Local Moderator Decisions

Local policies

Everything on Freecycle.org must be free, legal, and appropriate for all ages. Click here for a refresher on what is not allowed on Freecycle. Beyond these basics, moderators may set local policies on whether to allow certain types of posts. Mods may also decide whether or not to approve members, have new members on moderation, and use certain hotwords to trigger post moderation.

  • Pets. Pets can be very controversial. If you decide that your group should allow pet posts, we have a list of tips for you.
  • Coupons, tickets, frequent flyer miles, game pieces, postage. These items can clutter the board and don't really help accomplish our goal of keeping items out of the landfill.
  • Cribs and infant car seats. Because of safety and liability concerns, some moderators (especially in the U.S.) prefer not to allow posts for these items. Other moderators allow these items after editing the post to include a statement advising members to check the latest consumer safety data before using these products. After all, a drop-side crib may be too dangerous to use for an infant, but it could be cleverly repurposed into something useful.
  • Landfill test. While the stated mission of Freecycle.org is to reduce waste and ease the burden our our landfills, there is no requirement that every post keep meet a landfill test. 
  • Services. There is no rule against posts offering services, as long as there are no strings attached. Many moderators choose not to allow these posts; however offers of help can be quite useful in times of emergency.

As a general rule, the more freedom we can give the members the better. As a moderator your job is to make sure things are free, legal, and appropriate to all ages.

Restricting wanted posts

Moderators may not forbid Wanted posts or require members to post an offer post before a wanted post. However, moderators may limit the number of Wanted posts by a member each week.

Approving new members versus open membership

One of the decisions you will have to make as a moderator is whether you will approve new members for your group or allow everyone who applies to join the group. 

If you decide to go with the approval method, it's enough to ask for cross streets, postal codes, or area of town. Do NOT ask for personal information such as full names, addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, etc. It is an invasion of our members' privacy and is not needed to keep a local Town group running smoothly. We also don't ask for this information as it exposes local volunteers and the organization overall to the risk of having and maintaining such information. If we don't have such info, we don't risk it being accessed and something happening (robbery, stalking, you name it). Sharing such personal information also makes potential members uneasy. 

Pros of open membership

  • Does not slow the joining process.
  • Much less work for the mods.

Pros of approving new members

  • Allows checking that an appropriate ID/Email address is used, keeping in mind that appropriate is a subjective term.

New member moderation -- pros & cons

As regards moderation, we ascribe to the motto of "Less is more." That is to say, always try to do the least amount of moderating, be it of new members or posts. You'll find there are good mechanisms in place for members to report spam to you directly, local and global hotword lists, and there is a central Spam Control team. As a result, we have very few issues with spam. On the other hand, we do have a problem when groups are 50% moderated and members leave because they can't get their posts approved in a timely manner (which for most people, honestly, means right away).

Pros of not having new members on moderation:

  • Hotwords will flag most inappropriate posts and they will get caught in pending post queue.
  • Less work for the mods.
  • Does not hold up posts that are appropriate.
  • Some members never post and stay on moderation indefinitely.

Pros of modding new members:

  • Reduces risk of that a spammer will post before Spam Control can remove them
  • Ensures that all new members' posts meet local group guidelines

Be aware that if you do have new members on moderation it won't be long before your moderation percentage creeps up to unacceptable levels. To avoid this, it is necessary to either manually unmoderate all new members each month, which is a very slow process, or be prepared to do a full group unmod periodically. 


‘Hotwords’ is a mod tool that filters only problem posts from unmoderated members with certain specified words in the title, location and body of the post into pending. By using an effective hotword list you do not need to rely on moderation which filters all posts (good and bad) into pending. The advantage of hotword over moderation then is that hotwords reduces the number of posts requiring approval thereby improving our members’ experience and reducing the amount of time/effort we spend moderating.

Click here to find out how to manage hotwords lists

You can also add/remove words as you go along and as problems arise. This way over time your hotword list will become specific to your group.

What are hotwords and how can I use them?

  1. What does the Hotwords tool/list do? It enables you as the local moderator to add terms to a hotwords list which causes any post with that word to automatically default to being moderated/approved by you regardless of whether the member is set to be moderated.
  2. What kind of words should I add to the list? Spam, primarily with recurring terms such as "iPhone." But it's also handy for local groups with special local pet/animal rules to have all posts with "cat" or "dog" or "breeding" be automatically set for moderator approval. Terms like "drugs", or "money" might also be handy hotwords.
  3. Why don't you do this centrally instead? We do happen to have a central hotword list which is carefully monitored and updated. We can't share these words with you as it would clue in the bad guys/spammers though. The local lists just give you each a way to add your own terms locally too. Terms that appear in greater number in local groups will also send up international red flags for the central list too, of course. This is a general list of hotwords many on My.Freecycle are utilizing. Pick and choose those which are important to you!

Tags: #fcmodman

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