⚠️ Content Warning: This article contains sensitive terms which are offensive and often used by bad actors in communities for the purpose of harassment. The purpose of displaying them here is to provide context for what these terms mean for those unfamiliar with them, which will in turn allow moderators to make appropriate decisions of which content to filter in their communities and foster environments where everyone feels welcome.
The core foundation of a server on Discord is the community that populates it. Your community is what you engage with, protect, and grow over time. Engagement is important to focus on, but it’s just as important to make sure you are facilitating positive and welcoming engagement.
Positive engagement can mean a lot of things, but in this article, we will be referring to the way in which moderation can affect the culture of the server you are moderating. As moderators your policies, knowledge of your community, and deductive skills influence the way in which your community engages with each other and with your team.
When you establish and nurture your community, you are growing a collective group of people who all enjoy at least some of the same things. Regardless of your server topic, you are undoubtedly going to have members across different a variety of ethnicities, sexual orientations, and identities from across the world. Ensuring that your space on Discord is a space for them to belong necessitates making it safe for them to feel like they can be themselves, wholly, and without reservation. Your members are all humans, all community members, all people that deserve respect and deserve to be welcomed.
When you are establishing your community, it’s important to have a basic understanding of what kind of environment you would like your server to be. It’s good to break down the general moderation philosophy on what content and discussion you’d like your community to engage in and what content would be inappropriate given the space. Depending on the topic of your server these goals may be different, but some common questions you can ask to establish general boundaries are:
This section will be more specific and will break down the most common ways in which a user can engage in harmful rhetoric, how to de-escalate discussions that attack marginalized communities, and how to properly address uncommon symbols used to attack communities.
Harmful Terms and Ableist Language
Members of your community may use obscure symbols or terms to send an offensive message while avoiding any blatant attention or triggering filters. While some of these will be used under the guise of being “internet culture” it’s important to be cognizant that these symbols and language can cause a lot of pain to many marginalized people. Understanding and approaching these terms seriously will help mitigate any long-term server culture damage and personal damage this kind of behavior can cause. This will not only be symbols, but popular terms that are used to cause intentional discourse and push harmful narratives.
These are all terms and symbols used to specifically target and belittle groups of people, and are harmful to the growth of a welcoming environment for your community. Some are slurs, while some are generally harmful rhetoric;
LGBTQ+ Specific Slurs
While some of these terms may be popular in certain spaces (such as gaming), it’s important to understand the history and weight behind them, and think accordingly about their place in your server long-term.
Online platforms tend to have a large amount of hateful content and rhetoric used against marginalized groups of people. When crafting a community, there has to be a common goal of acceptance and welcoming that you provide for all of your members. In online communities, it is not uncommon for users to voice their disdain at other users for their choices in pronouns, gender presentation, or anything that relates them to the LGBTQ+ community.
An ally is someone who is not a part of the LGBTQ+ umbrella who supports and ‘allies’ with the community to create an open and welcoming atmosphere in your server, it is important to understand your role in being an ally to your community and to your users. Moderation is a key component in allowing people to present themselves openly in your server and grow long-lasting connections with other members.
Pronouns are what people use to refer to a person without directly stating their name. Common pronouns are They/Them, She/Her, and He/Him. There are many others that are not covered here, but pronouns can be very important to someone’s identity and how they’d prefer to be addressed. Users, at one point or another, may make jokes such as calling users incorrect pronouns intentionally to invalidate their identity, dehumanize them, and humiliate members of the community out of their ability to interact within the server.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that comments such as ‘there are only two genders’ are used to directly disrespect and undermine the trans community, without directly appearing confrontational. This is used to skirt by rules by appearing to be much less antagonizing than these words truly are.
There are a few LGBTQ+ specific terms that are good to be aware of when interacting with LGBTQ+ members of your community. It’s important to also keep up with your communities- it can be helpful to do some research as terms and issues pop up. Quickly Googling a new term that you come across from a member can make them feel much more welcome in the community as a whole and address sore spots as well.
These are also some terms to be aware of that are related to LGBTQ+ issues that you may see being brought up:
When it comes to the content you allow or moderate in your server, it’s important to, again, reflect on what type of community you are. It’s also important that you act quickly and precisely on this type of harmful behavior. Some users will slowly push boundaries on what type of language they can ‘get away with’ before being moderated.
When discussing moderation, a popular theory that circulates is called the broken windows theory. This theory expresses that if there are signs of antisocial behavior, civil unrest and disorder, as well as visible signs of crimes in the area, that it encourages further anti-social behavior and crime. Similarly, if you create an environment in which toxic and hateful behavior is common, the cycle will perpetuate into further toxicity and hatefulness.
‘Bad-faith’ content is a term that describes behavior done intentionally to cause mischief, drama, or toxicity to a community. They are also commonly referred to as bad actors, and are the type of people that should be swiftly dealt with and addressed directly.
‘Good-faith’ content is a term that describes user behavior with good intentions. When users are a positive foundation in your community, the members that join and interact with the established community will grow to adapt and speak in a way that continues the positive environment that has been fostered and established. It’s important to note that while ‘good-faith’ users are generally positive people, it is possible for them to state wrong or sometimes even harmful words. The importance of this distinction is that these users can be educated from their mistakes and adapt to the behavior you expect of them.
When users toe the line, they are not acting within good faith. As moderators, you should be directly involved enough to determine what is bad-faith content and remove it. On the other hand, education is important in the community sphere for long term growth. While you can focus on removing bad behavior from bad-faith users, reform in good-faith community members who are uneducated in harmful rhetoric should also be a primary goal when crafting your community. When interacting in your community, if you see harmful rhetoric or a harmful stereotype, step back and meaningfully think about the implications of leaving content up in channels that use this kind of language. Does it:
A core way to handle all de-escalation stands in your approach. Users, when heated up during a frustrating or toxic discussion, are easy to set off or to accidentally escalate to more toxicity. The key is to type calmly, and to make sure with whatever manner you approach someone to de-escalate, you do it in a way that is understood to be for the benefit of everyone involved.
Creating a healthy community that leaves a lasting, positive impact in its members is difficult. Moderators have to be aware, educated, and always on the lookout for things they can improve on. By taking the initiative on this front, your community can grow into a positive, welcoming place for all people, regardless of their race, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
Below are resources for further research and discussion on different types of slurs, symbols, and hate speech not referenced explicitly in this document.