A forum moderator oversees the communication activity of an Internet forum. He monitors the interchange of contributors and makes decisions regarding content and the direction of threads. Moving discussions from one section to another to keep topics organized is also a common job for a forum moderator.
If the tone of a forum becomes hostile or starts to move in the direction of personal attacks, the forum moderator usually has the discretion to lock the discussion to prevent heated, interchanges. He may also be able to hide discussions he deems unworthy of further discussion. Conversely, topics he feels deserve further examination can be posted indefinitely by the moderator even if they garner no comments.
Moderator duties are as diverse as the forum topics themselves. Some moderators are virtually invisible; they surface only when situations arise that do not seem likely to resolve themselves. Other forum moderators are always there, ready to intercede at the smallest hint of discourse. Public forum moderators often have to enforce many rules of conduct and decorum, as public contributors tend to communicate without abandon, which can sometimes upset other commenters.
Private forums linked to a website or group often operate a bit differently. The forum moderator is likely to be familiar with the members, and may be more lax in enforcing rules if he is aware of bantering members and their tones. Standards differ greatly in forums, and newcomers are advised to post with caution until they get the general feel of the forum's atmosphere. Regardless of the forum topic or ambiance, most prohibit the exchange of illegal or copyrighted materials and pornography and many shun swearing or using inappropriate language or images.
Moderators are sometimes encouraged to join in discussions, especially if they have expert experience or advice to contribute. Other forums prefer their moderators to remain totally objective and mainly serve as impartial enforcers. Occasionally a forum moderator will pose as a contributor to steer a discussion in another direction or offer input without fear of posing a conflict of interest.
In addition to acting as the parent or guardian of forum content, forum moderators are also responsible for maintaining the integrity of the forum in other ways. This requires knowledge of HTML and acuity at moving, merging, adding, and deleting text, graphics, and links. Contributors will often ask moderators to assist them with technical problems with site access and posting.
Supplementary duties of a forum moderator may include relocating discussions to more appropriate sections, closing or locking threads based on dwindling interest or lack of recent activity, editing posts for clarity or content, and deleting threads. Thread deletion can either be temporary or permanent, depending on the wishes of the forum moderator.
If an abusive contributor refuses to cease unacceptable behavior, the forum moderator usually has the discretion to ban the user. If the offender continues to post and eludes the ban, the moderator may opt to access the user's IP address. This enables the moderator to ban the address instead of banning the user by name or email address.