#include <C++> Position on CppCon Safety

Content Warning

This document contains material on rape and child sexual exploitation that may be harmful or traumatic to some audiences.

The Situation

After being notified of the fact that a prominent participant in the conference had been convicted of two counts: rape of drugged victim and possession of child pornography, the CppCon conference leadership and the Standard C++ Foundation board went through a secret internal process that resulted in them continuing to promote this person and protect them. When confronted by #include <C++> members, they refused to give any information on the nature of their decision nor to communicate more widely on their policy.

Executive Summary

#include <C++> is a global community of C++ developers who aim to make the C++ community more welcoming, open, and inclusive.

CppCon is the largest conference for the C++ community. The Standard C++ Foundation runs it. #include <C++> has had a presence at the conference for a number of years.

One of the CppCon organizers and speakers (herein “individual X”, or “X””) has a criminal record. They were convicted of rape and possession of Child Sexual Abuse Imagery in 2011, and are a registered sex offender. The Standard C++ Foundation board has been aware of this fact since August 2021 at the latest.

When #include <C++> members reached out to the CppCon organization team to try to get information on what steps were taken to ensure the safety of attendees and the transparency on the situation, they were regularly met with either refusal to answer or request to meet only under non-disclosure agreement. Contradictory answers to the same question from multiple involved parties make us even doubt the decisions were clear enough inside the Standard C++ Foundation board itself.

The actions of CppCon and the Standard C++ Foundation in this matter demonstrate systemic failures. We believe CppCon and the Standard C++ Foundation do not share our values and do not sufficiently prioritize diversity, inclusion, and the safety of the most vulnerable members of our community. Throughout our exchanges with them, CppCon and the Standard C++ Foundation have used secrecy and confidentiality to avoid accountability.

#include <C++> needs a number of meaningful and significant changes to be made to CppCon and the Standard C++ Foundation. Until these changes are made, #include <C++> will cease all collaboration with CppCon.

Recent CppCon communication

On March 9th 2022 CppCon issued a statement and a new safety policy in response to these events becoming public. We regret that they waited until the publicity to do so and think that this statement is misrepresenting some facts and incomplete:

  • They claim that X was only allowed to participate as an ordinary attendee and was removed from all conference organizational roles. To our knowledge X benefited from multiple advantages that are not given to ordinary attendees (paid hotel room, gift basket) and was still involved in the organization of CppCon as of at least last week.

  • The statement and safety policy do not commit to any kind of transparency in the future.

Mishandlings

At several points during the meetings leading to CppCon’s decision regarding the handling of X’s case, bad decisions were taken. We want to highlight more particularly the following:

  • The Standard C++ Foundation board invited individual X to speak to them about their crimes. This was a complete violation of their victims’ privacy, and incredibly naive. It was disrespectful and inappropriate. A group of people with no specific training and only one side of the story will never be able to make a relevant decision.

  • The Standard C++ Foundation president told individual X about the process that #include <C++> was in and who was participating in it, causing X to directly contact members of this group. This action was perceived as threatening by members of this group, and shows a complete lack of judgment on the part of the board.

  • The CppCon Code of Conduct team was circumvented in these decisions and was not given any power on the whole subject.

  • The Standard C++ Foundation board “accepted” the resignation of one of its members, who had raised objections to the process and decisions of the board (tweets). The board member had tendered their resignation in 2020-10, but had been persuaded to stay on for the following year. This acceptance resulted in the board member leaving the board with immediate effect.

Our Past Involvement

#include <C++> has been involved with CppCon in a variety of ways:

  • #include <C++> organized and crowdfunded programs to provide tickets and travel grants to attendees from underrepresented groups. CppCon has provided discounted rates for these tickets.

  • #include <C++> hosted dinner events focused on diversity and inclusion at CppCon. At first, these events were held offsite and crowdfunded through by #include <C++>, but in recent years CppCon has incorporated these events into the official conference program and hosted them onsite.

  • #include <C++> ran a booth at CppCon between 2017 and 2019, where we provide information about our organization and sell #include <C++> merchandise. CppCon does not charge us a fee for the booth.

  • #include <C++> is a CppCon Community Sponsor. Community Sponsors do not pay a sponsorship fee.

  • #include <C++> provides several channels on the Discord server for CppCon attendees to discuss, plan social events, and so on. There are also channels used for organizing the booth, dinner, and scholarship program.

  • #include <C++> promotes the conference as a whole and individual conference events and activities on our website, twitter posts, etc and encourages our members to do the same personally.

Our Response

Until and unless meaningful changes, listed below, are made to the governance of CppCon and the Standard C++ Foundation:

  • #include <C++> has decided to cease all collaboration with CppCon as an organization. This includes all activities listed in the prior section.

  • A considerable number of individuals involved or not with #include <C++> have already publicly decided to discontinue their personal involvement in CppCon as organizers, speakers, and attendees.

What Needs to Change

We believe that CppCon and the Standard C++ Foundation have systemic problems that require reform. We need to see meaningful changes to CppCon and the Standard C++ Foundation before we can participate in CppCon again, specifically:

  • Transparency and public accountability from CppCon and the Standard C++ Foundation.

  • Changes to the governance of CppCon.

    • Establishment of a transparent and diverse CppCon Steering Committee that has authority over CppCon. CppCon Attendees should elect the Steering Committee, and have short term limits.

    • Changes to the composition of the Standard C++ Foundation board.

  • Empowerment of the CppCon Code of Conduct team.

    • Extension of the mandate of the team to all questions of attendee safety.

    • Possibility for the team to take binding decisions on the conference leadership.

Changes as a first step

These changes bringing transparency and accountability are a necessary step to bring back trust and make sure everybody is able to take decisions by themselves regarding their security.

It is absolutely possible that decisions taken transparently with the full support of an empowered CppCon Code of Conduct team might not be satisfactory to #include <C++> and that we will still not engage with said conference. But it would at least let attendees make an informed decision for themselves instead of having a small group of people deciding for the whole community.