Code of Conduct

From here on out, “members” will refer to provisionally and fully credentialed creators that have gained membership to CAN. The phrases “creators” and “members” will be used interchangeably.

The Creator Accountability Network (“CAN” or “the organization”) believes that a code of conduct serves as a map for cultivating trust in the community, allowing members to feel safe engaging authentically with the organization and network at large. The code of conduct is more than a list of prohibited behaviors and acceptable correctives. This code of conduct empowers creators and their communities, including CAN employees and volunteers, to engage ethically in a variety of formats.

Each topic covered in the code of conduct contains a library’s worth of arguments and it would be impossible for us to game out every possible scenario. CAN aims instead to strike a balance between brevity and clarity to ensure members can trust that we take seriously how complex ethics can be in practice. The organization will always take the time to parse the details of any report. CAN will provide additional resources as required to educate creators and their communities regarding a particular part of our code.

CAN’s code of conduct applies to employees and members in both community and non-community spaces, because integrity requires acting with the same level of moral consideration in every part of our lives.

Harassment and Abuse:

CAN is dedicated to eliminating harassment and abuse as part of our overall goal of providing all community members with safe, equitable, and inclusive access to activities. Any form of harassment or abuse by CAN  members, employees, and volunteers is unacceptable.

Harassment is any targeted, persistent, unwelcome behavior, irrespective of intent or content.

Abuse is any targeted unwelcome behavior that is likely to cause harm, including inaction and neglect, irrespective of intent to cause harm.

Types of Harassment and Abuse

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Harassment and abuse can be verbal (e.g., objectifying, threatening, or unwanted sexual language) or physical (e.g., unwanted touching, kissing, or groping) and often occur in online spaces (e.g., sending unwanted sexual or abusive messages).

CAN provides the following non-exhaustive list of unacceptable behavior involving unwanted personal interaction. Employees, volunteers, and members agree to not engage in any behavior that is known or ought reasonably be understood to undermine the values and purpose of CAN, such as:

Physical Harassment: Any targeted, persistent, unwelcome physical behavior, irrespective of intent or content.

Any form of persistent unwanted physical contact such as touching, hugging, groping, or kissing is physical harassment. Stalking, photographing, recording and other forms of persistent attention also count as unwelcome sexual attention. The best way to avoid commiting physical harassment is to be considerate of others’ physical spaces and to never assume someone consents to any kind of physical contact.

Verbal Harassment: Any targeted, persistent, unwelcome verbal behavior, irrespective of intent or content.

Persistent messaging, social media posts, or expressions made as part of content are all common forms of verbal harassment. We recognize both unintentional and intentional harassment, and the degree of intentionality impacts the severity of the behavior and the potential for restorative approaches. The content of the harassment may also impact the severity of the concern, including humorous content, in keeping with the principles and policies described in our content section. The best way to avoid committing verbal harassment is to be considerate of how your statements might impact anyone who hears them, especially any person who might feel targeted by them. Here are some non-exhaustive examples of common harassing content:

  1. Bigotry: Statements using slurs or other derogatory terms.
  2. Objectification: Dehumanizing an individual or treating them as an object not a person.
  3. Stereotypes: Overgeneralizations about a specific community.
  4. Threats: Explicit or implicit threats of harm.
  5. Sexuality: Sexual innuendos, explicit comments, and propositions.

Online Harassment: CAN’s values and policies extend to all venues, including online spaces, where community members face increased risk of certain forms of harassment. Common forms of online harassment include:

  1. Sexting: Sending sexually explicit text, images, or videos through direct messages, email, or phones.
  2. Cyberstalking: Using social media or other online platforms to engage in stalking behaviors.
  3. Revenge Posting: Unwanted and harmful posting or amplifying of personal information or media, typically pictures or videos.
  4. Revenge Porn: A severe form of revenge posting where the material is pornographic in nature and shared without the consent of the person involved. Revenge porn is increasingly becoming an explicitly criminal offense.
  5. Doxing: Revealing or amplifying revelations of private information about an individual, including their true identity and physical location, typically with intent to cause harm. That harm can come in the form of more targeted harassment or increased risk of physical violence from either individuals or government organizations through practices like swatting, where harassers instigate police raids in the hopes of distress, damage, and even deadly escalation.

