Digital Code of Conduct

MOLA’s community rules for safe and constructive online interactions

MOLA’s Digital Code of Conduct – our community rules for safe engagement on our digital channels (launched 9 September 2021) https://www.mola.org.uk/digital-code-of-conduct

I am very proud to say that this week at MOLA we launched our Digital Code of Conduct.

The code presents our public-facing community rules for audiences who engage with us on social media, on our apps and elsewhere. It has taken more than a year to develop, including 14 iterations and feedback from dozens of team members across MOLA. You can read more about the context for it on this blog post, including links to the many people and organisations who have inspired it.

This Code of Conduct grows directly out of requests and feedback from my colleagues and others who interact with us online, and the current version has seen many additions after multiple rounds of consultation. Some of you will know my own experiences of many years of persistent and extreme sexual harassment through web/social media, which left me feeling quite helpless as I was expected to act in a public-facing role without tools to manage the associated problems that come with such visibility.

I have published on my personal experience, done collaborative research on the extent to which others in the profession have been subject to such harassment, taught on multiple massive open online courses focused on safe digital engagements (e.g., Becoming a Digital Citizen), and follow along with the work of others who continue to decry the lack of safeguards around archaeology’s digital social practices and who advocate for change (e.g., Chris WakefieldLorna RichardsonMeghan Dennis). I’ve developed field-based codes of conduct, and have been profoundly influenced by the work of others doing the same in their contexts of work (e.g., Ben Marwick, DigVentures).

Since moving to MOLA, I’ve been learning how to roll out such policies and other initiatives at a much broader scale. So for those of you who are interested in the process of development of something like this, which has organisation-wide implications, not to mention impacts on MOLA’s many followers, we created a very early rough draft last summer. (Note that the Code sits alongside a MOLA internal social media policy.) It went through several versions and then was circulated simultaneously to our leadership team and to representatives of key groups in the organisation (e.g., our Network for Ethnically Diverse Staff, our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Working Group). A new draft was then circulated to the full engagement team (around 25 people), who are at the front lines of our public work. Further edits were made and a final round of feedback was sought from those who had provided extensive input into the process.

The current version of the Code has

  • Revised wording to be clear about what we will not tolerate, and to increase the readability of the code
  • Headings for different sections of the code to make it easier to digest, and to group together common themes
  • A specific section that makes clear who our audiences should contact if they have concerns or want to report matters that we haven’t yet attended to
  • New points about the occasional instances in which we might screenshot and archive posts, when these screenshots would be anonymised (most of the time), and when they would not be anonymised (if documenting threatening or discriminatory behaviour)
  • A point to acknowledge that in commenting on or otherwise engaging with others’ posts, MOLA may draw more attention to individuals. If they experience problems, we ask them to contact us so we can do our best to support them
  • An extension to include other platforms like the CITiZAN app where audiences are contributing content that could be threatening or discriminatory to others or to MOLA’s own team
  • An extended distribution plan to account for suggestions from staff about making better use of pinned posts, profile descriptions, and client networks and professional documents
  • A section in the code that makes it clear what we consider reasonable working hours for those engaged in monitoring our platforms
  • A point about personal privacy to make explicit what would happen if particular forms of personal data are shared

Per the bullets above, we created a distribution plan that also went through several rounds of development and elaboration. With this in mind, we will see the code included in inductions, in our training programmes, in future media skills development sessions, and in documentation for clients and collaborators.

I wanted to give a special shout out to Emily Wilkes, the CITiZAN team, the Thames Discovery Programme team, and our new Head of Communications, Andrew Henderson-Schwartz, who were essential in bringing the code into being. If you have questions, ideas or past experience in embedding such codes into everyday practice, I really welcome your feedback, as do the team at MOLA.