Internet Engineering Task Force P. Resnick
Internet-Draft Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.
BCP: 25 A. Farrel
Updates: 2418 (if approved) Juniper Networks
Intended status: Best Current Practice March 5, 2015
Expires: September 6, 2015

IETF Anti-Harassment Procedures


IETF Participants must not engage in harassment while at IETF meetings, virtual meetings, social events, or on mailing lists. This document lays out procedures for managing and enforcing this policy.

This document updates RFC 2418.

Status of This Memo

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This Internet-Draft will expire on September 6, 2015.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction

The IETF has general policies for managing disruptive behavior in the context of IETF activities. In particular, [RFC7154] provides a set of guidelines for personal interaction in the IETF, and [RFC2418] and [RFC3934] give guidelines for how to deal with disruptive behavior that occurs in the context of IETF working group face-to-face meetings and on mailing lists.

However, there is other problematic, often more interpersonal, behavior that can occur in the context of IETF activities (meetings, mailing list discussions, or social events) that does not directly disrupt working group progress, but nonetheless is unacceptable behavior between IETF Participants. This sort of behavior, described in the IESG Statement on an "IETF Anti-Harassment Policy", is not easily dealt with by our previously existing working group guidelines and procedures. Therefore, this document sets forth procedures to deal with such harassing behavior. These procedures are intended to be used when other IETF policies and procedures do not apply or have been ineffective.

Nothing in this document should be taken to interfere with the due process of law for the legal system under the jurisdiction of which any harassment takes place. Similarly, it does not release any person from any contractual or corporate policies to which they may be subject.

2. Definitions

The following terms are used in this document:

The IESG statement on harassment gives a general definition of harassment as "unwelcome hostile or intimidating behavior -- in particular speech and behavior that is sexually aggressive or intimidates based on attributes like race, gender, religion, age, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity." This document adopts that general definition, but does not attempt to further precisely define behavior that falls under the set of procedures identified here, nor does it attempt to list every possible attribute that might be the basis for harassment, except to note that it may be targeted at an individual, directed at a specific group of people, or more generally impact a broader class of people. In general, disruptive behavior that occurs in the context of an IETF general or working group mailing list, or happens in a face-to-face or virtual meeting of a working group or the IETF plenary, can be dealt with by our normal procedures, whereas harassing behavior that is interpersonal is more appropriately handled by the procedures described here. However, there are plausible reasons to address behaviors that take place during working-group meetings using these procedures. This document gives some guidance to those involved in these situations in order to decide how to handle particular incidents, but the final decision will involve judgment and the guidance of the Ombudsteam.

Any definition of harassment prohibited by an applicable law can be subject to this set of procedures.

3. The Ombudsteam

This section describes the role of the Ombudsteam in terms of the appointment of Ombudspersons, their qualifications and training, the length of the term of service, any recompense for their service, and how they may be removed from service. The general operational procedures for the Ombudsteam are described in Section 4, Section 5, and Section 6.

3.1. Size of the Ombudsteam

The Ombudsteam shall comprise no fewer than three people. From time to time, the size may fall below that number owing to changes in membership, but the team will be rapidly brought up to size through new appointments. The team may be grown to a larger size as described in Section 3.2

3.2. Appointing the Ombudsteam

The Ombudsteam is appointed by the IETF Chair. The appointment is solely the responsibility of the IETF Chair who may choose to consult with members of the IETF community.

The IETF Chair is encouraged to appoint at least some of the Ombudsteam from within the IETF community.

The IETF Chair may choose to solicit nominations or advertise the post. This is entirely at the discretion of the IETF Chair.

The IETF Chair is also free to decide to appoint more than three Ombudspersons to the Ombudsteam. This may depend on the skillsets available, the work load, and the opinions of the seated Ombudsteam. Furthermore, the IETF Chair may consider elements of diversity in making this decision.

3.3. Professional Advisors

It is recognized that the Ombudsteam may need to call on professional services from external advisors for certain matters including legal and Human Resources (HR) advice. The IETF is committed to funding such advice on an "as needed" basis.

3.4. Qualifications and Training

It is not expected that there will be candidates with all of the necessary ombudsperson skills and training who also have a clear understanding and familiarity with the IETF processes and culture. The Chair might choose someone with a great deal of professional experience evaluating and mediating harassment disputes, but little exposure to the IETF, or could select someone with more exposure to the IETF community, but without as much experience dealing with issues of harassment. Since all of these attributes may be regarded by the IETF Chair as essential for the team, the IETF is committed to providing training (or funding for it) as deemed necessary for appointed Ombudspersons. In determining the appropriate training, the IETF chair and Ombudsteam shall take professional advice and will consult with the IAOC with respect to the overall IETF budget.

3.5. Term of Service

An Ombudsperson shall be appointed for a two year term. That is, the Ombudsperson is making a commitment to serve for two years. It is understood, however, that circumstances may lead an Ombudsperson to resign for personal or other reasons. See also Section 3.7.

If an Ombudsperson's term ends while they are acting as Lead Ombudsperson for a report as described in Section 4, that Ombudsperson's term shall be extended until the handling of that report has been completed.

