Guidance and best-practices on (requirements for) PM moderation

I was notified by a community member that he received unwarranted PM’s that are not in line with the purpose of our forum. He also received requests of people asking for emails to send PDF’s and files to.

Private messaging can be easily used for inappropriate discussions, and even malicious things, like spearfishing attacks, trolling etc. Members may not be aware of it, and also they may be more hesitant to flag, as it would be clear who did the flagging.

Until now I never read PM’s in which I was not mentioned or invited, considering it highly unethical. Now I realize that I should at least have a good warning policy for our members - pinned Warning, Code of Conduct, Contribution Guidelines update, etc.

But - though I am not keen about taking on this extra burden - forum staff may be required to actually monitor PM’s to avoid all of this stuff, especially since we intend to grow the community significantly.

I would like to hear about your experiences with this. What are the dangers, and how you are tackling them. What tools do I have at my disposal, etc.

(PS Our forum is on a hosted account, btw.)

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  • Moderators can read PMs that have an active flag.
  • Admins can read all PMs.

You can turn on logging for this in your site settings, if it is a concern.

Also, if you mute someone, that person can no longer PM you.


Thx @codinghorror, ah yes, I just turned on the setting “Log personal message views by Admin for other users/groups.

I am also very curious on the experience of moderators, whether there is an actual need to actively check the contents of PM’s, i.e. do you see much bad things going on in PM’s?

If you have a known sketchy user, sometimes I will audit their PMs to make sure nothing weird is going on. That’s about it, for me anyway.

In general you expect flags on PMs to let you know about potential problems before going in, because who has the time?