EchoEkhi's Blog

What Happened With Audrey R: Assumptions Lead to Misunderstandings

Following the public revelation that one of the OTW Board candidates this year, Audrey Richards, is in fact a member of the Republican party in the US, the candidate resigned from the Org and thus withdrew from this year’s election.

Accusations against Audrey R. includes her affiliation with the Republican party as well as her position as the Policy Coordinator at Children and Screens Institute.

Her response to these accusations are here.

Unable to handle the onslaught of increased public attention, criticisms and harassment, she has resigned from the Org as announced here. This automatically disqualifies her as a running candidate.

Soon after this announcement, Elections published a statement deploring the harassment, drawing similarities to last year’s public harassment against Tiffany G.

Republican Party = Nazis?

While it is true that she is a member of the Republican party, it is important to remember that the Republican party is huge, and different people inside it have wildly different beliefs and political views. From what I can see in her personal Twitter account timeline (which she has since locked, so I won’t be quoting it here), she is not your usual headline-making mad redneck Republican, and instead she backs sensible policies and is a supporter of queer movements. Her party affiliation has not affected her stance on things like racism, LGBTQ+, censorship etc. in any observable way.

What I don’t like, however, is the fact that she did not feel the need to disclose this affiliation at all.

Children and Screens: Not (Entirely) Evil

Regarding Children and Screens Institute, if you actually go and read their studies and publications, you’ll find that it’s more a collection of helpful resources for concerned parents, academic studies and seminars rather than a political advocacy group calling for censorship. It does a lot of useful and harmless studies, like how disguised gambling in mobile games affect children, how income inequality causes digital inequality, etc.

That isn’t to say they don’t do any bad political advocacy, they do state in their Media Kit Policy Brief that they want lawmakers to “eliminate access to pornographic material by children”, which is problematic. (In case you want to scream at me for being a paedophile, here’s why this idea, while it is of great moral correctness, is not actually a good idea for technical and practical reasons:

It is important to note that she did disclose in her Bios & Platforms that she is “a policy lead for a non-profit research institute studying the impact of social media on […] children.”, but she does not mention the name of the Institute, nor does she mention that said institute is in favour of bad internet policies. She has however said in numerous occasions that she is against censorship.

Statement from Elections Committee

The statement from Elections is just baffling. It basically says nothing apart from ‘we deplore harassment and misinformation’, without mentioning what the harassment or misinformation is. It does not help that some of the criticisms against her is completely valid unlike the case with Tiffany G, like failing to declare her affiliations in any of her candidate statements. I’m assuming that the misinformation refers to accusations of her being a pro-censorship anti, and harassment being attempts of people trying to get her fired from her job, but the statement does not make that clear, nor discern them from other valid points people are making.

Perhaps the Elections Committee is merely trying to make their stance known, and this statement is just trying to say they are aware of the situation and they deplore it. It feels like they are deliberately trying to avoid relaying Audrey R.s opinions and counterpoints on their official news channel, since it could be seen as a breach in neutrality and favouring a particular candidate over others, which is a perfectly valid concern. They are being cautious not to tamper with the election process, and I can respect that, but at the very least there should be a passing reference discerning valid criticisms from unfounded misinformation and harassment.

She’s Safe to Vote For, But You Probably Shouldn’t Anyways

I guess the point I’m trying to make is, if you liked her as a candidate before this revelation, just keep voting based on what you felt. None of the accusations really change the policies and stances on issues that she has stated before, so in reality it makes no practical difference. It is problematic that she failed to make her affiliations clear, but if that is something you can overlook then there is really nothing to worry about. Keep in mind the Board has 7 people in it, so one person’s opinions on something has very limited swing, and the Board could use the expertise of someone who is a lead in another non-profit. But obviously none of this matters anymore since she resigned.

She was a unique candidate in many ways even before this recent uproar. She is the only one out of the 6 who is in favour of anti-AI policies on AO3, even though everyone else conceded that it is simply not practical at this stage to ban AI generated content due to concerns on enforceability and harassment, and she is the only person who proposed that authors should have the ability to block readers from making bookmarks, even though bookmarks are a reader-side feature unlike comments. On several occasions, she has outright declined to answer Q&A questions, citing that she did not understand what the questions meant, while other candidates made educated guesses and attempted to give an answer anyways. If you look on my policy matrix, she is the only person to have 4 ⚠️ warning triangles, the most others have is 2. I wouldn’t have voted for her anyways because her policy proposals were terrible.

Next Steps

We’re waiting on the official confirmation from Elections Committee that she has withdrawn from the election, at which point it would officially be a 5-candidate race for 4 seats, meaning we are one step closer to an uncontested election. Interestingly, this means we would also be able to tell who got the least votes in the election by looking at who lost.

Update: Due to the resignation of 3 Board members, this election is now uncontested. See update here:


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