Jennifer H’s 2023 Q&A: Features & Content Policy

[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?

Absolutely! I think it is very important to prioritize user experience, especially considering AO3’s mission of maximum inclusiveness.

I’m very pleased that blocking & muting are now available—I’d also like to see a permanent tag blocklist, like “muted words” on Twitter. Another important addition would be extending blocking and muting to be site-wide, something that is in the works and is gradually being implemented.

Working through this question, I realize that the rest of the features I would want have been implemented by the archive over the years: adding exclusion filters, various types of comment moderation, and gift refusals. I’d love to hear how other people navigate the archive and what the largest pain points for them are!

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

On one hand, I want to remain cognizant that the archive was founded by a non-diverse group and the mandatory archive warnings reflect that. On the other hand, if additional mandatory warnings are added, choosing them would need careful consideration.

All that said, my current proposal is this: continue preparing the archive for canonizing additional No Fandom tags again (recently announced at the latest Board meeting) and enable a permanent tag blocklist, similar to the muted words function on Twitter. That way users will not need to enter all of their blocked tags each time they search through works.

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

My personal stance is the current utilization of AI in creative spaces is unethical and we should prevent scraping in whatever ways we can; however, as noted in the next question I find it far more important to protect actual, human fic writers from having their works removed for “potentially being AI” than proposing an unenforceable ban.

I’ll go more into detail on my opinions on a potential policy in the next question, and I’ll clarify my thoughts on AI learning from the archive here.

In my opinion, AI learning from the archive is stealing from creators—point blank. We’ve added some precautions against this, notably disallowing Common Crawl to scrape the archive, and I believe we should continue looking into any other potential precautions, where applicable.

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?

Unfortunately, I do not believe an AI ban is enforceable. Take a look at artists on Twitter—quite a few are being called out for posting “AI-generated” work despite sketches, time lapses, etc proving that they are, indeed, the creators.

AI detectors also come with a bias against non-native English writers (and this is likely the same across other languages as well). It doesn’t take into account someone who is learning how to write in general, or people who have distinctive styles.

Unless a user specifically tags a fic as “AI generated” or mentions it in a note or the comments, there is no definitive way to know that a work was AI created other than asking for a document with a version history enabled and PAC then going through it manually—something that is invasive, would take away time from priority tickets, and doesn’t account for the many users who do not work in applications that have a way to track that.

Instead, I support the creation of an “AI-generated” tag, something that will be part of the upcoming trial run for No Fandom freeform canonization that was mentioned in the latest Board meeting here [link opens to Discord]. That way, users can filter those works out while human creators are not harmed in the process. If there are other potential solutions—that don’t affect human creators—I would love to hear them!

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?

I mentioned in Q&A 1 that I am “committed to the organization’s founding mission: [for AO3] to be a safe harbor for transformative works and their creators.” This includes any and all content—including controversial or problematic—with the exception of works that do not align with the TOS (plagiarism, not actually a fanwork, etc).

For the last part, I assume you’re referring to the Major Archive Warning: Underage, which could be considered unlawful in some parts of the world due to their restrictions on literary content. Reasons such as that are why the archive is legally hosted in the United States, where restrictions such as that do not currently exist. It is intentional—to allow for all content. I continue to support this.

If this was not the correct interpretation of your question, I invite you to come by the candidate chats in a few weeks and I’d be glad to clarify!

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?

I’d like to start by noting that harassment in bookmarks can be reported to PAC and it will be taken care of accordingly. This is not something that AO3 allows!

Protecting creators from harassment is a priority and the main measure that I would take is giving PAC the resources, support, and ability to operate further within the TOS to protect the AO3 community.

For the rest—candidly, bookmarks are not a feature for the creators of a work to look at and receive feedback. If there is harassment, please report that, but they are intended for readers/viewers to find recommendations or to read people’s opinions on fics and find new ones to read. I liken it to review sites such as Goodreads or Storygraph.

So I do not believe that adding the measures presented would serve the intended purpose of bookmarking, although I do commiserate with looking at bookmarks on my fics and seeing ones that aren’t all praise.

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?

Fanlore has a comprehensive set of policies, notably on Deceptive Practices, Ethical Standards for Community Content, and Plural Point of View which encompass the acknowledgement of harassment (as recorded in fandom history) as well as preventing harassment from occurring on Fanlore.

As for resources, there are quite a few! Pages on Fanlore can be edited with certain flags to either call attention to the Fanlore Gardeners, who can review, or to note that the page may only contain one (or a few) sides of a story. You can find more information in the following links about PPOV (Plural Point of View) and the role of a Fanlore Gardener, in addition to the other policies mentioned above.

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?

My answer is two-fold. I think it is important for AO3 to continue to develop and improve—but not for other people to set up their own archives. AO3’s platform has grown to such a degree that it would not necessarily be functional for a smaller archive to use (please keep in mind that I am not a technical person, but this is my understanding from the research I have done on this topic).

I mentioned in my first Q&A post that I would like to champion the idea of something like eFiction, which was very popular among smaller archives before it stopped updating. I think it is extremely important that people are able to create their own spaces on the internet with their own content and conduct policies, and I think solutions such as this are more accessible (and will likely be quicker / easier to implement) than continuing to use AO3’s code as a base. Quicker / easier to implement is also relative and this would be something that would take time.

I say this with one caveat—this is very much a “wish list” item of mine, not necessarily something that is currently feasible. I believe our Systems and AD&T (Accessibility, Design, & Technology) teams should continue prioritizing their current work (which is a lot!) until there is bandwidth to spare.

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?

Comment bots are extremely annoying! However, a lot of the spam comments going around appear to be targeted specifically to AO3 (ie: Webnovel comments, the strange barrage of exactly 3 sentences long comments, etc) and it is likely that their sources will easily overcome measures such as OpenID or other types of email verification.

Additionally, AO3 has implemented OpenID in the past and it was phased out due to a lack of usage (circa 2011, if I recall correctly). As such, I would like to prioritize other items at this time.

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.

As a Tag Wrangler, this is right up my alley! It’s an interesting question as well. I definitely support this, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

First and foremost, it depends on whether or not there is a Tag Wrangler working on the fandom (or in the case of mega-fandoms, if there is a large enough team). We have thousands of fandoms on the archive without a dedicated Wrangler.

Second, in the case of larger fandoms (which I suspect you are referring to), it is important to consider that these fandoms often get hundreds of new tags a day to sort through. Rest assured that our Wranglers are quite dedicated, organized, and they’re working through the bins as quickly as they can—they want to canonize tags for you all as well!

One of the main guidelines to keep in mind is this: before a canonical tag can be made, the concept must be tagged at least three times (and it cannot be by the same person). The tags must also be clear and not ambiguous—for example, if an author posts multiple concepts in one tag, then there’s nothing that can be done on the synning side of things. This can be frustrating when it comes to exclusion filters, I know.

If there are specific tags or concepts that you are concerned about, please contact our Support team and they can get in touch with the Wrangler(s) working on that fandom (or a Supervisor, if there aren’t any) who can let you know where things stand. In the meantime, we’re almost always recruiting new Wranglers—we’d love to have you!