Wikipedia:Harassment

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"WP:HA" redirects here. For Wikipedia's historical archive, see Wikipedia:Historical archive.

Harassment is defined as a pattern of repeated offensive behavior that appears to a reasonable observer to intentionally target a specific person or persons. Usually (but not always) the purpose is to make the target feel threatened or intimidated, and the outcome may be to make editing Wikipedia unpleasant for the target, to undermine them, to frighten them, or to discourage them from editing entirely.

Harassment can also include actions calculated to be noticed by the target and clearly suggestive of targeting them, where no direct communication takes place.

Harassment and disruption

Harassment, threats, intimidation, repeated annoying and unwanted contact or attention, and repeated personal attacks may reduce an editor's enjoyment of Wikipedia and thus cause disruption to the project.

Wikihounding

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Wikihounding is the singling out of one or more editors, and joining discussions on multiple pages or topics they may edit or multiple debates where they contribute, in order to repeatedly confront or inhibit their work. This is with an apparent aim of creating irritation, annoyance or distress to the other editor. Wikihounding usually involves following the target from place to place on Wikipedia.

Many users track other users' edits, although usually for collegial or administrative purposes. This should always be done carefully, and with good cause, to avoid raising the suspicion that an editor's contributions are being followed to cause them distress, or out of revenge for a perceived slight. Correct use of an editor's history includes (but is not limited to) fixing unambiguous errors or violations of Wikipedia policy, or correcting related problems on multiple articles. In fact, such practices are recommended both for Recent changes patrol and WikiProject Spam. The contribution logs can be used in the dispute resolution process to gather evidence to be presented in requests for comment, mediation, WP:ANI, and arbitration cases. Using dispute resolution can itself constitute hounding if it involves persistently making frivolous or poorly-based complaints about another editor.

The important component of wikihounding is disruption to another user's own enjoyment of editing, or to the project generally, for no overriding reason. If "following another user around" is accompanied by tendentiousness, personal attacks, or other disruptive behavior, it may become a very serious matter and could result in blocks and other editing restrictions.

Threats

Threatening another person is considered harassment. This includes any real world threats, such as threats of harm, but also threats to disrupt a person's work on Wikipedia. Statements of intent to properly use normal Wikipedia processes, such as dispute resolution, are not threats. Legal threats are a special case of threat, with their own settled policy. Users who make legal threats will typically be blocked from editing indefinitely.

Perceived legal threats

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Wikipedia has a policy of blocking users who threaten other users with legal action, because legal threats are usually inconsistent with being a collaborative editor. Users are urged to follow normal dispute resolution instead, failing which to seek advice from other experienced editors. Issues involving private personal information (of anyone) should be referred by email to a member of the functionaries team.

It is important to refrain from comments that others may reasonably understand or interpret as a threat of legal action, or using charged wordings such as "libelous" or "defamatory" in ways that suggest possible intent to take legal action, even if the comments are not intended in that fashion.

Handling: users should seek to clarify the user's intention (if unclear), explain this policy, and ask if they are willing to withdraw the threat. This helps to ensure that a mere misunderstanding or ignorance of our policies is not involved. Even if comments may not be per se legal threats, they may still fall under the scope of other policies related to disruption or incivility.

Posting of personal information

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"WP:OUTING" redirects here. For the alternate meaning of outing, as in excursion, see Wikipedia:Meetup.
"WP:PRIVACY" redirects here. For the Wikimedia privacy policy, see Wikimedia:Privacy policy.
See also: Doxing

Posting another editor's personal information is harassment, unless that person had voluntarily posted his or her own information, or links to such information, on Wikipedia. Personal information includes legal name, date of birth, identification numbers, home or workplace address, job title and work organisation, telephone number, email address, or other contact information, whether any such information is accurate or not. Posting such information about another editor is an unjustifiable and uninvited invasion of privacy and may place that editor at risk of harm outside of their activities on Wikipedia. This applies to the personal information of both editors and non-editors. Any edit that "outs" someone must be reverted promptly, followed by a request for oversight to delete that edit from Wikipedia permanently. If an editor has previously posted their own personal information but later redacted it, it should not be repeated on Wikipedia; although references to still-existing, self-disclosed information is not considered outing. If the previously posted information has been removed by oversight, then repeating it on Wikipedia is considered outing.

