Approaches to Managing Deviant Behavior in Virtual Communities

It is an unfortunate fact of life that where there are multiuser computer systems, there will be antisocial behavior. On bulletin board systems (BBS S), there are those who persist in being obscene, harassing, and libelous. In virtual worlds such as MUDS, there are problems of theft, vandalism, and virtual rape. Behavior is "deviant" if it is not in accordance with community standards. How are such standards developed? Should standards be established by system administrators and accepted as a condition of participation, or should they be developed by community members? Once a particular person's behavior is deemed unacceptable, what steps should be taken? Should such steps be taken by individuals, such as "filters" or "kill" files on BBSS, and "gagging" or "ignoring" on MUDS? Or should the administrators take action, banning an individual from the system or censoring their postings? What is the appropriate balance between centralized and decentralized solutions? (Figure 1). Gags and filters are computational solutions to deviant behavior. Are there appropriate social solutions? How effective are approaches like feedback from peers, community forums, and heart-to-heart chats with sympathetic system administrators? Are different approaches effective with communities of different sizes? What is the appropriate balance between social and technological solutions?

Authors and Panelists

Amy Bruckman , Pavel Curtis , Cliff Figallo , Brenda Laurel


Bruckman, Amy (1994). "Approaches to Managing Deviant Behavior in Virtual Communities." In Proceedings of CHI 1994 (Boston, MA, April 24-April 27, 1994). New York: Association for Computing Machinery, 1994.


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