locked Re: Code of conduct


 

Hi Mark,

It seems to me that every group on Groups.io already has the perfect Code of Conduct enforcement method in place:  if a member has an issue with something that has been posted, regardless of how popular or unpopular your viewpoint on that issue is, that member can ... leave the group.  Anybody who is offended by anything at all merely has to leave the group and will no longer be offended by anything posted in that group.  Really quite simple, and in its own way it's really quite elegant as well.

If a group's conduct becomes unacceptable to enough people there will no longer be a group;  problem solved, all by itself.  It's hard to be racist, sexist, or anything else-ist to others if there's nobody else there to listen!

If the group's conduct is acceptable to some or many people then those people will continue together as a group of like-minded individuals, whether here on Groups.io or elsewhere.  The question that immediately comes to mind when I hear code of conduct and private groups (and these are private groups, even if they are open to the pubic, unless they're supported by government money) is:  who is appointed the Official & Final Arbiter of Conduct?  And who decides who appoints this ultimate authoritarian?  And who decides who gets to decide who appoints him or her, ad nauseum.

Different people have different levels of tolerance, and depending upon the setting, circumstances, relationship of the individuals or group, etc., what may be nothing at all to one group of people may be utter blasphemy or outrageous behavior to others.  As some have already mentioned, Yahoo! bans certain words that can be considered vulgar or profane in some circumstances and are purely mainstream and acceptable in others:  bitch and ass come to mind (anyone who can't figure out the problems here then one shouldn't even be part of this discussion!).  I previously wrote about my offering to sell "Al's balls" on one of my groups, and the problems that it caused because somebody either didn't understand the context, the subject, or simply wanted to cause problems for that group with Yahoo!.  Religion and politics and even science groups are ripe for and rife with potential issues;  the Christian west, as an example, has concepts of free speech which include the assumed right to commentary and satire -- verbal, written, and visual -- while some religious groups, such as far right ultra orthodox Islam (my description) has real problems with those things when they are applied to Allah and Islam, resulting in the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie for writing and publishing his book "The Satanic Verses" and twelve people being killed at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine that published controversial Muhammad cartoons after Muslim clerics declared them to be blasphemous.

Out of curiosity, Mark, if Ayatollah Ruhollah started a Groups.io group to discuss Muslim theology and blasphemy, who would be the arbiter of the code of conduct on their discussions if a conservative Christian complained?  Would that arbiter of conduct have any moral authority to censor or ban one of the highest clerics of Islam theology?  That person would be damned if he did, and damned if he didn't!

What if a Groups.io group is started to discuss "The Satanic Verses" and somebody complains that it's blasphemous to the Groups.io Conduct Authority?  What if Salman Rushdie himself starts the group, or joins in the conversation or debate?  Similar issues as above.

What if a group of religious or free speech academics or even just plain old people started a group to discuss the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the underlying issues, re-posted those cartoons on their Groups.io group, and a conservative Muslim complained?  Would that arbiter of conduct have any moral authority to censor or ban the free expression and discussion (including the posting of blasphemous or non-blasphemous cartoons, depending upon one's point-of-view) by religious or first amendment scholars -- or people merely interested in discussing / debating the issues?  Again, the arbiter of conduct would be damned if he did, and damned if he didn't!

Take the example above even one step further:  What if Groups.io doesn't censor or ban the Charlie Hebdo group, and a bunch of conservative Christians, freedom of speech advocates, and conservative Muslims all join the group and start an intense debate on the matter.  Somebody complains to Groups.io about a code of conduct violation -- who at Groups.io has the authority and depth of insight and knowledge to decide what's OK, what's not, who's in the right, who's not?  I know I wouldn't be as I'm neither a religious authority or a free speech scholar, and I'm guessing Groups.io has neither on staff.  Even if your staff had one, obviously there's some pretty deeply held religious beliefs being discussed here and the blasphemy issue will never be answered on a Groups.io group or by a Groups.io Code of COnduct arbiter or censor, though there is obvious value to there being a venue to have the debate.  What will you do:  ban ALL discussion of a religious nature, or to be safe ban ANY discussion that will generate controversy and code of conduct complaints?

The obvious answer is to leave the moderators in charge of their own groups' conduct, and let the members vote with their feet:  stay if it's OK, leave if it isn't.  Simple and elegant, with the added benefit of keeping extremists from issuing fatwas on staff members of Groups.io! <--tongue in cheek humor, in case that wasn't clear!

The whole Code of Conduct idea is a bad idea from the start if it's going to be imposed on the groups by Groups.io itself.  Let the group owners/moderators determine their groups' culture and mores and conduct, and let the members signal their approval or disapproval by subscribing or unsubscribing.

Mark, if you are truly concerned about Groups.io getting some sort of "bad" reputation like some other communications platforms, might I suggest that to address your concerns without embroiling yourself and your staff in code of conduct issues and problems that you simply retain the authority to require groups which leave you uncomfortable or concerned to switch over to being private groups instead of public groups?  Problem solved with public image issues for Groups.io;  anybody who joins a private group at that point has gone looking for whatever they found, especially if you allow a label such as "restricted" or "adult" or some other similar rating or label that notifies the potential subscriber that there may be some concerns for the faint hearted amongst us.

Best,

Mark Bielecki 


On Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 03:08 pm, Mark Fletcher <markf@corp.groups.io> wrote:

Hi All,

On Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 10:18 AM, Anita C. <pocketcollie@...> wrote:

Just out of curiosity, could you share the general nature of the complaints without giving away the specific list? 


Recently, complaints about bullying by group owners. But my thought about creating a CoC is more about the future than right now, and shaping the general reputation of Groups.io groups as 'safe' places on the Internet.

Here's what I want to avoid. Reddit has a horrible reputation, for hosting racist and sexist groups, for trolls, for a lot of nastiness. I don't want any part of that. While not a direct corollary to Groups.io, Twitter also has a problem with a lot of harassment. Many people don't feel safe using those services. In the real world, many science fiction conventions (amongst others) have realized that they need a code of conduct because bad behavior was happening (mainly sexual harassment, I believe).

It seems to me that there are some general things that would apply to all groups: no harassment, no racism, etc. By establishing a CoC, my hope would be that it would head off some of this behavior. I would hope that all Groups.io moderators would want Groups.io to have a good reputation. It would only help you.

Does this make what I'm trying to get at more clear? Thoughts appreciated.

Thanks,
Mark

 

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