Maintaining a Safe Network for Members
Keeping Unwanted Members Out
You want to keep your social network fun, safe, and on topic, and to do so, you need to let the right members in, and keep the foul members out. A great way to ensure that only legitimate and desired members join is to take advantage of the following:
- Sign-up quiz and CAPTCHA: Adding a quiz to the sign-up process for your Ning Network makes it difficult for spammers to join since they will need to take the time to research the answer. Alternatively, you may only want members who know a specific code or phrase that you’ve shared with them (via a separate email subpscription, for example) to be able to sign up.
- Email verification: You can enable email verification on your Ning Network for all new members to help ensure that only those with legitimate email addresses make it through.
- Member moderation: With member moderation turned on, you’ll be notified when new members wish to join your social network, and you get to approve their membership before they can sign in and do any sort of activity.
- Network Administrators: By promoting trusted members to Administrators, you can get help from others. By appointing members to Admins, you’re giving them many of the privileges you have, with a few important exceptions. They cannot update network information, take your social network online or offline, update or remove your pricing plan, or access Analytics and Advanced Options. You can also provide members with administrative tools to help manage your Ning Network, without giving them full access to all administrative features by creating specific roles.
- Network privacy options: By making a social network private and invite only, you can start with the right members and keep that going. This works especially nicely if member moderation is on, since only those that are invited can apply to join, and only those you approve are accepted as members.
Handling Abusive Members
You work hard to keep your social network fun, safe and on topic. However, if a member starts to stir up trouble, rest easy knowing that you have options:
- Suspension: If a member needs to be removed ASAP, suspend them and make a note of why you did. You can choose whether or not to delete their content. If you don’t delete their content, you can do so at a later time, or the suspended member can do so themselves the next time they attempt visit your social network.
- A warning system: If instead you’d like to give a member a chance to clean up their act, you can issue them a warning by sending a private message. To give an effective warning it’s important to educate and be clear! Outline what they did wrong, when they did it, where they did it and why it isn’t an acceptable use of your social network. Most importantly, let them know what the consequences are if they continue to behave inappropriately.
- Network Administrators: Admins can help you keep an eye on or out for troublesome members. If necessary, you could even coordinate a schedule so that an Admin is available around the clock to address your members’ reports and any inappropriate behavior. Admins can serve different purposes depending on where you need help; you can appoint a member to moderate an entire feature or multiple features. Alternatively, if you have specific content that you need help moderating – such as a very active forum thread – you can choose an individual content item by URL for the role to moderate. An Administrator of a content item can delete comments, remove the item from your Ning Network and perform other administrative duties.
Member Privacy & Search Engines
When members join your social network, they may not realize that they’re creating an online profile of themselves. Like with most content online, this profile and information may be visible to anyone, including friends, family, employers and yes, even strangers, if certain privacy settings aren’t designated. That’s why it’s important to pick the appropriate settings for your social network and to educate your members about who can see their profile and activity and how, and the privacy options available to them.
Educating your members about the privacy setting of your social network can help them determine what information they want to share on their profile. If you’ve chosen to have a public social network, their name and profile might turn up in search engine results on sites like Google and Yahoo. Although members can update their personal privacy settings, their name, photo and any information they’ve chosen to keep public may appear in search results if your social network is public.
On the flip side, if your social network is completely private, member profiles and content won’t appear in search results. With only the main page as public, search engines won’t be able to crawl your members’ profile pages, but keep in mind any and all activity that shows up on the main page (including the Latest Activity feed) is fair game. Essentially, search engines can crawl and display anything that a person browsing your social network (but not signed in) can see. For the utmost privacy for your members, you’ll want to make your social network private.
If having a private social network won’t work for you and your members are in any way uncomfortable with their information appearing in search results, you can edit your robots.txt file to prevent search engines from indexing specific pages. Alternatively, you suggest to your members that they use only their first name and update their other basic information and the privacy settings as appropriate.
Even after you change your social network from public to private, or a member updates or removes information from their profile or makes it private, it may still appear in search results since search engines take some time to update. However, after a little while, the search results should reflect the new or updated information. The time this update can take varies between search engines, so you may also want to contact the search engine directly if you have other questions about content appearing in search results.
For all Ning 3.0 networks, member names and profiles will turn up in search engine results on sites like Google and Yahoo. Although members can update their personal privacy settings to hide their age, gender or birth date, information like their name, photo and profile is public and will appear in search results both on the network and on search engines.
You may want to ask members to use a screen name versus their real name if sharing their real name is a concern. Members can always change the name displayed on their profile and associated with content.
