but fair warning: any comments that are not asking specific questions about the policy below will be deleted. This is not a matter for public debate, and I will probably close the thread after a day or so. You can also DM me if you want to discuss further, and I will respond as soon as I am able.

Fun fact: we’ve never actually had to suspend a user yet! This is largely due to y’all being very good at self-moderation and following the forum rules and expectations. So I don’t actually expect to have to use these guidelines very often. But we should have clearer rules about how a temporary or permanent suspension might happen, so expectations are apparent going forward.

MSD3000 DISCIPLINARY PROCESS

  1. A general warning and/or reminder of the forum rules will be given.
  2. If behavior persists, private discussions and/or warnings will take place with relevant parties. These discussions are private and are not open to public discussion or debate.
  3. If behavior persists after a minimum of three (3) warnings, users may incur a 48 hr temporary ban. The topic(s) involved may be locked for a cool-down period of 24-48 hrs.
  4. If behavior resumes, users will incur a 7 day temporary ban and posts/topics will be subject to deletion.
  5. If behavior continues, users are subject to a permanent ban.

In certain extreme cases – including but not limited to spam posting, threats of violence, or illegal activity – immediate administrative action may be taken against a user without following these steps. As stated in the rules already, we also reserve the right to remove any user or post at any time, for any reason.

I’ll be updating the FAQ page with these rules today. Thank you!

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Does this also apply to DMing? It hasn’t happened to me (or hopefully anyone else), but I can certainly see the DM feature being used to attack or otherwise abuse another user and I’m guessing the mods can’t see those private messages. I’m not sure how that would work, I just want to make sure no one gets harassed.

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Content rules don’t apply to DMs because we can’t enforce them there, since, as you note, we don’t get to see what you DM. However, if someone is threatening/attacking you via DMs, absolutely message me with receipts and I will intervene.

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  • If we have information showing a consistent habit of deliberately violating rules here, where should this information be sent?
  • Will these warnings be retroactively made (i.e. will someone who violated rules in October 2021 be given a warning now), or are ALL users starting off with a clean slate today and no previous unchecked violations of the rules will be addressed/removed?
  • The language is “minimum of 3 warnings” - does this mean that some users will get more than 3 warnings before a temporary ban, while other users will only get 3 warnings? The language here leaves room for this possibility of inequitable application of warnings/temporary bans.
  • Is there a formal appeal process for warnings that were unwarranted (i.e. being warned not to talk about politics but the comment isn’t political)?

ETA: There is a flag option in DM messages, so if there are problematic DMs we should be able to flag these like any other comments, correct?

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This process was not in place before today, so it will not be retroactively applied. It would not be fair to hold users to guidelines that did not exist at the time they made their posts/comments.

The minimum of 3 warnings is to allow space for the complexity of real-life discussion. There is a minor difference between a user who is intentionally pot-stirring/line-stepping with provocative posts, and one who is making errors from a genuine lack of knowledge – for example, say a new user joins and immediately begins excessively spamming the forums in their excitement, not realizing their behavior is disruptive. The pot-stirrer might get three warnings before action is taken; the new user might receive a tiny bit more leeway as long as they are making efforts to adapt to the community expectations going forward – or they might not, if they continue to behave as though they do not expect repercussions. (This is not the ONLY example, it’s just the first one I thought of.)

Generally three strikes is the rule though, and after that further action may be taken, as once a user has had a number of warnings and has not changed their behavior, further consequences are probably warranted, whether they are breaking rules out of obliviousness or with intent.

If you feel a warning is unfair, you can privately discuss this with the moderators, or with me or Ivan.

I need to revisit the flagging settings for DMs – IIRC I have only ever seen one flagged DM and I can’t remember if it looped me in to the whole private conversation, or just the message being flagged. More info on this will be included in the forthcoming policy post about the flagging process.

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Along the lines of past regressions, do warnings expire? Like, is it three warnings for all time, or within a time period? Like, if it takes someone 12 years to accumulate three warnings, I don’t think a suspension is in order.

Granted this is probably an edge case; the people who need to be suspended are likely to strike out in short order. But I also wouldn’t want normally polite regulars with a rare transgression to live in fear.

But equally so I don’t want bad faith actors to use a time-based rule to their advantage (“ha ha, I can terrorize people every three months!”).

I’m actually in favor of a “soft three” meaning “sure we won’t count old instances for the most part, but it’s up to us to decide on a case by case basis how long old warnings continue to count.” It’s a purposefully vague rule, but it’s not effectively different from being able to bypass the process in extreme cases.

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I agree. If a user gets warned for a transgression and immediately stops the behavior, but then gets warned for something else three months later, those two warnings aren’t functionally related.

Three warnings is really about establishing a pattern of problematic behavior, not about counting up individual missteps.

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Hi Lesley - thanks for this information; it’s helpful. Is this instead of or in addition to further explication about how flags work? I’m still concerned about the loophole wherein I’ve muted a consistently problematic user, so my flags aren’t “counting against” them because I’m just not seeing their posts… which is not the same thing as me being OK with what they said.

