Europeian Admin Team Statement On TSP Bannings

HEM

,,,,,,,,
Forum Administrator
Honoured Citizen
Our administrative team generally does not make statements that extend outside of Europeia, as we believe our mission is almost exclusively an internal one. We have no desire to routinely police behavior within other regions, or worse, become some kind of pseudo-political entity that is a part of the In-Character political process of this game.

However, as individual admins, many of us have spent the last several years working with admins from other regions to establish norms and standards for administrative teams that create a clear separation between In-Character game interactions and Out of Character actions that require “suspension of the game” and immediate action outside the gameplay of Nationstates. We believe that the recent actions by the South Pacific Admin Team put that work in dire jeopardy.

To briefly summarize our vision of Administrative action, we have to recognize that the game and community surrounding Nationstates is made up of “In Character” and “Out of Character” components. When we say “In Character” we mean anything that has to do with the gameplay of Nationstates.net and the various regions and entities contained within. “In Character” is, at the most basic point, anything that people sign up to do at Nationstates.net.

“Out of Character” is those things that are not a part of the gameplay. These are things dealing specifically with “real life”. While this might be intuitive to some, we want to really spell out the difference here with some examples that also address grey areas.


— HEM blackmailing Souls by threatening to tell The Pacific about Souls’ plan to coup is in-character and no action should be taken by admins.
— HEM blackmailing Souls by threatening to post RL pictures of Souls in a public chat is out-of-character and admins would be right to take action.
—HEM making a scathing post on Europeia’s forum accusing Sopo of being an awful President, say because of the drama between Europeia and Osiris, is in-character and no action should be taken by admins
— HEM threatening to send a letter to Sopo’s college to get him thrown out over the drama between Europeia and Osiris is out-of-character and admins would be right to take action.


Parsing this distinction is important because to make Nationstates safer it is essential that administrative bans are not seen as political.

As Nationstates.net staff have declined responsibility for any offsite behavior, it is imperative that local administrative teams are empowered to moderate their communities and that those bans are taken seriously by the rest of Nationstates. When doubt and skepticism enter administrative decisions, it means that bans may be up for dispute and that dangerous players may be allowed to continue playing the game.

So, in order to prevent the appearance of administrative bans being political, and maintaining the trust in such bans across many different gameplay communities, it is necessary that all administrative bans only handle matters that are out-of-character. By litigating in-character matters, administrative teams become in-character institutions that are subject to all the scrutiny and skepticism that gameplay politics brings with it. That would be disastrous, and this cannot be emphasized enough. 'Our RP Courts wouldn't allow it' is reasoning that will not be heard when faced with IRL legal complaints, so admin teams need to have the trust and credibility to act unilaterally.

It is for that reason that Europeia’s Administrative team is concerned by The South Pacific’s ban of Tim and Escade on grounds that appear to be In-Character.

The bulk of the evidence for this ban, as offered by sandaoguo (Glen-Rhodes) on the South Pacific forum seems to be testimony from other players. When asked about warnings, sandaoguo says that, “Though it wasn't given by any admins, the motion of no confidence was the original ‘warning,’ but being an inherently political IC act, it wasn't treated with the level of seriousness it deserved.” This quote was extremely alarming to us, as no “political IC act” should serve as a warning or have any place in adjudicating administrative bans. Sandaoguo has since said that his remarks there were suggesting that a motion of no confidence should have served as some kind of early wake up call to Escade and Tim, not that it was a formal process in TSP’s administrative investigation. Regardless, we find it concerning that when asked what “warnings” the parties were given, an in-character event was even brought up as relevant.

When Tsunamy enters the thread, the evidence provided is blatantly in-character. He says it’s impossible to lay the evidence out effectively, but that, “For two of the more recent examples, we have the continued smearing of Glen through his friend [sic] with Unibot and the assertion that Roavin was purposefully delaying votes.” Both examples are of negative but legitimate political tactics.

When questioned by long-time TSP member Drugged Monkeys, Tsunamy provides additional evidence that is all links to heated debates in in-character threads.

How Tsunamy sums the matter up, also sums up the core of our concern: “For me, it ultimately came down to this choice: Are we going to alienate a majority of the community in order to keep Escade and Tim, who are largely smarting from Roavin's motion of no confidence?”

Before making this statement, the Europeian Administrative team reached out to the South Pacific Administrative Team for any evidence that could be imparted to us confidentially, admin team to admin team. We were told that they would ask those who gave testimony if it could be shared, but that, “[Tim and Escade’s] actions in TSP aren’t enough, in our opinion, to warrant bans anywhere but TSP.”

The totality of this evidence leaves us convinced that, ultimately, the administrative bans on Tim and Escade were based primarily on in-character events and should not have been executed. It may be that there is evidence out there of out-of-character misfeasance by Tim and Escade, but we have not seen it. And even if there were, the blurring of lines between in-character and out-of-character action still represents a threat to effective administrative action in future. We are concerned about the role of IC processes in the OOC admin ban adjudication process. We are concerned about the reference of IC threads as evidence for the ban. Perhaps most alarming of all, the open admission that public opinion played a role in the decision is a source of grave and immediate concern.

