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vivisecting a safety policy


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Vivisecting a safety policy

 

Preamble

 

What is a safety policy?

 

It sounds very silly to say, but most of the server’s players are kids. Any organisation that works with young people has an obligation to protect them from harm - even in the most ad-hoc and voluntary of capacities, there needs to be a clear set of guidelines that defines both how the organisation keeps them safe, but how they respond to concerns.  

 

A safeguarding policy is an important part in protecting and running the community. They are not something that can be tacked onto the end of a page of rules with a few filler pages explaining what grooming or consent is, but instead needs to be supported by good governance, supervision and internal management to make sure that there is a rigorous procedure in place that can stand the test of even the most concerning safety issue.

 

The safeguarding procedures that were originally proposed are meant to be detailed guidelines and instructions that support an overarching statement or commitment to keeping the community safe. A good procedure would explain the steps that Lord of the Craft takes to keep their players safe, as well as explaining what the staff do when there are concerns about the well-being of a player - be that through a player reporting or an administrator acting autonomously.

 

A good procedure should cover how the staff respond to concerns - not necessarily formal reports - about players' safety, and how they ensure that the staff know what to do when these concerns occur. The document that was drafted by Alex served as a resource to understand the administration's internal procedures, as well as encouraging safe roleplay and out-of-character activities.

 

How did I get involved in writing this draft? Who should actually be involved?

 

Two months ago, I was approached by Alex to help write this policy in return for may ban "maybe, possibly, being talked about.". A lot of my changes were implemented, but what was eventually provided to the community is still found very lacking.

 

Ideally, far more people from different parts of the community should have been involved in drafting this, be that playerbases, ranks, and server experience. This is to both make sure the policy is relevant to all players, but incorporates the perspectives of the community on their own safety. This policy was instead written by two people over the course of two months, with changes being made in sudden one-day bursts between weeks of silence.

 

Why am I frustrated?

 

In the two months that have passed, there has been two major updates from the original draft sent to me by Alex. I attempted to make contact weekly to goad him into progressing with either publishing updates, or through the distended process of copying-and-sharing Google documents, sending such updates to myself. With the impasse of being either ignored, or any progress made being very superficial, I came to the resolute conclusion that there was not going to be much done with this policy draft. Today, despite my best efforts to fix issues with this policy and offer it some clarity of purpose, it was posted with the majority of my edits ignored. These were some crucial things!

 

Why a Reddit longpost?

 

With the banning of Kevin Pondt / TangoIsPointless / HappyShackles (December 2021), the community was promised a worthwhile resolution to how cases of serious concern were handled. This was due to both long-term issues being ignored or brushed aside due to either mishandling or the passing of time. As a result, there was a commitment from the administration to attempt to create an internal policy that afforded the greatest amount of community safety. An administration post then confirmed that there was a nascent safety policy in the works, providing a framework for staff to resolve any safety issues while also demonstrating to the community that any safety concern is both investigated quickly and through a rigorous and open system.

 

The community deserves at least what was promised almost a year ago.

 

 

Is it a worthwhile endeavour?

 

I really don’t see Lord of the Craft ever having a policy that staff will follow that will not allow players to fall through the net. This is not from a lack of desire, but from inaction from staff and a complacency that creeps in from veteran players filling the server top-down. There comes a mindset that something that was not deemed necessary previously is superfluous, so is sidelined as a folly instead of a system that should be as integral to the server as the rules the players follow. Player safety is a two-sided coin, where the policies that the administration creates both restricts behaviour and protects the player-base from bad actors due to these restrictions. It is a careful balance that can be impossible to strike.

 

The play-by-play

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September 19th, 2022.

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November 7th, 2022.

 

 

I have taken screenshots of the safety policy, with accompanying commentary that talks through any issues that would arise should this ever be implemented. Please note that this is the safety policy as written by Arockstar28. I have included my own comments at the time of writing to better elucidate my issues, and to better outline my own process when reviewing what was written.

