Small updates to the Community Guidelines

Hey curators. As always, thanks for everything you do to keep iNat running. We made a few small additions to the Community Guidelines and I wanted to give a brief explanation here.


In the intro, we added:

Keep in mind that staff may, at their discretion, remove content that we deem harmful to iNaturalist’s community or data quality. This includes intentionally false content, machine generated content, content created by sockpuppet accounts, hate speech, pornography, and the like.

We just wanted to be explicit that content may be removed by staff. In general it’s not something we like to do, but sometimes we feel it’s necessary. We also hope it will deter people from adding machine generated content, sockpuppet content, or lots of intentionally false content, in addition to clearly offensive or obscene content.

I also cleaned up the first paragraph to make clear that the original guidelines came from a community-wide discussion, and that later additions were made by staff.


Under Suspendable Offenses we added:

(!) Intentionally adding false IDs or DQA votes. We expect you to submit information that you believe is an accurate assessment of the evidence provided, and not intentionally false. It’s ok to make an incorrect identification or accidentally add an incorrect date or something, but it’s not ok to intentionally add an incorrect identification or add an intentionally false vote to the Data Quality Assessment.

We’ve noticed instances (and anecdotally they seem to have become more common) where people intentionally add false IDs or DQA votes to make observations casual, obscured, or just to mess with the observer or Community ID - usually in retribution for some real or perceived wrong, or just to troll. Since this clearly unwelcome behavior wasn’t addressed directly in the Community Guidelines, we added it.

As for enforcment - like most things it often comes down to a judgement call, but scale should be a determining factor. If it happens a few times from a new user, it might be worth a warning. If it’s at a large scale or is bullying, it might be worth an immediate suspension.


Under Good Form we added:

Add accurate content and take community feedback into account. Any account that adds content we believe decreases the accuracy of iNaturalist data may be suspended, particularly if that account behaves like a machine, e.g. adds a lot of content very quickly and does not respond to comments and messages.

This is mostly for people who add a lot of wrong/misinformed IDs and never respond to feedback from the community. Sometimes suspension can be used a last resort to get their attention.


Let me know if you have any questions.

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Finally, this may help stop people adding false “location is inaccurate” votes to escapee observations!

Since there’s no way to flag DQA votes, what would the correct course of action in that scenario be?

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Maybe this is the wrong place to bring this up, but is there guidance w/r/t group accounts? Specifically I mean external apps, where users have their accounts and make observations using that app, but these observations then get all posted to iNat. under one account.

There used to be one such account which is now inactive, and I am aware of at least one who is currently active and with a sizable observation count. Occasionally their content gets flagged with valid concerns, but none of the normal avenues to resolve anything exist because the original observer is not involved.

If there is no such guidance, can anything be added?

I think it is worth mentioning to new people a summary of some of these guidelines. It may be in the form of a page upon registration (which they have to click to acknowledge). I would be very surprised if everybody did read or is familiar with the above mentioned Guidelines.

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Probably best to email help@inaturalist.org, although it’s worth also just asking them about the vote first.

Can you please message me with some examples?

We link to the guidelines in our welcome email, although I’m pretty sure almost no on reads it.

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I worry that weaponizing DQA votes as a suspendable offense might itself be turned against regular users who help “clean up” duplicates / captives / junk, especially since there’s still some debate over the best practices for how to deal with those. Similarly, many people add “human” votes to get not-iNat-appropriate-stuff out of view. Those could be interpreted as “false IDs”.

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I agree we need to come up with a clear method for handling those (if they need to be handled) but IMO no one should be falisifying the DQA to “clean up” data, which seems oxymoronic.

Like man-made objects and stuff? Those are evidence of a human, so identifying as Homo sapiens isn’t incorrect.

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I did, thanks.

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That was going to be my thought as well. Would I be correct in also assuming no one should necessarily be using the help feature to report at least one of the DQA points surrounding the “wild” flag when there is still legitimate debate and disagreement behind what that means?

Perhaps that could more quickly and easily be resolved by simply changing or clarifying it to say: “in captivity-yes/no”, then looking to ways of better filtering and separating these to where they don’t affect or show up in the Explore tab as species.

That’s exactly how it sounds.

While it is true the current wording is “wild-yes/no” the help page clearly states that this means “in captivity-yes/no”, so changing the wording on the DQA would change nothing.

It should probably be changed in both places (as well as anywhere else) for consistency. Also the only language I see there pertains to feral dogs and cats, which makes more sense for already established taxa.

In my post I wrote:

usually in retribution for some real or perceived wrong, or just to troll…

As for enforcment - like most things it often comes down to a judgement call, but scale should be a determining factor. If it happens a few times from a new user, it might be worth a warning. If it’s at a large scale or is bullying, it might be worth an immediate suspension.

I didn’t mention people trying to make things casual for data quality issues. The emphasis in my explanation was that this was mostly for retributive/trolling actions, which I think are pretty different.

But I believe pretty strongly that we shouldn’t be doing things like marking observations as having a false location if indeed the location is not false, to the best of our knowledge.

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The “help” page makes it very clear.

I think it would be better if we did away with the whole “organism intended to be there, then and there” language altogether. There are too many gray areas for this to be very useful as perhaps originally intended. Its oftentimes simply too difficult for us to always truly know whether something “intends to be where it is”. If I picked up a snapping turtle, and relocated it 20 miles away, that turtle would no longer be “where it intended to be”. Likewise, if I had a snake that was native to Myanmar, and it escapes, or, for whatever reason, I wanted to release it in Wisconsin, it would be there in both cases due to a human action.

These are some specific examples from the help page:

-“living organisms dispersed by the wind, water, and other forces apart from humans”- Not usually the case with escapees.

-“a species that had been introduced to a new region and has established a population outside of human care”-Also not usually the case.

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This post seems to have triggered German trolls somehow.
We have had 2 on
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/needs-id-pile-and-identifications/26904/718
https://forum.inaturalist.org/u/eindeutchesrequiem
https://forum.inaturalist.org/u/altrhapsodie

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That’s one person with two accounts.

At least he managed to spell the second one right

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What I can’t figure out is why would people WANT to do any of that. What’s wrong with society today? Not looking for response! I just felt like being able to rant a tad.

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Since the guidelines were updated, I’ve noticed a large number (perhaps on the order of 1e5) of unknowns have reappeared in the pile, going back to 2018. It looks like at least one large-scale identifier has removed/has had removed their account. The quality of some of the obs is low, as if those could have had some DQA formerly applied by someone.

In case it’s related: As a large-scale id’er myself, should I be worried if I had used some “ad hoc” DQA workarounds in prior years? Do y’all reach out to the offenders during suspension actions to get their side of things? Thanks for advice!

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