6 ways to deal with abusive chat room users

by Martin Reed on 11 April 2008 in Articles

How to deal with abusive chat room users

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.

Your thoughts

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.

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Simon Brown April 11, 2008 at 4:55 pm

“particularly if the chatter doesn’t even know they have been silenced”

Surely if they do know it will have the same effect as ejecting them?

Mr Woc April 11, 2008 at 6:22 pm

Hi there

I have a lot of experiance with abusive chatters, and its very hard to deal with abusive chatters, 9 times out of 10 booting or banning people works fine, but for the odd 1 percent, they can use language and threats in such a way that is shocking, and your right the isps dont really help too much, they should be doing more in my opinion.

I would be interested to know what you would suggest if none of the 6 above suggestions worked Martin ?

Its all down to the armchair general mentallity, its very easy for people to fire threats from behind a pc !


Gus Direct April 11, 2008 at 6:58 pm

I’ve been visiting a number of blogs lately to get more information on the online community, as it changes every year, and lately I’ve seen a lot of posts on chat rooms. I’m surprised people still use them. I grew out of chat rooms when I was a teenager, dealing with abusive users. Its sad to see that years later, things still haven’t changed. Well, thank you for the advice. I will keep it in mind if I hop into a chat room ever again.

Nicole Price April 11, 2008 at 8:02 pm

Its sad what people can stoop to. Its sheer lack of etiquettes. Your list pretty much covers it. I cannot imagine any other solution. Though I believe most abusive chatters would pay heed to warnings knowing that they would otherwise get banned.

Kurt April 12, 2008 at 10:59 am

those were really nice points. but sometimes you have to give the abusive chatters back in their own coin. i have faced a situation like this where the chatter said that i had lot of pimples

Kristian Liebrand April 12, 2008 at 11:02 am

I think there are increased number of abusive people in chat rooms which make a lot of mess and I think your ideas are quite useful to deal with them.

Amish Made Furniture April 12, 2008 at 11:18 am

All your strategies have to be tried out. The chances of the abusive chatter ever mending his ways are slim as, he would not have started off being abusive had he been of the kind. It is unfortunate that these sick people abound but perhaps a little compassion is what is called for. For instance suggesting that psychiatric care is called for, may well work!

Cologne April 14, 2008 at 3:31 am

I will go and check out ParaChat and JustChat. I’ve done the banning and talking techniques, but never used software. Thanks for the great tips. These methods sound like a great lineup to deal with abusive chatters.

China Replacement April 14, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Abusive chatters are the worst. I hate when they ruin topics of interesting discussion.


Martin Reed - Blog Author April 15, 2008 at 11:45 am

Simon – Even if an abusive chatter knows they have been silenced, it can be far more effective than an ejection. Silencing is often only a temporary measure, and it also keeps the communication line open – often, a chatter will still be able to private message the moderator who silenced them.

This can lead to constructive dialogue whereby the staff member explains why they silenced the chatter and the situation can be resolved amicably. Ejections completely sever the lines of communication and so should only be used as a last resort.

Mr Woc – I would be surprised if you don’t see any results from using the six methods I have outlined above. The only additional step I can think of would be the commencement (or threat) of legal action – just make sure you have the funds to support this path, though.

Gus – Not all chat rooms are full of abusive users; just as not all forums or social networks are full of spammers and scammers. It all depends on the personality of the community in question, and the effort the developers put into moderation and member support.

Chat rooms can be a great way of bringing people together – unfortunately, as with any social situation you will occasionally come across the odd person looking to ruin things for everyone else.

Nicole – Most abusive chatters see the errors of their ways; only a tiny minority are hell bent on revenge and trouble making.

Kurt – I completely disagree. If you return abuse in kind, you are breaking your own site rules and lowering yourself to the level of the person causing you trouble. As soon as you do this, you lose your moral authority. It is essential you always remain professional, calm and refuse to become abusive yourself regardless of the circumstances.

