Establishing channels dedicated to sensitive topics can also be an exhausting drain on your moderation team and can invite unwanted content into your server. These channels can quickly get out of hand if they are not set up mindfully and moderated carefully and will often require their own sets of rules and permissions to be run effectively and safely. Whether you want these discussions to occur in your space at all is up to you and your team. Having channels for these topics takes a lot of work and special consideration for you to determine if it’s the right fit for your server.
In short: This document will serve to educate you on how best to discern if you want these different channels, whether it be a channel on venting, serious-topics, or a real world event. Keep in mind- no matter what topics (if any) that you decide to include in your server, remember that all content needs to be within Discord’s Terms of Service and Community Guidelines.
The first step to determining whether to have sensitive topics channels in your server is to define what is considered a sensitive topic for your community. If you are running a server for people from a specific country, a discussion of that country's conflicts with other countries may be a sensitive topic. Conversely, if you are running something like a political debate server, that same topic can be relatively non-problematic and not upsetting to the members of the server.
There are two main types of sensitive topics: triggering topics and contentious topics. A triggering topic is a topic or word that can prompt an increase or return of symptoms of a mental illness or mental distress due to trauma. A contentious topic is one that is controversial that has the potential to provoke heated arguments.
While sensitive topics can vary depending on what kind of server you own (e.g. a mental health server vs. a gaming server), keep in mind that there are topics that can be considered triggering and topics that can be considered contentious in most, if not all public spaces.
Triggering topics can vary wildly from community to community depending on what the focus of the community is. For instance, in a community for transgender people, in-depth descriptions of a body or the discomfort some people experience because of their body is likely to be a triggering topic. There are some triggers that are very common and should be handled with the assumption that they will cause multiple people in your community to feel uncomfortable or even traumatized regardless of what type of community it is. This would include things like sexual assault, graphic depictions of violence, other traumatic experiences, suicide and self harm, eating disorders, parental abuse or neglect, etc. These more sensitive topics should likely be separated out from more community specific topics that have the potential to invoke trauma such as transitioning or coming out in a server for LGBTQ+ people.
*Unless you are using the channel description for verification instructions rather than an automatic greeter message.
If you want to use the remove unverified role method, you will need a bot that can automatically assign a role to a user when they join.
Once you decide whether you want to add or remove a role, you need to decide how you want that action to take place. Generally, this is done by typing a bot command in a channel, typing a bot command in a DM, or clicking on a reaction. The differences between these methods are shown below.
In order to use the command in channel method, you will need to instruct your users to remove the Unverified role or to add the Verified role to themselves.
Channel names indicate to users the intended purpose of the channel. Carefully choosing your name can have a large impact on what the channel ends up being used for. For example, #personal-questions-and-advice versus #tw-emotional-support-and-venting give users very different impressions of what the channel is for. If you want a channel where someone can ask “What are some ways to distract myself if I feel like hurting myself” or, “my teacher is being homophobic, what should I do?” but not graphic descriptions of the symptoms of trauma or vice versa, make sure the name of the channel reflects that. Including tw (trigger warning) or cw (content warning) in your channel name will give the impression that the latter is allowed and is what the channel is intended to be used for.
Markdown is also supported in an embed. Here is an image to showcase an example of these properties:
Example image to showcase the elements of an embed
An important thing to note is that embeds also have their limitations, which are set by the API. Here are some of the most important ones you need to know:
An important thing to note is that embeds also have their limitations, which are set by the API. Here are some of the most important ones you need to know:
If you feel like experimenting even further you should take a look at the full list of limitations provided by Discord here.
It’s very important to keep in mind that when you are writing an embed, it should be in JSON format. Some bots even provide an embed visualizer within their dashboards. You can also use this embed visualizer tool which provides visualization for bot and webhook embeds.
Channels that have the potential to bring crisis situations into a server or cause distress to other members of the community should have specific rules to minimize the potential harm. These rules could be pinned in the channel, have their own channel within a category that houses sensitive topics channels, or be included in the servers rules. The example list of rules below includes some harm mitigation strategies, as well as the potential downsides of each.
