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Drafting the Codidact Arbitration & Review Panel

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Since Codidact was founded, we have had one rule leading our path every step of the way. It's the rule that community comes first. That the Codidact "staff" shouldn’t overrule the community, but could be overruled by it.

In any community, acts of moderation should be rare. And even rarer is the need to review these decisions. However, there will inevitably be cases where certain situations need to be reviewed:

  1. Users think that an action (for example, a suspension) is wrong or even malicious.
  2. A moderator might misbehave and violate our light Code of Conduct or our Terms of Service.

I want to emphasize that there have been no such cases yet, and there will likely (and hopefully) not be for months, if not years. But we can be sure that there will be one at some point in the future. When this situation does arrive, it's better to have an existing process that can be followed to guarantee the best resolution of the conflict rather than coming up with a brand new process on the spot.

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:

  1. The Panel decisions are binding to moderators and the Codidact team1.
  2. Every party should be heard before any decision is made.
  3. The Panel shall be independent and impartial.

This process is currently only a draft. We'd like your feedback, and welcome any suggestions for changes to it. Please leave them in answers to this question.

You can find our current draft here.

  1. For obvious reasons, there are some legal limits. However, in these cases, we have tried to strike a balance between legal and community interests. For example, in such a case, the Panel may decide to publish our reasons (with private information redacted).

Why should this post be closed?

5 comments

Clarification: the draft mentions the Codidact board in a few places, because this is how we think it should work. We're not set up as a legal organisation yet (though we're looking into it), so that doesn't apply currently, but by the time we're ready to elect the first Panel, that shouldn't be a problem any more. ArtOfCode 29 days ago

Will these guidelines be introduced after or before the creation of a legal entity? If after creation of a legal entity, how are the terms "Codidact team", "community board", and "Codidact board" defined? I find it difficult to assess this document with my little knowledge about these terms but I can't seem to find useful information about it here on Meta or the help center. Right now, it feels like thinking about a process without knowing relevant stakeholders (and it doesn't work like that). Zerotime 28 days ago

@Zerotime we'll create a legal entity at some point. It will have some kind of "board of trustees" (=Codidact board), which should contain members from the community (=comunity board positions (as in board positions for/by the community)). The board members will appoint some volunteers, which will form the Codidact team, which will be responsible for the administrative day-to-day operations (ex. development). But it's not all clear-cut defined, yet. luap42 28 days ago

Is there a process in place if someone wants to appeal the Panel's decision? DonielF 28 days ago

@DonielF there isn't and none is planned currently. For it's actually quite common, that decisions of "appeal gremiums" (in real world: often courts) can not be appealed themself. luap42 28 days ago

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Article 17.1 disallows successive warnings within two years. I don't think that's best. The second malfeasance may be of a different type from the first or a lesser degree than the first, in either of which cases a warning may be warranted. While a second warning within two years may be inappropriate in most cases, we can probably leave it to the panel to decide.

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I'd see a warning as a "yellow card", which means, that a second warning-worthy misbehaviour results in a stricter penalty. However, we could change "shall not have use of" to "should not use", then the intent is clear, but the panel is still free to decide. luap42 28 days ago

@luap42 I agree that we should give the panel tools and guidance but allow them to use their judgement here, as they can in the rest of their deliberations. Monica Cellio 28 days ago

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It might be worthwhile for this document to make it clear which of its provisions about moderators apply to moderators pro tempore - those appointed by the Codidact organization to help get a community started, before there's sufficient critical mass to elect permanent moderators.

For example, as mods pro tem are selected by staff rather than by the community, perhaps they're removable by staff as well. (I would assume that this is the case right now, in these wild pre-ratification days, as there are no permanent mods, only fledgling communities, and no panel.)

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I'd think the best solution would be to apply the process regardless of pro tempore status. Probably the only difference would be, who can then choose a replacement. luap42 28 days ago

And I'd hope, that we don't need to conduct moderator review for now, until we have a panel. However, it'd certainly involve much talking with the mod, rather than removing the status. luap42 28 days ago

I upvoted for "we should make it clear", not to support the example of summary removal by staff. I agree that the process should apply no matter who appointed the mod. Mods should be able to do their jobs without feeling hindered by concerns about unjust removal. Monica Cellio 28 days ago

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Article 27 requires members to explicitly recuse themselves if they feel they can't be impartial. I suggest explicitly adding a point here that if a member of the panel is the one raising the charge against the moderator in question that said member is automatically recused without having to go through the process discussed in Articles 28-29.

