CELEGANS newsgroup moderation policy

William R. Morgan wmorgan at ACS.WOOSTER.EDU
Sat Sep 27 20:01:55 EST 1997

CELEGANS newsgroup readers:

Earlier this week, the bionet.celegans newsgroup became moderated and I am
acting as the current moderator.

Briefly, here is the moderation policy as excerpted from the group's
revised charter (http://net.bio.net/bioarchives/CELEGANS/CHARTER):

Moderation Policy:  Mass-posted commercial messages, chain letters, and
similar postings not germane to C. elegans research will be
deleted without comment. Inappropriate messages posted in good faith will
be returned to the sender.  Messages not strictly within the charter but
likely to be of interest to many subscribers will be accepted.
Use of the newsgroup for commercial purposes is prohibited.

Below I further describe some of the implications in this change.  You
should submit messages just as before.  For the most part, you will see no
difference except the marked reduction of junk e-mail (possibly not 100%
since no system is foolproof).  PLEASE LET ME KNOW, if for some reason I
fail to distribute a message that you consider appropriate for the
newsgroup or if I distribute a message that you consider inappropriate.

While a moderated newsgroup should reduce the load of unwanted junk mail --
a definite benefit, it does impose some additional burdens on the
moderator.  You may wish to to be aware of these since they could influence
my decision to distribute particular messages, especially if they involve
commercial messages or raise liability issues.  With respect to this, below
I've excerpted some relevant passages from the "Instructions for
BIOSCI/bionet Newsgroup Moderators". [Note that "you" refers to the

If you have any questions about moderation or other aspects of this group,
please let me know.

Bill Morgan
CELEGANS/bionet.celegans Moderator

Excerpts from "Instructions for BIOSCI/bionet Newsgroup Moderators"
>			       -------
>Messages posted to moderated newsgroups are sent by e-mail to the
>newsgroup moderator instead of being immediately distributed at the
>time of posting to the USENET news and e-mail list readership.
>The role of a newsgroup moderator is to read postings to his/her group
>prior to public distribution and decide whether or not they conform to
>the newsgroup's charter.
>Messages that are rejected are either returned to the sender with an
>explanation about why they were rejected or else deleted without
>comment (the decision process should be spelled out in the moderation
>policy in the newsgroup charter).


>The newsgroup charter describes
>the type of messages that are acceptable for posting to the newsgroup.
>The moderator should follow these guidelines when deciding upon the
>acceptability of a message for distribution.
>Please note that moderators are generally not editors.  It is common
>practice, if a message is partially acceptable for distribution, to
>return it to the sender instead of editing it, and to ask the sender
>to correct the part that does not conform to the charter's guidelines.
>the increasing volume of messages and the usual constraints on
>professionals' time, it is now acceptable to reject messages without
>comment if this is spelled out in the newsgroup charter. There is
>definitely no need for you to spend time replying to or registering
>protests about commercial/sexual/racist USENET spams.  Please just
>delete them without comment and feel good about having spared hundreds
>or thousands of readers from having to delete them too.


>BIOSCI Commercial Use Policy
>Moderators should note that the BIOSCI commercial use policy also
>governs the approval decision.  BIOSCI does not permit use of the
>newsgroups for commercial purposes regardless of how relevant a
>product might be to research discussed on the moderator's newsgroup.
>If we were to make exceptions to this policy, the newsgroup system
>would quickly degenerate into a forum for unlimited commercial
>announcements and readership would plummet.
>If you have any doubts about whether or not a message promotes a
>commercial product for financial gain, simply return it to the sender
>and ask them to include a disclaimer stating that they have no
>financial connections with the item/product mentioned in their
>message.  If they will not do so, tell them that you can not distribute
>their message.  If anyone gives you a hard time, please refer them to
>biosci-help at net.bio.net and we will handle the issue.
>A commercial concern may *reply* to messages which specifically name
>that company's product.  This exemption does not allow commercial
>replies to general questions like "Does anyone know of a product which
>does X?"  Such questions need to be answered only by people who are
>not connected to the manufacturer and who do not stand to gain
>financially from the response.  Please refer to the BIOSCI FAQ for a
>detailed explanation of the commercial use policy.
>Scientists **with no financial connections** to the products under
>discussion are free to post notes about commercial products.  It is
>common procedure to include a disclaimer in any posting about products
>disavowing any commercial interest in the product under discussion.
>Producers of products that might be relevant to the topic at hand
>should stand aside and let the scientists themselves engage in
>discussion unless products are specifically named.  Even in the latter
>case, commercial responses about a company's product should be
>strictly factual, avoiding both marketing hype and comparisons to
>Liability Issues
>Legal precedent to date indicates that postings made to *unmoderated*
>newsgroups are the sole responsibility of the poster and not the
>service provider, just like booksellers can not be held liable for the
>contents of the books that they sell (although the publisher can be!).
>Newsgroup moderation changes this equation.  If a posting is
>potentially libelous and is approved for distribution by a moderator,
>the moderator assumes responsibility for distributing the message just
>as a publisher can be held responsible for printing someone else's false
>Although we have not had a single problem in the almost ten year
>history of the BIOSCI project, we recommend that moderators avoid
>controversy by following some simple guidelines.  If a posting is
>received that appears to be controversial, it is usually best to tell
>the poster that you do not have time to investigate the facts of the
>case in question (remember that damning allegations that are true are
>*not* libelous).  Remind the poster that they might be sued for libel
>if their charges can not be substantiated.  Tell the poster that if
>he/she is intent on getting their message out, they should post to an
>unmoderated newsgroup where they assume full responsibility for their
>attack.  A simple explanation that you as moderator can not get
>legally involved in their dispute is almost always enough to make the
>issue simply go away.  Before you get too concerned, we wish to
>emphasize again that very few incidents like this have ever come up in
>almost ten years of running the BIOSCI system.
>BIOSCI provides this warning to you solely to alert you to potential
>legal issues if you were to participate in a dispute on your
>newsgroup.  BIOSCI assumes no responsibility for your actions should
>you decide to get involved of your own volition.  Please do your best
>to avoid postings which start "flame wars" on your group.  Please do
>not encourage personal attacks.  Unfortunately the impersonal nature
>of electronic communications makes some people forget their manners
>and engage in behavior which they would never do in a face-to-face

William R. Morgan
931 College St.
Department of Biology			Phone:  330-263-2026
The College of Wooster                  FAX:    330-263-2378
Wooster, OH  44691                      E-mail: wmorgan at acs.wooster.edu

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