Monday, 3 September 2012

RFW Safety Post Policy - Contributing to Safety and Respect on the Internet.

Hello there members and friends,

Not too long ago, we here at RFW had an incident that served as a reminder that no matter how supportive and loving this site is, it is still a social networking site, and subject to all the pitfalls and hazards the internet has to offer.  Stalkings; rude/offensive comments; unwanted sexual solicitations; inappropriate contact . .

Luckily, the situation was quickly and discreetly diffused without any interruptions to our scheduled events (a big THANKYOU to all parties involved who graciously chose not to cause a panic).  However, the incident has caused  your HOSTS here at RFW to develop and post a basic, common sense policy on safe internet practices while interacting with the site, the members, the followers, and the occasional/consistent contributors.

What follows below will also be permanently posted in a Policy Page to this blog.  Rest assured that RFW hosts are NOT singling anyone out, pointing fingers, or suggesting that you alter any of your browsing/following/contacting others within the site.  As this is a serious subject matter, you will find no humor in the policy.

Please take a few moments to read through the policy, and feel free to discuss your feelings or observations in the comments.  If you have specific concerns or questions, don't hesitate to contact the blog hosts Denise Covey and Donna Hole.  Our e-mails are shown on the "about" pages at the top of the blog.

Welcome to the Romantic Friday Writers Policy on Respect and Safety Page

RFW is a public site, open to all writers and readers regardless of age, ethnicity, sexual preference, writing styles, and skill levels.  We are a social group who enjoy meeting and interacting with writers of all genres who also include a Romantic element to their writings.  There are no membership fees, no contracts to sign, no commitments to join as a member, follower, or occasional/consistent participant in the writing prompts, or to contribute as a guest poster.

As a social community, RFW encourages you to browse through the follower and membership thumbnails, click on the RFW follows, and offer your insights and feedback within the comments, including replies to other commenters on the posts.

Because RFW hosts such a wide variety of writers, with cultural as well as sensitivity differences, RFW has a zero tolerance policy for disrespect or abuse of any of our members.   While the terms “disrespect” and “abuse” have a broad interpretation, and we could not possibly touch on every circumstance that may occur -  the RFW hosts reserve the right to determine when such instances have been perpetrated, and to what degree a reprimand will be issued. (We understand at times disrespect may occur through ignorance, but if you have given offence to a fellow member/follower, it is expected that you will apologize to the person you offended, albeit unintentionally.)

Reprimands for misbehavior could include:
 - public (within the blog comments) or private (through e-mail) warnings from the hosts that the comments are disrespectful
 - deletion of offensive comments
 - requests for changes in feedback style or visitation to other members/follower/participants
 - request for an apology to offended person
 - or in the extreme, blocking from the site with a public warning to RFW viewers of the offensive behavior and the naming of the individual who was banned.

In the interest of conducting a safe, respectful environment for all RFW viewers, we have developed a common sense guideline for interacting with the site and its varied members.

-          Be respectful when you comment.  Treat the visitors and members as you would also like to be treated.  We encourage you to offer feedback and comments, even when you disagree with the writing or opinions of the hosts, guests, or commenters.  It is acceptable to say “I disagree with your opinions/conclusions or subject matter” (or something like that) but not acceptable to attack the Author or leave deliberately cruel feedback. 
-          Be respectful when you post.  We do not presume to advise you on the content of your own blogs, but when posting to a RFW prompt, keep in mind the diverse persons who will read your excerpts.  Please keep sexual content, politics, religion, violence, and foul language to a minimum.  This does not suggest that RFW discourages such writings for the prompts or guest posts; we are merely requesting you keep it to a diplomatic PG-13.  If your submission excerpt will contain more than the usual “grittiness” associated with some romance writings (women’s fiction, noir, urban/paranormal fantasy, horror/thriller, erotica) kindly warn the readers so they may choose not to read your excerpt.  This protects both the writer and viewer from misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
-          Respect the privacy of members, followers and contributors.  As mentioned above, RFW is a public social network site, with member links to e-mails, Face Book, Google +, Twitter, and other networking connections.  Common courtesy suggests that if you want to contact a fellow RFWer privately through e-mail, you leave a comment on their blog requesting permission to contact, and a brief reason you wish to contact them.  Another preferred method is to leave your e-mail in the blog comments to allow the contacted party to respond or not.
-          Respect the privacy of Social Circles.  Many of us are connected through “circles” in several networking sites.  It is the function of these sites to “suggest” people you may also know in the associated circles.  It is not acceptable to contact family members or friends in a networked circle.  USE COMMON SENSE IN SENDING INVITES to family members of individuals where your only relationship is as acquaintance/business associate.  If the writing community is your only connection to the “one friend in common” suggestion, there is no reason to contact/friend members of the individual’s personal circles.  In the extreme, this activity could be construed as “stalking” and will be dealt with severely if reported.
-          Respect YOUR right to privacy.  USE COMMON SENSE IN ACCEPTING INVITES from individuals you do not know.  It is YOUR responsibility to protect the safety of yourself and your family members through proper diligence.  If you feel you have been a victim of “stalking” or other inappropriate behavior, report it to the proper authorities using the ‘Report Abuse” button on the network site.  If you feel you have been targeted specifically through the RFW member/follower lists, PLEASE CONTACT THE BLOG HOSTS.  Our contact information is listed on the “About” co-hosts pages and we have access to all member e-mails.


