Recent prominent events and decisions on English Wikipedia have focused on what information, published elsewhere on the web, can be appropriately republished or linked on Wikipedia itself. Such questions about information and ethics are essential to any serious effort to organize and publish information. Here at the Signpost, we aim to present debates like this to our readership, and offer analysis to help our readers track the progress of various discussions, and participate more effectively.
Typically, the proper role of the Signpost is not to take a position, but to offer a platform for exploration and reflection. In July 2016, for instance, we ran an op-ed piece from Wikipedian Doc James, who argued in favor of permitting the republication of information that is already public; and in the spirit of a healthy and diverse discourse, we would gladly run essays arguing otherwise, provided they are rooted in an exploration of what will help Wikipedia thrive.
On this topic, however, our relationship to Wikipedia is more complex. Wikipedia is not merely the subject matter of the Signpost; it is also the platform on which the publication rests. For us to play a useful role in sharing information and stimulating discourse about Wikipedia, we must be able to link to relevant source material; our writers and editors must be able to speak without fear of retaliation or censure. As with all publications, our ability to inform our readership relies on freedom of the press. We must regard any policy or enforcement that might have a chilling effect on our contributors’ words as a potential threat to our core purpose.
To the degree that anonymity achieves our goals, it should be supported—but this does not mean it should be supported absolutely and in all situations. –Doc James op-ed, July 2016
Wikipedia's policies on no personal attacks and harassment contain language that if strictly interpreted would severely impede our ability to bring you the news; and recent discussions suggest that strict interpretation is to be expected. As of this writing, Wikipedia’s harassment policy states (emphasis added):
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, other contact information, or photograph, 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 their activities on Wikipedia. This applies to the personal information of both editors and non-editors.
Like any news outlet, the Signpost routinely publishes quotations from, and links to, a wide variety of materials on the web, including personal web pages, blog posts, press releases, affiliate sites, and wikis other than English Wikipedia. In many cases—and for no nefarious purpose—those public pages contain information that the definition above would categorize as “personal”, though Wikipedia policy may be the only framework that categorizes it that way. Thus, if the Signpost is to carefully adhere to a strict interpretation of current Wikipedia policy, we are forced to curtail the quantity and quality of information we offer our readers.
This state of affairs is not desirable for any news outlet that hopes to keep its readers informed. In the short term, we will append a short message, linking to this editorial, to the bottom of any story in which we must compromise our intended words to comply with Wikipedia policy. In the longer term, we look forward to a day when Wikipedia’s policies can adequately protect individuals’ genuine privacy interests while simultaneously supporting various legitimate discussions involving identity and related topics.
The Signpost loses and gains a co-editor-in-chief
User:Go Phightins! is stepping down from his position as the Signpost's co-editor-in-chief today:
It is not without a degree of disappointment that today I announce that effective immediately, I will be stepping down as co-editor-in-chief of the Signpost. My tenure has lasted 18 months, but due to real-life obligations, there have been prolonged droughts where I have been barely able or not at all able to contribute. It is not fair to the remainder of the team that produces this publication for me to continue to hold a title without contributing my fair share. Therefore, now is a good time for me to step back. I plan to continue to advise and contribute as I can in the future, but will do so in a reduced capacity.
I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to Ed for offering me (a.k.a. dragooning me) to take on this responsibility in January 2015, Rob for serving with me for most of this tenure and taking on a lion's share of the publication process, Tony for his unwavering support of the publication's goals and reliable reporting as one of our most prolific writers, the entire Signpost editorial board for their consistent work in churning out issue after issue, and especially Andreas for his willingness to be drafted into service on this project and his huge body of work maintaining it.
My sincerest hope is that the publication continues on its current upward trajectory while attracting new blood to help give those who have been longstanding contributors a break to avoid burnout.
To that end, it is with surpassing pleasure that we announce that Pete Forsyth will be joining us as our new co-editor-in-chief. Pete has been a Wikipedian since 2006, and has covered Wikipedia happenings in the Signpost, and in news outlets from USA Today to the blogs of Creative Commons and the Wikimedia Foundation. We are excited to have him join us in this official capacity.
As always, we are eager for new contributors, and now is a great time to consider whether joining The Signpost team is something you are willing to do. Please contact Rosiestep if that's something you would be interested in doing.
Thank you, Ben, for your many years of service to the Signpost. I am delighted that you will continue to be a member of the Signpost editorial board, and contribute as and when time allows.
I am equally delighted to welcome Pete Forsyth as my new co-editor-in-chief. Pete brings outstanding smarts, insight and experience to the position, and I couldn't have wished for a better replacement. I look forward to our work together, covering news in and around the Wikimedia world. AK