Statement from the OTW Board of Directors, Chairs, & Leads

In recent weeks, there have been intense conversations about long-standing issues with racism in fandom, as well as the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) and Archive of Our Own (AO3)’s roles in this problem. We have received valid criticism for not showing our commitment earlier and numerous requests to clarify our position. We would therefore like to take a moment to address our users and fandom at large.

The OTW stands against racism and discrimination in all its forms. We apologize to anyone who has suffered from our inaction in making the OTW and AO3 a better environment for Black fans and fans of color. And we apologize especially to users who, due to this very inaction, have felt unwelcome on AO3. We also apologize to the scholars whose work we cited out of context, leading to their harassment and distress.

We have heard your voices and feedback; we vow to do better in the future, as outlined in our initial response plan below.

Upcoming AO3 changes

AO3 was designed specifically with maximum inclusivity of content in mind, and we remain committed to that principle. When it comes to which fanworks are allowed on AO3, there will always be significant tension between maximum inclusivity of content and making the Archive a welcoming space for all fans.

We can, however, do a better job of helping users curate their own experience on AO3 and avoid works they do not wish to see. We can also implement more tools to prevent and combat harassment. In the coming months, we plan to prioritize our ongoing work on several changes to give users greater control of their AO3 experience:

  • Providing work creators more control over comments on their works by offering the ability to freeze specific comment threads or turn off comments entirely. The option to turn off comments will be on the posting and editing forms for individual works and on the Edit Multiple Works page, alongside the existing options to turn off guest comments and/or turn on comment moderation.
  • Improving collection searching and filtering to make searching collections by fandom return collections that include bookmarks in the specified fandom. This will help users build and locate curated spaces within AO3 using the collections feature.
  • Improving admin tools behind the scenes to facilitate investigations by our Policy & Abuse team.
  • Reviewing our Terms of Service and potentially drafting revisions that will allow our Policy & Abuse team to address different types of harassment not covered under the current Terms of Service.
  • Reassessing current warnings and discussing the possibility of implementing others in the future. This is an extremely complex issue in terms of definition, implementation, and sustainable enforcement. It is not one that will be quickly or easily addressed, but we are discussing all possibilities in detail.
  • We will also continue our design work on additional features like user muting and blocking and explore other possibilities like saved searches to filter out certain works, tag muting, or taking user-added bookmark tags into account with filtering.

The above list is by no means comprehensive—we are committed to continuing to develop features that will improve our users’ experience of the Archive and put them in control.

Upcoming OTW changes

Ongoing conversations have brought to light a need for us to reconsider the way we recognize and deal with issues that some of our volunteers may experience. To ensure that all voices are heard, we have opened new channels to allow for more open, honest feedback from our volunteers, and will use this feedback to identify areas in which the OTW most urgently needs to do better.

From this, we hope to build a long-term strategy that will include specific internal goals and structural improvements, which can be further divided into clear, actionable steps that we can incorporate into our upcoming Strategic Plan. As part of this, we will be considering various avenues including, but not limited to, reaching out to an external contractor or partnering with an advocacy group, and will be actively researching credible resources in the coming months.

We recognize that this careful approach will take time as we need to make sure any steps are taken responsibly and with a clear scope and objective, while also keeping up with the other duties and obligations of OTW governance. However, we believe that it is an important step to take in creating a stronger OTW for all.

Next steps

We realize that these issues and ideas are not new. We have heard these criticisms before and failed to meet many fans’ expectations. We also understand that these measures are only small steps. Unfortunately, this is a complex issue with no easy answers and no simple solutions. This means that it isn’t something we can fix with funding alone. We must be mindful when implementing any features or policies to consider their ramifications carefully, so that changes do not end up compounding existing problems.

Even in cases where we can’t meet particular requests due to practical considerations, we will listen and consider them, and assess whether we can accomplish the same goals via other means.

We once again apologize for our shortcomings and remain, as always, open to hearing from you. We would like to offer our sincere thanks to all those who have taken the time to discuss this issue and contact us about it, and we welcome all feedback, now and always. The OTW is made by fans for fans, and we are always open to hearing fans’ thoughts on what we’re doing and how we could do better.

The OTW Board of Directors
OTW Chairs & Leads

The OTW Board of Directors can be reached for direct feedback and further suggestions via email.

Announcement
  1. JoCarthage commented:

    Thank you for this thoughtful, responsible, action-minded post. I appreciate all of the hard work of the board and the volunteers who make this space that has been a solace and a creative wellspring for millions of people. Thank you.

  2. bonibaru commented:

    Thank you.

  3. Eliza commented:

    Thank you.

  4. Punk commented:

    Thank you for making this statement.

  5. DY commented:

    Thank you!

  6. P commented:

    So many of those changes will be good. Thank you for all that you have done for us so far,i trust any changes done will be fine with best of the Archive and its users on mind.

  7. decemberwaits commented:

    As you pointed out, nothing you offer here is new and none of it necessarily addresses how to deal with these issues here, it just runs around the issues: committee this, discussion that. This has already been done. But the real answer is simple: you allow for full curation by users:

    *If works are found to contain racist/homophobic/transphobic/triggering content (triggering or promoting racist/homophobic ideas/propaganda), there should be something beyond “tags” but a starred system that immediately flags the work away from or to the bottom of any search and clearly “bands” it so anyone who stumbles on it knows what it is. Tags are very easy to ignore, if they exist on a work at all. “Banded” works need to be seen outside of the usual vacuum: how many are from the same authors/ips? How many suggest influence of an outside community? Banning them automatically is one option, but another is to work with groups that actually know how to recognize fascist groups that infiltrate fans sites to create propagandistic/triggering works and harass users.

