We’re not sure if there’s something in the water recently that is causing people to open conversations in an inappropriate fashion or to respond in a way that is just as bad, if not worse. Here’s a little guide on the best ways to respond to certain situations, how to determine whether it is okay to issue an unsolicited private message, and some other useful information. If you decide to bring a situation to network staff, be aware that any bad reaction you’ve had is not suddenly okay because the other person “started it” by PMing you.
If you don’t feel like reading this entire thing, the tl;dr version is that both parties need to take personal responsibility for their actions, stop being self-entitled about talking to people, and use functions and available help to solve the situation without dragging admins in. Be safe rather than sorry and ask in-channel if you may PM beforehand. If the unsolicited PM is in direct violation of the network rules, then staff will intervene immediately once it is reported. Otherwise, it is in your best interests to read this post in full — if a situation arises regarding unsolicited PM, “I didn’t know” is not going to be a valid excuse.
Generally, private messages that are both unsolicited and unwelcome range somewhere between the following, if answered:
Obviously, one is much more polite than the other. Our very first recommendations for avoiding and/or reacting to unsolicited PMs are these:
- Close the query window and pretend it didn’t happen.
- Umode yourself +g [/mode ownnick +g], which will then send a message to wherever you receive notices from the server letting you know a person is trying to PM you and asking if you wish to accept or just ignore the request.
Granted, it can get a little annoying when you’re in the middle of something and the same people keep sending messages over and over again, but that is the nature of IRC or any other place open to the public in some fashion, and we do have some serial offenders.
We recommend doing one or more of the following before opening an unsolicited query to a new person:
- Look at channel topics, entry messages, and rules. Some channels explicitly state somewhere that users should not initiate private messages without first asking in-channel and getting permission. Please remember that if you say “Do you mind a PM” to someone, the correct answer if the query is okay is “No,” and if it is not okay, then “Yes” is the appropriate response. We realise that most people do not use this question correctly, so it might be better to use alternate phrasing like “[nick], may I PM you?” Conversely, some channels have “entry equals consent” rules, which basically means that if you enter the channel, you are consenting to any manner of behaviour in your direction including unsolicited PMs.
- View profiles to see if the person has anything in those indicating whether it is or is not okay to PM them without asking first. Several people have multiple nicks, each profile clearly stating they do not wish for unsolicited PMs. If they get upset with you about it, especially after you’ve read the profile, that is your own fault. Please also be aware that many channels with profile bots frown on ‘zombie viewing’ where a user just views umpteen profiles and PMs people constantly without actually engaging in the channel as well.
- Use /whois. Many people either do not register their nicks or have multiple nicks they use on a regular basis. In the case of an unregistered nick, the person you were speaking with yesterday may be fine with unsolicited messages, but a person who may be using it today could take issue. When it comes to those who have multiple nicks, since you should be /whois anyway before engaging, make note of the “is logged in as” line. If you whois “one” today and see “is logged in as one” and get told to not PM without asking first in-channel or to never doing it again, and then you whois “two” tomorrow and see “is logged in as one”, then don’t PM.
If you still refuse to take personal responsibility for your actions and PM people anyway without asking OR you do not clearly indicate that you do not wish to receive PMs without first being consulted, there are only certain circumstances where the network staff will intervene:
- If the PM involves unsolicited actions and you have asked the person to not do this in the past, it doesn’t mean we’re going to be okay with you being rude, but we will have a talk with the person about it. Just because it’s a text based medium, we try to apply offline etiquette and social norms as much as possible. In the same vein, if you PM something along the lines of “/me rapes you”, you’re going to be getting a talking to regardless of whether you were told to not do it before and someone complains.
- If the PM falls under our spam policy, which includes sending a PM to multiple users with an identical line,
- The person who initiates the unsolicited PMs must have done so more than once, and if you are a user who uses multiple nicks, you are obligated to remind the individual PMing you to use /whois. Any arguments of “I shouldn’t have to whois everyone I try to talk to” are invalid, since we actively encourage every one to use this function due to a few problem users anyway.
- If both parties respond in an aggressive or inappropriate fashion, we’re basically going to tell both of you to be less acrid in your dealings with other people and close the matter accordingly. Additionally, if you absolutely refuse to help yourself with this issue [see solutions below] and the offender(s) are not serial offenders who continually PM people constantly after being told by multiple users to just not, then we’re going to wind up telling you to suck it up, buttercup.
Our usual solutions, partially mentioned at the beginning of this post, if we have to intervene are these:
- If you’re not a chanop in a public, active channel [opening a channel for the sole purpose of trying to say you are a chanop, and you have no users is not going to work], then we will recommend you use /ignore. If you’re using a client that doesn’t have a decent /ignore function, then we’re going to tell you to use +g. If you refuse to use either of these functions and cite your IRC client as being incapable, we’re going to tell you to get a different client, since /ignore is a standard function and has been for years, and +g is a server-side mode that only needs the /mode or /umode functions, which are also standard options in a decent client.
- If you are a chanop, then we will advise either using +g or making it known that you will only respond to unsolicited PMs regarding an incident in the channel you are oping in that needs to be addressed right away. For those of you who would argue that it is unfair that chanops and network staff are allowed to get around using ignore, we disagree. A person cannot do the “job” of administration very well if they are actively making a portion of the users invisible.
We have two exceptions to us not intervening on a first offense:
- A person PMs with something that violates Cuff-Link’s Community Policy & TOS — this includes, but is not limited to: Actions involving rape, beastiality, underage scenarios, and other prohibited play, and links going to websites with malware, phishing sites, and child pornography.
- A person PMs and threatens you with a network ban if you refuse to play with them or intimates that network staff is “watching you”. — we have zero tolerance for this kind of behaviour. Network staff will never threaten a ban if you don’t play with them, and they will not tell you you are being watched.
If you have any questions, as always, please /join #help and ask away.