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Update on Route Names - 8/27/20

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Nick Wilder · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2005 · Points: 4,094

As many of you know, for years I considered Mountain Project a passive "publisher" of shared data and chose not to take a stand against discriminatory route names that were added to the site by others. I regret having taken that stance in the past and sincerely apologize to the community, particularly to those climbers who are the targets of that hate speech.

This issue extends beyond our website and into the broader climbing community, and with a growing number of people involved with many passionate opinions, implementing change is taking time. Progress is long overdue, and has been slower than I'd like, but a solid plan is forming. Here's the latest:

  1. A climbing organization will be convening a group made up of a diverse and representative set of climbing nonprofits, diversity nonprofits, members of the BIPOC community, first ascensionists, corporate leaders, professional climbers, and Mountain Project. REI is supporting this group with resources and funding that will sustain long-term work. Among the goals of this working group is addressing the systemic issue of racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and homophobic behaviors in climbing culture. These behaviors create barriers to inclusion for targeted people, and contribute to a culture where instances of discrimination are more readily excused. This body of work will evolve and we expect it will take place over roughly 18 months.
  2. One of the first topics the group will address is the issue of discriminatory route names on MP and elsewhere. Though this work is still being defined, the effort will include a review of discriminatory names that have been flagged on MP. The goal is to complete a policy statement that addresses discriminatory names and create guidelines as to what names should be considered discriminatory. The timeframe for this project is several months.
  3. In advance of that work, MP staff and internal volunteers have reviewed flagged names and have redacted 700 route names that have been deemed overtly discriminatory and in need of quicker action. For these routes, MP shows “[Redacted]” instead of the original route name. The goal of this step is to address a set of names that clearly have no place on Mountain Project, or any climbing guide. We are attempting to find a difficult balance between making real progress on the issue, but also allow time and space for the longer-term work to be done with a broader and more diverse set of voices.

There will be strong opinions about these actions, and we have a long way to go, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Thanks, Nick

Nick Wilder · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2005 · Points: 4,094

Q&A

Q: Why are you taking on this issue?

A: Everyone should be able to feel safe and welcome when they go outside. Route names that ridicule people and communities based on who they are cause harm, send a clear message to some people that they don’t belong, and reinforce a culture of exclusion.  

Q: Why did you redact “name one” but not “name two”?

A: At this time, we removed the obvious names that have no place on MP. We did not redact “name two” because either: 1. We made a mistake or missed it, 2. We didn't understand the meaning, or 3. We thought it warranted discussion with the broader group. It doesn’t mean we approve of “name two,” but we want to include the work of a larger and more diverse set of voices before making a decision. 

Q: Will you be redacting more names?

A: Yes, after we have worked with the broad group described above, we will have created a policy statement about route names along with a set of guidelines about what will be redacted. When that body of work is done, we will re-review all flagged routes and redact the ones that match the guidelines, based on the guidance of the working group.

Q: Is MP changing route names?

A: No, we are not changing names. We are placing limits on what we will publish on Mountain Project. For names we won’t publish, we show “[Redacted].”

Q: Can I rename a route?

A: We will gladly help the first ascensionist rename a route and update it on MP. We are encouraged to see that 120 discriminatory names have already been changed. Once changed, new names are displayed as normal.

Q: Can I see the original name if it has been redacted?

A: Yes, the original name can be found in the “Page Updates” if a user chooses to look for it by clicking the small “i” symbol next to the name.

Q: Will redacted names show up in search results?

A: Yes, because many of these names have been in use for a long time and appear in guidebooks, you can still search for the original names. When the original name matches the search term, the route is shown, though the name is displayed as “[Redacted].”

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