Follow-up on the moderation issue

Dec. 17, 2021 · Ryan Levick and Mara Bos on behalf of the Rust Project

Last week, the following e-mail was sent to all members of the Rust project (including all working groups) to follow up on the moderation issue. The footnotes have been added to provide additional context to the wider Rust community, and were not part of the original e-mail.

From: Mara Bos
To: All members of the Rust project
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 2021 18:12:06 UTC
Subject: Follow-up on the moderation issue

Hey all,

On behalf of the top-level team leads, the new mods, the project directors to the Foundation1, and the core team2, I'd like to apologize for the delay in getting back to all of you after the resignation of the moderation team3.

Over the past few weeks, it has been nearly the full time job of many involved to collect all the context, understand the perspectives of those involved, find common ground, and rebuild understanding and trust. This work is subtle, highly context dependent, and sometimes extremely personal. Still, we owe it to all project members to be as transparent as we can be. In this email, I'll attempt to update you on the shape of the issues and restate our collective commitment to solving them together with the entire Rust project and eventually the wider Rust community.

What's going on?

The most immediate cause of the current issue was a disagreement between the former members of the moderation team and the core team about how to handle a moderation issue in which the core team itself were interested parties. I cannot share more context on that issue without violating the privacy of those involved, including of those who reported the issue. However, as frustrating as it might be for those without any context, I am convinced it's not in any way necessary to get more people involved in that specific moderation issue itself.

Historically, moderation actions involving Rust team members have been reviewed in collaboration between the moderation team and the core team. However, due to the involvement of the core team, there was no clear process to follow. Both teams put in substantial effort to try to deal with this lack of process, but over an eight month period involving miscommunication and disagreements, this escalated into a trust issue between the moderation team and the core team. Both the moderators and the core team ended up in an unworkable situation where no one could have full context, making a path forward impossible.

Why are certain groups or people directly involved in solving this and others not?

Due to the resignation being unexpected and the complexity of the situation being high, we both needed to act quickly and involve the most obvious stakeholders. Since the concept of leadership of the Rust project is fluid and not well defined, it is very hard to pick the right set of people to involve, while making sure different perspectives are represented and heard. Any set would likely leave out some person or group who needed to be involved, but to get this unblocked, we started with all top-level team leads, project directors to the Foundation, all core team members, and the new moderation team members, to discuss next steps. This was chosen since it was easy to determine objectively who fit this description and who did not.

Over time, we will expand this group to include others in the project. However, due to the highly context-dependent and sensitive nature of what's being discussed, opening all discussion to everyone in the project (which is effectively making it open to the public) would be counterproductive and make fact finding and context building impossible.

Ryan Levick and I have stepped forward to coordinate the work here. If you would like to be involved or provide input, please contact either of us by e-mail or on Zulip.

What are we going to do?

With all this in mind, we are committed to the following high level goals:

1. The recent events are one of several indicators that the Rust project has underspecified policies for handling complex moderation issues. This must be fixed with publicly documented procedures around moderation that ensure privacy, fairness, accountability, and justice to all parties involved. We are gathering input and experiences to try to find an outcome that will satisfy everyone's needs and takes into account past experiences. Decisions will not be made without wider community involvement.

2. More generally, the issue was another indicator to a fact that was already clear to all involved in Rust project leadership, including all members of the core team: the Rust project needs to adapt its structures for how it does governance. What the future of Rust governance should look like is a big open question, but from the input we've collected so far, there does seem to be enough common ground to build on. We want to solve this problem with feedback from all Rust project members.

3. Most specifically, we need to resolve the specific moderation issue that was at the center of the disagreement between core and the former moderation team. This resolution needs to respect all the values listed in point 1: privacy, fairness, accountability, and justice to all parties involved. This will be handled with input from all involved parties.

These issues are highly complex, require a large amount of context to understand, and involve private and personal information which should not be discussed publicly. However, at the center of the Rust project is a belief in transparency and openness. We are committed to solving these issues with all members of the Rust project and the wider Rust community, but we ask for your patience while thoughts are organized and drafts are constructed. Details and plans will be discussed publicly when we can ensure that doing so will not cause more confusion.

Needless to say, it is difficult to govern an open source project which has reached a size larger than most companies4 and yet is composed of volunteers. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are confident that the Rust project will come out stronger from this. While these issues are serious and require care to reach positive conclusions, we are confident that this will not negatively impact our ability to continue to ship improvements to the Rust language and its core tooling, documentation, and support.5

If you have any concerns or thoughts, please reach out to me or Ryan with questions, concerns, or comments.

Mara Bos (Library team lead),
on behalf of top-level team leads, project directors to the Foundation, core team members, and the new moderators.

  1. These are the members of the Rust project who represent the project on the board of the Rust Foundation.

  2. Unlike in many other projects, the Rust project is made up of many teams. The core team is one of them, and does not make decisions that fall under the scope of one of the other teams.


  4. For reference, the original email went out to approximately 300 people.

  5. Rust 1.57 was released two weeks ago, and we will continue to ship new releases of Rust on schedule.