Banned Together Bingo

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Challenge
Name: Banned Together Bingo
Date(s):
Moderator(s):
Founder:
Type: bingo
Fandom:
Associated Community:
URL: AO3 collection; Copy of the prompt list
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Banned Together Bingo is a tumblr-based challenge on the theme of censorship. Prompts are based on reasons that books were banned in the past. Some of the prompts were criticized as racist, and in June 2020, the challenge went on hiatus and the tumblr posts were deleted. On June 23rd, the challenge came back from hiatus, with updated rules and some revised prompts. The collection and event closed for submissions on January 31, 2021 at 11:59 PST.

Ultimately, 894 items were added to the AO3 Collection for the event spanning a variety of prompts, fandoms, and themes. The AO3 collection in Feb 2021 showed that 304 fandoms were represented in works submitted.

Rules

From a cached version of the page[1]:

Sign-ups will be open from May 2 to May 23. Cards will be sent out May 9th through May 30th. From then, we’ll have a 1-week grace period for the last batch of participants to review their cards and request swaps/new cards/Gen-tle Giant cards if needed. Please get in all swap requests by June 6th. Some flexibility may be needed, but we will do our best to keep to this schedule!

The prompts in this bingo range from the light-hearted and silly to the very serious. When you sign up for your card, please let us know which serious prompts to avoid putting on your card. You will be able to check off the following broadly categorized topics that you do not want (DNW) on your card:

DNW categories may be revised if moderators see patterns in bingo square change requests.

If your first card has additional squares that you can’t work with, then you can: 1) replace up to 10 squares with new prompts or 2) request an entirely new card. In the email containing your card, you will be provided with a link to a “bingo square change” form. The form will have a dropdown menu that lists all of the prompts so that they can be found easily.

The full list of all prompts is HERE.

Fills must be new content consisting of:

  • Fic (or chapter) of 500+ words
  • Art consisting of finished sketch or equivalent
  • Mood board of 6+ pictures
  • Playlist of 8+ songs with cover art
  • Podfic of an existing fic of 500+ words that relates to the prompt (you may podfic a work that already has a podfic associated with it)
  • Poetry: a single fill can be either 1) three complete works or 2) complete poem/s totaling at least 250 words. If you have an unusual format or situation in mind, please contact us for approval.
  • Translation of a fic of a substantial enough length to be equivalent work - if in doubt, please email mods
  • Meta of 500+ words
  • Fanvideos of 30+ seconds
  • Other format with mods’ permission

Fills are not limited to one medium. You may create fic for one fill, art for another, etc. as long as each fill meets minimum requirements.

To qualify, your fills must be submitted to the AO3 collection banned_together_2020 by December 31, 2020. You must also send a work submission form for each work you want in the collection. You can choose to do this after completing each fill, or at the very end of the event, but please note that your work will not be accepted into the AO3 collection without an accompanying form. You may also choose to link your AO3 fills on tumblr and tag them with #bannedtogether2020.

You may create a multi-chapter work in which each chapter serves as a fill for a bingo square. However, one chapter cannot count for multiple bingo squares. The work must be complete by the deadline (December 31, 2020). Chaptered works-in-progress (WIPs) will not be accepted into the AO3 collection until they are complete.

At the end of the event, you will get a badge for:

  • Participant: 1-4 fills
  • You Sunk my Censorship: 5+ fills with no bingo
  • Bingo Winner: 5 fills in a row, any direction
  • Blackout: all squares filled
  • Gen-tle Giant: You complete a blackout of your card, and all of your submissions are rated G (General Audiences)
  • Above and Beyond: Got a blackout and filled at least 5 additional prompts from the masterlist

You must have an AO3 account to participate and must follow AO3 Terms of Service, including its age limits (13+). If you are under 18, you can still enter this event, and we ask you to use good judgment and take care of your needs and boundaries.

