Moderation Guide

Because we want Freesound to be full of sounds that have good names, descriptions and tags, the sounds that are uploaded to Freesound have to be approved by the moderator team before they show up on the website. If you are part of the moderator team or the staff you can help to moderate the sounds.

This short guide will teach you how the moderation pages work and what to take into account when you are moderating.

Moderation pages

In short the moderation workflow is consists of two steps: 1) assigning new sounds to your moderation queue and 2) going through your queue and moderating each sound in it. We'll walk you through the different pages.

1 - Getting to the moderation pages

If you have the permission to moderate sounds a new link will appear on your home page. Clicking this link will take you to the moderation home.

screen shot of link to moderation pages

2 - The moderation home

In the moderation home you'll see a little menu at the top, and the headers 'Sounds and support requests' and 'Processing system status'.

screen shot of moderation home

The menu item 'Moderation home' obviously takes you back to the moderation home. The 'Sounds' menu item, as well as the 'moderate sounds' link below, brings you to the page where you assign newly uploaded sounds to your moderation queue. We see that there are 7 new sounds awaiting moderation, so let's moderate them by clicking 'Moderate sounds'.

3 - Assigning sounds to your moderation queue

screen shot of sounds assignation page

We now see that there are two users with newly uploaded sounds. User DobbleWobble has uploaded 4 new sounds and another user uploaded 3 new sounds. Both users have a link that says 'Assign to me'. Clicking this link will assign all the new sounds from that user to your moderation queue. Don't start assigning all the sounds to yourself at once, because it doesn't leave anything for other moderators who might be working at the same time. If later your moderation queue is empty and you would like to moderate more sounds, go back to this page and assign the rest.

Once you have assigned a user's new sounds to your queue a message will appear notifying you of this and the user will disappear from the list. The sounds are now in your queue and you are responsible for moderating them.

4 - Your sound moderation queue

To get to your personal sound moderation queue click 'Your sound queue' and you will see the following page.

screen shot of moderation queue

The moderation queue has several sections. The first section called 'Assigned tickets' shows a list of all the sounds in your queue. It shows the name, the uploader, the date of the upload and lastly the ticket status (we'll explain this later).

You can click any sound in this list and the other sections will load the information for that sound.

The sections in the right column show information for the sound that you have selected in the left column. You can listen to the sound, and see the description and tags.

Under 'Messages for sound' you can see the discussion between the moderators and the uploader. Most of the time you will not need to discuss anything and just approve the sound, but if you would like to ask the user for a better description or ask about the legality of the sound you can do this by leaving a message here.

You leave messages and change the moderation state of the sound under the 'Moderate' section. The top row of radio buttons determine what will happen to the sound. The bottom row of square boxes can be used to select standard responses. Let's walk through the different options.

  • Approve - The sound will be approved and will show up on Freesound and the user will be notified
  • Delete - The sound will be deleted and the user will be notified.
  • Defer - The sound will not be approved just yet and it will stay in your sound queue. This gives you the possibility to ask the user for more information about the sound.
  • Return - If you're not sure about what to do with the sound you can return the sound to the sounds page. Other moderators can have a look at the sound and discuss what should be done.
  • Whitelist - The user will be whitelisted, which means that all of his sounds currently in the queue will be directly approved and all of his future uploads as well. Use with caution and check the 'user information' section and the 'user annotations'.

The 'insufficient tags', 'insufficient description', incompatible, illegal and 'not a sound' buttons will add a standard text to the text box. This is just to save you some time but you can always write your own message or edit the standard text. If you leave a message in the text box the user will be notified of this message. However, if you check the 'Moderator only' check box the user will not be notified and the message can only be read by other moderators. This is useful if you want to return the message to the sounds page to be handled by other moderators and you want to leave a message for them.

The 'User annotations' message is to leave messages about the user to other moderators. This is useful e.g. if a user uploads music or illegal files. You can leave a message for other moderators informing them that the user has uploaded illegal sounds and they should be careful the next time a user uploads sounds.

When a user replies to one of your questions you'll receive an email notification of this. All communication is done through these messages so you will never have to use your own email account to communicate with the users.


Earlier we said we would come back to the sound's status as you see it in the list of sounds. This is in fact the status of the moderation ticket and not of the sound. In the new moderation system all actions by users that require a response from the moderation team are converted into tickets. A ticket is basically a way to keep track of tasks that need to be done by the moderators and the programmers of Freesound. An example is when a user uploads a sound. This creates a ticket for the moderators so they know that they have a task to do. Later on this ticket system will also be used for support requests, when files are flagged, etc.

A ticket has a state that indicates whether it is active or not. A state of 'new' indicates that nobody has looked at the ticket and nobody is taking care of it yet. Accepted means that the ticket, and therefore the task, has been assigned to someone. The 'Accepted' state that you see in your sound queue is in fact the state of the ticket. This state can become 'Deferred' as well, indicating that you are waiting for a user to respond. Lastly, when you finally delete or approve the sound, or whitelist the uploader, the ticket status will be set to closed and it will not appear anymore in your queue.

Try clicking the 'see full ticket' link in your sound queue if you are curious about tickets. It'll show you some more details.

Moderation tips

Here is some advice to help you make decisions when moderating files. Please feel free to add your own advice here.

Spotting illegal content

Identifying content which may infringe on someone's copyrights is probably the hardest part of the job. If you can clearly recognize the sample as being taken from a popular song or movie, you should of course delete the sound, click 'Illegal' and be done with it. However, it is not often so clear-cut, although there are certain signs you should look for.

If you suspect a sample is illegal, check the format, bitrate, and sample rate of the file. Low bitrates (usually 8 bit) or with varying bitrates (VBR) indicate that the file was downloaded from the web. Users uploading samples with widely different bitrates between individual files are also suspicious. You may want to note common web formats like mp3 and wav, though keep in mind that many legitimate uploaders make use of these formats.

It may also be helpful to do a web search for terms the uploader entered in the file description or tags.

If you have doubts about the legality of a sound, defer the sound and contact the user. Most users will tell you if they made sounds themselves or if they "found it on a website".

Sounds that come from websites that say that the sounds are "free" most of the time are NOT compatible with the creative commons licenses.

Good description standards

Deciding what constitutes a good description is largely a matter of your own judgement, but here are a few guidelines.

For synthesized sounds, a brief description may be sufficient, i.e. "jazzy glissando, synthesized." If the uploader states the program or language they used to create the sound, even better.

For field recordings, a more detailed description is expected. Where it was recorded, what kind of mic/recorder setup was used, etc. make for a good description. The bare minimum would be something like "nightingales recorded in my backyard in Slough, UK." Something even less descriptive, such as "birds in the yard" may constitute a description poor enough to be marked as "Approved", but with an added message of "insufficient tags/description".

No waveform in player

If the picture of a sound doesn't appear this means the sound has not been processed correctly. Usually this means the file is not an audio file, that it is an unsupported format, or that it is broken. You should delete the sound, but inform the user that the file could not be read by Freesound and ask him to upload it in a supported format.

Good sounds deserve to be on Freesound

If it's a good sound, always scale your opinion upwards. I very frequently just choose "ok, bad description" ;)

Some final notes

In the future the moderation task will include not just the moderation of sounds, but also giving support to the community.

Only sounds that have passed through the processing system will show up in the moderation system. It's possible that some sounds fail to process correctly. These sounds will still show up in the moderation system, but the sound player will be left white and a small text will indicate the processing has failed.