Audrey R’s 2023 Q&A: Features & Content Policy

July 26: Per an announcement, Audrey R. withdrew from the ballot.

[Note: There will be 4 Q&A posts total, covering all the topics brought up during the user-submitted Q&A period. Candidates were limited to 300 words per answer.]

Would you be in favor to expand further features of the Archive to improve user experience? If so, what features do you think Ao3 needs to add or improve? What AO3 features would you prioritize to help people avoid what they don’t want to see?

My priority as a board member would be the internal sustainability of the organization. Without the OTW there is no AO3. This question is about long-term external viability to end-users and whether it is a priority to increase users’ ability to curate their experiences on AO3. If we don’t get our house in order, these issues will get worse and not better. The conversation I am interested in having at this moment is about OTW’s immediate viability.

Looking further down the line, I am in favor of expanding features that allow writers / artists / podficcers / etc. to further curate their experience on the site. Whether that is expanding the block & mute functions or another sort of feature upgrade we have yet to consider, I am eager to make the Archive an even greater place to host fanwork. The other feature I would like to see is the ability to filter / sort through your history. (Based on first accessed date, most recently accessed date, whether you left kudos, etc.) Any of these ideas would need to be assessed for feasibility and prioritized before implementation planning would take place.

Do you support adding additional mandatory archive warnings (for example, warnings for incest and slavery), and do you think this is feasible?

In the short-term: no to both. Perhaps a year down the line this is a conversation to have, but right now I am focused on OTW’s internal stability.

In the long-term: we can look into whether additional mandatory warnings will be useful. Right now, from my perspective, the idea of adding those two warnings is a concession that enough work exists on the Archive for it to be a mandatory warning instead of individual tags. That could have serious implications as far as both domestic hosting and international access are concerned. As for their feasibility? I do not have the full knowledge base to pull from to say. That conversation will need to begin with the input of multiple committees.

What is your stance on AI scraping/learning from the Archive and AI produced works on OTW platforms?

I am vocally anti-AI, and I am quite conservative in these matters. However, I also recognize my limitations and where I lack understanding in this area. I would lean on others’ expertise and gather a multitude of perspectives along with potential solutions. I am happy that we have added code to the Archive to restrict data scraping.

I do not believe AI-generated works are transformative and do not believe they belong on the Archive. There are several questions and potential ToS updates that arise from considering them truly transformative works. In my mind, AI works are inherently derivative.

That being said, I also recognize the limitations and potential backfiring of any anti-AI measures we put in place. I am not proposing specific policies at this time because my primary priority is the structural soundness of the organization, and I recognize the constraints of my perspective in this area.

In your opinion, what would a sensible policy regarding ai-generated content on AO3 look like? How would you enforce this policy such that NO human fic writers are harmed in overzealous attempts to reign in ai-generated content, as seen on art platforms which attempted an ai ban? Do you think AI is something that PAC can accurately detect and regulate/restrict?

The organization should not add such massive responsibility and overwhelming burden to any committee at this time. We are not internally efficient enough to integrate any AI detection policy into current processes.

I do not know what a “sensible” policy would look like. I know what it doesn’t look like. We do not want to make the Archive an unfriendly place to writers and we do not want to promote censorship–certainly not participate in censorship based on suspicion. Current AI detection tools often propagate linguistic discrimination and are far more harmful than helpful.

(It might be helpful for fan artists if we develop a partnership of some kind with the University of Chicago’s Glaze AI cloaking tool. We could offer a resource for fan artists to protect their work in some way from AI scraping not only on the Archive, but throughout online spaces. However, I make that suggestion as someone who participates in the Archive as a writer, not as an artist. Fan artists are better equipped to answer the image portions of this question as my understanding is primarily in LLMs.)

How do you feel about AO3’s principle of maximum inclusivity of fanworks? Are you willing to uphold AO3’s commitment to protecting content that many consider controversial or problematic? Where do you personally think the line should be drawn with respect to AI, racism, etc? What are the candidates thoughts on content currently being hosted on the site, including the Archive level Minor warning, and how it relates to the sites availability in various countries?

Words like “controversial” and “problematic” do not have stagnant definitions; they change based on perspective. Just as the answer to this question depends on how you view the Archive. To me, it is a library, it is a host, and it is up to the user / patron to curate their own experience. It is up to the OTW to ensure there are mechanisms in place to prevent the weaponization of works.

As an organization, the OTW should promote inclusivity over exclusivity. The line is drawn at harassment, addressed in the question below. I do not know what “Archive level Minor warning” refers to, whether that is the yellow banner or the “underage” mandatory warning, so I do not fully understand the question.

What measures will you take to better protect creators from harassment on Ao3? Would you implement methods to protect creators from harassment in Bookmarks? Eg. Creators can set “disallow/hide comments or tags on public bookmarks or when a user changes their private bookmarks with notes to public”. Or options to delete or respond to bookmarks?

First, empowering the Policy and Abuse Committee with the adequate resources and training required to handle harassment complaints should be a sustained, consistent effort and a priority for the board.

Second, I would like to empower writers on the Archive to further curate their own experience. We focus a lot on readers as consumers, but we also need to focus on writers, artists, podficcers, etc. as the producers filling this virtual library. I really liked the introduction of the feature to disallow users placing my work into collections. Perhaps something in that vein would be beneficial for bookmarks, but that is a broader conversation. Expanding the block and mute functionality to include bookmarks may be a more efficient solution.

As a supplement, I do not believe we should allow responses to bookmarks. That would create exponentially more problems than it would solve.

Preserving fan culture is a OTW mission, but when preserving & recording history, how do you think say Fanlore can acknowledge, warn or prevent replicating of harassment & hate speech? In your volunteer experience, what resources are available for volunteers & users on what to do when encountering such cases?

I do not understand the premise of this question. It is my understanding that Fanlore editors do their best to remove any hateful or harassing comments on articles. Referencing replication, I initially thought this was a question about the Open Doors imports. I am confused by this question to the point that I don’t have an answer.

How important do you think it is to focus on making sure the AO3 software continues to be developed and improved so other people can set up their own archives with their own content and conduct policies?

There is serious concern about the internal stability and structure of this organization, so we need to prioritize the sustainability of our own archive before stepping out and making external support a top priority. We need to ensure AD&T, Support, and Systems have adequate resources and staffing before we add more to their plate. (I think a singular tech support, issue resolution, and knowledge management platform would be beneficial for this purpose.)

That being said, I believe we can encourage the existence of fanworks being hosted in other places. I would support developing a tutorial and lessons-learned for how to start up an archive. Not the code itself, but a high-level guide and lessons-learned for those who want to establish archives in other languages or locations. Other archives do not need to look and/or function like ours. The code itself is not the priority in this case; the holistic organizational takeaways are vital.

Comment bots at AO3 are a growing problem. While some of the fixes for that are “better spamblockers,” would you be willing to promote something like OpenID to allow comments from people without AO3 accounts?

I have received spam comments on my works hosted by the Archive, but I do not believe I am fully equipped to answer this question. I do not believe we have an established need for OpenID at this time; that conversation would be had with AD&T. We should ensure all technical committees have proper staffing and resources at their disposal. I would not posit a solution without having those extensive conversations with internal stakeholders.

Fandom cultures can vary significantly. How would you best reflect the specific fandom’s expectations in tag canonization and synning? May I please know if you support speeding up the conversion of large and small non-canonical tags into Canonical ones? Canonical tags make it easier to include or exclude works from search.

I don’t have enough knowledge to fully understand and answer this question. I’ll learn and increase my understanding of tag wrangling procedures.