This post serves to share with the community details of an incident that occurred throughout the end of December into early January. This incident was a dire violation of the NEAR Community Guidelines and left a valued community member feeling attacked whilst certain threads in the Forum devolved into a hostile environment.
We’ll be outlining a quick overview of what happened alongside our learnings and next steps.
In mid-December an account was created on the NEAR Governance Forum with the username @NEARCOMMUNITY.
Shortly after the account was created, the user began to post inflammatory comments and violate the Community Guidelines.
As a response, they were temporarily banned.
After returning to the forum, they continued to breed a hostile environment for others in a way that circumvented any Community Guidelines.
Earlier this week, admins were alerted to the creation of content, off of the forum, but within a Telegram channel shared here, which directly attacked community members and NEAR Foundation staff members.
Consequently, @NEARCOMMUNITY has been removed permanently from the NEAR Forum and the official community to the fullest extent possible.
However, there have been some failings on our part as moderators, the remainder of this document will outline our learnings and next steps to mitigate the impact, and instances, of these types of scenarios in the future. We can be confident that they will occur, particularly as the community continues to grow.
As with every incident of this kind, it’s important that we learn from it. The Community Team at near has conducted a full postmortem which has been reviewed by ourselves and senior leadership.
We’ve found a need for:
- More active and engaged moderation styles. This is in everyone’s best interest and will help everyone feel safe; and if done with community involvement it’s not a sign of centralized control
- To cover the gaps. This incident began during a period of downtime for the NEAR Foundation. Any gaps in moderation from the NF Community Team need to be accounted for proactively and with clear communication i.e. when there is a full team holiday
We’re always aiming to improve and, with this in mind, we’ve built out a multi-faceted approach toward improving the Community experience here on the NEAR Governance Forum (and beyond).
It’s no secret that the NEAR Community is expanding rapidly and, despite our desires, it simply isn’t feasible for the Community Team or our wonderful crew of moderators to monitor all activities beyond our official channels (including the forum) at all times.
As a response, the NEAR Foundation team is investigating the implementation of digital tooling which will serve as an alert system when ill-intentioned accounts are created or comments posted.
We’ll share more details on this as we move forward with the initiative.
Last month, we launched the NEAR Governance Forum Sherpa Initiative:
The goals of which are as follows:
Currently, we sit at 3 Sherpas (moderators). In light of this incident, and the rapid growth of the NEAR Community, we will be increasing this to 12.
This will ensure we have over 20 staff members and moderators ensuring the NEAR Governance Forum is a positive and welcoming place for everyone in the ecosystem.
Moderators and admins will be encouraged to take a more active role in threads, proposals, and discussions. We believe this will cement their position at the ‘front line’ and enable us to defuse incidents before they occur.
Although the NEAR Community Guidelines outline what to do in the event of a violation, or if you’re feeling attacked, we can do more to highlight and clarify this process.
The NEAR Community Guidelines will undergo a revamp, and expansion, and be messaged directly to every member of the NEAR Governance forum.
Currently, it may not be clear to many what the scope of the NEAR Community Guidelines is. In light of this, and included in the aforementioned revamp and expansion, we’ll be delivering more clarity on what corners of the NEAR Community these guidelines are applicable to (it’s every official channel and medium).
Taking inspiration from Mozilla (h/t @shreyas), we’ll be evolving the guidelines in a manner similar to their ‘participation guidelines’ which cover everything from forum use to conferences and meetups.
The NEAR Foundation has a zero-tolerance approach to community guideline violation and the development of a hostile environment on any official channel.
Although we value and enshrine openness, be aware that this is not synonymous with total and complete transparency. Community members, particularly on the forum, should be here to support, not interrogate.
When asking questions, give the benefit of the doubt and understand that there is a limit and you may not be entitled to a response for every single question where appropriate.
The NEAR Ecosystem is expanding. Rapidly. And there’s no doubt that scenarios like this will arise again. So let’s make a Community that people want to be a part of. One that unites and never divides.
Let’s make the Community a home, for all, together.