Online Harassment and DrupalCon

It’s no secret that online harassment is a huge and growing problem for people trying to use the Internet. A 2014 Pew Research Center study found that 73% of adult Internet users in the United States have observed someone being harassed online and 40% have personally experienced harassment themselves. The same study found that women and minorities are disproportionately the targets of the most severe forms of harassment, such as sexual harassment and stalking.

The perpetrators of this harassment frequently use anonymous accounts on Twitter and other social media networks to say horrific things that they would never dare to say to someone’s face in real life. The recent #MoreThanMean video (trigger warning: contains descriptions of physical and sexual violence) by American sports journalists Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro is just one example of the impact that this anonymous abuse has on others.

One of the shared values of the Drupal community is that we treat one another with respect. While we are fortunate to have experienced fewer incidents of online harassment than many other communities, we are certainly not immune to it.

An incident of online harassment occurred last week at DrupalCon New Orleans, when multiple speakers at the event were subjected to derogatory racist, homophobic, and misogynistic comments and images made from an anonymous Twitter account. These comments were brought to the attention of the Community Working Group by other members of the Drupal community and with the assistance of Drupal Association technical and event staff, the account in question was linked to an attendee at the event.

This person was then confronted by members of the Drupal Association staff and the Community Working Group. They were asked to leave the event and informed that they have been banned from attending any future DrupalCons as well as any events produced by the Drupal Association, in accordance with the DrupalCon Code of Conduct, which states, “We do not tolerate harassment of conference participants in any form.” Shortly after the person left the conference, the account from which the harassing tweets were made was deleted.

We are incredibly sorry that something like this happened at DrupalCon, which goes to great lengths to ensure that all participants can freely and openly share ideas in a friendly, safe, and welcoming environment that encourages and inspires mutual respect and collaboration. The Drupal Association staff deserve tremendous credit for their efforts during this incident, and they have reached out personally to the people who were targeted to make sure that they understand that not only is this kind of behavior not tolerated, it is also not characteristic of our community.

It is precisely because of situations like this that we have a strong and well-enforced code of conduct designed to help ensure that people are able to participate in and contribute to our community without fear of harassment. Our code of conduct not only sets expectations for conference attendees and other participants, it also acts as a guide for conference staff and others to take decisive action to stop harassment when it occurs.

To be clear, this is not about some perceived notion of “political correctness”; it is about treating those around us with basic human decency and respect. The shared values expressed in our code of conduct are ones that we have all agreed to as a condition of participating in our community, regardless of our personal political, social, or religious views. In order for the Drupal project to remain successful, its community must continue to be a fun, welcoming, challenging, and fair place to play for people from all ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds, and our code of conduct is designed to preserve that.

We may never be able to prevent harassment from occurring, but all of us in the Drupal community have a shared responsibility to speak up and take action when we see it happening. The Community Working Group is here to help provide support and guidance when needed, but ultimately it is up to all of us to do our part and help make the Internet a better place for everyone.

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