A Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is useful to
define accepted and acceptable behaviors and to promote high standards of
professional practice. The goals of this code are to:
- define acceptable and expected standards of behaviour
- provide a benchmark
- ensure transparency in managing moderation
- ensure and environment where people can participate without fear of harrassment
- contribute to the identity of the organisation
W3C is a growing and global community where participants
choose to work together, and it is committed to maintaining a positive working environment, where each participant
feels appreciated and respected and where everyone adheres to the same high level of standards of personal
behavior. In that process we experience differences in language, location, nationality, and experience. In such a
misunderstandings and disagreements happen, which in most cases can be resolved
- W3C community participants should treat each other with respect and professionalism and be mindful of
- W3C community participants should communicate constructively and avoid insulting, unwelcome or demeaning
- W3C strictly prohibits discrimination, intimidation, harassment, and bullying of any kind and on any basis.
- W3C will act formally to eliminate abusive behavior in any form, whether it is verbal, physical, sexual, or
A Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is useful to
define accepted and acceptable behaviors and to promote high standards of
professional practice. The goal of this code of conduct is to ensure transparency in moderation of the working
group and to ensure that the working group is an environment where everyone can participate without fear of
harassment.It also provides a benchmark for self evaluation and
acts as a vehicle for better identity of the organization.
This code (CEPC), complemented by a set of Procedures,
applies to any member of the
W3C community – staff, members, invited experts, participants in W3C
meetings, W3C teleconferences, W3C mailing lists, W3C conference or W3C
functions, etc. Note that this code complements rather than replaces legal
rights and obligations pertaining to any particular situation.
Education and training materials
are available from the Positive Work Environment
Statement of Intent
W3C is committed to maintain a
positive work environment. This commitment calls for a
workplace where participants at all levels
behave according to the rules of the following code. A
foundational concept of this code is that we all share
responsibility for our work environment.
Including "unnacceptable behavior is new to CEPC. While we agree on the intent of this section, discussions
about specific language, extent, specificity, and placement are still underway.
Some behaviors run counter to the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. This list of unacceptable behaviors
does not cover every case. Each person you interact with is unique, and behavior must be assessed on an individual
level. Ensuring that your behavior does not have a negative impact is your responsibility. W3C strictly prohibits
discrimination, intimidation, harassment, and bullying of any kind and on any basis.
- Offensive comments related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, mental
neurotype, physical appearance, body, age, race, socio-economic status, ethnicity, nationality, language, or
- Unwelcome comments regarding a person’s lifestyle choices and practices, including those related to food,
parenting, drugs, and employment
- Misgendering someone by deliberately referring to a person using their wrong pronouns. Or by using someone's
proper names or other terms that person has asked not to be used, also known as dead-naming.
- Gratuitous or off-topic sexual images or behaviour in spaces where they are not appropriate
- Physical contact and simulated physical contact (e.g., textual descriptions like “hug” or “backrub”) without
or after a request to stop
- Threats of violence
- Incitement of violence towards any individual, including encouraging a person to commit suicide or to engage
- Deliberate intimidation
- Stalking or following
- Harassing photography or recording, including logging online activity for harassment purposes
- Sustained disruption of discussion
- Unwelcome sexual attention
- Pattern of inappropriate social contact, such as requesting/assuming inappropriate levels of intimacy with
- Continued one-on-one communication after requests to cease
- Deliberate outing of any aspect of a person’s identity without their consent except as necessary to protect
community members or other vulnerable people from intentional abuse
- Publication of non-harassing private communication without consent by the involved parties
- Use of coded language (also known as "dog whistles") used to rally support for hate groups or to intimidate
- Microaggressions, which are small comments or questions, either intentional or unintentional, that marginalize
by communicating hostile, derogatory, or negative beliefs. Examples include
- Patronizing language or behavior
- Be aware that, regardless of the speaker's intentions, some phrases or constructions lead people to
expect a patronizing statement to follow, and avoid such phrases. For example, beginning an interjection
with "Well actually..." can set this expectation, and be taken as a sign of disrespect.
