The SSB Community Code of Conduct

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Dec 19, 2013
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#1
Greetings to the broader Smash community. I am Roboticphish, here again to bring you news of the Harassment Task Force's completed product and the culmination of several months worth of research and hard work. The system we created and outlined below was created with the blessings of "The 5", was a product of the minds of the members of the panel, and involved the input and experiences from a variety of individuals, some from our community and some in a more professional capacity. Before I go into the nuts and bolts, I need to briefly sum up where we are as a community and why this is the time to make this announcement.

The past couple of years have seen a fair amount of growing pains for the Smash community. We have exploded in size, ten times what we were in the summer of 2013, and along with that size has come new and troubling ways in which we’ve come in contact with each other. While the vast majority of smash players are looking for the wholesome community experience that has changed so many of our lives, it is undeniable that there has also been an increase in toxic behaviors from some of our more unpleasant or immature competitors. There has been an increased difficulty as local scenes have expanded as well; some of our larger scenes encompass more players than all of Smash did in 2011 or 2012. As a result, local TOs were left to handle huge communities without any direction or set standards for what other communities were doing around the world. No one was keeping track of who was suspended and from where, victims had very little structural support, and all that anyone had to go on was precedent and a gut feeling. The struggle for our panel was to come up with a system that not only ensured that victims of harassment and bullying were heard, but was also fair and impartial. It was not just a struggle to determine how to help those who suffered in silence, but also was able to determine the line whereupon a troubled individual was no longer just unpleasant and started being an actual danger to those around them.

It has not been easy; individual case studies from Smash's long history were scrutinized and studied at length. We looked at recent cases, such as that of Mafia or YoungMike. We looked at older cases, such as DaShizWiz, Leffen, Zelgadis, and Jman. We even looked at cases in our own panel, such as my own past behaviors or the harassment Emilywaves has faced as leader of the Smash Sisters organization. These cases were scrutinized and picked apart; did they cross a line? Where was that line if they did? Does it make sense to exclude people from a community based on their behavior outside of it? What if the community was a healing presence for them, and their outside life the real danger? Are there any behaviors which are inexcusable? Any behaviors which should keep people out entirely? Whose responsibility should it be to determine whether or not a person has been fully rehabilitated? On and on these discussions went. We talked to lawyers, we talked to psychology experts, we talked to outspoken members of our own community. And after we came up with a draft of a code of conduct, we revised it several times, poring over details and doing our best to make it the thing our community needs to address the problem.

What follows is a unified Code of Conduct for all of our smash events, and it is the panel’s best effort to answer these questions. There are three sections worth of information below. The first section is a link to all of the hard documents, including the full Code of Conduct and a couple summaries. The second section is for FAQs; please note that these may not make much sense unless you have read either the documents in the first section or the detailed explanation in the third. The third and final section is a description of what the code and system actually does and the rationales for a few of the choices that were made. This is not a summary of the Code of Conduct itself, but supplements it by describing some of the motivations behind its major components. For the most complete understanding, we recommend you take the time to familiarize yourself with everything below and try not to rely on one of the summaries.

1. Documentation

Below will follow a list of all of the documents we have created. This is the meat of the code of conduct, this is the moneymaker, this is the product of 6 months' hard work, and this is what signatories will be agreeing to. Please review as follows:
  • Graphics! - This is a designer sheet, created with the purpose of having printed and displayed near the TO desk of your event. It describes for attendees the most relevant bullet-points of the code of conduct: What behaviors to avoid, what the punishments are for those behaviors, and what to do if you're the victim or you witness those behaviors. We recommend printing and laminating a copy for your use, if you're a TO.
  • Code of Conduct- This is the long form of the code of conduct, and is written in legalese with the input of the legal team at the E-Sports Integrity Commission, on whose code of conduct this was initially based. It covers what an offense is, what the reporting procedure is, what the standard of proof, investigations, and appeals consist of, and who is responsible for what. This is what signatories are actually agreeing to.
  • CoC Summary- This is the 2-page summary of the long form code of conduct. This is written in plain language as opposed to legalese. If you're confused by something in the long form, we recommend looking here first for clarification.
  • Reporting Resources - This is the public resource we can give to victims who are considering filing a report. It covers the consequences and responsibilities of varying stages of filing a report, and includes crisis and hotline information as well.



