Wikipedia:Community response to the Wikimedia Foundation's ban of Fram/Official statements
Statement from the WMF Trust & Safety Team
Dear members of the English Wikipedia community,
We have been approached by several volunteers with questions concerning the recent Office Action, the time-limited partial Foundation ban of User:Fram covering your project. As we saw similar questions also being asked in your discussions around the project, including here, we thought it is most accessible to interested community members to provide clarifications publicly here:
- What made the Foundation take action at all and why at this specific time?
- As described on the Metapage about Office actions, we investigate the need for an office action either upon receipt of complaints from the community, or as required by law. In this case we acted on complaints from the community.
- All office actions are only taken after a thorough investigation, and extensive review by staff. This process usually takes about four weeks.
- Office actions are covering individuals and not just individual user accounts. Therefore, the measure covers more than one user account in this case.
- Who made the complaint to the Foundation?
- The Foundation always aims to be as transparent as possible with office actions. However, as outlined in the general information section of the office actions page, we also prioritize the safety of involved parties and legal compliance. Therefore, we do not disclose who submitted community complaints.
- Why did the Foundation only ban for a year?
- As part of the Improving Trust and Safety processes program, less intrusive office actions were introduced. Those options include time-limited and partial (project-specific) bans to address serious concerns that are, however, temporary or project-specific in nature. For example, if a user has been problematic on one project in particular while contributing without concerns to another community wiki, this can now be addressed in a more targeted way than a full Foundation global ban.
- Why did the Foundation de-sysop? Does this mean that Fram will not be an administrator when his ban ends in 2020?
- The removal of administrator access is intended as enforcement of the temporary partial Foundation ban placed on Fram. It is the community’s decision what to do with Fram’s administrator access upon the expiration of the Office Action ban.
- What kind of appeal is possible against this office action?
- As a this time-limited Foundation ban is an outcome of a regular office action investigation, it is governed by the same rules already familiar from Foundation global bans: it does not offer an opportunity to appeal.
- copied here verbatim as published at WP:FRAM
Fram's response on Commons
Thank you to everyone who commented at the various discussions or sent me an email about this. I'm as baffled about this as any of you, I'll share whatever information I have. i'll not repost full emails, as that is normally not allowed, but I'll try to give a fair assessment.
In April 2018, I received an office email from Kalliope (on behalf of the Trust and Safety team) with a "conduct warning" based on offwiki complaint by unnamed editors. "I have taken a look at several conflicts you’ve had over the years with other community members as well as Foundation staff, and I have noticed increasing levels of hostility, aggressive expression—some of which, to the point of incivility—and counterproductive escalations." The "as well as Foundation staff" is quite telling here...
In March 2019, I received a "reminder" about two edits I made in October 2018 (!); this one and this one. Even though acknowledging that my edits were correct, and that "We remain convinced that the activity on Laura’s articles listed above was not intended to intimidate or make her feel uncomfortable." (which is true, as I was, as is most often the case, new page patrolling when I tagged and corrected these), they issued a one-sided interaction ban (yep, the WMF issues interaction bans as well apparently, no need to bother enwiki with these any longer).
And then a few hours ago, they posted my one year ban, and helpfully gave the actual reason. Which is one edit, this one. That's it.
"This decision has come following extensive review of your conduct on that project and is an escalation to the Foundation’s past efforts to encourage course correction, including a conduct warning issued to you on April 2018 and a conduct warning reminder issued to you on March 2019. With those actions in mind, this ban has been triggered following your recent abusive communications on the project, as seen here .
This action is effective immediately and it is non-appealable."
Basically, after you recive a conduct warning from the Office based on undisclosed complaints, any pretext is then good enough to ban you (1 year now, I presume indef the next time I do anything they don't like). That I just happen to be one of the most vocal and efficient critics of the WMF is probably a pure coincidence (sorry to tout my own horn here, but in this case it needs to be said).
No evidence at all that the enwiki community tried and failed to address these issues. No indication that they noticed that my conduct has clearly improved in general over the last 12 months (I said improved, not been raised to saintly standards). No, an edit expressing widefelt frustration with an ArbCom post is sufficient to ban me.
I would like to state empathically, if someone would have doubts about it, that I have not socked (despite the rather nefarious sounding "Office actions are covering individuals and not just individual user accounts. Therefore, the measure covers more than one user account in this case."), I have not contacted or otherwise followed or bothered anyone offwiki, I have not even contributed to any of the Wikipedia criticism sites or fora (though it does become tempting now), ... Everything I did is visible on enwiki, no privacy issues are involved, and all necessary complaint, investigations, actions, could have been made onwiki.
Basically, this one-year ban is at the same time a means to silence one of their most vocal (and fact-based, consistently supporting WMF criticism with many examples of what goes wrong) critics, and a serious (and unwarranted) blame for the enwiki admin and arbcom community, who are apparently not able to upheld the TOU and to manage the site effectively.
