203: Developing Server Rules

One of the most important parts of setting up your Discord server is determining “the law of the land.” In other words, by what rules do you want your server members to abide? Some of these rules should be based on Discord’s community guidelines and terms of service, while others are more related to general internet etiquette or even your server’s specific needs. Once you determine the general principles under which your server will operate, you will need to determine how much detail you want to provide in your rules and how to enforce them.

Discord Community Guidelines and Terms of Service

To summarize, the guidelines govern user behavior on Discord and outline what is and isn’t acceptable in all communities. While many of these things are common sense, they should still be incorporated into your rules so that there is a clear expectation set among members as to how they should behave. Some key prohibited behaviors include:

  • No doxxing or harassment (especially threats on someone’s life/property) or encouraging self harm
  • No spamming, phishing, or attempting to steal another user’s account (broadly speaking, one could consider this “no spamming or scamming”)
  • No child porn, revenge porn or gore/animal cruelty anywhere in the server, while other NSFW content should be limited to properly marked channels
  • No sharing pirated content

The Discord Terms of Service outlines a few additional caveats to using Discord, including the following

  • You must be 13 years or older to use Discord
  • Distributing “auto,” “macro,” or “cheat utility” programs as well as providing hacked/modded game software through Discord is prohibited.

Furthermore, if you are one of the lucky individuals moderating a Partnered or Verified server (or hope to have your server partnered/verified in the future), you will need to consider the additional restrictions imposed on these servers in the Discord Partnership Code of Conduct.

  • Discriminatory jokes and language related to one’s race, age, gender, disability, etc. are prohibited.
  • Content that is explicitly pornographic, depicting sexual acts, or depicting nudity is prohibited anywhere on a partnered server.
  • Content that includes discussions of nudity, sexuality and violence is considered NSFW content and should occur only in the properly marked channels.

Any infractions of the Community Guidelines or Discord Terms of Service should be reported to Discord Trust and Safety with the relevant message link for proof.

General Etiquette

While Discord’s guidelines and terms of use cover more extreme cases of bad behavior, there is still plenty of other behavior that you may want to consider regulating on your server. Your server rules play an important part, not just in determining how your mod team will react to users, but also how your users will interact with each other, and ultimately your server culture. Therefore, your rules should strive to create a fun and welcoming environment for people of all races, genders, and sexualities while balancing community needs with the need for order. In additions to the rules and guidelines set forth by Discord, you may want to consider prohibiting the following behaviors:

  • Trolling - Trolling refers to the act of disrupting the chat, making a nuisance out of yourself, deliberately making others uncomfortable, or otherwise attempting to start trouble.
    • This is a good catch-all rule to have because it enables you to take action on those that are “acting out” without doing anything really specific to call them out on.
  • Discussing Offensive/Controversial Material - This includes topics such as politics, religion, acts of violence, rape, suicide/self harm, school shootings, and other serious topics; as well as hate speech including racial slurs or derivatives thereof, sexist or homophobic statements, and other similar types of behavior.
    • The details of how you define this rule can vary depending on the extent to which you feel it is necessary to enforce (for example, if you are following the partner code of conduct you may want to also include “ableist slurs” as being prohibited.
  • Elitism - Members should refrain from insulting or belittling others based on the games or versions of games that they choose to play.
    • This is especially applicable to Discord servers where one game may be distributed among multiple regions from a gameplay or version perspective
  • Disrespecting Server Staff - Insulting the server moderators or becoming belligerent after being warned.

While measured discussion regarding the reasons for being warned should be encouraged for the education of the user and general public, at some point it may be necessary to shut down the discussion or take it to DMs. 