2. Here are some FAQs you may have for us, either as an attendee, a spectator, or a TO:
  • How do I become a signatory TO?
    • It's quite simple. You'll need to demonstrate that you are a TO of a suitably-sized tournament or consistent series; simply link us to a smash.gg page for an event you held with 150+ people, or to a page for a recurring series of at least 3 months. You can send us this information at our email, SSB.ConductPanel@gmail.com. Your name, tag, email, and proof of TO status is enough to get you on the CoC as a signatory!
  • Why should I, a smaller regional TO, sign on to support the CoC?
    • Local TOs typically do not have eyes on every region at once. They can't be expected to know the politics of local banlists at every event across the whole world, but yet they are still expected to maintain the safety and security of everyone attending their events. The Disciplinary Panel and CoC body allows regional TOs to know ahead of time if someone who might be visiting from out of state is a potential risk to tournament attendees, without going out to investigate every single region themselves. Or, you may have a particularly troublesome individual in your local scene that you have been unable to deal with, and you need someone to escalate the situation to. In addition, signing on to the CoC gives you an active role in the community's proceedings; you may just want a copy of a community banlist...or you may decide you'd like to have an active hand in reviewing cases and being a proactive member of the smash leadership. There are lots of opportunities if you're interested in the big picture!
  • What happens if I, a TO, get sued by someone for a decision I had no part in?
    • The Disciplinary Panel will be taking responsibility for its decisions. If you are sued for upholding a ban, know first that we have given you lots of legal protection and that a judge's response will likely be to throw the case out as outlined below in the “legality” section of the supplementary details. If you are in need of legal defense funds or do not know what to do in that position, contact the Disciplinary Panel at SSB.ConductPanel@gmail.com to let us know. We will reach out and help to organize a community effort to support you legally and financially.
  • What happens if I, a TO, am being threatened by litigation, or by an attendee who plans to attend a tournament they've been banned from?
    • Please remember: the law is on your side! You have full rights to restrict anyone access from your event for any reason or no reason at all, so long as you aren't discriminating against them for a protected identity (sexual orientation, religion, race, etc). A threat is ultimately just a threat, so try to stay calm, and if you are concerned please direct an email to the Disciplinary Panel and we will happily assist you through the issue.
  • What happens if I see a rule being broken at an event, but I don't know who the people involved are?
    • You are encouraged to send the Disciplinary Panel an email letting us know about the situation and to fill out a report. At the very least, this will provide us with a possible paper trail in the event someone else witnessed the event and knows a little bit more. You should also report this event immediately to your local TO, as they will have a much broader web of knowledge concerning their attendees and can help submit a report on your behalf.
  • What happens if I'm accused of something I didn't do?
    • The first thing to do is stay calm and resist the urge to talk directly to the person reporting your behavior. We have created this system to be as impartial as possible, which means you will have the chance to speak at length about your defense. We are not interested in persecution, we are interested in making sure everyone feels they are treated fairly and that nobody feels unwelcome in our community. Sometimes misunderstandings happen, sometimes a person is not aware of how their behavior is received by others, sometimes accidents occur and all that needs to happen is for it to be talked out with their peers. If it has reached the point of a formal case being opened, the worst thing you can do is try to handle it yourself. Try to be patient and trust that we are here to help you.
  • Will any bans be extended or grandfathered in that previously exist?
    • Currently active bans in local scenes will be reviewed through the system established here to determine their reach and extent. The Investigation panels may determine that some bans be extended out to all signatories, and may extend the ban past the terms set out in their local scenes. There is also a statute of limitations on reports under the new system: 6 and 12 months for level 2 and 3 offenses, respectively. However, as this system is new to the community and there may be outstanding offenses that were either never made public or never acted upon, the statute of limitations for any offenses not already under suspensions will be relaxed until the end of 2018. On January 1st, the statutes will take effect.
  • What happens if my local TO won't help me with my problem?
    • That's what we're here for. An abuse of power between TO and attendee is grounds for increasing punishment up to the maximum amount at that level and will be taken extremely seriously by the Code of Conduct body and its signatories. Please reach out to us with your concerns and we will help you address them as best we can.
  • How can I get involved with the process?
    • Please reach out to the Disciplinary Panel directly, or reach out to one of the Signatory TOs. We can always use the help; the more people committed to doing the right thing, the better off we'll all be.
  • This is really stupid. "Harassment Task Force" and “Disciplinary Panel” are dumb names that I can't take seriously. We play a children's party game, there's no reason to ever take this seriously.
    • Then I very, very much hope you and the people you care about never have a need for us. But if you do, we'll be there and ready to help you out.



