Proposed - Include Cpp Position on CppCon Safety


Patricia Aas, 08 March 2022

Proposed - Transparency Report on CppCon Safety

Content Warning

This document contains material on rape and child sexual exploitation that may be harmful or traumatic to some audiences.


The CppCon conference leadership and the Standard C++ Foundation board have chosen to protect and promote a person who has been convicted of rape and possession of Child Sexual Abuse Imagery, over protecting and informing the C++ community.

With this background, #include <C++> requires substantial and important changes to the governance of CppCon and the Standard C++ Foundation. These recent events have made it clear to us that the current governance is not serving the wider community well. These changes are listed in the last section of this document and include more transparency and a change in the set of people who run CppCon and the Standard C++ Foundation board, and the reversal of a specific decision to allow participation by this specific individual we are not naming, described below.

Until these changes are made, #include <C++> and many of its members will not be participating in CppCon in any way, in person or online, or supporting the conference as we have done until now. Details of what we have done before are in the section Our Past Involvement, our immediate steps are in the section Our Response and in the section What Needs to Change are the steps we hope will be taken.

Executive Summary

#include <C++> is a global community of C++ developers who aim to make the C++ community more welcoming, open, and inclusive.

CppCon is the largest conference for the C++ community. The Standard C++ Foundation runs it. #include <C++> has had a presence at the conference for a number of years.

One of the CppCon organizers and speakers (herein “individual X”, or “X””) has a criminal record. They were convicted of rape and possession of Child Sexual Abuse Imagery in 2011, and are a registered sex offender.

#include <C++> believes that CppCon and the Standard C++ Foundation’s stance on X’s involvement in CppCon is inadequate, inappropriate, and irresponsible. CppCon and the Foundation have chosen to prioritize the prosperity of one sex offender over the physical and mental safety of the C++ community. For more details on what happened, please read our Transparency Report.

The actions of CppCon and the Foundation in this matter demonstrate systemic failures. We believe CppCon and the Foundation do not share our values and do not sufficiently prioritize diversity, inclusion, and the safety of the most vulnerable members of our community. Throughout this ordeal, CppCon and the Foundation have used secrecy and confidentiality to avoid accountability.

#include <C++> needs a number of meaningful and significant changes to be made to CppCon and the Standard C++ Foundation. Until these changes are made, #include <C++> will cease all collaboration with CppCon.

Our Position


#include <C++> would like to emphasize some of the different risk factors associated with X’s participation in CppCon in particular, but also in the wider C++ community.

Physical risk to participants

CppCon is not only a conference, but also a yearly event in the wider C++ community calendar. Many social gatherings happen in the evenings, some official and many unofficial. In the past, some have been organized by #include <C++>. In these more informal settings there are plenty of opportunities to slip something into someone’s drink or trick someone to come up to your hotel room. A person in the community will be much more likely to trust someone with a known high profile in the C++ space.

Negative mental impact

Unfortunately, many people have experienced sexual violence or have had loved ones who have been subjected to it. Many of these people will never feel safe in a setting where a person with such a history is welcome. Even if they don’t feel threatened personally by individual X, they may feel diminished and threatened by the attitude of the conference and board, which have framed X’s actions as not a big deal. Others again will, just by reading these documents, have to relive their trauma. We know this is true for many of our members.

Risk to minors in particular

Attendees bring children to the conference and utilize the conference child care. Underage attendees have been a natural extension of the conference for many years. Both minors and parents will naturally be more trusting towards people they know have a long history with the conference and the community. A conference that prioritizes the secret rehabilitation of a person with these convictions is probably not a conference that is appropriate for minors/children.

Harm Prevention

#include <C++> has, since the beginning, been concerned with providing spaces to the C++ community that are free from abuse. To be able to participate in the community you have to feel and be safe. This applies to psychological harm and physical harm. Many people in the #include <C++> community have experienced harm while just trying to participate in a programming language community. It is critical that we do not put them in harm’s way.

As stated before, the actions already taken have caused harm. People who have experienced sexual violence have had to process all of this. It is necessary for #include <C++> to make sure this ends now.

There are always many considerations when evaluating serious Code of Conduct and community safety issues and #include < C++> has discussed at length the tradeoff between the rehabilitation of this person and the wellbeing and safety of others. We have also discussed if any general considerations or rules could be developed. We have concluded that each case will be different, and that this case has some aspects which make this instance something we feel we have no choice but to address:

  • The type of crimes individual X is convicted of
  • The fact that people are rarely actually convicted of these types of crimes
  • The fact that there is a conviction
  • The fact that this person continues to enjoy prominent positions of trust both at CppCon and in other C++ communities.
  • This is a long-standing, well known member of the community, a person that people will be strongly inclined to trust.

