Anonymous posting/private messaging

Hi guys

I’m the digital PM for a cancer support charity that works with 0-24 year olds and we have an obligation to safeguard our service users, particularly those under 21. I’ve been reading up on threads about anon posting and I tested it out myself on our staging platform of Discourse which we are setting up to support young people with cancer (16-25) and a separate one for significant others of those young people.

Although I think it’s great you have this feature I feel that there are significant flaws when it comes to safeguarding and usability.

We already have a forum up and running for 16-25 year olds but we wanted to move to your system should it provide what we already have in the way of features. Overall I think that Discourse can do the majority of what we wish a forum to do but with a few exceptions described below:

  1. Posting anonymously - when a user posts anon on Discourse we as admins are unable to see who that user was. If a user is posting about having suicidal thoughts or abuse then we need to contact their social worker immediately, we are unable to do that currently on your platform.

  2. We want our service users to open up and talk to one another on the forum. In a recent survey we ran, 46% of our current members said that the anonymous feature we provide on our bespoke platform was important to them, without it they wouldn’t open up to their peers and our forum would not be as active. However to enable users to post anon on your site requires a bit of thought by navigating to the anon icon in the profile avatar to switch this feature on or off. I can imagine many of our users simply won’t think to go to that part of the site to post their message anonymously and will simply presume it’s not a feature that’s available and therefore not post what’s on their mind. Additionally I can imagine if they do figure out how to turn the feature on they might also forget to turn it off.

Would it be better in terms of UX to simply have a tick box at the create message stage so the user can post anonymously?

  1. In a similar vein to the above, our members in the same survey said they would love a space to message each other privately. However, again due to safeguarding, as admins we would need access to these messages if abuse, suicidal thoughts and even grooming etc were flagged, but I can’t see a way to view these messages in the admin area of Discourse.

  2. Finally, we run regular Ask the Expert sessions which require messages which include the topic hashtag e.g. #moodexpert to automatically be hidden until the expert answers the message (can be up to 24 hours), do you have this feature, or something similar, already?

I realise this is lengthy and I thank you in advance for your help.


Flagged messages should show up normally under flags. In addition, admins can view all messages – simply navigate to a user’s profile to see his messages.


Thanks Felix, is your reply specifically related to private messages?

Yes, messages are what others might call private messages. Public “messages” are called topics :slight_smile:


Oh yes I can see now, that’s brilliant, thanks so much for your help Felix! :slight_smile:

I think this two points can be adressed in a plugin.

  • Making the anon icon more proeminent, like to the left of the search and in a different color

  • Making every post that matches a regex be enqueued on the aprove queue.


Not easily perhaps, but possible.

This query “works” in Data Explorer (Admin only)

SELECT users.username
 , user_custom_fields.value
FROM users
JOIN user_custom_fields
ON = user_custom_fields.user_id
OR = CAST( user_custom_fields.value AS int )
WHERE LIKE 'shadow_id'
ORDER BY user_custom_fields.value

example results

username 	value
AdminGuy1	35
anonymous	35
anonymous1	36
LeaderGal1	36
anonymous2	37
LeaderGuy1	37
SpamGuy2	38
anonymous3	38
BasicGuy1	39
anonymous4	39
TrollGuy1	43
GothGal1	46
anonymous5	46

* the “anonymous” for TrollGuy1 is missing because the post was deleted.

1 Like

Hey Mittineague - Thanks for the suggestion, this is using the Data Explorer plugin right? I think that might work, it’s just tricky getting a “non-digital” to carry out these kinds of tasks. Our social workers and nurses plus volunteers who have had cancer will be our admins and it’s a big learning curve for them already, I was just kind of hoping that there would be easier ways of carrying out some of these tasks. Our current platform is bespoke so we scoped all these features in at the initial build but it’s sadly not a sustainable model for our future budget plans hence why we’re investigating products like Discourse. I know we’ll never get like for like but as close as and easy to use would be great.

1 Like

Thanks Rafael - if we built the platform using the API I’m guessing we can make the ‘anon’ icon appear anywhere we like?