"Code of conduct thoughts" with Anon Mous

On Sun, Nov 16, 2014 at 11:52 AM, Anon Mous wrote:

Hi Isaac

I was going to put this on the GH thread but it has been locked, so I wanted to send it to you.

Before I begin this comment I want to make clear a few things. I do think harassment happens in tech every day, it falls on socially marginalised groups overwhelmingly, and it needs to stop. I think that CoC’s are a good thing for a community and agree with everything in here. I’m commenting anonymously because I don’t feel safe to say this attached to my real identity.

The CoC defines the rights and responsibilities of all members of the community. One of the rights of members is to not feel threatened, and if they do then to have a safe way to report that. The section on Addressing Grievances covers what someone can do if they feel they’ve been unfairly accused of violating the CoC. This strikes a good balance in the case where the violation of the CoC has been brought to the organisers, evaluated, and then that person has been talked to about their behaviour.

However this doesn’t cover the case where someone has also or only talked about the event in social media and the person has been harassed by a crowd on social media. By the time that the organisers have had a chance to look at the facts and make a decision, punishment may have already been meted out.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I think it’s worth talking about the rights of the accused and the responsibilities of the reporter. In particular, should the reporter refrain from using social media to talk about the person or their actions, instead waiting until the organisers have had a chance to look into the claims?

I’m not sure that social media is always the right place for talking about these incidents, particularly when they have just happened. Additionally I think that often the intent of posting these incidents on social media is at least in part to damage the person they are accusing.

I don’t want to create a gag order, and I don’t know what the right answer is here. I’m aware that marginalised groups are at an extreme power imbalance when making reports, and I wouldn’t want to put anything in place that would make a marginalised person feel unsafe in attending an event, or reporting an incident. Perhaps we decide to be silent on this, leaving it up to the judgement of the person reporting it. If that is the case, then it still deserves to be discussed.

On 18 November 2014 11:22, Isaac Schlueter wrote:

Well, Mx. Mous, I think that you bring up a relevant point, but not one that is new or should direct any different course of action.

Essentially, you are saying that the blowback against an accused harasser on social media channels may be disproportionate to their actions, and in particular, may make the jobs of project administrators more difficult as a result.

This is a relevant concern. However, let’s dig in one step deeper, and look at the root.

Abused people lash out on social media when they have no other outlet, or when other outlets are unlikely to be productive. The best way we can address this is to make sure that victims of abuse are confident that their grievances will be addressed by the community admins.

It is a myth that victims love or seek it out publicity. Look at the actual effects that so-called “professional victims” have to look forward to. No one would go through that if they had any other reasonable choice. It is only a sense of justice that tends to compel them to make their abuse public for the good of others who might benefit from the warning.

If we say “THOU SHALT NOT SPEAK OF THIS ON SOCIAL MEDIA”, as one of the rules of the CoC, then what we are actually saying is, “As project administrators, we believe that you will be so dissatisfied by relying on us that you will have no other choice than to take the fight into the public; furthermore, we are unwilling to be held accountable for our actions in public, so we have added this caveat to absolve ourselves of responsibility if you escalate this issue.”

In fact, rather than ensuring that victims of abuse pursue the “proper” channels for their grievances, this sort of rule will tend to increase the likelihood of a public flamewar, which in practice tends to harm victims more than abusers.

The best course of action is thus to clearly communicate that we will support victims of abuse and harassment, so much so that we are willing and eager to receive any feedback in public or private about how can do this better.

If we do that, and leave it up to the best judgement of abuse victims how they go public, we will tend to find that almost no one opts to heap additional abuse and scrutiny on themselves.

With your permission, I would like to post your question and this response publicly, because this is a common question. I will not include the email headers.

On Mon, Nov 17, 2014 at 5:15 PM, Anon Mous wrote:

Hi Isaac

Thanks for this. You’re totally right and I agree with you. I had some of these ideas floating around but you linked them together for me. I’m happy for you to post this question and response publicly.

Thanks, Mx Mous