    *Users able to flag these works especially when authors do not use the tags or do not tag appropriately. Waiting for tag wranglers can be a process. Let the users, even if making mistakes, move this process along. And by flag, I mean, as above, there is a clear banding, automatically generated, notice on the work. Such works, once banded, should not appear in searches. They can still exist on the site, but access to them should be difficult, much like Tumblr using nsfw to basically shadow ban its users without nuance.

    *If a works are found that contains no tags (or tags that are nonsense) to avoid wrangling or to be flagged and banded, those works are frozen until the author implements proper tags or are banned if usernames/ips are investigated and lead to connections that are for no good purpose.

    *Many works feature triggering content do not endorse such content, but portray it. Help create/enforce tags that help authors to avoid being flagged. Community gets stagnant after awhile, frequent notices/reminders about tagging content is important.

    *Disrupting or disbanding racist/homophobic/transphobic communities that might use AO3 to harass or promote their brand of fascism should not be a controversial process. Just do it. Work with existing groups to help identify and drive it out. It’s not enough to say you’re against racism, etc. You have to let racists/transphobes, etc know they are not welcome and we will not make their attempts at using this site to recruit, propagandize or harass, easy and every bit of racist/transphobic/homophobic/misogynistic harassment creators/users encounter will result in automatic ip bans from the site.

    Don’t hide behind legalese and fears of censorship. The message has to be stark, direct and simple: fascist groups/users are not welcome to promote their ideologies here. They will not be tolerated. Hate cannot be tolerated. Period.

    • A Fan of Color commented:

      This idea doesn’t take into account abusers, harassers, and false positives and presumes guilt until proven innocent. That is a power that should never be given to all users FOR all users. Doing it for yourself is one thing. Doing it for everyone else should only ever be done by staff.

      • FiccinDylan commented:

        100% this. Because the commenter is putting the definition of “hate” into the hands of a diverse set of users.

        If tags are ignored, that’s on the reader. It’s their responsibility to make sure they are properly informed. I’ve been burned into reading something I didn’t like because I skipped the tags. Just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean it’s hate.

        I’ve also seen egregious errors and I contacted the author and it was solved immediately. The creators care about their work, they should have say in the engagement.

    • Sleek commented:

      A Snicker’s bar only costs a dollar, friend.

      • Rando A03 User commented:

        Stop tone policing them. Their anger at racism in fandom and the so-far inaction by the OTW (which is also racist) is justified. Your snarky comment about them not being happy enough for you is a part of the problem of racism in fandom. In short, stop being racist.

        • really? commented:

          Are you really tone policing someone about tone policing?

    • AlexSeanchai commented:

      You have to let racists/transphobes, etc know they are not welcome

      That is everybody. That is literally everyone. People can and should unlearn racism, transmisia, ableism, etc., and people can and should work to make the spaces they exist in less racist, less transmisic, less ableist, etc.. But generally speaking, nobody does that unlearning in a space that has already kicked them out for not having done it yet.

      Also: Not for making parts of the archive difficult to access (though AO3 Savior type functionality being native to AO3 would be excellent). Very not for any feature that the developers haven’t first thought of and then preemptively thwarted at least five ways to use it abusively.

      Please note that there are trans people who think always-assigned-the-other-birth-gender fics are incredibly affirming and there are trans people who find those same fics incredibly painful. Same for magically-switched-from-ovarian-morph-to-testicular-morph-or-vice-versa fics. Will either or both of those types of fic be banded as transmisic, in your ideal AO3? Both, I suspect, thus keeping them away from the trans people who find them affirming and those who write some sometimes as well as keeping them away from the trans people who find them hurtful. Meanwhile, will fics that make passing mention of a man in a dress, ha ha doesn’t he look silly, be banded as transmisic at all? I doubt it, because so many users won’t even notice the transmisogyny. (Not sure if your proposal is more patronizing than the way AO3’s tag structure currently treats people whose major triggers are rape or graphic violence, not transmisia. It’s certainly less willing to treat each user as the expert on their own emotional landscape and as the person in charge of curating their own experience.)

      And #ownvoices traditionally published works consistently get a lot more negative attention for their imperfect portrayals of marginalized people than other works in the same genre in which the same sorts of marginalized people are portrayed by privileged authors. Why should anyone think that dynamic will be different in fanworks than pro works?

      That’s two ways to abuse what you’re describing here right there, and you provide zero ways to thwart those abusive uses.

    • Racial Minority Fan commented:

      Hate cannot be tolerated.

      I wholeheartedly agree, which is why I strongly support the AO3’s stand against censorship and commitment to protect people from harassers and bullies who stifle the voices of people who have “the wrong ships”, “the wrong fandoms”,
      “like the wrong characters”, and so on, by falsely accusing them of being bigoted and ~ist. Too many creators of color have been driven out of fandom by zealous, vicious mobs. Good on the AO3 for standing with and supporting them.

    • A fan commented:

      AO3 is not the thought police… tmyou’re talking 1984 levels of reporting everyone for everything and as someone points out, assumes guilt.

      Just, every feature they add, the have to think about how it will be abused because people such. All of that is so ripe for abuse its not funny.

      • lexigent commented:

        But current features are already open to abuse.

        • A fan commented:

          So you want to add more ways for people to be assholes?

          Nowhere on this planet is completely a safespace. Things that allow you to curate your experience are needed and they’ve addressed that they need more of it.

          But these types of suggestions stifle more then they help. They leave things like nuance and different interpretations out, as AlexSeanchai points out.

        • AlexSeanchai commented:

          Yes, which is an argument to make those features no longer open to abuse ?

    • lexigent commented:

      Yes!

