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Comments on Second Iteration of Drafting the Codidact Arbitration & Review Panel

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Second Iteration of Drafting the Codidact Arbitration & Review Panel

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About a month ago I shared our first draft for a Review Panel. Read through that post to find the motivation for this idea:

It should be clear that such a process shouldn't involve "us" (the Codidact team), but rather "you" (the community). Hence, at some point, it was decided on the old forum that we'd eventually have some kind of review panel, which would be responsible for these cases.

While there will probably be no "panel elections" for the time being, because the panel members would still be a large percentage of our community members (which wouldn't exactly make sense at this stage), we have made a start on the Panel review process. It is based on these three principles:

  • The Panel decisions are binding to moderators and the Codidact team.
  • Every party should be heard before any decision is made.
  • The Panel shall be independent and impartial.

There was a lot of great feedback, which I tried to address by replying to the points and based on that, I built a list with points that needed reconsideration.

So here I am, posting a refined version of the governing rules for our Codidact Arbitration and Review panel. I've included them into this post and you can also find a PDF version here.

Expand to read the governing rules

Codidact Arbitration & Review Panel

Governing Rules

PREAMBLE

The Arbitration & Review Panel is a panel of Codidact users whose function is to adjudicate on certain matters that are important to Codidact-hosted communities. It adjudicates independently to make clear that these processes are transparent and accountable; involved parties, including Codidact itself, have input to the processes but do not make the decisions, helping to eliminate inherent bias.

The Panel’s primary duties are reviewing moderator actions, or, in more serious cases, reviewing whether a moderator is suitable for the role or should be removed. This doesn’t mean that the Panel is the only group who can do those things – in all cases, attempts should be made to resolve disputes at the lowest level possible (for instance, by posting in the relevant Meta category or by a moderator team working together to resolve a dispute). By the time a matter is brought to the Panel, there should already be records of attempts to solve it in other ways.

This document contains the rules that govern how the Panel works and is run.

TITLE 1
ELECTION

ARTICLE 1

The Panel consists of 7 members of the Codidact network, who are elected for two-year terms in the same manner as the community board positions. Each year the community elects enough members to bring the panel to 7. In the first election, the three members with the lowest vote scores shall be elected for one-year terms only. Members may be elected again for one additional consecutive term, after which they are ineligible to serve again for a period of one term.

ARTICLE 2

Anyone who is eligible to become a member of the Codidact board is also eligible for election to the Panel.

ARTICLE 3

Nobody who has been suspended within the last year and has not successfully appealed that suspension shall be eligible for membership on the Panel.

ARTICLE 4

After every election, the Panel elects one member as chairperson.

TITLE 2
GENERAL RULES OF PROCEDURE

ARTICLE 5

The Panel will assign one member as a reporter to the case, who shall investigate it and submit a report with recommendations to the Panel. The reporter will be temporarily granted admin rights, if necessary, on the site or sites that the question relates to.

ARTICLE 6

The Panel will hear all involved parties. They shall be kept regularly up to date about the state of the proceedings. Private means of communication shall be established between the Panel and any party.

TITLE 3
APPEALS

ARTICLE 7

The panel decides on appeals against moderator actions, including those by the Codidact team.

ARTICLE 8

Anyone who has been affected by a moderator action can, as a last resort, appeal to the panel to claim that it was illegitimate, malicious or unwarranted. This must be explained with arguments.

ARTICLE 9

If the appeal is obviously unreasonable, the reporter can suggest to reject it summarily. It is rejected summarily, if at least one other panel member agrees and no member objects within 7 days.

ARTICLE 10

In other cases, the panel will try the appeal based on the report and on questions asked to all involved parties and on facts found in activity logs. If the appeal is found to be valid, the moderator action in question is reversed.

TITLE 4
MODERATOR REVIEW

ARTICLE 11

The panel is solely responsible for reviewing moderator conduct for possible violation of Codidact’s rules and deciding whether the moderator shall be removed from office for such violations.

ARTICLE 12

Moderator Review Proceedings can be initiated by the Codidact team (for example based on user complaints) or any fellow moderator on the site concerned. Efforts should be made to resolve differences directly before invoking this process.

ARTICLE 13

In moderator review proceedings, the Panel has no authority to remove the moderator status of members of the Codidact team, but it can escalate complaints and it can disallow members to use moderator powers outside of their official Codidact duties.

ARTICLE 14

The panel can decide, on the suggestion of the reporter, that the moderator status of the moderator under question shall be temporarily revoked during the proceedings.

ARTICLE 15

The moderator under review has the right to respond to all accusations and to be heard by the panel before any negative decision.

ARTICLE 16

Based on the report, the statements by the initiators of the proceeding and the moderator under review, and on recent activity logs and other evidence, the panel will decide whether the moderator violated the Codidact rules or not. Decisions against the moderator require a majority of ⅔ of the panel.