This is a good chance to practice being aware of what does and doesn’t make you personally uncomfortable. Be ready to step back from things that make you uncomfortable. Experiment to see how subtle you can be about a prompt. Horrific topics can be addressed in non-horrific ways and count for the prompt tag. It is possible to write each of our prompts as a Gen-rated story. Take this as a challenge. For inspiration, consider how these G-rated movies pulled it off.

This is an event that is specifically about combating censorship. There will not be any prohibited subject matter, although your work must comply with AO3′s Terms of Service. Some things you may be used to seeing prohibited in fandom events may appear as prompts instead. In order to help your readers decide whether your fill is appropriate subject matter for them, you must tag appropriately.

Given the sensitive nature of the event, mods reserve the right to make a final executive decision on whether something is tagged appropriately. If you do not comply with a mod’s request to add a tag about a sensitive topic, you will be removed from the event. If you remove a requested tag after the work has been accepted to the AO3 collection, all of your works will be removed from the collection.

Mods also reserve the right not to include works in the Bingo collection from a creator if the creator is harassing other participants or the moderators. We can and will exclude participants if they are a safety concern based on their behavior in this event, regardless of the content of their entries.

Last update: 2020-05-15

Fanworks

As of Feb 2021, there were 894 works accepted to the collection representing 304 fandoms.

For Ratings:

  • General - 226 works
  • Teen and Up - 278 works
  • Mature - 128 works
  • Explicit - 247 works
  • Not rated - 14 works

The top fandoms (based on examining AO3's sort and filter options) were:

Also, the No Archive Warnings Apply tag was applied to the majority of works (602) in the collection.

Example Fanworks

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

Criticisms

There were many criticisms made, largely due to the nature of certain prompts featured in the event, and also due to the responses of the event mods.

One point of criticism was the handling of the Do Not Want system when signing up to receive a bingo card for the event. Some people felt that this list should have contained more topics, considering the many potential triggers within the prompt list, such as self-harm and suicide.[1]

The mods' choice to not give any information about themselves was also a point of criticism. In response to discussion of racism and antisemitism, one tumblr user questioned if there were actually mods of different races and Jewish mods who would be able to accurately identify when these themes were present in works, in order to enforce the event's tagging policy.[2]

There were also criticisms of specific prompts that were used. Two of these, "Miscegenation" (a racist term for interracial relationships) and "Pro-Nazi Content", were later renamed to "Interracial Relationship" and "Nazi content." However, this choice was not without criticism. While some fans appreciated the the renaming of the former prompt, they also questioned why it was included in the first place, since it seemed that the mod team did have an understanding of the term's harm when they decided to use it.[3] It was also brought up that that the name "Pro-Nazi Content" was not an issue, but rather the mods' response to a previous ask about the prompt where they said that this content would be allowed without subversion.

Hiatus

On June 7th, the event mods posted on tumblr saying they were going on hiatus in order to work on better supporting the event and incorporating feedback from participants.[4] At that time, all other posts on the official tumblr were deleted, the prompt list and unsaved bingo cards became unavailable, and the collection on AO3 was closed for posting.

Reactions to the hiatus were varied. Some fans understood the need for hiatus, but were disappointed nonetheless. Some fans speculated that anti-shippers had forced the event to shut down (an assumption later addressed by the mods); others assumed that the event had been censored; still others hoped that the event would return. Some conversations between users, including on Tumblr, aimed to reconstruct or explain the reason for the hiatus while also debating its efficacy or consequences.[5]

Also in response to the hiatus, some participants expressed anger, irritation, disappointment, or sadness that their old prompt card had also been deleted without prior warning, including via the emails they had been sent. This meant that unless a version of the card image had been saved to the computer, some participants lost their prompts and had to wait until the blog came off hiatus. Many of these users complained about the communication surrounding the hiatus. A recovery initiative and effort to recapture the original prompt set and some cards was made by a user, but this effort was later abandoned; other unofficial and unaffiliated AO3 Collections such as Banned Banned Together 2020 and Banned Together Bingo Recovery also opened to collect submissions.