    • NM commented:

      Automatic IP bans are a terrible idea. IP bans in general do not work; many people these days have IPs that regularly change automatically, often daily, and even if they don’t, it is simple to change it yourself. An IP ban may also catch some completely unrelated and unaware person, especially if someone is logging in from an institutional computer, such as a public library or university. An IP ban is therefore toothless at best and detrimental at worst.

      Second, and far more importantly: the idea of users controlling what other users see by some kind of popularity vote will only allow for harassment and silencing of other fans. History has shown that it has always been marginalized people, including people of color and LGBT+ persons, who are disproportionately silenced when that kind of moral policing by popular vote is used. It is why freedom of speech is so important for advancing the rights of minorities: because the people with power and priviledge are not the ones who end up shut out, harassed, or badgered into silence.

      You are advocating for policies that will make the situation worse and will increase harm against the people you claim to be trying to protect.

      • freakedelic commented:

        It’s a terrible, terrible idea, but at least we know that it will never happen. Ao3 was founded on the principles of the right of authors to the portray their work as they see fit, an archive that would take EVERY fic, and, well, an archive. Biased searching would make it stop being an archive and start being a ranking system, tags added by users would pull the fics out of context.

        OP seemed to miss the point that the whole thing with tubmlr – the censoring, the shadowbanning, the locked accounts? That’s what made people LEAVE tumblr in the first place. People HATED it, it was user-unfriendly and user-unfair. It would fundamentally change the archive’s principles. So many people are demanding changes to the archive that are FUNDAMENTALLY opposed to their mission statement in every way. You can tell the people writing them have never, for example, written a fic that has made people come into their inbox to tell them to die, have never been dogpiled over fic, and don’t write fic that a whole lot of people want gone. They don’t see the value in anti-censorship because they assume they would never be censored by an organization or by the majority.

    • random commenter commented:

      Tl;dr: “Let me be able to bully people off the site for writing Reylo, which is racist, and if you don’t agree you’re racist too.”

      Nah.

    • SoManyYears commented:

      “Hate cannot be tolerated” is a huge statement to make; fictional hate certainly can be tolerated, it’s an element of storytelling that is as old as the oldest stories.
      But I know that’s not what you mean, and not what you’re trying to say. All I am asking is for you to balance that sentence with your clear understanding that “many works [that] feature triggering content do not endorse such content, but portray it.” Shadow-bans by users are ripe for abuse, and frankly put all content on AO3 at risk.
      Here’s a metaphor (it’s long, I apologize) (and assume there is no plague):
      A convention wants to be ADA compliant; they want to meet the needs of every attendee in the way that supports that attendee. One attendee is allergic to scents — not to an aniphalactic shock level, but they make their nose itch. Another attendee needs to have a lavender-infused handkerchief handy as the scent mitigates her moderate anxiety. The con cannot ban all scents to support the attendee with the allergy without making it difficult for the attendee with anxiety to attend, and vice versa. It might not even be possible to keep them out of the same room, or prevent them from being on the same panel.
      Similarly, as others have said here, if fifty people read the same story, there will be fifty three different responses and reactions to it. Tagging is vital as it allows people to find what they are looking for, and avoid what they don’t want — and adding a few tweaks to make it easier to avoid things, like “show no fics newer than one [day/week/month]” to allow tag wranglers to check on the tags, can definitely improve the tagging system. And people searching for fics can choose to avoid everything tagged with ~author has chosen not to use warning tags~ to avoid anything that might have one of the four tags-are-required concepts in it. It may be that “tags are easy to ignore” but if one wants to curate their reading experience, that’s what the tags are there for.

    • A Period-Typical Author commented:

      Censorship of any sort (except in the handful of cases where it is blatantly obvious) doesn’t belong on AO3 because curating one’s experience is on the user. All we really need is a way to mute/block tags on an account-by-account basis rather than a search session basis to improve user experience curation, and maybe some better sorting options.

    • No commented:

      “They can still exist on the site, but access to them should be difficult, much like Tumblr using nsfw to basically shadow ban its users without nuance.”

      How do people think shit like this is in any way a good idea??? This would harm way way waaaaaaaay more than it would help. It’s been shown time and time again that crap like this gets weaponised and used disproportionately against marginalised people.

      Ao3 was set up with the express purpose of NOT allowing censorship bullshit. I don’t understand why you would use a site that promises that it will not remove content simply for it being objectionable to someone, and then be angry that it hosts content that it demands content that you find objectionable.

    • ghoststars commented:

      This. Everyone else is all “oh thank you for the bare minimum!” When they still aren’t doing much.

    • A Sane Passerby commented:

      Thought policing and censorship is not the answer, especially not with a system that would easily allow harassment, brigading and revenge flagging, holy shit.

    • CaptainLordAuditor commented:

      Out of curiosity, what definition of fascism are you using here?

    • E commented:

      Your dissatisfaction with proposed functions is understandable. Actually even I would be happy if additional way to curate my experience would exist on site: a more permanent filtering option for the search – i.e. option to create a list of tags, works and users (etc.) to exclude from the search that would be saved on the site and I would not need to remember them every time I want to check for new works.
      I don’t have mental capacity to constantly keep in mind every author that writes in very niche tag I enjoy very much, but wants complete opposite from the story than I do. I know my friends that enjoy their stories and I definitely don’t want then off the site. But I would be happy not to see them in my search results.

      So creating a filtering like the one that exists on tumblr would make my personal experience even more comfortable here.
      Also I can propose a few tweaks where it can be used not only personally, but also by smaller communities – option to export and import permanent filter lists or even option to create (or download) more that one and choose to implement during certain search.
      I personally would be very happy if option like that would exist on site.