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This seems sensible. I'll add it in the next draft version. luap42 28 days ago

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I propose that we need a clause governing the criteria and process for removing a panel member in the very rare case that that should come up.

(But I don't know what such criteria or process should be.)

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Article 30 discusses that substitutes are sworn in if and only if at least 1/3 of the panel is recused.

What happens when exactly two members of the panel are absent? 1/3 of 7 is 2 and change, so if exactly two members are missing, that's less than 1/3.

Articles 16 and 17 discuss scenarios requiring a 2/3 majority. If no members are recused, that's 5/7. If exactly one member is recused, that's 4/6. But if two members are recused, you need 4/5. Compared to the 71% majority required for a full panel and the 66% majority if one person is missing, 80% seems unreasonably high, being a 14% range (with respect to the total panel).

I propose one of the following solutions:

  1. Readjusting Article 30 to kick in if more than one member is recused; this prevents a 5-person panel from existing, limiting the range to just 5%. Alternatively, readjust all fraction to round to the nearest integer, not the next integer, which has the same result.
  2. Readjusting Articles 16-17 to kick in at 3/5, not 2/3. For higher-member panels that's still 4/6 or 5/7, and it maintains an 11% range, not 14%.

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We'll review this again. /cc @ArtOfCode luap42 28 days ago

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Article 22 says that all decisions are to be published, exclusive of summary judgments. I think it should specify that the decisions be published with reasons included, and inclusive of summary judgments (though those may not have reasons stated). The more transparency into the workings of the panel, the more trust people will have in it. For a summary judgment in particular, I don't like that it can have been noticed by only two panel members, has no appeal, and has no publication.

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We want to balance privacy with transparency, so if there's a way of doing this without violating anyone's privacy, then we'd be off to a better start here Mithrandir24601 29 days ago

Yes, of course, @Mithrandir24601. I meant with details redacted as needed. msh210 29 days ago

If the panel is forced to publish every summary rejection, that could lead to abuse by a community member - sending serial spurious complaints about a moderator just to get the rejections published. Isaac Moses 28 days ago

@IsaacMoses, good point. But I don't like that a summary rejection can have been noticed by only two panel members, has no appeal, and has no publication. msh210 28 days ago

. . . I've edited this answer to state that clearly. msh210 28 days ago

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Some thoughts:

  • A clarification of the term "community" might be needed. My take is that this is meant to be a Codidact network-wide panel. But currently we use the term "communities" as in this listing: https://codidact.com/. I take it that having one panel per site ("community") isn't what you wish, at least not until some distant future where there are great amounts of users to justify that.

    So the "community" who is responsible for electing the panel is that of Codidact Meta? Where everyone is welcome to participate.

  • Logistics - how to do this in practice? It would be great if the actions of this panel are transparent, yet the nature of the matters discussed calls for privacy, so there's a delicate balance there. Where are the reports and actions to be documented and who have access to it? I think we all agree that it is important that whoever stands accused of something has access to their specific case, to take part of all evidence held against them etc.

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To the "community" question: It means the whole network. Community should here be understood as the "opposite" of Codidact team. To the second question: The discussions will be private, but the decision will be published in most cases (with private data redacted). How exactly this is going to be implemented technically is not yet decided. There are multiple rules, that everyone needs to be heard (ex. Art. 9 "all parties", Art. 15 & 15.1, Art. 21) luap42 28 days ago

Regarding where the election will take place: It's quite likely, that this will happen on Codidact Meta, but this will need to be clarified (also with a lawyer), because we'll use the same way for the board of our organization and the panel. luap42 28 days ago

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Note:
The comments indented as list items have been added by luap42 as a reply.

Articles 7, 13 and 20 could be replaced by a single article stating that each case which is handled by the panel is assigned a reporter.

  • This will be considered. One possible problem is, that the Title 4 proceedings reporter doesn't need admin privileges in most cases, but we can find a formulation for that.

The first sentence of the second paragraph of the preamble should be adapted:

The Panel’s duties are reviewing moderator actions and reviewing whether a moderator is suitable for the role or should be removed if this is questioned.

Removing primary eliminates possible interpretational issues like "Oh, and what are its secondary duties?". By defining clearly what the panel has to do and what not also eliminates the need of Article 33. Removing "in more serious cases" makes clear that the panel can theoretically always intervene but also removes the uncertainty what a more serious case is and what not.

  • I'd not do this for two reasons: First of all, the panel is also responsible for other cases (Title 4). Secondly, I'd rather have talks than punishments. Removing "in serious cases" goes against that principle.

