Discussion Report And Miscellaneous Articulations
Nothing to see here
The arbitration committee have suppressed a recent statement regarding UK press contact and former arbitrator David Gerard. The hidden revisions were related to the removal of David Gerard's access to the Checkuser and Oversight tools, after he was accused of posting private content obtained using Checkuser to his public blog. Gerard's talk page has also seen some revisions oversighted. The suppressions provoked a strong reaction from Wikipedians.
A discussion was initiated at the Audit Subcommittee by MZMcBride on December 2 at 00:22 UTC. MzMcBride was unable to "imagine the levels of stupidity required to think this was a good idea to try to un-ring such a loud bell". Dragons flight speculated: "The announcement they suppressed contained an HTML link to an off-wiki page containing an email apparently published without its sender's permission and the IP details of the specific identified sender. It was the off-wiki posting of that information which motivated stripping David Gerard of his rights."
Gerard wrote on his talk page at 10:20 UTC that "anyone participating in that thread at the arbitration committee's noticeboard has way more interest in drama than writing an encyclopedia. I've started adding bits of video, it's fun!" Attempting to draw the heat from the discussion, serving arbitrator Coren, writing in a personal capacity at 15:57 UTC, stated:
||A few days ago, the Committee made an announcement on its noticeboard relating to the advanced permissions of David Gerard ... David Gerard expressed objections to the nature of the announcement ... In the day following, Mike Godwin (acting, it is important to note, in his private capacity and not in any way as the Foundation's legal counsel) brokered an agreement between David and the Committee that the statement should be removed entirely to avoid the possibility of further needless harm, as sufficient to all involved to resolve the matter. ... The reason why I am now stepping out of line and providing this statement — which I hope will help comprehension without causing further drama —is because the continuing speculation about the motives behind the suppression undermine the resolution of the incident and cause undue strife within the project.
The suppression was formally announced on the committee's noticeboard by serving arbitrator Roger Davies later that day at 20:22 UTC. The statement made clear that "this suppression was the desire of David Gerard, who felt defamed by the comments, and it is proper under the oversight policy". The new statement has the approval of both David Gerard and Mike Godwin. Arbitrator John Vandenberg, poster of the original statement, resigned his seat from the committee, stating "This situation was avoidable, and I apologise for the way that I handled this." The vast majority of respondents have urged Vandenberg to reconsider, although the former arbitrator shows no signs of acceding to those wishes. Arbitrator Carcharoth, whose recusal from the incident had also been suppressed, reiterated their position in an addendum. When asked to clarify the original nature of the recusal, now lost due to the suppression, Carcharoth stated: "I recused myself from the original motion that was voted on, and chose not [to] give on-wiki my reasons for recusal."
Wikimedia's general counsel Mike Godwin sent several emails to the ArbCom mailing list, expressing concern with the committee's decision on legal grounds: "My strong suggestion is that ArbCom reconsider its decisions, which seem more like arbitrariness than arbitration." Explaining his involvement, Godwin noted he "came across a process that seemed to me to have gone off the rails, at least in some respects, and at nobody's request but my own, I spoke out about it, and ultimately was asked to try to mediate a resolution, which I then did. The goal was not to erase history (I'm not as stupid as I look), but simply to remove Arbcom's seal of approval on some problematic statements while at the same time preserving Arbcom's prerogatives and authority". However, some users took issue with his possible interference with the committee; Barberio felt that "This holding up hands and saying 'Hey, I was just sending emails, it was nothing official.' doesn't wash since there was no way for the ArbCom to determine that you were not giving them official direction."
The controversial blog post remains fully available on Gerard's personal website; he believes "ArbCom's original issue appears to have been my tweet as quoted within the blog post." However, posting of a link to Gerard's post by Privatemusings led to a request for a clerk review and discussion at the administrator's noticeboard as to whether the posting of the link violated policies regarding copyright, an assertion made by Durova. Consensus during the debate at the Clerk's sub-page was that the link was not in violation of the policy, although Gerard had previously observed that a "claim of copyright violation is not something that is determined by consensus".
Gerard has resigned his Checkuser and Oversight permissions. He issued a statement on the afternoon of 3 December, reading simply: "I love everyone. I suggest you all go write something. Assume better faith too. Be excellent to one another."
- See also: In the news
This month and next, the Policy Report will cover Wikipedia's Conduct policies. There are eight conduct policies left after last month's re-categorization discussions, and most of these policies have become more stable over time: Consensus and Edit warring largely concern basic principles of editing that are hard to disagree with, and the formerly heated arguments at Editing policy have cooled down (although without consensus on how to edit policies and guidelines themselves). Consensus was largely forged at No personal attacks in late November 2007 (thanks to Risker for pointing out the discussions); the page has had surprisingly few changes since then. Although Ownership of articles tends to gain and then lose examples of "ownership" in cycles, the basic proscriptions have remained stable. A previous Policy Report detailed the recent resolution of a number of issues at Sock puppetry, while our Username policy has been stable since a reshuffling of the material in July.
The Civility page is another story. Three-quarters of the respondents in August's Civility Poll felt that the policy was "unenforceable", and three-quarters also believed the policy to be "too lenient" (and the relevant language has changed very little since then). To gauge whether those sentiments have changed, recent contributors to the Civility talk page were asked about their reactions to our current policy, and their responses are revealing.
NuclearWarfare pointed to the August poll as evidence that a small minority of editors completely ignore our civility policy while continuing to make useful contributions, and there is no easy fix for this problem. Tryptofish feels that the good editors are usually not very good at dealing with the bullies, and that we need to expect more professionalism from every contributor as Wikipedia matures. Proofreader77 points to a potential reason the Civility policy has been slow to change: objections might be regarded as uncivil. Johnuniq draws a distinction between our Civility policy, which might be confusing and unexpected for people used to the anything-goes culture prevalent on the internet, and our Harassment and No personal attacks policies, which probably don't come as a surprise. Camelbinky, on the other hand, deplores the "politeness police" who fail to recognize the benefits of the kinds of free speech guaranteed by most modern industrialized nations.
After we cover all the conduct policy pages in the coming weeks, perhaps techniques used to enlighten and resolve conflict on those talk pages, which have been surprisingly successful, can be applied when we take another look at Civility in late January. Next week's Policy Report will include discussions from the Username policy talk page.
After the deletion of Wikipedia Watch on November 27, Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Google Watch (4th nomination) sees a fifth deletion discussion regarding the website Google Watch. The debate hinges on the notability of the site itself, with editors discussing the relevance of previous outcomes regarding this article.
Twenty-three Requests for comment have been made in the week of 30 November to 06 December: