Our goal is to provide a safe, fun and education place for our members to discuss zoos and animal conservation. As such, we have decided on a particular standard of behaviour and what constitutes acceptable content for our site - and we expect our community members to adhere to this standard.
We acknowledge that there are many different people who make up our community who all have different expectations as to what is reasonable - indeed some people may find our standards too restrictive while others find them not restrictive enough. These differences occur in all facets of society, not just in online communities.
Our challenge is to find a reasonable middle ground that is acceptable to the vast majority of our members while also meeting our obligations as a business providing community management services.
The following list of rules is the result of more than 15 years of experience in operating busy discussion forums just like this one and aims to make it clear what is acceptable and what is not. Even so, we may find it necessary to adjust some of the rules or add additional rules for clarification of our expectations in the future.
Our expectations of how members should behave can be simply summarised in two points:
- Add value
- Be nice to people
No NSFW or Offensive Content
- The ZooChat forums are operated by a business and are frequented by people who may be accessing the site from a business or office environment (including zoo staff). Many of our members are also minors.
- Please do not post anything which would be considered inappropriate in a business or office setting, ie. NSFW (Not Suitable For Work) - or might be considered not "family friendly".
- This includes, but is not limited to, profanity, sexual, sexualized or illicit content, hateful, threatening, provocative or vulgar content, links and websites and discussion encouraging the use of piracy or warez distributions, or any otherwise illegal content.
- Please do not attempt to circumvent the censoring options we have set up.
No Personal Attacks
- Treat all members of the community with respect and communicate in a polite and courteous manner.
- Personal attacks, aggressive messages, and passive-aggressive behaviour is unacceptable.
- We like to use the Aussie Rules Football analogy of "play the ball, not the man" - meaning, you are permitted to challenge what someone has posted, but you are not permitted to attack the person.
- If you take particular issue with another user and are unable to reply in a civilised and constructive way to their posts, you should use the forum's "Ignore" facility to hide posts made by that user.
- Responding to baiting posts in an aggressive manner is likely to result in you receiving warnings which may lead to you being banned - don't feed the trolls.
- Report problems, don't retaliate - if you feel another user is attacking or being aggressive towards you, report their message to staff using the Report function, do not respond publicly.
- If someone attacks you and you respond with an attack, you will be warned regardless of who started it.
- Using thread tags to label other people will also be considered a serious personal attack.
No Hate Speech, Bigotry, or Negative Stereotyping
- Hate speech is anything that attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as gender, ethnic origin, religion, race, disability, or sexual orientation.
- Bigotry is having an intolerance towards those who hold different opinions from oneself.
- We will not tolerate intolerance (yes, we see the irony in that statement).
- Casual racism refers to making jokes or off-handed comments involving negative stereotypes or prejudices about people on the basis of race, colour or ethnicity.
- Similarly, casual sexism refers to making jokes or off-handed comments involving negative stereotypes or prejudices about people on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.
- In general, anything which perpetuates negative stereotypes or prejudices about people based on who they are, where they are from, or what they believe, is inappropriate.
Do Not Insult Moderators
- Our moderation team are volunteer members of our community who give their time freely and willingly to help maintain the discussion, answer questions and deal with problems.
- Occasionally this may lead to conflict when decisions made by the moderation team are unpopular - but we will not tolerate abuse directed towards our volunteer moderators (either in public or in private) for the actions they take on our behalf.
- If you have a question about a moderation decision, you should contact the administration team and politely ask for clarification.
- If we review and decide to uphold a moderation decision, any continued questioning or complaining about the matter may result in you being banned.
- You are allowed to ask general questions about moderation and the forum rules in public discussion threads - but you are not permitted to discuss specific moderation decisions in public - such posts or threads will be removed.
- Posts should always be constructive and on topic - they should add value to the discussion or to the community.
- For common questions, simply telling someone to "do a search" is not acceptable. Answer their question or direct them to the actual thread or post where the answers can be found.
- Pointing out spelling or grammatical errors is unnecessary - the only exception may be where there is confusion as to the intent as a result, in which case a polite query for clarification would be acceptable.
- If you disagree with a post and feel the need to reply as such, it’s important that you explain why.
- Off topic posts or posts which add nothing to the discussion may be moved or deleted as required.
- Trolling refers to posts made with the sole goal of causing a reaction from other members and without any intent to add value to the community.
- If we consider that a member's posts contain no value to the community or are overly imbalanced (what we consider to be overly extreme points of view), they may be banned from the site.
- We have no time or interest in entertaining conspiracy theories and theorists - this is not the site for that type of content. Such content will be removed members who continue to post such content without adding value to the site may be banned.
No Bumping Threads
- Do not bump threads unless you have something else to add to the discussion.
- Additionally, replying to discussions which have been inactive for several months or longer should be avoided unless you have something of value to add.
No Cross Posting
- Posts should be made in the most appropriate forum topic.
- Do not post the same content in multiple topics or in multiple threads.
- If you decide that your thread should have been made in a different topic, you may delete and repost it (if nobody has already responded to it), or else Report your own post and ask the moderators to move it to the correct topic.
Don't Post Copyrighted Material
- Do not post content that is not yours and which you do not own the right to reproduce on the forums. This includes newspaper or magazine articles.
