What is Forum Etiquette?

A Kaminsky

The Internet has become a world-wide community and in the process, innumerable forums on every subject under the sun are available where people can express their opinions. Some forums are closely moderated -- that is, someone checks every post for suitability before it is uploaded to the forum. Some forums have minimal or no moderation, only Terms of Service (TOS) that members are expected to follow. Most forums do have some sort of reporting feature for obscene or harassing posts. Still, even with a minimally-moderated forum, is there a standard of behavior? Is there actually something called forum etiquette? The answer is an unqualified yes.

Most forums offer a reporting feature for obscene or harassing posts.
Most forums offer a reporting feature for obscene or harassing posts.

Forum etiquette means maintaining a standard of posting behavior that is acceptable and appropriate. Forum etiquette can be flexible, according to the subject of the forum, but there are certain standards most people expect others to maintain. Some lines must be drawn for the safety of all posting on the forum.

Forum etiquette refers to a standard of posting behavior that is considered appropriate and acceptable.
Forum etiquette refers to a standard of posting behavior that is considered appropriate and acceptable.

One of the staunchest rules of forum etiquette is not posting personal information about another poster. Even if that poster has all but drawn a map to his house, posting a real name or address is considered grounds for a permanent ISP ban on most forums. This could compromise someone's safety. This is probably the most serious breach of forum etiquette and most moderators take it very seriously.

Posting in ALL CAPS is considered to be a violation of forum etiquette.
Posting in ALL CAPS is considered to be a violation of forum etiquette.

You can disagree with someone's opinions, but calling that person an idiot or a profane name is a violation of forum etiquette. Some forums are more liberal about this than others, but keeping it civil is never the wrong thing to do. Posting the same thing over and over again is called scrolling, and is also a banning offense. It is annoying in the extreme and uses up bandwidth, which someone is paying for. It is entirely unnecessary and makes the poster look immature and childish.

Someone with poor forum etiquette might post items with the intention of inciting others.
Someone with poor forum etiquette might post items with the intention of inciting others.

Trolls are always in flagrant violation of forum etiquette and enjoy disturbing the peace at any forum where they post. Trolls tend to scroll, call names, gossip about other posters, post things that are deliberately provocative and usually that violate the forum's rules about posting. Most moderators hasten to get them banned as soon as possible, but they can sometimes do a lot of damage before this happens.

Another violation of forum etiquette is posting in ALL CAPS. This is considered shouting and is very rude, in addition to being hard on the eyes. Something may be in caps for emphasis (e.g. I did NOT want to go!), but no post should be entirely in all caps.

Flaming, or deliberate insults or personal rants, is also against forum etiquette. Flaming is often employed by people who are losing arguments on a forum. Their response is to personally insult the poster disagreeing with them, usually in a long, nasty post.

This kind of behavior is why so many forums have a list of posting rules and consequences for breaking them. Some may say this behavior is more prominent among immature teens, but that is in no way the case. Many of the worst offenders are adults who should know better. The veil of anonymity seems to bring out the worst in these people, and any bullying tendencies they have tend to become magnified in the semi-protection of an anonymous forum.

Most of the rest of forum etiquette involves using the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. Behaving as a reasonable adult, even in the face of being flamed, is always the best course of action. If a poster becomes harassing, obscene or personal, do not retaliate. Instead, cut and paste the offensive post(s) into an e-mail and quickly report it to the moderator or forum administrator.

Forums may be used to spread gossip.
Forums may be used to spread gossip.

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Discussion Comments


Internet forums are not outside of law enforcement because they are monitoring all internet social media .


Bottom line: any wackadoo can run a forum and make up any forum rules they want. Not only that, but they can have a set of rules for themselves and a set of rules for their users.

I just got banned from a forum that in the code of conduct stated nothing political or religion-related. The moderator made a snide remark about Obama lowering taxes, so I PM'd her and said I didn't think she should do that if the rules say no politics, etc. Boom. I got banned.

I was able to get an email through to the site owner and her statement was I got banned because "You never tell a forum moderator how to run their forum."

This was a case of my trusting these people and opening my heart to them and posting about painful personal experiences. This was a site that was supposed to provide support for the emotionally fragile women who have been raised a certain way.

So, watch who you get involved with and don't trust blindly. I thought I did my homework but all I really did was lurk for a couple of months. That was not good enough to protect myself from bullies.


Rudy? Internet chat forums are outside the jurisdiction of law enforcement agencies, in terms of having them patrol and "correct" an issue. Evidence in these areas, such as slander, may be collected as part of an investigation, or problems may be reported, but otherwise, the internet is unpoliced by them.

Much like they don't do random checks on the contents of your home.

Infractions you mention are typically violation of user agreements and these are to be reported to board operators, and/or may be passed along to the *true* board owners for them to rectify the situation, but in most cases they may simply remove the offending posts, or close down the board if they deem it warrants that type of attention.

However, if a law is being broken, you may report it, though if the only applicable law is one that's local to you, and not the person posting, (and/or perhaps the boards legal location), you will find that there is no law being broken, and therefore unlikely there will be no follow-up. In some instances, you may even find it unlawful to participate in your state.

In a nutshell, reporting to an agency may get that agency to check out a problem, but in most cases it's not something they can act on, and is not something that they "patrol". -Mike


How often, if ever would a Federal Authority or Agency Investigate inappropriate posting on a online public forum? Postings such as your common name calling, accusations of inappropriate behavior, promiscuity, etc. No minors involved.

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