ARTICLE 17

In making decisions on moderator review cases, the Panel shall have the option to (a) absolve the moderator of wrongdoing; (b) acknowledge wrongdoing but issue no penalty; (c) acknowledge wrongdoing and issue a formal warning; or (d) acknowledge wrongdoing and remove the moderator from office on the site that the case pertains to. In all cases a permanent note shall be made on the moderator’s account that a moderator review was conducted and what its outcome was. In cases of egregious violations of the rules, the panel can, by ⅔ majority, decide that the user is ineligible to be elected or appointed moderator anywhere in the Codidact network, in which case the moderator shall be removed from all moderator positions.

ARTICLE 17.1

If the Panel elects to acknowledge wrongdoing, then before deciding on penalties, the Panel checks the moderator's record for previous reviews and their outcomes. The Panel should take previous warnings into account when deciding the outcome of a review..

ARTICLE 18

The panel has the sole power to remove moderators for Codidact rule violations. In emergency situations the Codidact team can temporarily remove or suspend a moderator, but they need to initiate a proceeding and move a panel decision for removal and continuing the temporary removal within two working days. In cases of legal obligations or other exceptional circumstances dictating that a moderator be removed, the Codidact team can remove the status, but must explain their reasons to the moderator in question and offer the moderator the chance to step down voluntarily. If the moderator does not choose to step down, the reasons for the removal must also be shared with the panel.

TITLE 5
OTHER QUESTIONS

ARTICLE 19

The panel is also responsible for disputes between moderators and for the review of moderator selections on complaints against their validity.

ARTICLE 20

The panel decides based on the report and the statements of all involved parties.

TITLE 6
DECISIONS OF THE PANEL

ARTICLE 21

The decisions of the panel are sent to all involved parties. Those which are not summary rejections are published on a Codidact website with personal data redacted. Lists of summary rejections shall be published for transparency purposes (possibly aggregated).

ARTICLE 21.1

The Panel shall preserve records and evidence of prior proceedings. It may use them in future cases if applicable.

ARTICLE 22

Panel decisions are binding to every community member, to the moderators and the Codidact team, except for cases where the Codidact team determines that it cannot follow the judgment for legal reasons or because the panel decision is obviously outside of its authority (ultra vires). If it does so, it must submit its reasons to the panel, which may publish it with personal or private information redacted.

ARTICLE 23

For every decision, the panel shall give an explanation of the reasons for it. If deemed necessary, it can give a short summary, which can be used as guidance for future disputes.

ARTICLE 24

All questions about the proceedings of the panel that are not determined by this document can be decided by the panel itself.

ARTICLE 25

All panel decisions are made by majority vote, unless otherwise noted in this statute.

TITLE 7
IMPARTIALITY

ARTICLE 26

Members of the panel who feel that they cannot act impartially in a specific case shall recuse themselves. A member who has initiated the proceeding or who is under review is automatically recused.

ARTICLE 27

Any involved party may move to recuse any member of the panel who they think is not impartial enough to guarantee a fair trial.

ARTICLE 28

The panel, without the rejected member, decides whether the motion is reasonable. If it is, the member is recused.

ARTICLE 29

Every recused member is replaced by a replacement chosen randomly from a set of eligible users.

ARTICLE 30

Eligible as replacement are: (1) all moderators of unaffected sites and (2) users eligible to be elected as Panel members (per Articles 2 and 3) who have signed up on an annual list for possible replacements.

TITLE 8
OTHER PROVISIONS

ARTICLE 31

This document may be changed by the Codidact team, after 14 days’ notice has been given and discussions with the community about the merit of the change have been held. Changes only apply to future proceedings and are not retroactive.

ARTICLE 32

The Panel has no authority to bind Codidact, moderators, or users, except as otherwise noted in this document.

 

So please read through that update and give some feedback. Please try to use one answer per point instead of slamming everything in one huge post, because that makes replying and voting much easier.

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General comments (4 comments)
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ARTICLE 18

The panel has the sole power to remove moderators for Codidact rule violations. In emergency situations the Codidact team can temporarily remove or suspend a moderator, but they need to initiate a proceeding and move a panel decision for removal and continuing the temporary removal within two working days. In cases of legal obligations or other exceptional circumstances dictating that a moderator be removed, the Codidact team can remove the status, but must explain their reasons to the moderator in question and offer the moderator the chance to step down voluntarily. If the moderator does not choose to step down, the reasons for the removal must also be shared with the panel.

This appears to be self-contradictory.

It starts out by saying "The panel has the sole power to remove moderators for Codidact rule violations", which I interpret to mean that no other entity has this power. (The alternative interpretation would be that it only has the power to remove moderators, which would be at odds with what's stated elsewhere in the text.) It then goes on to say that "In cases of legal obligations or other exceptional circumstances" (the latter being undefined), the Codidact team can remove a moderator's status.

I do kind of understand what that second half is getting at. At the same time, I'm sorry, but you simply can't have it both ways. Either the Arbitration & Review Panel is the only entity who has the power to remove a moderator against that moderator's wish, or they aren't.