Content

This section exists to balance the need to protect the freedom of creators to create content with the need to protect communities from harm. CAN therefore prioritizes the value of liberty for the vast majority of content, especially transgressive comedy that some would find offensive. However, we set hard limits on content that perpetrates or promotes harassment, abuse, bigotry, discrimination, or disinformation. In the spirit of helping creators engage with their communities, CAN will accept content reports involving any form of feedback, whether the content violated our guidelines or not, and will pass this along to creators in a way that respects the needs of both creators and community members.

Content Continued

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Creating content that is engaging, thought-provoking, and entertaining is an essential aspect of cultivating a vibrant community. CAN recognizes that transgressive content in particular is valuable both as entertainment and as a mechanism for social transformation. Art often involves behavior that violates ethical norms, such as in the portrayal of a bigoted character, that is “earned” within the artistic context through the audience’s consent and the value of those transgressive acts for both education and entertainment. Given the nuanced and contextual nature of art, we believe that an extensive list of black and white rules would be unacceptably stifling to creators and would deprive audiences of their ability to express their preferences for varying degrees of taboo art. Instead, we prioritize the value of liberty and aim to minimize any fear of censorship or micromanaging of content.

However, content creators should also be mindful of the potential impact their work may have on their audience, especially when addressing sensitive topics, using transgressive or offensive comedy, or making political statements. We consider it necessary to set hard limits on content that perpetrates or promotes harassment, abuse, bigotry, discrimination, or discrimination. Harassment and abuse are defined in this context the same as in the section on harassment and abuse, though in the context of content creation some behaviors that would qualify as harassment or abuse against a private citizen may be protected under laws concerning free speech towards public figures. We use the EEOC’s definition of discrimination and define bigotry based on that. We use a modified version of the Facebook Terms of Service definition of “fake news” for disinformation, excluding the word “deliberate” to avoid confusion:

 

Bigotry: The belief that it is ethical to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (age 40 or older), or genetic information.

Discrimination: To treat someone differently, or less favorably, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (age 40 or older), or genetic information.

Disinformation: The publication of false information, hoaxes, and propaganda purporting to be real news or information, when it is not, according to reliable, established studies and sources, for political or financial gain.

CAN will still address violations of these sorts based on our restorative principles, with an emphasis on education and harm prevention. Creating content for an audience gives creators the opportunity to hear and respond to direct feedback when someone believes a piece of content conflicts with the values of that audience. Dialogue allows creators and audiences to learn and grow ethically, another way that content creates a space for flourishing. We will support ethical dialogue by forwarding feedback from community members to creators, so that they can address the issue as necessary, and by providing educational resources and advice.

Reporting, Investigations, and Remedies:

The Creator Accountability Network aims to lower the barriers individuals face when reporting their experiences and create a structure where those reports can become public while minimizing risk of harm to community members and legal and financial repercussions for reporters. Along with the organization’s reporting and investigation system, CAN offers financial support to victims to defray the legal and mental health costs associated with the inciting incident of the report, reporting itself, or making a report public. Our victim advocates are trained in victim centered advocacy that highly prioritizes victim agency to the maximum extent possible under the law.

CAN will retain all reports and will work with victims to document their reports in a way that reflects their preferences for confidentiality and anonymity to the maximum extent possible under the law. While we strongly encourage members to report ethics violations, members are not required to report ethics violations, nor will a failure to report ever be taken into consideration when assessing CAN membership status. Such implicit or explicit demands could have significant ethical and practical ramifications.

If an individual wishes to report a potential ethics violation, they can make a report here.

CAN will retain all reports and investigate when able. Following an investigation, the organization will make assessments of remedies and determine whether to make the results of the investigation public.

