[tor-project] questions about new community safety documents and practices...

stderr at riseup.net stderr at riseup.net
Sat Jul 30 16:11:58 UTC 2016

Hi all,

I have a question about the Harassment Prevention Policy, available 

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The policy seems to conflate harassment and discrimination, specifically 
in this clause:

"Both the Company and U.S. law also prohibit unlawful workplace 
harassment. Unlawful harassment is unwelcome conduct, based on a 
Protected Characteristic, that is sufficiently severe and  pervasive  to 
  alter  the  terms  and  conditions  of  employment  or create  an  
intimidating, offensive, or  abusive  working  environment. Prohibited  
harassment can take  many  forms, including, but not limited to the 
following, when based on a Protected Characteristic:
•Making  or  using  derogatory  comments,  emails,  letters,  epithets,  
slurs,  or  explicit jokes.
•Derogatory gestures, posters,  photographs,  cartoons,  drawings,  
websites,  emails, text messages, or other physical or electronic media.
•Touching, assaulting, impeding, or blocking normal movements."

Earlier in the document, a "protected characteristic" is defined as:

"It  is  against U.S. law  and  strictly  against  our policy  for  any  
employee  or  non-employee  to discriminate against or  harass any 
Company employee, contractor or volunteer on the basis of race, color, 
religion, national origin, ancestry, disability,  medical  condition,  
genetic  information,  marital  status,  sex,  gender,  gender  
identity, gender  expression,  sexual  orientation,  age,  military  or  
veteran  status,  or any  other  protected status (each  a “Protected  

Anti-discrimination statutes and policies are commonly defined around 
"protected classes" or "protected characteristics," since discrimination 
based upon other characteristics is both clearly allowed and beneficial 
(performance, fitness for the advertised job opening, etc.), but 
harassment statues and policies typically don't include references to 
protected classes or characteristics, since harassment is always 
negative and thus characteristic agnostic.

Simply put: the plain language of the Tor Project's new policy would 
seem to allow harassment, provided that it is not *based upon* a 
protected characteristic. This would also seem to allow the harassment 
of anyone, including women, racial minorities, or other people whose 
rights such a policy would presumably be designed to protect, as long as 
that harassment is not "based upon" those characteristics.

I would strongly prefer if the Tor Project would separately define 
harassment and discrimination. If someone is turned down for a job on 
the basis of their race or veteran status, that is discrimination, but 
not harassment. If someone receives extensive unwanted communications 
from a co-worker, for example including persistent late night phone 
calls that are unrelated to work, or extensive unwanted visits from the 
co-worker at one's home, etc, then this would clearly constitute 
harassment, provided that the complainant made it clear that these 
communications/visits were unwanted. However, this behavior need not be 
based on a "protected characteristic" and it may not necessarily take 
the form of sexual harassment, either. This is why harassment is 
typically defined as a persistent, unwanted, pattern of behavior that 
would cause a reasonable person to experience fear or emotional 



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