Community Guidelines 2.0 July 27, 2020 1:02 PM   Subscribe

I wanted to let you all know that we have updated our Community Guidelines, you can check them here:

Please note that this is part of a wider content management plan and that we’ll be updating and creating other pages in the next months. I personally pushed to start with the guidelines because they play a critical role in both the onboarding process for new members as well as the moderation process.

The updated version was created with feedback from both the other mods as well as feedback from previous discussions across the site.

If you have any feedback or questions about the updated version or the next steps, feel free to comment here! Given that it is a project I will be leading, I’ve asked the rest of the team to leave any questions/comments/feedback on this thread for me, just note that as I work part time it might take some time for me to reply but I will be reading all of your comments in the thread and reply when necessary.
posted by loup (staff) to Etiquette/Policy at 1:02 PM (39 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

Are these sent to new members when they sign up?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:29 PM on July 27, 2020

Maybe add to the list of bolded microaggressions, something like "Do not demand that members provide information about their identity, including but not limited to race, gender, sexuality, disability, mental health, etc." I wouldn't necessarily consider this a microaggression, but given how frequently it seems that commenters are asked for identity information, and how exclusionary, discriminatory, and toxic it can be, maybe it should be added. People have a right to their privacy, and there can be safety issues related to sharing personal information here, so maybe a clear statement that discourages these types of questions could be added to the guidelines to help promote more inclusive discussion.
posted by katra at 1:48 PM on July 27, 2020 [14 favorites]

loup, thank you for leading this project!

People who want to see the previous guidelines, so you can compare: here's what the page said in mid-June.

I saw that the guidelines revision removed some "don'ts," and if you don't mind talking a bit about how you decided to remove stuff, I'd like to know. For instance, I'm guessing that the reasoning for removing the item about name-calling is different from the reasoning for removing the item about spamming.
posted by brainwane at 2:00 PM on July 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

- Yes! New members are pointed at the guidelines page when they sign up. Side note: Reviewing and improving the new member onboarding process is something I would like to do in the future too, but that's a separate project.

- The microaggressions page is also in my list of content to review.

- The previous version of the guidelines is still visible here.

- The main two reasons for removing content were: 1. Making the guidelines shorter/easier to read. 2. Content that should be repurposed in other parts of the site and new pages.
posted by loup (staff) at 2:15 PM on July 27, 2020 [4 favorites]

Ah, got it! Thanks!
posted by brainwane at 2:28 PM on July 27, 2020

I really like this, thank you for leading this effort.

Given that there's a fair bit that was removed and you mentioned new pages, can you provide a list or overview of pages that are in progress or slated to be written? Thanks again!
posted by filthy light thief at 2:51 PM on July 27, 2020

Maybe add ageism to one of the lists of things to look out for.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 3:01 PM on July 27, 2020 [12 favorites]

I wonder if it would be possible to have account creation/activation dependent on agreeing to the site guidelines, so the workflow would be:

- click "sign up"
- goes to the existing newuser.mefi page
- click "sign up for an account here"
- fill in your details and hit "register"
- prior to the paypal redirect, have another page - call it agree.mefi for this example - that essentially says "by paying the registration fee and creating a Metafilter account, I agree to respect and conduct myself according to Metafilter's Community Guidelines when using any Metafilter site", or some similar verbiage. There could even be a check box saying "I have read the Guidelines and agree to abide by them", or some other active step that foregrounds the guidelines and also prevents someone moving forward with registration unless and until the guidelines have been acknowleged.

It may not be legally binding, but it would at least reinforce the idea that "hey, this is who we are, if this isn't for you here's your chance to opt out" and may give cover down the road if there is someone who gets to the point of having to be time-outed or banned or whatever.
posted by pdb at 3:04 PM on July 27, 2020 [5 favorites]

So by the time identity markers are demanded by more than one mefite its usually because a user has declared themselves the expert on a racial/sexual/gender/religious/Otherwise marginalized axis despite many others of said axis vehemently disagreeing with a take or stance. And then later it will come out that the person claiming intimate experience with a racialized/marginalized experience is in fact white but they took an amazing class on latinx studies once! And then the actually marginalized folks who have been pushing back the while time button in disgust. (Just an example but similar things have occurred on the site since it’s inception) We have to balance not demanding bona fides up front and the good faith we all try to expect as mefites with the ugly truth that white folks/straight folks/men etc on this site have historically sometimes placed themselves as the arbitrar or expert in a specific type of marginalization that they have no lived experience in.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 3:56 PM on July 27, 2020 [20 favorites]