Can someone please explain the reasoning behind "In the first election, the three members with the lowest vote scores shall be elected for one-year terms only." (Article 1). Why doesn't this simply apply for everyone in the first election?

  • See manassehkatz's comment. The idea is, that we won't change the whole panel at a time, but about the half (once 3, once 4).

Article 11 states that only the Codidact team and other moderators are eligible to initiate a Moderator Review Proceeding. Why can't regular users directly initiate one? I think that this opportunity must be there in a community-first approach. For the concern that this could lead to unwarranted and many appeals at once, there can be threshold in form of providing evidence. Evidence can be reviewed and according to Article 8 be rejected if "obviously unreasonable".

  • Warranted moderator review will (and should) be rare. I'd rather not have many moderator review complaints because of possibly unfair question closure. We can revisit this if there is a need. Furthermore, communities can choose for themselves, how mods are selected and hence logically also "deselected". If a community mistrusts a mod, they can remove them without initiating a review procedure, which is for egregious Codidact rule violations.

Speaking about Article 8, this should be a general clause as the reporter articles should be as this applies to every case presented.

  • I'll review this.

For Article 12, why does someone on the team need a moderator status to carry out the designated duties? In my understanding (especially as @luap42 answered me about how these terms are defined), a team member is "responsible for the administrative day-to-day operations" - is moderating considered an administrative day-to-day operations? I thought day-to-day operations are concerned with running Codidact which not only evolves about moderating but rather organising the project, the volunteers and preparing documents for boards and governing bodies. This sentence needs some clarification, especially with a legal entity in mind as the removal of a moderator status of a team member shouldn't impair the project. (See the bus factor.) It also helps to show that we all are in it and that the panel views everyone as equals in their operation.

  • You are correct, that some dev won't need moderator access in most cases. However, they might get admin access (access to error logs and some site settings for example), which includes all privileges moderators enjoy. In these cases, the special provision applies.

How is option (b) in Article 17 reasonable? "Yes, you did something wrong - but hey, we know you, it's alright." Option (c) should be the main action taken but there are others problems as noted by @msh210. However, I think that (b) should be removed - personally, I don't get it. (I favour more warnings instead of acknowledging something while doing nothing.)

  • This is for comparatively minor offenses, where the mod did something wrong, but it isn't severe enough to threaten removal (=formal warning) and we also don't want to dismiss the review as "unfounded"/"invalid", because it's technically correct.

Temporary replacements for recused members (Article 30 and 31) should be randomly drawn from a pool of candidates for which every member of the community can register. This reduces the probability of bias in choosing replacements as well as situations where the same individuals are repeatedly taken as replacements therefore acting as unofficial panel members even though they were never elected. The panel should be as free from bias as possible - randomising replacements keeps this relatively low.

  • This is worth looking into.

Article 32 is in my opinion highly questionable. Either the board itself has the right to change the rules or the community as a whole. (I favour the community as a whole.) The Codidact team (whoever this might be after the creation of a legal entity) should have no say in this as this basically allows to dismantle the panel whenever the team feels like this. It doesn't help that "discussions with the community about the merit of the change" are held as no option is indicated for the community to stop an unreasonable change.

  • Who exactly is able to change these policies will be defined by the constitution/by-laws of our organization. For now, the "Codidact team" is used as a placeholder for both all actions coming from "us" and not coming "from the community". Requiring public discussion should eliminate most possible cases of abuse. Furthermore, the community will send representatives to the board, which can have direct influence. This should be enough for now.

Besides these specific points, terms should be defined more precisely. As answered in the comments of @Lundin's answer, the panel is supposed to be network-wide, yet this word doesn't appear once in the rules (expect for removing a moderator network-wide). Similarly, as soon as there are help pages or documents explaining how the Codidact team or boards are created, these should be linked. (My last sentence only applies as soon as there is a legal entity - for a private venture I don't think that it's necessary.)

  • This will be reviewed for the next draft version. However, many things with regards to legal formation are yet open and need to be discussed with a lawyer in the future and can't be decided yet.

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Can someone please explain the reasoning behind "In the first election, the three members with the lowest vote scores shall be elected for one-year terms only." (Article 1). Why doesn't this simply apply for everyone in the first election? That is so the terms are staggered, the lowest 3 get a new election after 1 year, the other 4 after 2 years. manassehkatz 28 days ago

I'll edit the responses into the post later (marking them as reply), as I think this is too long to be considered in a comment thread. luap42 28 days ago

I have now added some comments. luap42 28 days ago

Zerotime: For your future proposals, could you put one in each answer post please so that people may vote them up or down sensibly? msh210 28 days ago

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