Google AdSense has a longstanding policy regarding hate speech and abuse being incompatible with AdSense ads. Google has published strategies for abiding by their guidelines.
The following is my advice for turning around a community to make it more compliant with AdSense policies. The tips are based on 15 years of moderating experience.
Generally, a word filter is not enough to comply with Google’s guidelines about hate speech and other prohibited content. The solution may require a five step approach to gradually introducing changes that will hopefully change the posting culture without alienating members.
Five Steps for Creating an AdSense Friendly Community
- Update the posting guidelines
- Make the guidelines prominent
- Set the Tone by Example
- Gentle and Patient Moderation
- Introduce a Report a Post function
1. Update the Posting Guidelines
Update posting guidelines so that it clearly prohibits racist speech, hate speech, and advocating violence against a person, government or company.
The posting guidelines are there to help users understand what is acceptable. It also sets the tone for your entire community. It is important to link to this document from the registration sign up form and to make it clear that posting privileges are granted on the understanding that they will abide by the posting guidelines.
When someone violates the posting guidelines, you can point to those guidelines and remind them that posting privileges are granted in exchange for abiding by the posting guidelines.
2. Posting Guidelines Must be Prominent
It’s not enough to have posting guidelines. The guidelines should be referred to and linked from the registration area when a new member signs up.
Posting on a forum should be understood to be a privilege granted by the forum to the member in exchange for them agreeing to abide by the posting guidelines.
3. Set the Tone by Example
A moderator must always be patient, polite and courteous.
Thus, a moderator should never ridicule a member. Ideally, a moderator should consisently be pleasant. The way a moderator behaves becomes the model for how the rest of the community behaves.
4. Gentle and Patient Moderation
The role of moderator is not the same as a police. The role of a moderator is closer to a servant of the community. The moderator’s purpose is to support the community by helping new members find their way around, setting the tone for the community by their example, and removing spam.
If the job of moderating the community is done well, the amount of time spent editing or moderating the members will eventually go down.
5. Enable a Report a Post Function
A report a post function is not just about members alerting moderators to bad behavior. A report a post function is really about giving a member a way to do something about bad behavior without resorting to bad behavior themselves.
A report a post gives members options so they don’t have to engage with trolls. They can avoid the aggravation of arguing with a troll by by reporting the troll.
The true worth of a report a post function is about helping your members have a better experience without having to deal with the bad members.
A side benefit of report a posts is that members who consistently use this function tend to make ideal moderators. They are the good members.
There is No Free Speech in a Forum
Trolls tend to believe they have a right to free speech. The U.S. government has laws protecting the infringement of free speech by the government itself.
But there is no law that says a person has a right to say whatever they want in your house, in your place of business or in your web community.
Yet, community members should never be policed or made to feel they are being policed. Over-moderating a community can lead to members leaving.
If you find yourself needing to change the community posting culture, it may need to be done in stages, beginning with updating the posting guidelines, changing the culture of the moderator team then introducing the changes to the community.
Images by Shutterstock, Modified by Author