Moderated Newsgroups

From Usenet Big-8 Management Board

How does moderation work?

1. A poster sends message (via NNTP post) to a news service provider (NSP).

2. The NSP's news server sees the group is moderated, and sends the post via e-mail using SMTP. The address used by the NSP is the name-of-the-group, substituting hyphens for periods, plus <>. For news.announce.newgroups, the ISC address comes out as:

3. The e-mail is directed to a moderation relay.

4. The relay looks up moderator contact addresses and sends the message (via SMTP) to email address of the moderator(s).

5. The moderator then process the post using various techniques. Many pass the post to moderation software that does an initial evaluation of the post.

6. If the post is approved, a special header is added to it.

7. The post is sent to an NNTP server and is then circulated through Usenet.

Can a group have more than one moderator?


The group will have only one submission address in the relay system described above.

What happens to the post after it reaches the contact address is up to the moderator(s) of the group.

Moderation software (described below) offers various methods for a group of moderators to work together.

Although the moderator(s) is/are normally listed as part of the RFD, once the newsgroup is created there is no specific procedure for adding/removing/changing moderators. It's nice to have that procedure spelled out in the RFD, but not mandatory. In essence, once the group is created, whoever has control of the submission email address has control of the group.

How does a group change moderators?

Ideally, the old moderator or team hands off control of the group to the new moderator(s) by sending an e-mail to Up-to-date contact addresses for the moderator(s) should be supplied in that e-mail at the same time that the request is made.

As a courtesy but as not a requirement, the outgoing moderator might inform the Big-8 Management Board about the change in moderators. It is the ISC, not the Board, that maintains the official list of submission addresses used by the moderation system.

If the original moderation scheme seems to be broken, interested parties may initiate a Moderator Vacancy Investigation.

How does a moderator change the submission address?

Same as above: send the request and current contact address(es) for the moderator(s) to:

How does one change an Unmoderated group to a Moderated group?

Technical answer
A newgroup message is issued to create a new Usenet newsgroup. The body of the Control field contains one mandatory argument, the name of the new group. The second argument is optional. If present it consists of the keyword moderated. The body of the message typically contains tagline, charter and rationale.
If the group already exists, only the status of the group is changed, i.e. from moderated to unmoderated or vice-versa.
Problems with making such a change
Some servers will honor one of the cmsg's and not the other. Some will honor both. Some will honor neither. The result will be that for some people the group disappears entirely. For others there appears to be no change. For yet others, the group changes to moderated, but their server may or may not handle moderated groups correctly.
Bad things happen as a result of some servers showing the group as moderated and others showing it as unmoderated. Messages posted to servers that have the group unmoderated are posted immediately on that server and delivered to the server's peers, where they will show up on some of the other servers that still have the group as unmoderated. Most peers that show the group to be moderated will drop the messages, so they won't get good propagation. A few servers will forward the message for moderation, but often with a time delay or a new message ID, so the moderators may receive multiple copies of the same message.
A message to a server that shows the group as moderated will be forwarded to the moderators for approval and then if it is on charter it will be approved and appear on almost all servers that still have the group in some form. Posts following up to that message from servers that have the group marked as unmoderated will face poor propagation and will not appear on servers that show it as moderated, so the OP will never see those followups.
Policy in the Big-8
The board is on record as opposed to changed unmoderated groups to moderated in the Big-8. In view of the problems of making such changes (which are technically feasible), the benefits of changing a group's moderation status do not seem to be worth the costs involved.
Please note well: The Big-8, despite its name, is only a small subset of Usenet. The Board only makes policy for the Big-8. Other hierarchies have their own policies.

Can trusted posters have their posts appear without moderation?

Yes. How that works is determined by the moderation software that receives posts sent from the ISC relay.

What if my news server doesn't carry the group?

"One thing that I've found incredibly useful for moderated groups is to set up a parallel mailing list that receives the posts to the newsgroup, and then point the address for the mailing list at the submission address for the group. I don't know if Igor's system can do this for you, but if it can, it may be worth considering. Even a lot of Usenet readers prefer mailing lists for particular groups or under particular circumstances (while changing providers, when on vacation, etc.) and then readers who can't manage to get their local provider to add the group can at least use the mailing list version" (Russ Allbery).

Why don't my posts show up in the group?

1. Your newsreader software may not be properly configured to communicate with your NSP.

2. Your NSP may not have the newsgroup properly identified as moderated. If the NSP's configuration is inaccurate, the post will circulate only on that news system and will not be relayed to the ISC and then to the moderator.

3. Your NSP may not be using a valid domain or the proper format for the envelope address. The e-mail containing the post will be thrown away before it reaches the moderation relay so it never arrives at the moderator's server.

4. ISC.ORG's list of moderator contact addresses may be flawed.

5. The moderator or the moderation software may be making errors.

6. The moderator may have rejected the post. If you did not include a decipherable e-mail address in the post, then there is no way for the moderator to send a rejection slip.

