Internet-Draft IETF Community Moderation July 2023
Eggert, et al. Expires 7 January 2024 [Page]
Network Working Group
Intended Status:
Best Current Practice
L. Eggert
A. Cooper
J. Arkko
R. Housley
Vigil Security
B. Carpenter
Univ. of Auckland

IETF Community Moderation


This document describes the creation of a moderator team for all of the IETF's various contribution channels. Without removing existing responsibilities for working group management, this team enables a uniform approach to moderation of disruptive participation across all mailing lists and other methods of IETF collaboration.

About This Document

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This Internet-Draft will expire on 7 January 2024.

1. Introduction

This document proposes the creation of a moderator team for all of the IETF's various contribution channels. This moderator team is modeled after, and subsumes, the moderator team for the IETF discussion list [RFC9245].

2. Conventions and Definitions

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all capitals, as shown here.

3. Motivation

The IETF community has defined general guidelines of conduct for personal interaction in the IETF [RFC7154], and the IESG has defined an anti-harassment policy for the IETF [AHP] for which the IETF community has defined anti-harassment procedures [RFC7776], empowering an ombudsteam [OT] to take necessary action.

Dealing with disruptive behavior, however, is not part of the role of the ombudsteam. [RFC3934] task the chairs of each IETF working group with moderating their group's in-person meetings and mailing lists, and an IESG statement [MODML] describes additional guidance to working group chairs. For IETF mailing lists not associated with a working group, another IESG statement clarifies [DP] that the list administrators are tasked with moderation. And the IETF list for general discussions has, mostly for historic reasons, a team of moderators that are not list administrators and operate by a different set of processes [RFC9245].

In addition, [RFC3683] defines a process for revoking an individual's posting rights to IETF mailing lists following a community last-call of a "PR-action" proposed by the IESG, often in response to complaints from the community.

This fractured approach to moderation of disruptive participation through chairs, list administrators, and moderator teams, combined with the IESG-led process of PR-actions, has proven to be less than ideal:

  • The IETF community has not been able to agree on a common definition of disruptive behavior. Therefore, chairs and list administrators apply individually different criteria when making decisions, and participants have different expectations for when PR-actions are warranted.
  • The moderation process that chairs and list administrators need to follow [RFC3934] is slow and cumbersome, which makes it ill-suited to situations that escalate quickly. It also assumes that the originator of disruptive behavior is a misguided participant that can be reasoned with and who will change their ways.
  • Chairs and list administrators may only enact moderation actions for their single list, which is ill-suited when a pattern of disruptive behavior spans multiple lists. Also, chairs and list administrators may not be fully aware of disruptive behavior that spans multiple lists, due to not being subscribed to some of the affected.
  • PR-actions, which can address disruptive behavior across several lists, are cumbersome and slow, and the community has not been able to agree on a common definition of disruptive behavior. This has led to a situation where PR-actions are rarely used, and when they are used, they are perceived as very heavy-handed.
  • For a given mailing list, participants may not feel comfortable reporting disruptive behavior to a chair or list administrator, for various reasons. For mailing lists not associated with working groups, list administrators are not even publicly identified - they can only be contacted through an anonymous alias address. This exacerbates the problem, because participants may not be comfortable reporting disruptive behavior to an anonymous party.
  • The IETF offers participation not only through in-person meetings and mailing lists, which are the two channels of participation for which moderation processes are currently defined. IETF business also happens in chat channels, remote meeting participation systems, virtual meetings, wikis, GitHub repositories, and more. How disruptive behavior is moderated in these channels is currently undefined.

4. IETF Moderator Team

This document proposes a different, uniform approach to moderating the IETF's various participation channels: a moderator team for the IETF. The creation of this team intends to address the issues identified in Section 3.

4.1. Scope

This IETF moderator team consists of a small number of individuals (no less than three) that SHALL moderate all the IETF's various current and future participation channels. At present, these include mailing lists, chat channels, and discussions in other systems that the IETF or WGs have chosen to employ, such as GitHub repositories, Wikis, or issue trackers.

The management and moderation of in-person, remote, and interim meetings remains a task of the relevant group's management, such as WG chairs. However, it is expected that moderators are available for consultation and assistance should issues arise, and they may confer with the group management over potential patterns of behavior.

The moderator team SHALL operate according to a consistent and uniform set of criteria, processes, and actions. The moderator team SHALL independently define and execute their role. They SHALL maintain a public set of moderation criteria, processes, actions, and other material that allows the community to understand and comment on the role of the team. The moderator team SHOULD consider adopting moderation criteria, processes, and actions that other technical communities have found suitable. The moderator team's criteria and processes SHALL be developed with community input, but they are not expected to be documented in the RFC series.