- Assuming without asking that particular people or groups need concepts defined or explained to them.
great to be sensitive to the fact that people may not be familiar with technical terms you use every
but assuming that people are uninformed can come across as patronizing.)
- Assuming that particular groups of people are technically unskilled (“So easy your grandmother could
- Repeatedly interrupting or talking over someone else
- Feigning surprise at someone’s lack of knowledge or awareness about a topic
- The use of racially charged language to describe an individual or thing (such as “thug” or “ghetto”)
- Referring to an individual in a way that demeans or challenges the validity of their racial identity
- Mocking someone’s real or perceived accent or first language
- Retaliating against anyone who files a complaint that someone has violated this code of conduct.
The enforcers of this Code should prioritise the safety of individuals within marginalised communities over the
comfort of others,
and reserve the rights not to take further actions on complaints regarding:
- ‘Reverse’ -isms, including ‘reverse racism,’ ‘reverse sexism,’ and ‘cisphobia’
- Reasonable communication of boundaries, such as “leave me alone,” “go away,” or “I’m not discussing this with
- Communication in a tone you don’t find congenial
- Criticisms of racist, sexist, cissexist, or otherwise oppressive behaviour or assumptions
- Treat each other with respect, professionalism,
fairness, and sensitivity to our many differences and strengths, including
in situations of high pressure and urgency.
- Appreciate and Accommodate Our Similarities and Differences We come from many cultures and
backgrounds, ways of life, and standard of behavior. Cultural differences can encompass everything from
official religious observances to personal habits to clothing. Be respectful of people with different
practices, attitudes, and beliefs. To help us achieve and maintain these high standards, each individual
participant is expected to share responsibility for our work environment by adhering to the following
- Respect. We are a large community of people who are passionate about our work, sometimes
holding strong opinions and beliefs. We are committed to dealing with each other with courtesy, respect, and
dignity at all times. Misunderstandings and disagreements do happen. When conflicts arise, we are expected
to resolve them maintaining that courtesy, respect, and dignity, even when emotions are heightened.
- Be inclusive and Promote Diversity. Seek diverse perspectives. Diversity of views and of
people powers innovation, even if it is not always comfortable. Encourage all voices. Help new perspectives
be heard and listen actively. If you find yourself dominating a discussion, it is especially important to
step back and encourage other voices to join in. Provide alternative ways to contribute.
- Be aware of how much time is taken up by dominant members of the group.
- Be aware that displays of affection may complicate professional relationships. For some cultures, overtly
friendly disposition towards another participant involving body contact (e.g.: hugging, touching on the arm
or shoulder, or kissing) is uncommon and may be perceived as an invasion of personal space, or as unwelcome
advances. Work to eliminate your own biases, prejudices and discriminatory practices.
- Think of others’ needs from their point of view. Use preferred names, titles (including pronouns) and the
appropriate tone of voice. Therefore, be formal and conservative in what you do and liberal in what you
accept from others and acknowledge the contributions of your peers. At least until a truly friendly
atmosphere and relationships are established.
- Be sensitive to language differences. English is the default language of the W3C. However, only some of us
are native English speakers. Many participants speak English as a second (or third) language. People who
communicate in non-native language often struggle to understand fast and/or quiet speech, and tend to speak
louder than they usually would when communicating in their native tongue. If someone struggles to express
his thoughts, help ensure their ideas are adequately expressed, heard, and granted thorough consideration.
- Confidentiality and privacy. Sometimes, matters we discuss may fall under various confidentiality agreements and
strict adherence to these agreements is expected. In addition, certain pieces of information disclosed in a
group setting may be private in nature, or we may inadvertently learn confidential information accidentally
disclosed by other participants. Please exercise good judgment, and make reasonable efforts to protect
privacy and confidentiality of all participants.
If you are concerned about your immediate safety, contact local law enforcement.
For a face to face event you may need to contact venue staff for assistance contacting them.
You may also contact a W3C ombud who will assist you: email@example.com.
If you have an issue with someone’s behaviour along the lines of this Code then please raise it, there
are a few potential people you could raise it to depending on your situation and your safety.
