Nicolas Hanisch


The Magic Word is Moderation

Moderating comment columns and chats has been proven to have a positive effect on the climate of discussion on the web. Focusing exclusively on the troublemakers falls short of the possibilities. The starting points for moderation are many and varied.

Woman on Laptop

Moderating comment columns and chats has been proven to have a positive effect on the climate of discussion on the web.

What's going on in comment columns?

Many of us experience it every day in social media: There is a post and hate and agitation seem to have gained the upper hand in the comment columns. The range of unobjective comments is wide: insults, exclusion, whataboutism, provocation, the spreading disinformation. Not only positive and encouraging, but even critical but factual comments go down. But sometimes things are different. There is factual debate with each other and there is real insight. The key to moving from comment sprawl to valuable discussion has a name: moderation! And the opposite is also true: most hate occurs where nothing more comes from the sender after the actual post.

The influence of moderation

Good moderation can change comment columns. It has one goal above all: a positive debate culture. Active moderation works and can prevent escalation - this is also the result of a study by the "Institute for Internet and Democracy" in Dusseldorf. Ichbinhier (engl: I am here), one of the 44 cooperation partners of our initiative #TAKEPART – No Hate Speech, is also committed to this. In addition to methods of active counter speech, they also teach moderators tips and tricks for making comment columns constructive again.

What makes for good moderation?

Active moderation sets the tone and reflects the communication culture of the group. But how can moderation successfully guide and accompany comment columns? How can a positive debate emerge from many comments?

1. Supporting Positivity

Too often, our focus is on defending and debunking hate comments. However, it is at least as important to value positive comments and encourage them through specific follow-up questions or responses. Constructive counter speech from other participants should also be positively reinforced, e.g. by a like or a supportive comment.

2. Commenting

Every community and every moderator has his or her own style. The CASI principle (Cognitive/Affective/Social-Integrative) has proven to be a good guideline. Depending on the specific course of the discussion, the right discussion atmosphere can be created either by imparting knowledge, empathy or by strengthening cohesion among the users. In all cases, cynicism or irony on the part of the moderator has an escalating effect. This should be avoided in all cases.

3. Warnings: Setting Limits, Pointing out Netiquette

Is the discussion getting out of hand or are individuals repeatedly conspicuous for their lack of objectivity? Then it is the task of the moderator to point this out. Often it is enough to make clear that the discussion is going in the wrong direction and to refer to the existing rules.

4. Deleting, Reporting to Platform Providers or to the Police

If internal rules or even laws are exceeded, it is important to initiate consequences. On almost all platforms, there are functions to report comments. According to the German Network Enforcement Act, social media platforms are obliged to check them and delete them if necessary. However, there is also the option of reporting comments to the police – for example when insulting people or inciting violence. This can be done at any police station or via platforms such as

It is clear that good moderation is a task in itself. It is therefore important to schedule the task of moderation from the beginning. But it is worth it. Because the community, too, orients itself to the rules that are set forth and becomes a fellow campaigner for a factual culture of online debate. 

And yet there is one obstacle: we, ourselves! While it is clear in face-to-face discussions and meetings that people do not simply leave after the opening statement, this is rather normal in the digital world. And convenient.

#TAKEPART in fighting for a network without hate

No Hate Speech

Words must not become a weapon. Deutsche Telekom is fighting for a network without hate in which we treat one another respectfully.