This ban is not open to appeal, so I'll not bother with it: but I most clearly disagree with it and the very flimsy justification for it, and oppose this powergrab by the WMF which can't be bothered to deal with actual serious issues (like the rampant BLP violating vandalism at Wikidata, where e.g. Brett Kavanaugh has since 31 March 2019 the alias "rapist" (A BLP violation whether you agree with the sentiment or not).
I have not the faintest clue why the WMF also couldn't post the justification for their block online, but communication has never been their strongest point.
Any non-violent action taken by enwiki individuals or groups against this WMF ban has my support. If you need more information, feel free to ask. I also allow the WMF to publish our full mail communication (I don't think it contains any personally identifying information about me or others), to give everyone the means to judge this impartially for themselves.
Again, thank you to everyone who expressed their support, especially those who would have reasons to dislike me based on previous interactions. I'm not a model admin or editor, but I believe I was steadily improving. But that's not for enwiki to decide apparently. Fram (talk) 07:27, 11 June 2019 (UTC)
Further statement from WMFOffice
Dear members of the English Wikipedia community,
Over the last few days we have received many requests to review the recent issues that have surfaced due to the office action taken against Fram. We are reviewing such feedback with care and aim to reply in helping to clarify the situation. We expect to reply at least one more time as we continue to review the feedback. We hope the following helps to address several points raised so far:
- First, our privacy provisions do not always allow us to "pass back" personal information we receive to the community; this means there are cases where we cannot pass on to Arbcom things like the names of complaining parties or the content of private evidence that might support a concern. As a result, the best we could have given Arbcom in this case would have been a distillation of the case, severely limiting their ability to handle it.
- Secondly, we believe it would have been improper to ask the Arbcom to adjudicate a case in which it was one primary target of the person in question, as this could put volunteers into a very difficult position and create the appearance of a conflict of interest regardless of the actual handling of the case.
We know this action came as a surprise to some within the community, and we understand that many of you have deep concerns about the situation. We can only assure you that Trust & Safety Office Actions are not taken lightly, nor are they taken without sign-off by multiple levels of staff who read the case’s documentation and evidence from different angles. We take these actions only in situations where we believe no other option is available that will preserve the health and/or safety of the community. We will continue to monitor your feedback and provide at least one more reply regarding this matter.
- copied here verbatim as published at WP:FRAM
To follow up on the earlier statement from today, we can provide additional clarifications:
The scope of Trust and Safety investigations: The Foundation's office action investigations generally review the conduct of the user as a whole. Therefore, they usually involve conduct on the projects over an extended period of time. In the case of established editors, the time window reviewed often extends beyond any individual complaints received and can include conduct spanning several years. The scope is one of the main reasons why such investigations usually take at least four weeks. Such investigations evaluate the conduct of a user and by default not the substance of their views.
Conduct warnings: Conduct warnings are a rare office action. They are normally issued when a situation is observed to be problematic, and is meant to be a preventative measure of further escalation. It is considered as a step geared towards de-escalation of the situation, when there is believed to have sufficient margin for it. It informs the recipient that behavior they may consider acceptable is in fact not, grants them the opportunity to reflect on it, and encourages them to take corrective measures towards mitigating and eventually eliminating it. However, should these warnings be ignored and the problematic behavior continues, further actions (such as bans) may be deemed necessary and their text usually references the possibility.
Style and substance: Critique is an inherently important part of an encyclopedic community. Neither the Foundation nor community institutions, like ArbCom, are above criticism. Such criticism naturally can be direct and hard on the facts, but in a community it should also remain strictly respectful in tone towards others.
- copied here verbatim as published at WP:FRAM
Reinstatement of Office Action and temporary desysop of Floquenbeam
As has been correctly observed by users on the bureaucrats' noticeboard and other places, Office Actions are explicitly not subject to project community rules or consensus. If a user attempts to reverse or negate an Office Action, the Wikimedia Foundation may take any action necessary to preserve that Office Action, including desysopping or blocking a user or users. In this case, and in consideration of Floquenbeam's actions in reversing the Office Action regarding Fram, we have reinstated the original office action and temporarily desysopped Floquenbeam for a period of 30 days.
Floquenbeam's contributions to the projects are appreciated and we are not against them regaining admin rights in the future, hence our action is not permanent. If they wish for their admin rights to be restored, a RfA can be opened once 30 days elapse, and the community may decide on the request at that time in such or another way.
- copied here verbatim as published at WP:FRAM
Fram about the ban
First, thank you to everyone who stands up against or at least questions the handling of this by the WMF (no matter if you think I'm a good admin or if you believe I should have been banned a long time already).
