Wikipedia talk:Wikipedia Signpost/2013-08-07/Arbitration report

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It might be noted that some of the fourteen were not named as a party to the case until immediately before the motion was proposed and some were added after the motion was proposed. None of the added editors were afforded any chance to provide evidence concerning any claims about them, as zero evidence against some of them was ever given, and no findings were even proposed about them at all. One Arbitrator had opined that Calls for sanctions should be based on evidence; the greater the sanction, the greater the need for appropriate evidence and then proceeded to support sanctions based on zero evidence whatsoever. As a result, at least one long-time editor has decided to go on a "wikistrike" to protest such an example of WP:Tiptibism (using presumed authority on the mere basis that since they have the authority to make an extreme decision, that therefore it is proper to do so).. Collect (talk) 00:47, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

  • Well...I was pretty sure this wasn't going to end well...I just didn't think it would end like this. Gosh...I don't really know how I feel about it.--Mark Just ask! WER TEA DR/N 01:39, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
I realize that topic bans and blocks aren't intended to be measures to "cool down" disputes but this could have a positive effect on the article. While I wouldn't like to face a block, I know if a certain article was off-limits to me, there are still millions of articles I could contribute to.
I don't agree with how the 14 people were chosen (it seems pretty random to me, whoever was named as an involved party) but I also can see that this disagreement was never going to be mediated away and consensus reached so better an article ban that a site ban (which I've seen being handed out too indiscriminately). Newjerseyliz (talk) 03:17, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
How we choose the editors to ban is important, and should be done with some objective standard such as "any editor who has made more that 20 edits to the article or 50 edits to the article talk page in the last six months". What we don't want is some administrator or arbitrator deciding that Fred and Ethel need to be banned but Ricky and Lucy can keep on editing the page. If we do that, we are sanctioning because of behavior rather than giving the article a reset, and to do that we need to show evidence of misbehavior and give the editor a chance to respond. --Guy Macon (talk) 18:27, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
  • This motion sets a very worrisome precedent, and I strongly agree with Roger Davies' opposing view: "While I understand the rationale behind this approach, and I do appreciate that the artcle is unlikely to make progress with the present personae dramatis, I cannot support sanctions (no matter how they are dressed up) without at least cursory individual findings of fact. " — Richwales (no relation to Jimbo) 05:40, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
    • I don't see this as setting a precedent, because we exclude groups of editors from articles all the time. We exclude non-autoconfirmed editors with semi-protection. We exclude non-administrators with full protection. Although not on a per-article basis, we exclude all TOR users from editing. I don't see excluding, as a group, the editors who have spectacularly failed at cooperatively editing an article as being all that different. We aren't implying that any one editor has done anything wrong, just as we aren't implying that any individual IP editors or TOR users have done something wrong in the other cases I listed. When I see a full-protected article, I am excluded from editing it. Where is the individual finding of fact that justifies me being "sanctioned" in that case? The answer is that, like this case, it isn't a sanction at all. --Guy Macon (talk) 18:16, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
  • This propsed motion seems wrong in two critical ways. It goes beyond the bounds of [authority].

