I have a friend we’ll call M. He’s an author, and he’s a fascinating and occasionally frustrating human being. Fascinating in part because he always knows exactly what profound thing to say at any given moment, and frustrating because he always goes out of his way to ensure that you know he’s just turned the perfect phrase.
A few years ago, I shared with him the wild story of how I came to be the admin here. He, like me, was fascinated with all of you, and of course promptly dropped one of his usual bombs. He told me, “Josh, you don’t run Prosebox at all.” This surprised me, and I asked him what he meant. He continued, “You’re merely the custodian of their stories. It’s a deep honor, and I hope you always take it as seriously as they’ll need you to.”
And then he smiled, knowing that he’d moved me. This guy.
As M no doubt knew it would, this stuck with me. It’s increasingly become the lens through which I see all of you and all of Prosebox. I may be the owner, I may be the administrator, but most importantly I’m the person entrusted with guarding your stories. And the last several months.. well, none of our stories have been easy, have they?
It is a truly strange time to be running an online community.
Racism, hate speech, conspiracy theories, misinformation, culture wars, and just general willful ignorance and anti-intellectualism are on the rise everywhere online. Prosebox is not immune to this.
Last week I permanently banned MyDronedLife. This has been coming for quite some time, but I assure you I took no pleasure in it. Under normal circumstances, this would be done quietly and without publicly naming those involved. However, given her visibility in this community (for better or worse), I feel transparency is important.
I banned her for a few reasons. The two final offenses were hate speech and harassment, but the bullying has been going on for quite some time. I’ve received several complaints over the last few years, but each one came just shy of breaking the site rules. I’d warn her, and things would calm down for a time. No need to take away a therapeutic outlet over a few angry mistakes. The last few months, though, things escalated out of control. She crossed lines, and I apologize for not taking action sooner.
I want to be very clear here: she was not banned for her opinions. She was banned for harassment and hate speech.
So, what does that mean? And what actions am I going to take to prevent this going forward?
Well, to hopefully make things a bit clearer, for the first time in four years I’ll be updating the site rules.
For the next few days, before the updates go into effect, you can review the old rules here. As with everything here at Prosebox, I’m soliciting feedback from the community. If you feel there is a line in here that worries you, let’s talk it through. I reserve the right to make the final decision, but I want to have the conversation. Once we as a community have talked through my proposed changes, the updates will go into effect.
I also want to stress that what typically happens with a rules violation is that I reach out to the offending user via email and warn then. In 99% of cases, that ends the behavior right then and there, the offending entries/comments are taken down, and that’s that. It’s a respectful but firm conversation, and there’s ideally growth and understanding on the part of the user I’ve warned. Prosebox is such a small community that a formal “process” has never been necessary. Any user making a good faith attempt to better themselves and learn from their offending behavior will be given another chance.
Additionally, private entries will always be private. This discussion is specifically about the effects your words have on other users.
So, what are the changes?
First, Hate. Or Hate Speech. The previous rule only specified Hateful Slurs, but given the current state of the online world it’s important to take this a step further. There must not be any ambiguity.
Hate speech and demeaning slurs about any group will not be tolerated. This includes racial slurs, religious slurs, deliberate misgendering, or any other racist, transphobic, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynist, or otherwise hateful speech.
Next, Harassment. This is a new rule, though it’s always been something that has been present on the site and dealt with.
Do not threaten, harass, or bully. Intimidation or abuse will not be tolerated in public or private discussions. Being annoying or disagreeing with someone, even strongly, is not harassment. However, being menacing, following someone around the site, or otherwise behaving in a way that would discourage a reasonable person from participating crosses the line.
Finally, Privacy Violation. This was a minor update to address issues I’ve had over the last few years with members posting private entries private comments, or social media posts to publicly to call out others. This is now formally against the site rules.
Privacy Violation (doxxing)
Sharing private or personal information about other people is not allowed, particularly things like social security or credit card numbers. If someone hasn’t intentionally brought their potentially sensitive information into public, do not make that decision for them. This includes excerpts from private entries, private comments, and social media posts.
I want to be very clear and precise here, as I know based on my previous update about a possible ban button that there will be people panicking that this will change the level of freedom of the site. This is not that. This is codifying and firming up rules, unspoken or not, that I’ve been enforcing since I started. The only thing changing here is the ambiguity.
My goal here is to take the difficult decision I had to make with MDL and turn it into something positive for everyone in our community.
All that said, those of you I’ve spoken with about the issues with MDL have been exceedingly gracious and understanding. I feel like every time I turn around, I’m underestimating the kindness and empathy in this community. This is why I feel such an obligation to protect what we have here, and ensure that it lasts. Even if we’re the last bastion of kindness and community support on the internet, I will do my best to honor my obligation as custodian of your stories.
I will write more in the coming days about the state of the site, my plans for addressing these difficult issues, and where things are for me personally. It doesn’t feel right to get into all that in such an important context.
I appreciate all of you reaching out and asking how I’ve been doing during this trying year. I have some correspondence to catch up on!
Last updated July 23, 2020