Then, to the actual case. As far as I am concerned, there are no privacy reasons involved in any of this (never mind anything legally actionable). I'll repeat it once more, if it wasn't clear:
- I have not contacted anyone I was in conflict with in any offwiki way (be it through email, social media, real life contact, whatever)
- I have not discussed anyone I was in conflict with in any offwiki way (e.g. I have not contacted employers, I haven't discussed editors or articles at fora, twitter, reddit, whatever).
- I haven't threatened to do any of the above either.
- I don't know who made complaints about me to the WMF, and I won't speculate on it. The information I gave in my original post here just repeated the info I got from the WMF.
I invite the WMF to either simply confirm that my original post was a fair summary of the posts they sent me, or else to publish the posts in full (I don't think any editors were named in their posts, but if necessary they can strike out such names if they prefer). I also invite the WMF to explain why standard procedures weren't tried first, i.e. why they didn't refer the complainants to our regular channels first.
I'll not comment too much further, to avoid throwing fuel on the fire (or giving them a pretext to extend the ban). I'll not edit enwiki for the moment either, even when unblocked (thanks for that though), at least until the situation has become a bit clearer. Fram (talk) 11:14, 12 June 2019 (UTC)
One more thing, regarding my first post here, and now BU Rob13 claming that it was misleading: they have their facts wrong (e.g. the warning was not from a year ago, but from March 2019), but I noticed on rereading my post that I had one fact wrong as well. I said that I had received an interaction ban, but what I actually had was:
- "However, in the hopes of avoiding any future issues and in the spirit of Laura’s own request on her talk page, we would like to ask that you refrain from making changes to content that she produces, in any way (directly or indirectly), from this point on. This includes but is not limited to direct editing of it, tagging, nominating for deletion, etc. If you happen to find issues with Laura’s content, we suggest that you instead leave it for others to review and handle as they see fit. This approach will allow you to continue to do good work while reducing the potential for conflict between you and Laura.
- We hope for your cooperation with the above request, so as to avoid any sanctions from our end in the future. To be clear, we are not placing an interaction ban between you and Laura at this time. We ask that her request to stay away from her and the content she creates be respected, so that there is no need for any form of intervention or punitive actions from our end."
To me, a "suggestion" that I stay away from her or I would get sanctioned by them does read like an actual interaction ban, but technically it wasn't. But whether it was an interaction ban or not, former arb BU Rob13 should be aware that mentioning an interaction ban and the editors you are banned from in the course of ban discussions and the like is perfectly acceptable. I did not drop her name just for the fun of it, I raised the issue because it was the only thing I got alerted from by the WMF between their vague first warning in April 2018, and the ban now. I was trying to be complete and open, but apparently that was "misleading"?
BU Rob13 may think the LauraHale thing was unrelated, but the actual mail by the WMF says otherwise:
- "This decision has come following extensive review of your conduct on that project and is an escalation to the Foundation’s past efforts to encourage course correction, including a conduct warning issued to you on April 2018 and a conduct warning reminder issued to you on March 2019. "
(note that the "including" may suggest that there is more than these two, but there isn't: the March 2019 reminder is the LauraHale one).
All of this could be made easier if the WMF posted their full mails of course (although by now large chunks have been reposted here). Doing this the wiki way instead of through mail would have helped a lot. Fram (talk) 13:12, 12 June 2019 (UTC)
- copied here verbatim as published at WP:FRAM
Statement from Jan Eissfeldt, Lead Manager of Trust & Safety
Dear members of the English Wikipedia community,
My name is Jan Eissfeldt and I’m commenting in my role as Lead Manager of the Wikimedia Foundation Trust & Safety team about the team’s recent investigation and office actions. In addition to this comment, the Trust & Safety team will be making a statement at Arbitration Committee Requests/WJBscribe tomorrow.
I want to apologize for the disruption caused by the introduction of new type of sanctions without better communication with this community beforehand. While these changes were the result of the changes to the Trust & Safety team’s processes, and are not an expansion of the team’s scope, I know that these changes to the processes came as a surprise to many people within the community, and that many of you have questions about the changes.
Responding to community concerns about the office action requires deliberation and takes some time. We have been in active dialogue with staff and others - including the Board - to work on resolutions, but we understand that the time this takes opens the door for speculation and allowed concerns to expand.
I realize that this situation has been difficult for the English Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee (ArbCom). The Trust & Safety team apologizes for not working more closely with them in the lead-up to this point. We will improve our coordination with community-elected bodies like ArbCom across the movement when carrying out our duties.
Additionally, I want to explain the reason for using a role account when performing office actions and during follow up communication. Decisions, statements, and actions regarding things such as Office Actions are not individually-taken; rather, they are a product of collaboration of multiple people at the Foundation, oftentimes up to and including the Executive Director. As a result, we use the WMFOffice account as a “role” account, representing the fact that these are Foundation actions and statements, not a single person’s.