I would suggest instead that this should say (and I don't have a ready suggestion for exactly how to phrase it) that other than at the specific, explicit request of the moderator in question, there are two groups of people who can remove a moderator's status, namely on the one hand the Arbitration & Review Panel in response to a review initiated otherwise as described elsewhere in the text, and on the other hand the Codidact Team, but if the Codidact Team removes a moderator's status, that removal must be brought to the Arbitration & Review Panel within some specified, reasonable, short amount of time, and the Panel actually has the authority to overrule the Team and reinstate the moderator if they find the reasons for the removal to be lacking, much the same as how they could decide to not remove the moderator in the first place had the same complaint come from the community.

That would make any moderator removal by the Codidact Team a strictly temporary measure, which automatically initiates a proper review with the aim of making a more permanent decision.

If the Codidact Team does its homework, it seems likely that any such decision made by the Panel would be the same as the one initially reached by Codidact Team, but this would protect against the Codidact Team somehow going rogue or, alternatively, simply having an agenda or vendetta against a particular moderator, and looking for some "exceptional circumstance" to use to justify removal without oversight.

I truly hope that such a provision will never be needed, but this seems to me like exactly the kind of provision that if it's needed at any point, it needs to be one that gives the Panel some real teeth against the Codidact Team.

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General comments (12 comments)
General comments
luap42‭ wrote almost 4 years ago

The article has one main meaning with two exceptions: It says, that (besides resignation and inactivity (of course)) only the P. can remove the moderator status. Exception 1 is, that in emergency cases (mod starts mass-deleting good accounts, whatever else you might imagine), the Codidact team may temporarily revoke the mod status, but must defer the process to the Panel immediately (within 2 working days) afterwards.

luap42‭ wrote almost 4 years ago

Exception 2 is, when there is a reason, why a person cannot be moderator (generally legal obligations, but also other cases, that might (though likely and hopefully won't) arise). This case may not be reviewed by the Panel, because it cannot have the ability to legally bind Codidact, except in some specific circumstances.

luap42‭ wrote almost 4 years ago

However, to allow for transparency, we must provide reasons, as far as we can, to the moderator and the panel. This is a sub-case of Art. 22, so the panel may publish a redacted version of the reasons.

Monica Cellio‭ wrote almost 4 years ago

I want the community to be protected from rogue team members too. What's an example of a legal issue forcing the team's hand? I have guesses but don't know enough about law (especially on an international site) to know if they're reasonable.

Mithical‭ wrote almost 4 years ago

@MonicaCellio - say, someone discovers that a moderator is actually underage (12 or so); they're not really legally allowed to have an account in that situation.

ArtOfCode‭ wrote almost 4 years ago

@MonicaCellio Anything that contravenes the ToS would count - if a moderator engages in ToS-violating conduct, they're getting kicked off the network period, and the Panel won't be able to override that.

Monica Cellio‭ wrote almost 4 years ago

@Mithical that'd be a problem with the user account, though; it's not that we'd be saying "you can be here but can't be a mod" but, rather, we'd be saying "GDPR says you can't be here, sorry!". @ArtOfCode TOS violations would be problems; I wasn't thinking of that as a legal issue, but maybe I'm thinking too narrowly.

Canina‭ wrote almost 4 years ago

@ArtOfCode But if evidence comes out that a user is, say, underage, or in violation of the ToS, such evidence could just as easily be made available to the Panel, couldn't it? And the Panel would (should) need to take all available evidence into consideration when making its decision.

Canina‭ wrote almost 4 years ago · edited almost 4 years ago

Also, the text talks about "legal obligations or other exceptional circumstances", but the "other exceptional circumstances" part is (perhaps deliberately) AFAICT left undefined. My worry here is that, in the case of a rogue Team member, this leaves a hole large enough to steer an oceanliner through sideways. While the case of a rogue Team member might not be a concern right now, pretty much the whole point of this exercise seems to me to be ensuring that it won't become a concern later.

Lundin‭ wrote almost 4 years ago · edited almost 4 years ago

@ArtOfCode "if a moderator engages in ToS-violating conduct, they're getting kicked off the network period, and the Panel won't be able to override that." Umm but what if the Codidact team decides that a moderator is violating a future, yet to be revealed part of the ToS. Sounds awfully familiar... Wouldn't it be nice if this panel could protect against that exact scenario, or at least allow the moderator to appeal for having their case tried by the panel.

ArtOfCode‭ wrote almost 4 years ago

It can, @Lundin - if the team removes someone and they disagree, reasons must be provided to the panel, which can look into it - if the reasons are bogus, like your example, they can point that out to the network. They can't order the reinstatement of that moderator, but giving them that authority is tricky because Codidact must retain final authority to protect itself: we want to do everything we can for transparency and accountability, but we can't open ourselves up to legal issues like that

ShowMeBillyJo‭ wrote almost 4 years ago

Maybe using sub-articles here would clarify the intent. "ARTICLE 18.1 In emergency situations…" "ARTICLE 18.2 In cases of legal obligations…"