Worldcon 75 Posts Its Code of Conduct

Worldcon 75, the 2017 Helsinki Worldcon, now has its Code of Conduct online at http://www.worldcon.fi/coc/.

This Code of Conduct applies to “any Worldcon 75 associated events or spaces, physical or virtual, up to and during Worldcon 75 itself.”

The committee introduces the CoC with the comment “Worldcon 75 is an international gathering and subject to Finnish law, which can differ from the law many participants may be used to.” The CoC is unusually prescriptive, containing more than a dozen examples of prohibited behavior, including many explicit limitations on speech:

  • Racist, sexist, ageist, sizeist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, or any other form of exclusionary/offensive speech or actions are unacceptable.
  • Do not evaluate aloud or insult other people’s looks, clothing, or any aspect of their appearance.
  • If someone states their discomfort with the current discussion topic or the kind of jokes, please save those jokes for another time. Jokes do not always translate well.
  • Do not make unwelcome sexual remarks at or about other convention members, venue staff, or any associated personnel.
  • It is not acceptable to keep talking to someone after they tell you to stop.

And this warning about the powers of security personnel is repeated twice in the CoC:

According to Finnish law, licensed security personnel have the right to remove any person from Worldcon 75 for violating the Code of Conduct, harassing other people, or in other ways behaving inappropriately.

Reports of incidents or problems will be taken by Code of Conduct Listeners. The section on “Reporting an Incident” says “best efforts will be made to make same-day decisions regarding the situation and to take appropriate action, with priority given to the safety of convention members.”

The range of appropriate action includes “verbal or written warning, requiring a guarantee regarding specific behaviour, dismissal from committee, staff, programming or volunteering, banning from one or more areas of the convention for anywhere from an hour to the rest of the convention, or complete revocation of membership.”

[Thanks to Terhi Törmänen for the story.]

46 thoughts on “Worldcon 75 Posts Its Code of Conduct

  1. So Teddy won’t be attending Worldcon 75? I’m pretty sure he’d get thrown out on his Aristotle…

  2. So it is unusually prescriptive. I’ve been wondering about that.

    I’m not much of a convention goer, so I don’t normally check out Codes of Conduct. But I looked at this one and was surprised by the level of detail.

    I guess they’re erring on the side of caution, which is only understandable, given the level of ugly in the community in recent years.

  3. Cora: So it is unusually prescriptive. I’ve been wondering about that.

    Given that they felt that posting in the same internet forum thread as another person was the equivalent of attempting to contact that person, I don’t think that this is surprising.

    It will be interesting to see whether there are reported CoC violations next year, and if so, how they are handled.

  4. I’m guessing #2 in this list won’t be taken literally during the Masquerade? At least for their clothing. Will every photographer/videographer each have to get a signed release from every single person in the Masquerade? Unwieldy. Or will the contestants sign a general release so that they can be recorded and streamed?

    What, legally, defines “licensed security personnel”? Police, yes, but who else? Who trains and licenses them?

    Many people are going to feel naked without a Leatherman. 😉 It’s the most common geek accessory. What about multitools that don’t have knives on them? There are a number of those.

  5. So if I make a comment stupid kids or how kids give me a headache. Is this considered ageism? The older I get, the more annoying I find young people.

  6. Finland prohibits the carrying of pocket knives? Wow.

    I’ve carried a pocket knife pretty much every day of my life since fourth grade (including to elementary school — those were the days). When I don’t have it on me, like when I have to pack it in checked luggage, I feel odd.

  7. There are a couple of countries which prohibit pocket knives or have pretty strict regulations about them. e.g., the UK has pretty strict regulations about knives of any kind. And of course, if you’re flying into Helsinkii (which is pretty much everybody, even in Europe), you can’t take your pocket knife along in your carry-on luggage anyway.

    I used to carry a Swiss Army Knife (inherited from my grandpa and so old that the Swiss cross has worn off) with me all the time, but nowadays I leave it at home, lest I forgot it in my handbag when travelling and have it seized.

