NaNoWriMo board addresses ‘grooming’ claims as users leave

NaNoWriMo board addresses ‘grooming’ claims as users leave

The board emphasises transparency, and preserving the writing community's magic

by Suswati Basu
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In a recent announcement, the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) community addressed some serious reports, saying it has taken steps to ensure the safety and inclusivity of their online forums, after allegations of “grooming” on the platform. The NaNoWriMo board released a statement, highlighting their commitment to resolving issues, debunking misinformation, and reinforcing their dedication to supporting writers worldwide.

NaNoWriMo is an annual creative writing event that takes place during the month of November. Its primary goal is to encourage and support writers of all levels to embark on the challenge of writing a novel within the span of 30 days. Participants set a word count goal for their novels, typically aiming for 50,000 words, and strive to meet this target by the end of November.

NaNoWriMo addresses ‘grooming’ allegations

In an email sent to users, the board began by acknowledging the concerns that had been brought to their attention. These concerns primarily revolved around the activity on NaNoWriMo’s online forums, with issues ranging from inconsistent moderation to worries about the safety of minors.

“The vast majority of complaints sent to the Board have not been verified, including claims about child grooming. It is important to draw a distinction between the voluntary, precautionary measure of proactively shutting down the forums and measures that might be taken if our thorough investigation confirms the truth of any of these complaints.”

NaNoWriMo Board

A number of users posted on social media that they would no longer be using the site after the allegations came to light. One person reported that they attempted to file an official complaint against the offending moderator, only for the accusation to be dismissed.

Read: NaNoWriMo: the pros and cons of National Novel Writing Month

Much of these reports stem from a thread by @Arumi_Kai on Twitter. The user asserted that around 100 people helped uncover an individual moderator reportedly abusing their powers and a complaint had been sent to the organisers. However, How To Be Books cannot independently verify these claims and NaNoWriMo’s board denies receiving any reports before November 7th. The information is also being circulated on Christian forums to fuel certain ideologies, attributing this to the thread.

A Christian writers Facebook group shares links to Twitter thread alleging grooming on NaNoWriMo site. The messages include one user saying: "people these days are just sick. I think we're getting close to evil like in Noah's day. Jesus will be back soon!" and "this is INSANE. I have been boycotting them for a couple of years because of their pro abortion stance but this is outrageous!"
A Christian writers Facebook group shares links to Twitter thread alleging grooming on NaNoWriMo site.

Commitment to transparency and accountability

They say the decision to temporarily close the forums was made in the interest of conducting a thorough investigation and ensuring a safe and welcoming online environment for all members. It reiterated that the board received its first complaint on November 7th, and had not received any prior communication based on this.

One of the key points stressed by the board was the need for a well-trained and adequately staffed moderation team. They said: “We are also a 25-year-old community whose growth has outpaced that of the resources in place to support it. It is the Board’s opinion that now is the right moment to pause, meaningfully resolve problems, and address complaints and match resources to needs. It’s time to press the reset button on the forums.”

“It’s time to press the reset button on the forums.”

NaNoWriMo Board

The board clarified that while a multitude of complaints had been received, the vast majority had not been verified. Hence, it is essential to distinguish between the precautionary measure of shutting down the forums and any actions that might be taken after a comprehensive investigation. In addition, the board emphasised their commitment to transparency and pointed to their official statements and findings available on the NaNoWriMo main forums.

Sustaining the ‘magic’ of NaNoWriMo

Despite the challenges faced by the organisation, NaNoWriMo hopes to maintain the “magic” of the platform. The community is a global force that extends far beyond its online forums, with countless authors worldwide continuing to create and inspire. The board added: “Though some of what is being said about the organization is unflattering, we hope you will review our responses and conclude that we are operating to the highest standards of integrity in this matter.”

The statement concluded with a quote from Fred Rogers: “Look for the helpers. There is always someone helping.” The NaNoWriMo board also acknowledged the outpouring of support from community members who had come forward with words of encouragement and offers of assistance.

In partnership with the entire NaNoWriMo community, the board reaffirmed their commitment to fostering a safe and inclusive environment, and working diligently to regain the trust of their dedicated writers and supporters. However, it appears much damage has already been done and the future of the platform remains to be seen.

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