It is entirely at the discretion of the IETF Chair whether a serving Ombudsperson is reappointed at the end of their term. Given the sensitivity of, and training required for, this role and the ideal being a lack of activity, it is likely the IETF chair may choose to re-appoint a successful and still-willing ombudsperson for a number of two year terms.

3.6. Recompense

An Ombudsperson shall receive no recompense for their services. This includes, but is not limited to:

The IETF will, however, meet the costs of training when agreed to by the IETF Chair as described in Section 3.4.

3.7. Removal

The IETF Chair may remove a serving Ombudsperson before the end of their term without explanation to the community. Such an action shall be appealable as described in Section 3.8.

An Ombudsperson shall not be removed from service, even if their term has expired, during the period that the IETF Chair is recused as described in Section 7. Once the case that led to the Chair being recused has been closed, normal processes resume.

3.8. Disputes with the IETF Chair regarding the Ombudsteam

If an individual should disagree with an action taken by the IETF Chair regarding the appointment, removal, or management of an Ombudsperson or the Ombudsteam, that person should first discuss the issue with the IETF Chair directly. If the IETF Chair is unable to resolve the issue, the dissatisfied party may appeal to the IESG as a whole. The IESG shall then review the situation and attempt to resolve it in a manner of its own choosing. The procedures of Section 6.5.4 of [RFC2026] apply to this sort of appeal.

4. Handling Reports of Harassment

Any IETF Participant who believes that they have been harassed, or that any other IETF Participant or group of IETF Participants has been or may have been harassed, may bring the concern to the attention of any serving Ombudsperson. This can be done by email to "", or can be done directly to a chosen Ombudsperson. Direct contact information for the Ombudsteam, including the email addresses to which "" is forwarded, can be found at

When a Reporter brings an incident of potential harassment to the attention of the Ombudsteam, a single Ombudsperson shall be designated as the primary contact person (the Lead Ombudsperson) for the report. When the Reporter contacts a single Ombudsperson, that Ombudsperson shall be the Lead Ombudsperson for the report unless mutually agreed between the Reporter and that Ombudsperson.

The Lead Ombudsperson may share any information regarding the report with the rest of the Ombudsteam except when an Ombudsperson is recused (see Section 7). If a Reporter believes that a member of the Ombudsteam should recuse themself, they should make this known to the Lead Ombudsperson as soon as possible.

The Lead Ombudsperson will discuss the events with the Reporter and may give advice including recommendations on how the Reporter can handle the issue on their own as well as strategies on how to prevent the issue from arising again. The Lead Ombudsperson may also indicate that the issue would be best handled using regular IETF procedures (such as those for dealing with disruptive behavior) outside the context of harassment, and in this case the Lead Ombudsperson will provide assistance in using the relevant IETF procedures. Otherwise, with agreement to proceed from the Subject (or the Reporter if there is no individual Subject), the Ombudsteam may initiate detailed investigation of the matter, and may subsequently impose a remedy as described in Section 5.

4.1. Ombudsteam Operating Practices

The Ombudsteam is responsible for devising and documenting their operating practices. These practices must be discussed with the IESG and published in a publicly visible place (such as on the IETF web site). Discussion with the IETF community is encouraged and, while IETF consensus is not necessary, significant objection to the processes that are not addressed should result in an [RFC2026] Section 6.5.3 appeal and/or a recall petition against the IETF Chair (and the rest of the IESG if appropriate) if they do not address the concern.

The practices must include at least the following high-level components:

When investigating reports of harassment and determining remedies, it is up to the Ombudsteam whether they choose to act as a body or delegate duties to the Lead Ombudsperson.

5. Remedies

After examining the circumstances regarding the complaint of harassment the Ombudsteam should prepare a brief summary of the incident and their conclusions and discuss this with all parties. The objective of this step is to make clear what the Ombudsteam has concluded, and to make an attempt at getting all parties to reach agreement.

If the Ombudsteam determines that harassment has taken place, the Ombudsteam is expected to determine the next action.

5.1. Purpose of Remedies

The purpose of the anti-harassment policy is to prevent all incidents of harassment in the IETF. The set of procedures documented here serves to provide a mechanism whereby any harassment that occurs can be reported and handled both sympathetically and effectively. The policy also sends a clear message that the IETF does not tolerate harassment in any form.

However any remedy is imposed to try to make sure that the incident does not escalate and to ensure that a similar situation is unlikely to occur with the same Respondent in the future.

Because the handling of incidents of harassment (including the imposition of remedies) is confidential, an imposed remedy cannot itself serve as a deterrent to others, nor can it be used to "teach" the community how to behave. ([RFC7154] gives guidelines for conduct in the IETF.) Furthermore, a remedy is not to be imposed for the purposes of retribution. However, the knowledge of the existence of a range of remedies and of processes by which they can be applied serves both as a statement of the IETF's seriousness in this matter, and as a deterrent to potential offenders.

The Ombudsteam is expected to apply the above considerations, as well as proportionality and reasonableness, in selecting a remedy. They are asked to consider the impact of the remedy on the Respondent as well as on the Subject.

