At its core, the Virtual U.S. Election Program (USEP) is a platform and gathering space for supporters of elections and democracy worldwide.
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) is dedicated to creating and protecting safe spaces for people, online and off. We strive to treat people with dignity, decency and respect, and to build a community for everyone, free of intimidation, discrimination or hostility — regardless of gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, nationality, origin, race, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, political affiliation or physical appearance. We do not tolerate harassment in any form.
As hosts, our number one priority in planning USEP is to ensure that we take all necessary and appropriate steps to keep the USEP a safe space for open discussions without fear of intimidation or threat of reprisal.
Participants and stakeholders of the USEP community are expected to understand and abide by this Code of Conduct. Anyone who is found to have violated this policy may be sanctioned or asked to leave USEP spaces as a result.
This policy is effective as of October 6, 2020. IFES reserves the right to update this policy and will strive to notify all affected stakeholders of any changes.
Below are some important considerations and processes that we have developed to ensure that USEP continues to be a space that is both inclusive and safe.
USEP is a public event, meaning that anyone can register and attend. While this public registration allows us to be inclusive and representative of diverse voices, we recognize, on the other hand, the potential implications this may have for participants who have taken considerable risk to be present and participate.
To facilitate a shared space that is safe and productive, we will provide specific guidelines on how to engage ahead of every convening.
While USEP is open by design, we do reserve the right to revoke access, or otherwise deny entry to USEP spaces, at any time. We may take these steps in the event that an individual or their organization:
- Presents an unacceptable threat or risk to any member of the USEP community, including IFES staff members and partners;
- Is found to be in violation of our Code of Conduct;
- Is involved in illegal, unethical or violent activity; or
- Otherwise acts contrary to our values.
In all cases, this decision will be a thoughtful and considered action and the decision to revoke access to USEP will be taken very seriously.
Code of Conduct
What Represents a Violation of the Code of Conduct?
IFES prohibits harassment, including sexual harassment, of any kind. Harassment is any verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct designed to threaten, intimidate, silence or coerce. Harassment includes but is not limited to:
- Offensive or unwelcome comments, including epithets, slurs, negative stereotyping and discriminatory remarks disguised as humor, based on gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, age, disability or physical appearance
- Distribution, display or discussion of written or graphic material that ridicules, insults or shows hostility or disrespect toward an individual or group because of gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, age, disability or physical appearance
- Deliberate “outing” of any aspect of a person’s identity without their consent
- Deliberate misgendering or use of rejected names
- Intimidation or silencing, including sustained and deliberate disruption of discussion;
- Threats of violence or incitement of violence, including encouraging a person to commit suicide or to engage in self-harm
- Stalking or following, including repeated one-on-one communication despite requests to cease, unwanted photography or recording, and tracking and logging online activity without consent
- Failure to safeguard confidential or privately shared information, including publication of private communication without consent
- Unwelcome sexual attention, including innuendoes, suggestive comments, jokes of a sexual nature, sexual propositions, lewd remarks, obscene gestures and requests for sexual favors (including repeated and unwelcome requests for dates)
- Distribution, display or discussion of any sexually suggestive written or graphic material, including emails, photos, text messages and tweets, that is gratuitous, off topic or shows hostility or disrespect toward an individual or group
- Attempts at intimidation, retaliation or retribution to someone who has
- Filed or responded to a report of discrimination or harassment
- Appeared as a witness in the processing of a report
- Served as a coordinator of a report
- Encourage, support or assist violations of this Code of Conduct
When and Where Does the Code of Conduct Apply?
This Code of Conduct applies to the IFES Virtual USEP.
IFES’ Virtual USEP Code of Conduct team makes decisions on the basis of reported behavior taking place at IFES spaces — or beyond — that violates the values enshrined in our Code of Conduct.
How to Contact Us About a Violation
We believe that it takes courage to report cases of harassment, and we salute that courage. We also understand that users at risk, including victims of harassment, often are in a less privileged position than the person conducting the harassment, and face more barriers to speaking out, including social stigma. We commit to continually improving our support for survivors and efforts to prevent future harms.
If you are being harassed by a participant or stakeholder of the USEP community, notice that someone else is being harassed or have concerns about other conduct, please contact us as soon as possible. IFES has designated staff for receiving reports and an established procedure for handling incidents of harassment.
Contact us via email (including encrypted email): You can share information via email at USEP@ifes.org. Again, what you share will be received by IFES' Code of Conduct team.
In each of these cases, you have the option of providing your contact information if you would like to be available for further follow-up, or to be kept informed of any actions that have been taken.
We understand that talking about an incident that you experience or witness can be upsetting. We will make every effort to respond with sensitivity and respect, and we encourage you to share the information in any way that makes you feel comfortable, including copying or bringing someone along to support you when you contact us. You will not be asked to confront others or engage in the response process for a violation of the Code of Conduct.
How We Respond to Information About Violations
In addition to responding to reports from participants, IFES staff will be monitoring the live events, social media and chats. In the case that a credible violation is flagged to the Code of Conduct team, the coordinator will gain concurrence from at least one other member of the Code of Conduct team and execute an action to stabilize the situation, which may include revoking access to the site, deleting posts or comments or reporting the offending party to their organization, when practicable. In instances where the Code of Conduct team has reason to believe that violators are creating new logins to resume their violating activities, the Code of Conduct team will take expeditious action to again revoke access or delete comments concurrent with the prior decision that was made without further internal consultation.
For the purpose of protecting survivors of harassment, IFES will not name survivors without their affirmative consent.
During and after the report handling process, IFES and those involved will protect the confidentiality of the information we receive, the privacy of the individuals involved and the wishes of the reporting individual insofar as is legally possible, and as is compatible with the safe implementation of the chosen remedy and protection of the community.
In addition, any notes or documents written by or received by the person(s) conducting the report-handling process will be kept confidential to the extent possible and according to any applicable existing state or federal law.
These guidelines are adapted from those created by AccessNow for RightsCon 2020. Thank you, AccessNow!