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July 14, 2001

OSI Harassment Policy Update

The following was posted yesterday by citizenKane2 to UO Stratics:

OSI Harassment Policy Update

The harrassment policy of OSI on the official UO website has been updated.Cynthe posted this on the official UO Boards:
Ever since I came into the UO community, harassment has been a major issue - especially on this board (remembers the never ending harassment thread). Part of it was the fact that there were so many instances of it, and part of it was the fact that our stance was not as cut-and-dry as it should have been.

The way some harassment calls in the past were handled led some people to feel that they were as likely to be punished for using the harassment tool as the harassers themselves. This led to people who were angry about being harassed, but who were afraid to use the tool to do anything about it.

This was a problem.

So it became a goal to see that the harassment policy was updated, and that we made it more clear just what the tool is for, how it's used, and what happens when it's used. We are also updating the policy internally, and our GMs have been in on the process.

For the most part, the policy is unchanged, with the exception of one thing: grief play. In the past, players have been asked to page in for grief play under "Other" instead of "Harassment", since the grief play does not show up in the logs that are reviewed by the Harassment team. However, to make it easier for the players, all harassment, whether physical or verbal, will now be addressed under the Harassment tool.

The important thing to note is that grief play still does need to be witnessed to be verifiable, so if you are paging about physical harassment (in other words, harassment that does not fall into the verbal category and cannot be verified through a chat log), then it needs to be done right away. The GM's cannot determine grief play if it is no longer occuring once they can get there.

This policy has been discussed by many departments here before making it live on the site today, and I'm interested in getting your feedback.

You can find it here:
http://support.uo.com/gm_9.html
Additional information from Teich Dragon was posted today:
Cynthe On The New Harassment Policy

Adressing a lot of player concerns of missusing the new harassment policy, here is a post from Cynthe about that.

I put in the original questions, so you won't get confused again:
Cynthe, I'm sure that consolidating the various methods of reporting problems is a step in the right direction and the fact that the GM's have been a part of this move is encouraging. With that said though, I don't think that this addresses what the real problem in UO is (as far as harassment in general goes).

You are absolutely correct that in the past GM responses to harassment calls have often subjected the "caller" to more problems than those doing the harassing. And, as a result, people tend to just try and ignore it, but that only works to an extent. In my opinion, there are two MAJOR problems with OSI's current harassment policy.

One. You have set the standard for determining harassment much too high and those that are the "professional" harassers, can quote to you chapter and verse of your policy. I've seen some that have a macro explaining all the steps that "the innocent party" must take before the harasser can be punished. Your "move away from the harassment" standard allows the harassers to stake out their territory and virtually do whatever they desire to you while you are there (if they don't cross the race line, that is). If you don't like it, you have to leave. Well, that's a victory for the little harassers and it forces the "innocent" to have to depart from an area that they very well might have a reason for being at. Telling people to "turn on the obscenity filter" to avoid repetitive obscene language is unfair to the "innocent" because that filter system causes them to lag. So, once again, the harasser has won and gets away with impacting the "innocent's" play. All supported, btw, because of OSI's enforcement policy. Right along with this is the fact, that under your current policy, the "professional" harassers can harass virtually ad infinitum...they do it, you must leave. They have a problem only if they follow you. If you run into them later, they get another free shot, and you have to leave. Why? Because in neither of the encounters, is that one instance (forget the fact that this happens everyday), in and of itself, sufficient to meet OSI's standard of harassment.

Two, the ignore feature, which would solve many harassment problems, not only causes you to see no speech whatsoever from the individual, it also prevents the chars from showing up in "all names". And while that may seem insignificant to you, it's important to someone that is constantly involved in PvP. And though I have no evidence of this because I don't use it for stated reason, I suspect that the ignore feature also causes lag (just as the obscenity feature does).

So, combining these is important I guess. But, how does it address the real problem?
Answer from Cynthe:
I do see your point, and it's one that was discussed at length. But in every case of policy, there are two major things to consider.

One - does it do its job well enough? In other words, will this policy solve the problems it is meant to solve, and help innocent people be able to fight back against harassment?

And two - will it cause more problems than it solves? Players can also harass other players by exploiting the harassment feature. Picture a guild that wants to have a specific guy banned from the game. Guild members take turns going up to the guy and mooning him until he finally tells them to *#% off. Then they page harassment for his having said something rude. If we didn't have some kind of standard for seeing that the harasser was intetnionally being rude, and intended to continue doing so, then this kind of thing could happen every day.
In reply to:

Right along with this is the fact, that under your current policy, the "professional" harassers can harass virtually ad infinitum...they do it, you must leave.
This isn't necessarily true - note that in the policy it says that the genuine attempt to get them to stop could also consist of you asking them to stop.

It may seem silly to you to say to someone who is harassing you, "Excuse me, but you are getting no advantage out of killing my horses, and it's making me unable to play. This is getting to the point of harassment - please stop!" But without seeing evidence of some sort of insistence on the harasser's part to continue the harassment, there's often little that can be done.

Picture a driver who gets pulled over for driving 90 in a 55 mph zone. If there were no speed limit sign posted, he might get off the hook, because he could claim that he'd never been told the speed limit was only 55. And this is a good thing, right? Otherwise, law enforcement could simply lower the speed limit wherever they chose, not put up a sign about it, and pull over every car that enters the area for speeding.

In harassment cases, a player could get off the hook if it could be proved that he or she may not have realized they were harassing someone. And in some cases it could be true - some players simply are used to acting a certain way, and don't even realize that their behavior is being seen as harassment. So we ask players to take the first step, whether that be leaving the area or asking the harassing player to stop the harassing actions - either way, we need to be sure that it was made clear to the harassing player that they are harassing someone. That way the player knows, and the GM knows, that if the behavior continued, then the harassing player knew full well that it was being considered harassment.

Our goal is to find the best balance possible between making sure that players can fight harassment, without innocent players having to play in fear of being labeled as harassers when they are not.

___________________
Cynthe
Community Manager
Ultima Online
ORIGIN Systems

Posted by Nobody at July 14, 2001 11:19 AM

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