CAT: Addressing the issues, planning ahead
Wed, 19-May-2021 by
This is a statement from the TPF Board of Directors.
We screwed up. The TPF Board failed to make sure that the first significant test of the new CAT team and process went well. For that, **we deeply apologize**.
This post will go into detail on exactly what we think went wrong, clarify a number of points, and explain how we plan to do better in the future.
Our first mistake was a focus on responding quickly to the incident reported to the CAT. Because of that, the [first transparency report](https://news.perlfoundation.org/post/cat-transparency-repor-19-april-2021) that was published was based on a draft that had not been reviewed or approved by the board. This is because the board failed to clarify the process for publishing this report.
Then, having moved too quickly, we were too slow to provide a correction. It took two weeks to publish [the update](https://news.perlfoundation.org/post/cat-transparency-report-updates0). In addition, that update did not do a good enough job of acknowledging that the first report should not have been published as is.
Finally, it's taken us another three weeks to publish this apology.
During this drawn out time, people in the Perl and Raku communities have been free to assume the worst, and a lot of misinformation has been going around uncorrected. This is entirely our fault.
**All of this has harmed our communities, harmed TPF, and harmed Perl and Raku.**
Why did this all drag out so long? Simply put, TPF is not an organization designed to move quickly. This is no one's fault. In the past, we haven't generally needed to do so. We are an entirely volunteer organization, including the board, which is made up of people spread around the world. Even finding a time where a quorum can meet is not straightforward.
The board has not delegated significant authority to any one individual who could have handled this incident by themselves. We have no Executive Director or any similar role. This means decision making is always done through discussion and voting.
Realistically, this aspect of TPF is unlikely to change. What we can do is work much harder to prevent situations that need quick responses from occurring in the first place.
## Transparency Report Mistakes
The initial response asserted authority over aspects of the communities which are not TPF's responsibility, such as IRC, mailing lists, etc. **That was simply wrong, because we do not have any authority over those services or spaces.**
**The initial consequence was both too harsh and poorly worded.** The lifetime ban was not intended to be a "permaban", but was supposed to be an _indefinite_ ban that would be lifted when the person in question demonstrated that they would not repeat their unacceptable behavior. **But as was noted in the update, a lifetime ban was too harsh.** And the part about this ban being reversible was simply missing from the initial report.
In the update, this was changed to a minimum 1 year ban. However, there were concerns in the community around this particular statement:
> Unacceptable behavior within that 1 year period could lead to an extension or modification of the length or the terms of the ban. This includes interactions between the Subject and others in the Perl and Raku communities, even outside of TPF events and online platforms.
Some people interpreted "includes interactions between the Subject and others in the Perl and Raku communities" as saying that any interaction between the Subject and others in the Perl and Raku communities was grounds for extending the ban.
That was not the intended reading. **Instead, the intended reading is that further unacceptable behavior would be grounds for extending the ban.** Unacceptable behavior includes treating others in a disrespectful manner, harassment, or not respecting another person's desire to end a conversation.
## Other Concerns
**A number of people in the community have stated that the Subject received no communication from the CAT before the post on the TPF blog went live. This is not true.** The Subject was invited to a meeting with the CAT before the post went live, agreed to meet at a specified time, and then did not show up at that time. However, the Subject has met with the CAT since the initial report was posted.
Other people have expressed concern that the Subject was not allowed to present a case for their defense. The exact process of how Standards of Conduct violations should be handled is a larger topic than we can cover here. However, we do want to note that this is not a legal process, and cannot be modeled on such processes. We do not have the time, resources, or expertise to treat each case like a legal case, with a prosecution, defense, judge, and jury.
**However, we can and do commit to developing a process for handling complaints with input from the community.** See later in this post for more details.
## Moving Forward
Even though we made many mistakes, there are some parts of this affair that we do stand by.
Among our responsibilities, TPF runs the annual Perl and Raku Conference in North America. We cannot allow the conference to be an unsafe space. The conference is not the only space for which we are responsible, but it is our flagship. Because of that, we have an obligation to respond to Standards of Conduct complaints in order to make sure that all conference attendees feel welcome.
A credible complaint was made to us that ongoing problem behavior was driving one or more people from the community. The CAT investigated and felt that this complaint was correct. Because of our commitment to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment, the CAT and the board agreed that there needed to be consequences for the Subject of the investigation. We still believe that to be the case, and we are not going to reverse the final decision to issue a minimum one year ban on conference participation or participation in other TPF activities and spaces, including the TPF Slack.
