Rules and Code of Conduct

These are the official site-wide moderation policies for debateart.com (DART). Users are required to read and understand these policies. Using this site constitutes acceptance of these policies.

Code of Conduct (COC) Policy

I. Moderation

A moderator (mod) is a person granted authority by the site owners to enforce the rules of the site, primarily, the voting policy and the code of conduct policy. Moderation actions are any actions taken by the mods to enforce the rules of the site. Moderators have complete discretion in the enforcement and interpretation of the site rules, with all exceptions stated in these terms. Moderator decisions are final and not subject to appeal.

A. Moderation Structure

There shall be one chief moderator and one deputy moderator. The chief moderator has the power to overrule the deputy moderator. The chief moderator has the power to appoint (as needed) various assistant moderators beneath the deputy moderator to assist with various tasks. Assistant moderators must receive prior approval from the chief moderator or deputy moderation to take moderation actions and this approval must be granted explicitly for every action taken by the assistant moderator.

B. Recusal

Moderators may recuse themselves if deem it necessary. Moderators must recuse themselves from moderating votes on their own debates and from moderating their own votes on others’ debates. A moderator who has recused themselves must designated another moderator or trusted-third party to make decisions on their behalf for the situation in which the first moderator has recused themselves.

II. Personal Attacks

Personal attacks will not be tolerated. The policy prohibiting personal attacks applies site-wide--in debates, forums, private messages, and everywhere else on the site. If you are having a dispute with another site member, the appropriate response is to inform moderation. It is not appropriate to respond with invective.

A. Definition of a Personal Attack

A personal attack is not "anything directed at a person that they find to be unfavorable.” Not only would such a definition be absurd, it would stifle exchange and debate. Rather, a personal attack is any abusive or derogatory remark aimed at a site user or site users rather than the content of what those users say or espouse. A personal attack may take any of several common forms, including but not limited to the following examples.

1.Generalized Attack

A generalized attack is a kind of comment where someone drops in to just say something like "You're all idiots". While not an attack against any specific individual, it's still an attack against the members on the thread.

2. Direct Attack

A direct attack is when, outside the context of a discussion on the topic or of behavior in the course of that discussion, someone posts something negative about a specific member. Generalized complaints about generalized behaviors are not direct attacks. But, for example, a thread specifically calling out a member by name, and speaking negatively about them, is a direct attack. Attack threads will be deleted out of hand.

3. Mere Insult

A mere insult is a simple unjustified insult. "Stupidity" is not something that can be objectively shown or grounded. Nor can other insults with subjective meaning (A**hole, etc.). Some things which may be insulting can be justified. "You are saying something dishonest" can be justified objectively, by demonstrating dishonesty. If it isn't justified, though, then it becomes a mere insult. Mere insult of ideas is allowed--mere insult of people is not.

4. Hate Speech

Slurs or invective against an entire class of people (such as racist, sexist, homophobic, islamophobic, transphobic, ageist, and ableist slurs, or slurs against religious, political, ethnic, or national groups) are prohibited. Disagreement over what constitutes a religion, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc., is not a legitimate excuse for hate speech.

5. Cross-Thread Contamination

Cross-thread contamination is when auser brings up disputes elsewhere on the site up in an unrelated thread for the purpose of harassing, mocking, or insulting another member. Treat every new exchange with a member with as much of a "clean slate" as possible.

6. Threats

Misconduct should be reported to moderation rather than complained about in the forums. Even if an accusation or complaint is justified, it is not permissible to threaten another user on the basis of those accusations or complaints. Allow moderation to handle the situation. Threats are, for the purposes of this policy, personal attacks. They are not tolerated. Threats include (but are not limited to):

  • Threats of legal action.
  • Threats of violence (even oblique ones).
  • Threats of "Doxxing" someone, particularly if the threat implies exposing the user to political, religious or other persecution.
  • Threats of moderator reporting or moderator action.
7. Fighting Words

Fighting words are posts intended solely to provoke or incite another person into prohibited actions. Fighting words are considered personal attacks, even if they themselves might not meet the abovementioned criteria.

B. The Just Kidding Excuse

The abusive, insulting, or derogatory nature of a comment will be judged based on how a reasonable individual would interpret it. It is not based upon the intentions of speaker, unless those intentions were stated clearly and explicitly prior to the statement of the remark.'Reasonable' interpretation is left to the discretion of the moderators. The “just kidding” argument is not a valid excuse for actions which can reasonably be interpreted as personal attacks.

III. Other Prohibited Conduct

1. Doxxing

Doxxing is posting in public or in private any real-life or personally identifying information about another site user against that site user’s will or without that site user’s consent. Doxxing is strictly prohibited. It’s not doxxing if the information already has been posted on the site by the user or with the user’s consent.

2. Contravening or Disregarding Moderation

Failing to obey or adhere to licit orders issued by a moderator acting within their authority is prohibited.

