Wikipedia:Devolution

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This is a proposal to establish a mechanism for the Arbitration Committee to devolve selected powers to a designated body. The Committee itself is the recipient of such powers from User:Jimbo Wales in the latter's function as project God-King; this is the next step.

Rationale[edit]

The Arbitration Committee has not changed in form since its inception in 2004; the same cannot be said of Wikipedia. The scope of the project and the size of the community have expanded by several orders of magnitude, and in biographies of living persons and nationalist disputes the project has encountered two intractable pressure points. Even as these changes have taken place, the social consensus which formerly governed the project has been stretched to the breaking point, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the collapse of the RFC as an effective tool of dispute resolution.

The replacement for the RFC is dispute resolution by noticeboard, often conducted at WP:ANI. It is idle to pretend that any discussion which exceeds 30KB will have any effective outcome; the overall effect is to antagonize participants, sharpen differences, and provide fodder for inevitable arbitration requests. While this format does give the opportunity for every user to "have his or her say," it has never been demonstrated what purpose that serves other than ego gratification. Dispute resolution doesn't exist for that purpose; it exists to resolve disputes or it should be done away with. The current model is broken; what can supplement/replace it?

One idea, broached before, is devolving certain of the Arbitration Committee's functions to a review board. The Committee, on behalf of Jimbo Wales, is the final court of appeal for block review. These appeals frequently take a back seat to the Committee's other business (which is legion) and more often than not aren't properly heard and acted upon. The Committee often doesn't have the time to investigate the circumstances of the block, so unless an Arbitrator is personally familiar with the situation or takes a personal interest in the matter the appeal will likely fall by the wayside. A possible solution is the creation of a Indefinite Ban Review Panel (IRP), composed of administrators and senior content editors, with a mandate to review appeals of indefinite blocks/bans and make specific recommendations to the Arbitration Committee, or possibly to act on the Committee's behalf directly.

Another possibility is an Administrative Review Panel (ARP), which would be a partial successor to the RFC system and an intermediate step prior to arbitration. Composed again of selected administrators and senior content editors, the board would review controversial administrative actions, such as (un)blocks, page (un)protections, and the application of discretionary sanctions. The goal is not to review every action, or to review actions that are reviewed at WP:ANI without drama. Rather, the review board would handle difficult or controversial cases with the goal of reining in unproductive circular and heated discussion and promoting actual resolution--one way or the other. It benefits no one to hold prolonged discussions with no outcome. The ARB would also handle allegations of repeated or long-term misuse of administrative tools as a preliminary step before a Request for Arbitration and as a partial replacement for the broken Administrative RFC process, which frequently yields only heat without light.

Review Panels[edit]

Broadly adapted/stolen from User:Mackensen/Devolution and User:Thatcher/Block review

Indefinite Ban Review Panel (IRP)[edit]

Purpose

To review indefinite blocks/bans that have been appealed to Arbcom.

Composition

Any editor in good standing, including non-admins, is eligible to apply to the Committee for an appointment to review bans. Applicants should have a good understanding of the Block and Ban policies, as well as other relevant policies such as Don't bite the newbies, Edit warring, Sock puppetry, Vandalism (including what kinds of edits do not constitute vandalism) and the special sensitivity required when editing biographies of living persons. Applicants should contact the Arbitration committee or any Arbitrator directly.

Selection

Direct appointment by Arbcom. Number of members to be determined by Arbcom.

Terms

Terms are six months in length. Block reviewers may serve multiple non-consecutive terms. Half of the first appointees will serve 3-month terms, resulting in an alpha and beta tranche with overlapping terms, to ensure internal continuity.

Removal

Members of the review panel may be removed by the Arbitration Committee for good cause.

