Natalia G 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 the OTW doesn’t have a very concrete plan yet about how to approach this issue. We are all in agreement regarding the sentiment outlined in the Board’s statement, but how to get there is less certain. Some goals are very clear—there’s a consensus about the importance of implementing blocking and muting tools on the Archive, for example, and I certainly agree that that is incredibly important to protect Black fans and fans of color on the Archive, who often experience harassment and pile-ons.

But regarding the OTW itself, we need external, systematic help to analyze various areas of our organization and how we can improve. Relying on the free labor of Black fans and fans of color to identify problems and solutions in this area is incredibly unjust. The OTW Board recently recruited a project manager for the role of Diversity Consultant Research Officer, whose responsibility it is to research and assess the feasibility of the OTW to contract an individual or organization to consult on issues of racial bias in our organization and projects. Once they’ve selected potential hires, I look forward to working with them, and to actioning the result of their analysis.

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?

Harassment against people of color and trans people is a very serious issue on the Archive, and I aim to support the teams currently working on creating new AO3 tools to help users protect themselves from harassment, such as comment blocking. More protective measures are planned, and it is important that the team of very dedicated developers responsible for the AO3 is provided with any resources they might need to continue their work.

At the same time, there have been discussions in the past few years regarding potential policy changes that aim to find ways to safeguard vulnerable users on AO3. If I am elected to the Board of Directors, I will continue to foster these discussions between the OTW’s Legal team and the Policy & Abuse team, so that we can make our spaces safer against harassment.

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

Running into content that is racist or hateful can be a very triggering experience and I empathize with all people who have inadvertently encountered such content on the Archive. I believe it is very important that the OTW continue working in order to make this type of content easier to avoid, so that users may stay safe while browsing the AO3. The development of blocking and muting tools, of which comment blocking is the beginning, is an important step in this direction. We will continue to strive towards these goals, and as stated in my other answers, I believe that policy discussions involving our Policy & Abuse and Legal teams, particularly regarding harassment and related topics, could also help.

Unfortunately, I’m well aware that it is far from simple to balance the needs of those who wish to avoid triggering content and the Archive’s policy of maximum inclusivity. We will always have plenty of content that some consider undesirable in a number of ways. If it is against our Terms of Service, it should be removed. But in most cases, it is up to us to provide better ways for users to avoid content they don’t wish to be exposed to—and we’re working to be able to do that.

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 believe all goals shared by the Board of Directors in 2020 are of the utmost importance in combating racism on AO3, and that as an organization, the OTW must prioritize addressing racism in our projects and work environment. I am committed to continuing to explore policy changes that might create a safer browsing experience for Archive users, such as tightening our criteria for harassment, especially against people of color. If elected to the Board, I will collaborate with our Legal and Policy & Abuse teams in order to determine what changes might be feasible and enforceable by the relevant AO3 teams.

I know that the OTW moves at a slow pace—much slower than any of us would wish, including OTW volunteers ourselves. As I mentioned in my previous set of Questions & Answers, I too often find the extended periods of time it takes to implement large-scale changes to the OTW and its projects frustrating. However, I understand that our volunteers are doing their best to work on these changes, and a few improvements have already been implemented since, including comment blocking, comment freezing, and the ability to turn off comments entirely. Internally, an anonymous feedback form has been implemented so that volunteers may report issues they encounter without exposing themselves, including racism, and the Board has appointed a new officer who will look into the possibilities for the OTW to eventually hire external consultants to help identify and address racism in the organization.

We still have a long way to go, and it is my goal to continue working on strategies to combat racism in the OTW.

[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.]