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fman

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  1. 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 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? 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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