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Spotlight on Support

In order to better balance the workloads of our Support and Policy & Abuse committees, we are making some changes to who is responsible for which kinds of requests.

Policy & Abuse will continue to address Terms of Service violations, and Support will continue to answer questions on how to use the site and address bug reports, as always. But there are some cases which Policy & Abuse have previously been handling, and which will now be handled by Support. These are:

  • Loss of access to an account (for example, if you no longer remember or have access to the email address you used to set up your account in order to receive a password reset)
  • Questions and problems concerning orphaned works
  • Works labeled with an incorrect language

If you need to report one of these issues, please contact Support. If you direct a report of any kind to the wrong department, it's okay! We'll either transfer the report directly, or ask you to resubmit it to the correct team.

We hope these changes will be helpful by allowing our Policy & Abuse team members to devote more of their time and energy to other issues!


The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.

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Published:
2021-08-29 16:20:29 UTC
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Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said

Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer's personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today's post is with lydia-theda, who volunteers as a Policy & Abuse staffer.

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?

The Archive of Our Own was created to protect and preserve transformative fanworks of all kinds. As a fanwork archive, we believe in maximum inclusiveness of content: if you’ve created a fanwork—whether fiction or meta; derivative or original work; fanfic, fanart, fanmix, podfic, or fanvid—then regardless of the subject matter, your fanwork is welcome on AO3.

You’ll need to choose an appropriate rating, warning, fandom, and language, but (with the exception of language) you don’t have to be specific. When it comes to the Archive’s required tags, using the “Not Rated” rating, “Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings” warning, and “Unspecified Fandom” or “Undisclosed Fandom” fandom tags is like saying Here be dragons, and that’s perfectly fine and valid. Of course, you’re also welcome to pick the more specific ratings and warnings, and/or get really detailed in your fandom, character, relationship, and additional tags.

Currently, AO3 hosts approximately 8 million works, created by 4 million users and tagged with over 16 million tags. As a tag wrangler, I help sort and connect all those tags so that users can more easily find—or avoid—particular content. And as part of the Policy & Abuse committee (PAC), I investigate reports about content and behaviors that violate the AO3 Terms of Service. (If you didn’t know, the Report Abuse link is located at the bottom of every AO3 page.)

We only need one report in order to investigate any given case, and the more details about the user and their works or comments you include in that report, the better. A minimum of two real human beings review every single report we receive, to ensure that we are interpreting the Terms of Service consistently and that we only act when the reported user isn’t following the rules.

If the content doesn’t violate the Terms of Service, then the report is rejected and the fanwork remains on the Archive.

But if you post things that aren’t fanworks (like fic searches, prompts, or social media posts), mention anything about making money from your work, reproduce someone else’s work without permission, harass other users, or otherwise violate the Terms of Service, then we may send you an email warning you that what you did isn’t allowed on AO3, and explaining exactly what you need to do to fix the issue and what will happen if you don’t.

All reports are confidential, and all user communication occurs via email, whether that’s the email address associated with your AO3 account or the one you entered into the form when making a report. Please make sure your email is correct and that you check it (and your spam folder) regularly!

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?

Every day, I receive hundreds of email/mobile notifications about the latest reports, updates to active cases, and other messages. As a volunteer, I do what I can, when I have the time and spoons to do it. So, if I only have a few minutes here and there, or if I’m on my phone, I’ll do little things: reviewing drafts for typos, reading and contributing to ongoing discussions, browsing through and claiming tickets, or making notes on incoming reports to help whoever eventually takes the case.

When I have a larger block of time, I’ll work on some of the tickets I picked up earlier. For any given case, the first thing I do is collect, organize, and verify all of the relevant information in order to determine whether there’s been a violation and how to handle it. If the case is borderline or particularly complicated, I may need to bring it to the team for discussion or consult with other committees, such as AD&T, Support, Translation, or Legal. Once I’ve decided what the appropriate action should be, I’ll draft all necessary responses and ask another team member to review my work and (if they didn’t find any errors) sign off on the case. If any of my responses need to be translated, I’ll get that done before sending the emails out. If I gave a user a deadline to do something, I’ll follow up after the deadline has passed to see if they did the thing. If they did, great; if not … well, that depends on the case.