6. Disputes with the Ombudsteam

If either the Subject (or the Reporter if there is no individual Subject) or the Respondent is dissatisfied with the decision of the Ombudsteam, the dissatisfied party should first contact the Lead Ombudsperson and discuss the situation. If the issue cannot be resolved through discussion with the Lead Ombudsperson, the issue may be raised with the IETF Chair.

If necessary, the IETF Chair may recuse themself from any part of this process (see Section 7) and request the IESG to select another of its members to serve in this role. This IESG member is known as the "delegated IESG member".

The IETF Chair (or the delegated IESG member if the Chair is recused) will attempt to resolve the issue in discussion with the dissatisfied party and the Lead Ombudsperson. If this further discussion does not bring a satisfactory resolution, the Ombudsteam's decision may be formally appealed. The appeal is strictly on the issue of whether the Ombudsteam exercised due diligence in both their decision as to whether harassment had taken place, as well as in their determination of any appropriate remedy that was imposed. In particular, the purpose of the appeal is not to re-investigate the circumstances of the incident or to negotiate the severity of the remedy.

All elements of the appeal, including the fact of the appeal, will be held in confidence, but will be recorded and held securely for future reference.

The appeal will be evaluated by the IETF Chair (or the delegated IESG member) and two other members of the IESG selected by the IETF Chair (or the delegated IESG member) and confirmed by the appellant. This Appeals Group shall convene as quickly as possible to evaluate and determine the appeal. Where the impacts are immediate and related to participation in an ongoing meeting, this shall happen in no more than 24 hours after receiving the appeal. The Appeals Group may ask the appellant and the Lead Ombudsperson for statements or other information to consider. If the Appeals Group concludes that due diligence was exercised by the Ombudsteam, this shall be reported to the appellant and the matter is concluded. If the Appeals Group finds that due diligence was not exercised, the Appeals Group shall report this to the Ombudsteam, and consult with the Ombudsteam on how to complete the due diligence.

Because of the need to keep the information regarding these matters as confidential as possible, the Appeals Group's decision is final with respect to the question of whether the Ombudsteam has used due diligence in their decision. The only further recourse available is to claim that the procedures themselves (i.e., the procedures described in this document) are inadequate or insufficient to the protection of the rights of all parties. Such a claim may be made in an appeal to the Internet Society Board of Trustees, as described in Section 6.5.3 of [RFC2026]. Again, even in this circumstance, the particulars of the incident at hand will be held in confidence.

7. Conflicts of Interest

In the event of any conflict of interest, the conflicted person (member of the Ombudsteam, member of the Appeals Group, IETF Chair, etc.) is expected to recuse themselves.

A conflict of interest may arise if someone involved in the process of handling a harassment report is in the role of Reporter, Respondent, or Subject. Furthermore, a conflict of interest arises if the person involved in the process of handling a harassment report is closely associated personally or through affiliation with any of the Reporter, Respondent, or Subject.

For the avoidance of doubt, recusal in this context means completely stepping out of any advisory or decision-making part of any process associated with handling a harassment report, remedy arising from a harassment report, or appeal into the handling of a harassment report. That means that a recused person has no more right to participate in or witness the process than any other person from the community in the same situation. For example, therefore, an Ombudsperson subject to a complaint of harassment shall not be privy to the deliberations of another Ombudsperson handling the report. Nor would an IESG member who was party to an appeal be able to witness the discussions of the Appeals Group.

In the event that there is an appeal and the IETF Chair is somehow involved, the Chair will immediately recuse themself and the IESG will select a single person to take the Chair's role in the appeal process as described in Section 6.

8. IANA Considerations


9. Security Considerations

"Human beings the world over need freedom and security that they may be able to realize their full potential." -- Aung San Suu Kyi

10. Acknowledgements

The text in this document benefited from the lively discussion on the mailing list. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Specific changes to this document resulted from comments by Abdussalam Baryun, Alessandro Vesely, S Moonesamy, Timothy B. Terriberry, John Levine, Andrea Glorioso, Dave Crocker, John Leslie, Linda Klieforth, Brian Carpenter, Mary Barnes, Spencer Dawkins, Michael StJohns, Alissa Cooper, James Woodyatt, and Stephen Farrell. The authors would like to express their gratitude.

The authors would also like to acknowledge the legal review provided by Scott Young and David Wilson from Thompson Hine LLP.

11. Normative References

[RFC2026] Bradner, S., "The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 3", BCP 9, RFC 2026, October 1996.
[RFC2418] Bradner, S., "IETF Working Group Guidelines and Procedures", BCP 25, RFC 2418, September 1998.
[RFC3934] Wasserman, M., "Updates to RFC 2418 Regarding the Management of IETF Mailing Lists", BCP 25, RFC 3934, October 2004.
[RFC7154] Moonesamy, S., "IETF Guidelines for Conduct", BCP 54, RFC 7154, March 2014.

Authors' Addresses

Pete Resnick Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. 5775 Morehouse Drive San Diego, CA 92121 US Phone: +1 858 651 4478 EMail:
Adrian Farrel Juniper Networks EMail: