June 3, 2022

Facilitating Positive Environments


The core foundation of a server on Discord is the community that populates it. Your community is what you engage with, protect, and grow over time. Engagement is important to focus on, but it’s just as important to make sure you are facilitating positive and welcoming engagement.

Why Positive Environments are Important

Positive engagement can mean a lot of things, but in this article, we will be referring to the way in which moderation can affect the culture of the server you are moderating. As moderators your policies, knowledge of your community, and deductive skills influence the way in which your community engages with each other and with your team.

When you establish and nurture your community, you are growing a collective group of people who all enjoy at least some of the same things. Regardless of your server topic, you are undoubtedly going to have members across different a variety of ethnicities, sexual orientations, and identities from across the world. Ensuring that your space on Discord is a space for them to belong necessitates making it safe for them to feel like they can be themselves, wholly, and without reservation. Your members are all humans, all community members, all people that deserve respect and deserve to be welcomed.

Establishing Community Boundaries in Moderation

When you are establishing your community, it’s important to have a basic understanding of what kind of environment you would like your server to be. It’s good to break down the general moderation philosophy on what content and discussion you’d like your community to engage in and what content would be inappropriate given the space. Depending on the topic of your server these goals may be different, but some common questions you can ask to establish general boundaries are:

  • What is the main topic of my server? When you’re thinking about the community and their impact on the growth of your server, it’s important to deduce what kind of server you want to build on a base conceptual level. If, for example, you are creating a politically-driven server, you might have different limits and expectations content and conversation wise for your community than a server based on Tetris or pets.
  • What topics do I expect users to engage in? Some servers will have the expectation that members will be allowed to discuss more sensitive or controversial and thought provoking topics, while others may feel as if these kinds of heavy debates are out of place. Video game servers tend to have a no-politics rule to avoid negative debates and personal attacks that are beyond the scope of the video game(s) in question. Servers centered around memes, irl, or social communities can be much more topical and have looser rules, while servers centered around mental health or marginalized communities can lean towards a stricter on-topic only community policy.
  • What would I like to foster in my community? While knowing what to avoid and moderate is very useful, having an idea of what kind of atmosphere you’d like the server to have goes far in setting the mood for the rest of the community at large. If users notice moderators are engaging in good-faith and positive conversations and condemning toxic or hateful discussion, it is more likely that your users will join in and participate in that positive conversation. If they see you and your mod team have taken the initiative to preserve the good atmosphere of the community, they are moved to put in the effort to reciprocate.

Moderating Hateful Content

When it comes to the content you allow or moderate in your server, it’s important to, again, reflect on what type of community you are. It’s also important that you act quickly and precisely on this type of harmful behavior. Some users will slowly push boundaries on what type of language they can ‘get away with’ before being moderated.

When discussing moderation, a popular theory that circulates is called the broken windows theory. This theory expresses that if there are signs of antisocial behavior, civil unrest and disorder, as well as visible signs of crimes in the area, that it encourages further anti-social behavior and crime. Similarly, if you create an environment in which toxic and hateful behavior is common, the cycle will perpetuate into further toxicity and hatefulness.

What is Bad-Faith Content vs. Good-Faith Content?

‘Bad-faith’ content is a term that describes behavior done intentionally to cause mischief, drama, or  toxicity to a community. They are also commonly referred to as bad actors, and are the type of people that should be swiftly dealt with and addressed directly.

‘Good-faith’ content is a term that describes user behavior with good intentions. When users are a positive foundation in your community, the members that join and interact with the established community will grow to adapt and speak in a way that continues the positive environment that has been fostered and established. It’s important to note that while ‘good-faith’ users are generally positive people, it is possible for them to state wrong or sometimes even harmful words. The importance of this distinction is that these users can be educated from their mistakes and adapt to the behavior you expect of them.

When users toe the line, they are not acting within good faith. As moderators, you should be directly involved enough to determine what is bad-faith content and remove it. On the other hand, education is important in the community sphere for long term growth. While you can focus on removing bad behavior from bad-faith users, reform in good-faith community members who are uneducated in harmful rhetoric should also be a primary goal when crafting your community. When interacting in your community, if you see harmful rhetoric or a harmful stereotype, step back and meaningfully think about the implications of leaving content up in channels that use this kind of language. Does it:

  • Enforce a negative stereotype?
  • Cause discomfort to users and the community at large?
  • Create a negative space for users to feel included in the community?

Ideas to Help Prioritize Inclusivity

  • Allowing users to have pronouns on their profile. Depending on your server, you may choose to have pronoun roles that members can directly pick from to display on their profile. This is a way to allow users to express their pronouns in a way that doesn’t isolate them. When creating a larger, more welcoming system for pronouns, it is much harder to decide who has pronouns because they are LGBTQ+, because they’re an ally, or just because it was part of setting up their roles. When servers have pronoun systems built into them, this can also allow for a community-wide acceptance of pronouns and respect for other users’ identities, and can deter transphobic rhetoric.
  • Discourage the use of harmful terms. It’s no secret that terms such as ‘retard’ and ‘trap’ are used in certain social circles commonly. As moderators, you can discourage the use of these words in your community’s lexicon.
  • Create strong bot filters. Automated moderation of slurs and other forms of hate speech is probably your strongest tool for minimizing the damage bad actors can create in your server. Add variating ways people commonly try to skip over the filter as well (for example, censoring a word with an added or subtracted letter that commonly is used as a slur).
  • A good document to follow for bot filter and auto moderation as a whole can be found here!
  • Educating your community. Building a community without toxicity takes a lot of time and energy. The core of all moderation efforts should be in educating your communities, rewarding good behavior, and making others aware of the content they are perpetuating.

A core way to handle all de-escalation stands in your approach. Users, when heated up during a frustrating or toxic discussion, are easy to set off or to accidentally escalate to more toxicity. The key is to type calmly, and to make sure with whatever manner you approach someone to de-escalate, you do it in a way that is understood to be for the benefit of everyone involved.


Creating a healthy community that leaves a lasting, positive impact in its members is difficult. Moderators have to be aware, educated, and always on the lookout for things they can improve on. By taking the initiative on this front, your community can grow into a positive, welcoming place for all people, regardless of their race, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Server Safety

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