Research:Online Community Conduct Policies/DeviantART
DeviantART is a website where users can submit and collate their artwork in a variety of media. Users can comment on, favorite, and download others’ work; can follow other users’ submissions; and can gather various works into their own collections, which can in turn be followed and featured on the site.
DeviantART's main conduct policy can be found here; however, their FAQ page also has a number of entries that rephrase and summarize conduct covered by the Etiquette Policy, sometimes in ways that strengthen the policy's looser wording.
The Etiquette Policy specifically mentions when and how it applies to users’ avatars, forum posts, group participation. As an art community, however, DeviantART is at pains to note that a submission being tasteless or personally offensive to a viewer is not a reason for administrative action against the user or removal of the submission.
The Etiquette Policy emphasizes that while DeviantART does not impose “quality standards” on work or contributions, it does have a number of behavioral expectations of the users themselves. Rather than explicitly disallowing things, the policy groups behaviors in terms of either "prohibited" and "discouraged", though even prohibited behaviors are presented in the language of a request instead of an order: “We must insist that you refrain from[...]” racist, bigoted, or offensive to religions or philosophies; “we ask that you accept [moderation decisions] gracefully and with a mature attitude”.
Behavior considered "prohibited" in the Etiquette Policy includes racism, spamming, flooding, and failure to supply a model release form for photography work when requested; "discouraged" behaviors include personal arguments and other volatile conversations (these should be conducted via private message instead) and accusations against other users (these should be directed to staff, instead). DeviantART's separate Help Desk FAQ area is more explicit about some of these expectations: "You may not use comments, notes or replies to make statements which are racist, bigoted or which contain other forms of hate speech. Comments or notes which are lewd, sexual or otherwise pornographic are also prohibited". Impersonation of another is also a serious offense.
History of the policy
The oldest currently-accessible version of DeviantART's behavioral policy dates to 2003, though it is quite detailed and is therefore not likely to be the actual earliest version of their policy. Notably, this early version of policy was significantly more explicit about disallowing behaviors such as racism.
Every user has the ability to “block” other users from interacting with them and their content. Blocked users will not be notified of the blocking, but the FAQ entry on this topic specifically notes that they will be able to notice that they have been restricted as soon as they visit the user/content pages they are blocked from. Blocking is DeviantART's first line of recommended action for any users experiencing harassment or negative behavior from others.
In cases where individual blocking is not sufficient, users are told to report the situation to DeviantART's Help Desk, which is staffed by a paid 7-person Community Operations team (4 women, 3 men). The Help Desk uses a ticket system; users submit a request for administrative attention which is then reviewed by one or more staff members. Third-party reports of harassment, impersonation, or misbehavior are not considered; only Help Desk tickets filed by the harassed/involved party are considered actionable. Staff who respond to these tickets have at least three options open to them:
- No action, for cases that are deemed to be insufficiently severe (the Etiquette Policy notes that "staff will only directly intervene in cases which are considered severe; minor situations may be dealt with using tools made available to all registered members [i.e. blocks]") or otherwise non-actionable (false reports, misunderstandings, etc)
- A time-limited account ban ("suspension")
- Suspended users are notified of the reason for their suspension and given access to a private countdown timer that marks the end of their suspension
- Suspended users retain access to their site profile and preferences, but lose access to all public-facing areas of the website other than the Help Desk
- Users visiting the profile of a suspended user see a blank page containing a note that "This deviant has been suspended."
- An indefinite account ban
- Banned users are notified of the reason for their ban
- Banned users retain access to their site profile and preferences, but lose access to all public-facing areas of the website other than the Help Desk
- Users visiting the profile of a banned user see a blank page containing a note that "This account is inactive."
- Site management may, at their discretion, delete all content and artwork submitted by the banned user
Banned or suspended accounts are prohibited from creating or logging into other accounts to evade their restrictions. Accounts used in this evasive manner will themselves be suspended or banned.
Only the sanctioned user may appeal a ban or suspension on an account. To do so, the user must submit a "Ban Inquiry" Help Desk ticket, during which they may ask questions about their ban and state a case for why it should be overturned. Third-party appeals are not considered, and Help Desk staff generally will not discuss bans in public forums, though they reserve the right to do so when they deem it necessary (for example, to "return integrity to a situation").
Analysis of policy: strengths and weaknesses
- For example, circa-2003 the policy said "DeviantART does not tolerate remarks that are in any form of bigotry", as opposed to circa-2016's "We must insist that you refrain from comments which are racist, bigoted,[...]".