Wikipedia uses a variety of sources to define stalking, including some of the information posted by The National Institute of Justice below.  The Wikipedia definition that relates to RFW is: Stalking is a continuous process, consisting of a series of actions, each of which may be entirely legal in itself. Technology ethics professor Lambèr Royakkers writes that:
"Stalking is a form of mental assault, in which the perpetrator repeatedly, unwantedly, and disruptively breaks into the life-world of the victim, with whom he has no relationship (or no longer has), with motives that are directly or indirectly traceable to the affective sphere. Moreover, the separated acts that make up the intrusion cannot by themselves cause the mental abuse, but do taken together (cumulative effect)."  Read the full Wikipedia article here.
The National Institute of Justice reports the legaldefinition for “stalking” and further includes a section on internet stalking:
  “Stalking can be carried out in person or via electronic mechanisms (phone, fax, GPS, cameras, computer spyware, or the Internet)  Cyberstalking—the use of technology to stalk victims—shares some characteristics with real-life stalking. It involves the pursuit, harassment, or contact of others in an unsolicited fashion initially via the Internet and e-mail. Cyberstalking can intensify in chat rooms where stalkers systematically flood their target's inbox with obscene, hateful, or threatening messages and images. A cyberstalker may further assume the identity of his or her victim by posting information (fictitious or not) and soliciting responses from the cybercommunity. Cyberstalkers may use information acquired online to further intimidate, harass, and threaten their victim via courier mail, phone calls, and physically appearing at a residence or work place.
   Although cyberstalking does not involve physical contact with a victim, it is still a serious crime. The increasing ubiquity of the Internet and the ease with which it allows others unusual access to personal information, have made this form of stalking ever more accessible. Potential stalkers may find it easier to stalk via a remote device such as the Internet rather than to confront an actual person. Conduct that falls short of the legal definition of stalking may in fact be a precursor to stalking and must be taken seriously."

RFW takes cyberstalking seriously; and we want you to take it seriously too.  Hopefully you won't see a stalker in every visitor or comment that may be slightly rude.  RFW take the stance that all behavior is unintentional - unless substantial evidence to the contrary is presented.

Please continue to enjoy the community atmosphere at RFW. Carefully considered posts such as this are not to alarm, but to protect 'all ye who enter here'...


  1. I am sorry to hear that you had to go through such own personal guideline is not to do anything in the virtual world that I wouldn't say/do if I came face-to-face with the person. Good idea to formalise your policy, and all the best

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  3. Hi, Sorry that a member had to go through stalking or abusive commenting. A formal policy saves a lot of trouble. We are essentially decent people but some cross ethical boundaries.
    I have seen both sides of the coin when it comes to RFW commenting. I wasn't sure if I should mention it is, anyway:
    One was a very helpful comment on a major pronoun-set edit - I had posted a partly edited draft in my haste. It literally saved me the embarrassment of more such observations. I recheck every entry of mine now. :)
    The other asked for my contact email and let's say - pointed out to a major weakness in my writing and sent me a free, "unasked " for ebook for the same. I don't normally hold grudges hence I chose to vent my hurt feelings on a IWSG post and avoided the blogger in question.
    So, it happens, I hope it won't happen again.

  4. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to sort this out and to make sure that the policy of RFW is known to all its members and followers.

    It is a fear/dread that abuse can follow when you join any sort of social networking.

    My experience so far of RFW just proves what a great group we have and we are very lucky to have such thoughtful hosts/owners of the site who are willing to go the extra mile to maintain a safe and secure policy and procedure philosophy for all its members.

  5. Dear Denise & Donna,
    Thankfully, I have no first hand knowledge of the incidents mentioned here. But I have had problems with comments on my blog before I joined RFW, which is why I have comment moderation after two days on all posts.

    It is always good to be clear about your policies when it comes to stalking and abuse through comments, etc. Most writers on RFW seem to already follow this policy. But it is good to have it clearly stated on this blog, in case someone steps over the line.

