Kati Eggert 2020 Q&A: Racism in the OTW and Its Projects

[Note: In total, there will be 6 Q&A posts to cover all of the topics brought up during the user-submitted Q&A period. The candidates were limited to 300 words to answer each question, but they were allowed to rearrange and combine questions within a single post to more clearly express their thoughts. Candidate answers represent only the views of the individual candidate and are not endorsed by the OTW.

Due to a high volume of similar questions this year, many questions were merged and duplicate questions were left out. Other than this, questions appear in the form they were submitted. Questions represent only the views of the individual questioner and are not endorsed by the OTW.]

Fans of color have long expressed concerns about the way racism (especially anti-Blackness) in fandom is reproduced by the design and structures of OTW spaces. If elected to the Board, how would you work to make OTW spaces more welcoming to fans of color?
How will you support your chairs and staff in addressing racism in the OTW’s culture and platforms as with the technical projects?

Board and Chairs have discussed the concerns that have been expressed by fans regarding issues of racism, especially on the Archive, and have published a statement with first steps to address those. The solutions that the OTW will look into focus on providing tools to help users better curate their experiences on the Archive and reviewing the Terms of Service regarding our harassment policies. Internally the Board has also opened an anonymous feedback option in addition to the usual feedback channels for volunteers.

In addition to the already published statement the OTW I would support the possibility of engaging with outside experts, not only regarding issues of racism but also to solicit input on our policies in general and in how to transform our governance structure and to be more sustainable long-term.

Our projects face different challenges addressing racism – there is no “one size fits all” solution. Our projects and committees are continuously taking feedback from volunteers, members and users into consideration and are discussing possible changes to features and impacts on policies. My role as a Board member would be to coordinate overarching discussions regarding policy changes and cross-committee efforts as well as support the committees in implementing proposed changes that fall within their remit. I would strive to continue the work Board has been doing to ensure they are an accessible and responsive point of contact for members and users.

Many fans of color have spoken out about racism and racist harassment in fandom. What *specific* steps do you propose that the OTW take to tackle racism on its platforms? (such as a diversity report of volunteers, an anti-harassment working group, etc) [merged question]
Will the candidates commit to the OTW publishing a volunteer diversity report, and an action plan for recruiting fans of colour? Will this action plan include disavowing well-known racist and early-AO3 architect franzeska?

As mentioned above, the OTW has already outlined first steps to address the issues faced disproportionately by fans of colour, including providing features to help users better curate their experiences, reviewing the Terms of Service regarding harassment policies, and soliciting additional volunteer feedback. Additionally, I would support efforts to solicit outside experts as proposed in my answers to the first question.

Recruitment for the OTW is always open to fans from all backgrounds and we attract applications from volunteers based around the globe. To volunteer for the OTW, applicants only need to provide a username and a statement that they are over 16/18 depending on the committee; as a rule, no further data on e.g. ethnicity or gender has to be disclosed. And while some volunteers decide to release additional information within our internal chat tool, the OTW will never request or systematically collect further information. I will not support the collection and publication of any further personal data for the safety of all our volunteers, some of whom are already at-risk volunteering for the OTW and could face legal repercussions. Any data that the OTW does not possess cannot be requested by authorities. During recruitment, we could perhaps make it clearer to potential applicants that we do not require or ask for personally identifying information from our volunteers, and that we welcome applicants from diverse backgrounds and nationalities.

Internal OTW workgroups have had varying successes so far; historically changes have been more successful under lead-management of a committee. AO3 Documentation started out as a workgroup and was later turned into a Committee that has been around for years. Then again other workgroups we’ve created have been less successful. Whether this subject will be handled under the lead-management of a committee or by a workgroup, it would only work with the support of the other committees, sensible goals, staffed with volunteers that have had training and expertise in this subject and clear internal decision-making processes.

While we are grateful for the work that the Organisation’s early volunteers did to build the OTW and the Archive from the ground up, I do not think that the OTW and Board candidates should comment on the actions of former volunteers.

In your work as an OTW volunteer (including prior Board service, if applicable), do you feel that you have contributed to anti-racist organizational change? If so, how? If not, why not, and how will you do so as a Board member?
What would you do to ensure that volunteers feel supported within the OTW, especially volunteers of color and other marginalized groups who may feel that their voices go unheard?

As a volunteer for the Policy & Abuse Committee I’m regularly part of discussions surrounding the interpretation of the AO3’s Terms of Service and Frequently Asked Questions, including our harassment policies, from different cultural angles. In these discussions we take into consideration a wide range of perspectives to ensure that not just the loudest (US-centric) voices and experiences will be heard and influence our policy interpretations. As a member of the Board I also intend to support the discussions taking place around implementing a new Archive Warning in order to find a solution that helps users to curate their experience while also upholding our mission of maximum inclusiveness of content.

Within the wider OTW I have also taken part in policy-related discussions over the years, listened to volunteers from marginalized groups and talked privately to volunteers who have disclosed the fact that they are POC to get a better impression of how they currently experience the OTW’s culture and how we can improve their experiences.

In all of these debates it is important to ensure that we are not just soliciting opinions from the loudest, most opinionated voices or those who speak perfect, eloquent English – and that those who are less confident in expressing their views are able to speak up without being dismissed or talked over. That way we can ensure that we incorporate the widest possible range of experiences and make the OTW a place where people from all around the globe feel comfortable and safe volunteering.

Volunteers with the OTW have multiple options for voicing concern or reporting harassment: from informing their Chairs or the Volunteers and Recruiting Committee to contacting the Board directly. Additionally, the Board has opened a new anonymous feedback form to encourage feedback from volunteers who prefer to report problems or suggestions anonymously. As a member of the Board I intend to listen to this feedback and implement the necessary changes in collaboration with the Chairs.

Please discuss what can and should be done by OTW to make AO3 a more welcoming environment for fans of color and a less welcoming environment for racists. How will you prioritize these action items? Do any of the candidates have experience in address the racism that is systemic in fandom as a whole? How would you go about improving Ao3 for fans of Colour? [merged question]
What is your response to the three points in the Open Letter to the OTW on Racism in Fandom? As a Board member, how will you help make fandom a space where all fans, particularly Black, Indigenous, and ethnically marginalized fans from all over the globe, can thrive? (https://t.co/5bmgFhAQKq?amp=1)

In my previous answers I have already mentioned my support for the statement by Board, Chairs and Leads, which was published in response to the Open Letter as well as the wider debate taking place across fandom; I believe that it satisfies most of the points in the letter. I would also, as mentioned earlier, support exploring the possibility of soliciting outside expertise on this issue.

Prioritisation will have to be done by the relevant committees according to the resources available. Promising any concrete deadlines to our members and users would be disingenuous or unrealistic, as our committees must still respond to any day-to-day emergencies that may arise. Additional pressure from the Board under such circumstances is therefore counterproductive. Board should focus on coordinating any cross-organisational solutions and support the committees in their work. Some of the proposed features, like the ability to turn off comments, will be easier to implement and might not need quite as much inter-committee coordination and cooperation and will therefore be “prioritized” by default if not by choice. As previously addressed every solution we consider has to be carefully investigated from all angles, to ensure that we do not only focus on the loudest voices but take into consideration the diverse viewpoints and experiences of our international user base. We also need to make sure that new tools, which are meant to prevent harassment and help users to avoid content they don’t want to see, don’t end up creating new venues for harassment instead.