The fact that a person either has posted personal information or edits under their own name, making them easily identifiable through online searches, is not an excuse for "opposition research". Dredging up their off line opinions to be used to repeatedly challenge their edits can be a form of harassment, just as doing so regarding their past edits on other Wikipedia articles may be. However, if individuals have identified themselves without redacting or having it oversighted, such information can be used for discussions of conflict of interest (COI) in appropriate forums. If redacted or oversighted personally identifying material is important to the COI discussion, then it should be emailed privately to an administrator or arbitrator – but not repeated on Wikipedia: it will be sufficient to say that the editor in question has a COI and the information has been emailed to the appropriate administrative authority. Issues involving private personal information (of anyone) could also be referred by email to a member of the functionaries team.

If you see an editor post personal information about another person, do not confirm or deny the accuracy of the information. Doing so would give the person posting the information and anyone else who saw the page feedback on the accuracy of the material. Do not treat incorrect attempts at outing any differently from correct attempts for the same reason. When reporting an attempted outing take care not to comment on the accuracy of the information. Outing should usually be described as "an attempted outing" or similar, to make it clear that the information may or may not be true, and it should be made clear to the users blocked for outing that the block log and notice does not confirm the information.

Unless unintentional and non-malicious (for example, where Wikipedians know each other off-site and may inadvertently post personal information, such as using the other person's real name in discussions), attempted outing is grounds for an immediate block.

Threats to out an editor will be treated as a personal attack and dealt with accordingly.

Private correspondence

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There is no community consensus regarding the posting of private off-wiki correspondence. The Wikipedia Arbitration Committee once stated as an editing principle that "In the absence of permission from the author (including of any included prior correspondence) or their lapse into public domain, the contents of private correspondence, including e-mails, should not be posted on-wiki" and in a second principle that "Any uninvolved administrator may remove private correspondence that has been posted without the consent of any of the creators. Such material should instead be sent directly to the Committee." See related rejected proposals Wikipedia:Private correspondence, Wikipedia:Correspondence off-wiki and Wikipedia:Confidential evidence.

User space harassment

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Placing numerous false or questionable "warnings" on a user's talk page, restoring such comments after a user has removed them, placing "suspected sockpuppet" and similar tags on the user page of active contributors, and otherwise trying to display material the user may find annoying or embarrassing in their user space is a common form of harassment.

User pages are provided so that editors can provide some general information about themselves and user talk pages are to facilitate communication. Neither is intended as a 'wall of shame' and should not be used to display supposed problems with the user unless the account has been blocked as a result of those issues. Any sort of content which truly needs to be displayed, or removed, should be immediately brought to the attention of admins rather than edit warring to enforce your views on the content of someone else's user space.

Off-wiki harassment

Harassment of other Wikipedians in forums not controlled by the Wikimedia Foundation creates doubt as to whether an editor's on-wiki actions are conducted in good faith. Off-wiki harassment will be regarded as an aggravating factor by administrators and is admissible evidence in the dispute-resolution process, including Arbitration cases. In some cases, the evidence will be submitted by private email. As is the case with on-wiki harassment, off-wiki harassment can be grounds for blocking, and in extreme cases, banning. Off-wiki privacy violations shall be dealt with particularly severely.

Harassment of other Wikipedians through the use of external links is considered equivalent to the posting of personal attacks on Wikipedia.

Dealing with harassment

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If you feel you are being harassed, first and foremost, act calmly (even if difficult). It is hard to over-emphasize this.

In serious cases or where privacy and off-wiki aspects are an issue (e.g., where private personal information is a part of the issue, or on-wiki issues spread to email and 'real world' harassment, or similar), you can contact the Arbitration Committee or the volunteer response team by email, in confidence. Please note that the volunteer response team cannot deal with protracted disputes between established editors, but rather can only address urgent incidents where page deletion may be required.

