Code of Conduct at events

Adrian Bunk bunk at
Wed Nov 10 21:27:17 UTC 2010

On Wed, Nov 10, 2010 at 11:03:01AM -0600, John Goerzen wrote:
> On 11/10/2010 10:35 AM, Wichert Akkerman wrote:
> >On 11/10/10 16:11 , John Goerzen wrote:
> >>On 11/10/2010 07:15 AM, Wichert Akkerman wrote:
> >>>On 11/10/10 14:00 , David Graham wrote:
> >>>>On Wed, 10 Nov 2010, Adrian Bunk wrote:
> >>>>>You don't need a code of conduct for going to the police and report a
> >>>>>crime.
> >>>>
> >>>>I come down firmly only the side of Adrian on this.
> >>>
> >>>Amen. I would boycot events which try to be stricter than the law or
> >>>which try to make themselves be a judge; there is too much room for
> >>>error with possibly disastrous results.
> >>
> >>The law various from country to country, as does the effectiveness of
> >>its enforcement. Do we find it acceptable to permit this sort of
> >>behavior when conferences are held in countries that don't effectively
> >>prohibit it?
> >
> >Yes. Do you want to pretend to enforce (part of) US law in other
> >countries? That would be odd.
> No, you misunderstand me.
> What I'm saying is that there are certain behaviors that we should
> find unacceptable at a conference, regardless of where it is held.
> What I'm saying is that morality isn't, in practical terms, defined
> by legality.  If we consider it unethical for certain things to
> happen, then we need to try to prevent them from happening
> everywhere.  *How* we do that may vary.  Maybe in New York we call
> the cops, and in some other location we simply make the person
> leave.
> But the point is that if we hold a conference in a place where the
> law protects women (or whomever) less, it is unethical for us to say
> "Well here that's legal, so we won't do anything to stop it."  We'd
> have an obligation to step in and do what we can to stop it anyhow.

I'm seeing two problems here:
1. What if the code of conduct conflicts with the law?
2. Formally defining what is correct and what is not is hard.

Let me try to explain these:

1. What if the code of conduct conflicts with the law?

Sounds strange, but Ian's proposal says "homophobia ... will not be 

What happens if a conference is in a country like Singapore or
Saudi Arabia where sex between men is illegal?

You cannot punish someone for reporting a major crime [1] to the police.

2. Formally defining what is correct and what is not is hard.

Ian's proposal says "This includes sexual touching and hugs".

The common way of mixing two very distant things making them appear 
similar - there are a few clear cases and there are many harmless or 
borderline cases.

It reminds me of when major British ISPs blocked a cover image of an
(in Germany freely available) album of the German band Scorpions in
Wikipedia due to alleged child pornography. [2]

"sexual touching" is a clear case.

People from many different cultures meet at conferences, and if things 
like hugs that are normal for some people are considered inappropriate 
for others you need to inform people, not implement rules for passing 
information about a cultural misunderstanding forever to future 
conference organisers.

> -- John


[1] according to the local law, e.g. capital punishment in Saudi Arabia


       "Is there not promise of rain?" Ling Tan asked suddenly out
        of the darkness. There had been need of rain for many days.
       "Only a promise," Lao Er said.
                                       Pearl S. Buck - Dragon Seed

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