Some of you may remember that Trust & Safety staff used to sign with their individual accounts when discussing Office Actions. Unfortunately, this is no longer possible due to safety concerns for Foundation employees, as in the past staff have been personally targeted for threats of violence due to their Office Action edits. I am taking the step of making this statement personally in this case due to extraordinary necessity.
There continue to be questions from some people about the Foundation’s Trust & Safety team doing investigations about incidents occurring on English Wikipedia. I want to clarify the rationale for Trust & Safety doing investigations when requested and they meet the criteria for review.
It is important that victims of hostilities like harassment have a safe place to make reports and that we uphold and respect their privacy when they do so. The Foundation is currently working with the community on a User Reporting System that would allow communities and the Foundation to cooperate in handling complaints like harassment, and we have every hope that that system will facilitate local, community handling of these issues. However, at the current time, no such system exists for victims to make reports privately without fear that their “case” will be forced to become public. Indeed, it is often true that a mere rumor that someone was the victim of harassment can lead to harassment of that person. Unfortunately, that has been proven the case here as some individuals have already made assumptions about the identities of the victims involved. Accordingly, the Foundation is currently the venue best equipped to handle these reports, as we are able, often required by laws or global policies, to investigate these situations in confidence and without revealing the identity of the victim. That is why we will not name or disclose the identities of the individuals involved in reporting incidents related to this Office Action.
There have been some concerns raised about the level of community experience and knowledge involved in Trust & Safety’s work. The Wikimedia Foundation’s Community Engagement Department, of which Trust & Safety is a part, supports contributors and organizations aligned with the Wikimedia Foundation mission. In order to conduct informed and contextualized investigations, safeguard the community at events, and support community governance, Trust & Safety has focused on building a team with a combination of deep Wikimedia movement experience and team members who have experience with Trust & Safety processes with other online communities. To better assess incidents, the team has people from diverse geographic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds. We have former ArbCom members, administrators, and functionaries, from English Wikipedia as well as other language communities, informing our decisions, and expertise from other organisations helping to build compassionate best practices. We have utilized all of this experience and expertise in determining how best to manage the reports of harassment and response from members of the community.
One of the recent changes to the Trust & Safety policy is the introduction of new options that include time-limited and partial (project-specific) bans to address serious concerns that are considered temporary or project-specific in nature. This change to policy is not a change of the team’s scope of cases taken. However, it does alter the way that sanctions are enforced and unintentionally introduced ambiguity about the ability of local communities to overrule office actions.
In acknowledgement of the confusion caused by the application of this newer type of ban, we will not be issuing sanctions against or desysopping those who edited the block or the sysop rights of those who edited the block to date. However, despite the ambiguity in its application, the ban continues to stand whether it is being technically enforced by a block or not. Should Fram edit English Wikipedia during the one-year period of their ban, the temporary partial ban of User:Fram will be enforced with a global ban (and accordingly a global lock). We must stress again that Office Actions, whether “technically” reversible or not, are not to be considered reversible by a local, or even the global, community, no matter the circumstances or community sentiment.
The occurrence of Office Actions at times is unavoidable, but it is not our intention to disrupt local communities any further than necessary. Here we failed on that score, caused disruption to your community, and we welcome feedback about how such disruption could be avoided in the future when the Foundation takes Office Actions, and ask that we all engage in a good faith discussion bearing in mind the legal and ethical restrictions placed on anyone within or outside of the Foundation engaging in reports of this nature.
In addition to asking for feedback about the trust and safety office actions in this incident, over the next year, the Foundation will be asking members of the Wikimedia movement to work with us on several initiatives that are designed to promote inclusivity by ensuring a healthier culture of discourse, and the safety of Wikimedia spaces. --Jan (WMF) (talk) 20:44, 13 June 2019 (UTC)
- copied here verbatim as published at WP:FRAM
Further comments from Jan Eissfeldt
I would like to thank you all for your comments and feedback in regard to my recent post. I will try to reply here some of the main points and questions the community has asked.
- The changes to our Office Action policy were made publicly on February 19, 2019 as part of the documentation on Meta. It has not been our practice, historically, to report changes to T&S policy to the hundreds of local communities we work with. As I have noted previously, the use of local and time-limited bans is not a change of the team’s scope but was intended to be a less heavy handed option than indefinite global bans for cases that fall within the established scope. Their intention has been to close the gap between conduct warning office actions, which played a role in this case more than once, and indefinite global bans. The community’s reaction here to these more gradual bans has been clear that such less-”nuclear” options are both confusing and not felt to be acceptable and I will consider that carefully (and these two ideas, too).
- Regarding questions on balancing fairness to the accused party with the safety of the accusing party, this is something we have been working on for quite a long time, and it’s not something we or anyone else has perfected. By default, we reach out to the accused party for information if doing so is possible without violating the privacy of the accusing - or other involved - parties.
