There has been a considerable amount of discussion in the last week after we turned on the prohibited word filter. This blog post will hopefully clear up many of the questions you may have about why we turned it on, and how it works.
The EX Team realizes it was a surprise that it was enabled last week without mention. We apologize that there wasn't clear communication about it happening. There have been lots of questions posted about why the filter exists and how it works, so we’ll answer those here. We will also host a Let’s Talk About Prohibited Words and Moderation on Wednesday, July 26 at 7pm EST. Please RSVP here!
Why was the prohibited word filter enabled?
On July 10 we enabled a profanity/prohibited word filter that looks at text that is posted across the Community before it becomes visible publicly or even privately in a direct message. It was enabled largely due to an altercation that occurred in early June where members were attacking each other instead of using the report abuse button, as well as to minimize spam (which often includes hostile, derogatory or crass language). The EX Team strives to provide a safe and welcoming environment for anyone who wishes to quit smoking, maintain their quit, or help someone else quit regardless of age, race, religion, gender, orientation, social class or employment status. We do not endorse any hostile interactions between members that do not support the quitting process.
What does the prohibited word filter do?
Words that are changed to *’s match words on our profanity/prohibited word list. The filter doesn’t read context of the usage of prohibited words, so it cannot discern between words that are used for personal attack and words that are used merely to express frustration.
How were words chosen for the prohibited word list?
We started out with a list of words that were provided by Jive and then removed words that we deemed were okay for the EX community. Words that had racial undertones or are largely used only in personal attacks were left on the list. The list is a work in progress and additional words can be revised over time.
Why is the prohibited word filter blocking words in my private messages and uncensored places on the site?
The filter censors (***’s) out words on the list across the whole site and cannot be limited. We cannot remove the functionality from certain areas of the EX Community, groups or private messages. If that functionality becomes available in the future, we may consider it.
Am I being reported to moderators when I use words on the prohibited word list?
The moderation/spam filter and the prohibited word filter are two separate functionalities. No, you are not reported and the word or phrase is just hidden by asterisks. You do not get in trouble. However, the stars let you know that words you’ve used are not permitted on the site and exist on the prohibited word list. We do recommend you use a different word or phrase.
What happens if the word I used is removed from the prohibited word list in the future?
If the word you used gets removed from the prohibited list, the word will then display publicly next time the page loads.
What if I see a word or phrase that is derogatory and is not being filtered but certainly should be?
Click the Report Abuse button so the EX Team can review it anytime you see something on the EX Community that feels threatening, inappropriate, or hateful. Abusive posts will go through moderation and may not be approved for publication on the site.
Who sees the abuse report?
The EX Team receives the abuse reports. Anyone who reports abuse remains confidential.
Where can I see a list of words/phrases currently on the prohibited word list?
It’s not possible to directly post such a list on the site as every prohibited word would be automatically changed to *’s by the filter. Furthermore, the list may change over time so the list could become quickly irrelevant, so posting a PDF may quickly outdated.
Does the EX Team read my private messages?
We feel that Direct Messages (Private Messages) are private for a purpose and do not read them. We cannot underscore this enough: the EX Team DOES NOT READ private messages! If there is a concern for someone’s safety, court order or reports of abuse via Private Messages, we will take necessary measures to address any issues that arise.
There is no way to report a Private Message as abusive at this time. If you feel attacked via Private Message or are receiving spam, please forward a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can review it.
Is BecomeAnEX.org trying to censor me?
No, we’re not trying to censor our members. We know that quitting is a monumental thing and expressing one’s feelings can be a great vehicle to being successful at quitting. We don’t, however, endorse personal attacks and we want to limit spam, so it’s a constant juggling act to find the right balance.
Do other online communities do this?
Yes, most online communities use Prohibited Word filters to limit spam as much as possible, and ensure that as many members as possible are having a positive community experience.
Why does my post say “Currently Being Moderated”?
If your post says “Currently Being Moderated,” our automated spam filter has identified one or more characteristics believing the content you posted is spam. The algorithms of spam filters are not perfect. The EX Team is working with Jive to improve the automated spam filtering so that fewer posts by trusted members are moderated. Nearly all posts that are falsely marked as spam are released unedited. The EX Team will work to release any false-positives as soon as possible. Messages auto-moderated outside of normal business hours may take a bit longer than normal to be released. You’re not penalized for messages that are posted and are approved for posting. Rejected messages allow the member to modify their post and resubmit for approval.
What can I do?
When you see something that appears to be a personal attack, report it to the EX Team via Report Abuse instead of reacting in a defensive/retaliatory manner. This is done anonymously. Don’t get involved. Taking things to private messages or retaliating publicly rarely goes well and usually results in bigger issues down the road.
The current prohibited word list is largely comprised of words that are derogatory and discriminatory against various groups of people in our membership or are used for personal attacks. As noted, this list can be revised on an ongoing basis. We’re always open to feedback!
Moderation/curation of a community involves multiple complex things working together to ensure a safe, happy, and spam-free environment for all our members. We are constantly adapting to the meet the needs of our Community and implement new technology as it becomes available. We're working to refine our processes and with Jive to minimize any disruptions automated moderation contributes. We appreciate your patience with us and with these different systems! We realize they aren’t all perfect, but we are always working to refine them so you have a good experience on EX.
Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.
Mark and the EX Team