7. E-mail (SMTP) is used to relay your post from NSP to the ISC to the moderator of the group. E-mail does occasionally get lost for one reason or another due to hardware or software problems in the transit systems.

How can I bypass my News Service Provider?

  • e-mail your post to the ISC address of the group
    • The fact that moderation relies on e-mail means that posts may be submitted to a moderator via e-mail.
    • Take the name of the newsgroup you wish to reach, substitute hyphens for periods, append
      , and send your post with your e-mail software to that address.
    • If the ISC has the correct submission address in its database, your e-mail will be forwarded to the moderator(s) of the group.
  • e-mail your post to submission address of the group
    • If you know the group's submission address, you can e-mail your post to that address directly.
    • The advantage of this method is that you bypass the entire relay system.
    • The disadvantage of this method is that there is no way to derive the submission address from the name of the group as there is when using the ISC relay.
  • If you use e-mail to bypass your News Service Provider, the "envelope" wrapped around your post will (as a general rule) match your From: address. You must therefore use a From: address with a domain in the Domain Name Service (DNS) registry and in the proper format--otherwise the ISC moderation relays or the e-mail server for the moderation submission address will discard the e-mail without looking at it. (This is a fundamental spam-avoidance technique. People started rejecting mail with non-resolving envelope From: addresses because it blocked spam and almost no legitimate mail. For example, sendmail 8.9, released in 2000, blocks mail with unresolvable envelope-from addresses *by default*. On some systems, it may be possible to use a valid envelope sending address and an invalid From: address in the message headers.)

Do moderators edit posts?

  • Depending on the group, the moderator may edit your post first.
  • The kind of edits that happen in practice, as a general rule, would be to convert a html email to a text one, to remove binaries, to trim or abridge material, or to add comments.
  • In general, the moderator should not change the actual content or meaning of your post without your approval, but might change some superficial things about it to make it conform to the group's guidelines.

What happens when a post is rejected?

  • If your post does not appear to be obvious spam, and the moderators can determine your email address from the address in your post (note that this is generally NOT the envelope-from but the From: or Reply-To: header) they will generally email you and let you know that it was rejected and why.
  • If you post with an forged email address that can't be `decoded', you will not receive any explanation why your post was rejected.

Who can force the moderators to change their policies?

  • Nobody.

Who can force the moderators to obey the group charter?

  • Nobody.

Who appoints new moderator(s)?

  • The old moderator(s).

How can we get rid of our moderators?

  • Ask them to resign and give control of the group to someone else.

Why won't you give us more help with our group?

  • The group belongs to the moderators and the users.
  • Usenet is not structured in such a way that outsiders can intervene.

Why does stuff get into the group that is not approved by the moderators?

  • There are holes in the system that can be exploited by antagonists.

Why doesn't anybody fix the holes in the system?

  • That's above my pay grade. Wild guess: the expense (time and effort) of doing so is greater than the benefit?
  • If you have the technical expertise to close the loopholes and want to work to do so, you might want to volunteer to help the Board.
  • Some moderators use pgpmoose to discourage abuse. pgpmoose works at the modbot level; when a post is approved, it is digitally signed (in the headers) to confirm that the post really did come through the modbot. A second 'bot then monitors the group, and verifies the signature of every post that makes it through. If any posts are found that are *not* approved by the 'bot, then a cancel message is issued. this page to subscribe to a pgpmoose mailing list.

What is 'demoderation'?

Turning a moderated group into an unmoderated group.

See also Changing the Moderation Status of Existing Groups

How does a group get demoderated?

  • Moderators may abandon the group explicitly or implicitly.
  • An RFD is circulated.
  • If the decision is made the change the moderation status, the moderation flag will be removed from Checklists and a notice of the change will be circulated via news.announce.newgroups.

What happens if a news service provider (NSP) doesn't change the moderation flag?

  • The post will be relayed from the NSP to the ISC.
  • The ISC has an autoresponder that will return the post to the sender with a note explaining that the group is no longer moderated.

How can I run unix moderation software in Windows?

What is PGP Moose?

  • It uses Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) to help weed out unauthorized posts in moderated groups. See this web site. See also the and newsgroups.

See also


Document Author
Pitfalls of Newsgroup Moderation Russ Allbery
Usenet Hierarchy Administration Russ Allbery
Moderation Techniques and Software Sven Golly
Netnews Moderators Handbook (1995) Kent Landfield
Netnews Moderators Handbook (1995; copied 2009) Kent Landfield
Usenet Moderators Archive Kent Landfield
Usenet Related FAQs Kent Landfield
Moderated Newsgroups FAQ Denis McKeon
Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) David Ross
Tom McCune's page for Pretty Good Privacy Tom McCune

Moderation Software

Moderation Software
modbot by }