- To address questions about how the T&S investigations procedures work, I have asked my team to put together some public documentation that is easier to digest than the approval path table already available on Meta together early next week.
- Regarding the desysoping action taken, my team's reasoning was guided by the precedent set in 2016. You can find a bit more on that in my statement to the ArbCom case.
I am continuing to read this and other related pages, and as noted in my ArbCom statement will continue to engage with the community on several other points next week when the public documentation will be ready. Jan (WMF) (talk) 19:35, 14 June 2019 (UTC)
- copied here verbatim as published at WP:FRAM
- The above link described as relating to the change in office actions policy is a link to an entirely different page; the actual described change was here. The statement to the ArbCom case is at WP:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Reversion of office actions#Statement by JEissfeldt (WMF) on behalf of WMFOffice.
Jan Eissfeldt update (06/17/2019)
* On the question of how many cases reaching T&S result in office actions, the answer is two-fold:
- Roughly 90% of the outreach to T&S does not result in T&S cases. There are two big reasons for that: community self-governance and the hurdle for opening T&S cases being consequently pretty high. Much of the outreach we receive therefore can be routinely addressed by others and is being redirected - including to OTRS, ArbCom, other community processes. Last quarter, for example, the percent of T&S cases opened relative to outreach received was 8.1%, the quarter before 11%.
- Within these ~10% that become investigations, T&S cases resulted in actions in 48.18% of all investigations conducted over the last four years. That number includes both types of office actions: secondary like a private conduct warnings, and primary, like Foundation global bans.
- For historical context: T&S cases historically used to come mainly from the English language projects but that has steadily declined to less than a third of cases (again Q1 and 2 18/19 data). The main cause for the trend has been a consistent rise in requests from other language projects.
- I know some of you have expressed concerns about the new reporting system and the universal code of conduct here and on ArbCom’s talk page. T&S staffer Sydney Poore, who has been pinged by several editors already, will be engaging directly about these initiatives in the conversations.
- On questions on better communications of office action procedures: Going forward, news of all substantive changes to the office actions policy will be going out to all communities; just like technical changes already do. T&S will work with ComRel to make sure it follows the usual setup and feedback reviewed on the policy’s talk page on Meta. We are also reviewing, in line with Vermont’s suggestion from last week, whether to include individual public office actions, which is more complicated.
- We have heard your concerns about fairness to Fram of the case as it proceeded. Balancing fairness to the accused party with the safety of the accusing party is something we have been working on for quite a long time, and it’s not something we’ve perfected. Generally, we will reach out to the accused party for information if doing so is possible without violating the privacy of the accusing - or other involved - parties, but our efforts do remain a work in progress when it comes to finding the right balance in each individual case.
- As far as the ability for others to avoid making mistakes and finding themselves unexpectedly sanctioned, unfortunately, we cannot publicly disclose details of this or any particular case, for all the reasons previously discussed. This means that, as much as we understand your wanting the information, we cannot tell you what specific behaviors by Fram brought about this action. We can, however, say that abiding by the ToU is required of everyone who edits a Wikimedia site. That includes refraining from behaviors described by the ToU, including “[e]ngaging in harassment, threats, stalking, spamming, or vandalism”. In cases where we believe a user may not be aware that they are violating expected behavioral standards, even repeatedly, we give conduct warnings prior to any action being taken. In Fram’s case, as noted on Commons, we did send more than one of those warnings/reminders before the most recent step.
- There have been suggestions that T&S should have piloted the newer office action measures first before proceeding with a potentially controversial case like Fram’s. I don’t agree with that as I think that bending the selection of cases to cherry-pick a good “starter” case endangers the independent investigations approach T&S has to uphold.
- There have been questions about the investigation process itself. As indicated on Friday above, my team has built a graphic to visualize the overall process to make it easier to navigate. Traditionally, it has been documented as a table on Meta and is always followed. I hope that the graphic puts the number I detail in the first bullet of this edit above into its context. ~10% go through the process visualized here and less than half thereof result in office actions taken. Jan (WMF) (talk) 21:53, 17 June 2019 (UTC)
- copied fromWP:FRAM as published
Response from Fram to Jan
Jan Eissfeldt said
- "As far as the ability for others to avoid making mistakes and finding themselves unexpectedly sanctioned, unfortunately, we cannot publicly disclose details of this or any particular case, for all the reasons previously discussed. This means that, as much as we understand your wanting the information, we cannot tell you what specific behaviors by Fram brought about this action. We can, however, say that abiding by the ToU is required of everyone who edits a Wikimedia site. That includes refraining from behaviors described by the ToU, including “[e]ngaging in harassment, threats, stalking, spamming, or vandalism”. In cases where we believe a user may not be aware that they are violating expected behavioral standards, even repeatedly, we give conduct warnings prior to any action being taken. In Fram’s case, as noted on Commons, we did send more than one of those warnings/reminders before the most recent step."