      • Fledhyris commented:

        ^ This. I’ve already sent a suggestion for building inclusive rather than exclusive search parameters (yes I want violent rape fantasies, not no please filter these out – every. single. time) and then keeping them as a user default. Since we have to build a filter every time anyway, it might as well be from an innocuous Gen ‘ground zero’ that doesn’t expose anything with higher ratings to those who stumble on or are new to the site, with of course an option to ‘show me everything you got!’ for the adventurous.

        You don’t have to suffer from harassment or have any moral problem with what others are reading, to find it off-putting to have to wade through the whole gamut each time you do a search. But Dev just came back to me and said ‘yes a lot of people have requested this’ (!) ‘but it’s not within our current means, we’ll look into it in future’ and meanwhile how about bookmarking your search terms on your web browser… I do understand, it’s a vast site, they’re all volunteers and there aren’t that many of them, but I think it would help to stop shoving things literally under people’s noses who really, really don’t want to know they exist. Or didn’t even know they existed until they cropped up in their filter…

    • Sock commented:

      I’d love to boost this comment, if I could. Well put.

    • Kadymae commented:

      “Such works, once banded, should not appear in searches. ”

      Oh, because THAT will never be abused by the assholes to shadowban the works of people they want to harm or harrass.

    • Just Another AO3 Writer commented:

      This doesn’t work. In fact it makes it even harder to write fic that tackles difficult topics like a trans person’s experience with transphobia, be it externalized or internalized. A blanket banning or hiding of potentially triggering content silences meaningful works by disabled people, neurodivergent people, queer people and people of color, which only aggravates the issue. Its sadly not an easy distinction to make between content that depicts racism/homophobia/transphobia/ableism in its setting, content that comments on or critiques it, and content that valorizes it.

      Things are muddy and nuanced, and they only get moreso when you account for the disparity in harrassment that especially trans and black fan creators receive in content. The solutions you propose are Really only applicable in the theoretical, any sort of widespread use of such intense measures would all but guarantee the increased harassment and abuse of those you’re trying to protect.

      Allowing for personal tag lists that can be shared might be a safer solution but any mass user voting or tagging system is a rife for harassment, abuse and the silencing of those already pushed to the margins.

  8. A commented:

    I’m 99% sure works aren’t ever gonna get removed for offensive content. I’m sorry that’s not what you want to hear, but that policy is incredibly popular among ao3 users, donors and volunteers and there’s no will for it to change. It’s the reason why the archive exists. There are other fanfic archives that have strict content policy guidelines like ff.net or wattpad if that’s the dealbreaker for you.

    • lexigent commented:

      I think the past few weeks have shown that there is substantial will for this to change.

      • A commented:

        ???

        Whats happened in the past few weeks? Did I miss something?

      • . commented:

        “Whining on Twitter and starting a petition for someone else to do the work” isn’t a will to change. It’s just babies crying on the Internet.

    • AlexSeanchai commented:

      I don’t want works to get removed for hurtful content. I seriously don’t want works to get removed for content that is merely offensive.

      I do want fans of color to know “Our” in “Archive of Our Own” means them as much as it means me.

  9. Silverlion commented:

    “AO3 was designed specifically with maximum inclusivity of content in mind, and we remain committed to that principle. When it comes to which fanworks are allowed on AO3, there will always be significant tension between maximum inclusivity of content and making the Archive a welcoming space for all fans.”

    Thank you for continuing to stand up for those of us who had our fics reported and deleted by LJ, FF.net and all other places that led to the foundation of the OTW. It means a lot to hear this in these times when antis turn so many fandoms toxic.

    • lexigent commented:

      What’s an “anti”?

      • Silverlion commented:

        https://fanlore.org/wiki/Anti-shipper

      • AlexSeanchai commented:

        I think star-anise on tumblr has a good definition of the term, but tumblr search does not, uh, work? Check out her “fandom purity culture” and “fandom anti culture” tags and you’ll get the gist soon enough. I am not clear on how racism and anti-racist work intersect with the concept; there’s definitely a lot of conflation going on, though.

        • lexigent commented:

          Huh… from what I can tell, this is mostly about fans of colour being wrongly accused of being “antis”, aka spoilsports, for pointing out racism in fandom (for ex. the juggernaut ship being always slash as long as there are two white dudes, but when there are two very shippable men but one of them is a person of colour, at which point a white het ship becomes the most popular).

          • You commented:

            Yes, that is how an anti describes themselves. Isn’t it ridiculous?

          • random commenter commented:

            So you think it’s fine to bully people who ship two white dudes because they’re not shipping what you think they should be?

          • lexigent commented:

            Random Commenter I cannot answer to your comment but no, I don’t think that’s okay. People should not be bullied for what they ship/choose to write about/choose to read. There is a difference between saying “on a population level, fandom gravitates towards shipping two white dudes” and personally attacking people who ship the two white dudes.

          • AlexSeanchai commented:

            Lexigent: which thing is “this” in your “this is mostly about” meant to refer to? because the toxicity I keep seeing from people who call themselves antis involves being offended that we look at characters who are fourteen in canon and write them as having sex when they’re twenty-four. not a racism-specific issue. and I don’t think much in either star-anise tumblr tag I mentioned is about racism instead of about age and power dynamics in ships. where if your pronoun referent is something else, I’m missing part of the conversation. ?

          • lexigent commented:

            The “this” in “this is mostly about” resolves to “the conflation of antis with racism/antiracism is mostly about”.

          • NM commented:

            Lexigent: There is a difference between saying “on a population level, fandom gravitates towards shipping two white dudes” and personally attacking people who ship the two white dudes.

            Yes. (One of) the problems with antis is that they do the latter, and then use the former to hide behind as justification for their harassment.

            Fandom has a problem with racism, but antis are not actually working on fixing it. They’re shipwarring and getting off on harassing people. Anti-shippers (what the other people in this comment thread mean when we say ‘anti’) are not doing anti-racism activism, but they sometimes pretend they are to try and muddy the waters.