Return from Hiatus

Participants eventually received an email from the mods explaining planned changes to the event, with some participants posting or referencing the email contents on Tumblr. After returning from hiatus, the mods made a post on June 23 2020 addressing the hiatus.[6] A page about Principles: On Censorship also addressed some aspects of the hiatus.

Some excerpts from the mod response post-hiatus are as follows:

Prompt Revisions Although we have always welcomed subversions of prompts, the invitation to interpret them literally meant that we should have been more deliberate with our phrasing and provided better context for them from the start. Going forward with the original prompt list without that additional care and context would have continued to make the event a less safe space for participants and audience members of BTB who are members of minority groups. To address that need, we paused the event so we could revise the prompt list. This also gave us an opportunity to make prompts more suitable for a pan-fandom event.[6]
Moving Forward

We know the prompt revision raises an obvious question: Is this a case of self-censorship? The answer is: No. This is not a case of censorship or self-censorship! This is proper event management and correcting our mistakes. Censorship comes from authority figures. We are responding to feedback from those who have been harmed or put at risk of harm. Please see this page (link to On Censorship) for a more in-depth response to this question.

We sincerely thank you for your patience while we made changes to the event. We have reopened the work submission form and AO3 collection. Vetting works for tags is anticipated to take longer than it did while we work through our backlog. We’re also aware that despite our best efforts, a warning or tag may be missed, and we’re looking into solutions for that situation.

Lastly, we want to thank those of you who have offered feedback over the last weeks to this event. We now recognize the risk of harm the original prompt list and our event rules had. It isn’t often you get a chance to try to address your errors and we are grateful to have that opportunity. We appreciate any opportunity to keep learning and improving.[6]
We revised our prompts. Is this a case of “self-censorship”?

To be blunt: “Self-censorship” does not apply here.

We are responding to feedback, which does not speak with the power and authority of censorship. What some may call self-censorship, others call editing, second drafts, or simply use of tact. Responding to valid feedback and taking the opportunity to do a better job by correcting our prompts is not a case of censorship or “self-censorship.”

There isn’t always a chance to revise work after learning it could harm others, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to do that.

We added a new rule (Rule #10) banning works with “inciting speech” from the BTB collection. Is this a case of censorship?

No more so than not including works of libel, slander, or threats would be. We’ve already defined the content of fills to be fannish works of a certain minimum length that are hostable on AO3, where commercial speech and advertising are forbidden. Incitement to hate is certainly not what we would consider to be a “fannish” work, and we have no interest in including it in this event. Intimidation tactics and recruitment for hate groups are used to oppress and silence others. Allowing this sort of material in the collection would be contrary to the overall goal of this event.

We’ve adjusted our rules to better explain what sort of content we believe crosses the line of free speech. We hope that it is now clearer that we distinguish between content that discusses or portrays hateful things, and content that promotes or incites hate and violence.

Take-Home Points

It’s important to note the difference between content that threatens harm to the community or society as a whole, and content that makes you personally uncomfortable. It’s understandable to want to avoid content that seems strange or in poor taste to you. It’s also understandable to want to consume or create content that others might find unpleasant or distasteful.

This is why we support the ability of this event’s audience to self-curate their experience with the use of tagging. It’s also why we made changes to our prompts. We want to create a safer environment for participants while still retaining the core ideas behind the prompts and showing how they demonstrate the arbitrariness of censorship.

In short, censorship is about the powerful controlling the less-powerful, generally to preserve an existing status quo or enforce a particular point of view.

The aim of this bingo is to show the inherent value of allowing people to express themselves freely through creation of fanworks, while still empowering the audience to choose what they interact with. We believe these are core anti-authoritarian values, and we hope our creators and audience will join us in practicing them. [7]

Following the hiatus, the mod inbox and Tumblr asks remained closed and the mods requested all inquiries only be routed through the event email.

Responses to post-hiatus

In general, responses varied.

