Analyzing 300+ Communities Reveals These 13 Vital Community Guidelines

Vital community rules

Imagine joining an exciting new online community full of potential. But when you begin engaging, it’s chaos – toxic behavior runs rampant, misinformation spreads unchecked, and you feel unsafe sharing your perspective.

Not an ideal experience, right? 

Thriving online communities avoid this by laying solid foundations – comprehensive guidelines shaping positive member interactions.

But with endless examples of community rules, how do you know which are essential?

We’ve done the legwork for you. After analyzing over 300 online communities extensively, we identified 13 vital rules for constructive discussions.

We’re not kidding! As people who LOVE community-building, we are passionate about giving information that helps communities run smoothly. So, it was only normal to collate an extensive list of community guidelines and distill them down to the best ones. 

We created an exhaustive bank of community guidelines—read on for the best advice on community rules. Check out here!

In this post, we’ll dive into real-world examples of each rule and what makes them indispensable. Use them as inspiration when crafting guidelines tailored to your community.

Why Community Rules Matter

The internet, with its veil of anonymity, can sometimes bring out the worst in people. Community rules act as the guiding principles, ensuring that interactions remain respectful, members feel safe, and the community’s ethos is upheld.

Clear rules form the backbone of every stellar online community. They:

  • Set the tone and shape a constructive environment
  • Ensure all members feel safe, valued, and respected
  • Outline unacceptable behaviors for moderators to address
  • Give the community a unique personality and ethos

Well-crafted guidelines aren’t restrictive – they empower communities to have thoughtful dialogue by establishing healthy norms.

With the right rules, you cultivate spaces where members lift each other up, not tear each other down.

Integrating verified members, like those from, further cements trust and accountability.

Best Examples Of Community Rules

community guidelines examples

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, certain universal principles can guide community builders and creators. Based on our analysis of over 300 community guidelines, here are 14 essential rules, complete with real-world examples, best practices, and things to consider:

1. Respect and Kindness

Why It’s Important: Every community is about people at its core. Every individual behind a screen has feelings, experiences, and stories. And every individual deserves respect. Promoting kindness ensures that interactions remain positive, even when members disagree. A thriving community recognizes this and promotes a culture of respect and kindness. It’s not just about avoiding conflict; it’s about fostering an environment where members uplift each other.

Best Practice: Encourage empathy. Remind members that behind every username is a real person with feelings and emotions. Celebrate diversity and individuality. 

Avoid: Name-calling, belittling, or any form of bullying.

Things to Consider: How will you handle disagreements? What mechanisms will you put in place to resolve conflicts?

Real-World Example: “I will be respectful and understand that everyone is different. Some members are new to this, so be kind to the newbies.” —MyFitnessPal Community

2. Safety and Well-being

Why It’s Important: A community’s strength is in its members, and their safety is paramount. In an age where cyberbullying and online harassment are prevalent, ensuring a safe space for members to interact is crucial. A community where members feel threatened or unsafe will quickly disintegrate.

Best Practice: Create clear reporting mechanisms for issues. Encourage members to look out for one another.

Avoid: Dismissing concerns or reports from members and ignoring signs of distress or potential harm.

Things to Consider: How will you handle reports of harassment or bullying? What steps will you take to support affected members?

Real-Life Examples: 

  • “This is NOT an emergency service – if you are in immediate danger, please call 000.” —Headspace Community
  • “These rules are for the safety and comfort of everyone. Breaking them is not tolerated and will result in your account being restricted for a number of days or completely removed”—Ravelry Community

3. Authenticity and Truthfulness

Why It’s Important: In an era of rampant misinformation, a community’s commitment to authenticity and truthfulness becomes its cornerstone. It’s about ensuring that members can trust the information they receive and feel confident in sharing their genuine experiences. Authenticity fosters deeper connections and discussions, making the community a reliable space.

Best Practice: Encourage members to provide sources for claims. Celebrate genuine experiences and stories. Build a feedback mechanism where members can flag authenticity concerns.

Avoid: Spreading unverified information and encouraging rumors or hearsay.

Things to Consider: How will you build trust? Will you have a fact-checking mechanism?

Real-World Example: 

  • “Our Community Guidelines ensure content on Inspire is authentic and useful.”—Inspire Community
  • “Mozilla staff are held accountable, in addition to these guidelines, to Mozilla’s staff agreements and guidelines, including the Mozilla Leadership Agreement.” Mozilla Community Participation Guidelines

This statement from Mozilla emphasizes that their staff, which includes community leaders and moderators, are held to an even higher standard than regular community members, ensuring that they act authentically and maintain the community’s trust.

