Background

In recent years, a small but vocal minority in tech has begun using technical events as a platform to make political statements about the acceptability of views held by speakers and attendees, even when those speakers and attendees do not bring their views into technical events. This is achieved by using social media to pressure event organizers into banning a targeted individual in response to something the person has said in an unrelated community.

While we support the right of free association, we also strongly support civility in a pluralistic society. We think that civility in a pluralistic society requires that individuals coexist in professional contexts regardless of differences in ideology.

Beyond our desire for civil society, the primary mission of FIOL, and many other professional organizations, is not social justice. Our mission is to advance the software engineering industry. Many other organizations exist to advance particular social agendas, and we encourage people working for social change to contribute to such organizations.

The LambdaConf Controversy

Our current views on this issue emerged from an incident in early 2016.

In April 2016, FIOL’s own LambdaConf event was attacked for refusing to ban a speaker with unpopular political views, whose anonymized proposal had been accepted by a blind committee. Activists attempted to shut down the conference by pressuring speakers and sponsors to withdraw, organizing protest petitions, and otherwise working behind the scenes to harm attendance.

Until the LambdaConf controversy, most conferences attacked for similar reasons were either destroyed (due to insufficient funds) or they caved to demands made on social media. LambdaConf staunchly refused to alter its position and was prepared to accept any consequences of this decision.

With the help of Status 451 (a free speech advocacy blog), a fundraiser was launched to support LambdaConf. LambdaConf ended up raising $40,000 with this campaign. Dozens of speakers volunteered to take the place of those who backed out, and new sponsors came in to help cover the costs for the event.

Thanks to all the support, the conference sold out beyond capacity, the event was a tremendous success, and FIOL ended up more financially secure than ever before.

A Fateful Alliance

After successfully weathering the LambdaConf controversy, we at FIOL decided that we would use our experience to support other organizations who wish to take a stand in refusing to impose ideological purity tests on speakers and attendees.

The result of this effort is FATE.

Statement of Purpose

The Fantasyland Alliance of Technical Events (FATE) is an alliance composed of technical conferences and events that wish to promote professional research and education, without regard for the religious, political, and personal beliefs and attitudes of participants, and regardless of pressure from media. Alliance members are required to foster professional environments that are free of discrimination, harassment, stereotyping, and denigration.

The alliance provides members a variety of benefits, including recommendations for robust speaker and sponsor selection processes, assistance for weathering a social mob, and access to a network of backup speakers.

Application and Agreement

  • Upon submitting an application to join FATE, we will carefully review your application. We will reject applications for events that do not conform to the principles embodied by FCOP, or that appear to have been submitted in bad faith.

  • You do not have to use Fantasyland Institute of Learning Code of Professionalism (FCOP), but if you have your own Code of Conduct, we will need to review it carefully as part of your application.

  • You must agree to our conditions and terms of use, and sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that protects the information that we provide you with.

Benefits

  • We will provide templates that can be used during attendee signup, speaker selection, and sponsor signing to help ensure everyone planning to participate in your event will respect your desire for professional civility.

  • We will provide a list of sponsors known to back out of conferences for political reasons to assist organizers in choosing stable sponsors.

  • We will coordinate and launch an independent fundraiser in the event of an attack on your event due to the unrelated views of one of your participants. We will assemble alliance members to promote and contribute to the fundraiser.

  • We will coordinate with other members of FATE to send speakers, promote fundraisers, and so forth, in the event that you are attacked.

Cost

  • Members must commit to providing a safe environment that is welcoming to all people, and which actively protects against discrimination, harassment, stereotyping, and denigration.

  • Members may not screen, ban, or otherwise discriminate against participants based on religious, political, or other views, or the expression thereof in separate, unrelated communities. They are welcome to prevent the expression of such views inside their communities for the duration of their events.

  • Members must assist with speaker backfill, sponsor referral, issuing a statement, and fundraiser promotion in the event of an attack on a fellow FATE member.

  • There is a small membership fee that helps pay for costs associated with your membership. However, this fee is waived for all small and free events, and heavily discounted for non-profits.

Withdrawal Process

  • Members may not withdraw as a result of media pressure. To enforce this, there is a 60 day cool-off period after a media event, during which withdrawal from FATE is not allowed.

  • The withdrawal process itself takes 60 days to complete.