204: Ban Appeals

Creating your server and establishing rules are necessary parts of starting a community. Likely sooner rather than later though, you’ll have to deal with users who refuse to obey whatever rules you’ve set. These individuals can be dealt with in a number of ways, including warning, muting, or even banning them. Regardless of the consequences, users may want to appeal a moderator’s action to prove that they did not do anything wrong, do not deserve the punishment given to them, or argue that the punishment should be less severe than initially prescribed.

Why Should You Consider an Appeal System?

For most types of warnings this can be as simple as messaging a moderator or sending a message in an appeal channel, if one exists. However, because a ban removes the user from the server and prevents them from returning, dealing with those ban appeals requires extra consideration from the mod team.

For example: A user is banned for six months due to spamming racial slurs but feels that they have learned their lesson and should be allowed to return after three months. How should they go about reaching out to the moderator team to communicate their intentions and make their case? How should the mod team intake this information and send a response?

We all make mistakes in life and your members or moderators are no exception to that rule. Whether it is a user realizing what they did wrong or a moderator making a mistake, an appeal system will provide a clearly documented method for the user to get a review of their case by the server’s moderation team. Without an established system, users may try to direct message a moderator to appeal which may not lead to a fair evaluation, or will try to evade the ban altogether with an alternative account.

Types of Appeal Systems

The first step to adding an appeal system to your server is examining the different possibilities that are available to you. To pick the appeal system that is right for your server you should consider the size and type of server in order to properly match it to your use case. Whatever method you choose it should always be clearly communicated to your users.

Email

Requesting users to appeal a ban can be done via email. For example, you can set up a simple email address for people to message, such as appeals@yourdomain.com

Pros

  • You can decide if you want users to use a certain format or more like write whatever looks necessary for you
  • Allows you to take advantage of your mailbox’s sorting, labeling, and prioritization features
  • Your mailbox will always be up & running (as long as your server is), no worries about having outages or downtime in Discord

Cons

  • Appealing users will need to share an email address with the staff team
  • The mailbox is susceptible to spam
  • There is no sure way to verify that the sender is who they claim to be
Discord Bot

Using a Discord bot for ban appeals is another option. Users will have to send a direct message to the bot to create a ban appeal.

Pros

  • Everything is kept on Discord, no need to go to another platform for appealing
  • Most moderators are actively checking Discord more than they are their mailbox. This can result in a more expedited appeals process.

Cons

  • The bot could have an outage or downtime, which would result in losing ban appeals or not receiving them
  • There is a chance the user won’t remember the command to appeal or forgets how to appeal via the bot
  • The user’s privacy settings may prevent them from being able to DM the bot
  • Users will have to share at least one mutual server with the bot in order to initiate the DM, which means they will either need to invite the bot to their own server in advance or join a separate server with the bot.
Discord Server

You can have a separate Discord server used specifically for appeals (either through a modmail bot or plain chat). You can combine this with the option of using a bot for appeals which would help to avoid a situation where certain privacy settings prevent users from sending a Direct Message to the bot.

Pros

  • Everything is kept on Discord, no need to go to another platform for appealing
  • The appeal process is simple and you can’t fake identities
  • In case you don’t want some users to appeal/re-appeal you can block their ability to appeal by banning them from the server

Cons

  • Banned users can spam the server
Website

If your community already uses a website, it is a good idea to integrate your appeal process to the website. This form can be enhanced via the Discord API, by requiring the user to log in to their account. Another possible enhancement is using a webhook to submit ban appeals, so that moderators can see all the incoming appeals straight within Discord.

Pros

  • Users can easily fill out an appeal by answering questions in a form
  • The appeal submissions are integrated with Discord
  • Since users must login to Discord in order to submit an appeal, there is no chance that an appeal could be faked or illegitimate.

Cons

  • This system requires technical expertise to implement and might cost money to keep up and working.
  • Normalizing the use of the form may be difficult, as this is an atypical method of handling ban appeals
  • The website may be affected by outages
  • The user won’t get feedback on their ban appeal without a moderator reaching out
Online Form

For smaller servers, the use of an online survey form (such as Google Forms) is pretty easy & effective. It may be difficult to scale well however, depending on the form platform you’re thinking of using. 

Pros

  • Filling out a survey is easy and self explanatory
  • Making changes to the form to suit your needs is also easy

Cons

  • If you’re thinking of using forms that require an attached email address to answer, you’re requiring users to share their private email with the staff team
  • No possibility to let to user know about the status of their appeal
  • You can’t verify whether the person appealing via the form is the person who is banned from your server
Handling Appeals

When your server receives a ban appeal, there are a lot of things to consider. This non exhaustive list can be used as an initial checklist for your mod team when evaluating appeals. 

  • Check if the content of the appeal is correct. First, you want to check the content of the appeal. Are all the questions completely answered with valid responses? Are there any obvious troll messages or responses? Does the user understand what action they are appealing, and why it was wrong?
  • Read their appeal thoroughly. Carefully read their appeal and identify all the details. Review the logs or history of the user in the server to find the context in which the moderation action against the user happened. You can also use the context and history to ascertain if they were truthful in their appeal or not. Have a look at their history: has this user been punished before, especially in regards to the action that got them banned? The type and frequency of their misbehavior will help you decide whether or not their ban reason is a chronic problem, or a one time mistake. This will make the process easier. If the user lies in their appeal, jump to step 6.
  • Look at the punishment reason. The severity of the infraction(s) should be considered when evaluating an appeal. For example, being a minor disruptive nuisance is a very different offense to doxxing someone and threatening to murder them.
  • Was the punishment executed correctly? The next step is going back in time, finding the moment of the ban and auditing it. Did your staff member punish this user correctly, or were they being too strict? If you're not sure, contact the staff member who applied the ban and discuss it with them. This is where keeping good logs of moderation actions really comes in handy! 
  • What are the risks or benefits associated with unbanning the user? On one hand, the user could be demonstrating a concerted effort to change and they may be willing to become a positive force in the community. On the other hand, the user could be appealing just to continue their bad behavior once unbanned, and since that behavior appears to have been forgiven, other users may think that that user’s actions were less severe than they had assumed. 
  • Discuss it with the moderators: Consider the results of answering the previous questions and decide on a final course of action as a mod team. If at an impasse, consider using a poll or deferring to more senior staff if necessary to formally tally a decision. 
Conclusion

In this article, we discuss what appeals are, methods of adding an appeal system to your server, and some information to consider when handling an appeal. Ban appeals are an important part of your server’s growth and should be treated with thought and care. As each server is different from the next, it‘s recommended that you try and find what works best for your server. The key points to remember and consider about this article are:

  • The use of appeal systems is different in every server, find out what system would be the most suitable for your server. Check the pros and cons, and how each impacts your server.
  • How should you handle incoming appeals? What are the things you should look at and consider before deciding?
  • The decision on an appeal requires careful deliberation. Your decision can have an impact on not only the user in question, but your server and other members as well.





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