4. Avoid Misinformation

Why It’s Important: Misinformation can have dire consequences and can lead to confusion, panic, and misguided actions. In an age where information spreads rapidly, ensuring that discussions are accurate and verified is essential for community wellbeing. You need to maintain trust and informed decision-making within the community.

Best Practice: Encourage members to provide sources for their claims. Promote a culture of fact-checking and critical thinking. Highlight and give recognition to subject matter experts in the community.

Avoid: Spreading unverified information or endorsing claims without proper evidence and sharing or promoting conspiracy theories.

Things to Consider: How will you verify members’ expertise in your community? How will you handle claims that are found to be false or misleading?

Real-World Example: 

  • “You can post your opinions and experiences as a traveler on the forums, but you should not include extraneous or irrelevant information. Threads containing off-topic conversations will be closed or removed.”—Fodor Travel Community
  • “Members shall not post or upload any information or other content on the Platform that (a) is false, inaccurate, or misleading;”—Patients Like Me Community

5. Privacy and Anonymity:

Why It’s Important: Personal data can be a gold mine for malicious actors in the digital age. Ensuring members’ privacy and allowing them the choice of anonymity protects them from potential harm and fosters trust.

Best Practice: Regularly update and communicate privacy policies. Allow members to control their visibility and data.

Avoid: Sharing personal data without consent. Pressuring members to reveal their identity.

Things to Consider: How will you handle data breaches? How can members control their data?

Real-word Example: 

  • “We do not tolerate privacy violations. No content that shares the location, address, phone number, or any other personal information or personally identifiable information of any other person or community member. No resharing of personal or intimate stories shared by a community member or Traveler that were shared in good faith or in confidence on trip. Please respect others, including Trova community members and local residents when capturing content on a trip. Consent is required from all parties before capturing or posting their image or personal information. Do not share content that contains the location, address, phone number, or any other personal information or personally identifiable information of any other person or community member. We do not tolerate overtly sexual or explicit content.”—Trova Travel Community
  • “NO personal contact information is permitted. This includes email addresses, phone numbers, etc. We value your privacy even if you don’t. If you want people to get in touch, ask them to send you a message through our messaging system.”—TravellersPoint Community

6. No Discrimination or Hate Speech

Why It’s Important: Every member has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Discrimination and hate speech can alienate members and create a hostile environment, hindering the growth and harmony of the community.

Best Practice: Celebrate diversity. Provide resources on cultural sensitivity and inclusivity.

Avoid: Allowing derogatory comments based on race, gender, religion, or any other personal attributes.

Things to Consider: How will you handle reports of discrimination? How will you support affected members?

Real-World Example: “This is a safe space. Bullying of any kind is not allowed, and degrading comments about things like race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, gender, or identity will not be tolerated and result in your IMMEDIATE REMOVAL from this group. Should you be abusive in any way, know that you will be banned from this group.”—The Wellness Universe Community Group

7. Constructive Criticism:

Why It’s Important: Feedback is essential for growth. However, it should be aimed at helping, not hurting. Constructive criticism ensures that feedback is beneficial and fosters growth.

Best Practice: Provide guidelines on giving and receiving feedback. Encourage positive reinforcement.

Avoid: Personal attacks or feedback that doesn’t offer a path to improvement.

Things to Consider: How will you handle negative or harmful feedback? How can members share their concerns constructively?

Real-World Example: “Working in a collaborative environment means disagreements may happen. But remember to criticize ideas, not people. Share thoughtful, constructive criticism and be courteous to those you interact with. If you’re unable to engage respectfully, consider taking a step back or using some of our moderation tools to deescalate a tense situation.”—Github Community

8. Avoid Controversial Topics:

Why It’s Important: While open discussion is encouraged, some topics can polarize members and lead to unproductive arguments. Setting boundaries ensures discussions remain constructive.

Best Practice: Clearly outline topics that are off-limits. Provide alternative platforms or channels for such discussions if necessary.

Avoid: Allowing prolonged debates on polarizing topics without moderation.

Things to Consider: How will you handle discussions that veer into controversial territories? Will you provide alternative platforms for such discussions?