Kristian – As I mentioned to Gus, abusive people and chat rooms do not necessarily go hand in hand. A positive community environment and an effective moderation team should result in abusive chatters being a rarity.

Ramana – Sometimes people can lose their cool and see the error of their ways. It is only on rare occasions that abusive chatters are beyond hope!

Cologne – Glad you enjoyed the article; good luck.

Sasha – Nobody likes abusive community members; that’s why action needs to be taken to stop the abuse and prevent it happening again in the future.

wordress best blogs April 15, 2008 at 7:34 pm

The worst are robots in chat rooms that never stop pasting adds and such, they pretty much ruined aol chat back in the day, it was sad.

Anders Both April 16, 2008 at 9:38 pm

I am currently developing a chat software solution, and in these days beginning to implement different features for moderation – I find this article + comments very useful.

My opinion about the matter is that it should make a big difference whether the chat room is open for anonymous user, or integrated with an existing user database. You could even restrict it further by only letting in people who been member of the site for a period of time.

I am very much on look out for any kind on feedback on my own solution (www.basechat.com) , so if any one have any opinion, ideas or comments please do email me.

Anders Both, anbo@basechat.com

Phil the Plumbing Course Expert April 17, 2008 at 6:27 am

Abusive chatters should be banned, especially those who were talking nonsense topics. Proper netiquette should be observe!

filme April 17, 2008 at 8:13 am

Its usually people who are only comfortable giving abuse from behind a computer screen, regardless, very annoying problem. Thanks for the article :o)

Coffee Maker Guru April 17, 2008 at 2:21 pm

Chat rooms haven’t died yet with the dinoseurs? Gave up on chat when they were taken over by bot advertising and rowdy, sensitive, pissed off people.

Bob Liddle April 19, 2008 at 6:52 pm

I think people have forget how to behave to others while on chat as most of them dont know how to go in for a decent chat and use all the filthy abusive language.I think the points you have mentioned are perfect and will definitely work against abusive chatters.

Faraz Ahmed April 19, 2008 at 8:04 pm

abusive chatters are the worst, the worst are the ones that keep on abusing other members just for the fun of it, such chatters must be banned, it is useless to reason with them.

Thx for the tips, im sure they’ll come in handy

Martin Reed - Blog Author April 21, 2008 at 2:24 pm
hammock chairs April 21, 2008 at 5:59 pm

Ok sounds great but kicking a user will not really get rid him. Simply register again lol

Martin Reed - Blog Author April 25, 2008 at 4:54 pm

hammock – Exactly, that’s why I always recommend communicating with the abusive user, or silencing them. Ejections or bans are rarely effective, and can actually make the situation worse.

Bat April 28, 2008 at 12:23 pm

And that is exactly why I always silence a user rather than eject them Hammock. There they sit, hammering away on their keyboard, putting a great deal of effort into their abusive rant, and they hit enter, and wait…. and wait… and nothing happens, no one says anything, because the abusive user simply has no idea he has been silenced. This really is an excellent solution. Eventually they get bored because no one is playing the game and wander off into cyber space to try and annoy someone else. Simple!!

Smiley April 28, 2008 at 1:32 pm

For some reason users won’t use their ignore button. I’ve even put it in a 468×60 banner “PLEASE REMEMBER TO USE YOUR IGNORE FUNCTION” and they still don’t use it.

See my staff are customer support.. they’re there to help new users to the community. They aren’t there to babysit. Users have an ignore function.

Abusive members most of the times aren’t even abusive, other users just find them irritating, and then THEY’RE the ones who make the situation worse by NOT using their ignore button.

Bat & Martin — our favourite fat bald crossdresser ‘DOA’ is a frequent visitor to Friendly Chat — I’ve simply told my staff to put him on ignore. They then complain that all he does is open another browser and comes in again.

Fortunately on our software we can see the IP address as soon as they enter, so we can gag them before they even press the first letter of their word.

