Participation Guidelines and Community Standards


Originally, Ted Meissner based most of the core content of this page on that of the Guardian Community Standards and Participation Guidelines.

All SBA Board Members at that time (Jennifer Hawkins, Mark Knicklebine, Ted Meissner, Dana Nourie, and Douglass Smith) agreed that we should model our guidelines and standards on those of an existing and successful community – so we did. However, in the intervening years, we’ve made observations and gained experience with moderation.

Generally, we agree that this rule set is “clunky.” It gets wordy and perhaps overly specific. Also, its use of 10 rules seems meant to mirror The Ten Commandments of Abrahamic religions, which is not the best fit for our Secular Buddhist community (obviously) and part of why the verbiage seems to be forced in some places (i.e. to get 10 rules when less would probably work).

Therefore, while this section of the site is under revision (Winter 2020), we’d like to first post an edited version of the rules devised for Reddit’s r/SecularBuddhism, which were devised and written by Director/a Jennifer Hawkins. This ruleset is specific to a Secular Buddhist context and more streamlined.

However, after this ruleset, we will leave the original contents of this page in place (for now). This allows us time to continue to observe and gain experience that we can bring together as a group to eventually more fully clean up this section of the website. It also allows us to show our institutional history to any interested.

Both rulesets cover all of the same behavior, and therefore both are “in effect” for our website. Each set (Reddit and Original) will be labeled respectively.

(Original) The following page describes all aspects of community interaction and moderation on the Secular Buddhist Association (SBA) website, including comments on blogs or articles.

(from r/SecularBuddhism; Director/a Jennifer Hawkins)

  1. Do Discuss Secular and other Forms of Buddhism:
    As long as posts are honest discussion that follows the other guidelines (please refer to other guidelines!) – they’re probably okay and welcome (including constructive criticism)
  2. Do Remember the Five Precepts:
    – When posting, always be mindful of whether or not something may be unskillful and/or harmful and minimize harm whenever possible.
    – When posting, do your best to evaluate and cite sources, to get and acknowledge facts so as to not spread harmful misinformation.
    – Avoid sexually harmful content (e.g. use Content Notices)
    – Be honest
    – Don’t “drunk post” (or spam).
  3. Don’t Engage in Bigotry:
    This means no racism or colorism, no sexism, no trans- or homophobia, no ableism, no ageism, no unskillful Buddhist sectarianism or mistreatment of other belief systems (e.g. Islam, Judaism, etc) because of bigotry, etc – or any intersections of these.

    Note that this does include bigotry of any form perpetrated by BI/POC identified folx as well (e.g. anti-BI/POC statements including erasure or colorism). If your social justice is not intersectional, then it’s not social justice. For readers’ reference, this caveat has been explicitly added in response to several, specific negative interactions that have arisen.

  4. Don’t Post Sympathetically to “Alt-Buddhism” or similar Right Wing movements, NKT, or 969.
    These encourage violence, misinformation, hate, and other similar levels of harm. This intersects with and expands the general Don’t Engage in Bigotry rule to explicitly moderate harmful groups. You can post to ask critical questions about these movements or groups, but not in sympathy to them. Such harmful, bigoted posts will be moderated.
  5. Do Support our Community!
    Within reason, posts offering in/tangible support to our communities are allowed and encouraged even if they aren’t overtly / specifically / directly referring to the Dhamma. Tending to our communities is also part of the Dhamma, and we are a community.

While we seek to avoid “over-moderation” that can stifle critical discourse, note that we take bigotry as the most serious offense. We will immediately moderate and as harshly as possible in such a case.


Moderation Aims

The SBA website provides a growing number of opportunities for readers who wish to discuss content we publish, or debate issues more generally. Our aim is to ensure this platform is inclusive and safe, and that the SBA website is the place on the net where you will always find lively, entertaining, and intelligent discussions pertaining to secular Buddhism.

Community Standards

There are ten simple guidelines which we expect all participants in the community areas of the SBA website to abide by, all of which directly inform our approach to community moderation. These apply across the site, while moderation decisions are also informed by the context in which comments are made.