3. Summary of Intent and Details

If you have read the previous two sections and still have any questions about the reasoning or rationales behind the decisions the Panel made creating this system, the following section describes what the Code of Conduct (hereafter shortened to CoC) actually does and why it was designed that way. As mentioned in the introduction, this should be considered a supplement to the documentation in the first section, and is not necessary to understanding the system that has been put into place.

A. Offenses are broken down into 4 levels:
i. Level 1 offenses include the use of malicious discriminatory epithets, verbal abuse, disrespectful out-of-game behavior such as damaging venue property, etc. These offenses are the most minor, and are going to typically be handled by the TO at the venue directly. Reports to the Disciplinary Panel for Level 1 infractions will be cataloged, but will not typically see investigation unless a trend of behavior emerges or the local TO requests assistance from the Disciplinary Panel. We still want local TOs to take the initiative for minor offenses like these at their tournaments.​
ii. Level 2 offenses include violent threats, sexual harassment, physical intimidation, and targeted abuse such as releasing their publicly available information with the intention of starting a raid of abuse. This is where behavior stops looking like a one-off instance of high emotions or bad judgment, and starts to look more like a present danger to others that indicates a problematic underlying issue.​
iii. Level 3 offenses include the lesser versions of level 4 offenses such as sexual misconduct, doxing, violent assault, etc. The behavior in this category is typically that which indicates a serious lack of judgement or a repeated problem, but is not so egregious as to warrant an immediate lifetime ban. Considering the relative youth and immaturity of the Smash community, it is still possible for even chronic behaviors in this category to be rehabilitated, and so the majority of offenses committed here will typically require proof of rehabilitation, therapy, or efforts to make change on the part of the accused before being allowed back in.​
iv. Level 4 offenses are the most serious offenses: sexual assault, serious or deadly violent assault, and stalking, as well as being an accomplice to any of the aforementioned offenses. This is where behavior may overlap with criminal behavior. If a person is found likely to have committed these offenses, the first time offense carries with it the potential of a lifetime ban.​
v. While there is some leniency for first-time offenders, there are several stipulations that will warrant escalation to a higher level of punishment. For example, while a single instance of doxing (Level 3 offense) will warrant a 24-month ban, if that offense takes place by an adult against a minor, if it takes place between a person in a position of authority (such as a TO) and an attendee, or if it occurs between two regular members of the community as opposed to a member of the community and a person who does not normally attend events, the Investigations panel may determine that a lifetime ban is warranted (even though this would normally be a 2nd offense punishment).​
vi. In addition to the above, openly calling for or advocating for someone to commit any of the offenses at a particular level is also an infraction at that level, even if you do not perform that offense directly.​

B. Community members are encouraged to submit reports in the following manner:

i. All incidents, reports, questions, comments, concerns, etc. must first begin by sending an email to SSB.ConductPanel@gmail.com. Someone from the Disciplinary Panel will review the email within a week or so, and depending on the issue may return a reporting form back to the person submitting the email. This is to weed out troll emails, to make sure that someone reporting a Level 1 offense knows it may not be investigated, etc.​
ii. The reporting form may be filled out by anyone reporting an issue, however there are a few caveats:​

a. Anonymous reports will be cataloged, but never investigated. This is to have a record in case a trend of behavior emerges in the case of a formal report, but also because the panel are not detectives; we must have names and contact information in order to ensure a fair investigation. All contact information, of both victim and accused, will be kept private and confidential.​

b. Identifiable reports can be submitted by victims or by friends, eyewitnesses, or TOs, however in all cases, the person submitting the report will be made aware that they are responsible for providing as much evidence as possible, and the victim of the incident will most likely be contacted for details.​

