Michelle S 2022 Q&A: Diversity and Inclusion

[Note: There will be 3 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.]

How would you plan to help make the OTW a welcoming space for Black fans and all fans of color and continue the process of addressing the previously acknowledged “long-standing issues with racism in fandom”?

I think it’s important to listen to POC fans and volunteers to help make the OTW a more welcoming space. I could come up with ideas until I’m blue in the face, but I’m not a person of color and so I would much rather defer to those who are directly impacted by these issues, and help support them in any way I am able to.

That said, the OTW is looking into hiring a diversity consultant, who would be better placed than me to offer suggestions and potential solutions to our problems. If I am elected, I look forward to continuing the process of finding and hiring someone to help address these issues.

What will you do to combat the racist and transphobic harassment on the platform that has been a major issue for years and make AO3 a safe place for POC/trans people, to address the criticism that AO3 only caters to cis white sometimes queer people?

AO3 takes all forms of harassment extremely seriously, and cases of harassment should be reported to the Policy & Abuse committee. However, there are also a number of methods developed specifically to help close off potential avenues for harassment, including the new comment blocking feature, or muting users via a site skin (the instructions for which are contained in the previous link). It’s also possible to utilize the Archive tools to prevent anonymous comments (or any comments entirely), stop other users from adding you as a co-creator, or prevent users from sending you malicious gift works. On top of all of that, there are also a number of third-party tools, some of which are covered in the Unofficial Browser Tools FAQ, which can also help curate content.

The Board of Directors is not responsible for coding and releasing new features on the Archive– that honor goes to the Accessibility, Design & Technology (AD&T) committee– but if I were to be elected to Board, I would be delighted to support both the AD&T committee and the Policy & Abuse committee in whatever capacity they needed me.

how do you propose to resolve the issue some archive users have that works are racist or hateful or otherwise problematic?

At the end of the day, there is no one way to resolve the issue. The AO3 was designed with maximum inclusivity in mind, and that is a core founding tenet of the site. While this means that some users will find some works problematic or outright offensive, all we can do is offer new and better ways to curate one’s experience on the Archive, so that users can navigate AO3 without encountering the kinds of works they don’t want to see.

As mentioned above, things like muting users, making use of the exclusion filters, and reporting works to the Policy & Abuse committee (if the problematic content goes against the Terms of Service) are currently some of the ways to help filter out upsetting content.

Are you in agreement with the June 2020 statement about addressing racism on AO3? What specific things would you like to see OTW/AO3 do about racism, and in particular anti-blackness, on the site? Are you satisfied with the pace of AO3/OTW’s actions so far?

I do agree with the June 2020 statement (in fact, as a chair, I even signed it!), and I would like to continue working on the steps set out in that statement. As someone who entered fandom through Livejournal and spent a lot of time reading through carefully curated reclists, one of the items on the list of upcoming changes I’m excited about is the improved collection searching and filtering. In my opinion, this will help by allowing users to put together groups of fanworks– either for specific fandoms, or by tropes, or just in general– that someone could go through and read without having to worry about whether the next fic in the list might be racist or otherwise problematic.

As I said in my previous Q&A answers, sometimes the OTW can move slowly, especially in matters involving a number of committees or issues with this much complexity. We’ve introduced new features from the list of upcoming changes, including more control over comments on your works, and we’re still working on other items there. While I would love it if we could flip a magical switch and make things happen faster, I think as long as we keep moving forward at a steady pace, we can make things better for fans everywhere.

[Note: All questions from members and candidate responses appear in the form they were submitted and represent only the views of the individual who wrote them. Questions and responses are not endorsed by the Organization for Transformative Works.]