The moderator team MAY initiate moderation actions by itself; individual participants SHOULD also alert the team to disruptive behavior they observe. Participants should be able to contact the moderator team in ways that are, ideally, integrated into the various participation channels the IETF offers.

It is not expected that the moderator team will be monitoring every IETF channel, but rather that participants will proactively flag concerns about disruptive behavior to the moderator team. However, the moderator team SHOULD actively monitor a small set of key participation channels, including, for example, the IETF discussion and last-call mailing lists or the IETF plenary chat channel. The moderator team should decide which channels are in this set based on their own judgement and community suggestions.

4.2. Membership

The IETF Chair appoints members of the moderator team. Apart from appointing moderators, the IETF Chair SHALL refrain from the day-to-day operation and management of the moderator team. The moderator team MAY decide to consult with IETF Chair when needed.

Because the IESG and IAB are in the appeals chain for moderator team decisions (see Section 4.3), the IETF Chair SHOULD NOT appoint a moderator who is serving on the IESG or IAB. Individuals serving on other bodies to which the NomCom appoints members, such as the IETF Trust or the LLC Board, as well as LLC staff and contractors SHALL also be excluded from serving on the moderator team. If a moderator is assuming any such role, they SHALL step down from the moderator team soon after.

4.3. Appeals

Because the moderator team serves at the discretion of the IETF Chair, any moderation decision can be appealed to the IETF Chair, per [RFC2026]. Disagreements with a decision by the IETF Chair can be brought to their attention. If this does not lead to a resolution, the decision can be appealed as described in [RFC2026], as with any other Area Director decision. In this case, the appeals chain starts with an appeal to the entire IESG.

4.4. Team Diversity

Due to the global nature of the IETF, the membership of this team SHOULD reflect a diversity of time zones and other participant characteristics that lets it operate effectively around the clock and throughout the year. Team diversity is also important to ensure any participant observing problematic behavior can identify a moderator they feel comfortable contacting.

4.5. Relation to Ombudsteam

The moderator team SHALL complement the efforts of the IETF ombudsteam [OT], whose focus on anti-harassment and operation SHALL remain unchanged. The moderator team and ombudsteam are expected to work together in cases that may involve both disruptive behavior and harassment; they may determine the most effective way to do so in each case.

The ombudsteam has strict rules of confidentiality. If a moderation case overlaps with an ombudsteam case, confidential information MUST NOT be shared between the teams.

5. Changes to Existing RFCs

Creation of the IETF moderator team requires some changes to existing RFCs and also requires the IESG to update a number of their statements. This section describes these changes.

6. Security Considerations

The usual security considerations [RFC3552] do not apply to this document.

Potential abuse of the moderation process for the suppression of undesired opinions is counteracted by the availability of an appeals process, per Section 4.3.

7. IANA Considerations

This document has no IANA actions.

8. References

8.1. Normative References

Bradner, S., "The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 3", BCP 9, RFC 2026, DOI 10.17487/RFC2026, , <>.
Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, , <>.
Resnick, P. and A. Farrel, "IETF Anti-Harassment Procedures", BCP 25, RFC 7776, DOI 10.17487/RFC7776, , <>.
Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174, , <>.

8.2. Informative References

IESG, "IETF Anti-Harassment Policy", , <>.
IESG, "IESG Statement on Disruptive Posting", , <>.
IESG, "IESG Guidance on the Moderation of IETF Working Group Mailing Lists", , <>.
"Ombudsteam", <>.
Rescorla, E. and B. Korver, "Guidelines for Writing RFC Text on Security Considerations", BCP 72, RFC 3552, DOI 10.17487/RFC3552, , <>.
Rose, M., "A Practice for Revoking Posting Rights to IETF Mailing Lists", BCP 83, RFC 3683, DOI 10.17487/RFC3683, , <>.
Wasserman, M., "Updates to RFC 2418 Regarding the Management of IETF Mailing Lists", BCP 25, RFC 3934, DOI 10.17487/RFC3934, , <>.
Moonesamy, S., Ed., "IETF Guidelines for Conduct", BCP 54, RFC 7154, DOI 10.17487/RFC7154, , <>.
Eggert, L. and S. Harris, "IETF Discussion List Charter", BCP 45, RFC 9245, DOI 10.17487/RFC9245, , <>.


These individuals suggested improvements to this document:

  • Jay Daley

Authors' Addresses

Lars Eggert
Stenbergintie 12 B
FI-02700 Kauniainen
Alissa Cooper
Jari Arkko
FI-02700 Kauniainen
Russ Housley
Vigil Security
Brian E. Carpenter
The University of Auckland
School of Computer Science
PB 92019
Auckland 1142
New Zealand