 

When editing, I made the conscious choice to place my suggestions as comments and suggestions instead of changing the document directly, allowing Arockstar28 the control of the writing process⁠—I remain a banned player, so having direct editorial control felt inappropriate enough that I self-selected to not do so. This stymied the process of writing, but also better allowed me to catalogue any changes that I sought necessary while providing a space to elucidate the justification behind the changes. These were mostly to do with the procedural elements of the policy in-place, notably collecting and recording the information around reports. Any later changes are highlighted in yellow.

 

Defining what a safety violation is

 

The document defines a safety violation with the context of breaches of consent, with the last clause service as "and everything else". The verbiage of unsafe activities means that any behaviour can be used as justification to permanently ban somebody if deemed harmful enough. There is no rubric to measure harm or danger against, instead leaving that to the admins to decide. These admins are not qualified to make this judgement, instead playing by ear as to what is tantamount to a danger to the community. There is an exhaustive list of what behaviour lead to a 'safety violation' and the result that making such a violation has on the individual player, but no information beyond this. A safety violation, as per the policy, is tautologically something that violates the safety policy. It would be best practice to explain in clear and concise terms what a safety violation is, as well as outlining how it differs from other ban cases.


 

Safety procedures and clear instruction

 

Clear and unambiguous instruction is the key to a good policy. There is clear instruction as to how a player must respond to any safety concern (email us with explicit evidence and we will reply within 1-2 days of opening the email), but the clarity of procedure beyond this is absent.  In an ideal scenario, any person must be able to follow a written procedure and handle a case as well as a veteran administrator - this is a test of the specificity and depth of the policy.



 

What was done well?

 

The staff do define a clear and accessible way to report things (sorry!)

 

You can’t really **** up “email us and we’ll do the rest” in terms of clarity of instruction and accessibility of reporting issues. It may be vague about what is actually done with that information, how it is recorded and handled, who it may be shared with, how quickly a resolution may be reached, whether or not the server can say a resolution has been made, etc. but the initial reporting procedure is very cut and dry. There is no disclosure of policy or procedure for incidences that don't fit the rubric for reportable conduct, nor anything that falls outside of the strict criteria of player-reporting.


 

What is absent?

 

Is this even a safety policy? What actually is the internal policy for handling these scenarios?

 

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My prime issue when drafting this policy was the lack of actual internal policy for handling a report by a player. There is no guideline or policy in the documentation for how staff, administrator or otherwise, need to handle safety issues. Instead, there is an explanation of the reporting process and what is and is not a ‘violation’ of the consent-consent-other ruleset. By not drafting nor publishing an internal policy, players do not know what is done with the report information that they provide. Yes, there is an exhaustive list of questions that the administration ask about what is provided, but there is little insight to what happens with the reported information after it leaves the email outbox. There is a need to publish an actual policy for how things are handled, to both demonstrate the staff are consistent, timely and fair with how reports are being handled.

 

Written with the majority of definitions of known terms and being reliant on external resources to provide blanket definitions, there are additions and adaptations to encourage players to report any concerns about behaviour. There just is precious little in how those reports are handled.


 

What counts as a report?

 

Is there criteria for what can be reported? (yes, but it’s dangerously restrictive!)

 

There is explicit criteria for what players can report, with little excusable room beyond this for a formal report. By limiting these reports to players acting in response to harm, it ignores a staffmembers’ duty to act to prevent these behaviours from occurring - by relying on empirical evidence from the victim, there necessitates harm already being caused to quantify a response. A duty to act on any behaviours they deem of a concern (not necessarily a threat) to player safety must be extended through the staff.

 

A good safety policy would have a section dedicated to explaining the duty to act and situational awareness expected of everyone in the community. By being proactive, the necessity of reactive reporting and the damage to players’ that is necessary to generate this evidence is far reduced. A policy of proactivity significantly reduces harm.

 

Record-keeping and information handling - what happens with reports? Who can see them? Will you even know?

 

Poor information recording and hesitance of information sharing can result in missed opportunities to keep genuinely harmful bad actors away from the community. This policy, although listing what questions may be asked, defines little policy in how cases would be recorded, for how long, and whom may have access to them. I made an extended series of comments in the original draft delineating that you must explain to people making reports how that report will be recorded, who it may be shared with, and explaining to the player why in both circumstances.

 

There is no mention of how information is recorded, nor where. Unless there is no recording of information behind safety reports, there needs to be an explicit and clear explanation of how these reports are stored. This is a matter of consistency and procedure - all reports must be handled the same way, with the same types of information handled in the same manner. This would be the recording of necessary and proportionate information related to the case, recorded in a timely manner and in a secure venue. A distended series of google documents and Discord channels, even if that is the current policy for recording safety violations, needs to be stated as such as that is the policy for recording information.

 

Whistleblowing and internal policy violations

 

What if the person I’m reporting to is the person I want to report?

 

As we have seen with many administration cases (Tahmas, Punisher, Flamboyant, Ski_King, Dusk, and so on), a not-ignorable portion of player safety cases deeply involve an administrator. There is no process in place to report ‘over’ the administration, as well as no policy in place to deal with these scenarios. These are people in the greatest position of power within the community and there must be an avenue to redress this without immediately resorting to external authorities.

 

In previous cases, this has been done through reaching to Telanir or Tythus directly, but this is an informal and dangerous procedure and not an example of a defined policy for players to follow. Hesitancy and confusion has, previously, led to players not reporting administrators who were later banned.

 

What if things aren’t being handled appropriately, safely, or in a timely manner?

 

There is no policy for players to follow if their report is not handled appropriately, safely, or in a timely manner. There is no policy for punishing staffmembers who do this, be it through conscious choice or negligence. This leaves a significant risk to player safety with no recourse that the most vulnerable of players can follow.


 

Not saying who got banned

 

Blaming the risk of libel action is a very flimsy excuse when the server will be in a position of far greater legal liability if illegal behaviour continues off platform and they are found to have been in a position where they can be deemed that there has been a failure to act.


 

Coda

 

In short, this policy provides little structure or guidance in how safety issues are handled. The players are provided with a rubric of questions they may be asked, as well as what is and is not treated as evidence, but very little insight elsewhere. Until there is an internal policy for all staff to follow, that the players both know exists and have faith in, they can assume that their safety is not a priority on the server. This document is a very piecemeal attempt with key information, as elucidated above, absent.

 

This is not information that they were ignorant of, instead consciously choosing to not include it. This ‘safety policy’ provides no explanation of what the administration do to keep you safe. It provides an outline of what they ban people for and how to report it, but there is no insight nor explanation of anything beyond that. By lauding this as a marvel of community safety, players are wilfully accepting that there is no consistency nor procedure behind-the-scenes, or any formal safety policy is one that is both tantamount to their safety and forbidden for them to know.

 

The players deserve more. 

 

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To be completely honest, the way the safety guidelines are currently written would, if I were a parent, make me not want my children anywhere near the server. It feels half done and more focused on 'what should you report' with scattered pieces of copied information from websites that aren't really applicable to the LotC medium such as:

 

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How would any of the above be a factor in LotC grooming beyond the last sentence? I would like to see a more customized and tailored safety policy, something not a copy-paste from online safety sites. Make it more applicable, more appropriate for the average player, give better examples of how grooming on LotC works, not how a boy scout leader gets a position surrounded by minors or what have you. 

 

I agree that we need a more solid layout of who would have access to the report, the information, what steps would be taken. I'd even like to see how they will prove reports aren't falsified in the future, given that the only one cited as falsified wasn't caught as a fake until I pointed out the second tab in her browser while reading the report after it'd been sent to me by one of the people who filed it. 

