Moderation of Disputes Between Parties

A recent question was asked regarding a moderation policy on a user-generated-content site, where two people are in dispute regarding an event. Specifically, the site was devoted to reviewing service providers, and there is a possibility that customers who were dissatisfied with the service they recieved could use the site as a means to, unfactually, lash out at the provider.

A provider had contacted the site requesting a particular review be removed, since it alleged facts which were not actually true. The owners of the site, meanwhile, were trying to keep the site unbiased by leaving all reviews on the site. However, if content provided by users was not accurate to the facts, there was a risk that the provider could claim defamation.

The policy I suggested was that the site avoid the issue by allowing all providers to make a rebuttal comment to any review about themselves, thereby giving them a voice that would be directly attached to a review. Additionally, by doing this, the site removes from itself the responsibility of investigating the truth, something which as the site grows, the owners will be hard-pressed to find time to keep up with. Last, most of what is at stake in such a situation is really a gray area, with the two sides disagreeing about an event, and without having been a party to those events, it would be impossible to know what the reality actually was.

The lesson from here, though, can be carried to anytime mediation or moderation is required between two parties. As the owner of a business, there are times when customers and staff will disagree, when two staff members disagree. If the owner is forced to step in to resolve the differences, they should bear in mind that it is nearly impossible to determine the truth.

As such, the moderation should not aim toward assigning guilt to one party, or restitution toward the other, though this may be part of the outcome. Rather, aim toward moving forward, giving voice to the two sides to that they feel they have been listened to, and that their concerns regarding the future have been addressed.