  1. We will not tolerate racism, sexism, homophobia, or other forms of hate-speech, or contributions that could be interpreted as such.  We recognize the difference between criticizing a particular government, organisation, community or belief, and attacking people on the basis of their race, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or age.
  2. We welcome debate and dissent, but personal attacks on authors, other users or any individual, persistent trolling and mindless abuse will not be tolerated. This includes posting derogatory or inflammatory messages with the intent to bait an overheated response, as well as behavior that in the moderators’ judgement is gratuitously argumentative, combative, or inflammatory with the apparent intent to prolong debate for its own sake rather than promote, defend, or critique a particular idea or point of view. The key to maintaining the SBA website as an inviting space is to focus on intelligent discussion of topics in a friendly and companionable fashion.
  3. We acknowledge criticism of the articles we publish, but will not allow persistent misrepresentation of the SBA and our participants to be published on our website.  For the sake of robust debate, we will distinguish between constructive, focused argument and smear tactics.
  4. We understand that people often feel strongly about issues debated on the site, but we will consider removing any content that others might find extremely offensive or threatening.  Please respect other people’s views and consider your impact on others when making your contribution.
  5. We reserve the right to redirect or curtail conversations which descend into flame-wars based on ingrained partisanship or generalizations.  We don’t want to stop people discussing topics they are enthusiastic about, but we do ask users to find ways of sharing their views that do not feel divisive, threatening, or toxic to others.  Sometimes mutual acknowledgement to disagree will be an inevitable conclusion.
  6. We will remove any content that may be in violation of the law, such as potentially libelous or defamatory postings, or material posted in potential breach of copyright. Publishing material under copyright is only allowed as per “fair use” rules. Participants should not copy entire articles under copyright to the forum, but instead quote a few sentences and provide a link.
  7. We will remove any posts that are obviously commercial or otherwise spam-like.  Our aim is that this site should provide a space for people to interact with our content and each other, and we actively discourage commercial entities passing themselves off as individuals, in order to post advertising material or links.  This may also apply to people or organisations who frequently post propaganda or external links without adding substantively to the quality of the discussion on the SBA website.
  8. Keep it relevant.  We know that some conversations can be wide-ranging, but if you post something which is unrelated to the original topic (“off-topic”) then it may be removed, in order to keep the thread on track. This also applies to queries or comments about moderation, which should not be posted as comments. If you have questions or comments regarding moderation, please use the Contact page.
  9. Be aware that you may be misunderstood, so try to be clear about what you are saying, and expect that people may understand your contribution differently than you intended.  Remember that text isn’t always a great medium for conversation: tone of voice (sarcasm, humor and so on) doesn’t always come across when using words on a screen. Keep the discussion on the topic, rather than finding fault with the individual or imposing upon them your own thoughts about their level of understanding your position. You can help to keep the SBA community areas open to all viewpoints by maintaining a reasonable tone, even in unreasonable circumstances.
  10. The platform is ours, but the conversation belongs to everybody. We want this to be a welcoming space for intelligent discussion and support of practice, and we expect participants to help us achieve this by notifying us of potential problems and helping each other to keep conversations inviting and appropriate. If you spot something problematic in community interaction areas, please report it using the Contact page, and include a link to the specific comment. When we all take responsibility for maintaining an appropriate and constructive environment, the debate itself is improved and everyone benefits.

In short:

  • If you act with maturity and consideration for other users, you should have no problems.
  • Don’t be unpleasant. Demonstrate and share the intelligence, wisdom, and humor we know you possess.
  • Take some responsibility for the quality of the conversations in which you’re participating.  Help make this an intelligent and friendly place for discussion and it will be.

Moderation Approach

Participants who seriously, persistently, or wilfully ignore the community standards, participation guidelines, or terms and conditions will have their posting privileges for all the SBA community areas withdrawn.

This is not an action that we take lightly or arbitrarily. However, we are aiming to create and maintain an online experience consistent with SBA values, and we reserve the right to make decisions which we feel support that.  Please be aware that moderators may contact you by email in relation to your participation, especially where an issue comes up in relation to these community standards. Any advice they give/request they make should be adhered to, as our moderators are here to foster these community standards and create a constructive environment for everyone who contributes to our site.

We will, when necessary, remove user postings or comments from our articles, and blog posts.  We will not edit user posts to change the meaning, spelling, or anything else intended by the user. Even if only part of a comment or posting is perceived as breaching the community guidelines, the whole thing may be removed. Also, when a comment or post is removed for any of the reasons above, it is sometimes necessary to delete subsequent messages which refer to explicitly or quote from the original (removed) comment, in order to preserve some notion of conversational thread.  This may also happen because a later comment quotes directly the problematic bits of the original comment, which just perpetuates the problem.  In such cases not every deletion will be marked individually.

If a contribution to the SBA website is perceived as breaching the community guidelines set out above, then it will be removed by the community team, in the interests of keeping community areas of the site appropriate for the vast majority of the people who visit.

We reserve the right to take steps or implement measures which we hope will benefit the whole community of the SBA community participants.  All actions and decisions taken by our moderators are final. Unfortunately, the growing quantity of content on the SBA website means that we may not enter into correspondence regarding specific moderation activity, although all correspondence will be read.

The views expressed in community areas of this site do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of the SBA or contributors.

Thank you for your interest and cooperation in making this an inclusive, constructive, and friendly experience for everyone!