    Anyway, I’m glad it wasn’t just me who felt that this Code of Conduct was overly detailed. As I said, I normally don’t look at them and assumed they were merely a short list of rules that boils down to “Behave like a civilised person.”, “No means no.” and “Keep your functional guns and swords at home.”

  8. More or less the same law in Sweden regarding knives. Multitools without knives are no problem. And multitools with knives are also ok, if you are going to or from somewhere where you might be expected to use them for their intended usage.

    And yes, it felt a bit strange in the beginning to stop carrying your pocket knife.

  9. @Lurkertype: The venue or event appoints persons who are (a) willing to act as security personnel, (b) are approved by the local police authority. Due to the size of many Finnish cons, and that there are several of them a year, most licensed security personnel will have gone through a short training course, held by the police. Their activities, restrictions, and privileges are strictly defined by law. But the licensed security personnel are fans, just as you and me, and used to both be and work at cons (Finncons, AnimeCons, RopeCons et c).

    (Think that Finnish fandom have their own Dorsai Irregulars that are trained and licensed by the police.)

    Note that currently, CoC violations are handled through a separate organisation (Staff Services) than the licensed security personnel (Turva). The security personnel can only act on what they personally see, but they have the legal right to remove any person from the event who acts violently or dangerously, by force if necessary.

    As for knives, the policy follows Finnish law strictly, and I don’t know the details of it. I do know the Swedish law which is similar, but there might be (read: I’m pretty certain there are) differences in interpretation or details that matter.

    But if you want to carry a knife or edged multitool at Worldcon 75, you have to demonstrate a need to carry one. “Feeling safe” is not a need for this according to Swedish law, and likely not under Finnish law either. Being a dealer or staff who expects to open lots of packages, cut strings and tape, and so on, however is.

    I’d advise you to send your concerns and questions on photography on to the con.

  10. Wow. Reading the Code of Conduct instantly brought to mind the Heinlein’s trip to New Zealand described in Tramp Royale. I just returned after spending a week sailing to Southampton on the Queen Mary 2 and I don’t recall any mention anywhere of some kind of Code of Conduct we were bound to. It must be a ‘Convention’ thing and it sounds grim.

    I’m sure that we will, in the fullnes of time, learn if a good time was had by all or if anybody had a good time.

  11. Phil: It must be a ‘Convention’ thing and it sounds grim.

    So apparently you’ve missed all of the very public details of numerous incidents of harassment and/or assault at SFF conventions during the last few years???

  12. “Do not evaluate aloud or insult other people’s looks, clothing, or any aspect of their appearance.”

    Their example, “That costume is fantastic, may I take a photo?”, seems to contradict the “do not evaluate aloud” part. 😉 But, reading that, I feel better about my tendency, when feeling less shy (hey, it happens), to compliment cool hall costumes. But they need to reword the line above, IMHO.

    Anyway, interesting stuff.

  13. “I just returned after spending a week sailing to Southampton on the Queen Mary 2 and I don’t recall any mention anywhere of some kind of Code of Conduct we were bound to. It must be a ‘Convention’ thing and it sounds grim.”

    It is the same when I travel by train. I want to throw something combustible out the window and it’s always grim when I see the sign telling me that I’m not allowed to.

    My tip? Skip the sailing next time. You had to accept Booking Conditions to do that and I guess that turned your whole trip grim.

  14. Karl-Johan Norén: (Think that Finnish fandom have their own Dorsai Irregulars that are trained and licensed by the police.)

    Trust me, that does not make it sound better to people who have experienced Dorsai Irregulars working convention security.

  15. @Cora There are a couple of countries which prohibit pocket knives or have pretty strict regulations about them. e.g., the UK has pretty strict regulations about knives of any kind.

    The UK knife laws aren’t as strict as many places including some in the US. Anyone can carry a folding, non-locking, pocket knife with a cutting-edge length of less than 3″. Non-locking includes slipjoint knives.