 

I also think that communication needs to be improved. My report was denied due to the evidence being ancient and lacking concrete proof i.e., the ERP logs. Frill was banned for posting the same logs that were later used to ban KP. A conversation with both parties by admins finally cemented KP's ban. Imagine if that talk had occurred when it first was reported. Yet it was a learning experience and I do not fault the administration for it, they have improved leaps and bounds from the days of shock value pedo scandal threads. Nor do I blame those who made those posts, they were a necessary evil to force admins to act in a time people felt nothing was being done, though I'm sure investigation was merely slow and thorough, given the life ruining ability of such accusations against someone.

 

All in all, I agree fully with this topic and I'm glad to see it was unhidden. The current safety guidelines are a good baby step, but the community needs more. The community deserves better. 

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51 minutes ago, itdontmatta said:

Frill—

 

I agree with everything you've written. I hope to make changes to the policy that can more precisely reflect our processes and goal of protecting our community. At that, I have unhidden & unlocked the post to open discussion for anyone that wants to offer their advice on how we can improve our policies.

 

I will be bluntly honest with you Alex cause it’s been what 5-6 years and this server still can’t seem to do anything right for itself. You should’ve worked alongside victims, taken their statement and experiences and learnt how their groomers manipulated and cohersed them, use that to look for RED FLAGS. Found how those people operate and how they target specific individuals who might be vulnerable. I’ve not seen any of that, i’ve not seen anyone who has had to endure hell on this server been given the opportunity to work on this safety policy. Which as comments have shown was a surprise to everyone… I can voice my opinion all I want, I can speak on my experience as i’m comfortable with it, others aren’t inclined if they are afraid or feel uncomfortable. But currently as it stands being a victim of LOTC and voicing your thoughts personally makes me feel like i’m talking to a brick wall. 

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What I personally found very interesting in this post was this section.

4 hours ago, fman said:

Two months ago, I was approached by Alex to help write this policy in return for may ban "maybe, possibly, being talked about.". A lot of my changes were implemented, but what was eventually provided to the community is still found very lacking.

A banned player was reached out to in order to benefit the community, and then their work is dialed down. It's quite disturbing to hear (especially with all the detail work you've given us in the screenshots) that the rewrite that seems perfectly reasonable, especially considering the state of how many of these people are on the server. I think that you coming forward is the best thing for the community to get transparency on how this new policy came about, but after seeing the depth that was gone into, definitely feels like there could be more to the final product.

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37 minutes ago, Summerisdumb said:

-snip-

 

Summer, I don't think he's your target here. You and Alex want the same thing. I understand from this that you feel hurt that you haven't been consulted on the Safety policy…but we really are happy to integrate your feedback, and do read your comments. I just want to thank you for sharing your voice and want to let you know that we hear you.

 

Safety is a challenging space to work with not because there is a lack of motivation—but because it is grey and delicate. Despite that, I don't believe it is impossible—especially given how much progress we've made in the last few years. It gives me hope that we're not that far away from a bulletproof policy. @itdontmattathank you for taking feedback seriously and for making a commitment to improving the policy. The reality is that we take safety exceptionally seriously in this community, perhaps more than any community I've seen on Minecraft. That means we've got a very high bar to meet; this can't be the last revision.

 

+1 on the thread, thanks for caring frill.

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13 minutes ago, Telanir said:

 

Summer, I don't think he's your target here. You and Alex want the same thing. I understand from this that you feel hurt that you haven't been consulted on the Safety policy…but we really are happy to integrate your feedback, and do read your comments. I just want to thank you for sharing your voice and want to let you know that we hear you.

 

Safety is a challenging space to work with not because there is a lack of motivation—but because it is grey and delicate. Despite that, I don't believe it is impossible—especially given how much progress we've made in the last few years. It gives me hope that we're not that far away from a bulletproof policy. @itdontmattathank you for taking feedback seriously and for making a commitment to improving the policy. The reality is that we take safety exceptionally seriously in this community, perhaps more than any community I've seen on Minecraft. That means we've got a very high bar to meet; this can't be the last revision.