Channels focused on sensitive topics can provide users with a comfortable space to discuss personal issues of varying severity and build closeness and trust between members of your community. These channels also have very specific risks and required mitigation strategies that will vary depending on the nature of the specific channel. If you are running a channel on transition advice for transgender users, your main concern will likely be fake advice about foods that change hormone levels or dangerous advice regarding illegally acquiring hormones. If you run a channel for sexual assault victims, your main concern will likely be victim blaming and ensuring that users reach out to professionals when needed. You have to consider what the specific risks in your channel are and ensure that you are writing policies that are specific to your needs and finding moderators that are knowledgeable and comfortable with those topics.
Even though this comparison is important for better understanding of both bots and webhooks, it does not mean you should limit yourself to only picking one or the other. Sometimes, bots and webhooks work their best when working together. It’s not uncommon for bots to use webhooks for logging purposes or to distinguish notable messages with a custom avatar and name for that message. Both tools are essential for a server to function properly and make for a powerful combination.
*Unconfigurable filters, these will catch all instances of the trigger, regardless of whether they’re spammed or a single instance
**Gaius also offers an additional NSFW filter as well as standard image spam filtering
***YAGPDB offers link verification via google, anything flagged as unsafe can be removed
****Giselle combines Fast Messages and Repeated Text into one filter
Anti-Spam is integral to running a large private server, or a public server. Spam, by definition, is irrelevant or unsolicited messages. This covers a wide base of things on Discord, there are multiple types of spam a user can engage in. The common forms are listed in the table above. The most common forms of spam are also very typical of raids, those being Fast Messages and Repeated Text. The nature of spam can vary greatly but the vast majority of instances involve a user or users sending lots of messages with the same contents with the intent of disrupting your server.
There are subsets of this spam that many anti-spam filters will be able to catch. If any of the following: Mentions, Links, Invites, Emoji, and Newline Text are spammed repeatedly in one message or spammed repeatedly across several messages, they will provoke most Repeated Text and Fast Messages filters appropriately. Subset filters are still a good thing for your anti-spam filter to contain as you may wish to punish more or less harshly depending on the spam. Namely, Emoji and Links may warrant separate punishments. Spamming 10 links in a single message is inherently worse than having 10 emoji in a message.
Anti-spam will only act on these things contextually, usually in an X in Y fashion where if a user sends, for example, 10 links in 5 seconds, they will be punished to some degree. This could be 10 links in one message, or 1 link in 10 messages. In this respect, some anti-spam filters can act simultaneously as Fast Messages and Repeated Text filters.
Sometimes, spam may happen too quickly for a bot to catch up. There are rate limits in place to stop bots from harming servers that can prevent deletion of individual messages if those messages are being sent too quickly. This can often happen in raids. As such, Fast Messages filters should prevent offenders from sending messages; this can be done via a mute, kick or ban. If you want to protect your server from raids, please read on to the Anti-Raid section of this article.
Text filters allow you to control the types of words and/or links that people are allowed to put in your server. Different bots will provide various ways to filter these things, keeping your chat nice and clean.
*Defaults to banning ALL links
**YAGPDB offers link verification via google, anything flagged as unsafe can be removed
***Setting a catch-all filter with carl will prevent link-specific spam detection
A text filter is integral to a well moderated server. It’s strongly, strongly recommended you use a bot that can filter text based on a blacklist. A Banned words filter can catch links and invites provided http:// and https:// are added to the word blacklist (for all links) or specific full site URLs to block individual websites. In addition, discord.gg can be added to a blacklist to block ALL Discord invites.
A Banned Words filter is integral to running a public server, especially if it’s a Partnered, Community or Verified server, as this level of auto moderation is highly recommended for the server to adhere to the additional guidelines attached to it. Before configuring a filter, it’s a good idea to work out what is and isn’t ok to say in your server, regardless of context. For example, racial slurs are generally unacceptable in almost all servers, regardless of context. Banned word filters often won’t account for context, with an explicit blacklist. For this reason, it’s also important a robust filter also contains whitelisting options. For example, if you add the slur ‘nig’ to your filter and someone mentions the country ‘Nigeria’ they could get in trouble for using an otherwise acceptable word.