3. Multi-Accounting

The use of multiple accounts, particularly in order to cast votes on one’s own debates, is strictly prohibited. Password- and credential-sharing is a form of multi-accounting. Only one user should have access to any one account, and no user should have access to more than one account.

4. Adult Content

Posting adult content or links to adult content, including pornography, is strictly prohibited.

5. Staff Impersonation

Impersonating a moderator or the site owner is strictly prohibited.

6. PM Doxxing

Posting the contents, in part or in whole, of private messages (PMs) in a public venue without the consent of all parties to the PM is strictly prohibited.

7. Commercial Advertising

Posting or engaging in commercial advertising anywhere on the site is strictly prohibited.

8. Spamming

Posting or bumping spam threads, comments, or replies is prohibited. Spam is any content which is nonsensical or excessively repetitive.

9. Excessive Trolling

Trolling is the use of inflammatory language or extreme and unsupported claims aimed at provoking a negative emotional response. Excessive trolling is strongly discouraged and is prohibited when it significantly interferes with site user experience.

10. Profanity

The use of profanity without asterisks or similar non-letters replacing the majority of the letters in the word is a minor offense and is prohibited.

IV. Consequences for Violations

A. Warnings

A warning is a written message provided in private to an offending user regarding their prohibited conduct. The Moderator shall issue warnings to members upon observing patterns of misbehavior by those members. The content exhibiting the offense shall be cited in the warning. The member may choose to respond with a defense of their behavior. The warning shall advise the member that repeating the offense may result in loss of membership privileges. If an offense is repeated after the member has received a relevant warning, the member may be subjected to, at the discretion of the Moderator, revocation of membership privileges.

B. Bans

Bans may be issued for sustained misconduct, particularly when a user fails to demonstrate remorse and/or a willingness and ability to reform. Bans may also be issued, without being preceded by warnings, for one or more egregious violations of the site’s code of conduct. Egregious violations include, but are not limited to, doxxing, posting adult content, and staff impersonations.

1. Temporary Bans (Temp Bans)

A temp-ban is when a user’s access to the site is temporarily revoked. The temp-banned user will be notified of their ban no less than one hour prior to their ban taking effect unless moderation has cause to believe that a delay in implementing the ban would result in harm to the site, a site user, or further violations of this code of conduct. The user will be presented with evidence of their offense (in a manner consistent with the rights of other members) and the date of their ban’s expiration. The user has the right to offer a defense against the charges. Temp-bans less than three months may be issued by the chief moderator alone. Temp-bans lasting more than three months must be unanimously agreed upon by both the chief and deputy moderators.

2. Permanent Ban (Perma-Ban/Perm-Ban)

A perma-ban is when a user’s access to the site is permanently revoked. Perma-bans must be unanimously agreed upon by both the chief and deputy moderators. The perma-banned user will be notified of their ban no less than three hours prior to their ban taking effect unless moderation has cause to believe that a delay in implementing the ban would result in harm to the site, a site user, or further violations of this code of conduct. The user will be presented with evidence of their offense (in a manner consistent with the rights of other members). The user has the right to offer a defense against the charges.

3. Trials

Trials of users are prohibited. Trials foster a culture of mob rule, and are thus counterproductive to the interests of fairness, order, and effective site administration.

C. Other

1. Restraining Orders

A restraining order prohibits two or members from communicating with and/or about one another and may apply to one or more means of communication. Moderation shall use retraining orders to prevent patterns of hostile relations among users from flaring up or worsening. A restraining order may have a set end date or may be indefinite. A restraining order may be issued by either the deputy moderator or chief moderator.

2. Forum Restrictions

A forum restriction limits what kinds of posts a user can make or in which forums (e.g. religion, politics, nature) a user can post. Moderation shall use forum restrictions to prevent users from posting in forms or on topics which have historically led to that user violating the code of conduct. A forum restriction may have a set end date or may be indefinite. A forum restriction may be issued by either the deputy moderator or chief moderator.

3. Invented Actions

Moderators may create means of punishing, reforming, or restraining a user so long as those invented actions are respectful of a user's privacy, safety, and legal rights. Invented actions may not include public shaming or any acts intended or likely to demean, personally attack, or harm another user physically or psychologically.

Voting Policy

The voting policy is a subset of the Code of Conduct (COC) Policy.

I. Sufficient Votes

A sufficient vote is one that states why one debater was better than the other in a particular respect and explains why the voter thought that. The last part of that definition is crucial. It is not sufficient to merely state that "Pro had better arguments", because nothing in that statement explains why Pro had better arguments. The requirements for a sufficient vote are explained in more detail below. Votes that are reported and which are deemed insufficient will be deleted.

A. Argument Points

In order to award argument points, a voter must do two things. First, they must survey specific arguments and counterarguments from both sides which impacted their voting decision. This survey must be comprehensive, which is to say that it must survey all or most of the main arguments in the debate, or must explain why certain arguments need not be weighed based on what transpired within the debate itself. Second, the voter must explain how the arguments and counterarguments they reference impacted the outcome that the voter arrived at. In other words, the voter must weigh the arguments and counterarguments they identified. Weighing entails analyzing how the relative strength of one set of arguments and counterarguments outweighed and/or precluded another set of them, and then, in turn, how this strength imbalance led to the decision to give one debater a win as opposed to a loss. This requires situating the arguments and counterarguments being analyzed within the context of the debate as a whole.

