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8. Choosing a moderation policy

8. Choosing a moderation policy

Before you can write up the policies that are going to guide you in moderating your group, there are a few things to consider.

8.1. Article rejections

When an inappropriate posting is submitted to the newsgroup, the moderator should send the submitter email informing the sender that their submission was inappropriate for posting to the group. If possible, suggest a newsgroup where the posting might be appropriate. Forwarding a canned message can save the moderator time and assure that the submitter knows which newsgroups might be an acceptable alternative.

“I am sorry but I am unable to post your request to the newsgroup comp.sources.misc. This newsgroup is a moderated newsgroup whose sole purpose is for the distribution and archiving of source code.

Requests for software can be made to comp.sources.wanted or a more specific newsgroup if one exists. Requests for help with the sources gathered from the net should be made to the newsgroups comp.sources.d or comp.sources.bugs depending on the type of the problem.”

If the article is cross-posted to other groups, the moderator should inform the submitter that the article did not appear in the other groups specified in the Newsgroups: line. Do not repost it yourself - this may get you into problems. Send the entire article back to the poster, so that he or she can repost it to a non-moderated group, if so desired.

Some common reasons why articles are rejected are:

  • Submitted article does not fall within the charter of the group,
  • Copyright or reprint permission problems,
  • Previously posted question has already been answered,
  • Excessive quoting,
  • Asking something specified in the group's FAQ or policy posting,
  • Message targeted towards one person and should have been sent via email to that person,
  • Articles that are just flames with little to no real substance.

[See Section 2 and Section 17.1 for discussions of the difference between moderation and censorship.]

8.2. Copyrights

Copyrighted submissions should not be posted without the explicit permission of the copyright holder or the appropriate release authority. Any such release notice should be prominently visible in the article. This rule applies equally to general articles, images, and software. If there are any questions about the legality or approval status of a submission, the moderator should not post it until appropriate permission has been received.

In the opinion of the moderators who helped write this document, there should be no “compilation copyright” placed on the newsgroup by the moderator. The newsgroups are a collective effort, the result of the sites that pass the newsgroup around, the kind souls that maintain software and article archives, and -most importantly- the people who write the articles. Please note, in no way can a moderator-supplied copyright notice supersede the copyright of the individual submitters.

8.3. Dealing with forged Approved: headers

As moderator of your group, you are within your rights to cancel articles with forged Approved: headers at any time you wish.

It is not possible to stop someone from posting to a moderated newsgroup if they know how. All you can do is complain at them, or complain to root@ or postmaster@ or usenet@ or newsmaster@ or news@ the offending host.

In the end, if they choose to continue to ignore convention, the Usenet community can try to get their site's NetNews feeds cut off by convincing their neighbors to stop feeding the offenders.

If there are repeated forgeries, or if a forged article causes widespread confusion among readers, it is wise to inform the net in the appropriate newsgroups (i.e. news.admin.policy) that these are forged postings and of the trouble you are having. Often a public denouncement will be enough to make the offender stop. Note that few people bother to denounce forgeries posted on April 1.

Another approach is to have an auto-canceler script that verifies all articles received by the moderator's site in the moderator's newsgroup have been posted by the moderator or a backup moderator. If an article is encountered that was not posted by the moderator then the script automagically cancels the article and a mail message is sent to the sender parties involved. Naturally, this is tricky when there are changing or multiple moderators. There are also potential problems generated due to propagation delay. There are auto-canceler scripts available in the moderators archive described in Section 15.

If forgeries are not a common problem on a newsgroup, canceling by hand when they do come up is probably the best option.

8.4. Commercial postings

The group charter should state clearly what the policy on posting articles of a commercial nature should be. If the group charter does not address this issue, or is unclear, then the moderator must define a clear and consistent policy on the subject. The policy should be documented before the issue arises, so that the newsgroup's readership knows what to expect to have done.

Don't believe the myth that commercial postings are not allowed on Usenet. In reality, commercial posting have been traversing the world via Usenet newsgroups almost since the beginning of NetNews.

With that said, blatant commercials and hyperbole are roundly frowned upon. It is best to spell this out in the policy. The important thing is that you post only what the readers want (learned via a survey maybe). A good way to describe a generally acceptable policy:

“Information, not promotion.”

8.5. Dealing with cross-posted articles

The moderator needs to determine how cross-posted articles are going to be handled for the group. In some cases the moderator may honor the Newsgroups: lines which list other newsgroups outside the moderator's control. In other cases the moderator's policy may state that cross-posting will never be done, or will be done only at the moderator's discretion.

If an article submitted to a moderated group is rejected, then it does not get posted to the unmoderated groups listed in the Newsgroups: line. This is a little unfair to the submitter if the moderator does not inform the submitter of the situation. Not all readers/submitters are aware of how NetNews moderation works.

Some moderators refuse to honor any cross-postings listed on the Newsgroups: line and only post to their own group. There is nothing wrong with this policy but the moderator should assure that the group's readership is aware of the policy.

Articles are sometimes cross-posted to multiple moderated groups. In those cases, it is important to make sure that moderators of all groups have approved the article before it is actually posted. [See Section 16.6 ]

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