Black Lives Matter

We on the iNaturalist team unequivocally believe that Black lives matter. Over the past several weeks and years, we’ve seen the horrors of police brutality and racism that disproportionately target Black people in the United States. While racism is a global problem, our staff is American, and we estimate about 60% of people using iNaturalist are too. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others have pushed the U.S. over a tipping point, and the resulting protests demonstrate that we can no longer stay silent. We call on all police and law enforcement officers: stop killing our friends, neighbors, and family. And we must collectively work to fight the systemic racism that leads to violence. Now.

Black lives in nature

We believe that nature is for everyone. Biodiversity is for everyone. Curiosity and exploration are for everyone. Everyone should be able to be in nature without fear of discrimination. Unfortunately, recent events in the United States have reminded us that enjoying the outdoors carries much greater risks for Black people like Christian Cooper, who had the police called on him while birding, or Ahmaud Arbery, who was chased down and murdered while jogging. We stand for the safety and the right of Black people to be outdoors and in nature without being subject to suspicion, confrontation, or the threat of violence.

We encourage you to read accounts of Black peoples’ experiences in nature to better understand how race plays a role in natural history and outdoor recreation, particularly those of Christian Cooper, Carolyn Finney, J. Drew Lanham (and this), Corina Newsome, John Robinson, and Rue Mapp, among many, many others. There are plenty more examples shared by BlackAFinSTEM on Twitter.

Our mission is to connect people to nature through technology, and that means making it easier for anyone to relate to, understand, and participate in the natural world around them, regardless of their background. iNaturalist is rooted in science, conservation, natural history, and technology, each of which has its own issues with systemic racism that have historically discouraged the participation of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). This moment and movement is specifically focused on Black people in the United States, but the actions we’ve taken and plan to take fit into the larger picture of increasing diversity, access, and inclusion in the global iNaturalist community across all axes of systemic discrimination. It takes concerted action to overcome the inertia of historical biases and power structures. We acknowledge that we have much to learn and we want to share where we are in the process.

Action

In 2015, we instituted Community Guidelines that include zero tolerance for racist language and hate speech. We consider racism to be grounds for immediate and permanent suspension. These guidelines have been enforced in the past and will continue to be enforced.

Identifying humans as non-human animals on iNaturalist has been a hurtful form of racism done both intentionally by some users and unintentionally by our software, albeit rarely in both cases. We act on intentional behavior like this by removing content and permanently suspending users, and we have tried to avoid automatically comparing pictures of humans to pictures of non-human animals that may be offensive. We know we can do better, and are working toward assessing our computer vision model for racial bias in a systematic manner (as opposed to our past efforts which have been largely anecdotal), exerting more control over taxon photos to avoid hurtful comparisons, and suppressing observation photos of humans to neutralize racist attacks and protect personal privacy.

We will also make an effort to share more Observations of the Day, stories, and blog posts featuring BIPOC naturalists. If you are interested in being featured, please email help@inaturalist.org. Additionally, we would like to support social movements like #BlackBirdersWeek, #BlackInNature, and #BlackBotanists. To our knowledge, these movements have primarily taken place on mainstream social media platforms, but we welcome them to connect on iNaturalist as well to foster relationships and build community around nature observation.

We will meet as a team at least once a month to take stock of these actions and to consider how we can continuously improve diversity and inclusion within the iNaturalist community. This is not a one-time action on our part, and we plan to keep this conversation going and continually address what we can do to make our community better moving forward.

We welcome your feedback

We want iNat to be welcoming to people of all backgrounds, but to be honest, we don't know if it is. We don’t collect information on the race, ethnicity, or even gender of our users, and we currently have no anecdotal evidence of people feeling unwelcome on iNat due to their race or ethnicity.

  • We invite anyone from the BIPOC communities who has a story to tell or feedback on their experiences about race and iNaturalist to contact us at help+race@inaturalist.org, or if you feel comfortable sharing your story publicly, we've started this iNat Forum thread.

  • We would also greatly appreciate your direct feedback, thoughts, and ideas for making our community a more inclusive and diverse space together. How can the iNaturalist community better serve BIPOC? Let us know at help+race@inaturalist.org or on this iNat Forum thread.

  • We know there are organizations working hard to overcome the obstacles that BIPOC face in participating in nature, and we aim to do more to support these organizations on iNaturalist. We know that some groups use iNaturalist as a tool for diversifying science and nature exploration, but we don’t know if they have particular needs that are unmet by our current system. If you support or are a part of any organizations that make nature more accessible to BIPOC and other marginalized groups, please let us know on this Forum thread.

This blog post touches on many issues that warrant further discussion. Since comments on the iNaturalist blog are not well suited to complex conversations, we've disabled comments on this post and encourage further dialogue to happen on the iNaturalist Forum at the links above.

We encourage everyone in the iNaturalist community to join us in reflecting on how our individual actions have impacted this movement, and how each of us can affirm that Black lives matter to more broadly foster diversity, access, equity, and inclusion in our community. There are just 8 staff members but over a million people using iNaturalist. Individually and collectively, our words and actions matter. Thank you to everyone who is already working hard to make the world a more fair and just place.

Sincerely,
The iNaturalist Team
Abhas, Alex, Amanda, Carrie, Ken-ichi, Patrick, Scott, and Tony

Resources for the iNaturalist community:

Posted by kueda kueda, June 11, 2020 19:47

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