B. Sources Points

The key to sufficiently ground awarding sources points is an emphasis on quality, not quantity. This means that the voter needs to explain how the sources were relevant to the debate. This requires that the voter explain how the sources impacted the debate, directly assessing the strength of at least one source, and explaining how it either strengthened or weakened the argument it was utilized for. Even if one side does not present a source, the voter must at least establish the relevance of the other side's sources. There must be some comparative analysis between both debaters’ sources.

C. Spelling and Grammar Points

To sufficiently ground awarding S&G points, a voter must start by giving specific references to the mistakes made by the debater(s). More importantly though, these spelling and/or grammatical mistakes need to be excessive. A good rule of thumb is that if the spelling or grammar render the arguments incoherent or incomprehensible, the coherent side is awarded these points. While this can be somewhat subjective, it should be clear from the vote why a given argument is difficult to read, and not just how many errors a given side has made. There must be some comparative analysis between both debaters’ S&G.

D. Conduct Points

To sufficiently ground awarding conduct points, the voter must provide specific references to the instances of poor conduct in their vote. There are two additional necessary criteria for conduct points to be sufficiently grounded. One debater must have been excessively rude, profane, or unfair, or broke the debate rules, or forfeited one or more rounds in the debate without reasonable and given cause. There must be some comparatively analysis between both debaters’ conduct. The second pertains specifically to awarding conduct solely for forfeited rounds. If this is the case, then the voter must also explain arguments, unless the debate is forfeited by half or more of its rounds. Then and only then would a vote that awards only conduct points be acceptable.

E. Explaining all Points

A sufficient vote must explain all points awarded. If you award argument and conduct points, but explain only the former, your vote will be removed for being insufficient.

II. Vote Bombs

A. Vote Bomb (VB)

A vote bomb is a vote cast without a sufficient argument, a vote cast without regard for the content of the debate, a vote which literally doesn’t make sense (e.g. it’s contradictory), or a vote cast based on a prejudgment of or prior opinion on the topic. Vote bombs that are reported will be removed.

B. Counter Vote Bomb (CVB)

A counter vote bomb is a vote cast to reverse the effect of a votebomb or a vote which the CVBer found illegitimate. CVBs which are reported will be removed, along with the original votebomb (if indeed the original votebomb counts as such).

C. Vote Rigging

Vote rigging is when someone solicits deliberately biased votes in order to rig the outcome of a vote. Votes stemming from vote rigging will be removed. It is not vote rigging to ask for someone to cast a fair vote. Vote trading may or may not be vote rigging, depending on whether the outcome of the traded votes is fixed or agreed upon before the debates are evaluated by the voters.

D. Votes Considering Outside Content

The voter must assess the content of the debate and only the debate, any reasoning based on arguments made or information given outside of the debate rounds is unacceptable. This includes reasoning that stems from already-placed votes, comment sections, and separate forums. Votes that impermissibly factor in outside content and which are reported will be removed.

III. Special Circumstances

There are some special circumstances which may exempt an otherwise removable vote from removal. These special circumstances are listed here.

A. Full-forfeit (FF)/Conceded Debates

A full-forfeit debate is defined as a debate that has no argument presented by one side following the opening round, resulting in all subsequent rounds being forfeited. When this is the case, these debates are considered full-forfeit debates and are not moderated unless a voter votes for the forfeiting side. Similarly, a conceded debate is any debate in which on side clearly concedes the debate to their opponent. These debates are considered conceded debates and are not moderated unless a voter votes for the side that concedes.

B. Troll Debates

If a debate is publicly designated as a troll debate, or if both sides present arguments that are done for the sake of trolling, then the debate is not moderated.

C. Statute of Limitations

When voting on a debate has already been completed for a period exceeding one month, we deem it as being past the statute of limitations and therefore do not moderate votes on those debates.

D. Unreported Votes

A vote which has not been reported will not be moderated. Votes must be reported in order to be considered for moderation.

IV. Reported Votes and Voters

A. Moderator Notifications

If a vote is reported for moderation, moderation will post a notice in the comments of debate explaining what if any moderation action was taken on that vote and why that action/inaction was deemed appropriate.

B. Voting Privilege Revocations

If a voter consistently has their votes removed by moderation, or a user engages in vote rigging, that voter/user may have their voting privileges revoked. Such revocation is temporary, and will be reinstated once a voter has satisfied moderation that they are willing and capable to cast sufficient votes moving forward or once moderation is satisfied that a user will no longer engage in vote rigging, respectively. A member who consistently has their votes removed by moderation shall receive a warning before having their voting privileges revoked.

Special thanks to @bsh1 and @Virtuoso for creating the presented policies.