Mod edit 6 Jan 2013: This thread is old like whoa. It's locked now, since we've probably had a million other threads discussing rules changes since this.
The first draft of the general forum rules is as follows. Comments and suggestions are welcome.
Harassment is prohibited: Offensive comments based on race, nationality, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical appearance, mental health or disability are prohibited. Vigorous criticism of religious belief is permitted, but offensive comments based on religious identity are prohibited.
Don't use insults that target a group: Many insults are hurtful to those besides the target. Slurs such as "cunt", "retarded", "she looks like a man" or "he's probably autistic" imply that the female body, disabled people, transsexual people or autistic people are inherently contemptible or amusing. All slurs that use an entire group of people as a pejorative are prohibited.
Provide forewarning of disturbing content: Disturbing stories or graphic imagery can induce flashbacks or panic attacks in some people. Whenever such content is posted, it must always be preceded with a clear warning.
Swearing is permitted: Bad language is permitted, subject to other content guidelines.
Stick the flounce: If you flounce from a thread, by angrily announcing that you're leaving or giving up, you should not post on that thread again.
If you're looking for a fight, go elsewhere: If you despise atheism plus and everything it stands for, then this isn't the forum for you. If you're looking for robust debate then please go ahead. If you just want to pick a fight, then you're not wanted here.
Try to assume good faith at first: When a seemingly unpleasant person arrives on the forum, the principle of charity should always apply. Wherever possible, ignorance should be assumed before malice. Similarly, questions should be treated as genuine requests for information, rather than disingenuous rhetoric. In general, a poster should be allowed three attempts at making their case, before bad faith can be assumed.
Don't carry hostility between threads: If someone is behaving unpleasantly in one thread, but posts a sensible comment to another thread, they should not be treated with hostility in that second conversation. Carrying hostility between threads disrupts conversations. It can also look dreadful to casual lurkers, who see an apparently helpful poster being attacked without reason.
Don't import hostility to the forum: If a user has behaved badly elsewhere, but posts only sensible comments here, these comments should not be greeted with hostility. As with carrying arguments between threads, importing hostility is disruptive, and looks dreadful to outsiders.
Civility guidelines are not an excuse for bad behaviour: The above rules are guidelines for dealing with the majority of cases. They are not absolute laws, and they are certainly not excuses to hide behind. If there is no reasonable explanation for a post besides malice, then it is not necessary to pretend otherwise. If someone endlessly brings up the same refuted argument in multiple threads, then engaging them straight away may be justified. If someone with an atrocious reputation from elsewhere asks slippery but plausibly innocent questions, then it may be reasonable to assume dishonesty.
Arguments to avoid
Many arguments come up time and time again, and generally serve to aggravate rather than enlighten. They can be made without ill-intent, but they will often be received very badly. A list of ill-advised arguments is given below. If you wish to dispute these points, you should do so in a general sense, and not in a thread about a specific incident.
Don't say "don't feed the trolls": There are many reasons why responding to a deliberately provocative comment is the right thing to do. For example, it may be necessary to refute a believable lie or to challenge a particular prejudice. Replying to a thoughtful rebuttal with that tedious cliché is patronizing, and dismisses other people's concerns as unimportant. Bear in mind that what may appear to be trivial insults to you, may be deeply hurtful comments to someone else.
Don't lecture women on staying safe: (This still needs to be written)
Don't blame the victim: (This still needs to be written)
Don't say "not all X are like that": When someone complains about a serious problem, it is rarely helpful to complain that the scope of the problem has not been delineated with mathematical precision. For example, if someone gives an account of sexual harassment, replying with “not all men are like that” gives the impression that you care more about being vaguely implicated, than you do about the actual harassment.
Don't joke about prison rape: No one deserves to be raped, including prison inmates. Rape is a despicable act, regardless of context.
Don't be pedantic about the word "troll": The word "troll" has multiple definitions, including an obnoxious and disruptive poster. Insisting upon pedantic definitions, based on the word's origin, is not a helpful contribution to discussions about disruptive posters.
Don't conflate social awkwardness with obnoxiousness: Having poor social skills and behaving like a jerk are completely different things. The former can sometimes inadvertently lead to the latter, but the two are not intrinsically linked. Someone can be kind and considerate, but at the same time be poor at picking up social cues and appear shy and awkward in conversation. Similarly, a high functioning sociopath can be socially adept, but will use these skills to hurt and manipulate. Linking the two is offensive to awkward people who don’t behave like jerks, and provides an illegitimate excuse to those who deliberately behave like jerks.
Don't conflate autistic spectrum conditions with obnoxiousness: Having an autistic spectrum condition is not the same as being a jerk. For the same reasons as above, conflating the two is deeply offensive.
Don't counter disparagement of physical appearance with compliments: If a person is taunted with abuse based on their physical appearance, it is tempting to reassure them with a warm compliment. This is perfectly understandable, but it can reinforce the prejudice behind the original insult. It implies that the abuse would have been justified, had the person been less attractive.
Don't defend insulting language: If people take offence to a particular slur, then it is best to graciously withdraw it, and rephrase your argument. Remember that what may be a matter of semantics to you, may be a matter of dehumanisation versus acceptance for someone else.
Don't dismiss people's problems by appealing to greater problems: For almost every problem, it is possible to find a substantially worse problem. This should not be used, however, to dismiss the original problem. For example, the plight of women under the Taliban is absolutely dreadful, but this doesn't mean that any problem faced by a western woman is trivial
Don't change the topic to less severe problems: If a particular problem is being discussed, it is dismissive to generalise this into a conversation about less severe problems. Such problems may also be very important, but they should be discussed elsewhere. For example, a discussion about female genital mutilation should not degenerate into a debate about the morality of male circumcision.
Screen names and privacy
Maintain a consistent identity: You should either post under your real name, or under a consistent pseudonym. Minor modifications to your pseudonym are permitted, so long the relationship to the old version is clear. If you have any kind of online presence in the atheist or skeptic community, then you must either use your real name, or the same pseudonym.
No impersonation: Impersonating other people is prohibited. You should not use a pseudonym that includes the name of a real person, unless it is obvious that you are not that person.
No sockpuppetry: Creating more than one identity, and using these identities to create the illusion of support, or to provide straw opponents, is prohibited. Use of a secondary identity is permitted under exceptional circumstances, such as revealing a distressing personal story.
Respect privacy: People have the right to privacy and anonymity (subject to the following exceptions). Unless you have someone's permission, it is not permitted to divulge their real name, home address, telephone number, email address, or any other form of contact information.
This is a proposed policy only:
Threat makers have no right to privacy: If someone threatens violence, then they have forfeited their right to privacy. We reserve the right to reveal all identifying information.
This is a proposed policy only:
Hackers have no right to privacy: If someone attempts to gain illicit access to the forum, or attempts to electronically attack it, then they have forfeited their right to privacy. We reserve the right to reveal all identifying information.
Moderation and Banning
The forum is private property: Freedom of speech is the right to speak your mind without being persecuted. It is not an entitlement to use other people's private property to disseminate your views. As such, we reserve the right to remove comments, or to ban anyone we deem to be making a strongly negative contribution to the forum.
Violent threats will get you thrown out: Anyone who threatens or advocates an act of violence against anyone else, forum member or not, will be automatically banned.
This is a proposed policy only:
Legal threats will get you thrown out: Anyone who makes legal threats against the forum will be automatically banned.
Moderation must not misrepresent the original content: When administrators or moderators modify a user's contributions, they must do so in such a way as to not falsely attribute an opinion or a statement to that user.
Last edited by SubMor
on Sun Jan 06, 2013 12:50 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Reason: Thread locked!