c. There is a statute of limitations on reports. Level 2 offenses will have 6 months to contact the panel from the event where the incident took place, and Level 3 offenses will have 12 months. If the report establishes a pattern of behavior, the time frame will begin at the most recent incident. Past behavior, regardless of how long ago, can be used as grounds to modify ban length. A formal report does not necessarily need to be submitted in this time, but the panel must be contacted in that time period or no investigation will take place.​

iii. Once a report is received, the person who submitted a report will be contacted by the Disciplinary Panel to set up a time for a panel review to go over their story and discuss the situation at length. They will be given the opportunity to declare conflicts of interests of Panel members reviewing their case (we'll get to this in the next section), and this panel review date will be their deadline to submit their report.​

iv. Once a review panel for the victim has been scheduled and the investigation opened, the accused will be contacted to let them know a report has been submitted against them, and to establish a time for the accused to respond. While we intend to respect the privacy of both victim and accused, it is a necessary risk that the accused will be able to infer the identity of their accuser, and so both parties will be encouraged to refrain from direct contact until the investigation wraps up.​

a. The panel review date for the accused will take place within one month of the filing of the official report and opening of the case. While the Panels will work with the accused to arrive at a mutually agreeable time to meet, it is acknowledged by all parties that should the accused fail to attend without sufficient reason, or should they attend with no evidence to offer on their behalf, that this will be held against them in the determination.​

C. The structure of the CoC body is as follows:

i. The Harassment Task Force is to become the Disciplinary Panel; as an organized body, they will only be taking on an advisory and administrative/logistical role. They will be reviewing emails and reports, assigning people to Investigations and Appeals, counseling victims and providing resources both for CoC processes and official legal and victim support. In addition, a member of the panel will be a liaison at our supermajors for any incidental help that may occur at that event.​

ii. A pool of candidates is created to choose from for Investigations and Appeals. They will consist of some people that the Disciplinary Panel selects, but will mostly come from the suggestions of signatory TOs. If you become a signatory to the CoC, you can nominate someone to this pool of candidates; passing a simple majority of voting members of the Disciplinary Panel will get that person included in the rotation for case review. This can include signatories themselves!​

iii. Once a report is submitted about an incident, an odd number of people from this pool will be assigned to review this incident based on availability and case details. For example, a review of a low-profile, low-impact case may only have 3-5 people assigned to the incident, but if a high-profile incident is being reviewed, more of the available pool of candidates may be selected to review it.​

a. Both accused and victims will be given the opportunity to notify the Disciplinary Panel of any conflicts of interest that may arise from the panelists assigned to their case.​

iv. When the Investigations Panel has wrapped up and determined whether disciplinary action should be handed out, they will notify the Disciplinary Panel of their discussions. The Disciplinary Panel will privately reach out to both victim and accused to let them know the determination, and in the case where a suspension or ban is meted out, will inform them of the scope and duration of such a consequence.​

v. If either party wishes to contest the result of the investigation, and has new evidence to submit regarding the report, they may notify the Disciplinary Panel they wish to appeal the decision. A new group of people will be assigned from the pool of candidates and the process will start over. Appeals Panel decisions can overturn Investigations Panel decisions but cannot be challenged after this point.​

vi. Signatory TOs will be emailed whenever a player has been banned and will receive an email on the first of every month letting them know who is banned and the remaining duration of that ban. They will be expected to uphold that ban for their events or will lose status as a signatory TO (covered in the Legality section below).​

a. If a player is not banned but the individual TO still wishes to ban them from their event, they are free to do so without violating the signatory agreement.​

b. If a player is banned but the individual TO thinks they should not be, they cannot un-ban them from their event without breaking signatory status. However, they are encouraged to submit a complaint to the Disciplinary Panel challenging the ruling. Once a threshold of one-half of all signatory TOs submit complaints challenging a ruling, the case will be escalated up to the ruling body of the 5 for an official and final ruling, which cannot be overturned.​
c. The above process can also be used to remove a member of the Disciplinary Panel or for any other administrative action, including changing the language of the CoC itself.​

