Robot Forum Moderation

August 13, 2023

I am a Judgment Broker that writes a lot. This article is my opinion on why automated forum moderation software and systems are not always a good idea.

Online forums are supposed to be places for the free exchange of ideas and experiences, with mutual assistance and the exchange of information. On most forums, some occasional fun and humor are a welcome bonus.

Moderating a forum is not easy. Besides the problems of spammers and hackers, there are sometimes quarrels and misinformation. Sometimes the smartest members are controversial, however they usually make forums more interesting.

It is sometimes difficult to perform the moderation work required, and to make everyone happy, while continuously remaining altruistic, positive, generous, fair, objective, and vigilant.

On large forums, with several moderators to share the workload, there can also be the problem of too many “cooks in the kitchen”, each with their own agendas and policies.

Recently, automatic forum moderation software, often available as a plug-in for forum hosting servers, has become more popular. It is promoted as the new solution, to save time for forum moderators, and eliminate the need for sub-moderators.

Some common basic features of auto-moderation forum software often include:

1) Sometimes it allows the owner of the message thread (the person who started a conversation) to delete the entire thread at any time.

2) Allowing the owner of a thread to delete any individual replies to their thread that they feel are inappropriate.

3) Allowing all members to report any inappropriate posts. The remaining moderator, decides if the post was inappropriate. If so, the post is deleted and the poster receives a warning. If the report is found inappropriate, the reporter receives a warning.

4) Keeping track of inappropriate postings and the handling of warnings and restrictions.

5) Moving some of the moderation power to every member.

Auto-moderation forum software still requires at least one person to handle all complaints, and to decide who is right.

In my opinion, auto-forum moderation software may not a good idea for these reasons:

1) It can remove some intelligence from important decisions. Some people are more suited to be moderators than everyone is.

2) It sometimes lets the starter of a thread, who may know next to nothing, decide to delete a thread that has developed into an intelligent discussion with a lot of information. Often, the starter of the thread is the grain of sand that causes a pearl of wisdom to form over time.

3) Not all forum members are equal, and each member has different ranges of intelligence and experience. Auto-moderation software treats newbies and gurus the same.

4) It makes forums less friendly, because members are reminded of the rules and penalties much more often.

5) It can make experienced members more apprehensive about posting, reducing the value of a forum. Imagine a forum where a newbie or a crazy rabbit has enough power and influence, that they can unjustly delete your post and complain about you, with a push of a button?

I think forum auto-moderation software might work better for light-topic, social or informal forums.

However, for serious topic-based forums, auto-moderation can make it very difficult to have a free exchange of information, without the possibility of some form of abuse by some member, which could unfairly cause the original poster to lose valuable credibility and points.

Auto-moderation software may have its place, however until it can pass the Turing test (Can you tell the difference between a human and a computer), it should not replace human moderators having significant involvement in forum moderation.

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