Search Engines and Your Members
Profile pages are public by default so they can be crawled by search engines, which means that member profiles will end up in search results. If you would like to keep profiles from showing up in search results, you’ll want to edit your Robots.txt file to specifically block search engines from crawling profile pages. You can add the following to your Robots.txt file on the network to keep search engines from crawling all profile pages:
If you renamed this feature, go to your Site & Pages manager and find the URL ending is associated with this feature. Simply replace the “member” above to whatever is in your URL ending. For example, if your Members feature can be found at indoormusicfestivals.ning.com/artists, then you’ll want to use “/artists/” in your Robots.txt file.
If a specific member would like to opt out, you or your member can reach out directly to the search engine to remove a specific profile link. You can submit this form to Google to remove a link from search results: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/164734?hl=en.
Member Content Privacy
If all pages in the Site & Pages manager of your Ning Network are completely private, member content won’t appear in search results. With only the home page of your network set as public, search engines won’t be able to crawl content in features like Blogs, Forum, etc. but keep in mind any and all activity that shows up on the main page (including the Latest Activity feed) is fair game. Essentially, search engines can crawl and display anything that a person browsing your Ning Network (but not signed in) can see. For the utmost privacy for your members, you’ll want to make your network and all of its pages private and only visible to signed-in members of your network.
Even after you edit the visibility setting of the pages on your Ning Network from public to private, or a member updates or removes information from their profile, it may still appear in search results, as search engines take some time to update. However, after a little while, the search results should reflect the new or updated information. The time this update can take varies between search engines, so you may also want to contact the search engine directly if you have other questions about content appearing in search results.
The Most Private Social Network
While many Network Creators want to make their social network as open and accessible as possible, we recognize that there are also those looking to create a very private environment. To do this, you can check or update the following:
- Restrict membership: Make your social network private, invite only and turn on member moderation. By making your social network private, those who aren’t members will need to join before they can see anything. If someone visits your social network and doesn’t sign in, they’ll only see your social network’s name, tagline, icon, appearance settings (such as background or text formatting), and space to sign in or sign up. Turning on member moderation allows you or your Admins to approve their profile before they’re able to join. Requiring an invitation ensures that only those who are invited can even apply for membership.
- Disable sharing content via Twitter: In Plus and Pro, members have the option to Tweet interesting content, like photos, videos or blogs. By default, tweeting will include a short message with the title of the content being shared to their Twitter account. This message will also include a shortened URL others can click on to see the content directly on your social network. Turning off posting to Twitter hides the “Share on Twitter” links and icons.
- Disable sharing content via Facebook: In Plus and Pro, members are able to publish interesting content, like photos, videos or blogs to their Facebook Wall/News Feed. This will publish a short story based on the content being shared to their Facebook profile. This post may also include a preview of the content, such as a thumbnail photo or text from the shared page. Turning off Facebook sharing hides the “Share on Facebook” links and icons.
- Disable “Share” links: In Plus and Pro, members can share interesting content from your social network to services such as MySpace and Digg, or to contacts via email. Depending on where content is shared, a short message and thumbnail based on the content being shared may be included. Turning off the Share links feature hides the “Share” links and icons.
Reporting Abuse to Ning
As a Network Creator, you’re responsible for managing your social network in all respects, including your members’ content and conduct. However, if there is ever a situation that you believe we should be aware of, please contact us through the Ning Help Center or at abuse (at) Ning.com.
Websites that collect information from children under the age of 13 are required to comply with Federal Trade Commission Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). COPPA prohibits any website operator (such as yourself) or online service provider (such as ourselves) from knowingly collecting personal information from children under the age of 13 without first providing notice to parents and obtaining their “verifiable consent.” See the Federal Trade Commission’s FAQs about COPPA.
Ning isn’t directed to children younger than 13 and is only offered to those over 13. As a Network Creator, you cannot collect any information from or develop social networks that are targeted at children younger than 13. The privacy of children is very important to us. Because you collect personal information from members when they sign up for the Ning Platform, our Terms of Service prohibit children 13 and under from using Ning, and Network Creators from targeting or collecting information from children under 13. Additionally, there is an age screen in place to prevent children under 13 from registering for your social network.
We take internet safety very seriously here at Ning, and we’re sure you do too. For tips specific to your social network on Ning, please see our Safety Center. Additionally, there are many terrific resources out there about staying safe online generally, and we’ve included a few of our favorites below. We recommend sharing these with your members as well!
- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- National Crime Prevention Council
- The Family Online Safety Institute
- OnGuard Online, maintained by the Federal Trade Commission
- The Child Safety Network
- Cyber Sitter
- Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use
- Childnet International