"we cannot tell you what specific behaviors by Fram brought about this action." understood, but you should at least be able to confirm that it is about on-wiki behaviour only surely?
"In Fram’s case, as noted on Commons, we did send more than one of those warnings/reminders before the most recent step." Yes, as I noted on Commons but which you (WMF) failed to acknowledge until now, I got two such reminders (one very general, which is now being discussed at enwiki and doesn't seem to be really well recieved as an acceptable warning; and two, about a specific issue where the general opinion at enwiki seems to be that no warning was necessary for these quite normal edits), and then a sudden one-year ban (plus desysop) for quite different behaviour (not the supposed harassment of an individual, but incivility against the Arbcom), which doesn't seem to fit any of the "harassment, threats, stalking, spamming, or vandalism" category.
In any case, I guess we can use your note as a rather well hidden acknowledgment that my account of the WMF communications was accurate? That would at least lay to bed some of the more wild speculations made in these discussions. Fram (talk) 08:55, 18 June 2019 (UTC)
Copied from Commons Tazerdadog (talk) 12:11, 18 June 2019 (UTC)
- copied here verbatim as published at WP:FRAM
ArbCom's open letter to the BoT
OPEN LETTER TO THE WIKIMEDIA FOUNDATION BOARD OF TRUSTEES FROM THE ENGLISH WIKIPEDIA ARBITRATION COMMITTEE
30 June 2019
ArbCom is a group of volunteers elected by the community to adjudicate serious conduct disputes in accordance with the English Wikipedia’s arbitration policy. This policy also delegates matters unsuitable for public discussion to ArbCom, and all members of the committee are required to meet and agree to the WMF’s access to non-public personal data policy. Over the years, ArbCom has passed responsibility for some matters, including child protection issues, legal matters, and threats of violence, to the WMF’s Legal and T&S teams. We are grateful for T&S’ assistance on these difficult cases and for their efforts to support ArbCom’s work in general. However, despite requests, we have not seen any indication that Fram’s case falls into one of the categories of issues that T&S normally handles, otherwise lies outside of our remit, or was handled by them due to a lack of trust in our ability to handle harassment cases. Rather, we must conclude that T&S’ action is an attempt to extend the use of office actions into enforcing behavioural norms in local communities, an area conventionally left to community self-governance.
Together with a large section of the community, we have been awaiting an adequate response to these concerns from the WMF since 10 June. The Board has yet to issue a statement, and sporadic comments by individual WMF employees (including the Executive Director Katherine Maher) have been non-committal with regard to the substance of the dispute. In the last public statement by Jan Eissfeldt (21 June) and in our private meetings, T&S have reiterated that they are not willing to reconsider the ban, nor will they turn the full evidence over to the community or ArbCom for review. The ban itself was actioned using a recently-introduced T&S process for local, time-limited bans, which although announced in T&S’ 2018–2019 Annual Plan, was not adequately communicated to the English Wikipedia community, and not subject to any form of community consultation.
We understand that this change in policy from T&S comes in the context of efforts to tackle harassment and hostility in the Wikimedia movement. Individually and as a committee, we fully support this initiative. We also acknowledge that ArbCom has struggled to handle civility and harassment complaints in a way that adequately balances privacy against transparency, and due process to the accused against victim protection. However, if the WMF have also been concerned about ArbCom’s ability to handle harassment complaints, they have not communicated this concern with us, nor have they provided any suggestions for changing our policies or procedures. If Fram’s ban—an unappealable sanction issued from above with no community consultation—represents the WMF’s new strategy for dealing with harassment on the English Wikipedia, it is one that is fundamentally misaligned with the Wikimedia movement’s principles of openness, consensus, and self-governance.
We ask that the WMF commits to leaving behavioural complaints pertaining solely to the English Wikipedia to established local processes. Those unsuitable for public discussion should be referred to the Arbitration Committee. We will solicit comment from the community and the WMF to develop clear procedures for dealing with confidential allegations of harassment, based on the existing provision for private hearings in the arbitration policy. Complaints that can be discussed publicly should be referred to an appropriate community dispute resolution process. If the Trust & Safety team seeks to assume responsibility for these cases, they should do so by proposing an amendment to the arbitration policy, or an equivalent process of community consensus-building. Otherwise, we would appreciate the WMF’s continued support in improving our response to harassment and hostility on the English Wikipedia.
We feel strongly that this commitment is necessary for the Arbitration Committee to continue to perform the role it is assigned by the English Wikipedia community. If we are unable to find a satisfactory resolution, at least four members of the committee have expressed the intention to resign.