          • lexigent commented:

            NM: Thank you.

          • No commented:

            Nope. Antis are batshit insane purity cultists who think nobody should write or enjoy anything they find objectionable, claiming that fanfic ‘normalises’ harmful shit, even though nobody outside a corner of fandom gives a damn about fanfic. They claim to be against pedophilia, incest, & abuse, but using bizarro definitions – a character having a childish personality is enough to count as pedophilia, incest can be any pairing with unrelated people deemed to have a sibling-like bond, & abuse being flipped on it’s head, with enemies to lovers being abusive while characters on the same side of a conflict where one has lied to & gaslit the other is totes fine. They report shitty fanart of cartoon characters to actual law enforcement, which takes time from legitimate investigations. They send death threats & gore. They wish rape upon people. They interrogate darkfic writers on why they write what they do, & when those writers explain they were actually abused & this is their way of processing, are told they deserved what happened to them. When NSFW fanart creators block any minors they come across & hide their tumblr or twitter as best they can to prevent their work being seen by minors, antis will circumvent that block, take screenshots, & distribute them.

            As for people being accused of being antis over accusations of racism, I would dispute the word ‘wrongly’. Telling someone that they can’t ship something because you *believe* that it’s objectionable, even when it’s properly tagged so people not into it can avoid, & accusing people of horrible things over writing about 2 fictional characters banging? Yeah that’s anti bullshit.

          • PorcupineGirl commented:

            That does happen, but I’ve also seen fans of color being called race traitors and self-hating just for shipping Reylo. I’ve also seen CSA survivors harassed and called pedos by antis because they write fic that deals with their personal experiences.

            It’s definitely a problem when everyone trying to have a discussion about problematic content gets branded as an “anti,” but that doesn’t mean that there’s not also a serious problem with people who declare entire ships to be off-limits (not just for themselves, but for EVERYBODY) and resort to harassment campaigns to stop anyone, anywhere, from creating content for those ships.

            I’m not sure I believe you actually read the recommended star-anise tags, as very few of the posts in them deal with racism at all, and those that do include the viewpoints of POC and are generally a nuanced discussion of how to handle racism in fandom without flat-out harassing creators.

      • lexigent commented:

        I’m not even in SW fandom. I’m usually on the fringes these days. Fandom’s migration to tumblr has made many parts of “mainstream” fandom inaccessible to me – hence the question. “Anti” wasn’t a thing the last time I was actively involved in a fandom.

        • sa commented:

          Oh, I didn’t mean you were in Star Wars fandom – it’s the mindset that makes an anti, not the fandom, and they’re everywhere these days.

          But if you are on the fringes of fandom, my advice to you is to do some digging into a user’s background when they’re being used as the face of a campaign like this. Like I said, antis use social justice language – they sound very righteous and appropriately angry – but most of them are no less petty or ship-warring than your average fan. They just dress it up so casual observers don’t notice.

        • SA commented:

          Oh, I didn’t mean you were in Star Wars fandom – anti is the mindset, not the fandom, and they’re everywhere these days.

          Earnestly, if you are on the fringes of fandom these days, my advice to you is to thoroughly investigate anyone who ends up the face of some campaign like this. Like I said, antis are good about knowing the language to use, and they’re good at sounding righteous and angry – it disguises the fact that they’re just as petty as the rest of fandom since the dawn of time. It’s effective at making bystanders sympathize with them; think of it like a politician’s spin campaign.

      • Random user commented:

        Antis just mean “against something”. And you are right most people label those concerned with racism or abusive content in their medium are often met with the “anti” label in attempts to discredit their claims. Think of it as the “sjw” label people throw around with everything. There are different kinds of antis. Anti-MAPs, anti-sjws, anti-Star wars, anti-anti. You really just to need to look at them case by case

        • NM commented:

          In this case, the other people in this subthread are talking about anti-shippers. Those are people who think that fans should not ship a particular ship, but instead of just being content to ship-and-let-ship (because… like… it’s just shipping. It’s really not that serious.) they instead go after fans who do ship those things with massive amounts of harassment. Other comments to this post have described some of the vile tactics they use.

          Anti-shipping should not be conflated with anti-racism, but unfortunately a lot of anti-shippers do just that.

          • Random commented:

            Oh shipping has always caused disruption in fandom especially with real people. Ship wars result in harassment and death threats all the time. In ships like reylo you got a base pushed by racism thus anyone who dislikes reylo “hates all women”. It’s the same toxic mentality as stan culture it can actually affect people

    • Today commented:

      Seconded. I am glad to see that this fundamental principle of the archive has been reiterated, alongside the strong range of new proposals made.

  10. Amy commented:

    BLOCK/MUTE BUTTON HYPE!

    No seriously, very excited about some of these features and I’m happy the ao3 decided to implement them. I’ve never had issues with comments, but I know people who have, and I think more moderation of them will help curb harassment a lot.

    • AlexSeanchai commented:

      Indeed!

      I am hoping block and mute will work on individual guest commenters too. I don’t want to blanket forbid guest comments, or blanket moderate comments, in order to keep out this one person. (I hope Miraculous Ladybug fandom’s Lilanon is just one person, anyway…) But even having the option just for registered users will help so much!

  11. lexigent commented:

    Wow.

    • B commented:

      Do you have receipts for the remarks on Rose Tico?

      • Leg-Grestrade commented:

        No, because they’re liars.

        Actual Asian Star Wars fan here. Stitch is a black fan with academic credentials to back up their amazing treatises on racism in this trash fandom and the empathy gap. The only move that racist reylo garbage have is to accuse them of being “anti-Asian” when the only people shitting on Asians are reylos using Kelly Marie Tran as a human shield against their antiblackness to black antireylos, John Boyega, and the character of Finn, and reylo trash who tune out fans like me who stand up for black fans being wrongly accused of anti-Asian sentiment.

