We are very pleased today to launch our Digital Code of Conduct. At MOLA, we communicate directly with people around the world through our digital channels, including our social media accounts (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), our apps and our websites. We are committed to making these spaces safe, secure and non-threatening for all who interact on them, including our staff, volunteers, followers and other users.

This Code of Conduct outlines how we at MOLA use our digital channels to foster constructive and welcoming conversations with public audiences, and what we in turn expect of the audiences who engage with us. The code has been a long time in development, drafted in consultation with dozens of people from across our teams at MOLA, and influenced by the community rules of a variety of different organisations, from the British Museum’s Social Media Code of Conduct to The Wall Street Journal’s Community Rules & FAQs.

It is increasingly common for organisations to have codes of conduct in relation to all forms of practice, and the need for codes specifically for online communications is especially acute. In the archaeological and heritage sector, multiple studies indicate relatively high levels of inappropriate or abusive behaviour targeted at professionals online (e.g., Perry et al. 2015; Richardson 2021). The problems are compounded when no appropriate policies are in place to counteract such behaviour, often leaving those who’ve been affected to feel they have no support system, nor options for response. This predicament is echoed in other fields of practice, and a number of essential resources have been developed to guide individual users, witnesses, employers and media companies in grappling with the potentials and the dangers of online communications. Especially useful for our purposes have been PEN America’s Online Harassment Field Manual and the Centre for Countering Digital Hate’s Don’t Feed the Trolls guide.

All of us who communicate on social and digital platforms are personally affected by these interactions and so know their power both to bring people together and, in some cases, to pull them apart. Fortunately, there are many in archaeology who we can look to for inspiration, both in terms of advancing meaningful forms of digital social engagement, and in advocating for and establishing safeguards (for example, in the UK, look at the work of Lorna RichardsonMeghan Dennis, Christopher Wakefield). We see our Code of Conduct as a complement to their efforts – a step towards creating just and safe spaces for all users of MOLA’s social and digital channels. Importantly, the code also aims to make clear the consequences if we perceive people to be violating the dignity, equality, wellbeing, or security of our staff, volunteers or audiences on these channels. 

We hope you’ll join us in continuing to grow our online community in positive and thoughtful ways. Please make use of the code and get in touch with questions (media@mola.org.uk). We welcome your constructive engagements!