Request to Close 5e Consultants Thread

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ShannonA

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Shannon will be along to explain - I think it's "common carrier" - law at some point.
It's actually 47 U.S.C. § 230, or if you prefer section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.
We are not publishers. The people who post to our forums are the responsible parties for what they say. If someone calls someone else "fecal matter" on our elf-talking board, the alleged fecal-victim can certainly sue the alleged fecal-speaker but is unlikely to be able to do the same with us. In other words: caveat the poster on internet boards. More generally, however, I'd say "good luck with that" to the fecal-suer.

Despite not being a publisher we can engage in good samaritan moderation -- say by banning a fecal-speaker because they're not contributing to the sort of positive community that we'd like to have.
 
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Zeea

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Since I've been invoked here and a few other places regarding this, and my moderator status was mentioned a few times offsite in conjunction with the apology I made, I would like to set the record straight on some things.

1) I was not a moderator when I made the apology, and my later moderator status has nothing to do with it. This was a personal apology on behalf of myself only.

2) I made a post that I wasn't aware of any transphobic statements by Zak, and some friends offsite told me he had made public statements. I posted a caveat followup post that said in retrospect, there were apparently some statements after all. My offsite friends turned out to be mistaken. After doing some investigation, I could find no evidence that Zak had ever made public transphobic statements, and I could find evidence that he had made trans-inclusive statements. I did not and do not believe that Zak S is publically bigoted against all transgender people, and I felt an apology was needed for the sake of fairness. I did not and do not appreciate Zak's statements and behavior, but I didn't want to let that bias me on this specific issue. Everyone deserves a fair shot.

Other friends told me he had cyberstalked and doxxed people, and I was also concerned about that. Cyberstalking is a specific criminal offense in most places that I know about, and doxxing usually refers to harvesting non-public documents. I didn't find evidence of Zak S personally breaking any cyberstalking laws and while he did compile an enemies list and link usernames to real names, I couldn't find any evidence that he had used information that wasn't publically available.

There are several caveats there.

  • I am not a professional investigator, nor did I investigate beyond the specific claims I'd referenced.
  • Someone threatened a critic of Zak with pictures of his child's school, which is almost certainly illegal, but that probably wasn't Zak himself. I don't want anyone to think that there's no cyberstalking involved here at all, because there certainly has been.
  • While I don't believe Zak has broken any cyberstalking laws, he has been very public in making lists of enemies and attacking other game designers with extremely unprofessional and aggressive comments. Some of his targets were later cyberstalked, probably by his supporters, but I'm not aware of any evidence of Zak publically calling for cyberstalking. That does not exonerate him from the moral responsiblity to dial back the vitriol.

Because of those caveats, I would ask people not to use my apology as evidence that all claims about Zak's behavior are unfounded, but rather that I personally did not find evidence when I searched public websites.

3) I made the apology because my personal ethics code compelled me to do so. I'm always particularly concerned about letting my biases lead me into rash judgements, and I felt I should give Zak the benefit of the doubt. But I made it earlier than I would have liked in part because Zak was repeatedly calling me a liar and demanding I show evidence and give names, and because several of his supporters made (admittedly ludicrous) legal threats, and I didn't want to go on his enemies list and see my real name (publically available) go up with the other designers he regularly attacks right as I was about to enter publishing. So my apology was prompted by my moral code, self-doubt, and a bit of cowardice that I'm embarrassed about.

I also felt that an apology should be sincere and dignified and not focus on other issues. I believed and still believe that Zak's public, non-illegal, and non-transphobic behavior was still unprofessional and needlessly hostile, but that wasn't the subject of the discussion.

4) Since I made the apology, I discovered several things.

  • One of Zak's closest acquaintances, Mandy Morbid, outed one of Zak's favorite targets as transgender in a blog post in June by posting her prior and current names in conjunction. Though the individual had referenced thinking about her gender identity in the past, I'm not aware of any statements she made confirming transgender status, and I seriously doubt she wanted her names linked, as very few transgender people do.
  • The transgender game designer in question had initially got into a confrontation with Zak over Zak's "ironic" use of an anti-trans/anti-intersex slur on another website. While I'm willing to believe Zak meant it ironically, it was in poor taste at best.
  • Zak has repeatedly and publically attacked this individual, resulting in some others doing the same.
  • Zak has denied her transgender status here, which is unacceptable. Link
  • This individual alleges offline harassment related to transgender status after said attacks.
  • A rather spiteful "parody" blog (now removed) called The Dongion had repeatedly attacked this individual with slurs that would be particularly offensive if applied to a trans person.
  • The Dongion regularly attacked people that Zak had attacked.
  • The Dongion writer uses a pseudonym, but incorrectly spelled the transgender individual's name a particular way. Using a Google search, the only other individuals to ever spell the name that way are Zak S and Mandy Morbid.

You can draw your own conclusions and research this yourself if you'd like. The Dongion is down, and I don't know if there are cached versions, but I will personally testify that I read it and verified the attacks and signature misspelling.

