Screenshot of the Arbitration Committee description page in 2009
|Established in||December 4, 2003|
The Arbitration Committee (also known as ArbCom) of the English Wikipedia website is a panel of editors that imposes binding rulings with regard to disputes between other editors of the online encyclopedia. The Committee was created by Jimmy Wales on December 4, 2003, as an extension of the decision-making power he had formerly held as owner of the site. Acting as the court of last resort for disputes among editors, the Committee has decided several hundred cases in its history. Because of its activities, the Committee has been examined by academics researching dispute resolution, and also reported in public media in connection with various case decisions and Wikipedia-related controversies.
In October 2003, as part of an etiquette discussion on Wikipedia, Alex T. Roshuk, then legal adviser to the Wikimedia Foundation, drafted a 1,300 word outline of mediation and arbitration. This outline evolved into the twin Mediation Committee and Arbitration Committee, formally announced by Jimmy Wales on December 4, 2003. Over time the concept of an "Arbitration Committee" was adopted by other communities within the Wikimedia Foundation's hosted projects.
When initially founded, the Committee consisted of 12 arbitrators divided into three groups of four members each. As of 2008[update], it had decided around 371 conduct cases, with remedies varying from warnings to bans.
Attention and controversies
A statistical study published in the Emory Law Journal indicated that the Committee has generally adhered to the principles of ignoring the content of user disputes and focusing on user conduct. The same study also found that despite every case being assessed on its own merits, a correlation emerged between the types of conduct found to have occurred and the remedies and decisions imposed by the Committee.
In 2007, an arbitrator using the username Essjay resigned from the Committee after it was found that he had made false claims about his academic qualifications and professional experiences in a New York Times interview. In May 2009, an arbitrator who edited under the username Sam Blacketer resigned from the Committee after it became known that he had concealed his past editing in obtaining the role.
In 2009, the Committee was brought to media attention as a result of its decision to ban "all IP addresses owned or operated by the Church of Scientology and its associates, broadly interpreted", as part of the fourth Scientology-related case. Such an action had "little precedent" in the eight-year history of Wikipedia and was reported on several major news services such as The New York Times, ABC News, and The Guardian. Satirical news-show host Stephen Colbert ran a segment on The Colbert Report parodying the ban.
In July 2012, ArbCom banned Wikimedia UK chairman Ashley van Haeften due to "numerous violations of Wikipedia's norms and policies." Despite the ban, Wikimedia UK's board was "united in the view that this [ArbCom's] decision does not affect his [van Haeften's] role as a trustee of the charity." On August 2, 2012, van Haeften resigned from his position of chairman of Wikimedia UK. Van Haeften did not want there to be any "division in the WMUK community over his role as Chair." The resignation occurred after a call for an Extraordinary General Meeting to discuss recent affairs concerning the ban. Chris Keating replaced van Haeften as Wikimedia UK's chairman.
Arbitration Committees on sister projects
- Wales, Jimmy (2003-12-04). "WikiEN-l Wikiquette committee appointments". Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
- Schiff, Stacy (2006-12-02). "Know-alls". The Age. Fairfax Digital Network. Retrieved 2009-06-15.
- Hoffman, David A.; Salil Mehra (2010). "Wikitruth Through Wikiorder". Emory Law Journal 59 (2010). SSRN 1354424.
- Cohen, Noam (2009-06-07). "The Wars of Words on Wikipedia’s Outskirts". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 12 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
- Welham, Jamie; Nina Lakhan (2009-06-08). "Wikipedia sentinel quits after 'sock-puppeting' scandal". The New Zealand Herald. APN Holdings NZ Limited. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
- Moore, Matthew (2009-05-30). "Church of Scientology members banned from editing Wikipedia". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Ltd. Archived from the original on 2 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
- Roshuk, Alex T. (2008). "Law office of Alex T. Roshuk". Archived from the original on 29 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-14.
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- Williams, Sam (2004-04-27). "Everyone is an editor". Salon.com. Salon Media Group. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
- Cohen, Noam (2007-03-12). "After False Claim, Wikipedia to Check Degrees". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-14.
- Hafner, Katie (2006-06-17). "Growing Wikipedia Refines Its 'Anyone Can Edit' Policy". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
- Cohen, Noam (2007-03-05). "A Contributor to Wikipedia Has His Fictional Side". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
- Fitzsimmons, Caitlin (2009-05-29). "Wikipedia bans Church of Scientology from editing". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 11 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-14.
- Heussner, Ki Mae; Ned Potter (2009-05-29). "Wikipedia Blocks Church of Scientology From Editing Entries". ABC News. Archived from the original on 2 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-14.
- Colbert, Stephen (2009-06-04). "Wikipedia Bans Scientologists" (Flash Player). Comedy Central. MTV Networks. Archived from the original on 8 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-14.
- Wikipedia. "Chairman of Wikipedia charity banned after pornography row". Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
- "50 shades of Wikipedia? UK head banned after bondage porn ties". Fox News. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
- "Wikimedia UK board supports chairman banned from editing Wikipedia". Civilsociety.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
- "A message from Jon Davies, Chief Executive of Wikimedia UK | Wikimedia UK Blog". Blog.wikimedia.org.uk. 2012-08-02. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
- Wikipedia. "Wikipedia charity chairman resigns after pornography row". Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
- "Wikimedia UK elects a new Chair | Wikimedia UK Blog". Blog.wikimedia.org.uk. 2012-08-02. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
- "Wikipedia UK Boss Quits Over Porn Storm | Gizmodo UK". Gizmodo.co.uk. 2012-08-03. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
- "Wikimedia UK chair resigns following ban from Wikipedia". Civilsociety.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
- Kleinz, Torsten (2007-04-30). "Wikipedia sucht Schiedsrichter" (in German). Heise Online. Archived from the original on 1 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
- "Komitet arbitrażowy oraz mediatorzy w Wikipedii" (in Polish). Blog wikipedystyczny. 2007-08-31. Retrieved 2012-02-01.