  • Some previously-signed up participants felt that the spirit of the event had been compromised by the mod's changes to the event and decided to drop out[8][9]
  • Other participants and onlookers expressed gratitude for the changes that the mods had made and felt the mods made the right decision by responding to feedback
  • Some fans were excited to see that the event had restarted, as indicated by their tags when reblogging the "BTB2020 is Back" post
  • At least one user remained critical of the event, stating that she believed the event had not done enough to address concerns or issue a real apology[10]
  • Some commentary expressed the feeling that the new rules were less successful than the old at fulfilling the spirit of the event[11]
  • There was sporadic confusion as to the status of the event, especially in cases where users weren't aware that the blog had come back off hiatus and the collection re-opened

Commentary about the event continued in some cases to speculate on the motives of the mods, whether or not their apology was genuine, whether the modifications to the event counted as self-censorship, and so on. However, the event went on as planned, and users submitting works were asked to add a finished prompt-fill to the AO3 collection along with a corresponding Google form to alert the mods that a work needed to be bookmarked into the collection for moderated review.

Examples of Responses

Banned Together Bingo is coming back, with changes. I'm glad it's not being cancelled. And I understand. I do. Antis are abusive and no one should be forced to endure abuse. The team didn't sign up to be martyrs. It just makes me angry that we can't explore censorship without being censored, and that these walnuts are gonna call this a win bc there can't possibly be things that exist without their permission, fuckin keyword-searching no-context dumbasses... (series of emojis indicating medidation and calm) Ok. I'm ok.[12]
Welcome back and good on them for sorting rules that make them happy, and good on whoever participates to the bingo. Have all the fun.

Meanwhile, if anyone wants a fandom event that follows AO3-ToS/US law (so the line where the First doesn’t cover your freedom of expression anymore is Advocacy of Illegal Conduct as defined by the Brandenburg test) specifically geared toward fiction that was banned in the past: make one from scratch, this ain’t it^.

^By rules and stance, not ending result.

^^No one knows at the moment whether someone will actually submit a prompt that the mods will believe needs to be rejected, and if all the participants happen to stay away from that line (whatever that means, I’ll wait for further clarification since as of now things are hilariously vague), then all the participants will have their stories up in the collection, and no one will complain about being kicked out.[11]
I'm seriously contemplating not officially participating in the banned together bingo event anymore. While some of their prompt changes make sense, a lot of them have stripped the prompts of their original meaning.

Plus the way they handled their Hiatus, specifically the scrubbing of their blog, the radio silence on their part, and the revoking of cards rubs me the wrong way. I don't want to call it unprofessional because no one involved is a professional event organizer to my knowledge, but it's definitely suspicious and rude.

Further, their new rules on what they'll accept and deny defeat the purpose of the event. It feels disingenuous to participate in an event about the dangers of censorship when the moderators gave into calls for censorship themselves.[8]
i’ve said it before, i’ve said it again. this event is racist. THIS EVENT IS RACIST. THE MODS ARE BEING RACIST. DEFENDING THESE MODS MAKES YOU COMPLICIT[10]

Further Reading/Meta

References

  1. ^ Banned Together Bingo Tumblr, archived May 6 2020.
  2. ^ Renaming Prompts Response from rose-in-a-fisted-glove, archived June 23 2020.
  3. ^ Renaming Prompts Responses from blackestglass and samstevebuckyhq, archived June 8 2020.
  4. ^ BTB 2020 Is Going on Hiatus, archived June 23 2020.
  5. ^ Thread between multiple users hosted on fiction-is-not-reality2, June 8 2020 (accessed Feb 22 2021, Archived version
  6. ^ a b c BTB2020 is back!, Archived version
  7. ^ On Censorship (page), Archived version
  8. ^ a b I'm seriously contemplating not officially participating... by rainbowfoxes, June 23 2020 (accessed Feb 22 2021), Archived version
  9. ^ post by previouslysaltyfandombrat, June 23 2020 (accessed Feb 22 2021), Archived version
  10. ^ a b tldr banned together bingo mods need to stop and apologize, Archived version
  11. ^ a b response to anon from fiction-is-not-reality2, Archived version
  12. ^ banned together bingo is coming back with changes, Archived version