Wikipedia:Administrators accountability

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REAL WORLD EDITORIAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE ACCOUNTABILITY. This is a discussion page for a suggested change in Wikipedia policy. It was first suggested by ≈ jossi ≈ (talk). [1] I believe that the intent, which I second, is to discuss ways to make sure that those who have power in Wiki-space be vetted as "real" people in the real world, in accordance with their given Wikipedia powers. In this way untrustworthy individuals will not be able to possess broad administrative powers over an encyclopedia which is coming to have more and more credibility as an information source.

In a related vein, we will discuss possible policy ways to "vet" experts in various academic subjects, so that similar problems of credibility do not arise there. In the past, raw administrative power has been used to settle academic credibility disputes, by simply BLOCKING users with the "wrong" viewpoint, as being "disruptive." But on what objective authority does the blocker do this? Perhaps the viewpoint of the person being blocked is the recognized academic one, and the blocker is simply acting out of arbitrary bureaucratic power, not out of any recognized expertise in the subject itself.

So this problem is somewhat the same one, but in another guise. A real and recognized expert in mathematics or physics should have some extra latitude for reversion of article content, which the average anonymous IP crank should not. Academic reputations exist for a reason.

Rationale for this proposal[edit]

Wikipedia has traditionally run with the acceptance of Anonymity (or Pseudonymity) in all actions. However this has recently lead to issues over accountability. These issues are rooted in the inherent conflict between responsibility and anonymity. There are three fundamental common results of allowing anonymity within an organisation.

  • Anonymity can lead to a feeling of insulation from responsibility, and may even be used to shield from any responsibility at all.
  • Power wielding by anonymous entities is viewed with suspicion. This in turn can lead to those entities being held in contempt by those 'under' them in the organisation.
  • Statements made under Anonymity does not carry as much weight as those of identified individuals. This can impact on how seriously people take rulings and opinions issued by anonymous administrators.

In this light, it is believed that the Anonymity should be restricted in relation to administrators, and particularly higher level administrators.

Suggested hierarchy of administrative and real-world "connectivity"[edit]

IP user:[edit]

You can edit, but that's it. Moreover, you should be advised that any clear vandalism from your IP (like replacing a Wiki on nuclear weapons with "Hi, mom!") may get you blocked from further edits for times which might be 24 hours, to indefinite. So get a username and password.


Now, you're editing, and because you're signed in with a password, we know it's you and JUST you. So you're now responsible for the stuff you say, and no more passing your own stupid or off-the-cuff remarks with the claim that it was some kid using your high school library computer. On the other hand, this has benefits, too. If you do say something really out of character, it may be that anybody looking at your past edits can tell that you're now just drunk or really need a bit of calming down. So stuff that otherwise looks like vandalism can be forgiven and you can be warned and admonished and reasoned with.

Established Nameuser[edit]

Now you gained the ability to edit semiprotected articles. The longer your list of edits and the most reasonable your history of them, the better all this stands you. But you can still be totally anonymous to everybody at Wikipedia. Why not? If you're too much trouble, you can always still be blocked. Administrators now should think twice before blocking you as you have a long list of constructive edits to your name.

Administrator (janitor):[edit]

Proposed new status. You want to help out and want to remain anonymous. You have a nice reputation in the community to back it up and that's great. You get all the tools but you don't get to delete established articles hiding all their history and possible evidence. You can semiprotect but you don't get to fully protect articles locking them into your preferred version. You can block nameusers for up to a week and established nameusers for up to 36 hours. No indef blocks for you, we don't want the next headline about Wikipedia to read: 13 year old admin indefinitely blocks professor over content dispute. You also can't block IP ranges.

Administrator (sysop):[edit]

You now act as a representative of Wikipedia to the outside world. You have full admin powers including deletion of articles, indef blocking, IP range blocking and others. This is real power, and if you want this kind of power, you need to be known as a real person in the real world. The Wikipedia office register at Wikipedia needs to have your name, possibly your adress, or a real world contact eg your phone number. You NEED to be verified in some way to wield this much power. This information will be held privately and outsiders will have no access to it. Even an interview for many volunteer jobs, such as in a hospital ER requires more information of you in the real world. This is not unreasonable. It's necessary in the real world, all the time, so that people who are given authority to make decisions, don't just turn out to be vapor or electrons with no identity. You don't like this much invasion of your privacy? You may still edit freely as a nameuser or even become a lower level administrator.

Bureaucrat/Checkuser/Oversight/ArbCom member:[edit]

Now it's you making the final decision on who gets basic administrative powers at Wikipedia. In general, this will be following concensus of other editors, but the buck finally stops with you. So we need to know you even better. Somebody at Wikipedia needs to have met you, so we know you're not serving a life-sentence as a child-molester at some correctional institution. None of this needs to be much more invasive than it would be to apply for $100,000 of life insurance. But it's not going to get done over the phone, nor should it. Again, if you don't want Wikipedia to know this much about you, you can freely do your thing at some lower level without giving up any information about yourself. We still live in the real world, and if you want power in it, you can't just do it from a keyboard. At this level you gain so much power and recognition that you have the ability to damage Wikipedia and embarass us all over the world. Everything you say may be quoted as coming from a top official at Wikipedia.

By this time, if you have this much power (especially for ArbCom), we're going to expect that you make judgements on others from under your real name, also. Just as professors teach under their real names, and cops and judges and district attornies enforce the law under their real names. And legislators make the laws and stand for elections under their real names. It's called growing up.

Suggested methods for verifying identity[edit]

The following are some suggested methods for verifying the identities of editors who are to become administrators. A mix of the following methods may eventually be used.

Member vouching[edit]

A set number of already identified and verified editors should vouch for the identity

Centralised vetting[edit]

A central office action accepts copies of official documents that can verify a persons identity satisfactorily.

De-centralised vetting[edit]

Trusted editors individually accept official documents, or meet with the editor to verify their identity.

Avoiding Bias[edit]

It is important that any identity verification system not introduce, or re-enforce, any bias in the process. This includes bias as a result of country, economic status, or minority status.

See also[edit]