For simple, on-wiki matters, such as a user with whom you have arguments, see dispute resolution as the usual first step. It makes it easier to identify the problem you are having if there are some specific diffs. For more serious cases where you are willing to address it on-wiki, you may request administrative assistance. (Do not open a discussion about 'outing' on behalf of a third party without the victim's permission, unless the relevant page revisions have already been oversighted. It is important not to make violations of privacy more severe.)

Note: If there are concerns over your own editing, then you will quite likely gain attention from administrators and other concerned users as a result. Provided this is civil and addressed appropriately, and for valid purposes, it would not be considered 'harassment'.

Accusing others of harassment

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Making accusations of harassment can be inflammatory and hence these accusations may not be helpful in a dispute. It can be seen as a personal attack if harassment is alleged without clear evidence that the others' action is actually harassment, and unfounded accusations may constitute harassment themselves if done repeatedly. The result is often accusations of harassment on your part, which tends to create a nasty cycle. At the same time, claims of harassment should be taken seriously and not be summarily dismissed unless it becomes clear the accusations are not well-founded.

Assistance for administrators being harassed

Wikipedia administrators' actions can bring them into direct conflict with difficult users and at times they too are harassed. Typically this happens when an administrator decides to intervene in a dispute with a view to warning or blocking disruptive parties or preventing their continual troublesome behavior.

Administrators are volunteer editors like any other user. They are not obligated any more than any other user to take any specific action beyond expected good conduct and responsiveness, and they are not required or expected to place themselves in an uncomfortable situation, to undertake actions which will diminish their enjoyment of working on Wikipedia or place themselves at risk in any way. Administrators who feel that they may have such a situation are advised to seek advice, discuss privately with other administrators, or pass the matter to another administrator willing to make difficult blocks.

Administrators who are confident they are safe from harassment, or willing to address difficult users and their potential actions, may wish to list themselves on the above page, and add the userbox template {{User difficultblocks}} to their user page, which also adds the user to Category:Wikipedia administrators willing to make difficult blocks

No sign.svg This administrator can, and will, make difficult blocks if needed.
Or use: [[Category:Wikipedia administrators willing to make difficult blocks|{{PAGENAME}}]]

In case of problems administrators have exactly the same right as any other user to decline or withdraw from a situation that is escalating or uncomfortable, without giving a reason, or to contact the Arbitration Committee or the volunteer response team if needed.

Reactions to harassment

People who are or feel they are being harassed can become irritable and lose trust in other editors. It is important that any allegations of misconduct about someone who is being harassed be considered in this context. Real or perceived harassment is not always sufficient to mitigate misconduct, but a more cautious approach to such situations is preferred.

Consequences of harassment

Although editors are encouraged to ignore or respond politely to isolated incidents, that should not imply that they are acceptable or without consequences. A pattern of hostility reduces the likelihood of the community assuming good faith, and can be considered disruptive editing. Users who insist on a confrontational style marked by harassment and/or personal attacks are likely to become involved in the dispute resolution process, and may face serious consequences such as blocks, arbitration, or being subjected to a community ban.

Blocking for harassment

  • In extreme cases, such as legal threats, threats of violence, or outing, protective blocks may be employed without prior warnings.
  • Incidents of wikihounding generally receive a warning. If wikihounding persists after a warning, escalating blocks are often used, beginning with 24 hours.

What harassment is not

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This policy is aimed to protect victims of genuine harassment which is meant to cause distress to the user, such as repeated and unwanted correspondence or postings. Like the word stalk, harass carries real-life connotations – from simple unseemly behavior to criminal conduct – and must be used judiciously and with respect to these connotations. However, there is an endemic problem on Wikipedia of giving "harassment" a much broader and inaccurate meaning which encompasses, in some cases, merely editing the same page as another user. Therefore, it must be emphasized that one editor warning another for disruption or incivility is not harassment if the claims are presented civilly, made in good faith and in an attempt to resolve a dispute instead of escalating one. Neither is tracking a user's contributions for policy violations (see above); the contribution logs exist for editorial and behavioral oversight. Unfounded accusations of harassment may be considered a serious personal attack and dealt with accordingly.

See also