Policy & Abuse Committee

Who We Are

The Policy & Abuse committee (PAC) is responsible for addressing questions and concerns about potential violations of AO3’s Terms of Service. We determine whether reports are about legitimate violations of the Terms of Service, and what to do about them if they are. PAC volunteers correspond directly with AO3 users and collaborate on projects both within PAC and with other OTW committees.

Our main goals as a committee are:

  • to adhere to the AO3 Terms of Service
  • to handle all user reports consistently, no matter which volunteer is doing the work
  • to make our reasoning and processes as clear and transparent as possible
  • to keep every case we work on completely confidential

All volunteers are required to sign the Policy & Abuse Confidentiality Policy before joining the committee. PAC volunteers will never reveal a user’s personal information or share any other details about specific PAC investigations (such as the information you provide when submitting a report), but we may publish general statistics (such as the overall number and types of reports we receive).

Pie chart of the Policy & Abuse tickets submitted in 2023, divided by type of complaint. Non-fanworks: 47%; Rejected complaints about offensive content: 18%; Plagiarism and Copyright infringement: 9%; Harassment: 8%; Commercial promotion: 7%; Policy questions: 3%; Incorrect fandom tags: 3%; Insufficient ratings or warnings: 2%; Other: 3%.
Policy & Abuse received nearly 23.6k tickets in 2023. These categories reflect the subject of the complaint, and (with the exception of Offensive Content) do not indicate whether the report was upheld or rejected.

What We Do

PAC volunteers work together to investigate and respond to reports of content or behavior which may violate the Terms of Service. We also regularly answer questions about whether specific content is permitted on AO3.

We do not prescreen content on AO3, nor do we moderate interactions between users except in the course of investigating a report. PAC investigations are not influenced by how many reports we receive about an issue; we take a report from a single user as seriously as inquiries from dozens of users. We investigate every report we receive, but our response times may vary depending on the current ticket load and our volunteers’ availability. While we cannot guarantee a timeframe for the resolution of any individual report, serious issues such as harassment will generally have higher priority than less urgent reports.

Typically, administrative actions that impact a user’s works or account are agreed upon by two PAC volunteers. One volunteer will investigate the report, document any evidence, and determine whether or not a violation took place, before proposing an appropriate course of action. Another volunteer will review the case to verify their findings before approving the decision.

PAC will only ever contact users by email. Users can respond to these emails in order to ask questions or appeal a decision. We do our best to clarify our policies and respond to all inquiries in a timely manner. If we receive an appeal, the case is reviewed by a PAC volunteer who was not involved in the original investigation.

Internal Structure

PAC is a highly collaborative committee that usually consists of 20-40 volunteers. We believe that every member of the team is equal to one another, and we regularly encourage all our volunteers (regardless of seniority) to share their opinions and participate in internal discussions and other projects.

Specialization within the committee is informal and largely self-determined. All PAC volunteers are trained to be able to address the most common types of reports we receive. PAC volunteers who complete general training can choose to learn about less common types of reports, specialize in one or more report types, and join new or ongoing project teams. Senior PAC volunteers often serve as mentors to trainees, assist the committee’s Chair(s), lead PAC’s internal projects, and collaborate on cross-committee initiatives, such as policy proposals and documentation reviews.

Contact Us

If you would like to report a violation of the AO3 Terms of Service, want to learn more about the Policy & Abuse committee, or if you have any other questions, please contact us.