He just keeps opening up loads of different windows.. I’ve told staff to let him do it, one night he made it look like we had 50 users in the chat LOL.

I PM’d him and thanked him for his help in promoting my site and making it look busy.. he left and that was that. I think it pretty much disarmed him.

So yes I have to agree with Martin & Bat on this… Gag is the way to go.

My staff reserve IP bans for under 18s, staff impersonators and the more serious abusers.

I will soon have an extra option of a flash ban that will permanently ban someone’s computer from logging in. It’s irreversible and allegedly very, very, very difficult to get around — that should be handy !!!

Bat April 28, 2008 at 6:19 pm

A flash ban? Not heard of that, sounds like something we could do with for doa, what is it exactly and how does it work? And yes Tommy, doa is an absolute pain in the bum, but will this flash ban thingy work with him too??? *runs off to google flash ban and pinches Tommy,s ideas* ;) ;)

Smiley April 29, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Flash ban would only work with flash clients obviously :) Parachat is Java.

ChatBlazer, the company I’m with, is currently working on an update and a flash ban is in the works. I think they place some sort of file in your flash files that load up when you connect.. I’ve tested it at Xat, I’ve uninstalled flash & reinstalled Flash.. but the ban doesn’t lift.. very effective indeed.

That’ll be an extremely last resort ban reserved for extreme perverts.

Chat April 30, 2008 at 2:32 am

I think having a chat room on an irc server is one of the more secure ways to defend a chat room. Irc servers give operators many options for protecting their chat rooms. If operating more then one chat room I would definitely recommend an irc server (ircd, ircx) because kicking/banning/warning a user from ever chat room is a breeze. I have always stayed away from chat room software without owner moderation features

Nice steps to deal with an abusive chatter Martin.

Martin Reed - Blog Author April 30, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Bat – Of course, I completely agree that silencing users is far more effective than rudimentary ejections and bans. When such abusers aren’t getting a reaction, they soon lose interest and leave.

Smiley – The Flash ban sounds interesting although I do have to say I remain sceptical at just how ‘permanent’ any such ban would be for a dedicated abuser!

Cody – I doubt IRC chat rooms make ejections and banning easier or more effective than on other platforms as they still use similar underlying technology. In fact, I would suggest there are often more problems with abuse on IRC due to the higher perceived anonymity of the application.

Bat April 30, 2008 at 5:40 pm

You see Tommy thats one thing that I have to admit, irritates the hell out of me with some users. They simply will NOT use the ignore function. Then they complain like hell and tell you how useless you are because you havn,t ejected the user!! They have no idea that I have probably pc,d that user and asked them to modify their behaviour. If they refuse, then I gag them. Because they can still see the user in the room, they think you havn,t done anything. Again the users often make matters worse because they will argue back with the user. If you politely point out to them that by doing this they are not only inflaming the situation but are being as bad as the user, all hell breaks loose. They are adults, supposidly, all over 18 and all perfectly capable of using the ignore function. You were right when you used the word babysit, thats exaclty what some of them expect you to do. They just refuse at all cost to help themselves in any way. I asked before what they would do if a guide wasn,t there. I know exactly what the,d do because I,ve watched them. ARGUE. Then they moan as soon as you appear and demand you eject the user, yet they have been just as abusive back!!

Smiley April 30, 2008 at 7:03 pm

I hate IRC, they’re unsafe. I especially don’t like how anyone can see anyone else’s IP address on IRC systems. What ever happened to privacy? Also IRC is a dinosaur, so I don’t see how being on IRC makes it safer since chat systems have evolved since IRC.

Smiley May 1, 2008 at 11:33 pm

And I wish you’d blooming start using paragraphs, Bat! :P

Martin Reed - Blog Author May 5, 2008 at 4:14 pm

Bat – The fact is, curiosity is human nature. Using the ‘Ignore’ feature drives most people up the wall as even though they may not want to see what is going on, they need to see what is going on in order to stay sane!