  16. So it is unusually prescriptive. I’ve been wondering about that.

    Once a snowball starts rolling down hill, it rarely says “hey, I’m going to stop right here!”

  17. In regards to photography… Conventions really should all already have a performance release waiver for Masquarade participants, so that someone can’t decide to go around suing people who recorded it or took photos.

    However, it’s really hard to make a binding performance release for cosplayers on the convention floor and grounds. But so long as you have permission from the main subject of the photograph it’s fine.

    You will not have to ask permission of passers-by who got in shot, or people who were in the background if you were taking a photo of a sculpture, or all the individuals if you were taking a wide angle shot of the crowds. Verbal permission counts. And yes, in many US states you really should be asking permission before publishing photographs where someone is the main subject. So really this is just a common sense ‘ask first’ rule.

  18. I’ve often had clearly stated opinions being offensive to someone. As in “I didn’t like (that book).” I know the next thing to do if the response from someone else is negative is to stay quiet and not press the issue.

  19. So comments about someone’s wardrobe are expressly forbidden, but not comments about their religious beliefs? Shows a serious problem with priorities.

  20. I just returned after spending a week sailing to Southampton on the Queen Mary 2 and I don’t recall any mention anywhere of some kind of Code of Conduct we were bound to.

    I guess you didn’t read your booking conditions then. Among other things, you agreed that the Captain could confine you to your stateroom for any reason that he felt appropriate.

  21. “For those attending who want to avoid getting into trouble, here’s a guide to some acceptable newspeak. (Oh, and this, just for the heck of it.)”

    Well, that was some really stupid links.

  22. Robert Whitaker Sirignano: I’ve often had clearly stated opinions being offensive to someone. As in “I didn’t like (that book).” I know the next thing to do if the response from someone else is negative is to stay quiet and not press the issue.

    Congratulations on taking something to the most extreme and ridiculous point possible in order to… I don’t know, try to make yourself look like a jerk?

    Code of Conducts are (or should be) deliberately designed to allow the ConCom to adjust the response to match the severity of the infraction. Trying to claim that the least extreme example will be met with the most extreme consequences just makes you look petulant and dishonest.

  23. “So comments about someone’s wardrobe are expressly forbidden, but not comments about their religious beliefs? Shows a serious problem with priorities.”

    That would be “or any other form of exclusionary/offensive speech or actions are unacceptable.”

  24. @Darren Garrison

    I’m always impressed by the fervour with which you defend your right to break Wheaton’s law.

  25. “Do not evaluate aloud” sounds like translation difficulties. As a native speaker, I don’t think I’d write that sentence that way even if it was what I meant. It’s also the only part which doesn’t seem entirely reasonable to me. Which makes me wonder if there isn’t some nuance that’s getting lost between languages.

  26. Trappist Monks are welcome.

    But their beer is not, at least not in the convention centre. Which is a pity, because it’s delicious.

    @Phil
    Trust me, if a passenger or crew member behaves problematically on board of a cruise liner, security will take action, usually by confining them to their cabin and dumping them off at the next port of call. Police might also be involved, if necessary. Aaron has already pointed out that there is a clause to that effect in the booking conditions, hidden in the small print, which hardly anybody ever reads.

  27. “Do not evaluate aloud” sounds like translation difficulties. As a native speaker, I don’t think I’d write that sentence that way even if it was what I meant. It’s also the only part which doesn’t seem entirely reasonable to me. Which makes me wonder if there isn’t some nuance that’s getting lost between languages.

    I interpreted it to mean something like “Don’t make loud remarks to your friends about the appearance of other attendants” and it made perfect sense to me, even if the sentence itself is a bit strange.

    Because yes, such things happen, e.g. men loudly discussing the appearance of a woman who is in earshot or people feeling the need to loudly proclaim, “OMG, did you see that fat person?” to their friends.

  28. “Evaluate aloud” would include wolf-whistles and other such harassing behavior. Yeah, speaking as a woman, I’m fine with their CoC.

