PART 2: Community Guidelines Clarification: non-mods pointing out Guideline violations

[Temporarily suspended]

Howdy folks! Yesterday I made the post Community Guidelines Clarification: non-mods pointing out Guideline violations.

Today, Staff updated the Help page entry: How do I report abuse.

That page no longer includes the following recommendation:

  1. The first recommended thing to do is to let the person know they are violating the guidelines. You can post the link on their activity stream and ask them politely to follow the rules.

That section has been removed for the following reasons:
Most people ended up escalating situations, violating the guidelines themselves while telling others they were violating the guidelines, and/or they misinterpreted the guidelines and spread misinformation to each other. Additionally, there was the risk that the people contacted would then target them for harassment. (Just to put this out there: If you target someone for harassment, you risk getting banned.)

Still relevant to the Community Guidelines:
Staff's current interpretation of harassment includes public call-outs. What is a public call-out in the context of Duolingo? A public call-out is when someone uses the forums to accuse someone of violating the Guidelines. (Exceptions are made for moderators who cannot contact a person via their activity stream and have exhausted alternative options outside of asking staff to ban the person.) However You can still contact a moderator's stream. In the Duo universe, doing so is not considered a public-call out.

I've gotten some questions outside of this discussion, so I'll address those: If you are politely helping someone navigate the website and it does not have to do with the Community Guidelines or Terms of Service, such as where to post something, that is fine to post in the discussion forums.

Also, yes, posting spam is a violation of the Guidelines and is subject to the same constraints about public call-outs outlined above.) In other words, don't post into people's discussion, "This is spam!"

Don't contact a moderator about spam unless:
- The person is rapid spamming (creating many spam posts in a short span of time to cause disruption.
Or, if the spam:
- Hatefully targets another user, or group of people (ie the post is racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic etc.).
- Encourages or announces violence against oneself or others. Contains pornography.

If something from the list above comes up and you cannot locate a moderator, contact

Be sure to include:
- A short description of the situation, the full link to the user's profile
- a screenshot of the concerning behavior
- and links to that behavior if possible.

In the subject of the email, please name the concerning behavior.
- For instance "Rapid spam", "Threats of violence", "Pornography", etc.
- IMPORTANT if you believe the person has posted pictures of child abuse, DO NOT screenshot it. You'll still need to upload a file to send the form. In this case, just attach something else and note it in the email.

Thanks for reading! If you feel it is necessary to share this post with someone, please copy the link and politely post it to their activity feed.

For easy reference, this post will be archived in the discussion titled Duolingo Wiki & FAQ (unofficial, but still amazing). That post is currently located at the top of the Popular tab for the English discussion forum.

February 27, 2017



Thank you


February 27, 2017

Hi, I don't see how we can now contact the mods. There is no activity stream. What do we do now?

August 15, 2018

Excuse me, Usagi, but sometimes it's not possible to get a mod's attention, especially about spam, which is generally viewed as annoying but unimportant. Assuming that you used noninflammatory language, couldn't you ask someone to stop spamming/swearing/etc before getting a mod? (By the way, I am aware this post was mainly about Activity, but a lot of similar stuff happens in discussion posts, especially the Sentence ones. People will post a bunch of comments that say nothing but swear words, which interferes with those of us looking for advice.) Edit: Oh. Wait. Just remembered there's no way to contact mods directly anyway. This is what happens when I'm mostly inactive for too long and/or don't come here through your Duo Wiki post. Excuse me while I facepalm and go, "Duhhhhhhhhh."

November 16, 2017

There has been a temporary suspension since there is no way to directly contact moderators. However, people are expected to be exceedingly polite. If a person is just being a straight up troll, don't talk to them. It will feed the problem. If someone is just new or uninformed, you can very gently offer them guidance. But, Duolingo still has moderators. So, please don't go on a self-deputized spree of telling people what to do. That designation doesn't exist for important reasons. Moderators have to take a lot of factors into account that most people haven't thought of and/or aren't aware of. :)

November 16, 2017

I've found a lot of posts about porn that didn't got mod attention until now. What to do? They removed the "flag" for the lessons discussions. I don't know if I'll be able to see when you'll reply, because no notif now :(

But they removed the downvote limit, that's a very good thing, the only good news.

November 26, 2017


Thanks for reaching out about that. Things aren't ideal right now with regard to not being able to contact moderators directly.

So, for now I recommend alerting staff directly using this form: In the drop down menu, select "Abuse". The form asks you to submit an image attachment. For mod reports, such attachments are mandatory. If that's the case for this form too, please do not feel like you need to save a picture of the inappropriate images in order to provide an attachment. You can attach a picture of something completely unrelated, like a puppy or flower etc. However, please be sure to submit a link to the discussion where the inappropriate material has been posted, as well as a link to the userprofile who posted that material. Also, give staff a small summary of what the abuse is. You don't have to go into graphic detail with something like this. Just say "porn" or even "inappropriate images" .

November 26, 2017

Sorry for bothering you, probably won't happen again (this month) [day] {hour}.

