Since the BBC takeover, censorship has been an important issue in the community. This issue has been discussed long and hard. One aspect of this issue, yet undiscussed, and by far the most important, is the censorship not of individual remarks, but of people. H2G2 has the right to suspend or ban any researcher for violation of the Terms and Conditions. However, the T+Cs are so subjective that almost anyone could be kicked off at any time, on any pretense. This is, we believe, detrimental to the community as a whole. The Guide depends on the contributions of capable and earnest volunteers. In order to protect their rights, and thus the Guide as a whole, we feel that the following are necessary changes that should take effect immediately:
- We require an official punishment policy to match the official terms and conditions. We have the right to know what consequences we face for violations. How many warnings preceed a suspension? How many temporary suspensions, and for how long, preceed a permanent ban? What offenses merit an instant, permanent ban? An official policy is a guarantee to the volunteers that punishment is being enforced on a consistent basis. Strict adherence to such a policy protects the Italics from criticism for unfair or capricious punishments. It is a mutually beneficial requirement.
- We require that any official reprimands from the paid staff be clearly denoted as such, in order to prevent confusion when dealing with new researchers, who might not know the difference yet between an Italic and an ordinary researcher. It would also allow seasoned volunteers to know the difference between an official reprimand and ordinary criticism, something that can be confused when the paid staff engages with us as members of the community.
- We require an independent arbitration panel, consisting completely of volunteers, who can preside over cases involving official punishments where significant dissent among the community exists. The arbitration panel will consist of an odd number of volunteers, nominated by the community and approved by the Italics, who have met strict qualifications. They must have been a member in good standing of this community for a significant amount of time. They must have shown themselves to be frequent contributors, lest hearings carry on indefinitely, lacking attention from certain arbiters. They must have exhibited the following qualities: honor, impartiality, and a commitment to the community. The arbiters could also handle disagreements in the community that may have escalated into flame wars, thus providing a buffer for the Italics (solving conflicts before they require official action). In order for the arbitration system to work properly, the Italics *must* commit themselves, in writing, to supporting the decisions of the panel, should their decisions be overturned. The concept is currently in development here, and all input is welcome.
- We request, although we have no legal basis to demand, that anyone permanently banned have their unedited entries returned to them via email, and have them deleted from H2G2's servers. This is an honorable thing to do... if the researcher is no longer welcome to the community, then the researcher would naturally feel that the community is no longer welcome to their work. To do otherwise would be perceived as stealing their work.
We believe that these measures are necessary for the health of the community. Furthermore, we feel that these requirements confer mutual benefit to the volunteers and the paid staff. As a protection for their rights, the volunteers can rest assured and get back to the business of creating outstanding content for the Edited Guide, and nurturing its community. These measures will also act as a shield for the Italics against criticism for caprice and overbearance. It is with this understanding, and with concern for the health of the Guide, that we, the undersigned, support these measures.