Sat 1 Sep 2018 3:06PM

An open letter

MK Michele Kipiel Public Seen by 70

Dear fellow members,

the events that unfolded over the past few days have put our cooperative to the test, and we failed miserably.

Many voices calling for change were silenced in the past, be it by negligence or by sheer lack of commitment by those, whose position of privilege allowed to disregard such calls. By failing to listen, we became the people MLK warned us about: the white moderates who are more devoted to order than to justice.

We wasted precious time and energy in endless debates about trivial details, calling for the creation of ever new committees and processes, and we eventually lost sight of the only true reason our cooperative came to existence: to wrestle control of our social media out of the hands of the rich, white, capitalist elite.

I am writing this letter to extend my personal apologies to all the people who felt betrayed by our failure and to promise them I am here to put my energy, time, skills and reputation on the line to repair this institution and turn it into a place where they will be safe again. A place for them to call home.

But promises are not enough. Words, however strong or emotional, are but empty utterances if they are not followed by swift, honest, transparent action guided by total commitment. And, with your help, I intend to trigger a new course that will shake social.coop at the foundations and turn it into something we will be proud of for years to come.

First of all, I invite all those who revel in relativistic attitudes towards racism, sexism, homo/trans-phobia and any other form of bigotry to instantly leave the cooperative and never come back. You are not welcome, and you will never be.

Second, I propose we close down registrations for all the time it will take us to heal our cooperative. This might sound like an aggresive move, but I believe it’s the only reasonable thing to do in this diffucult moment. A joint statement will replace our homepage for the time the instance will be closed, to inform people about our struggle to improve.

Third, we will follow the advice of those fellow members who chose to weather the storm with us despite being part of those groups we failed to protect in the first place. I will not name names here, but if you have been involved in the chat, you know who I am talking about.

  1. We shall reboot the cooperative with a core group of collaborators, deliberately chosen, and not all white men. I invite all men, including myself, to take a back seat in this process unless explicitly asked by the core group.

  2. We shall make sure we have social infrastructure in place for handling conflict and abuse before launch, including a rock-solid code of conduct that will state our absolute rejection of any form of hate speech, racism, bigotry and *phobia front and center.

  3. We shall grow our core user base deliberately, in small groups, and attempt to tap more diverse networks, to combat the network effects that brought social.coop on the brink of collapse

  4. We shall make sure all the skills and resources needed to maintain the organization are in place from the start and focus on sustainability. We can never find ourselves again in the situation where a single member leaving or being overwhelmed with external responsibilities exposes the instance to the risk of downtime, poor performance or sluggish maintenance.

  5. We will make sure at least one of the core collaborators is an experienced community manager, with previous experience handling diverse, international communities across many timezones.

I chose to stay because I believe we can do much, much better than we did so far, and because I am deeply committed to the idea of platform cooperativism as a means to achieve liberation, justice and equality for all.

At the same time I am painfully aware that my position of absolute privilege, which I am granted under the current capitalist partiarchy, puts me at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to understading the needs of those who are oppressed by the same system.

My position in the new social.coop will therefore be that of an enthusiastic contributor and ally to those who will be part of the core group and nothing more, unless explicitly asked for, as intellectual honesty demands I give up any position in which I could wield even the slightest bit of power.

With respect, hope and unchanged enthusiasm,

EDIT 02/09/18: replaced "take the instance off-line" with "close down registrations" as many members reported it was misleading and suggested we were going to shut down completely.


Nadia B Sat 1 Sep 2018 3:41PM

Sorry to hear that you feel the need to take the instance offline. I'd just like to say as a non-white woman I did not see this place as bigoted at all and I'm surprised at this post.


Michele Kipiel Sat 1 Sep 2018 3:44PM

I am glad to hear this, and I am personally convinced the cooperative isn't inherently a hostile place, but we failed to implement the fundamental safeguards needed to make marginalised members feel safe.


Sam Toland Tue 4 Sep 2018 8:35PM

I am completely mystified by all these allegations - and while I haven't delved into alleged comments etc. it seems like there is a lot of broad brushstrokes accusing a bunch of co-op enthusiasts with overwhelmingly progressive views of being bigoted.


Alan (@alanz) Sat 1 Sep 2018 3:51PM

Being squarely in the privileged demographic called out, I support this process, and will wait patiently for it to unfold. Good luck to those doing the work, I am committed to staying here, when it is reborn.

@h Sat 1 Sep 2018 5:25PM

Thank you for your letter, @michelekipiel. It's a pleasure and an honour to be a member alongside you.


Sat 1 Sep 2018 5:29PM

@michelekipiel Thank you for taking the time and effort to articulate this.


muninn Sat 1 Sep 2018 5:56PM

As somebody not involved in the previous discussions, I'm not thrilled about potentially having the rug pulled out from under me by a server shutdown (apparently so we can all think about what we did?) which I assume would happen before the 1 month deadline to move which I saw elsewhere.


Michele Kipiel Sat 1 Sep 2018 7:06PM

We will work towards not having to pull the rug from below anyone, it's in the interest of us all not to!


muninn Sat 1 Sep 2018 7:15PM

Thanks. It would be great if any elective shutdown could be put to a vote, or at the least, if whatever export tools there are in the current version could be made functional.


Michele Kipiel Sat 1 Sep 2018 7:19PM

If it comes to it, we will make sure every member will be granted the opportunity and the means to migrate elswhere. But I am hopeful we will manage to migrate the instance to new servers in time, and no one will have to move.

I hope we will be able to still offer our service to all our users even in "shut down" mode.

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