Procedure

All indefinitely blocked/banned users have the right to make a final appeal to the Arbitration Committee, regardless of any prior community or Committee discussion. If the Committee decides to ask for an outside review, it will list the appeal on a public page set up for Review Panel operations. Reviewers will sign on to each case they intend to review, to coordinate the work and avoid accidental duplication of effort. Each request must be reviewed by at least two and no more than five reviewers. Great care should be taken to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Reviewers should not review bans of users they have previously been in conflict with or who edit within the reviewer's area of interest, users they have blocked or banned previously (for any reason) or blocks and bans made by close wiki-friends. Appeals that involve information derived from Checkuser and OTRS will only be handled by panel members who are eligible under the Access to nonpublic data policy.

Reviewers should contact the banned editor and the blocking administrator, and consider any relevant information, including the editor's contributions, relevant noticeboard discussions, and any prior blocks and warnings. After considering the evidence, the reviewer will prepare a recommendation for the Arbitration Committee. There is no specific time frame or deadline, but once a reviewer has agreed to review a ban, the review should be completed in a timely fashion and not allowed to grow stale.

Bans that the Review Panel is considering will be listed on a public page in project space, along wtih the names of the reviewers who have signed on to the case. Public comment will be permitted. The reviewers may, at their discretion, also accept confidential evidence. Reviewers may deliberate publicly or privately, and may produce a single consensus recommendation or individual recommendations. The recommendations themselves will be posted publicly. After considering the recommendations of all reviewers, the Arbitration committee will make the final decision to grant or deny the appeal.

Administrative review panel (ARP)[edit]

Purpose

To create a method of reviewing controversial administrative actions, and overturning such where appropriate, while avoiding wheel-warring and other drama that is counter-productive to encyclopedia-building. The goal is to hear truly divisive issues. Actions which have obvious broad support, or no support, can be dealt with effectively at WP:ANI.

Composition

Perhaps 20-30 administrators and senior content editors, with groups of 3-5 handling specific appeals. Non-administrators are encouraged to participate.

Terms

Terms are six months in length. Reviewers may serve multiple non-consecutive terms.

Selection

Direct election by the community. Straight up/down vote, all candidates with 75% approval appointed to the board. Elections will be held continuously, in the manner of Requests for administration, except that elections will be suspended when the review panel is at its maximum size (as determined by consensus during the implementation discussion) and reactivated when members resign or reach the end of their terms. To prevent the entire review panel from turning over all at once, half of the initial members will be assigned 3 month terms (randomly, unless there are sufficient volunteers).

Removal

Members of the review panel may be removed by the Arbitration Committee for good cause.

Powers
  1. Overturn blocks
  2. Overturn page protection
  3. Adjudicate appeals of discretionary sanctions (topic bans, 1RR limits) applied as a result of Arbitration enforcement or administrative action
  4. Review accusations of long-term or repeated misuse of administrative tools as a preliminary fact-finding step prior to a Request for Arbitration.
Procedure

Good question

To be determined; likely to involve a noticeboard. Private discussion (mailing list, IRC) can not be prevented but is deprecated in favor of on-wiki comment and transparency. One method would be to have the appellant list the matter for appeal on a noticeboard, with space for review and comment by the acting admin and others. The reviewers could cast votes similar to the manner in which Arbcom votes to accept or decline cases. A quorum of 4 votes and 4 net votes (a 4 vote majority) would be required to overturn or uphold a decision. (That is, a vote of 4-0, or 5-1, or 8-4, etc would result in a decision.) Failure to achieve a 4 vote majority would have the same effect as upholding the administrative action; that is, maintaining the status quo.

Standing

Decisions of the review panel may be appealed to the Arbitration Committee but may not be overturned by individual administrators. Any user may appeal an administrative action to the review panel, which may do one of three things:

  1. Decline to hear the appeal
  2. Affirm the administrative action
  3. Overturn the administrative action

Other notes[edit]

The two review panels could no doubt be merged, but no satisfactory mechanism has yet been suggested. If both existed the conflict between the block and administrative panels over "block" (as opposed to "ban") review would have to be settled in someone's favor.

See also[edit]