My initial apology stands, but never addressed this. If I had known about all this, I think I would have been more reserved at best. I understand that this is a very complicated topic and many people are arguing in good faith, so I'm posting this to help clarify my stance, and I expect it may be my last statement on the subject. If this results in the resumption of people calling me a liar and making legal threats, so be it.
 

JavaApp

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The problem with the thread is more fundamental than the behavior of the participants. If you ban the individuals that are being discussed, someone, somewhere will respond to any attacks on those banned out of concern for fairness - resulting in a proxy war, which is what you effectively have now in the thread.

If you ban any mention of the targeted individuals, which I presume is under actual discussion by the moderation staff, then you will have peace, but you will have to pay for it by having RPG.net become even slightly more irrelevant than it was before you issued the ban. Just slightly, perhaps not even significantly, but the discussion will be less than it was.

I've lost faith that Darren, Shannon and their moderation staff are able, despite their obvious good will and intent to do so, to 'moderate' the forum into a venue that allows one to come to the truth of things - this being the ostensible reason to have these sorts of discussions at all.

I'm sorry about that, but there it is. This is particularly sad, considering Shannon's status as an historian, and Darren's obvious belief that matters of truth are important, as he noted up-thread.

So, Shannon, when you write of the history of the OSR movement, how much will your involvement in RPG.net color what you write about Raggi, Zak and the Pundit? That's not a shot aimed below your belt, but a serious question: do the perceived drawbacks of these individuals so damage the environment of RPG.net that you are willing to ignore them forever? No matter the cost to determining the actual truth of these matters?

Why does the truth matter, since this is ostensibly a forum dedicated to 'silly elfgames'? Because of the seriousness of the charges involved: that the accused individuals engaged in harassment.

Why does the truth, and that particular truth, matter? In this case, if it is demonstrably true that the targeted individuals have not engaged in harassment, and are being accused of such, then the accusers need to be suspended or banned.

If they have engaged in harassment, then the accusers' posts should be allowed to remain.

Finally, if the truth cannot be determined either way by discussion of the facts, then the moderation of the thread, and by extension the entire board must be eased, no matter the effects on the 'toxicity' of the forum.

I'm sure you have all heard this metaphor before, but it's still relevant, I believe. The NYPD engaged in a policy of harassment over minor, 'quality of life issues' that allowed them to harass and arrest those that they deemed to 'toxic' to the quality of life in the city.

This led to all sorts of ills, all of which were and are far more serious than those which imperil an internet message board. But the metaphor holds true, in that the moderation, though well intended, leads to situations that are fundamentally irreconcilable. Like this thread.

It was an error to ban Zak. It was an error to ban the Pundit. And you unless you ease the moderation and reverse these sort of bans, these issues will never get resolved, and you will have to lock more and more threads.
You cannot 'moderate' these issues away. There is no set of rules which you can enforce that will cause posters to act in the manner that you desire them to act. Let them thrash it out, and stay out of the thread if you don't wish to be involved.
 

Crowqueen

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Thanks for your opinion, but no. We're not going to roll back what has been a very successful moderation policy on one person's say-so.

RPG.net is very relevant to the hobby; it survived both of those individuals being banned (Pundit ten-ish years ago, and Zak a couple of years ago if that). There were reasons we implemented tough moderation, and there are reasons we banned both Zak and Pundit. At the moment, moderation here means you can have a civil conversation on most issues, and 99.9999%* of threads get by without it. Furthermore the board culture is improved for what we do moderate because people no longer have to shout over certain behaviours, insults, slurs etc that are prevalent on other forums on the internet. It's not for everyone, but there's a ton of other sites that you can use to discuss RPGs if you don't like it here, including Pundit's own site.

Shannon isn't a moderator, by the way. He delegates that power to us and takes no real hand in the day-to-day running of the forum.

*not a real statistic.
 

JustJo

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It was an error to ban Zak. It was an error to ban the Pundit. And you unless you ease the moderation and reverse these sort of bans, these issues will never get resolved, and you will have to lock more and more threads.
You cannot 'moderate' these issues away. There is no set of rules which you can enforce that will cause posters to act in the manner that you desire them to act. Let them thrash it out, and stay out of the thread if you don't wish to be involved.
OK, now take a day off. This is for misuse of TT. It's not appropriate to be complaining about bans of people that happened months ago, they are perfectly well able to appeal the infractions if they so wish via emailing the admins. All that does is take us back into old, unhelpful, circular arguments.

While you do so, please note that the aim of our policies is not to uncover The Truth but to facilitate discussions. So your entire argument is a bit out of line. There may be other venues where The Truth is the primary aim (although I suspect any forum inhabited by human beings will end up with some politics) and I wish you luck with finding one that suits you.


NB. I have not cut/ paste the whole post for brevity but assume this was for the whole thing.
 

JustJo

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I am closing this thread now because it's demonstrating again how a fairly minor internet squabble is being blown out of all proportion. Thanks everyone for your input, we're discussing things backstage.
 
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