The act of blocking URLs from being posted on your community is a great tool and one that you should have in your arsenal. I’ve used it to block out spammers, affiliate links and sites that were determined to harm my community or attack my members. I have Censor Block in place, in order to stop the link before it is posted, so that the member can remove it from his or her post, rather than them having to see their post, already made, with the link censored in some way.

But, as with most administrative tools, it’s level of effectiveness depends on it’s use and, in practice, I’ve seen administrators do two things that you need to avoid.

Exercise Caution

This first one is subjective. What is right for one administrator may not be right for the next. You have to do what is right in your case. But, blocking a site and a URL from being linked or mentioned on your community – period – is something that should be carefully decided to ensure it is the right step and a step your staff can get behind because it simply makes sense. Generally speaking, this isn’t something you’ll use for a site that your members regularly link to and, if it is, you better have a real good reason.

Here are some specific situations that I’ve used a URL block:

  • Already banned member rejoins, sends 60 spam private messages to website where he has posted (lies) about how I’d banned him for no reason, how I’m an idiot, how one of my staff members is an idiot, etc.
  • Community whose leadership encourages its members (on a mass scale) to come to my forums and be disruptive, to be rude and disrespectful to people and to, generally, be trollish. They also allowed their members to make fun of the physical appearance of one of my staff members, who had a serious disease. I’ll never forget that. I don’t want to send them any traffic.
  • Member joins, posts spam in which they have a fake signature (i.e. they make their signature look like a real one on our site, so that the signature is actually part of their post content). If they want to be deceptive, we’re going to protect ourselves.

These are situations where it was right for me. They may not be right for you. But, we all have to find our comfort zone.

Censor, Don’t Change

Let’s keep it simple: please do not change the URL to anything when posted. Examples:

  • turns into
  • turns into (notice the zero)

These are both immature and they look foolish. Though I’m no attorney, I wouldn’t be surprised if the first one could be considered libel and the second one is just playing games with your members. If you’re blocking the URL, just block it and be clear. If you can use a Censor Block like function, that is the absolute best way to go. If you can’t, just use an asterisk (*). So, the link turns into *.com. That way, it’s clear that it’s been blocked, and you’re also not using the censor to make commentary about the link itself.