On top of all that, I try to do a bit of wrangling every week, whether that’s checking the fandoms I’m assigned to for new tags, evaluating if my fandoms’ existing tags meet current guidelines, or working on large-scale projects with other wranglers. Once a month or so, I help AD&T test the latest releases, which mostly amounts to poking things they’ve coded to make sure they work right (and occasionally finding out that they don’t).

What made you decide to volunteer?

One day I stumbled upon one of the AO3 news posts which was asking for tag wranglers. I had no idea what that was, but it seemed like an interesting way to contribute to fandom, so I applied.

I joined PAC about a year later, after talking with a few friends who were on the team and thinking that the type of work PAC does and the kind of people they are sounded exactly like it’d fit with my interests and personality. While I don’t think I would have had the courage to apply to PAC from the start, I’m very glad I’m here now.

What has been your biggest challenge doing work for the OTW?

Particularly in the last year or so, there’s been a huge increase in site traffic. More users means more content, and more content means more tags to wrangle and more reports to process. On both of my committees, we’ve had to take steps to try and keep up with the higher workload.

I’m just one of over a thousand volunteers from around the world, all of whom are devoting our free time to the OTW’s various projects. Everything we do—research, testing, discussion, coordination, documentation, recruitment, training, policy decisions, procedural changes, guideline reviews, normal day-to-day work—takes time and effort, and not everyone has those to spare on any given day. Misunderstandings are going to happen, so patience and kindness are crucial. Apologize when you mess up, try to figure out where you went wrong, and commit to doing better in the future.

What fannish things do you like to do?

While I will occasionally create fanart or beta fics for friends, I wouldn’t have discovered AO3 if I didn’t read fic, and I read fic nearly every day. Nowadays I get most of my recs from wrangling and reports, lol. I also spend a lot of time chatting with other OTW volunteers, whether about our work, the fandoms we’re in together, interesting things we found online … plus, I’ll never say no to a cute cat pic ^_^


Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you'd like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.

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In the next few days, we will be adding a new option that allows work creators to turn off comments. The option will be available on the forms for posting or editing individual works as well as the form for updating multiple works at once, and we've done some minor rearranging of the forms to accommodate the new option.

What turning off comments does

Turning off comments will replace the comment form at the end of your work with a notice that says, "Sorry, this work doesn't allow comments."

If your work already has comments, all existing comments will remain accessible to you and anyone who can access your work. You will still be able to delete any unwanted comments or mark guest comments as spam.

Users who have left logged-in comments on your work will also still be able to delete their comments.

How to turn off comments on individual works

In the "Privacy" section of the posting and editing forms for individual works, you will find a set of options called "Who can comment on this work." It will have three options:

  • Registered users and guests can comment
  • Only registered users can comment (this is equivalent to the old "Disable anonymous commenting" option)
  • No one can comment

By default, it is set to "Registered users and guests can comment." To prevent anyone from commenting on your work, choose "No one can comment" and save your changes.

How to turn off comments on multiple works

If you'd like to change the comment settings for more than one work at a time, you can use the Edit Multiple Works page. (Please refer to "How do I edit multiple works at the same time?" for information on accessing this page and selecting works to edit.)

Once you've chosen the works you want to edit, locate the "Settings" section of the form. There will a set of options called "Who can comment on these works," and it will have four choices:

  • Keep current comment settings
  • Registered users and guests can comment
  • Only registered users can comment (this is equivalent to the old "Disable anonymous comments" option)
  • No one can comment

By default, it is set to "Keep current comment settings." To prevent anyone from commenting on the works you are editing, choose "No one can comment" and save your changes.

