Debugging conference anti-harassment policies
Posted Feb 1, 2011 0:12 UTC (Tue) by gdt
Parent article: Debugging conference anti-harassment policies
We sponsored linux.conf.au confident that the anti-harassment policy agreed to by speakers and other participants would minimise the risk of damage to our brand. To have a speaker -- a keynote speaker -- be well aware of that policy and to ignore that policy is so outrageous I don't hold the organisers responsible for not considering it likely. It is a betrayal of the trust that organisers necessarily place in speakers.
This is not a matter of free speech. If Mr Pesce felt strongly that the images were integral to the message then he could have chosen a conference with a different policy. Or, since Australia is a very free country, used a local park. If his message is compelling as some people are using to explain his behaviour, then doubtless he would find an audience without requiring the podium at linux.conf.au.
Mr Pesce places linux.conf.au in a difficult position. The only way to prevent this sort of betrayal in the future is to vet the slides of all speakers -- even the keynote talks of distinguished people. I find that very sad.
A short apology to attendees, which is then contradicted by making available the same imagery from his website, is hardly adequate expression of remorse to organisers and sponsors for the amount of time and trouble his talk has caused.
I have long enjoyed sponsoring linux.conf.au, but the actions of high profile speakers last year and this year are making continued sponsorship of linux.conf.au a career-limiting move. The event is rapidly moving from one I sponsor because I wish to help the development of free software in return for the large benefit it has given our organisation, to one where every year's sponsorship seems to bring some new nightmare. This is not a reflection on the organising committee, but upon some speakers.
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