Smiley – Hmm, I am not sure that IRC is any less ‘safe’ than other online chat rooms; it’s always dangerous to throw around such generalisations. I agree though that IRC is increasingly looking outdated.

Smiley May 6, 2008 at 8:52 am

Well back when I used mIRC (must have been 10 years ago now), you could see anyone’s IP address or host name. Even if you was just a normal user.

I wouldn’t call that very safe ;)

Hacker’s heaven.

Martin Reed - Blog Author May 12, 2008 at 7:40 pm

Smiley – Eek! Yes, I don’t think I would be happy sharing my IP address with every Tom, Dick and Harry!

Bat May 25, 2008 at 1:24 pm

Yes Tommy your quite right about that. When I used to use Uk.Chat,(which was IRC) you could indeed right click on a users name and view their IP address. I found that incredible to say the least! Even the staff!!

Your quite right Martin about the ignore function. They just have to see whats going on all the time. Using the ignore function means they might miss something lol.

I had an incident once where I came into the room and discovered some gonk had been generally disruptive for over an hour or so. I asked them all if they had used the ignore button and they said no. So for over an HOUR they had sat there watching this gonk talking garbage. Where is the sense in that? Of course as soon as I came in, said gonk shut up. I could not seem to get through to them that if they had used their ignore function they could have sat there chatting away, having a nice time. Instead they ALL chose to not only NOT use their ignore function but argue back with the user as well.!! Which makes them just as bad as the gonk.

Yes Tommy sorry about me and paragraphs, English was never my hot subject at school lol. ;) ;)

Martin Reed - Blog Author May 25, 2008 at 3:41 pm

Bat – It’s natural human curiosity; they don’t like seeing trouble but they can’t look away. Almost like a car crash, eh?!?

Ian September 12, 2008 at 2:01 pm

Are there any legal repercussions for banning from a chat room? The number of times chat users I have ejected from the room that follow up with a threatening email is amazing. The way I see it it is my site and I’ll run it according to my terms and service, which includes banning for serious breaches.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 6, 2008 at 8:41 pm

Ian – I know of no precedent; a website is your private property and as far as I am concerned, I choose who can and cannot access my private property. This is just my opinion though, and I have no legal basis for my statement or legal training. It always helps to include a disclaimer on your website if you are worried about this.

Naresh kumar October 7, 2008 at 5:07 pm

I think manual verification for every new user may help.It may be time consuming and you may loose a few potent members but it give you total control over such people.And you can always appoint your moderators for it if you have huge numbers of people signing up.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 23, 2008 at 9:20 pm

Naresh – Sure, this could help but how would you ‘verify’ a member? The Web seems to be based on anonymity – wouldn’t things be so much easier if we all had individual online identities?!?

slim October 31, 2008 at 6:37 pm

LOL i loved the spam protection question… Ok now on to my comment ! In reading this article i completely agreed with the most of it. However you have failed to mention there are chat site owners out there whom are just plain over the top full of themselves. I recently had a instance that I was banned from a chat site without even being there when i contacted the owner he said i was banned because he had banned my friends and there fore i had no reason to go back… WHAT IS THAT ALL ABOUT ???? So just as you can have abusive chatters,,, the same is true for the opposite there are abusive owners out there as well…

Smiley October 31, 2008 at 8:49 pm

Slim, in such cases those kind of sites are doomed to fail, and probably not the kind of place you want to chat at any way, eh? But you do bring up a very good point in my opinion. Some community owners do get a tad overzealous and take things too personally.

Martin Reed - Blog Author November 17, 2008 at 8:41 pm

Slim – A perfect example of how not to moderate chat rooms! Sites with moderation staff like this won’t be creating a positive environment and are unlikely to last long.

Smiley – Yup, getting drunk on home brew is nothing compared to getting drunk on power!!

Jay March 6, 2009 at 5:28 am

I’m so thankful that you post this article. I have had a bad experience with an abusive chatter before. It’s good to know that there ways on how to deal with them. Thanks.