Filter immunity may also be important to your server, as there may be individuals who need to discuss the use of banned words, namely members of a moderation team. There may also be channels that allow the usage of otherwise banned words. For example, a serious channel dedicated to discussion of real world issues may require discussions about slurs or other demeaning language, in this exception channel based Immunity is integral to allowing those conversations.
Link filtering is important to servers where sharing links in ‘general’ chats isn’t allowed, or where there are specific channels for sharing such things. This can allow a server to remove links with an appropriate reprimand without treating a transgression with the same severity as they would a user sending a racial slur.
Whitelisting/Blacklisting and templates for links are also a good idea to have. While many servers will use catch-all filters to make sure links stay in specific channels, some links will always be malicious. As such, being able to filter specific links is a good feature, with preset filters (Like the google filter provided by YAGPDB) coming in very handy for protecting your user base without intricate setup however, it is recommended you do configure a custom filter to ensure specific slurs, words etc. that break the rules of your server, aren’t being said.
Invite filtering is equally important in large or public servers where users will attempt to raid, scam or otherwise assault your server with links with the intention of manipulating your user base to join or where unsolicited self-promotion is potentially fruitful. Filtering allows these invites to be recognized, and dealt with more harshly. Some bots may also allow by-server white/blacklisting allowing you to control which servers are ok to share invites to, and which aren’t. A good example of invite filtering usage would be something like a partners channel, where invites to other, closely linked, servers are shared. These servers should be added to an invite whitelist to prevent their deletion.
Raids, as defined earlier in this article, are mass-joins of users (often selfbots) with the intent of damaging your server. There are a few methods available to you in order for you to protect your community from this behavior. One method involves gating your server with verification appropriately, as discussed in DMA 301.You can also supplement or supplant the need for verification by using a bot that can detect and/or prevent damage from raids.
*Unconfigurable, triggers raid prevention based on user joins & damage prevention based on humanly impossible user activity. Will not automatically trigger on the free version of the bot.
Raid detection means a bot can detect the large number of users joining that’s typical of a raid, usually in an X in Y format. This feature is usually chained with Raid Prevention or Damage Prevention to prevent the detected raid from being effective, wherein raiding users will typically spam channels with unsavoury messages.
Raid-user detection is a system designed to detect users who are likely to be participating in a raid independently of the quantity of frequency of new user joins. These systems typically look for users that were created recently or have no profile picture, among other triggers depending on how elaborate the system is.
Raid prevention stops a raid from happening, either by Raid detection or Raid-user detection. These countermeasures stop participants of a raid specifically from harming your server by preventing raiding users from accessing your server in the first place, such as through kicks, bans, or mutes of the users that triggered the detection.
Damage prevention stops raiding users from causing any disruption via spam to your server by closing off certain aspects of it either from all new users, or from everyone. These functions usually prevent messages from being sent or read in public channels that new users will have access to. This differs from Raid Prevention as it doesn’t specifically target or remove new users on the server.
Raid anti-spam is an anti spam system robust enough to prevent raiding users’ messages from disrupting channels via the typical spam found in a raid. For an anti-spam system to fit this dynamic, it should be able to prevent Fast Messages and Repeated Text. This is a subset of Damage Prevention.
Raid cleanup commands are typically mass-message removal commands to clean up channels affected by spam as part of a raid, often aliased to ‘Purge’ or ‘Prune’.It should be noted that Discord features built-in raid and user bot detection, which is rather effective at preventing raids as or before they happen. If you are logging member joins and leaves, you can infer that Discord has taken action against shady accounts if the time difference between the join and the leave times is extremely small (such as between 0-5 seconds). However, you shouldn’t rely solely on these systems if you run a large or public server.
Messages aren’t the only way potential evildoers can present unsavoury content to your server. They can also manipulate their Discord username or Nickname to cause trouble. There are a few different ways a username can be abusive and different bots offer different filters to prevent this.
*Gaius can apply same blacklist/whitelist to names as messages or only filter based on items in the blacklist tagged %name
**YAGPDB can use configured word-list filters OR a regex filter
Username filtering is less important than other forms of auto moderation, when choosing which bot(s) to use for your auto moderation needs, this should typically be considered last, since users with unsavory usernames can just be nicknamed in order to hide their actual username.
