Code Of Conduct Dispute Resolution


The Ubuntu Code of Conduct describes the level of behaviour expected of members of the Ubuntu community. Disputes regarding interpretation of the CoC are handled by the CommunityCouncil, but currently there is no process describing the appropriate response to an alleged violation. The CoC Etiquette Guidelines is another document which tries to define certain unacceptable online behaviour in the community.

The need for a defined process

The immediate response to an alleged violation of the CoC is likely to be to deny the breach, and possibly to argue for why it may have been misinterpreted or suggest that it's unreasonable to class this behaviour as a CoC violation. In the event that offense has already been caused, this is likely to make matters worse. If this behaviour is permitted to continue up until the point where the matter can be raised with the community council, there is a risk that the community will be perceived as endorsing this behaviour. This may result in the alienation of potential contributors.

Proposed process

In the event of an allegation of Code of Conduct violation, the initial response should be for the thread of conversation leading to that allegation to be suspended. This should be enforced by the leadership of that branch of the community. If the alleged violator accepts that their behaviour was inappropriate and publicly apologises, the matter should be dropped unless this reflects a pattern of behaviour on the part of the infringer. Otherwise the issue should be raised with the community council or another appropriate body at the first appropriate opportunity. They will then be responsible for determining whether or not the code of conduct was violated, and what the appropriate response should be.

Abuse of this procedure

Bad faith accusations of breach of the code of conduct are clearly unacceptable. If there is any reason to suspect that a false claim of breach has been made, then this in turn may be raised as an issue. In the event of a large number of claims being made in a short time frame, the community council should be consulted for an immediate indication as to whether or not these claims are likely to be perceived as valid. The code of conduct exists in order to ensure that a healthy atmosphere for discussion and productivity exists. It is not to be used to stifle the very discussion that it seeks to encourage.

Alternative process

Please forgive me if posting this is itself a breach of protocol. This is the first time I've used this wiki. The process I am outlining is one that has worked well over the last 6 years in a non-IT discussion group. - Mark Harrison

1: All members of the community are made aware of the need for respect and tolerance.

2: All members of the community are given email contact details to which any perceived abuse should be reported. They are specifically asked NOT to challenge such things on the list / forum.

3: A small group of moderators handle this email as follows: 3i: They put both the complainee and complainant onto "postings need moderator approval" to prevent immediate flame escalation 3ii: They write to the person who has complained, letting them know that they are looking into the matter, and advising them of a likely timescale 3iii: They read the "allegedly infringing" posts, and (as a quorum of at least three) decide whether the complaint is justified.

4ia: If the complaint is felt to be justified, the "moderators" write to the violator, asking them to retract and apologise. 4ib: If the person does so, then no further action is taken 4ic: If the person refuses to do so, then a discussion is entered into. This may (in extremis) lead to the person being banned from the list. (In our experience, this has only happened in cases of blatant, repeated advertising, or regular non-minor offensive language) 4id: If the complaint is felt NOT to be justified, the "moderators" write to the person who complained, explaining why.

5: If the same person become a "repeat offender", then the moderators take an escalatingly tougher line Smile :-)

6: AT NO POINT is the matter discussed on open list, unless the original offender posts an apology.

7: If people start complaining about posts on the list, then THAT thread is shut down, with a reminder about the complaints procedure, and a promise to investigate.


Matthew, Thanks for initiating this process. - Svaksha

I think this is a great start. One thing that needs to be included is the responsbilities of the reporting parties including privacy concerns. I have seen some folks accusing others then not participating in the follow up discussions. In some cases this might have been due to fear of retaliation but anyone who makes an accusation in a public forum (mailing list/forum, etc) needs to feel as though their concerns will be handled fairly and they will not become a target. By the same token, those folks need to be involved in follow up activites and not just "I said my peace, I'm leaving," they should have some responsibility to show just cause and be willing to listen to others points of view. - BelindaLopez

I strongly believe that any form of cencorship is bad for us as a community. Forcefully removing a topic from a discussion group is censorship. I am aware that if communication reaches a certain level of aggressiveness, rules and external help is required. I therefore suggest a mediating procedure that is well established in different societies, legal systems and worked and works well even across borders and language barriers.

  • Both quarreling parties agree to accept the statement of a ruling committee consisting of three uninvolved people
  • Each party chooses on representative of their choice
  • These representatives elect a third person to join the committee to collectively find a solution. This third person can and will be the quorum in the decision process
  • The committee of three will evaluate the matter and find a solution. They will define procedures to resolve the issue (apologies where appropriate, remedies where necessary)
  • The committee will agree on the form of communication internally and a way to communicate results

During the procedure of evaluation it is essential that both quarreling parties remain silent. This can be enforced by terminating conditions for the resolving process. Others may continue the conversation and carry it further. - WolfRogner


I suggest people first try to solve issues without pointing to the CoC. It's IMHO much better to tell people what is considered offensive or inappropriate and why you think that's so from a human/society perspective. That keeps the "threat of law" for cases where it's really needed. It also makes things less offensive towards the "offender" and thus makes a positive reaction from him/her more likely (an official reprimand always hits harder than an unofficial remark). -- JanClaeys

I just found this document and wondered if this was official or still a working draft. -- cprofitt

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