Discussion on changes needed for Forums to adhere to the Digital Services Act (DSA)

Following my previous findings/messages in Make SlackSlack Slack is a Collaborative Group Chat Platform https://slack.com/. The WordPress community has its own Slack Channel at https://make.wordpress.org/chat/. – here are some changes we may need to make to the forums in order to adhere to the Digital Services Act (DSA) and make life easier for the Incident Report Team (IRT):

Notifying users when content is archived

One thing we will need to start doing is notifying forum users when we archive their content. It is a requirement (on legal advice) that this notification be clear about why the content is being archived (ie. the guideline that is being broken). There’s two ways I can see that we could address this:

Existing method:

Currently we will often reply to the user within the thread – explaining the reason why their comment/thread is being archived. When we mention the user they should be notified of that reply (challenges with email delivery notwithstanding).

If we were to have a system/process in place which made sure all mods include a clear explanation in their reply for why the thread/message was archived – then this would likely fulfil our responsibility.

Adding a ‘Reason’ dropdown/field to the ‘Archive’ button

If it were possible to add functionality to the ‘Archive’ button then we could:

  • Have the option to select the ‘reason’ from a dropdown list and/or
  • Have a text field prompt to write the reason
  • Send an email to the user with notification of the message being archived, and the reason.

Something like this leaves less margin for error, but does require development work by the MetaMeta Meta is a term that refers to the inside workings of a group. For us, this is the team that works on internal WordPress sites like WordCamp Central and Make WordPress. team.

Notifying users when they are blocked

There is also a requirement that when a user is blocked they are notified of this, including the reason for being blocked. We currently would add a user note with the reason, but this isn’t necessarily sent to the user as a notification.

It would be worth investigating if we can either:

  • Automatically send a notification to the user when they are blocked, and include the most recent user note as a reason, or:
  • Have a form for when we blockBlock Block is the abstract term used to describe units of markup that, composed together, form the content or layout of a webpage using the WordPress editor. The idea combines concepts of what in the past may have achieved with shortcodes, custom HTML, and embed discovery into a single consistent API and user experience. a user which includes a dropdown (for common reasons) and/or a freeform field to add a reason – and when that is submitted the user is notified and the details are added to the user notes.

Either of these cases would require development work from Meta.

A note on Spam

It is important to note that these new regulations do not apply to spam. We will not need to notify in anyway for spam messages that are archived/deleted, or spammers that are blocked.

Improved User Notes

These requirements also make it a great time to discuss our use of User Notes more generally.

Looking towards the future it is important that any user notes we add are clear and understandable to other Mods (both now and into the future when we may not be around to clarify) and also to the Incident Response Team (IRT) if they are required to check user notes for any investigations.

My recommendation would be that we work to ensure our User Notes are clear, free from jargon and personal commentary, and verbose about the action being taken and why.

I don’t wish to place undue burden on the mods to have to reply in a specific format or anything like this – but there is value in remembering that any User Note you add will need to be useful to others in the future (sometimes in the long future) and writing with the appropriate level of clarity and objectivity.

Next Steps

I’m interested in discussion about these issues and how we can ensure we fulfil our legal responsibilities in a way that both minimizes work for Mods, but also provides a user-friendly experience to those in the forums who are effected by our actions.

I’ll leave this post open for 2 weeks for discussion and then summarise the results, along with next steps to implement any changes, following that period.