There may be contentious topics for your community in particular, but in general politics, economics, law, current events, and morality are contentious topics for most servers. These topics are likely to cause disagreements as a lot of users will have very varied and very firm opinions on the topics.
A channel named #discussion-of-current-events and a channel named #political-debates-to-the-death are going to yield very different types of interactions. If you want a channel where people can mention politics and current events and discuss things like the stock market or a new law that was passed, but don’t want discussions about whether specific world leaders are good or bad, or what economic model is the best one, make sure your channel name reflects that. Many/most users won’t read anything but the channel name, so your channel name needs to set the correct expectation for the content individuals will find inside.
Channels that have the potential to get heated and cause arguments that lead to negative feedback loops should have specific rules to minimize the potential harm. These rules could be pinned in the channel, have their own channel within a category that houses contentious topics channels, or be included in the servers rules. The list of rules below includes some harm mitigation strategies, as well as the potential downsides of each.
Channels focused around contentious topics can provide users with an engaging space to discuss topics with people from varied backgrounds and explore other perspectives. These channels also have very specific risks and required mitigation strategies that will vary depending on the nature of the specific channel. For example, if you are running a channel on COVID19, your main concern will likely be dangerous misinformation and conspiracy theories. If you run a channel for the 2020 US Presidential Election, your main concern may be things getting too heated or insult-flinging. You have to consider what the specific risks in your channel are and ensure that you are writing policies that are specific to your needs and finding moderators that are knowledgeable and comfortable with the topics.
One additional component not included in the table is the effects of implementing a verification gate. The ramifications of a verification gate are difficult to quantify and not easily summarized. Verification gates make it harder for people to join in the conversation of your server, but in exchange help protect your community from trolls, spam bots, those unable to read your server’s language, or other low intent users. This can make administration and moderation of your server much easier. You’ll also see that the percent of people that visit more than 3 channels increases as they explore the server and follow verification instructions, and that percent talked may increase if people need to type a verification command.
However, in exchange you can expect to see server leaves increase. In addition, total engagement on your other channels may grow at a slower pace. User retention will decrease as well. Furthermore, this will complicate the interpretation of your welcome screen metrics, as the welcome screen will need to be used to help people primarily follow the verification process as opposed to visiting many channels in your server. There is also no guarantee that people who send a message after clicking to read the verification instructions successfully verified. In order to measure the efficacy of your verification system, you may need to use a custom solution to measure the proportion of people that pass or fail verification.
Current event channels are for a single and specific current event, such as COVID-19 or mourning a beloved server member. Depending on the topic of the channel, it may also be a contentious or sensitive topic, but differs because it is a narrowly focused and usually temporary space. These channels can be useful to have if a topic either isn’t allowed per your servers rules, or is allowed but is overwhelming conversations in other channels (but is otherwise not something you want to outright ban the discussion of).
Channel names for specific current events should be as clear as possible. For instance, making a channel for the COVID-19 Pandemic and then naming the channel “Diseases” makes little sense. Instead, you would want to be specific and name it something like “COVID-19 Pandemic” or “COVID-19”. This ensures that your users will at-a-glance understand what the channel is for. You should also have a topic for the channel that helps inform users of its purpose. You may also want to have something like “Read The Rules” in the topic, so users know to read any additional rules. These rules could be pinned in the channel, have their own channel within a category that houses contentious topics channels, if you have multiple, or be included in the servers rules. Also keep in mind that users may not always read the channel topic or pinned messages.
Channels covering current events should have rules that help promote healthy discussion of these topics. While each real world event may be different, there are some baseline rules / guidelines that we believe these channels should have.
Channels like these can be difficult to manage. On one hand, you want things to be contained and on-topic. On the other hand, you may want to allow for other kinds of discussion that relate to the topic at-hand. Ultimately it is up to you to decide how to best implement these channels. Whether the channel is for a global pandemic, a friend passing away, a game releasing, or anything in-between, these channels will require a special finesse that other channels may not. It is our hope that these example rules and channel names can help you create a space that adheres to a specific topic and creates an atmosphere that is both respectful and engaging.
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