Re: [Last-Call] Last Call: BCP 83 PR-Action Against Dan Harkins

Christian Huitema <> Wed, 05 October 2022 04:20 UTC

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Subject: Re: [Last-Call] Last Call: BCP 83 PR-Action Against Dan Harkins
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On 9/29/2022 9:15 AM, IETF Chair wrote:
> Following community feedback after various incidents, as documented below, the
> IESG has initiated a posting rights (PR) action that would restrict the posting
> rights of Dan Harkins, as per the procedures found in BCP 83 (RFC 3683).
> Specifically, his posting privileges to these lists would be suspended:
> * admin-discuss
> * gendispatch
> * ietf
> * terminology
> In the IESG's opinion, this individual has a history of sending emails that are
> inconsistent with the IETF Guidelines for Conduct (RFC 7154) and thereby
> "disrupt the consensus-driven process" (RFC 3683). Among these are contributions
> that:
> * Express racism in the form of denying, belittling, and ridiculing anti-racist
>    sentiment and efforts
> * Are rude and abusive, and often amount to insulting ridicule

I understand that that the IESG want the "rude and abusive" behavior to 
stop. I am however concerned that the action as written doesn't 
distinguish clearly between censoring unpopular positions and censoring 
abusive messaging patterns.

I looked at Dan's posts listed in the last call, and I find a mix of 
reasonable arguments followed by attacks, with quite a bit of trolling. 
Take for example 
It argues that a word like "master key" is an established term of the 
art whose origin is not tainted by racism, and that the IETF (or the 
IEEE) should not attempt a systematic replacement. Whether one agrees or 
not, that's a reasonable argument during a discussion of terminology. 
But then, the message goes on with a rant about the political priorities 
and personal ethics of the proponents of such replacements, and the IETF 
can do without these kind of attacks. It can also certainly do with the 
kind of trolling found in, 
in which Dan pretends to be offended by the use of the word "native" in 
some computer languages.

The IESG should clarify that unpopular opinions, per se, are OK. We need 
many voices in any debate. Indeed, in the terminology debate, the IETF 
eventually adopted the NIST guideline. This was significantly different 
from the original proposal, but probably closer to IETF consensus.

I am concerned that the sentence about "expressing racism by denying 
anti-racist sentiment" can be misinterpreted, or misused. Clearly, 
attacking or belittling people because of their race, religion, sexual 
practices or culture has no place in the IETF. Personal attacks against 
proponents of specific anti-racist actions is also wrong. But some 
proposals motivated by anti-racism may well be misguided. Like any other 
proposals, they should be debated based on their merits.

I would like the IESG to rewrite its message and clearly indicate that 
they are censoring personal attacks, ridiculing and trolling, but not 
censoring the debate itself.

-- Christian Huitema