These things cannot be erased. Even if this person held no positions of trust and authority ever again, the trust and authority given in the past would give them access to vulnerable people who would implicitly trust them, because of this well known history. Unless individual X was named, this history would not be erased. Even if you believe that silently stripping authority would work, that is not what CppCon and the board of the Standard C++ Foundation chose to do. They chose to hide it, to protect X’s reputation. The same reputation that gives this person more reach and access.

#include <C++>, just like CppCon and the C++ Foundation, has to make a tradeoff between this person’s safety and privacy, and the wellbeing and safety of the C++ community. It is clear that CppCon and the C++ Foundation chose X’s prosperity over the community’s safety. We have concluded differently. We have chosen to take steps to make sure we do not participate in putting people in harm’s way. We have chosen transparency over secrecy to breed trust and to give individuals and organizations the opportunity to make their own decisions.


Putting someone in a position of authority and trust will mean that people who trust you will be more likely to trust them. Humans are social creatures, trust is largely transitive, and we depend on our communities to keep us safe. We will assume that leadership that we trust would never put a person who could harm us in a position of authority. In a conference or a programming language community there are many such positions; a person who is just attending the conference with you is probably the least trusted, but will probably be more trusted than a random stranger on the street. However, choosing a person to speak, organize, mentor, or teach signals a distinct level of trust and endorsement.

A history of such trust cannot be revoked. People who encounter such a person will base their trust on what they know, on the history this person has in the community. Unless the person is named, any past positions of authority will continue to provide access in the future.

#include <C++> has worked for years to send people to CppCon who do not have the means or the network to do so otherwise. They often view speakers and trainers as “rock stars”, and they trust them implicitly. They are not part of any “whisper network” that might warn them of bad actors.

Because this person is “famous”, they will not be viewed as a normal attendee, even if stripped of all roles. An experienced and well liked speaker who attends will likely be invited to speak at spontaneous or community events, join a panel that needs one more panelist, attend a dinner, be invited for drinks in the hotel bar etc. For example, even after the criminal convictions were known by CppCon, individual X was invited to perform public duties at CppCon 2021, and was most likely invited to private gatherings as well.


Publishing the #include <C++> Transparency Report on this has been very important to us. While trying to unravel what had happened, who decided what and when, we were met with secrecy and silence at every turn. The CppCon leadership and the C++ Foundation board has actively tried to keep the issue quiet and to silence anyone with information or who dissented. This shroud of secrecy has made it impossible for us to obtain information directly. Thanks to many people who have tried to do the right thing, we have patched together the information we have gathered and we present that in the Transparency Report. We shouldn’t have been the people who wrote that report, but we do so because the people who should have, have refused.

There have been active attempts at forging deals of secrecy with many individuals. Several of those people still feel that they cannot speak freely about what they know. This is a mode of operating which is not something that one expects from people in such positions. People have been pressured to leave when they did not agree with the decisions that were being made. Based on the available evidence—including input from primary sources—it is clear that the C++ Foundation—and especially the C++ Foundation President—are acting in secrecy to achieve a particular outcome.


Humans weave a web of trust with one another, if someone we trust vouches for someone else we will trust them more than someone we don’t know. Organizations and people lend credibility to the people they promote. Attendees at a conference trust that the conference will not knowingly put them in harm’s way. This process, how CppCon 2021 unfolded and the plans that the CppCon leadership and the C++ Foundation have for handling this in the future do not align with the trust the community has placed in them.

If a conference wants to make this kind of decision it has to do so out in the open so that attendees, parents of attendees, speakers, trainers, sponsors and organizers can choose to step away.

The all encompassing shroud of secrecy that has surrounded this process has shattered all trust in the CppCon leadership and the C++ Foundation board.

We have asked ourselves, and others have asked us, how this could have happened with a Code of Conduct team present and active. The answer is that the process has always had flaws, and that these have become glaringly apparent due to this incident. The Code of Conduct (CoC) team has no real power at CppCon and there is no commitment to transparency. That meant that the board could (and did) bypass the CoC team, demand secrecy and ignore advice from the CoC people who were aware of the situation. A few days into CppCon 2021, the CoC team lead resigns, and leaves the conference altogether.