Now, it has been suggested by some that these in-character events can become out-of-character problems because they serve as a trigger to some players’ real life mental health illnesses. While we are not unsympathetic to that, when establishing what it is in-character and what is out-of-character we have to consider the context of Nationstates.net. That is to say, Nationstates is a political simulator game. There is a reasonable expectation for all participants that there will be politics, which occasionally includes harsh politics. This is a reasonable expectation for anyone who opts-in to a political game. For those who don’t like intense politics, it is more realistic to ask those folks to confine themselves to the social aspect of Nationstates or find another game more to their liking than to suggest we should remove politics from an inherently political game. It simply isn’t fair to all the players who come here for the core function of the game, and it certainly isn’t fair to ban people for playing the game as it was constructed. It’s akin to several new players joining monopoly, and saying that dealing with money is stressful to them and then deciding to play without it.

This is all a fancy way of saying that the bar for what might be considered “harassment” is much different in a political game than it might be if someone chose instead to spend their time on Club Penguin, or even a privately owned forum that discussed casual cultural topics. Furthermore, regional communities have more appropriate ways to address these issues. In-character laws can be passed governing what is acceptable behavior and enforced transparently through a region’s court system. Motions of no confidence, censures, or the like may be issued by in-character governments. Players whose behavior is deemed unacceptable may be punished by the community by calling out their behavior and choosing to not vote for them or appoint them to any positions of significance. In other words, there are many in-character ways for a community to address unacceptable in-character behavior.

That isn’t to say we are suggesting that there is never a time where in-game politicking can become out-of-character harassment, but the bar is much higher, and there would require something much more extreme than what the South Pacific administrators have put forward here—not merely playing the political game out in public.

Finally, it has been suggested by the Administrators in the South Pacific that they can’t be expected to run their region the same way that other regions are run. Perhaps their administrative team would like to be more hands-on in administration in order to enforce a regional tranquility? However, that doesn’t alleviate our concern that over-administration of in-character actions puts all of our communities at risk. If players are not confident that administrative decisions are non-political, wholly objective, wholly out-of-character, then administrative teams become just political, in-character entities themselves. It becomes harder to police out-of-character threats when confidence in neutral administration is low. If administrative teams have to worry about public push back over every ban, the potential for the true “bad guys” to roam free in the game increases. That is a danger to all of us, and should be unacceptable.

This is not an issue we should sweep under the rug. This is not an issue that we should dismiss as mere Nationstates Gameplay Forum drama. This is about the safety of players, and the safety of our game. We do not particularly care if some admins chat with Unibot every so often. Such a talking point is immaterial to the true damage that this decision has done to the universal integrity of administrative teams. This decision means that if the Europeian Administrative team comes to Gameplay with a shocking ban (say, something on the level of Brunhilde) it’s very possible that this person will be able to fight back, will be able to say that we’re political, and they may find followers and find sanctuary to continue their activities in this game.

That is an unacceptable risk, and it is the risk that the South Pacific administrators have opened us to with this decision. We assume that their intentions were good, but their conclusion was not, and we implore them to immediately review this decision.

Whether the South Pacific administrators re-examine this decision or not, we urge all regions to establish administrative teams and administrative bans using the best practices we’ve outlined here. That means administrative bans should be for out-of-character reasons only, and ideally, there is as much distance between administrative authorities and in-character political authorities as possible. We recognize this isn’t always possible and the line is not always clear, but making the roles as distinct as possible and making clear when you are talking as an admin, and when you are talking as a political leader, can truly help.

We understand this statement was lengthy, but we felt it had to be. We hope folks have spent the time reading it over, and look forward to playing a safe, fun, game of Nationstates with all of you. Please feel free to contact King HEM with any questions.

/s/
HEM, Chief Administrator
Malashaan, Deputy Chief Administrator
Darcness, Administrator
Lethen, Administrator
Sopo, Administrator
Kuramia, Administrator
 
Interesting statement but why make it now 2 weeks after the fact? Wouldn't the effectiveness have been more efficient had this come out then?
 

Kari

My name is Kari, and I am a Legion of One.
Citizen
Excellent statement reaffirming the position which Admin teams should hold within NS.

Interesting statement but why make it now 2 weeks after the fact? Wouldn't the effectiveness have been more efficient had this come out then?
No, then it would have looked like a knee jerk reaction and could have been discredited itself as politicking.
 

Malashaan

Forum Administrator
Cabinet
Honoured Citizen
Citizen
Excellent statement reaffirming the position which Admin teams should hold within NS.


No, then it would have looked like a knee jerk reaction and could have been discredited itself as politicking.
^this. We spent the time looking into the bans and the facts surrounding them.
 

Izzy

ECP Founder
Deputy Minister
Citizen
Having followed this story for some time, it is good to see our admin team make a statement. I hope the TSP team will take your advice.
 
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