Sign up for free today

    Real-Life Examples:

    • “No posts on the Message Boards that are political or religious in nature.”—SparkAmerica Community
    • “We do not allow political content that encourages harm to others or that supports, celebrates, or furthers the cause of violent actors and hate organizations. We may, in some places, allow pointed or harsh criticism of political figures, their policies, and governments (including satirical statements) as long as they do not otherwise violate this Code of Conduct.”—Stack Overflow Community

    9. Protection of Intellectual Property:

    Why It’s Important: Creative works deserve respect. Ensuring that intellectual property rights are upheld fosters a culture of respect for creators and their works.

    Best Practice: Educate members on copyright laws. Provide resources on fair use.

    Avoid: Sharing copyrighted materials without proper attribution or permission.

    Things to Consider: How will you handle reports of copyright infringement? Will you provide resources or platforms for sharing copyrighted materials?

    Real-world Example: “What’s shared in the group, stays in the group. This is an essential rule to ensure the privacy and safety of our members. Do not share, screenshot, or distribute posts, comments, or any content from this group outside of it without the explicit permission of the original poster.” — The Female Founder Space Community Guidelines

    10. No Promotions or Advertising:

    Why It’s Important: Communities are built on genuine interactions. Unsolicited promotions or advertisements can disrupt discussions and erode trust.

    Best Practice: Designate specific areas or threads for promotions. Clearly outline what constitutes spam.

    Avoid: Allowing blatant self-promotion without any value to the community.

    Things to Consider: How will you handle repeated offenders? Will you provide a platform for members to showcase their products or services?

    Real-World Example: 

    • “Posts that are primarily focused on promotions or advertising will be disabled. This often overlaps with spam mentioned above.”—Travel Fish Community
    • “Posts that simply promote your member profile and do not include meaningful travel content and posts containing “spam” (e.g., multiple posts containing the identical message), whether commercial or not, will also be removed. Posting advertisements, promotions or spam in the forums may result in the suspension of your account.”—Fodors Community

    11. Transparency and Honesty:

    Why It’s Important: Trust is the bedrock of any community. Being transparent and honest in communications ensures that trust is maintained.

    Best Practice: Regularly communicate with members about changes or updates. Be open to feedback.

    Avoid: Making significant changes without informing members. Ignoring or dismissing member concerns.

    Things to Consider: How will you keep members informed? How will you gather and act on feedback?

    Real-World Example: “Any time we make a change, we’ll do our best to let you know in advance. We’ll decide what methods to use to let you know at our discretion, but these could include an in-app notification, a post on our blog, an email, a ping in chat, or some other mechanism. The point is, we’ll do our best to make sure you know about changes that affect you.”—Stack Overflow Community

    12. Avoid Harmful Content:

    Why It’s Important: The internet can be a source of harmful content. Ensuring that such content is swiftly addressed protects members and maintains the community’s integrity.

    Best Practice: Implement filters or algorithms to detect harmful content. Encourage members to report such content.

    Avoid: Dismissing reports of harmful content. Allowing content that glorifies harm or violence.

    Things to Consider: How will you handle reports of harmful content? Will you provide resources or support for affected members?

    Real-World Example: 

    • “Your Daily Vegan does not allow comments with the primary purpose of promoting or inciting harm towards others or the promotion of discriminatory, hateful, harassing, or antagonizing content. To this end, we may refuse to publish your comment if you submit content that we determine, in our sole discretion, contains either of the following:
      • A Threat of Physical Harm. This includes any statement, photograph, advertisement, or any content that could, in our sole judgment, reasonably be perceived to threaten, advocate, or incite physical harm to or violence against others (human or non-human).
      • Hateful Content. This includes any statement, image, photograph, advertisement, or other content that in our sole judgment could be perceived to harm, threaten, or promote the intimidation, abuse, or discrimination against others (human or non-human) for any reason.” —Your Daily Vegan Community Guidelines

    13. Cooperation with Moderators:

    Why It’s Important: Moderators are the community’s guardians. Ensuring a cooperative relationship between members and moderators ensures smooth operations. Just a gentle reminder and stating the need to cooperate is enough.

    Best Practice: Regularly train and support moderators. Encourage open communication between members and moderators.

    Avoid: Dismissing member concerns about moderators. Allowing moderators unchecked power.

    Things to Consider: How will you handle disputes between members and moderators? How will you support and train your moderators?

    Real-World Example: “I will appreciate our volunteer moderators who help keep this community safe.”—MyFitnessPal Community

    How to Create Effective Community Rules: A Step-by-Step Guide

    Ensuring a safe, welcoming environment for members as online communities continue growing becomes increasingly crucial.