The undersigned members of the Arbitration Committee,
- Molly White (GorillaWarfare)
- Joe Roe
- Opabinia regalis
- Premeditated Chaos
- Steve Pereira (SilkTork)
- Dave Craven (Worm That Turned)
For the Arbitration Committee, GorillaWarfare (talk) 08:26, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
- letter copied from WP:FRAM as published
The Board is a deliberative body and we strongly believe that it is important that we consider issues of high importance thoroughly. We realize that for many of our community members our silence has been frustrating, but we genuinely used this time.
Almost three years ago, the board published a strong statement against toxic behaviors and directed the Wikimedia Foundation teams to work to make Wikimedia communities safer for all good faith editors. A safe and respectful environment is not only one of our five pillars, it will also allow for more diverse voices to join our communities, bringing new knowledge with them.
While we remain fully committed to this position, we also recognize the critical importance of allowing communities to be self-governing and for the movement, as a whole, to make high-level decisions. While we realize that the Wikimedia Foundation staff did not take this decision lightly, we also believe that we need the right processes to reach the right results.
It is also evident that existing processes within the communities and T&S have failed, as we have cases which obviously need some form of sanctions, in which sanctions have not occurred.
We believe that the communities should be able to deal with these types of situations and should take this as a wake-up call to improve our enforcement processes to deal with so-called "unblockables". In fact, those in a position of authority should be held to a higher standard. We also recognize that the communities may need support to carry out these needed steps.
This could include funding for training of community members involved in dealing with harassment or helping long term contributors correct behaviors that are inappropriate. We support the provision of the necessary resources to allow the community and its representatives to discuss these issues with the board and staff members.
Even the larger projects struggle to effectively address the most difficult and controversial cases. There is a gap between our movement principles and practices. This is an issue we need to solve together. That is a task that needs to be led by the communities, with the support of staff and guidance from the board.
As such, we have asked Katherine Maher, CEO of Wikimedia Foundation, to work closely with staff in support of our communities to identify the shortcomings of current processes and to propose solutions. This could include current and upcoming initiatives, as well as re-evaluating or adding community input to the two new office action policy tools (temporary and partial Foundation bans).
We recognize that T&S has established a track record for managing highly complex situations. While the aforementioned conversations between T&S and our communities take place, we recommend T&S focus on the most severe cases, for instance: the handling of legal issues, threats of violence, cross-wiki abuse, and child protection issues until consultation and agreement between T&S and the community are achieved.
Any changes in the long-established practices of dealing with toxic behavior within the communities should be introduced carefully and only following close collaboration with the communities. As discussed above, we have directed the Foundation to take on that conversation.
We support ArbCom reviewing this ban. We have asked T&S to work with the English Wikipedia ArbCom to review this case. We encourage Arbcom to assess the length and scope of Fram’s ban, based on the case materials that can be released to the committee. While the review is ongoing, Fram’s ban will remain in effect, although Arbcom and T&S may need ways to allow Fram to participate in the proceedings.
We do not consider any of the admin resignations related to the current events to be “under a cloud” (under suspicion) though we also realize that the final decision with respect to this lies with the community.
The Board views this as part of a much-needed community debate on toxic behavior. In spite of the considerable disruption this has caused for many, we hope this serves as a catalyzing moment for us to move forward together to ensure the health and vitality of our communities.
The chair has formally delegated this matter to the vice chair and was not involved in the issuing of this statement or in any of the deliberations that led to our response.
On behalf of the board,
- Whole section copied verbatim from WP:FRAM as published
Katherine Maher's "Response on behalf of the Foundation"
A pre-note: Thank you for your patience awaiting the statement from the Board and now this message from me on behalf of the Foundation. In the intervening time between the Board's statement, my writing and re-writing this below, and now posting it, there have been many comments and question here and elsewhere. This message will not respond directly to those points, but is meant to offer a broader perspective on recent events. In coming days and weeks, the Foundation (myself, T&S staff, and others) will be able to respond more directly to these more direct comments. Some will be easily resolved and clarified, some less so. Some may need to wait for further conversations at the upcoming Board meeting at Wikimania Stockholm. Hopefully not all will be answered at 01:00 local time. Thanks again.
The events of the past few weeks, following the Foundation’s decision to implement a partial ban of User:Fram on English Wikipedia, have evoked concerns, surprise, anger and frustration, and led to an important debate on the difficult task of managing disruptive behaviors and ensuring a healthy and civil community for all. The leadership of the Foundation, as well as the Trust & Safety team, have been closely following the conversations and constructive criticism and suggestions here on wiki.
First, I’d like to apologize. I am genuinely sorry that so many people have felt such distress, frustration, and disillusionment in recent days. Each person who has participated here in these conversations, and as Wikipedians in general, has done so out of a passion for this project. Whether we agree or disagree, we’re here because we care deeply about its stewardship and future. Whatever one’s perspective on the merits of the issues at hand, I regret that this has been such a difficult period for so many people.
