Tyme LaDow 2020 Q&A: AO3 Content Policy and Warnings

July 26: Per an announcement, Tyme Ladow withdrew from the ballot.

[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.]

Do you believe that adding new Archive Warnings to AO3 would be beneficial to the project (and why), and if you could propose a new one, what would it be? Are you committed to maintaining the CNTW option? [merged question]

As a Policy & Abuse staff member, I am very committed to maintaining our CCNTW option and not censoring our users as much as we possibly can. As a user of the Archive, I also understand the push for more possible Archive Warnings. Our two biggest issues when it comes to creating new Archive Warnings is policing and handling prior works. With the Archive currently having over 6 million works, the question of how we deal with all of those works that may or may not need the new warning is always on our minds as we can’t manually go through every work to check for compliance for any new warnings we could create. Additionally, we need to be careful with how we word any new warnings to make sure policing the warning is maintainable. Commonly requested Archive Warnings such as Incest have this issue where there is no way to adequately word a warning in a way that makes sense to everyone. There are just too many discrepancies and possibilities to ever adequately police a warning like that. With that, I’m not going to propose a new one as I’ve already had these conversations time and time again and have yet to find one that works, but am willing to hear what others might bring to the table at any point.

What steps do you consider best to take combating recent conversations regarding racism in fanfiction/fandom, up to, including, and beyond adding archive-required tags for depictions of slavery and/or racist violence? What is your position on adding “Racism” (or something similar) as an Archive Warning? [merged question]

Jumping back to last week’s questions, I am not the one to answer this question. I would rather ask volunteers of color what their opinion is when it comes to what course of action would be best. I definitely do think that a new Archive Warning would be useful but as I said in the last question, there is a lot to weigh when it comes to new Archive Warnings that makes implementing them very difficult. “Racism” as a warning itself I do know would fall into the same pitfall as “Incest” where there are just too many interpretations within our international community to ever be usable, but something akin to “Slavery” or “Hate Speech/Slurs” might be more doable, though of course it would need to be discussed. Things such as Slavery are more concrete. There isn’t much room for interpretation that might be different across cultures. Something either is or is not slavery, while something like Incest or Racism can be interpreted based on culture and biases. Are two adopted siblings who never call each other siblings and weren’t raised together but are legally siblings, incestuous if they are together? Some would say yes, some no. That’s why an Archive Warning for it would be difficult. Slavery however doesn’t have discrepencies, and thus would be better suited for an Archive Warning.

Do you believe that Black AO3 users should be able to give informed consent before being exposed to triggering content as other trauma survivors on the platform are?

What is your stance on triggering content? How should it be tagged? What are things you like about the current tagging system (in regards to triggers) and is there anything you would want to change?

I do think that we could do better with making specific warnings for our Black and other POC users, however I do want to state that our Terms of Service do say that “You understand that the OTW does not prescreen Content or review it for purposes of compliance with the ToS. This includes but is not limited to work information, a work’s content, text, graphics, comments, or any other material. Content, including User-Embedded Content, is the sole responsibility of the submitter. You understand that using the Archive may expose you to material that is offensive, triggering, erroneous, sexually explicit, indecent, blasphemous, objectionable, grammatically incorrect, or badly spelled.” and thus anyone on the Archive is already giving informed consent as to what material they might come across. I know that isn’t what people want to hear, but from the outset we knew that there would be triggering content on the Archive and that our Archive Warnings wouldn’t cover everything. So while we do acknowledge that we have room to improve, I also want to mention that our warnings were never meant to catch everything, and people on the website are meant to self-police as much as possible. My personal stance on triggering content is that it’s allowed and I will defend it until my dying breath or the law changes. Until one of those two things comes to pass, I will always stand for anti-censorship. In my work with Policy & Abuse, I’ve read things that were some of the worst, most triggering things I have ever read in my life, and I will forever be on the side that allows that content. Beyond a few possible additional Archive Warnings, I wouldn’t change a thing in our tagging structure, barring some blind spot that I’m missing information about.

Would you consider categorizing writing whose primary motivation is to platform hate speech as harassment (example: The Turner Diaries would count, but not poorly written Dragon Age fic)? As per TOS, “harassment is any behavior that produces a generally hostile environment for its target,” which hate speech generally falls under.

I am unaware of what The Turner Diaries is so I cannot comment on that specifically. We’ve definitely had conversations about widening our definition of harassment especially in more recent months. I would consider that as a possibility for harassment categorization but I am generally more concerned elsewhere at this time with other holes in our current policies. As such, if someone makes a compelling case and gets our rules changed, I will uphold whatever those rules state, but I personally will not be championing this platform at this time.

How will you protect fanworks and meta which are upsetting or offensive, across your platforms? What about if those fanworks or meta express views which are illegal/censored in some countries, but perfectly legal in others? Say a fan’s works don’t challenge problematic values endemic to older canons, or espouse problematic values directly. Providing they politely abide by AO3’s TOS, do you believe this fan deserves equal protection under AO3’s TOS (a posting platform, confidential treatment of their RL identity, ability to report harassment)? [merged question]

We already do this. I’m not entirely sure what this question is asking as we are built to do this already, and our Terms of Service applies equally across every user. I don’t see that changing any time soon. As for expressing views that are illegal/censored in some countries and not others, I believe our tagging system already accounts for those discrepancies, though there may still be some cases where a specific law is outside of our knowledge and thus not accounted for. I’d be interested in hearing about specific cases like that if anyone has any. We abide by New York state law, which is where we get our current basis for what is legal to be posted to the Archive, and there definitely are some discrepancies we know about such as underaged content, which is one reason why our Archive Warnings include that, so users where Underaged content is illegal can filter it out.