D. The legal implications of this system are as follows:

i. The identities of victim and accused will be kept confidential and private, to be shared only amongst CoC parties and Signatory TOs. Signatories may request a written report of all the details of an investigation if they would like to know the context of a decision. Other community members are free to ask signatories or the CoC body directly via email, but may or may not receive a direct answer. The reasons for this are twofold:​

a. Legally speaking, there are two factors at play. A TO may ban someone from their events for any reason or no reason at all, so long as the ban does not fall under discriminatory practices towards protected classes. Simultaneously, in the US (likely in Canada, Sweden, and the UK as well) a person is free to open a civil case for any reason whatsoever. As such, we have carefully crafted this process to give maximum protections for TOs in the event they are sued for a ban. The main cases we are looking to protect from are libel, slander, and defamation; by keeping the process out of the public eye, TOs are able to subvert the requirements to prove guilt in the event someone sues for any one of these. These protections ensure that a judge is highly likely to throw out the case upon review, and in some states, something called "Anti-SLAPP" legislation protects TOs further by allowing them to countersue for frivolous lawsuits. Having the structure of the CoC body behind them gives added legal protections to do so.​

b. In addition to the legality, we want to avoid actual 'witch hunts' or public campaigns of harassment. Too often, the court of public opinion, whether that's on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, or old-fashioned word of mouth, is willing to nail someone to a cross based on hearsay, a poorly-worded message, a single screenshot, or testimony from someone else. By keeping the entire process private, we are mitigating the direct damage done to those who are unjustly accused of misbehaviors, as well as protecting the victims of the behaviors from going through the meat grinder of public opinion for being heard.​

ii. We are not a legally-binding body. This does not represent a legally-binding agreement the way that incorporation or union charters would. We are not a criminal court, we don’t mean to emulate them, and we are not bound by the same standards of proof that a court of criminal law is bound by. Instead, similar to a civil trial, our job is to find the best possible explanation given all the stories, perspectives, and contexts presented to us. The degree of confidence in this explanation will be a factor in the suggested disciplinary action.​


I would like to extend my personal thanks to the members of the Harassment Panel who gave up many nights of their time in order to discuss these difficult issues. In addition, I would like to thank those lawyers, psychologists, and community members who shared their stories and insights. I would like to thank the members of "The 5", who gave the approval to open this panel and allow us to make this change. I would like to thank the TOs who have and will continue to sign on to this code of conduct. And last but not least, I would like to thank the broader community, for giving me the best experience of my life and irrevocably changing it for the better. I am extremely proud of what the panel has come up with, and I cannot imagine a better group of people to have devoted the last several years of my life to. Thank you all.

Panel Members:
Kyle "Dr. Piggy" Nolla
Sheridan "Dr. Z" Zalewski
Daniel "Tafokints" Lee
Emily "Emilywaves" Sun
Alan "Alan" Moore
Alex "SweetDee" Grove
Kelly "Kupo" Goodchild
John "SleepyK" Lee (Resigned)
Chuck "Mudkyp" Vigus (Resigned)
Josh "Roboticphish" Kassel (Project Manager)

The following TOs, organizations, and event series are proud to support this code of conduct:

The Big House
Genesis
Shine - Big Blue ESports
Endgame TV
Even Matchup Gaming
Full Bloom
The NYC TO Team
Recursion
Polarity
Kings of the North
Stop Your Friendlies Event Team
Fight Pitt
Aegis
Royal Flush
University of California - Riverside
Show Me Your Moves
Team UGS
Le French Melee
Smashville
Heir
BALC
WTFox
ESports Arena
Scarlet Smash
Training Mode Tuesdays
Noods Noods Noods / The Town
Top Shelf ESports
NewPort Priority
Smash Camp
Smash Jam
Smash Valley
Smash Club Society
Smash Olympics / Kingslayer
Peak Gaming
Don't Get Grabbed
Great Value Smash
Poi Poundaz
Shoals Smash Series
Vincennes University Smash Bros
NCHI Circuit
UBC eSports Association
Rock Chalk / Title Bout / Sweet Spot
Beantown Lean House / BABE
Cache Valley Smash
SAK Gaming
UMass Lowell Smash
Rain City Smash
Charged Up Smash
SD World Tour / Climax
No Joshing & Cache In
In the Garage / Ain't Gotta Be Good
PUFW Weekly
Ignition
USBC
Fight for SoCal
Vega Biweekly
Arctic Fury
Tallahassee Smash
Holy City Brawl
Muramasa Monday
Team Calyptus
Vayseth
G-Town Tom
Tuesday
Airwave
Xiivi
...and more to come!
 
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