Dealing With Troublemakers

A Guide for Forum Hosts

While the vast majority of Delphi Forums members are adults who use the service responsibly, you will occasionally encounter those who enjoy disrupting forums and annoying your members. We generally refer to these people as "trolls." As host, you are the first line of defense against these trolls. Delphi Forums Staff does have some tools to deal with these people, but the forum host must first use all available resources to deal with troublemakers, repeatedly, consistently, and firmly.

What The Forum Host Can Do

First, if it seems at all reasonable, communicate with the troublemaker. Some people don't know they are a problem or what your rules are. Post your rules on your Start Page.

Don't get into public arguments with troublemakers. They like the attention and you can't win arguments when logic plays no part. It is better to completely ignore than to argue. Remind other members that they can put individuals on ignore. Contact your members privately and encourage them not to engage the troublemaker(s).

If the situation is beyond reason, you can delete or edit offending messages. Consider the effect of what you do here. Deletion of a message in a thread is visible (although you can delete entire discussions). It is better to edit out a message, leaving a short explanation of why. Never edit a message to change its meaning. When you edit, explain with a short note what you have done, such as deleting abusive language.

If you are concerned about a particular member and want to review that member's message board posts before they're seen, you can put that member on probation through the Set Privileges menu of Controls, or through the Options link below messages. You can use the same controls to give a member a Bozo flag, which makes that member's posts invisible to everybody but that member. If you want to prevent the member from posting anything, you can Gag or Lock out the member. Don't delete a troublesome individual's membership in your forum, as that will also delete any restrictions you place on that account.

If it has reached the point where troublemakers keep coming back with new accounts and it seems beyond your ability to handle with these restrictions, consider setting delayed posting for new members. This will prevent members with newly-created accounts from posting messages. Your Main Settings include this capability. Try a few hours. If that isn't effective, try a few days or even more. It will interfere with potential new members, but you have to judge which is worse. After the trouble is over, you can turn it off.

The next step is to put messages on partial or full moderation. You can use your word filters to set aside any message that contains certain words or phrases until you release them. Use your imagination here. Or you can go a step further and require review of all messages before they are made public. This will annoy members, but there are occasions when it is the best strategy.

If you do put your forum into moderation, you can grant voice to some, all, or none of your forum visitors. This will allow trusted members to post without their posts going into moderation. This can be assigned to all members that have posted in the last 30 days from the moderation screen, or individually from the set privileges screen.

Note that chat has its own set of moderation controls (more information on managing chats here). When you grant a voice to a member, that will carry over into chat.

If you need more help managing your forum, consider giving assigning Assistant Editor privileges to trusted members using the Set Privileges menu. Be very careful in granting Assistant status, as Assistants have access to the Controls page and nearly as much power as you have. Those with Editor privileges can edit messages and gag or lock out other members using the Options menu. Editors do not have access to your forum Controls. Give clear guidance to your staff what you expect them to do or not do.

Only paying members can become Assistants. Non-paying members can become Editors.

If specific threats are made to people or property, those concerned should contact law enforcement.

When To Contact Delphi Forums Staff For Help

Before you contact Delphi Forums Staff for help, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Have I used all of the strategies suggested here in an effort to resolve the problem?
  2. Does the problem rise above the level of name-calling and/or insults?
  3. Does the problem involve one or more members violating the Delphi Forums Terms of Service?
If you can answer "yes" to all of these questions, it may be time to contact Delphi Forums Staff by emailing us at Here are some ways Delphi Forums Staff can (and can't) help:

First of all, Delphi Forums Staff can lock out accounts system wide. That helps other forums, perhaps, but it doesn't do anything more for you than you can do yourself. Delphi Forums Staff cannot lock out accounts that do not exist yet! On the other hand, Delphi Forums Staff can often recognize existing accounts that belong to the same person. Delphi Forums Staff can close many accounts at once, and this may help you if a troublemaker has prepared a lot of accounts in advance. Delphi Forums Staff uses this tool reluctantly, since it can sometimes sweep up innocent people along with the guilty, but it can be done in very clear cases. Delphi Forums Staff will probably not tell you if they do this.

Delphi Forums Staff must judge whether an offense is serious enough to take system-wide action. Disagreements, arguments, name calling, and profanity may be unpleasant and violate your rules, particularly when carried out to extremes, but they are not necessarily grounds for closing accounts. Many times when a situation gets to the point of name calling, both sides are doing it, and it becomes difficult to tell who did it first. Delphi does not have the staff or time to read hundreds of messages to find the source of these problems.

Delphi Forums Staff cannot monitor messages in your Forum for you. Delphi Forums Staff cannot set a watch for new accounts. Delphi Forums Staff cannot block IP addresses except in extraordinary cases; blocks are not effective anyway and easy to get around. Delphi Forums Staff cannot go to court for you. Delphi Forums Staff will not divulge personal information or contact to ISPs or employers about troublemakers.

In other words, Delphi Forums Staff can help handle system-wide problems, but you must do all you can to persistently protect your Forum.