Moreover, we are not going to dissolve the CAT or stop enforcing the Standards of Conduct, especially given that this year's conference is happening again in just four weeks.
Our initial postings made it sound like we think TPF gets to make decisions about every place that people gather to talk about Perl. We don't think that. We would like to help establish common expectations of what kind of behavior creates a healthy environment for interaction. We know that our missteps here have created obstacles for us to overcome, but we think the mission is worth pursuing, and that we have a responsibility to pursue it.
As it stands now, the CAT is in a holding pattern while the board reviews its charter and we work to define a process for handling these complaints. It won't be taking action until that's done, unless the board explicitly approves that action. We do plan to produce those documents, and we take that process seriously, both because we acknowledge the mistakes made so far and because we believe in the goal of making TPF spaces as welcoming as possible.
We will form an SoC team solely for the conference. They will handle incident reports during the conference. Their powers will include:
* Issuing warnings to conference participants.
* Removing people from conference chat.
* Stop a presentation if it contains unacceptable content.
* Placing a temporary hold on publishing a presentation to YouTube.
* Temporarily removing an already published presentation.
Any further consequences, including permanently removing a presentation from YouTube, will be reviewed by the board.
If you would like to provide input on the charter or the process, please [join the #tpf-cat Slack channel](https://join.slack.com/t/perlfoundation/shared_invite/zt-phfb4e13-uAqqK956F0u8bTStSY8RTQ). (Note that this link expires on May 26. Email [firstname.lastname@example.org](mailto:email@example.com) if you'd like to join after that time and we will invite you.)
As one of the people you attacked, while using falsehoods to convict them:
As of the third paragraph you already failed in what this document needed to do. In the third paragraph you describe the first mistake you feel is worth mentioning.
This mistake you describe as roughly "we posted without letting the board review".
What *any* civilized, educated and empathetic person should recognize as the first and crucial and cruel mistake and injustice you perpetrated is not an *administrative detail*.
The first mistake you acknowledge *must* be: "We decided the punishment for some without doing any rigorous research into the evidence used or even giving them a chance to defend themselves, thus ending up libelling them and harrassing them while using and spreading *provable falsehoods*. Our actions spread *lies*."
That must be the first thing you address. Not your relationship to your board.
How much longer do you intend to fail and how far do you intend to push us before we are forced to speak out publicly in order to make you behave like adults?
> A number of people in the community have stated that the Subject received no communication from the CAT before the post on the TPF blog went live. This is not true. This is not true. The Subject was invited to a meeting
This deserves a separate response.
You originally posted these words in your first post:
> The CAT has informed the individual investigated as part investigation #1 and #2 that they are banned
At the *time of posting* you had *not* informed the Subject that he was banned. As you state yourself above you had only invited him. Thus:
Your first post lied.
To try and deflect from this is amazing and utterly and deeply disgusting and cruel in my view and you should be utterly ashamed on a personal level to try and do something like this. It is pathetic and unbecoming of any person who claims the authority involved herein.
Even if you did not intend to post a falsehood, at the very least stand by the fact that you did so.
> Other people have expressed concern that the Subject was not allowed to present a case for their defense. [...] this is not a legal process, and cannot be modeled on such processes
I am completely and utterly speechless at the temerity of typing out such words.
One last thing:
You must publicly acknowledge that your actions constituted harrassment and caused concrete and undeserved harm in many ways to the two subjects of your harrassment as well as their friends and loved ones, some of whom are even your colleagues.
If you fail to do this, then the entire concept of the CAT in itself is invalid, because a body that engages in harrassment while aiming to stamp out harrassment is a meaningless perversion of itself.
Your apologizing isn't over by far.
Not only does the link to join #tpf-cat not work, email to firstname.lastname@example.org is bouncing!
These should both be fixed.
This isn't at all logical. If, for example, Mike Fugu or Rachel Sanma are not welcome at your conference, how can you say that this makes "all conference attendees feel welcome", since Mr. Fugu and Ms Sanma are not welcome? Surely by doing this, you have made an unsafe space for Mr Fugu and Ms Sanma where they cannot express their opinions?
I think you're trying to get away with making value judgements about people without being seen to do that.