    But where do you start in drafting guidelines that stick?

    Let’s walk through a simple 5-step process to craft community rules that foster constructive conversations. The process is derived from the above mentioned examples and themes after analyzing the rules of over 300 online communities.

    Step 1: Define Your Purpose 

    Before writing specific rules, clarify your community’s overall purpose.

    • What brings your members together?
    • What values do you want to be reflected in conversations?
    • What atmosphere do you want members to experience?

    Outlining this vision focuses your rules on upholding your ideal community culture.

    For example, if your purpose is facilitating respectful idea exchange, you’d craft rules to promote inclusive and thoughtful discussion.

    Step 2: Establish Clear Rules

    With your purpose clarified, start drafting rules addressing expected and unacceptable behaviors.

    Ensure you cover:

    • Respectful conduct – How members should engage with each other.
    • Prohibited content – Offensive language, discrimination, illegal activities.
    • Privacy and safety – Guidelines around sharing personal information.
    • Self-promotion – Rules around advertising channels or products.
    • Intellectual property – Guidelines for copyrighted or proprietary content.
    • Community values – Special rules upholding values like fact-checking or inclusivity.

    Aim for simple, actionable language. If helpful, give specific examples of violations like harassment.

    Step 3: Make Rules Accessible

    Members can’t follow what they can’t easily reference. Make your guidelines highly visible.

    Present rules clearly on your:

    • Registration flows so new members acknowledge the rules upfront.
    • Website and community landing pages so existing members can review them.
    • About section, community description, and discussion forums for easy access during conversations.

    Well-organized rules with headers for each section also help accessibility.

    Step 4: Outline Clear Violation Consequences

    For rules to have teeth, repercussions for violations should be defined.

    Consider potential consequences like:

    • Warning members their behavior violates guidelines
    • Temporary suspension from community interactions
    • Permanent ban for repeated or serious offenses

    Categorize infractions by severity so minor versus egregious violations have appropriate responses.

    Be transparent so members understand the repercussions for flouting the guidelines.

    Step 5: Moderate Consistently

    The actual test of rules is consistent enforcement. Dedicate moderators to uphold guidelines.

    Best practices for moderators include:

    • Establish standardized responses for common violations to ensure consistency.
    • Undergo bias training to moderate objectively.
    • Review context before banning members to make informed decisions.
    • Provide warnings and explain consequences before bans when possible.
    • Document violations and remedies taken for records.

    Without enforcement, rules become meaningless. Invest in thoughtful moderation.

    Bonus: Continuously Improve Rules

    Like any good software, refine your guidelines through feedback.

    • Survey members and moderators for suggested improvements.
    • Review member complaints around enforcement.
    • Analyze violations data to identify rule gaps.
    • Assess whether rules align with your community’s evolution.

    By regularly revisiting your guidelines, you ensure they remain relevant and effective.

    Conclusion: Bring Your Rules to Life

    At their core, every community is about people connecting around shared interests and values. Community rules act as the common code bringing order to these connections.

    With the right guidelines in place, you transform what could be a chaotic free-for-all into a symphony – many voices harmonizing, listening, and being heard. Rules provide the sheet music guiding members into a constructive concert rather than disruptive discord.

    This article aimed to provide a framework for crafting that sheet music tailored to your community’s needs. We distilled 13 vital themes that form the basis of effective rules by studying over 300 real-world online community examples. We walked through bringing rules to life with transparency, accessibility, enforcement, and continuous improvement.

    While copying another community’s policies won’t suffice, you now have a blueprint to guide drafting rules resonating with your unique community culture. Customize using the examples and templates provided as creative inspiration.

    Ready to implement the blueprint and watch your community thrive? We’re here to help!

    Community examples provides intuitive tools to moderate and manage your online communities. Our verified members foster genuine, constructive discussions. And our weekly analysis reports help you identify the gaps and enforce rules consistently.

    Let’s connect to explore how can help you bring your community rules to life—join for free today!

    You might also like

    The 10 Largest and Most Impactful Onli...
    04 Jan 2024
    10 min read
    Read More
    10 Modern Types of Online Communities ...
    26 Dec 2023
    8 min read
    Read More
    Why Building Community Pays More than ...
    22 Dec 2023
    9 min read
    Read More

    Join our Newsletter Community

    Created by community managers, for community managers.