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A note about who was deplatformed in September 2019

Update: the original version of this document was based on the public information I could find before today, and in particular on a couple of exchanges like this one, where Maciek Gorywoda asks, "I understand if now you simply don't want it, but what if you contacted @skillsmatter about doing that keynote by yourself?", and Wiem Zine El Abidine replies, "they asked me for that, but the plan was to give a keynote with my mentor @jdegoes and I am not happy about what happened".

I interpreted these comments (reasonably, I think) to mean that Wiem had been offered the keynote after John De Goes was removed, but that she had declined the invitation. There is now an email from Skills Matter that is publicly available that makes it clear that this is not what happened: the keynote was entirely cancelled and Wiem was only invited to submit another abstract.

I still think that most of the argument in the document below is accurate, including in particular the parts about Igal Tabachnik, Valentine Kasas, etc., who have accused Typelevel (and me) of "deplatforming" Wiem. I don't know of anyone in Typelevel who advocated for or even wanted Wiem to be uninvited, or whose response was "a literal idgaf" or "She shouldn't have associated with him" (as Tabachnik claims). I've looked and asked around for evidence of these claims before, and if any ever turns up I'll add it here.

The original contents are included unedited below as a record:

One common grievance of the ZIO crew is that Wiem Zine El Abidine (a Scala developer and ZIO contributor) was uninvited from speaking at Skills Matter's Scala Exchange conference in 2019, because of the efforts of people who wanted John De Goes (her co-presenter) to be deplatformed. This is apparently untrue: according to her own statements, Wiem was not uninvited, only De Goes.

For what it's worth I don't know of any evidence that Wiem herself has ever made this claim, but many men in the community have:

Valentine Kasas in September 2019:

This is a witch hunt.

When you exclude a relentless innovator from a conference, when this exclusion results in excluding the young woman from North-Africa who was supposed to share the stage with him, it has nothing to do with promoting innovation and inclusivity. It is a witch hunt.

Or Martin Pallmann:

Or Igal Tabachnik, repeatedly:

  • 4 June 2020: I don't defend him, that's not my place. But real, actual people (some of whom are the very unrepresented folks) get caught in the crossfire. The SkillsMatter thing not just punished John, but also Wiem, a Muslim woman from North Africa who was supposed to give a talk.
  • 11 June 2020: John does not need mine or anyone's defence. Whether he chooses to own up to his mistakes, that's his choice. My only problem is the collateral. Real people, the very same minorities get hurt by this. When Travis got him deplatformed from ScalaExchange, this hurt Wiem foremost.
  • 11 June 2020: And the response from certain people in the TL leadership was a literal dgaf. "She shouldn't have associated with him". That makes it personal for me. Wiem is a friend, a minority, and her being dumped on because of what John did 5 years ago does not fly with me.

Or from this week, Jonathan Winandy:

  • 8 November 2021: When Wiem's keynote with John was deplatform, what was your position? Do you still hold it?

And Gabriele Petronella:

  • 8 November 2021: I didn’t take a position at the time. I am ok with deplatforming in general, I’m not so sure about deplatforming by association (e.g. Wiem is a victim for sure there)

These claims are false and are clearly intended to harm both the Skills Matter organizers and everyone who worked to encourage them to deplatform De Goes, none of whom (to my knowledge) ever wanted Wiem to be uninvited.

Wiem herself acknowledges that she was not uninvited, in multiple tweets that are now unavailable (due to the Twitter account being deactivated):

  • 4 September 2019: they asked me for that ["doing that keynote by yourself"], but the plan was to give a keynote with my mentor @jdegoes and I am not happy about what happened.
  • 9 December 2019: I am sad about what happened to ScalaExchange even it wasn’t wise to disinvite @jdegoes and I support John ❤️. Even though my feelings now I shouldn’t forget that they were excited about me in the community and they invited me twice. Thank you #scalathankyou

Skills Matter's public statement also says nothing about any speaker other than De Goes:

It has come to our attention that there is growing concern in our community about the participation of John De Goes as a speaker at our upcoming Scala eXchange and we hear and understand those concerns.

At Skills Matter we always strive to get the balance right between sharing cutting edge technology, and nurturing an inclusive community. We are defined by our people and our community, and on this occasion we accept that we have fallen short in ensuring our conference program was fully reflective of our values and in making sure that everyone in our community feels safe and welcome.

Our values dictate our actions, therefore we have come to a decision that we will rescind our invitation to John De Goes at the Scala Exchange.

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