Diversity and Inclusion

#include <C++> has worked with CppCon and other conferences to improve the culture and tone of the C++ community, to make it not only more diverse, but to actually be inclusive. Being inclusive is so much more than opening a door, it involves providing means, support and above all listening and acting to protect people and to build a community where marginalized people can also thrive.

We send messages through our choices. We signal who we value by who we promote, by who we protect. And the message here has been loud and clear, the CppCon leadership values the prosperity of individual X over the safety of the vulnerable people in our community.

This is completely in opposition to everything #include <C++> stands for, and we cannot lend our credibility, and the trust people have in us, to it.

Once this is known we expect many people will choose not to attend, not to speak at, not to teach at and not to sponsor CppCon. Some because they will not feel safe there, some because they don’t want to lend their own credibility to it, some in solidarity with those who can’t bring themselves to. We fear it might even steer people away from C++ all together.

Not a Punishment

Not all actions and crimes are the same. Rehabilitation is extremely important, and we would not have reacted in this manner for most other offenses. In this case we see no other option than to remove the person fully from the conference and we recommend that most other C++ communities consider this as well. The appearance of trust and trustworthiness cannot be revoked, unless a person is named. And because we don’t believe that naming individual X is the correct action, we see no other path forward for CppCon but to remove them.

It is impossible for us to evaluate if a person is rehabilitated, but most sexual violence crimes never get reported or result in a conviction at all. We are not pursuing this person throughout their professional life trying to remove their livelihood. We are appealing to a conference and communities we care about and support, to prioritize the safety of their attendees.

It is important to show who we value the most. For #include <C++>, that will always be the most vulnerable. Our focus must be on preventing harm and creating a welcoming community and environment.


In the Transparency Report we outline many instances of bad judgment, but two of these we want to highlight here:

  • The C++ Foundation board invited individual X to speak to them about their crimes. This was a complete violation of their victims’ privacy, and incredibly naive. It was disrespectful and inappropriate. A court heard this case and found this person guilty.

  • The C++ Foundation president told individual X about the process that #include <C++> was in and who was participating in it, causing X to directly contact members of this group. This action was perceived as threatening by members of this group, and shows a complete lack of judgment on the part of the board.

Our Past Involvement

#include <C++> has been involved with CppCon in a variety of ways:

  • #include <C++> organized and crowdfunded programs to provide tickets and travel grants to attendees from underrepresented groups. CppCon has provided discounted rates for these tickets.
  • #include <C++> hosted dinner events focused on diversity and inclusion at CppCon. At first, these events were held offsite and crowdfunded through by #include <C++>, but in recent years CppCon has incorporated these events into the official conference program and hosted them onsite.
  • #include <C++> runs a booth at CppCon where we provide information about our organization and sell #include <C++> merchandise. CppCon does not charge us a fee for the booth.
  • #include <C++> is a CppCon Community Sponsor. Community Sponsors do not pay a sponsorship fee.
  • #include <C++> provides several channels on the Discord server for CppCon attendees to discuss, plan social events, and so on. There are also channels used for organizing the booth, dinner, and scholarship program.
  • #include <C++> promotes the conference as a whole and individual conference events and activities on our website, twitter posts, etc and encourages our members to do the same personally.

Our Response

Until and unless meaningful changes, listed below, are made to the governance of CppCon and the Standard C++ Foundation:

  • #include <C++> has decided to cease all collaboration with CppCon as an organization. This includes all activities listed in the prior section.

  • A number of individuals have decided to discontinue their personal involvement in CppCon as organizers, speakers, and attendees, here is that letter of support.

What Needs to Change

We believe that CppCon and the Standard C++ Foundation have systemic problems that require reform. We need to see meaningful changes to CppCon and the Standard C++ Foundation before we can participate in CppCon again, specifically:

  • A prohibition on individual X attending, speaking, organizing, or volunteering at CppCon in person or online.
  • Transparency and public accountability from CppCon and the Standard C++ Foundation.
  • A full, public transparency report from the Standard C++ Foundation on this incident.
  • Public annual CppCon Code of Conduct transparency reports.
  • Public minutes for Standard C++ Foundation board meetings (following the example of the Python Software Foundation) .
  • Public annual reports on the activities and decisions of the Standard C++ Foundation Board (following the example of the Python Software Foundation).
  • Changes to the governance of CppCon.
  • Establishment of a transparent and diverse CppCon Steering Committee that has authority over CppCon. CppCon Attendees should elect the Steering Committee, and have short term limits.
  • Empowerment of the CppCon Code of Conduct team.
  • Changes to the composition of the Standard C++ Foundation board.