Worries about Matrix.org elections

Written by Lionir

I am worried about Matrix governance because they have power over the most popular server on Matrix and because they have power over what the foundation considers important to develop. I've seen too many projects who have chosen to not prioritise the safety of their members to know that governance is important to not have a space filled with awful people.

In general, my main criticism of matrix is that I believe the moderation tools provided today are wholly inadequate for communities. I am worried that people that move to matrix will be unable to moderate their communities on Matrix for them to be safe, especially for minorised groups (example: LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities).

Here are some statistics about the election that I think are important:

Out of 19 people elected, 14 displayed he/him pronouns. Assuming these are all used by men (which is not necessarily true, pronouns and gender identity do not necessarily correspond), that's around 74% of the board members that are men. Three remaining people (yes, really, just three) use other pronouns and two did not display any pronouns.

Out of 19 people elected, 6 mentioned moderation and/or trust & safety in their platform goals. 4 people mentioned ecosystem diversity. The remaining people mentioned a variety of goals.

When I saw these results, I was was confused why some listed no pronouns at all. When I inquired about it, I was told that it was optional.

That answer made me feel pretty uncomfortable and worried. I've written previously why I believe that normalizing the act of listing pronouns is important. To me, it signalled that these people either did not care about this issue or did not know why it is important in the first place.

I do have to acknowledge that most people did list pronouns (which is good!) but most do still appear to be men.

Now, why does that trouble me? Simply put, and I say this as a man, men are privileged when it comes to gender discrimination. I do understand to a shallow degree perspectives from people who suffer from gender discrimination however I can never speak for them or replace their voice. As a result, I do worry that this board will be ill-suited to deal with issues regarding gender discrimination and the need for better moderation tools.

Furthermore, while there is no demographics survey information, it appears that the board is composed of mostly white people which is concerning for similar reasons.

I think it is worth noting that Josh Simmons did address the issue of representation in the elections post. I've also talked previously about trust & safety with guardians and staff of the foundation where it was acknowledged that the current state of affairs is bad.

After a conversation with Josh Simmons, I've been told that the foundation has taken various actions to address trust & safety concerns and that this would be published in a future blog post.

I hope that the issue of moderation will be taken seriously by the board and that the board will protect marginalized people. I hope that the foundation works on the issue of representation within itself.