Examining the Committee's year
During the 2013 term, the arbitration committee closed ten cases, nine amendment requests, and 26 clarification requests. The following cases are singled out for inclusion either for drawing a large number of participants, or for being noteworthy or unusual in some way.
The Arbitration Committee's most notable case of the year, hands down, was the Manning naming dispute. Manning was then in military custody, and had just been sentenced in connection with releasing classified documents to Wikileaks. The next day, in the course of a television program, Manning's attorney announced his client's decision to be known as Chelsea instead of Bradley. Before the program was finished, the Manning article had been moved to the new name. The story of the instantaneous renaming of Manning's Wikipedia article was covered In Slate, El Comercio, the New Statesman, and TruthDig.
While the ArbCom does not have remit to examine content issues, the committee voted to accept the case mainly to address the issue of discriminatory speech and the scope of policy on biographies of living persons.
The infobox dispute centered on music topics: classical music, opera, and composers. Some editors were perceived to be aggressively adding infoboxes in areas where they did not normally edit, or adding infoboxes to high profile articles, for instance adding an infobox to articles at the last moment before they were scheduled to run as featured articles on Wikipedia's landing page. A number of long-time music editors had left the subject area, unwilling to get involved in an unproductive and long-running controversy.
Arbitrators agreed unanimously that infoboxes are neither required nor discouraged, and that decisions regarding infoboxes should be made by consensus on an article-by-article basis. They also recommended a community-wide discussion on infoboxes.
Two weeks after the workshop phase was closed, members of one WikiProject complained that the proposed decision as written was too one-sided, and that music editors "deserve smacking". Since little or no evidence had been submitted against these editors, a request was made for more diffs, but since the evidence and workshop phases were already closed, there was no discussion of this new evidence. One music editor was subsequently accused, and added to the case. The accused editor offered to provide diffs if an arbitrator was willing to take them into consideration, but received no response. In a post-mortem on that case, concern was expressed that anything that might end up in the proposed decision be first presented at the workshop to give committee members a chance for their gut feelings to be reviewed by outside editors.
The Tea party movement case was filed in February, but wasn't closed until September. The case began over a conflict over civility at ANI, and concerns over the possibility of members of WikiProject Conservatism being canvassed to participate in parallel conflicts over U.S. politics, religion, and homosexuality. The case was briefly suspended as the ANI discussion resumed, then suspended again as one of the arbitrators engaged the participants in a moderated discussion.
There was little movement in the case over the summer, when there is no officially scheduled break for the committee, and by August only a handful of findings against users had been voted on. Early in August a proposal was put forward to ban 14 editors, and several names were added to the case after the evidence phase had closed. The Signpost asked the arbitration committee if there would be any Findings of Fact to support this motion; and if editors proposed for the page ban would be given a chance to participate in the case before being sanctioned, to have any evidence presented against them, and to answer to any implications of wrongdoing. In the meantime, one of the arbitrators who had drafted the case withdrew from voting and added his name to the case along with the other 14 names.
The committee was unable to reach an agreement on the mass banning motion, but by the end of August had posted a "more traditional decision including specific findings and remedies against specific editors," and eventually enough votes were garnered to pass the various finding of fact and topic ban proposals.
While the arbitration committee does not have remit over content of articles, it agreed to take this case in the interests of use of reliable sources and maintaining a neutral point of view.
The case asserted that Argentine history articles were being systematically skewed by the use of sources sympathetic to "Nacionalismos", a 1930s Argentine political movement equivalent to Nazism in Germany, Fascism in Italy and Spain, and Integralism in Brazil and Portugal. The result of the use of these sources while ignoring extensive historical evidence to the contrary was compared to claiming that the South had opposed slavery in the American Civil War, or to denial of the holocaust of World War II.
The case ended with topic bans for the individuals adding this material. There were five subsequent clarification/amendment requests to the committee regarding this case, several for exemptions to the topic ban, plus an interaction ban request from the editor who had initiated the case, and who claimed they were ganging up to bully him. During the fifth request, it was determined that the editor who originally filed the case was no longer allowed to comment on amendments to the case, due to the interaction ban he had previously been granted. A complaint was filed at Arbitration Enforcement against the original filer, who replied "For three years I tried to warn the community ...the community is unable and unwilling to do anything about it. You should lift the ban and let them do whatever they want. That's what's going to happen anyway." Twenty-nine minutes later he was blocked, and has not edited since.
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