    Scope and responsibilities

The Arbitration Committee of the English Wikipedia has the following duties and responsibilities:
To act as a final binding decision-maker primarily for serious conduct disputes the community has been unable to resolve;
They have intervened and imposed sanctions on editors who were not shown to have been involved in any bad conduct, were added after the motion was proposed, and who had no opportunity to defend themselves. The second key point is "collective punishment". It is an injustice to impose penalities on those who did no wrong, who were in fact essentially uninvolved. There is a reason such collective punishment is an anathema in civilized society. This is a bad proposal with real consequences. 18:22, 11 August 2013 (UTC) 17:55, 11 August 2013 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Capitalismojo (talkcontribs)
Assuming, of course, that your claims about sanctions/penalties/punishment are true. I contend that they are not. See my comments above. --Guy Macon (talk) 19:26, 11 August 2013 (UTC)
ArbCom's jurisdiction over editing disputes has traditionally been limited by the Wikipedia community to conduct disputes. In the absence of specific factual findings of misconduct against specific individual editors, this really can't be said to be a "conduct dispute" as we normally understand that term. And if this is an intractible content dispute involving editors who are acting in good faith and following the rules but simply cannot reach a consensus, I honestly don't think ArbCom can take any action at all unless we were to first get a broad community consensus to expand the Committee's domain of responsibility. Even assuming that the best approach to the present problem is for the current good-faith, clean-nosed contributors to the article(s) to step aside so that a totally new batch of editors can try their hand at a solution, I do not believe ArbCom has been given the authority to mandate such a course of action or to authorize anyone to enforce same via blocks or bans. And even though the Wikipedia community has authority to topic-ban editors, this power is conventionally limited to cases where someone has been "repeatedly disruptive" and has "exhausted the community's patience" — again, referring to individual conduct issues. A finding that a group of editors have "spectacularly failed at cooperatively editing an article" is not a "conduct" issue, and if the community wants to start "sanctioning" such a situation (or to authorize ArbCom to do so), I believe that would first require a much wider and much more in-depth discussion by the community. Thus far, the community has chosen not to give ArbCom authority to impose binding solutions in content disputes, and this case may very possibly help us understand why. — Richwales (no relation to Jimbo) 21:45, 11 August 2013 (UTC)
Is it within ArbCom's jurisdiction to apply semi or full page protection to an article in the absence of specific factual findings of misconduct against specific individual editors? --Guy Macon (talk) 22:17, 11 August 2013 (UTC)
Are you saying that a topic ban on an arbitrary group of editors about whom, in some cases, there was zero evidence of any sort given, and who were added after the motion was made and who had zero opportunity to comment except on the decision talk page, is identical to "page protection" which applies to every single editor on Wikipedia? That would be an interesting, if clearly errant, claim. Collect (talk) 23:02, 11 August 2013 (UTC)
Please don't imagine where I am going with an argument and then stuff words in my mouth that you think I am about to say. It is unseemly, and you are unlikely to guess correctly. If, indeed, I am preparing to say that, you will find out soon enough. Speaking of being errant, page protection does not apply to every single editor on Wikipedia. As of 25 September 2017, there are 1,249 editors who it does not apply to. Please try to avoid making errors in the process of assuming without evidence that others are about to make errors. So again I ask, Is it within ArbCom's jurisdiction to apply page protection to an article? It's a simple question. Either it is or it isn't. --Guy Macon (talk) 01:31, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
Guy Macon, arbitration has not set any objective criteria. I made 2 edits in the 6 months before the arbitration was set up, in fact more than 3 months before, and had never had any contact on the article with the person who set up the requested arbitration. Yet after the evidence was heard, in which I am not mentioned, an arbitrator added me, and therefore I am included in the list of editors facing a page ban.
Incidentally, The Wikipedia "protection policy" allows only specified forms of protection, which does not include protection against an arbitrarily selected group of editors. Furthermore, there are obviously no penalties for editors who ignore page protection.
TFD (talk) 03:17, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
Responding to Guy Macon's question: AFAIK, Yes: ArbCom certainly does have the authority to apply page protection to an article. For example, the Tea Party movement article is currently under "full" protection, imposed by a sitting arb, with a protection summary saying "Edit warring/Content dispute: Fully protecting until ArbCom case reaches decision."
Having said the above, however, I will endorse what The Four Deuces just said — there are a specified set of standard protections allowed by our protection policy (and made technically available by our software), and protection against an arbitrarily named group of individuals is not one of these standard protections. The fact that certain protection types are technically doable and are within the accepted powers of the Arbitration Committee certainly (IMO) does not imply that ArbCom has carte blanche to impose any sort of page or topic ban it decides on, in the absence of a finding that specific individuals have engaged in misconduct. — Richwales (no relation to Jimbo) 05:05, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
OK, we have established that it within ArbCom's jurisdiction to take an action that prevents one class of editors from editing a page while allowing another class of editors to edit the page, and we have established that they can do so without any specific factual findings of misconduct against the specific individual editors who are being prevented from editing the page.
The reason that I wanted to establish this is because I see three separate arguments against the recent Arbcon decision, two that have merit and one that is bogus.
The bogus argument is the claim that that it is not within ArbCom's jurisdiction to take an action that prevents one class of editors from editing a page while allowing another class of editors to edit the page without any specific factual findings of misconduct against specific individual editors, and that any such action is "punishment" "sanctions" and "penalties". This is demonstrably untrue.
The two remaining arguments that have merit are the argument that there are no allowable classes other than those in the case of page protection and the argument that this is not a legitimate reason or this is not a legitimate class.
If you make the first argument, then it would appear to be equally non-allowable to limit, say, all paid editors from editing one page (Under the current rules they are discouraged but not forbidden in the general case of pages they are paid to edit, and no I do not want to us have that arguments again). It would also seem that they could not limit all editors who have made over 500 talk page comments on the same page per day for over 500 days.
If you make the second argument, which I believe to be the stronger of the two, I don't see a strong counterargument. You can't argue precedent, because nothing similar has ever been done (I proposed something similar once,[1] but it never made it past the "let's discuss the idea" stage). The best counterargument to this that I can think of -- and it isn't strong -- is the "don't handcuff Arbcom" argument (they need to be free to do extraordinary things when faces with extraordinary problems, etc.) Of course for most of the other people on this discussion, handcuffing Arbcom is exactly what they want to do, and their arguments for doing that are not all that unreasonable. --Guy Macon (talk) 09:24, 12 August 2013 (UTC)

FWIW, "full page protection" does, indeed, apply to all editors - an admin who seeks to simply edit such an article would be in violation of Wikipedia policy which states that Administrators can make changes to the protected article reflecting consensus and thus they are not free to simply make their own edits to a fully protected page. That argument is therefore exceedingly weak. "Semi-protection" requiring that only confirmed editors be able to edit also does not affect an "arbitrary group of named editors" either.