Loup, is there a tech reason why your post doesn't have a "Loup--STAFF" badge on it?
I do see it in your comments, but it would make me feel better to see it up at the post as well.
posted by calgirl at 3:57 PM on July 27, 2020

The following "no's" do not seem to be prohibited by the new "do's":

"No spamming"
"No harassment" (presumably now covered under "Be considerate and respectful", but the previous guidance was more expansive and included off-site and MeMail as well as the site itself)
"No doxxing" (maybe covered under "Be considerate and respectful"?)
"No wishing violence on people" (I've seen MeFites very respectfully suggest people should die or be killed)

I'm most struck by the apparent new allowance for wishing violence on people. What's the motivation for allowing this?
posted by saeculorum at 4:38 PM on July 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think these are clearer and much improved guidelines. I especially appreciate "Speak for yourself, not others" as that's something the site culture here has big problems with for whatever reason, to the extent that I think some users have a hard time wrapping their heads around it.

I agree with katra's addition. While there are valid concerns over bad faith users misrepresenting themselves to lend credence to their takes (and there is definitely a history of that on the site), identity checks have not really been a positive dynamic for dealing with that. In my short time back, I've gotten a couple (possibly including this morning regarding surviving assault, kind of still unsure how to feel about that!) and have seen a few instances of white people unknowingly lecturing PoC users or cis people unknowingly lecturing trans users. Something that I think would help is if more people really put into practice the knowledge that minority groups are collections of individuals bound only by accidents of birth and shouldn't be expected to represent entire categories of people when they talk about their perspectives and experiences. That might sound basic to the point of condescending, but it's a dynamic I've noticed and is the #1 reason I demand more opacity in participating here now. People are frequently idiosyncratic (especially the kind of people reading and posting here) and approaching individuals as diplomats for their respective flavor of human is probably going to end up with people getting hurt.

Part of the difficulty is that the kinds of bigotries that happen here tend to be the staying-carefully-within-the-rules-why-are-you-so-upset kinds that poison the assumption of good faith. But the world sucks in so many ways right now and the site won't work if we can't extend basic trust and empathy to other people in this space.
posted by Lonnrot at 4:41 PM on July 27, 2020 [5 favorites]

As an entirely different note, this section: "[l]ook for the flag [!] link on each post and comment if you want to raise something to the moderator's attention" should probably be modified to something like "look for the flag [!] link, click it, and select a reason to raise the moderator's attention". Read as-is, it suggests the person should comment in-thread to get moderator attention, which is both ineffective, and contrary to the notion of "flag it and move on" that I hope we still maintain.
posted by saeculorum at 4:42 PM on July 27, 2020 [4 favorites]

Loup, is there a tech reason why your post doesn't have a "Loup--STAFF" badge on it?

There's never a [Staff] tag on the posts for any of the mods but that is something that should probably be added.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:14 PM on July 27, 2020 [5 favorites]

Haven't we had something somewhere about not discussing breaking the law ? Or is that too obvious?
posted by NotLost at 5:14 PM on July 27, 2020

The following "no's" do not seem to be prohibited by the new "do's":

Unless they're also going to be changed, the FAQ still has a solid selection of don'ts under Why was my MetaFilter comment deleted?
posted by zamboni at 5:27 PM on July 27, 2020

In case unclear from saeculorum's comment above, "Look for the flag [!] link on each post and comment if you want to raise something to the moderator's attention" is unambiguously a problem because "comment" is currently at least as likely to parse as a verb than as the intended noun (and especially so if the reader isn't already fluent in MeFi's post/comment nomenclature).
posted by nobody at 7:00 PM on July 27, 2020 [5 favorites]

Haven't we had something somewhere about not discussing breaking the law ? Or is that too obvious?

What law? Unjust laws that should be fought against? The laws of some police state? The laws of the United States?

Just as a very obvious recent example, the new Hong Kong security laws seem to claim universal applicability - such that criticism of the CCP or its policies would be "breaking the law" here on Metafilter.

Throughout my time here, the anti-drug laws of the US have meant I have on occasion needed to do a fan-dance to find needed information or give advice / opinion on these topics.

I can understand trying to limit the liability of MF as a company, beyond that I do not think MF needs to be a strong advocate of the LAW.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:33 PM on July 27, 2020 [27 favorites]

So by the time identity markers are demanded by more than one mefite its usually because a user has declared themselves the expert on a racial/sexual/gender/religious/Otherwise marginalized axis despite many others of said axis vehemently disagreeing with a take or stance.