The purpose of this code is harm reduction and equity, and how best to achieve them through the cultivation and preservation of trust, integrity, expertise, and liberty. A non-exhaustive list of factors CAN will consider when investigating and assessing a potential violation include: the frequency and severity of the violations, whether they were intentional and persistent, and the preferences of the victim(s). Our remedies are never punitively motivated. Potential remedies include, but are not limited to:

  1. Restorative Justice dialogue
  2. Education
  3. Requirements to alter behavior
  4. Revoking of CAN membership

Ethics Training, Education, and Audits:

CAN will provide a range of moral education resources for members and the broader public. In addition to the required training provided to new members, CAN will offer training courses on topics like fostering ethical community spaces online and in person, empowering active discussion around ethics, and secular moral education activities for informal educational spaces. These materials are significant to restorative justice approach fostered by the organization. Additionally, this education may be a key part of the remedy of cases. CAN also offers ethics audits to member communities and interested organizations seeking to better address potential blind spots before they turn into violations. We may also encourage or require member communities to engage in an ethics audit if an investigation reveals systemic ethical failures that contributed to an ethics violation. 

Amendments Process:

Ethics is an endless process, not a solvable problem. We can never reduce ethics down to simply applying a formula. CAN’s Code of Conduct is a living document, not a sacred text. It reflects our need for flexibility and growth in ethical understanding. Our ethics department, in consultation with the Board, will conduct annual ethics reviews to ensure that none of our policies, decisions, or behaviors conflict with our mission or values. Employees and members are also encouraged to raise concerns with the code and to offer any suggestions or revisions.

Glossary

Community

A group of individuals unified by shared values, including a concern for the flourishing of other members. The function of a community is to promote the flourishing of its members, not grow its membership.

Community continued

Community is fundamentally about reciprocity, the endless cycle of give and take. We cannot create it if we do not take part in it. You cannot give only, you must also receive. By asking and receiving, as well as responding and supporting, we create a two way bond in our community. Content creation is fundamentally a community activity. Creators who want to share their art need community, not just for financial support but because the act of creation is more meaningful when it’s shared with a community. Likewise, a community’s wealth rests in the shared experiences and references that strengthen the ties between members.

Our goal is to create an ethical super-community where content creators feel comfortable engaging with their own unique communities and collaborating with other creators. Authentic engagement with one’s community and collaboration with others are two of the best ways to grow ourselves and our communities. CAN creates a space where individuals can find meaningful art and be of service to the communities that sustain those artists.

Finally, whenever possible, we believe it is better to build our community so that it is easy to do the right thing, rather than rely on our members to do the right thing when it is extremely difficult.

Equity

An Equitable community determines what is fair by balancing the distinct capacities and needs of individuals as well as historic and ongoing injustices that place some individuals and communities at higher risk of exploitation and abuse.

Equity continued

Fairness is an essentially contestable concept, meaning there is no one true definition and there is substantial debate over which kind of fairness we should hope to achieve in any given situation. Definitions of fairness can range in how much is required to achieve fairness. Thin accounts require very little, such as mere agreement between parties, procedural equality under the law, or numerically equal approaches to distributions of costs and benefits like a flat tax rate. Thicker accounts involve more complex demands, such as Rawls’ maximin principle where inequality is only fair if it benefits the worst off in the right sort of way. In this sense, Equity is a thick account of fairness that is both backwards and forwards looking.

Diversity

A diverse community has members with a broad range of identities, experiences, and perspectives.

Diversity continued

CAN embraces an expansive definition of diversity because we recognize that a wide range of identities and group affinities can have a significant impact on folks’ experiences and worldview. We value diversity with regard to age, diet, (dis)ability, education, gender, gender identity, language, national origin, orientation, parental status, race, religion, sex, socioeconomic status, veteran status, and viewpoint. This list is not exhaustive, and it is important to remember that individuals are made up of a range of intersecting identities and group affinities, so we must avoid tokenizing approaches to diversity in favor of valuing the richer understanding that a wider range of experiences can provide.

Flourishing

Personal growth achieved through authentic engagement with oneself and one’s community.

Flourishing continued

Flourishing (Eudaimonia) involves more than the emotion of happiness or the outward appearance of success. Flourishing occurs when someone grows into a better version of themselves. Flourishing is a lifelong practice that involves learning about ourselves and others, discovering what we find meaningful and valuable, and taking pleasure in moral actions. The goal of ethics is not just to prevent bad actions, but to make space for good lives.

