Wikipedia:Cyberbullying

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Cyberbullying by using Wikipedia as a tool for bullying those not on Wikipedia has no place here

Cyberbullying is a global term that means the harassment of someone by use of electronic media, usually but not always social media. This Essay is intended first to be editable by all as part of consensus forming on the processes Wikipedia should follow when cyberbullying has been identified or is suspected on Wikipedia. Following the building of consensus over those processes the essay will be proposed as a guideline, perhaps as a policy.

How is this page different from Wikipedia's bullying information page?[edit]

Wikipedia has sound advice about bullying of editors by editors. While that is a form of cyberbullying, the WikiBullying essay does not address bullying against individuals who are not editors, and is also not a useful guide for a user trying to determine what Wikipedia does when cyberbullying of non-editors is suspected.

Typical presentation of cyberbullying on Wikipedia[edit]

Cyberbullying can be of people who are not Wikipedia editors, and can cause DEATH or temporary loss of the esteem of one's peers

Often, but not always, the offending text is presented as what appears to be a genuine part of an article. An example might be in a school list of notable alumni the addition of the name of a current pupil in some manner, together with a defamatory, degrading, or disparaging remark. Examples might be:

  • John Victim has no friends, and he'll never have any friends
  • John Victim is gay
  • John Victim has sex with dogs
  • John Victim does drugs
  • I hate John Victim

As it stands one can easily form the view that this is online horseplay. Indeed, John Victim may have no issues with such comments; he may have a robust sense of humour and a strongly positive self image.

Or John Victim may be already depressed, liable to self harm, perhaps already considering suicide.

A Wikipedia editor finding such an edit in an article has no idea about John Victim's state of mind. Nor does that editor know if this is a joke which John Victim will shrug off, or part of a campaign of unpleasantness.

How should an editor act on suspecting cyberbullying?[edit]

First and most important, treat it as a real personal attack made on and via Wikipedia against an unknown person who is in an uncertain state of mind. It is not simple vandalism; it is something potentially far more serious.

The following actions should be taken. Where this list is not exhaustive it should be used for guidance and actions relevant to the exact scenario that presents itself should be taken. Since this document is currently an Essay, not yet an accepted guideline or process, those steps can and should be incorporated into this section, together, on the talk page, with the rationale. After this document is adopted more formally they should be discussed on the talk page.

Process to be followed[edit]

In all cases[edit]

  1. make an immediate reversion of the edit
  2. warn the editor who made it, using a warning template on their talk page of "level" 3 or 4 (note while this document is in construction, we probably need a cyberbullying warning, which would be a single issue warning)
  3. take a copy of the WP:DIFF showing the problematic edit being added, including both the edit details and the visible effect on the page. (In Windows, use ALT+PrintScreen to copy the current window, then Paste it into Paint or another application, then save. If necessary, make one copy of the top of the screen and one of the visible effect. In Mac OS, save the diff page as a PDF)
  4. request suppression of the revisions requiring the offending edit. (You can use the URL of the diff page as a starting point.) Draw attention in the request to this article as part of the justification

Where the text appeared in a school article[edit]

Having taken the actions described above, take the following further actions:

  1. if the text was created by an IP editor, use WHOIS to determine whether the IP address is owned by the school concerned or by a related school district or similar authority[note 1]
  2. research the school and consider whether further action is a good idea;
    1. It is likely that the only information you have is the name of the victim, or hints as to their identity; you may not have enough information to enable the school to identify the person who made the edit. Some schools may therefore begin by investigating any allegations made about the person being bullied.
    2. In several parts of the world, penalties for homosexual acts can include execution, even for teenagers. In at least one school in the U.K., school staff have outed homosexual children to their parents, and this may be common practice in some circumstances. School staff in other countries may be equally unsupportive - some U.S. school districts still use corporal punishment for offences such as "public displays of affection", which can be as trivial as two students holding hands, and school staff in Italy have been implicated in contributing to harassment of a pupil who committed suicide over homophobic bullying.
    3. Alerting a school to accusations of drug-taking, or other illicit activity commonly alleged in the course of cyber-bullying, may bring disciplinary action, or at least embarrassment and upset, to the victim, rather than resulting in any action against the bully. If the school operates a School-to-prison pipeline, you could be ruining the victim's life. Even if the impact is much more minor, it will delight and encourage the bully.
    4. Some school staff may not be very technically aware, and will therefore view a "documented" complaint, sent by a person external to the school and apparently in some position of authority, as being either a vindication of allegations against the victim, or possibly just an indication that the victim is the cause of a "problem" that reflects badly upon the school.
    5. Even where school staff have been made aware that serious campaigns of bullying and cyber-bullying are under way, there have been examples where they have not been effective in dealing with bullying and or preventing tragedy.
  3. After considering this, if happy to contact the school or school district, you could send them;
    1. the copy you took of the unreverted page
    2. the details of the WHOIS enquiry. This is simplest as the url to the enquiry itself
    3. details if known of the editor who made the edit. Note that no-one is asking you to become a detective over this, simple details are best

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The WHOIS link exists in the information box at the foot of the User Contributions page for an IP editor. An uncontroversial example may be seen at the foot of the query for 127.0.0.1 - the IP address for Localhost.