I leave with the words of Lord Denning:

Every unjust decision is a reproach to the law or to the judge who administers it. If the law should be in danger of doing injustice, then equity should be called in to remedy it. Equity was introduced to mitigate the rigour of the law. But in the present case it has been prayed in aid to do injustice on a large scale.

If this is not clearly an applicable case to his dictum, I know not what would be. Collect (talk) 12:22, 12 August 2013 (UTC) (continuing Wikistrike)

That would be a great quote, Collect, except Wikipedia is a website, so it doesn't really make sense to try to apply the legal concept of equity to its operation.
Perhaps there should be an RfC on the concept of "no fault" topic-bans. Formerip (talk) 13:40, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
I had rather thought the concept of "equity" was not inapplicable here. Heck, I had thought it was a universally accepted concept, but if you aver that "equity" is alien to Wikipedia, I would like to see a reliable source for that assertion <g>. Collect (talk) 16:13, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
Denning is talking about Equity (legal concept), which is something distinct from equality or fairness in its general sense. It is to do with tempering strict application of the law. One thing you can't accuse ArbCom of in this case is being overly strict in following the rules. Formerip (talk) 17:28, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
[2] Two major categories -- legal and financial. ArbCom has nothing to do with stock ownership. The other kind which you seem to think only has a sense in law is actually the earlier and broader sense, and is properly the issue at hand. Ask a law professor to explain the meaning. Cheers. Collect (talk) 17:44, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
IMO, the legal concept of equity — and I'm talking here about the specific legal concept — lies at the heart of Wikipedia conduct dispute handling. Sanctions here are, after all, explicitly supposed to be preventative (not punitive) and injunctive (requiring or forbidding specific actions). Our practice of banning/blocking disruptive users is supposed to be preventative in nature: we are repeatedly reminded that the goal is to prevent further damage to Wikipedia and (if possible) to convince recalcitrant editors that our principles and policies need to be taken seriously.
The reality, of course, is that bans/blocks are inevitably seen as punitive (in addition to, or sometimes instead of, the official goal of being preventative). And the main problem I see with the proposed motion is that a specific set of users are to be subjected to a de facto punitive sanction without any specific finding of misconduct on their part — something many people (myself included) object to on fundamental principle.
I should mention here, BTW, that I haven't participated in the Tea Party movement article or in this arbitration case, except to comment on the (im)propriety of the current proposed motion. I'm not proposing that no action at all should be taken — just that whatever action does get taken, it needs to be well grounded in our principles, or else we're asking for major trouble down the road, because not only do we need to follow our own rules, but we must also strive to be seen to be fair ("equitable" in the way this term is generally used by the common people) as we do so.
I do wonder whether this case has been sufficiently analysed through the lens of the essay on so-called "civil POV pushing". If it hasn't, I would think it really ought to be. — Richwales (no relation to Jimbo) 17:40, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
That essay could have specifically been written about Tea Party Movement, as well as other articles frequented by the same editors. — goethean 17:56, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
Agree with Collect on page protection. Full protection does not mean that administrators can continue to edit just as if protection had not been applied. Any editor who wishes to make an edit must make a request and obtain consensus, when an univolved editor make action the edit. While semi-protection stops IPs and unconfirmed editors from editing, they may request an edit on the talk page or set up an account and have it auto-confirmed. And note too that the restriction on editing is applied against accounts, not editors. An uninvolved administrator with a legitimate second account for example may not use that account to edit a protected article. And note too that only legitimate reason for semi-protection is suspected sock-puppetry where individual blocks are ineffective. Furthermore, a "class" is normally a group that has something in common. The only thing in common established in the case is that they are all listed. No evidence was even provided that all of them edited the page. Nor is any reason given why the other 1500+ editors who edited, including the editor who requested arbitration, are not included. TFD (talk) 19:17, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
While I do not agree with some of the arguments that have been made here, TFD makes a very good point. I do think that Arbcom should have the last-resort option of removing all the editors from a page for X months and letting a new set try (let's call it The Nuclear Option), but you can't just arbitrarily pick some names for no-fault topic bans without even explaining how they were picked. The only fair way to impose The Nuclear Option is to tell everybody who has been editing the page and/or discussing changes on the article talk page to give it a rest for X months and let someone else take a shot. Perhaps a well-defined exemption for vandalism reverting, spelling corrections, and perhaps only making one or two edits before giving up, but that's it. I think that even those here who disagree with me about TNO being allowed would agree that, if it is allowed, it needs to be done along the lines I just described. --Guy Macon (talk) 21:11, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
It's not just about whether it's a good or bad idea. I think the other question is about whether the community expects ArbCom to be developing Manhattan Projects without its consent. Formerip (talk) 21:20, 12 August 2013 (UTC)