As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, when deciding whether your website is ready for a chat room you need to be sure you have the time and resources available for one. As a chat room moderator, you will come across abusive users and consequently you will need to deal with them. This article will outline the options available to you.
Warn an abusive chatter
Always politely warn an abusive chatter before taking action against them, and warn them in private. Advise them why you are warning them – direct them to your site rules and explain what rule they broke. Be polite, professional and non-confrontational – otherwise you risk inflaming the situation.
Silence an abusive chatter
If the user in question continues to be abusive, I would recommend you ‘silence’ them. Most chat solutions offer this function, and it truly is invaluable – particularly if the chatter doesn’t even know they have been silenced.
I use ParaChat as the chat solution for Just Chat, and highly recommend them. Their software offers the option to silence a user without them even knowing it – this means that they continue with their abuse, thinking they are being big and clever, yet nobody can see a word they are writing. The abusive chatter will soon get bored when they fail to see anyone reacting to them, and will often leave of their own accord.
Eject an abusive chatter
I don’t know of any chat software that doesn’t allow you to eject an abusive user from the chat room. This should always be a last resort, and I would always recommend using the silencing strategy instead. Most people get mad when they have been ejected. Whether they have an issue with authority, or they don’t like the fact that they can no longer play their childish games, they will often make it their mission to regain entry and be even more abusive. Indeed, many users that are ejected from a chat room will hold a long term grudge against the site and often return time and time again over the coming days, weeks, months and even years just to cause trouble.
Most chat software bans IP addresses – you will soon discover how ineffective this can be, as users figure out how to work their way around such bans. If you decide to eject someone, prepare for trouble!
Ban an abusive chatter
Once you ejected an abusive chatter, you need to decide whether to ban them and how long any ban is to last. As already mentioned, IP bans can be ineffectual meaning if you do decide to formally ban someone, you will need to keep your eyes out for them and immediately eject them every time you see them in your chat room. Not only is this time consuming, it gives the abusive user a perverted sense of pleasure when they see they are wasting your time and causing you trouble.
Report an abusive chatter
Very rarely, I have reported an abusive chatter to their ISP. This is relatively straight-forward to do – you should have access to the IP address of everyone using your chat room, and a quick IP trace will give you the details of their ISP. Of all the reports I have filed with ISPs, I believe that only one actually took action against the individual concerned. In other words, don’t expect any assistance from ISPs, but if the abuse is becoming highly problematic or if any laws are being broken, it is always worth trying this route.
Once again, remember to be professional and courteous and provide as much information as possible; the date of the abuse, the time of the abuse (including your time zone) and any transcripts or examples of the abuse that you can provide.
Talk with the abusive chatter
Communication is always the best way of dealing with conflict. Next time you see that abusive chatter in your chat room, initiate a private conversation with them. Be professional and approachable. See if you can work out with the chatter why they are behaving as they are, and if anything can be done to resolve the situation.
On a few occasions, we have turned around long term abusive users at Just Chat simply by talking to the users in question. Quite often they will be willing to talk to you, and you will find they often hold grudges over the smallest incidents which you may have forgotten about long ago. Take the higher ground – apologise for any offence that you may have caused them, and ask if you can both start afresh. You may be surprised just how effective this strategy can be.
Do you administer a chat room on your website? How do you deal with abusive users? What are your thoughts on the strategies I have mentioned in this article? Is there anything that you agree or disagree with? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment below.