Terms of Use


The Initiative for Digital Public Infrastructure uses external social media as a public service. Any inclusion of external content or comments does not imply endorsement by the Initiative for Digital Public Infrastructure. CommonGround does not discriminate against any views, but it reserves the right to remove inappropriate submissions, in the sole judgment of the Initiative for Digital Public Infrastructure, that fall outside our terms of use.

Terms of Use

External individuals or entities posting to CommonGround are solely responsible for their comments. By using CommonGround or other Initiative for Digital Public Infrastructure hosted pages you are agreeing to our terms of use.

CommonGround reserves the right to remove in its sole discretion:
  • Comments not topically related to the particular topic being commented upon
  • Profane language or content
  • Discourteous communication including personal attacks on an individual’s character or appearance
  • Content that promotes, fosters or perpetuates discrimination based on any protected class
  • Sexual content or links to sexual content
  • Solicitations of commerce
  • Conduct or encouragement of illegal activity
  • Information that may tend to compromise the safety or security of the public or public systems
  • Content that violates legal ownership interests of another party
  • False or misleading information regarding town services

Informed Consent

You are being invited to participate in a research study titled “Using Local Social Networks for Civic Engagement.” This study is being done by Ethan Zuckerman and Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. You self-selected to participate in this study because you are over the age of 18, a resident of Amherst, MA, and want to participate on CommonGround.

By participating in CommonGround you are indicating that you are at least 18 years old, have read this consent form, and agree to participate in this research study.

Why are we doing this research study?

The purpose of this research study is to understand how local social networks affect civic engagement.

Who can participate in this research study?

Any person who is 18 years of age and a resident of Amherst, MA may participate in this research study.

What will I be asked to do and how much time will it take?

If you agree to take part in this study, you will participate in an online space discussing a local park in Amherst. You can choose how you would like to participate—like whether and how often you respond to questions and participate in the discussion. If you would like to respond to questions posed by researchers and town staff, you will have to register for the site with an email and password or through an existing social media account. If you don’t want to participate, but would still like to follow along, you can visit the site and view the discussion without registering. The space will be available for a month.

Will being in this research study help me in any way?

You may not directly benefit from this research; however, we hope that your participation may help local governments, local newspapers, and other local civic organizations tailor their outreach and engagement projects to reach a wider and more diverse audience, more effectively.

What are my risks of being in this research study?

We believe there are minimal risks associated with this research study; however, a risk of breach of confidentiality always exists and we have taken the steps to minimize this risk as outlined in the section below.

How will my personal information be protected?

Any posts or engagement (such as favorites) to CommonGround will be publicly available. To the best of our ability, your private data such as your email address will remain confidential. Private data will be stored in a secure, password-protected cloud environment. Only the research team will have access to the data. Any information derived from your participation that is published will be de-identified and use pseudonyms.

Will I be given any money or other compensation for being in this research study?


What happens if I say yes, but I change my mind later?

You do not have to use CommonGround if you don’t want to. If you agree to use CommonGround, but later change your mind, you may stop using it at any time.

Who can I talk to if I have questions?

If you have questions about this project or if you have a research-related problem, you may contact the researcher, Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci at [email protected]. If you have any questions concerning your rights as a research subject, you may contact the University of Massachusetts Amherst Human Research Protection Office (HRPO) at (413)545-3428 or [email protected].

Privacy Policy

What information do we collect?

  • Basic account information: If you register on this site, you may be asked to enter a username, an e-mail address and a password. You may also enter additional profile information such as a display name and biography, and upload a profile picture and header image. The username, display name, biography, profile picture and header image are always listed publicly.
  • Posts, following and other public information: The list of people you follow is listed publicly, the same is true for your followers. When you submit a message, the date and time is stored as well as the application you submitted the message from. Messages may contain media attachments, such as pictures and videos. Public posts are available publicly. Your posts are delivered to your followers. The action of reblogging or favouriting another post is always public.
  • Direct and followers-only posts: All posts are stored and processed on the site. Followers-only posts are delivered to your followers and users who are mentioned in them, and direct posts are delivered only to users mentioned in them. You may toggle an option to approve and reject new followers manually in the settings. Please keep in mind that the operators of the site may view such messages, and that recipients may screenshot, copy or otherwise re-share them. Do not share any dangerous information over Smalltown.
  • IPs and other metadata: When you log in, we record the IP address you log in from, as well as the name of your browser application. All the logged in sessions are available for your review and revocation in the settings. The latest IP address used is stored for up to 12 months. We also may retain logs which include the IP address of every request to our site.

What do we use your information for?

Any of the information we collect from you may be used in the following ways:

  • To provide the core functionality of Smalltown. You can only interact with other people's content and post your own content when you are logged in.
  • To aid moderation of the community, for example comparing your IP address with other known ones to determine ban evasion or other violations.
  • The email address you provide may be used to send you information, notifications about other people interacting with your content or sending you messages, and to respond to inquiries, and/or other requests or questions.

How do we protect your information?

We implement a variety of security measures to maintain the safety of your personal information when you enter, submit, or access your personal information. Among other things, your browser session, as well as the traffic between your applications and the API, are secured with SSL, and your password is hashed using a strong one-way algorithm. You may enable two-factor authentication to further secure access to your account.

What is our data retention policy?

You can request and download an archive of your content, including your posts, media attachments, profile picture, and header image.

You may irreversibly delete your account and associated data at any time through the "Preferences" page.

Do we use cookies?

Yes. Cookies are small files that a site or its service provider transfers to your computer's hard drive through your Web browser (if you allow). These cookies enable the site to recognize your browser and, if you have a registered account, associate it with your registered account.

We use cookies to understand and save your preferences for future visits.

Do we disclose any information to outside parties?

We do not sell, trade, or otherwise transfer to outside parties your personally identifiable information. This does not include trusted third parties who assist us in operating our site, conducting our business, or servicing you, so long as those parties agree to keep this information confidential. We may also release your information when we believe release is appropriate to comply with the law, enforce our site policies, or protect ours or others rights, property, or safety.

Site usage by children

If this site is in the EU or the EEA: Our site, products and services are all directed to people who are at least 16 years old. If you are under the age of 16, per the requirements of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) do not use this site.

If this site is in the USA: Our site, products and services are all directed to people who are at least 13 years old. If you are under the age of 13, per the requirements of COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act) do not use this site.

Law requirements can be different if this site is in another jurisdiction.

Changes to our Privacy Policy

If we decide to change our privacy policy, we will post those changes on this page.

This document is CC-BY-SA.

Originally adapted from the Discourse privacy policy.


Connect with fellow residents about issues that affect YOU! CommonGround is a collaboration between Amherst Media and the Initiative for Digital Public Infrastructure