  12. H Quinn commented:

    You definitely need to contract a Black advocate familiar with the platform for advice. Most of the proposals you plan to put in place serve creators of racist content more than Black fans.

    • NM commented:

      Most of the proposals you plan to put in place serve creators of racist content more than Black fans.

      Earnestly: how?

    • random commenter commented:

      IOW, “Let people be able to drive anyone whose fic we don’t like off the site.”

      Quite frankly I’m happy AO3 is refusing to accede to the demands of a small group of disingenuous people who absolutely do not speak for all POC.

    • . commented:

      Idk, I feel like the ability to block/mute users serves everyone. If someone is writing racist fic, you can add them to a blocklist and never see their content again.

      …unless by “serve creators of racist content” you mean “doesn’t let antis mass report fics they don’t like and get them deleted, or harass the authors.” Which is a tactic that has been used on both Tumblr and Twitter by fans that have that kind of vile mob mentality; I’m so glad AO3 doesn’t allow that.

      • Today commented:

        I agreed. Blocking is a feature that many users have wanted for a long time to help them curate their experience on AO3. It supports people who do deal with racism, and also sexism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism. It is also equally useful in dealing with issues that aren’t systemic bigotry, but nonetheless harassment, whether originating in an individual with a grudge or wider fandom shipwars. It’s a tool against bullying, and it’s good to see AO3 moving to implement it.

      • Give me a break commented:

        When has that ever happened? I’m waiting.

        No one has ever said “X ship should not be on A03” UNLESS it’s been pedo or incest. No, I don’t think fandom interests are served by having stories about Dipper and Mabel and Grunkle Stan in a threesome. But by and large most people stay away from their NOTPs, otherwise the filtering system would barely get used. This continual “Antis want to harass all the things they don’t like off A03” is tiresome. Please let me know what the value is of a story where Kylo Ren calls Finn racial slurs then guts him in front of Rey and then proceeds to rape her next to Finn’s dead body. Again, I’m waiting.

        • Isn't it great? commented:

          “No one has ever said “X ship should not be on AO3″ unless [bullshit reasoning]”

          No waiting required – you’ve already seen it yourself. 🙂 No matter how “pedo” or “incestuous” a ship, it stays on AO3, period. And now that AO3 is going to add blocking/muting/the ability to turn off comments, you can’t even harass authors into deleting their stuff.

          🙂 🙂 🙂

        • Lulz commented:

          You’re doing a great job of demonstrating why people want better comment moderation, and also that a lot of the complaints about blocking/moderation come down to shipwarring grudge wank. Please, keep it up.

        • Meta-meta commented:

          You made up or recalled this twisted Kylo/Finn/Rey story, and used it as an example. That’s a part of its value: an illuminating example of something horrifying that we can examine in the context of storytelling.

          • Give Me a Break commented:

            Fuck. Off. I didn’t make up shit. It’s known in fandom as the Waffle House AU, made when the fuckstop in charge of the Waffle House twitter account shouted out some nasty looking “reylo waffle.” The story had Kylo murdering and gutting Finn and raping Rey next to his dead fucking body. If you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about then keep your fucking mouth closed.

    • Rando A03 User commented:

      I think that “the author is the only one that gets to add descriptions to their work, at all times” is kind of extreme. While I agree that giving random users the power to forever tag a work racist will be used abusively, I think that there needs to be some kind of warning system so fans of color dont have to wait to be triggered by a fic before blocking the author

      • Elf commented:

        Are you proposing that someone should review *every single fic* posted to the archive, before it goes live with the author’s chosen warnings?

      • Alyndra commented:

        Isn’t that what bookmarks are for, though? Any user can tag any fic right now as long as they’re willing to have it on their account. Granted, looking through a large number of bookmarks could be made easier in a number of ways, but the essential function you’re looking for is there, right?

        • Miri commented:

          Alyndra, it really doesn’t seem feasible to me to search through every bookmark’s tags for a mention of racism or slurs. What if there were a stoplight system where bookmarkers could tag a fic green, yellow ( maybe for canon-typical racism that’s potentially triggering) or red (for uncritical use of racial slurs) and readers could see those when filtering? Maybe in a separate box for bookmarker’s tags. Rando, would that strike an appropriate balance? Is it still too ripe for abuse?

          Now is the time for brainstorming, so I’m throwing it out there.

          • Alyndra commented:

            Searching through every bookmark’s tags for mentions of racism or slurs sounds like a great job for a browser extension, honestly. (Or an app…if Tumblr wasn’t so ready to burn any and all ao3 apps to the ground.)

            Color-coding most of the works on the Archive wrt racism alone seems like a lot. You’d have people wanting it for homophobia, etc. Maybe colorcoding authors who have gotten a disproportionate number of users to block them would work better…but I can still see Twitter mobs weaponizing that in no time flat, too. Any system where everyone browsing gets to see reader reactions by default on a fic seems like it would invite too much abuse, to me.

          • Random thought commented:

            How about taking that color coding system but having it just apply to a user’s own bookmarks? Ex. I can see color coding of my bookmarks but I can’t see how you coded yours. This way the system could cover racism, sexism, anti-LGBT+, triggers specific to different users, and also just help users avoid works that they’ve read and know they don’t like but always show up when running specific searches. It would also solve the issue where people have different interpretations and reactions to fics, fics where triggering content is part of the story (ex. where an antagonist is racist, sexist, etc. and this is clearly Not OK), and stopping users from being harassed by their fics being tagged as red for no reason. Of course this wouldn’t give pre-warning of possibly triggering content, but personally I know I can have very different reactions than other people and would likely ignore how others color coded if your system was put into place.