I also would like to acknowledge that there are things that the Foundation could have handled better. The conversation about the limitations and challenges of addressing the most difficult behavioral cases, and what this means in the context of the principle of community self-governance, should have been held in fora in which people here would have had a chance to participate, weigh various considerations, raise issues, and collaboratively develop constructive solutions.
The introduction of the tools themselves could have also been improved. Paraphrasing an expression about unpopular decisions, the first application of a temporary ban on a contributor might have come as a shock, but it should never have been a surprise. That is to say, it is the Foundation’s responsibility to ensure people across our communities had been consulted on, and were familiar with, the reasoning and process behind the creation of new T&S tools, the conditions under which they might be applied, their relationship to the role and authority of existing community processes and bodies (e.g., ArbCom), and the relative weight and flexibility of the sanctions.
Finally, I would do certain things differently if there were a way to rewind and retry the last few weeks. As I’ve noted on my talkpage, I am responsible for approving the ban. Regardless of the merits of the case, I should have been better prepared to step forward and be accountable. There was some early confusion about the role of the Board in office actions, and some well-intentioned efforts by both Foundation and Board that both delayed response and added to uncertainty. During that period of delay, there was an opportunity to be more engaged in community conversation, rather than adding to the perception that the Foundation was aloof or insensitive to both people’s concerns and constructive proposals. And while this paragraph is not intended as a comprehensive retrospective, certainly, I would sit on my hands and not tweet.
As of a few hours ago, the Board of Trustees has posted their response. Building on the guidance from the Board, and in response to ArbCom’s open letter to the Board which set out its preparedness to review the User:Fram ban, the Foundation has completed its preparation of the case materials it can release to the committee. The release of these materials is intended to facilitate the committee’s review of the length and scope of the ban in place. T&S and Legal staff have a standing meeting with the members of the committee on 3 July 2019, in which the case and materials will be further discussed.
Additionally, Foundation staff have begun preparing for a dedicated community consultation on:
- The two new office action policy tools introduced during the last change (temporary and partial Foundation bans). Under the approach noted on June 17th, we will seek further community feedback on those changes. These new tools will not be used again until community consultations to clarify their purpose and mechanisms are completed;
- Alternative approaches to supporting communities dealing with onwiki harassment;
- Working closely with the community to identify the shortcomings of current processes and enforcement mechanisms, and to support the development of appropriate solutions;
- Offering training opportunities for community leaders (including ArbCom) involved in dealing with harassment to strengthen their ability to meet these challenges.
I believe strongly in the commitment to community self-governance, as do Foundation staff that work closely with our editing communities, including those in T&S. We also believe strongly in the principle that no one participating on the Wikimedia projects should be subject to harassment, abuse, or intimidation. We believe there is a way to respect and support both of these as foundational and equally important principles, to do so judiciously and with integrity, and without compromising on the safety and wellbeing of Wikimedia participants. As many have pointed out over the past weeks, Wikipedia is a grand and ongoing experiment, and we do not always get it right.
Someone on my talkpage asked me the other day if the culture and priorities of the English Wikipedia community are compatible with the Wikimedia movement’s broader vision and the Foundation’s own strategic plan, and whether the Foundation would care if they were not compatible. It was a thoughtful question, which seemed to get to the heart of some of the concerns and skepticism I was reading and hearing from some community members over the past few weeks.
English Wikipedia is a marvel. It is imperfect, it is a work in progress, it is a remarkable achievement of collaboration and cooperation in building the encyclopedia -- a rendering of humanity’s knowledge. Members of this community have spent thousands of hours writing and building this collective resource, as well as developing the processes, roles, and governance structures that are critical to sustaining English Wikipedia. In doing so, you have not only made English Wikipedia possible, but shaped the principles of the broader Wikimedia movement.
The Foundation views its responsibility as being to the long-term health of all Wikimedia projects, including English Wikipedia. This responsibility must be guided by both the needs of the projects as they exist currently, and the broader Wikimedia vision of a world in which every single human can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. This means supporting essential technical and social resources that enable the projects to thrive today, while also keeping an eye on what to anticipate for the future. This means supporting Wikipedias that are open to newcomers, in terms of policies, experiences, and culture, in order to best position the projects and communities to remain self-sustaining, self-governing, and resilient -- and better yet, grow in size, commitment, and capacity, enriched by diverse global perspectives.
The community that has built this remarkable project has more collective wisdom and experience than any one of us alone, and the richness of that perspective must inform the long-term flourishing of this remarkable project. I look forward to working with you all on how we support this, together.
Katherine (WMF) (talk) 07:58, 3 July 2019 (UTC)
- Copied as published on User talk:Katherine (WMF)