Patching exploitable communities

Content note: sexual assault and abuse.

The problem

Then Shari Steele took over as Tor’s executive director. Brave people were willing to speak to her. She investigated. She acted. I’m sure there’s plenty more to discover. Following this watershed moment, many of Jake’s victims felt safe enough to come forward. Some understandably chose to remain anonymous. Some, like Isis Lovecruft, Alison Macrina, Leigh Honeywell, and Nick Farr, decided to do so under their own names. I have nothing but admiration for the people who have come forward. I am lucky enough to call some of these brave souls my friends. I absolutely respect the choice to remain anonymous or to associate their account with their name. I will always believe those who report abuse, whether or not they choose to use their name.

Other organizations and communities where Appelbaum once operated with impunity have disavowed him: The Cult of the Dead Cow, Noisebridge, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Debian, and (eventually) CCC. There’s plenty more to see on that front. Hopefully, this will help deprive Appelbaum of the status and legitimacy that he uses to find, groom, coerce, and silence his victims. I just wish it had happened a few more victims ago.

The fix

The problem is that our communities are super broken. Cults of personality, hero worship, rock-stars: call it what you will, but we have a social dynamic tailor-made to be abused by charismatic sociopaths like Appelbaum.

Fortunately, Valerie Aurora, Mary Gardiner, and Leigh Honeywell have written a patch. Here’s the changelog:

You should listen to them. They’ve been working really hard to design, test, and implement these fixes since before you knew that there was a problem. This will not be easy. Communities are more and harder work than code. But this work is doable. Now: go put it to work in your community.

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