Other options for controlling comments on your works

Please check out our Comments and Kudos FAQ for more information on controlling comments on your works, including:

Update 15 August 06:22 UTC: These changes are now live!

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Published:
2020-05-06 16:45:22 UTC
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Banner by Erin of a close-up of Rosie the Riveter's arm with an OTW logo on it and the words 'OTW Recruitment'

Do you want to rescue at-risk fan archives? Would you like to assist AO3 users by resolving complaints? The Organization for Transformative Works is recruiting!

We're excited to announce the opening of applications for:

  • Open Doors Staff - closing 13 May 2020 at 23:59 UTC or after 30 applications
  • Policy & Abuse Staff - closing 13 May 2020 at 23:59 UTC

We have included more information on each role below. Open roles and applications will always be available at the volunteering page. If you don't see a role that fits with your skills and interests now, keep an eye on the listings. We plan to put up new applications every few weeks, and we will also publicize new roles as they become available.

All applications generate a confirmation page and an auto-reply to your e-mail address. We encourage you to read the confirmation page and to whitelist our email address in your e-mail client. If you do not receive the auto-reply within 24 hours, please check your spam filters and then contact us.

If you have questions regarding volunteering for the OTW, check out our Volunteering FAQ.

Open Doors Staff

Are you interested in the rescue and preservation of fanworks? Enjoy coordinating projects and liaising with people? Still guiltily--or not so guiltily--love the first fanwork that opened your eyes to fandom?

Open Doors is a committee dedicated to preserving fanworks in their many native formats, and is looking for staffers to support this goal. The work we do preserves fan history, love, and dedication to fandom: we keep online archives from going down, divert fanzines from the trash, and more.

If you're interested, click on through for a fuller description of what we're looking for and the time commitment.

Please note: You must be 18+ in order to apply for this role.

Applications are due 13 May 2020 at 23:59 UTC

Policy & Abuse Staff

The AO3 Policy & Abuse Committee is dedicated to helping users deal with the various situations that may arise. We also handle any complaints that come in about content uploaded to the Archive of Our Own. The team determines if complaints are about legitimate violations of the Terms of Service, and what to do about them if they are; our major goals are to adhere to the TOS, to make our reasoning and processes as clear and transparent as possible, and to keep every individual case completely confidential. We work closely with other AO3 related committees such as Support and Content.

We are seeking people who are self-motivated, are patient in rephrasing explanations, can make and document decisions, cooperate within and outside of their team, and ask for help when it's needed. Staffers need to be able to handle complex and sometimes-disturbing content, and must be able to commit a sufficient amount of time to the team on a regular basis.

Policy & Abuse staffers are required to spend at least 10-15 hours a week handling committee work, though it often tends to be more. Please be sure you can handle the workload before applying.

Please note: You must be 18+ in order to apply for this role.

Applications are due 13 May 2020 at 23:59 UTC

Apply at the volunteering page!

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To cut down on abuse, we have just rolled out some changes to co-creating works, chapters, and series on the Archive. Until now, it was possible for any user to list you as a co-creator without your approval. We've added creator invitations to ensure you won't be listed as a co-creator until you accept the invitation. Additionally, we've added a preference that requires you to opt in before other users can invite you to become a co-creator.

Nothing will change about existing co-created items: all creators will still be able to edit the work, chapter, or series even if they do not enable the preference. Before you can be invited as a new co-creator, however, you will need to enable the "Allow others to invite me to be a co-creator" option on your Preferences page. (Where can I find my Preferences?)

Turning the preference off will not remove you from any co-created items, nor will it prevent any of the item's existing co-creators from making changes. You can turn the preference on and off as many times as you like. Turning the preference off will not delete any co-creator invitations -- you'll still be able to find them by following the "Creator Invitations" link on your Dashboard when you turn the preference back on.