 

+1 on the thread, thanks for caring frill.

 

Your administrative team communicates with banned players, and then reprimands players from the community who do the exact same thing. I hate two things when it comes to LOTC 1. Sex pests 2. Hypocrites. You are right when you say Alex is not my enemy, my enemy is the administrative team (Specifically Moderation/Player relations/Player Safety) as a whole & TythusLTD as a company. LOTC lacks the credibility to reaffirm their players that change is happening and that those decisions, those rules and updates promised to the community will be beneficial in the long run. This server has existed for years upon years and yet lacks any actual real change from its inception. You are not above other mcrp servers. You have the same exact pest problems that all servers face, you cannot claim to react more than other servers because you have no actual backing to such a statement cause that assumption cannot be generalized. It’s an opinion based off of personal experience that comes from the community, not your own perspective on if you think your admins are reacting fast enough and putting more effort towards caring more than another server, YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN DOING THAT ALREADY. Most of the comments made have been the lack there of admin response towards prevention. You can preach all you want about how you have incorporated a new safety policy, but my grievances lay with - why did it take so long for such a “reactive” staff team to come up with what ended up being a quickly drawn up resolution which will from what I read get tweaked quite a bit. My reality based off of my own experience during Atlas was this: I feared for my safety and I was forced to leave due to what came out about 501WarHead and myself, keep this in your mind that he’s an admin and if i was to come out with the truth, who’s was going to listen? Tythus? You telanir? who i’ve only seen active around the end of of this year. I am a victim and the environment created, then and presently now. Gives me no confidence in you or the team. Anyone can write a google doc, I want to see this policy in action before the end of the year cause I guarentee you. More people will be exposed, more controversies will happen and such a fact is unavoidable without a proper prevention method in place where staff are trained to pick up on red flags. Before the new map, before an entire new generation is exposed to mcrp - you need to have at least a solid plan ready. 

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3 hours ago, Telanir said:

 

+1 on the thread, thanks for caring frill.

1. unban frill he's clearly fulfilled the usual aim of bans and subsequent appeals in which folk need to prove they are 'reformed' or whatever that's meant to mean.
2. Listen to smmer
3. Make a separate section in the rules for all of this stuff, not just putting it in some 'policy' post. Specifically, imo, clamping down on any sort of ERP, dish out bans that can't be appealed for incidents between adults, adults and minors, and minors and minors. Nobody with any capacity for it and who act on it should be on the server for their own safety and that of others.
(number 3 may be a controversial opinion, it's a bit iffy in regards to those who are the 'victim' in situations where individuals have ERP'd, would need a lot of thought and discussion. That enters into grooming territory, and this point is for those who do unforced consensual cybering or anything of that ilk)
4. As I've seen said in the lotc discord, remove FTB for romance rp altogether. Not needed at all. FTB should only be used for gore or anything else that people are uncomfortable with, if people want minecraft rp children they can just agree OOC 'okay lets have minecraft baby okay bam you're pregnant now woo' and wait less than an OOC week and bam you have a minecraft rp baby.
5. (Maybe) Limit minors from romance rping. Again, something that needs thought and discussion
EDIT

 MonkeyPoacher said it, I will take one step further. Just ban romance RP full stop. And have a look into the people who put domestic abuse into their romance rp, especially if they do it more than once.

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I've been fixated on the 118 reports, 109 bans statistic. I'm sure as a proportion of everyone who's filtered through our community in 12? years, it's not huge. But, like, that's a lot of pests, right? Who would have thought a server where you can play an all-powerful emperor or gallant elven prince and meet other quasi-anonymous people playing starry-eyed elf maidens would have this problem?

