Forum moderators are the referees on a discussion board and their roles vary widely. On public boards, they may be given administrative duties as well as having to enforce forum rules. Their basic task is to ensure rules are followed and the discussion is friendly and free of inflammatory material. In some cases, moderators may take part in the discussion while in others it is considered a conflict of interest and they are not allowed to participate.
Individuals or corporations own the boards and the hierarchy depends on the size, complexity and purpose of the board. Owners appoint forum administrators and it is to these officers that moderators are accountable to. On smaller boards, of course, the owners themselves or their friends may take up these positions.
Moderators have the power to organize the conversation into different sections, or threads. They may choose to close or ‘lock’ threads which means ending the direction one conversation is heading in order to guide the discussion. They may also ‘split’ threads; i.e. dividing the conversation into two different sections.
If a post is made that contravenes forum rules, moderators can edit the controversial material and leave intact the subject matter that is permissible. Users with bad reputations may be banned completely by moderators, who have the ability not only to ban names but also, in some cases, the IP address as well.
What is acceptable to one forum, of course, may not be permitted on another. The types of material which are usually considered controversial are swearing, the posting of violent or sexual images and the use of illegal material like pornography or pirated goods.