  29. But “evaluate aloud” would also include “ooh, that’s nice!” Or “I love the workmanship in those wings.”

    I agree with (and support) what was probably meant, but it is really badly worded.

  30. Do we think the Con will have a problem with rules lawyering where people will call out others for harassment for saying “oh, that’s nice”? And if so, do we think the wording will make the Con act on these complaints?

  31. Meh, there’s nothing wrong with pointing out it’s poorly worded; if it doesn’t say what they mean (as I suspect more and more), I stand by my comment that they should reword it. Not the end of the world either way, obviously.

    @Cora: Since “aloud” and “loud” mean different things, I didn’t interpret that phrase at all as you describe, so I appreciate seeing your (& @Cassy B.’s) interpretations.

  32. I’m always impressed by the fervour with which you defend your right to break Wheaton’s law.

    Do you not agree that many of the people that use the term “ableist” believe that everyday terms such as stupid, dumb, crazy, insane, or lame are “ableist” and must be purged by the Socially Correct? It isn’t a fringe idea–it is pretty much in the mainstream for the minority in the world who use the term “ableist” with a straight face. I remember once browsing a forum where a new poster commented about how happy he was to have a place to have interesting discussions with intelligent people–and was called out by a moderator for violating the rules by using ableist language by implying that talking to intelligent people is more valuable than talking to people who aren’t intelligent. (This was on the official Atheism+ forum.)

    If you do not think that is ableist language while some clearly do, do you not see that it is a problem to be using a term so poorly defined and understood as a reason to possibly kick someone out of an event? Frankly, with the wording of the CoC and the “posting to the same forum” controversy, I can’t see them not siding with a stupid, dumb, crazy, insane, lame person like Zarna Joshi in a similar incident.

  33. “Do you not agree that many of the people that use the term “ableist” believe that everyday terms such as stupid, dumb, crazy, insane, or lame are “ableist” and must be purged by the Socially Correct?”

    No. But I do think you are hunting the net to find minority opinions to be offended by.

  34. No. But I do think you are hunting the net to find minority opinions to be offended by.

    Well, the featured google entry when you google what is ableist language uses it that way. As do several other entries from the first page of results, such as this one, this one, and this one (which gives as examples of unacceptable speech “The economy has been crippled by debt.”, “You’d have to be insane to want to invade Syria.”, “They’re just blind to the suffering of other people.”, and “Only a moron would believe that.”)

    If you want to argue that the very top google hits for the term are the minority opinions, knock yourself out.

  35. Wikipedia gives a much better description on how the term is commonly used. Is there anything special you are offended by in Wikipedia?

    Nope, I’m fine with a definition that is strictly about actual discrimination against/mistreatment of people with disabilities. It is the language policing I find Orwellian.

  36. Oh, wait–I do see one part of the wiki I find silly–way down at the bottom: “Also, characters like Captain Hook promote the fears of children against disability among adults.”

  37. Regardless of your opinion of any particular rules, one might propose that this is the sort of thing that should be required to be in original bid proposals, so that people know what they were getting into. Some readers are old enough to remember the con at which going armed was mandatory, though the weapon could be a mockup rather than, say, a functioning suitcase hydrogen bomb; Worldcon attendees might have preferred to know about a ‘you must be armed’ requirement in advance of voting.

  38. George Phillies: Some readers are old enough to remember the con at which going armed was mandatory,

    Citation please?

  39. George Phillies: Regardless of your opinion of any particular rules, one might propose that this is the sort of thing that should be required to be in original bid proposals, so that people know what they were getting into.

    I can’t feel particularly sympathetic toward someone who gets upset when they find out that they’re not going to be allowed to behave like an asshole at the con they voted for in Site Selection.

  40. @Darren Garrison

    Oh, wait–I do see one part of the wiki I find silly–way down at the bottom: “Also, characters like Captain Hook promote the fears of children against disability among adults.”

    “Disability equals villainy” is a common trope, you know. And I for one would be very glad to see it go, even though Walt Disney’s Peter Pan was a childhood favourite.

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