 

I'm being facetious, obviously. It strikes me that in our community context, the "What is Grooming" bullet points via RAINN point out serious vulnerabilities in our community:

  • Access? It's an all-ages roleplaying community where standard practice is to share links to a totally different, unmoderated chat application. The chats vary from pseudonymous to uncomfortably personal, and they allow anyone with access to private message any of our users.
  • Victim selection? Welcome to Lord of the Craft! A community of mostly young, introverted people who are just starting to develop artistically - Wait. I know. I know, this already sounds bad, but wait- 
  • Isolating the victim? Trust development? Can I introduce you to any one of our many private guilds, noble houses, or bizarrely powerful good-ol'-boy friend groups? They all congregate on the above mentioned unmoderated chat application, by the way! Did I mention that trading favors for political influence or magic is endemic to our community culture? And that older members are frequently put in positions of power and influence over children? 

I'll take a break from the spiel here. Nothing I've just said is unique to LoTC. They are equally true of, say, a World of Warcraft guild or a Discord sever. We are also free from the arguably much more dangerous dynamics of larger unmoderated social media sites like Instagram or TikTok. But we are better equipped than both smaller communities with fewer resources and much larger, more indifferent internet platforms to protect our users. I think it's completely unacceptable that we do not address the final point:

  • Desensitization to / discussion of sexual topics. There is no reason we should allow "romance roleplay" on this server. Full stop. I've been on this server since I was 12-13, and looking back some of the things said to me under the plausible deniability that it was "in character" make me want to climb out of my skin. Even purely in-character relationships between players toe an unacceptably dangerous line between collaborative fiction and real emotional vulnerability; they are a vector for exploitation. 

Besides BANNING ROMANCE ROLEPLAY, there are some other affirmative actions we can take to protect our users:

  1. We need to rethink how we use Discord. Private discord servers and DMs are difficult for staff to keep track of, let alone moderate. Access to our community via discord is impossible to revoke; Even the official LoTC discord is trawled by spambots advertising other minecraft servers. What's our game plan when one of these servers, official or not, is used as a launchpad for targeted harassment? We should look into alternative, safer, easier to moderate options for player chat. 
  2. On 11/7/2022 at 9:25 AM, rukio said:
    1. I would like to see a more customized and tailored safety policy, something not a copy-paste from online safety sites. Make it more applicable, more appropriate for the average player, give better examples of how grooming on LotC works,
    1. What Rukio just said 1000%. Knowing general warning signs are important, but we need to acknowledge our own unique vulnerabilities as a roleplaying community. We should use concise and relevant language to warn players what to look out for and encourage them to speak out if they feel unsafe. 

  3. There are 109 confirmed cases of unsafe behavior. This is a small but epidemiologically significant sample. There are undoubtedly patterns in this data which can be used to direct moderators to and create a better warning system for unsafe behavior, and determinants we can use to find out players in need of safeguarding.

 

If you read through my unstructured, poorly written, tasteless post, I just want to say that I'm glad that there's a dialogue about community safety, and that we care enough about our users to have these difficult conversations. My only hope is that we can recognize some of our blind spots and take a sober look at how our community dynamics enable grooming in the first place.

 

ps unban frill can't believe i forgot to work that in there

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It's kind of mad that what is keeping frill of this server is just a personal vendetta by some admin(s) against him, even though he has put in more work for the server safety than these same admins (whilst banned!). It's messed up that known pests like leowarrior were allowed back on the server with unregistered alts, an exception to the rule, to continue playing, whilst friller is blogposting about keeping vulnerable players of our community safe from a vpn because he can't otherwise. 

Big case of butthurt 

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The only conversation i've had with alex since posting this is my ban appeal being denied.

 

I'm glad that once my utility's expired he'll gladly renege on any promise of reviewing my ban and stop working on a safety policy the administration have acknowledged is incomplete.

 

I've talked with Max about how this thread isn't a criticism and that I've simply listed things that imperil the players due to the unfinished and rushed nature of the policy, but there obviously won't be any updates to this policy.

 

As LOTC LTD is UK based, I encourage you to email the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel as an official body that can review the policy properly. This is especially true as some of the bans relating to child safeguarding are concerning people in the UK.

 

[email protected]

 

 

 

Edited by appeal alt dont touch
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