Ethics/Morality

Promoting flourishing and preventing suffering through the balancing of moral foundations.

Ethics/Morality continued

There is a longstanding debate whether ‘ethics’ and ‘morality’ are synonyms or refer to different things. Some folks use ‘morality’ to refer to our intuitions and social norms about behavior, while ‘ethics’ is reserved for the formal rules that we construct out of and sometimes in conflict with those intuitions and norms. While it is valuable to be aware that some folks make this distinction, we do not believe the distinction itself is generative, and so use them interchangeably.

Inclusion

An inclusive community values and respects its members by actively welcoming them to participate as their authentic selves

Inclusion continued

Inclusion requires balancing the values of diversity and liberty against the need for shared agreement on our moral foundations and red lines. Aiming to maximize viewpoint diversity or liberty, for example, necessarily undermines inclusivity, because the presence of nazis drives non-nazis out of a community. While diversity and liberty tend to promote inclusivity, the limits we set on diversity and liberty protect that inclusivity from bad actors.

Bigotry

The belief that it is ethical to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (age 40 or older), or genetic information.

Discrimination

To treat someone differently, or less favorably, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (age 40 or older), or genetic information.

Risk Factors

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Cheating:

Cheating in one’s relationships is a complex ethical issue that we discussed extensively in developing our code of conduct. The secrecy around cheating increases the risk of harassment and abuse for the individuals involved, because abusers know that a victim is less likely to come forward if the relationship began as an affair. Victims can suffer from a mix of guilt and shame about the affair, as well as understandable anxiety that their story will be dismissed because of that context. Cheating therefore increases the risk of abuse in much the same way that undocumented immigrant status increases the risk of abuse, because the abuser knows that the individual is far less likely to report the abuse or get people to take the story seriously.

Substance use:

Substance use and abuse can both increase the risk of code of conduct violations and related harms. Researchers have identified several factors that increase the risk of harm from substance use, including lack of experience, risky substance purchases, risky substance use, and other environmental risk factors.

CAN endorses harm reduction and medical treatment approaches to substance use and abuse that align with our foundational values of care, equity, and liberty. According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, an Australian organization with 60 years of work around substance use and abuse:

“The principles of harm reduction accept that no matter the rigor of messaging around the individual risks and dangers of substance use, there will always be people who take or experiment with substances. As such, it is important to ensure that individual harms associated with substance use are minimized wherever possible.”

CAN supports the legal and ethical consumption of controlled substances as well as the destigmatization of substance use and abuse, because stigma is a significant impediment to honesty and so undermines attempts at restorative justice. We encourage reporting in cases where substance use might undermine community safety or otherwise contribute to harm. We also encourage member communities to educate themselves about substance use, particularly substances that are likely to be consumed by their community members, and discuss the role they want it to have in their events. We are happy to provide educational materials related to the healthy use of substances. By focusing on education and harm reduction CAN aims to create an environment that balances the demands of care, equity, and liberty by encouraging harm reduction.

Resources: https://lifering.org/

Know where you stand, and stand there. ― Daniel Berrigan, Commencement address at Xavier High School
When goodness is forgotten, there is justice. When justice is forgotten, there is law. The law is the husk of trust. ― Lao Tzi, Dao De Ching, Ch.38
If we don't figure out a way to create equity, real equity, of opportunity and access, to good schools, housing, health care, and decent paying jobs, we're not going to survive as a productive and healthy society. Tim Wise
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. ― Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
We are showered every day with gifts, but they are not meant for us to keep. Their life is in their movement, the inhale and exhale of our shared breath. Our work and our joy is to pass along the gift. ― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
One who cares must meet the cared-for just as he or she is, as a whole human being with individual needs and interests. Virtually all human beings desire not to be hurt, and this gives us something close to an absolute: We should not inflict deliberate hurt or pain. Even when we must fight to save our children, we must not inflict unnecessary or deliberate pain. ― Nel Noddings, Peace Education: How We Come to Love and Hate War
Caring requires paying attention, seeing, listening, responding with respect. Care is a relational ethic, grounded in a premise of interdependence. ― Carol Gilligan, Joining the Resistance

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