So I’m involved in a medium sized local forum with around 5k members and >10k pageviews a day. The forum is based on events and goings on in the local area and some members know each other in real-life too. We have a small mod team, and try to operate openly and transparently. For the most part this works well, and many members are happy, particularly with the excellent features and usability of Discourse. It is probably the best forum in the area
However we have the < 1% of members that seem to enjoy baiting each other and getting into political arguments. We’ve banned political discussion as it’s too emotive and often irrelevant to the forum - there are better places to discuss general and global politics than what we are trying to host.
Often we end up going around a cycle of these members getting flags, posts being hidden or moved out of the topics and warnings issued. Behaviour improves for a while, but then reverts back and many members have learnt how to post just within guidelines while subtly poking at others, and at a rate low enough that it’s often hard to detect. At the same time, some of these members are popular and receive ‘likes’ for the bad behaviour - either deliberately being spurred on by those in on the joke, or by people not realising the subtle needling going on.
Moderating these situations is difficult and draining, and we are looking for ideas for how to deal with these recurring annoyances without appearing or acting unfairly. We’ve tightened up site guidelines to make it easier to point out the unacceptable behaviour, and maybe things might improve, but it’s still draining.
One idea is to make some custom badges and grant them on posts that fall a bit outside the guidelines - a ‘badge of shame’ as it were, like a yellow card in football, or maybe a emoji or something. If a member gets too many in a timeframe, we would consider it an automatic suspension or site ban. We could potentially make a group for these ‘rotters’ and add a custom flair to the user avatars when they have a few bad badges…
I guess one downside is that others may see someone on their last strike as it were and try harder to bait them to get them ejected, and there are probably other issues too. I’m not sure I’m even entirely comfortable in labelling some members in such a way either.
As our moderators think of ideas to deal with this problem, I was wondering if anyone here has tried similar or has any other ideas or advice for handling low level recurrent needling and subtle bad behaviours in their community?