Set Rules to Prevent Community Bulletin Board Problems
Even in the age of Facebook and other social media, many sites still feature bulletin boards in their lobbies or common areas. Since not every resident will be tech savvy or want to go online to check the latest site news, a bulletin board can be an effective way for a site to inform households about upcoming events and renovations, and other noteworthy information. A bulletin board can also be a good way for residents to share information or ask for help.
But letting households post on bulletin boards can cause problems, especially if the material a household chooses to post is objectionable to other households. Conflicts can also arise if households start policing posts and remove other households' postings to put up their own.
To help you, we've put together tips and offer Model Rules: Set Rules Governing Use of Community Bulletin Board that you can adapt and give to your households if your site has a bulletin board.
Ban Three Types of Material
There are three types of material that are sure to create problems when posted on your site’s bulletin board. Ban these items:
Material that may violate fair housing law. Ban all material that may be perceived as discriminating against people based on their religion, nationality, mental or physical disability, race, color, sex, or family status. If you don’t, you could face a fair housing complaint. You’ll have to use your discretion with this rule. While a flier advertising a church tag sale is probably okay to post because it won’t offend anyone, an invitation to convert to the teachings of a certain religious leader isn’t okay because it probably will [Rules, #1].
Postings related to illegal or illegitimate activity. Ban any postings related to illegal or illegitimate activity—such as solicitations for an escort service, or sales of illegal weapons or other contraband—or any other postings that the manager concludes are for illegal or illegitimate purposes. If a resident uses the board for an illegal purpose and is arrested, the site may be perceived as sponsoring the illegal activity by allowing her to advertise on its board [Rules, #2].
Profane material. Your site is a place for families. The last thing you need is a resident complaining that you allowed something profane to be posted on the community bulletin board. So ban any material containing profane language or pornographic images. Also, give the manager the right to determine what’s acceptable and what’s not. In making these determinations, the manager should always err on the side of caution. What’s art to one person may be offensive to another. But if something seems questionable, it shouldn’t be allowed [Rules, #3].
Consider requiring postings to be approved by the manager. To ensure that nothing objectionable is posted on the bulletin board, require residents to bring the item they want to post to the management office, so that it can be reviewed. It’s also a good idea to put the site’s stamp of approval on all permitted postings. In your rule, say that only items with the site’s stamp of approval can be posted. Also, say that the manager has the right to remove any unapproved postings from the bulletin board [Rules, #4].
Limit Posting Time
A time limit serves several purposes. It controls the clutter that can amass if postings are left up indefinitely, and it prevents residents from complaining that there’s no room for their postings because others have kept theirs up for too long.
A good rule of thumb is to allow a posting to hang for 30 days. To keep track of how long postings have been up, make sure the site’s stamp of approval has the date the posting was approved. That way, when you check the board, you’ll know which postings have expired [Rules, #5].
You should also specify who may put up and remove postings. You can eliminate a lot of problems by putting yourself in charge of posting. Say in the rules that residents who are caught putting up or removing postings will be banned from posting material on the community bulletin board in the future [Rules, #6].
Restrict Size of Postings
To save room on the bulletin board, restrict the size of any posting. That will give as many residents as possible the opportunity to post a message on the bulletin board. Some sites restrict postings to the size of a 3x5 index card. But, depending on the size of your bulletin board, you might want to set a larger size limit—say, 8x11—to allow fliers to be posted [Rules, #7].
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