  13. FANDOM OLD commented:

    “AO3 was designed specifically with maximum inclusivity of content in mind, and we remain committed to that principle.”

    Thank you for this – for creating AO3 as this inclusive space, and for committing to the continuation of a space where we truly can share our stories and our voices, in a world that increasingly tries to stifle us.

    There’s a lot of work to be done for increased inclusivity, and I’m eager to hear more of what that will look like. I’m glad that there will be a focus on more tools for users to curate their own experiences to create safe spaces for themselves.

    Based on the conversations I saw on social media, my big fear was what others here have already commented – that these changes would be used as an opening for the extraordinarily toxic side of fandom to start imposing their censorship and guidelines based on what THEY believe to be “pure” material. It’s book-burning in digital form.

    Some of the widely RT’d twitter threads didn’t even speak to actual instances of racism in fanworks; instead, they focused on people shipping “the wrong ships.” The argument becomes less about curating content for users’ safety and more about stifling voices simply because someone doesn’t like a character or a ship.

    I’m dismayed that antis have gotten such a strong foothold in fandom and that they’ve become the loudest voices. I’m genuinely concerned that they’re finally getting the leverage to do what they’ve been yelling about for a long time now: dismantling AO3 because of what they consider its “problematic” content. (Usually meaning: a ship that they personally do not like.) Please, please do not let that happen. AO3 has become the last safe space for a lot of marginalized people in fandom, and losing that would be truly devastating.

    • random commenter commented:

      +100 to all of this. Well said.

      It’s not coincidental that these types go after more-marginalized volices, either. I never, for some odd reason, see them attacking male fans for hentai or futa. Wonder why that is? [hmmm emoji]

  14. A Friendly Irin commented:

    I don’t see how providing work creators more control over comments on their works is going to help this? They already have absolute control in the form of comment deletion. Freezing threads won’t do anything to stop a dedicated harasser, and locking comments completely is using a nuke to swat a fly.

    Why have you not added a block feature already, the one thing that would actually fix this?

    • random commenter commented:

      They said they’re working on block/mute functionality. AO3 runs on some pretty old spaghetti code; it takes a while to create new features sometimes.

    • NM commented:

      If somebody is being harassed, then it’s way better than they be able to lock comments than have to see those comments and interact with them long enough to delete.

      It’s not perfect but it is a good step. Getting blocking in place and better Abuse team response times will also be good, but it sounds like this can be accomplished more quickly while they work on those.

    • CD commented:

      I’ve personally wanted the ability to fully disable comments for years and I’m not alone. It’s long overdue. I think it’s a much easier feature to implement than a blocking function which is going to take longer to code so that it both works and doesn’t break anything else.

  15. random commenter commented:

    The only thing I disagree with in this terrific post is the apology to StitchMediaMix and Rukmini Pande. You published Pande’s work in your journal, and you quoted it and linked to it on your website. There is nothing objectionable about that whatsoever. “Don’t link or quote me unless you agree 100% with me and will fulfill all my demands” is not reasonable by any academic standard. It’s a naked power play. Someone who wants to be taken seriously as an academic can’t dictate those terms.

    • V commented:

      “I agree with everything except the apology to the BIPOC scholars whose work on fandom racism you used in a way that was painful to them” sure is a take.

      • V commented:

        I’m not stitch, and I’m not going to engage re: Reylo, but I’d be curious to know what you think does make someone a scholar.

      • B commented:

        For fuck’s sake, let people criticize racism in fandom. Have you ever even READ any of her blogposts?

      • Lapse commented:

        Stitch, a scholar. *snorts*

        But in all seriousness, the way Pande particularly reacted to a perfectly normal reference to her publicly available work is baffling. Fan studies must be a very special corner of academia indeed.

      • XX commented:

        This is right, though? Dr Pande and Stitch posted their articles publicly. (In Pande’s case, ON the OTW site). It is always OK to cite publicly posted articles as long as a link to the source is provided. That’s how citing sources works in journalism.

        If their works were quoted WITHOUT a name and a link, they’d be entitled to an apology. But linking to their original work is good etiquette. I honestly do not understand why citing their work straightforwardly and correctly was a bad thing.

        • Today commented:

          + 1 Either this was an academic article published in an academic journal, in which case it can be treated as such and cited when topical, or it wasn’t. In which case, it should not be given the credence of an academic article. Academics publishing in their capacity as academics must be open to discussion and critique on that work, that is fundamental to how we operate. If Dr Pande prefers to write in a private, non-professional capacity on these matters, that is also understandable, but then the work should be published in a clearly private capacity, such as a blog not affiliated with a journal, university, or OTW.

          • AlexSeanchai commented:

            Academics publishing in their capacity as academics must be open to discussion and critique on that work, that is fundamental to how we operate.

            Academics are allowed to get tetchy about being quoted out of context and/or misinterpreted, the same as anyone else is, and academics are allowed to ask the people doing the misinterpretation and out-of-context quoting to knock it off, the same as anyone else is. I am glad OTW removed the references to Dr. Pande’s and Stitch’s work when they asked OTW to do so; I do not believe OTW was obligated to do so.

          • NM commented:

            Alexseanchai: Academics are allowed to get tetchy about being quoted out of context and/or misinterpreted, the same as anyone else is, and academics are allowed to ask the people doing the misinterpretation and out-of-context quoting to knock it off, the same as anyone else is.

            True, but none of the other articles or works so linked have any interpretation or quotes at all: they are provided as ‘here are some relevant studies/articles’. Were Dr. Pande’s and Stitch’s work treated differently?