- You may quote small sections for the purposes of discussion on the forums, but you should ensure that full attribution of the source is given - including links.
- If the content is from behind a paywall, you should note that when linking to it.
No Link Obfuscation or Referral Links
- You may not use URL shorteners to obfuscate the true destination of a link you post on the forums for the purposes of hiding affiliate or referral links.
- The use of affiliate or referral links when linking to third party products or services is strictly forbidden.
Do Not Defame Others
- You are not permitted to post material which may be libellous or defamatory in nature or damaging to the reputation of a third party based on unfounded or unproven allegations or assertions about them or their activities.
- This includes both members of our community and members of the general public.
- You are permitted to tell your story where you have had a bad or unpleasant experience when using a third party service provider or product - but you should do so by stating the facts and avoiding emotive language or assertions or allegations of unproven illegal conduct or wrong-doing.
- In such situations, we do try and permit the subject of such complaints a right-of-reply, to tell their side of the story.
- In situations where a post is made by a member who seems to have created an account on the forums for the sole-purpose of posting negative or damaging allegations - we will generally remove such content because we have no track record or history of the member or any way of judging the legitimacy of their claims.
- Anyone found to be deliberately posting defamatory material against a competitor or for malicious purposes will be banned.
Respect Other People's Privacy
- Personal information and private discussions may not be posted on the forums unless it’s clear that all parties involved have consented.
- This also includes personal or private information about zoo staff or zoo ownership that may be gained or inferred from online searches or other sources that is not common knowledge or a matter of public record (ie posted on their own website).
- This rule also extends to disclosing the personal identities of forum members who have chosen to post under a pseudonym - please do not refer to them using their real names on the forums if they choose to hide their identity for privacy reasons.
No Inciting or Promoting Illegal Activity or Fraud
- Do not suggest or recommend that someone undertakes illegal or fraudulent activity for any purpose.
- This includes acts which are likely to be construed as illegal under Australian law.
- This also includes incitement to illegally download or pirate material, distribution of pirated or illegally copied material, or linking to sites which promote or facilitate such activities.
No Soliciting Funds or Investors
- You are not permitted post messages seeking investors or investment funds for any project or venture.
No Duplicate Accounts
- Each user may only have one account.
- If duplicate accounts are discovered, the duplicates may be banned.
- If you would like to rename your account, please email [email protected] with your request, rather than creating a new account.
No Soliciting Likes or Recommendations
- Soliciting of "Likes" - requesting or suggesting that people like your content, or colluding with others to like each other's content will result in likes being removed in bulk and potentially being banned from the site.
- Similarly, requesting that others make recommendations of your products or services or colluding with others to recommend each other's products or services is strictly forbidden and may result in all parties being banned from the site.
No Sock-Puppetry or Astroturfing
- A Sock Puppet is an online identity used for the purpose of deception.
- Using a fake account to promote yourself or your business, or to post negative or damaging comments about a competitor or third party is strictly forbidden.
- Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organisation to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants.
- You are not permitted to post on behalf of a business or third party - whether for monetary gain or any other arrangement - without declaring your affiliation and making it clear as to who you represent and under what arrangement. This especially applies to reputation management, public relations or marketing companies.
- Any business discovered to be engaging in sock-puppetry or undeclared representation is likely to be reported to the relevant authorities (for example, in Australia the ACCC who have made it clear that they will deal harshly with businesses engaging in such deceptive conduct in online communities).
- We permit only genuine reviews to be posted (either positive or negative), so if we have little track record of contribution from a new member by which to judge their credibility, we will generally err on the side of caution and remove those comments to avoid the perception or appearance of astroturfing.
No Self Promotion or Advertising
- You are not permitted to promote or advertise your own business in any way in forum posts, profile posts, media, resources or comments on any other content on the site.
- There is a general exception to this rule given to certain areas of the site, such as the introductions forum where you may describe the business you operate but in that case there are specific guidelines as to what type of content is acceptable which should be considered before posting.
- You are not permitted to list products or services for sale on the website except in designated areas set up specifically for this purpose (which currently do not exist).
- The listing of animals for sale, promotion of sites or services which facilitate the sale of animals (either legally or illegally), or the solicitation of buying or selling animals directly - is strictly forbidden.
No Linking to Your Own Website in Posts
- You are not permitted to link to your own website, blog or social media sites for the purposes of referencing an article you have written or content you have created. You should quote the relevant parts of your article for the purposes of discussion on this site - providing sufficient detail to remove the necessity for members to visit your site in order to continue the discussion.
- You may refer to the fact that more content exists on your own website - but you may not link to it or provide pseudo-links such as a written description of the URL of where to find it.
- An exception to this linking rule will be made for announcing a new non-commercial website you have launched (for example: a personal blog), but ongoing discussion or promotion of your site is not permitted.
- To be clear: any link to another site (including your own) which is not deemed to be adding value to this website, will be removed. Examples of unacceptable links which are deemed to add no value include adding a link to the end of a forum post as a form of "signature" without using the forum post signature facilities.
No Commercial Research
- You are not permitted to use the website for market research or any other type of research for any commercial purposes.
- Research for academic purposes must first be approved by management.
Updated 13th April, 2019