The first rule of the Straight Dope Message Board remains, “Don’t be a jerk”. While there are other rules covering posting behavior they derive from that one rule.
Moderators in all forums are here to ensure the rules of the board and each forum are followed. Given the nature of the discussions in Great Debates and Elections, it is natural that posters are passionate about various topics. Violating any of the rules as outlined here and in ATMB may result in various levels of sanctions. Context is critical when interpreting the rules and moderation will take such into account. If you suspect a rule violation, please report it using the “report this post” button in the top right corner of each post - it looks like a triangle with a exclamation point inside it - and all moderators of that forum will be notified.
Great Debates: For long-running discussions of the great questions of our time. This is also the place for religious debates and (if you feel you must) witnessing.
Elections: For discussion of elections and electoral politics, including strategy and tactics, political parties, individual races, political news, and politicians and public figures.
We recognize the difficulty of disentangling electoral politics from larger issues of public policy, and leave it to the discretion of users whether to start political threads in Elections or Great Debates. We’re not interested in making work for ourselves and - except in cases of grossly inappropriate topics - or (within reason) requests by the OP will not move threads. Users are free to debate which type of posts should go in what forum, but don’t expect us to settle these arguments. We reserve the right to close threads or take other appropriate steps if SDMB rules are violated.
Basic Rules for Great Debates and Elections
[li]Follow moderator instructions - Posters are required to follow moderator instructions, both forum wide and thread specific. To that end, posters are responsible for reading the contents of each thread in case a moderator has made a ruling that is thread-specific. Failure to know about an instruction is not an excuse for not following it.[/li]
[li]Attack the post, not the poster - Posters may not directly insult or personally attack other posters. The general rule is to attack the other poster’s arguments, rather than the other poster him- or herself. This rule applies to all insults, including jokes and quotes from books & movies, as others may not get the joke.[/li]
[li]Descriptive thread titles when starting posts - Please do your best to make your thread titles as clear and concise as possible. You’ll find that your threads have a greater response when the topic of discussion is clear right from the start.[/li]
[li]Trolls and trolling - Do not accuse other posters of trolling or being a troll. If you suspect someone is trolling or is a troll, please report them. Identifying a troll is a question of motivations, which aren’t objectively verifiable. There really is no “bright line” that distinguishes a troll from someone who expresses an unpopular opinion forcefully. It’s ultimately a judgement call if a particular poster is doing one versus the other.[/li]
[li]Accusations of lying - It is against the rules to accuse another poster of lying or being a liar in the Great Debates or Elections fora. Questioning or disputing the accuracy of another poster’s statements–“I don’t think that’s right”, “That’s incorrect”, “You are mistaken”, or even “That’s not true”-- is what Great Debates is all about. However, questioning the intent of another poster in making an arguably false statement–e.g., “You are a liar”, “You are lying”, “That is a lie”, “That’s not true and you darned well know it isn’t true”–is crossing the line into attacking the other poster rather than attacking the other poster’s arguments, and will be considered a violation of the rules of the forum. In general, to be considered an accusation of lying a post must contain the following two elements: 1) deliberately saying something that the person knows is untrue, and 2) doing so with the intent to deceive. [/li]
[li]Illegal activity - The Straight Dope Message Board is dedicated to following the law. Do not advocate for illegal activity. Given that the SDMB is based in the United States, this rule is primarily focused on the laws of the USA. [/li]
[li]Threats of legal action - Posters may not threaten other posters with legal action, nor may they threaten to involve the SDMB in any form of legal action. Such posts may be grounds for immediate banning.[/li]
[li]Threatening harm - Posters may not threaten to harm or to wish for harm to befall other posters for any reason whatsoever.[/li]
[li]**Sexualizing posters and their arguments **- Do not say or imply that your fellow posters achieve sexual gratification or soil themselves in glee/distress due to recent news reports, political iconography, contemplation of ideological positions, etc.[/li]
[li]Hate speech, racist epithets and racism - The use of racial epithets, pejoratives, slurs, and other similar items is forbidden. Hate speech as a whole, however, can be defined broadly or narrowly depending on the context of any individual thread.[/li]
[li]Junior Modding - If you feel a post is in violation of the rules, please report the post and let a moderator deal with it. If you are not a moderator do not act as one.[/li]
[li]Harassing other posters - Bringing up a poster’s history in unrelated threads for the purpose of harassing them is not allowed. Following a poster from thread to thread to mock them about older, off-topic posts could be considered harassment and is potentially sanctionable.[/li]
[li]Fonts, multi-colored text, and text sizes - There is no rule against these things but as a matter of ease of readability it is recommended that these options be using sparingly. [/li]
[li]Private Messages - PMs can be reported as if they were regular posts and may be moderated accordingly.[/li][li][/li][/ol]
Warnings, notes and other moderator actions
Moderators may act in several ways to ensure the rules of the forum are followed. When moderators act it will be clearly indicated that the moderator is acting in an official capacity.
Types of moderator actions:
[li]Warnings - An official warning on the Straight Dope Message Board acts as a permanent record of a poster’s breaking the rules of the forum. While there is not hard and fast rule, sufficient warnings over a period of time - both the number of warnings and the timeframe are intentionally left vague - may result in further, more permanent sanction. Unless rescinded by moderation staff, a warning remains on a poster’s record indefinitely. However, older warnings are given less weight when considering additional sanction. [/li][li]Moderator Notes - A moderator note is usually provided to a poster, group of posters, or all thread participants to give guidance in a particular thread. This guidance is generally given to promote an environment where discussion can take place. Unlike Warnings, mod-notes are not tracked in any official, permanent way.[/li][li]Thread or topic ban - After discussion among the moderators, a thread or topic ban may be issued for specific posters. These tend to come about when a pattern has developed indicating a specific poster cannot be trusted to remain within the rules on some topic or other. It is hoped that placing topic or thread bans will enable discussion to continue constructively for other participants.[/li][li]Suspensions - Posters may be sanctioned with a temporary suspension of posting privileges. Continuing to break rules following suspension may result in a ban from the SDMB. Suspensions are not made lightly - nor unilaterally - and are discussed among the moderation staff and voted upon.[/li][li]Banning - Repeated violations of the rules - or indications that a poster has no intent on ever following the rules - can result in a permanent banning from the SDMB. As with suspensions, the moderation staff as a whole votes on whether a poster will be banned.[/li][li]Other actions - These are not the only potential sanctions available to the moderation staff. We reserve the right to get creative in the future.[/li][/ul]
Right to appeal - For all questions, comments, and complaints about the SDMB or its moderation, please post in the About this Message Board sub-forum. The moderation staff will do their best to participate in these threads to explain the reasoning behind the action.