This isn't how I've seen it happen recently, and my suggestion also reflects the comments of several members who may or may not still be here. What I've seen has reminded me more about what illegal discrimination could look like in many workplaces, and given the discussions that have also happened recently about the risks related to stalkers, maybe we could prioritize the safety and security of members who could be harmed if there isn't a policy against pressuring members to provide personal information. Maybe there are other ways to challenge ideas set forth on the site without having to demand personal information.
posted by katra at 8:27 PM on July 27, 2020 [11 favorites]

I would prefer if the community guidelines included explicit statements of "no hate speech/no harassment/no doxxing." It's not clear to me that these things are not ok and could lead to being banned in the new version.

Overall, I preferred the "don'ts" list from the previous version.
posted by so much modern time at 9:29 PM on July 27, 2020

From a communications standpoint, the current list is much more wisely drawn up than the old one.

Every time you add something specific, e.g. no doxxing, you are sending the metamessage that unless a "don't" is on the list, it can be explained away. That's a rigid approach, with an underlying tone of disrespect that treats mefites like children, and which can also invite childish behavior. What you want, instead, are principles, which are elastic enough to provide discretion for interpretation — that's what the mods do, after all — over time. You also want something short and simple, so no one feels as though they need to memorize the list! This rewrite achieves all of that.
posted by Violet Blue at 9:45 PM on July 27, 2020 [11 favorites]

The new list does seem more likely to be read in its entirety, and feels more welcoming to good actors.

A section like "Respect users' need for privacy and safety" might be where to include things like doxxing, spamming, threats, etc.

One thing that is missing is a statement of consequences. I.e. that these are more than just airy guidelines, and violating behaviors will result in comment deletion, warnings, temporary bans, permanent bans, etc.

Typo in the last sentence: you can let us know if there's a problem we may not recognize *by* adding a note to your flag
posted by trig at 4:39 AM on July 28, 2020 [4 favorites]

(Also, maybe limit text width on the page for people browsing on big/widescreen monitors)
posted by trig at 4:41 AM on July 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

I would like a clear answer on whether ANY of the modifications to the flagging process and the links to flag comments that were discussed only one month ago are being considered, and if so which ones.

I know time seems incredibly dilated in 2020, but it was only June 21:

The flag button's design is bad enough to be a social justice issue
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 5:19 AM on July 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

There's never a [Staff] tag on the posts for any of the mods but that is something that should probably be added.

FWIW I brought this up with the mods via the Contact form and it's been added to the To Do list, although that list is obviously pretty full already.

posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:59 AM on July 28, 2020

So I flagged this last night and it appeared to get no response yet, so I’m raising it more directly: is “fan dance” problematic? I agree with a what meatbomb said upthread, and with the sentiment of sometimes needing to be oblique when discussing some topics, but that term itself feels like unnecessary orientalism to me, given that the same sentiment can be easily explained without reference to tropes that tie back into racist attitudes.

Mostly in favor of the new guidelines. Not sure how to thread the needle between desire for positive language and the desire to have some things be bright-line not-okay (threats, doxxing, etc). I believe those things are clearly against the spirit of the new guidelines and I am pretty sure the mod/community reaction to them won’t change in practice, but I also hear what people are saying about the language forbidding them being in the old document feeling important to them. Would people commenting here feel more comfortable with a shortlist of “these things are never okay” policies, in addition to the new, warmer “please do these things” language? Or would the proposed “respect other users’ safety and privacy” section get it done?

Could the mods please share some of their thought-process behind that specific change in the next round of responses?
posted by Alterscape at 7:44 AM on July 28, 2020

Vehement agreement with each of katra's comments above. Appreciate the relative brevity of the new guidelines.
posted by youarenothere at 8:31 AM on July 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

“fan dance”

I always understood that to be a reference to the burlesque strip-tease act, and my quick research on Wikipedia seems to confirm that?
posted by Meatbomb at 8:34 AM on July 28, 2020 [8 favorites]

I really appreciate the reduced length here and for the most part want to applaud the change. Part of me bristles because we don’t explicitly talk about my personal bugbear, which is sizeism (commonly known as fatphobia), though I recognize that there’s enough nods to respecting different identities and avoiding stereotypes that you could argue there’s no need to be explicit.

But...since this is something I’ve brought up many times before, but never gotten a mod’s response on (because I haven’t asked for one — not because they’ve ignored me), I wanted to ask loup now: are there conversations/intentions on the mod-end to make it clearer that body size is an axis of discrimination that isn’t allowed here? (Because it certainly has been allowed here in the past and still isn’t consistently addressed when it occurs, though I’ve seen improvements.)