Will Hall July 20, 2009 at 11:56 am

This was very well put. I hav ehad to dela with countless unruly chatters, generalyl the best wya to deal with them is try to inform as opposed to just flame. thanks for the post.

Jeff September 27, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Great post. I will post this as a guide for my site moderators.

Mr Woc October 5, 2009 at 11:47 am

Hi there

Was reading some of the comments on here, I posted earlier on and have seen some comments i dont entirely agree with,

Bat – Your right about people not using the ignore function, people just dont use it, Ive narrowed it down to a few things, not sure if the same can be said for your community, but my users are always concious that someone is around, so often expect to be babysat, also people just dont like the not see what others are writing on the screen, this also drives me mad lol

I dont agree with always warning someone, as some people just dont deserve a warning plain and simple, in fact some people get the short shrift from me thats for sure, I dont suffer fools easy as people think because they are in a chat room they can do what they like, WRONG lol !

In fact part of the skill of running a community is to see problems before they happen, its often easy to spot the trouble makers, these are the people you should keep an eye on and also inform them to stick to the rules, A few times I have been close to banning a member of my chat, only to think I will give htem another chance after a warning only to regret it !

But ultimately it depends on how strict u wanna be and if your going for sheer numbers in your chat room, or if your going for quality chatters, as frankly I could leave hte chat rooms to fill with any tom dick and harry and the chat room would be far buiser, but I choose to weed out the nutters as before you know it you will end up with a chat room like chat ave !


Bat October 6, 2009 at 6:34 am

Hey Mr Woc.

Great minds think alike lol. You are quite right. There are indeed some what I call “serial” trouble makers who don’t deserve a warning. Such users are kicked out instantly, have no fear lol.

You are right about users wanting to be babysat. They see a staff member and they instantly want you to do everything for them! They loose the ability to use their ignore function, expecting you to deal with it instead. If you dare suggest they help themselves, then expect WW3 to break out.

Yes again your right, about being able to spot trouble before it begins. Over the years I have become quite adept at that.

I also agree about quality of chatters rather than quality. You can have 100 users in the room and the numbers look impressive, but it’s not good if most of them are gonks arguing is it? Your site will end up with a bad reputation, because all the users do is argue and cause trouble and then no one will want to use your site.

I have never been on chat ave. Might take a look. ;)

Mr Woc October 8, 2009 at 9:23 am

Hi All

Take a look Bat its an experiance you will never forgot, also a good idea to log in as an underager and scare yourself with the amount of middle age blokes that will try to arrange to meet you !

To be honest some sites have a bad reputation anyway, but the owners are not that bothered as they know they have search engine positioning over their rivals so can always find new users anyway.

Unfortunatly chatters seem to just goto the busier rooms !


Bat October 8, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Ye Gods Mr Woc you wern’t wrong!! I’ve never seen such a dreadfull place in my life!! Yuk. There didn’t appear to be any moderators and I couldn’t for the life of me work out how to ignore anyone. You have an option whereby you can add your personal info including your real name if you wish!! What a place. I think I’ll pass in future thanks. ;)

I’ll have to check out your place and see if it’s any better. ;) ;)

hazel neve March 24, 2010 at 7:48 am

I have to agree with some of the people here who have commented on the drunk with power, examples,,i had my personal details and my post code pasted in a chatroom , when i complained i was told y admin so what you gonna do about it ,then my neighbours private details were posted,i was treated like i was in te Wrong for complaining, even when i used the ignore facility, admin was pasting hateful stuff other chatters i had chosen to ignore were posting,,then i was banned for no reason,,,i can supply all the converssations as i have kept them all including the abusive ones i had with the administrators ,,even though this room in particular was allegedly supposed to be unmoderated, i did not have the choice to use the ignore facility on the abusive administrators,,i was treated appalingly,and any other chatter who spoke out about this injustice was banned also for no good reason please advice . thanks Hazel