November 16, 2017

And usually I don't go around being super bossy on Duolingo, though I do attempt to offer guidance to new users and the like. Also, if someone was spamming a discussion thread of mine, could I ask them politely to leave me alone?

November 16, 2017

If they appear to be doing so to make a mess, asking them to stop will probably encourage them. It's best to ignore them and drop a down vote. If they appear to be doing it because they don't know better or don't realize it, a kind word to point it out might help. But, if they escalate the situation after you first contact them, don't contact them again.

November 20, 2017

Already my standard operation most of the time, so okay. :)

November 20, 2017

If Duolingo were serious about combatting spam they would add a "report abuse" button to posts. The way the forums here are designed, reporting abuse is a futile exercise.

I'm also sure life as a mod would be more pleasant if it were a matter of reviewing automatically banned posts and users to undo false positives.

February 27, 2017

I believe people would abuse the "report abuse" button, as they currently abuse the down vote button staff put into place to allow the community to hide spam and abusive posts. (If a post receives 5 downvotes, the post is hidden from view.) But, people who aim to harass others and disrupt the workings of Duolingo are abusing the voting system. The difference with having a button that reports the abuse to staff would be a person on the receiving end, looking through a lot of reports. Duolingo would be bleeding cash, unless a volunteer could stand to look through 1-10+ copies of a report of a single discussion, which may have just one person with multiple accounts sending it in to harass us or Duolingo.

As for the efforts of people reporting abusive posts to moderators, we clear plenty of posts every day. The worst of it is not generally noted, or noted for long, in moderators' Activity streams.

Edit: It would be nice to be able to undo false positive for discussion voting.

February 27, 2017

I believe people would abuse the "report abuse" button

Of course they would. So the system looks at the voter's history (how long have they been a user, how much do they flag, how often do mods undo their flags) and weights appropriately. Mods go through the queue and undo abusive flags.

Or you could stick with the current "send us an email" system, which anyone who visits the site can see allows trash (bullying, bigotry, pornography) to sit around for hours while you guys sort it all out manually.

I also notice that the current system often involves back and forth between mods and abusive users, and multiple chances for trolls who don't deserve them. If the community cast the votes, and the mods just reviewed flags, it would be much more efficient.

February 27, 2017

I hope this reply doesn't bump this thread, but a very common solution to abuse of the abuse button is to auto-limit the number of times a single comment or post can be reported in a certain period of time. Say, twice in a week. If a post or comment has been cleaned up by the end of the week, it won't be reported again after those two reports, and if it doesn't violate the guidelines, then you'll know who your trolls/harassers are.

To add to that, if all reports are required to come from logged in individuals, you can set a limit of, say, 3 or 5 reports in a month that result in a decision that the post was not a violation. Users who go over that limit can be auto-banned from the forums or have their reporting and/or downvoting abilities removed, either for a certain period or permanently.

A solution for downvotes could simply be a limit to the number of downvotes a non-moderator has available during a certain period. Or the site could require a comment as to the reason for downvoting when clicking the button, with a list of the standard reasons available to check off. (That educates new users on what the downvote button is actually for and prevents them from copying the trolls.) There are many possible options.

Basically, I'm saying that these problems have been faced by thousands of forums and sites before. The best solutions have always been technical, based on how you want to shape the behavior of the group.

March 27, 2017

Yes, the problem is not that there are no solutions. It is that Duolingo is currently not implementing them for whatever reasons. Whatever they are, they are likely joined by budget concerns.

A big problem about introducing some of your suggestions is that they assume Duolingo would be using technology to moderate a collection of individual people using a single account to harass people and abuse the resources here. It isn't a person using a single account. It is that often, a person making multiple accounts, sometimes 30+ accounts. Moderators eagerly await the day when Luis might change his mind about email verification and implement it.

March 27, 2017

Indeed, email verification is an excellent first step. It won't prevent everything, but it slows trolls down. I completely agree that would need to happen to make any other tools useful.

Budget concerns are always a problem, definitely. But volunteer moderator time/energy/goodwill is also a finite resource and much more difficult to renew once it begins to fade. Many sites have hit that crisis point and not recovered. That would be sad to see here, as it seems that the community aspect keeps many users more engaged than they might otherwise be.

I hope a more comprehensive abuse management system is developed, for the sake of the moderators, the users, and the site's small team. Good luck to you!

March 28, 2017

I just want to say, I really appreciate that you recognize those things. So, thank you. :)

March 28, 2017

You would think, wouldn't you. Unfortunately this doesn't work because people can legitimately have different ideas about what should be removed and even when you might think it very clear cut, different moderators work to completely different rules on this and what one would remove instantly another will allow to stand. Which I suppose is partly about the differing language levels and cultural awareness of various moderators - I once reported something extremely problematic twice and moderators completely ignored it before I pointed it out to Admin and got a horrified apologetic note back.

March 31, 2017

Thank you for the update.

February 27, 2017

Thank u

November 23, 2017
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