You are welcome to raise issues directly with the Ombuds who
will assist you. All complaints will be taken seriously and will receive a response.
If it is applicable, You may instead choose to raise issues with a chair of the group. A group chair will have
more context so may be better able to assist you. If they do not feel able to assist you, they should help you raise
the issue with an Ombuds person. You may also ask for them to help you raise it to an Ombuds person immediately
if you do not feel comfortable contacting the Ombuds directly.
If you are responsible for a community within the W3C such as a chair of a working group and you witness harassment or
any other behaviour which goes against this code you are encouraged to raise issues directly with
an Ombuds person who can assist you.
You can read more in the PWETF Procedures
If you've done something improper
As we engage in diverse communities we may accidentally cause offense, whether through using unknowingly
offensive terminology or through missing social cues.
If you realise (or are told) that you have offended someone then take the appropriate steps:
- Acknowledge that you've done something improper
- Briefly apologize. Don't try to explain yourself or minimise the issue.
- If possible, edit your message, restate your communication in a better way or withdraw your statement.
Publicly revising your statement helps define the culture for others.
Alice: “Yeah I used X and it was really crazy!” Eve: “Hey, could you not use that word? What about
‘ridiculous’ instead?” Alice: “oh sorry, sure.” -> edits old message to say “Yeah I used X and it was really
This will allow conversation to quickly continue without any need of further action or escalating the
If you don't understand what you did wrong, assume the the hurt party has good cause and accept it. We cannot
know everyone's background and should do our best to avoid harm. You are welcome to discuss it with a W3C
This glossary has not been edited. A later draft will include
an updated glossary.
- Demeaning behavior
- is acting in a way that reduces another person's dignity, sense of
self-worth or respect within the community.
- is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on criteria such
as: physical appearance, race, ethnic origin, genetic differences,
national or social origin, name, religion, gender, sexual orientation,
family or health situation, pregnancy, disability, age, education,
wealth, domicile, political view, morals, employment, or union
- Insulting behavior
- is treating another person with scorn or disrespect.
- is a record of the origin(s) and author(s) of a contribution.
- is any conduct, verbal or physical, that has the intent or effect of
interfering with an individual, or that creates an intimidating, hostile,
or offensive environment.
- Leadership position
- includes group Team contacts, group Chairs, W3C management, and
Advisory Board members.
- includes the following persons:
- W3C Team (employees, contractors, fellows)
- W3C group participants (members and invited experts)
- Advisory Committee Representatives (and their guests)
- W3C Offices staff
- Anyone from the Public partaking in the W3C work environment (e.g.
comment on our specs or email us, attend our conferences, functions,
- is the genuine consideration you have for someone (if only because of
their status as participant in W3C, like yourself), and that you show by
treating them in a polite and kind way.
- Sexual harassment
- includes visual displays of degrading sexual images, sexually
suggestive conduct, offensive remarks of a sexual nature, requests for
sexual favors, unwelcome physical contact, and sexual assault.
- Unwelcome behavior
- Hard to define? Some questions to ask yourself are:
- how would I feel if I were in the position of the recipient?
- would my spouse, parent, child, sibling or friend like to be
treated this way?
- would I like an account of my behavior published in the
- could my behavior offend or hurt other members of the work
- could someone misinterpret my behavior as intentionally harmful or
- would I treat my boss or a person I admire at work like that ?
Summary: if you are unsure whether something might be welcome
or unwelcome, don't do it.
- Unwelcome sexual advance
- includes requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical
conduct of a sexual nature, where:
- submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly
a term or condition of an individual's employment,
- submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used
as a basis for employment decisions affecting the individual,
- such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering
with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating
hostile or offensive working environment.
- Workplace Bullying
- is a tendency of individuals or groups to use persistent aggressive or
unreasonable behavior (e.g. verbal or written abuse, offensive conduct or
any interference which undermines or impedes work) against a co-worker or
any professional relations.
- Work Environment
- is the set of all available means of collaboration, including, but not
limited to messages to mailing lists, private correspondence, Web pages,
chat channels, phone and video teleconferences, and any kind of
face-to-face meetings or discussions.
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