If you need to add a co-creator who does not have the preference enabled and who you are unable to contact, you can use the Notes field to provide proper credit.

We're sorry we weren't able to announce this change ahead of time like we usually do, but adding co-creators who did not wish to be associated with a work was becoming an increasingly common abuse and spam tactic, and we didn't want to cause a spike in these incidents by publicizing it before this fix was live. We hope the changes provide relief for users who have been targeted and help everyone feel more in control of their experience on the Archive.

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Published:
2019-04-21 15:02:35 UTC
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Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said

Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer's personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today's post is with Nrandom, who volunteers as a staffer in our Policy & Abuse and Tag Wrangling Committees.

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?

As a member of the Policy & Abuse Committee, I respond to tickets sent in by users about issues like plagiarism, harassment, non-fanworks (works like prompt lists, fic searches, requests for a beta, or roleplay ads), as well as other violations of the Terms of Service. As a team, we do our best to help users with any issues they have while also ensuring that the values AO3 was founded on are upheld. I also get to do a lot of work with the Accessibility, Design, & Technology Committee (AD&T), particularly in situations like last year, when the archive was experiencing a spam epidemic.

In addition to Policy & Abuse, I volunteer for the Tag Wrangling committee. This involves organising and linking tags together for easier filtering, often working with a team to get everything done. It’s a lot of fun to work with the other wranglers, and it’s always interesting to see how people are tagging their works! I get quite a few fic recommendations from this - my “Marked for Later” list is always substantially longer after a couple of hours spent wrangling. I also serve as a volunteer manager for the Tag Wrangling committee and complete some of the administrative tasks, such as training new wranglers and writing new guidelines and documentation where needed.

In general, I love that I can help the OTW behind the scenes through my work with the Tag Wrangling Committee, but that I also get the chance to work with our wonderful user base as a Policy & Abuse Volunteer.

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?

When I’m working on things for the OTW, I tend to start curled up in a blanket with a laptop, a cat, and a cup of tea. If I’m working on P&A cases, first I’ll check if there were any updates in my ongoing cases, before perusing the ticket queue and grabbing a few to work on that day. Each case is investigated and weighed equally, regardless of the number of tickets sent in, so we always have plenty to do. The P&A team is very friendly and collaborative, it’s a pleasure to work together to help users and to maintain the archive as a space where creators can post a variety of fanworks.

On days I’m working on wrangling tasks, I check my to-do lists to see if I have any tasks in progress or if there are any I would like to pick up, before choosing a couple of fandoms to work on and opening AO3 to look at new tags. I’m lucky enough to be on teams with other volunteers for some of the fandoms I wrangle, and it’s always fun to chat about everything as we work.

What made you decide to volunteer?

I started volunteering 2 years ago when I saw an advertisement for Tag Wrangling on the AO3 homepage, realised that I had the time, and thought it might be fun to help with the archive I frequented so often. Little did I know what a difference that decision would make in my life today. I’ve met some of my closest friends while volunteering, and have found an amazing fannish community to be a part of. A year ago I joined Policy & Abuse as well, drawn to the committee by the chance to be able to interact with and help users directly. Through that I’ve learned a lot about fandom, but I’ve also had the chance to work with a great team and develop customer service skills.

What's the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?

I absolutely love the community of volunteers. In addition to our volunteer work, we often do things together like play games, share recs, and just generally flail about fannish things. I’ve made so many amazing friends.

Before I joined I never really engaged in fandom, but since joining I’ve learned quite a bit about fandom and the people in it. It’s exciting to be a part of a fannish community, and to be able to do my little part in keeping AO3 running.

What fannish things do you like to do?

I’ve always been primarily a reader of fanfic, which is what drew me, like many others, to AO3 in the first place. Some of my frequent fandoms are Harry Potter, Marvel, Yuri!!! On Ice, and Star Wars, but I tend to jump from fandom to fandom quite frequently. I joined fandom in 2013 and have since enjoyed learning about its history, from where a lot of current fandom practices have come about. Recently, I have also started recording podfics and subsequently flailing at fandom friends while editing.


Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you'd like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.

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Published:
2018-04-30 20:49:41 UTC
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We recently received reports about one or more Tumblr accounts posing as "AO3 consultants" and contacting other users about their works on the Archive. In those messages, users are asked to take down their works "due to reports of abuse" or else have their works deleted by AO3 admins.

These messages are in no way sanctioned by the AO3 Policy & Abuse committee, who will never contact users via social media. All messages you receive from our Support and Abuse teams will be signed by the volunteer contacting you, and will reference specific abuse reports, requests for technical support, or other matters pertaining to your account.

Please keep your email address up to date, as this is our only way of getting in touch with you. To check, follow these instructions for changing the email address associated with your account. (If you go to that page and don't see a place to enter your password, that's a known issue, sorry! You can work around it by following these steps to change your password.)

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Published:
2016-05-16 18:52:27 UTC
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Banner by Diane with the outlines of a man and woman speaking with word bubbles, one of which has the OTW logo and the other which says 'OTW Announcement'

Our hard-working, all-volunteer Abuse team has asked for a change in how abuse reports are submitted. Based on the past seven years’ experience, it has determined that anonymous complaints are unhelpful and highly burdensome. First, the majority of anonymous reports are duplicates. Second, a large number of anonymous reports have, in the past, been rejected, but we have no way to contact the reporters to explain what is and is not a violation of the Terms of Service. Finally, many anonymous reports do not include the necessary information, which means Abuse closes them without investigating since there is nothing else it can do—the team can’t follow up to get more information. We realize some people may not feel comfortable reporting things under their own name. However, reports may still be made using a throwaway or dedicated email account, as long as there is a way to contact the person making the complaint.

Current text:

1. Submitting a complaint

Complaints may be submitted to our abuse team. Except in the case of copyright complaints, a complainant may submit a complaint via the web form, which does not require identifying information. Depending on the nature of the complaint, however, anonymity may hinder our ability to verify the complaint or affect the credibility of the complaint. In order for the abuse team to follow up on any allegation, the exact location (URL) and nature of the alleged violation must be supplied in the original complaint. Repeated unverified abuse complaints from the same source may be subject to summary rejection.

2. Treatment and investigation of complaints

Only people who need to know about a complaint will be informed about it. The details of any individual complaint are confidential and must be used only in resolving that complaint. The subject of a complaint may also be among those who need to know about it. Only information provided in the complaint will be passed on. The complainant has complete control over what information is submitted to Abuse, and can submit the complaint anonymously. (Legal names and other information sufficient to identify a person in the physical world will never be disclosed as part of a standard abuse complaint. For further clarification, please refer to our privacy policy.)

Proposed text:

1. Submitting a complaint

Complaints may be submitted to our abuse team. Except in the case of copyright complaints, a complainant may submit a complaint via the web form, which does not require identifying information. Depending on the nature of the complaint, however, anonymity may hinder our ability to verify the complaint or affect the credibility of the complaint. In order for the abuse team to follow up on any allegation, the exact location (URL) and nature of the alleged violation must be supplied in the original complaint. Repeated unverified abuse complaints from the same source may be subject to summary rejection.

2. Treatment and investigation of complaints

Only people who need to know about a complaint will be informed about it. The details of any individual complaint are confidential and must be used only in resolving that complaint. The subject of a complaint may also be among those who need to know about it. Only information provided in the complaint will be passed on. The complainant has complete control over what information is submitted to Abuse, and can submit the complaint anonymously. (Legal names and other information sufficient to identify a person in the physical world will never be disclosed as part of a standard abuse non-copyright complaint. For further clarification, please refer to our privacy policy.) Except in the case of copyright complaints, the name and contact information provided by the complainant will not be disclosed to the user.

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