It’s such a common inclusion in progressive spaces these days that I’m constantly surprised at the absolute base level ignorance that is not only allowed but expected here. I want to push for a clear expectation being set at onboarding that members are welcome to talk about their own body size as they wish but talking about other’s as being disgusting, a burden, a drain on healthcare, a moral choice or a personal failing, etc is not acceptable. Essentially I’d like to see it be made crystal clear that 101 level conversations about “but don’t you know fat is unhealthy?” or “having a conventionally accepted body size is achieved by a healthy lifestyle therefore not having one is a choice” aren’t allowed because they are harmful.

I want it to be put in writing because it means that I know the moderation team commits to this policy instead of hoping I get lucky if I flag comments that the moderator on duty understands the harm being done, because often moderator action on threads touching upon body size come down to “be nice to each other” (which sends the message that we should be polite to those doing harm to us) instead of “there aren’t two sides to consider here; sizeism isn’t okay.”

Hope this is a good spot to bring this up — I am honestly not sure where to talk about it at this point. I understand that loup is working part time with a huge to do list so I understand this might not get a lengthy or immediate response! Let me know if this is better talked about via the contact form if this is a derail in this thread; if so, deleting this comment with a note to that effect is fine by me if you need this conversation not to happen here.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 8:36 AM on July 28, 2020 [28 favorites]

i know others have replied with their thoughts on this, but given that this happened this year, and led to this mod comment

Re-reading that MeTa thread (from only 6 months ago, damn) and I realize there's a hole where 23skidoo's insightful contributions should be.

I hadn't realized they were one of the users to ask to get their site history erased, what a loss.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 8:39 AM on July 28, 2020 [8 favorites]

Thank you for working on these guidelines.
posted by scruss at 9:05 AM on July 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

Ok, sorry meatbomb, all. May have jumped the gun there.
posted by Alterscape at 11:03 AM on July 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

I wonder if this might warrant a mention on the front page? I rarely check in on MetaTalk (though I should do so more often), and had been unaware of these discussions. Seems worth putting the Community Guidelines out where we lurkers and general rabble can see it?
posted by TheCoug at 1:36 PM on July 28, 2020 [4 favorites]

Seconding TheCoug. With both the BIPOC advisory board and racial discussion being closed threads and the old banner removed, I think it would be good to bring this to more peoples' attention.

Going ahead, it might be a good practice to keep a "community discussions" banner and link current threads like this one. I know some people had issues with the banner not rendering nicely and overlapping some site buttons, but unless there's another way to boost the attention to these community discussions, people might miss these threads.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:43 PM on July 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

Thank you for all the feedback! I’ve spent the last few hours reading and taking notes. Let me try to address most of the comments with some extra context on what I meant when I said this is part of a wider content management plan:

These guidelines serve as basic behaviour we expect community members to follow. They are written for both current and new community members who wish to participate in the site.

If you are going to post hateful or inappropriate content, that content will be removed and, chances are, that you will be banned as well.

So, I proposed to remove the “Don'ts” from the guidelines not because they are not relevant but because they should be an entirely different page. This means that spamming, harassment, doxxing, hate speech, wishing violence, and other abusive behavior *should be spelled out in detail and separately*.

I don’t have a list of pages that are being created or updated (yet) as these guidelines were the first step, but I’ll make sure to communicate with restless_nomad on the next steps so that it can be included in the regular update posts mentioned here.

Some extra notes:
- We are aware of the Staff badge issue. Thank you for contacting us about it too!
- Yes, the account creation process is something I have in my radar to tackle as well, but that's a separate project.
- The “Want to tell us about a problem?” Section is being reworded–thanks for the feedback!
- Regarding other items and priorities from the many Metatalks we’ve had this summer such as the flag design thread, you're welcome to add them to R_N’s thread, that way those can be included and addressed in the update posts.

I hope this gives more context 🙂
posted by loup (staff) at 2:25 PM on July 28, 2020 [15 favorites]

I agree with Katra's observation, I pretty much don't participate in topics that are relevant to me because I don't want to have to out myself in a public forum.
posted by mikek at 5:42 AM on July 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

Hi Everyone! We've now added a Content Policy to the footer of the site. Please leave any questions/comments/feedback here and I'll do my best to address them.
posted by loup (staff) at 9:29 AM on August 19, 2020

The part that says
If you are having suicidal thoughts, please seek in-person help. MetaFilter has compiled a list of resources to assist you.
Should have a link to the list of resources.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:15 AM on August 19, 2020

Yes, links are being fixed. 🙂
posted by loup (staff) at 10:35 AM on August 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

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