  16. lexigent commented:

    can i top level comment now…

    • SA commented:

      Tried to reply to you elsewhere and it didn’t work:

      I didn’t mean you were in Star Wars fandom – anti is the mindset, not the fandom, and they’re everywhere these days.

      Earnestly, if you are on the fringes of fandom these days, my advice to you is to thoroughly investigate anyone who ends up the face of some campaign like this. Like I said, antis are good about knowing the language to use, and they’re good at sounding righteous and angry – it disguises the fact that they’re just as petty as the rest of fandom since the dawn of time. It’s effective at making bystanders sympathize with them; think of it like a politician’s spin campaign.

    • Antis: follow up commented:

      Tried to reply to you elsewhere and it didn’t work:

      I didn’t mean you were in Star Wars fandom – anti is the mindset, not the fandom, and they’re everywhere these days.

      Earnestly, if you are on the fringes of fandom these days, my advice to you is to thoroughly investigate anyone who ends up the face of some campaign like this. Like I said, antis are good about knowing the language to use, and they’re good at sounding righteous and angry – it disguises the fact that they’re just as petty as the rest of fandom since the dawn of time. It’s effective at making bystanders sympathize with them; think of it like a politician’s spin campaign.

      • lexigent commented:

        This sounds like solid advice, cheers.

        • Random commented:

          Ok you see what that commenter did right there and how they used soft language to motivate you into hating every anti because they “are all irrational”. That’s the kind of language they are warning you antis supposedly use, but they just used it themselves. I am pretty neutral with this whole thing but I’ve noticed people who are this strongly against “censorship of any kind” are the kind of people that talk over victims and poc for the sake of defending their entertainment from any criticism including ao3

  17. A Period-Typical Author commented:

    I should mention that I mean “except in cases where it’s blatantly obvious that the work is intended only to be offended”. I hit post too soon.

  18. an ao3 user commented:

    I appreciate this post, but I’d like to know when we can expect updates on the steps outlined, especially for new archive features. Obviously development takes time, but I think a lot of us who love the archive and want to see meaningful change would appreciate a roadmap of planned technical changes (including timeline estimates and dates when progress will be reported to users). Will this be part of the mentioned strategic plan?

  19. Y commented:

    AO3 was designed specifically with maximum inclusivity of content in mind, and we remain committed to that principle.

    Thank you so much for this reassurance ♥️

  20. Sally commented:

    I appreciate this first step. I hope the OTW Board and other leadership will back this statement with the action necessary to make AO3 safer for fans of color. And I hope you will do so while listening to and incorporating feedback from fans of color, and especially Black fans, as to whether the proposed changes will actually help.

    I am puzzled by the insinuations that this is all both overblown, and somehow related to shipping (?). This problem is so much larger than one fandom, and far predates the Star Wars sequels. But I’m hopeful OTW means to sincerely engage and work to make things better.

    • Sally commented:

      Sorry– this was meant as a top-level comment.

    • ship and let ship commented:

      Maybe actually read those ‘insinuations’? Many of the people most vocal on this issue are extremely toxic antis who view ‘shipping the wrong ship’ as racism. Nobody is saying racism isn’t a problem (ok, someone probably is, but fuck that person), but there are too many people who have an extremely convenient vision of what racism is that just so happens to align with ships. And no, I am not putting words in their mouths. There were people spouting shipwar bullshit in the notes of the tumblr post about the Open Letter that sparked this post.

      The people mentioning SW are doing so because this is an excellent current example of how anti racism rhetoric can be twisted and used in a ship war. Trust me – I’m a reylo shipper, and the amount of shit we get from finnreys just because our ship is more popular (it’s not even as if finnrey is a rarepair – it’s plenty popular, but that’s not enough I guess). Every reylo shipper I know is into it because we’re sluts for enemies to lovers ships. Finn could be the whitest of white guys and we still wouldn’t be interested. But nah must be racism. And they always conveniently forget Rose, because Asian women don’t count I guess, and she’s well liked by reylos.

      Incidentally, that last part is an issue with even well meaning discussions on racism in fandom. All too often it centers on black Americans, despite Ao3 being used in different countries, by different races and cultures. When I was looking at responses to the open letter, there were actual POC expressing wariness of the idea of having some ‘expert’ advise Ao3 on racism, because that wouldn’t necessarily take their voices and experiences into account.

      • Give me a break commented:

        This is a lie. If you’re going to come to the table with an argument, at least don’t lie about it.

        “Finn could be the whitest of white guys and we still wouldn’t be interested.”

        Incorrect. This was tested. Reylos claimed that they would love Reylo if John Boyega played him. Except, surprise! The experiment led to “Finnrey” each time, with Finn being played by Adam Driver.

        “Incidentally, that last part is an issue with even well meaning discussions on racism in fandom. All too often it centers on black Americans, despite Ao3 being used in different countries, by different races and cultures.”

        Do you really mean to sound as anti-black as you do here? You are aware of what’s happened with black people in the U.S. for the past 400 years, yes? And what has gone on in the country the past month and even stretching back before then?

        “Nobody is saying racism isn’t a problem (ok, someone probably is, but fuck that person), but there are too many people who have an extremely convenient vision of what racism is that just so happens to align with ships.”

        Again, a lie. No one would care that only a few people ship Finnrey if reylos were not continually calling black Finnrey fans racial slurs, calling John Boyega ugly, saying that Rey doesn’t want “a burned piece of coal,” clipping Finn/John out of pictures and scenes with Rey/Daisy, and insisting that Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver are having an affair and John Boyega, who has expressed an almost single-minded interest in women of color, is jealous and obsessed with Daisy Ridley.

        Again, stop lying. Stop trying to present this argument like there are a few disgruntled negroes who are trying to ruin fun. If you are intent on lying I suggest you just be quiet because there are receipts out there. As the saying goes, better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.