    Good work!

    Best wishes,

  6. While alarming, I can well understand the need for this post and policies. It looks well thought out with clear guidelines.

    However, your comment: COMMON SENSE IN SENDING INVITES to family members of individuals. Made me wonder because ut appears that Google sends out requests on our behalf without our knowledge. Friends have told me they've had requests when I have not initiated them myself.

    Cyberstalking sounds even more insidious than the occasional Internet Troll commenters I have experienced! Thanks Denise & Donna for the heads up on this.

  7. Thank you for all the work you have put into this. It is a sad world we live in that these "common sense" policies aren't so "common sense"

  8. Hi,

    Unaware and ignorant to the RFW incident in question it's odd that you should bring up this very subject of stalking and unwanted links. I'm not on Goodreads by my own volition, but I'm there. Who put me there?

    Neither am I happy the way FB/Goodreads/Google & Amazon etc., so readily provide linked buttons to Twitter and each other. Very often it is necessary to blank a link rather than select it, which in itself is invasion of one's right to privacy in transactions conducted on individual platforms.

    Good Motto: Always check your options before pressing any buttoned click through.

    Second Motto, never have your family on anything but a separate platform under a different name: preferably Pluto, Mini Mouse or Jet-lag-Nelly - and don't post a profile pic that you use on social networking sites such as writer blogs etc. Joint FB platforms incorporating "private family group" can show up live when least expected and expose all family members.


  9. Very sad this this post was even necessary. I do believe a lot of these sites send out invites without the knowledge of the members as Madeleine said. However, there are some who also do this on their own.

    Let us move forward with a positive attitude. I for one appreciate every writer here.

  10. I remember when I first opened up my Facebook account, how leary and overly cautious I was about adding people I didn't know in real life. This one guy in particular friended me because we both played Zoo World. I added him but I actually stalked his face book page for about a month looking for signs of any type of suspicious behavior.. Eventually, I realized that he's one of the good ones.. And to this day, we are really good friends on Facebook and I never had a problem with anyone except for one.. It was my first time dealing with something of that degree. He came off very trustworthy and then I was absolutely afraid and unnerved. I'm glad you've taken the time to create a new policy that will allow other members to feel safe and protected. I've met some amazing people through RFW and they're all amazing writers! It's a pleasure being surrounded by such like minded people that stick together during these sticky times and situations. Thank you Donna and Denise! Hopefully, this new policy sends a warning to those who wish to abuse the privileges that come with joining this site. Thank you.

  11. Denise and Donna, I am working on this week's post and I just needed some clarification on word count. The side bar says 400 but the challenge page says 600. Thanks

    1. Whoops! 600 it is Heather! Thanks for letting us know.

    2. Thanks! I was trying to keep it under 400 but that will give me some wiggle room :)

  12. Thank you everyone for your comments on this post. It was not easy to compose, not easy to post, and hurt our hearts for the need.

    Please forgive Denise and I for deliberately refraining on commenting on this post; we feel our minds are exposed in the policy itself, and wanted all viewers to have their discussions without our interference.

    Thank you all for your understanding and support in this matter. Your input is valued. As Nancy stated so eloquently - we will put this incident behind us, and move forward with our normal program; trusting in the good intentions of all RFW participants in the RFW and social networking experience.

    I'm anxious to read all you Kissed submissions. Come on, wet my lips in anticipation . .


  13. I echo Donna. Thanks for your input. Now I hope we can move forward together knowing where we stand. We all believe RFW are a great group to belong to and we will jealously guard it.
    Like Donna, I'm smacking my lips just thinking about the next challenge! D

  14. Wednesday September 5th, 2012

    Hello again,

    I see that there is a link on the RFW-sidebar to my unfinished Halloween post with the wrong picture - of Beverly Diehl. I must have pressed 'publish' before I filled in the time for 'scheduling'.

    I cannot correct this. The link will not change until I post something new. My apologies to Beverly Diehl for using her photo as a place-holder until the real image is ready. I will have to move everything to a new post-frame in order to get rid of this mistake when it is time for the real post.
    So strange things can happen with blogger.

    Best wishes,

  15. Hello all.
    I did read this the moment you put it up, G+d it too, but am only just now getting a chance to comment. It's quite alarming and has made me think twice about who to accept as friends on FB. I've actually gone ahead and done a cull of "friends" who I accepted, but who have never interacted with me. I feel a second cull coming soon and a review of my privacy settings. Great, informative post. Thanks Denise & Donna.

  16. I have no idea of the incident(s) in question but I'm glad that we now have a 'safeguarding' policy. Certainly does not hurt to keep out unsavoury characters.


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