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I have ANOTHER policy post coming that will get into the gritty details of flagging. If you need to mute another user for a reason not simply related to basic disagreement, and you’ve muted them because they’re threatening you, namecalling you, etc, definitely message me to let me know what’s up.

In practice, flags should be less about signaling criticism of or disagreement with a comment and more about raising a hand to say “I think something here needs specific administrative attention.” But I’ll explain this more thoroughly soon!

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Thank you for clarifying; initially it sounded like favoritism could determine the number of “strikes” someone got before action was taken.

Follow-up questions on this sub-process (see explanation at bottom to understand why transparency on this is so important to me):

  • Should we expect back-and-forth responses from moderators/admins when we bring a warning up, or is this process DMing a moderator and saying “I don’t think that’s fair and here is why” and not hearing anything back, end of discussion, warning stands?
  • If a comment is found not to violate any rules and thus not warrant a warning, will this “strike” be removed from the count (presumably yes, but I’d like it spelled out explicitly just to be completely certain).
  • If a moderator/admin says “we have a different opinion/interpretation on this” and the user disagrees for legitimate reasons, is there any further recourse (presumably not, but again, would like this spelled out explicitly just to be certain)? For example, the opinion of an anti-masker and an immunocompromised person on whether wanting people to mask in public is political is very different.
  • To follow-up on the above: if “we have a different interpretation/opinion on this” is an reasonable means of upholding an potentially unfair warning, couldn’t all concerns about unfair warnings be dismissed in this way? In other words, what is stopping the response to “I feel this warning is unfair and here’s why” from being “we have a different opinion/interpretation on this, the warning stands” every time a user privately discusses an unfair warning? Is this just a leap-of-faith/trust us kind of thing?

Would it be helpful to test this by having a user flag a test comment or two in a DM? It would be really quick and easy to throw together some dummy test messages to test this, if that’s helpful.

Really really good points here. I personally had interpreted this as “3 warnings for all time, regardless of offense” like it is on other social media sites. I’ve had both the “three strikes forever” and “you have no means of appeal for unfair strikes” experience on other social media sites, so I’m already always living in fear of it happening everywhere. That’s why I’m asking so many questions on the appeals process.

For example, I’ve received actual death threats (including phrases like “they’ll never find your body” in them) on Facebook that somehow didn’t “violate community standards,” but I’ve also been banned for “bullying” because I called someone a “fart” - because 8 months prior I had called a transphobe a piece of sh*t after they told me to unalive myself (which also somehow didn’t violate community standards). I hope this example is not in violation of any rules, I’m trying to explain where I’m coming from on this matter and why I’m asking so many questions about the appeals process.

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Friendly Mod Hat Reminder:

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Sounds like a solid framework. I assume the rules will be evolutive, since once they are in the wild there will likely be unexpected cases. But this seems to cover the fundamentals just fine.

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Just to clarify, does that mean that private warnings are not to be made public by the one who was warned? That it would be considered to be persisting about a subject?

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There MAY be a circumstance in which talking publicly about a private warning would be appropriate, so I will allow room for that possibility. I just can’t think of one. The point here is that warnings are not to be publicly debated by forum members.

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Thanks! I have test accounts already on hand for this stuff, but I appreciate the offer.

Conversation about a warning is more likely to be a matter of coming to improved mutual understanding than changing the warning, since warnings are not given lightly. But also this is part of the “minimum of three warnings” bit – as I said above, it’s more about establishing a pattern of rulebreaking behavior and escalating the process if the user is not making apparent efforts to improve. Individual occasional missteps are not anything to worry about.

At a certain point what the warning-giver says goes. Such is the nature of power, and while I prefer (and do) operate by consensus-building in most situations, ultimately this is not a democracy, it’s more of a benevolent dictatorship. For example, even if 100% of members think they should be allowed to use the forums for illegal filesharing of MST3K episodes, we’re still not going to let that happen.

We have created boundaries that are intended to provide a friendly community space where fans and cast and crew can interact in an officially sanctioned environment. These forums are a bonus we’re offering to folks; but they could disappear tomorrow and the MST3K community would carry on just fine with fan-run spaces, as it always has.

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What’s DMing?
Like in D&D and I’m the Dungeon Master?!
(Also beware this is the only internet form or social media I have no twitter, Facebook, etc)
Above was a bit of a joke, but I really don’t know what DM ing is.

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Does PMing make more sense to you?

Private Message (PM)
Direct Message (DM)
Same.

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The rules for what’s permitted are unchanged: FAQ - Mystery Science Discourse 3000

This post is about further formalizing the steps mods will take for people who break those already existing rules. If you haven’t gotten in trouble before, you’re probably in no danger.

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In a different forum I had DMs that were problematic. The best advice is to save copies of everything and submit those. Screenshots can work for small messages. If you use a Windows OS Shift+Print Screen does the same. Open MS Paint or Word and click paste. For long messages select all, copy, and paste into Word. On a computer you can select how it’s formatted. On a mobile you’re probably going to have to do it manually. I’m sorry I can’t help with Apple products. It should be similar.