  • Incitement - Encouraging the breaking of rules, inciting others to be blatantly rude and offensive, or otherwise promoting and/or encouraging conflicts between other members.
  • Punishment Evasion - Users should not attempt to evade the consequences of their actions such as using an alternate account to bypass restrictions.
    • It is recommended that this be punishable with an instant ban, as this is the type of punishment that is most difficult to evade compared to the other options available.
    • A user that is evading a ban is generally considered by Discord’s Trust and Safety team to be harassment, and can be reported to them for further action.
  • Inappropriate User Profiles - For ease of communication and the comfort of those in chat, the profile picture, custom status, and display names (i.e., the name that shows up while reading the chat) of users should be in line with the rules of the server. Furthermore, the display name should also be easily readable, mentionable, and not attempt to imitate other users or game development staff or hoist you to the top of the server online list
    • In effect, this also means that the user profile should be safe for work, not contain any offensive or illegal content, and not be used to harass others or spam/scam.
    • “Hoisting” refers to using characters like exclamation points to make it so that you appear at the top of the online members list. Some people will put multiple characters like this in an attempt to be at the top of the online list. While it is not always feasible to enforce against users that don’t often chat, it is good to have a policy to enforce this if you see someone chatting with a hoisted display name. But, if this doesn’t bother you, you can remove this provision.
  • Advertisement - Similar but not quite the same as spam, this refers to users attempting to promote their own social media/discord servers/other content creation channels.
    • Usually, it is good to invite users to talk to a moderator privately if they want to advertise something.
  • Speaking languages not understood by the server - Essentially, users should be prohibited from communicating in a language outside of the server’s official language.
    • This makes it easier for moderators to moderate the server by ensuring that they understand the conversations that are happening and prevents users from trying to fly under the radar by speaking in languages moderators don’t understand.
Server Specific Considerations

Your server will also have needs of its own not covered in the previous two sections, and that’s ok! It is perfectly normal to set up channel-specific rules or to even override certain server rules in certain channels. Some examples include:

  • An artist channel where artists are allowed to advertise their art creation profiles (e.g., Pixiv, DeviantArt).
  • An image spam channel where people can flood the channel with images.
  • A “current events” channel where people can discuss some controversial topics in a civil fashion.
  • An “on topic” chat where people should specifically only talk about a certain thing, compared to an “off topic” chat where general conversation about anything is allowed.
  • A game-related friend request channel or “carry” where users that post there should be expected to be pinged frequently for assistance in a way that is not considered harassment/spam.

You will need to carefully consider your server’s specific needs when coming up with channel rules or other server-wide rules.

Rule Enforcement

Establishing your rules is all well and good, but ultimately a moot point if you don’t enforce them. Moderators should carefully consider how they want to enforce their server rules. Some possible systems include:

  • Case by Case - Punishment is more subjective and dependent on the nature and frequency of transgressions. While this system gives moderators a large amount of flexibility, accountability can be difficult due to the lack of standards and certain moderators may punish users differently. This may be better suited to smaller servers where the moderation tasks tend to be leaner.
  • Infraction Based - Similar to a “three strikes and you’re out” system, users are punished according to the number of times they break the rules. Users may receive a mute after a certain number of warnings followed by a ban. While this system is great for accountability, it does not account for the severity of the transgressions involved.
  • Points based - If you’d like the accountability of the strikes/infraction based system coupled with the flexibility of the case by case system, consider a points based rule enforcement structure. In this system, each rule is worth a certain number of points based on the importance and severity of breaking the rule where moderators can adjust the point value with an additional explanation for accountability.
Appeals

If a user thinks their warning is unfair, they may lash out in chat or in the feedback channels of the server. It is important to have a way users can easily discuss their warning with the server moderators. You can visit a more in-depth explanation on appeals in DMA 204: Ban Appeals.

Bringing It All Together

From creating your rules to developing a discipline system, you should now have a set of rules that incorporate the important Discord-wide rules, rules that make your server a welcoming place, and rules specific to your server to help things run smoothly. By enforcing these rules clearly and consistently with an accountable tracking system and transparent appeal process, you should be well on your way to a server you can be proud of!

Ready to test your moderator skills? Take the Discord Moderator Exam!