Office actions

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Policies and guidelines Office actions
This page is also a Wikimedia official policy, established by Jimmy Wales and endorsed by the Foundation as necessary for the operation of the sites under its jurisdiction.
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This page in a nutshell: Sometimes the Wikimedia Foundation may have to delete, protect or blank a page without going through the normal site/community process(es) to do so. These edits are generally temporary measures to prevent legal trouble or personal harm and should not be undone by any user.

Office actions are official changes made to content done under the authority of the Wikimedia Foundation, by members of the Foundation's office. These are removals of questionable or illegal Wikimedia content following complaints. Office actions are performed so that the end result is a legal, compliant article on the subject. Neither this policy nor actions taken under it override core policies, such as neutrality.

The most common complaints are defamation, privacy violations or copyright infringement.

Short explanation[edit]

Because "official edits" both sound and act strange in the context of a universally editable website and can easily give an incorrect impression, some common beliefs should be clarified:

  • Office actions are extremely rare.
  • Office actions are only occasioned by a complaint made off-wiki (e.g. mail, email, telephone calls or personal meetings; but usually written) to the Wikimedia Foundation about the content of a Wikimedia project.
  • The complaint must not be a demand for preferment or attempt at intimidation. As above, libels, unwarrantable invasions of personal privacy and unjustifiable copyright infringements are the vast majority of cases.
  • Since all of these three are unwanted on a WMF wiki anyway, office actions are preventable; if you see one of these things and correct it (i.e. remove it) before the subject does, no complaint is likely to be made as there is nothing to complain about.

Process[edit]

Office actions will be clearly indicated both during and after to prevent ambiguities. Office actions may be authorized by any representative or delegate of the Wikimedia Foundation - such as its chair (currently Jan-Bart de Vreede) or a member of the Foundation Board of Trustees, the Foundation's legal counsel, or certain members of the Foundation office staff.

When a page is protected under this policy, the template "{{pp-office}}" will be placed prominently on the page and the page will be protected. An article may be reduced to a few sentences to remove questionable content, and people are then invited to build it up to a more reputable state. This will be indicated by the template {{reset}}. In either case, the instructions on the template should be followed by everyone.

Administrators, who have the technical power to undo protections and deletions, are strongly cautioned against modifying these edits. Official statements and past incidents indicate that such unauthorized modifications will be actively reverted, and possibly the rights of the modifier will be revoked. When in doubt, consult the user applying the protection/template, Jimbo or the Wikimedia Foundation.

Who does office actions[edit]

  1. Philippe Beaudette, Director, Community Advocacy; Maggie Dennis, Senior Community Advocate; James Alexander, LCA staff.
  2. Certain other staff members of the WMF Office staff, such as the Executive or Deputy Directors, or the General Counsel.
  3. Members of the Board of Trustees, and particularly Jimbo Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia and founder of the Wikimedia Foundation.
  4. The office actions may (or may not) come from a role account, with the username User:WMFOffice.

DMCA compliance[edit]

Main document: wmf:DMCA Policy

In some cases, the Foundation may be required to remove content from a Wikimedia Project due to a DMCA take-down notice. In order to retain safe harbor status, the Foundation is required to comply with validly formulated notices even if they are spurious. In the event that material is removed due to a DMCA notice, the only recourse for restoring such material is to file a counter-notice with the Foundation. If you believe that a take-down notice which has been acted upon by the Foundation is without legal basis, please feel free to visit the following sites as a first step in learning about filing a counter-notice:

Please note that filing a counter-notice may lead to legal proceedings between you and the complaining party to determine ownership of the material. The DMCA process requires that you consent to the jurisdiction of a United States court. All notices should be sent to the Foundation's designated agent.

As a matter of policy, the Wikimedia Foundation will terminate, in appropriate circumstances, the accounts of repeat infringers as provided under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. 512). It will also terminate in most cases the accounts of users who, upon being notified that content they have contributed has been removed as a result of a DMCA complaint, revert that removal, because reverting an office action is a blockable offense.

Originalia[edit]

Jimbo's original content[edit]

Please note that this is official policy, and reverting a WP:OFFICE may be grounds for blocking. I do not recommend that admins block for this, I'm just saying... don't revert a WP:OFFICE edit unless and until you've asked and know what you are doing. There may at times be legal reasons for this.

The Wikimedia Foundation receives an increasingly large number of phone calls and emails from people who are upset about various things on the site. Sometimes these complaints are valid; more often they are not. However, in most cases, even with the invalid complaints, there is a short-term action which can and should be taken as a courtesy in order to soothe feelings and build a better encyclopedia in the long run.

A typical example: someone creates a vanity bio in Wikipedia, which is quickly nominated for deletion. The comments which ensue, even when they are completely courteous, can hurt the feelings of the person being discussed. The sort of person who is vain enough to create an autobiography in Wikipedia is also the sort of person who doesn't take well to being described as 'non-notable'.

When such people call the office, it can be the best approach all around for us to simply speedy the article, blank the deletion discussion, and all get on with our lives. This quick action is in no way meant to override or replace the process of community consensus. There is still plenty of time, and there are still plenty of places, for the community to discuss and replace articles in due course.

I have created this page for Danny to use to signify why he is deleting or blanking something per my authorization. This does not signify any authoritarian top-down action without approval, but rather signifies a temporary action to allow us to be kind while we sort out the encyclopedic way forward.

If this works out, I may authorize other people to use it as well (people handling OTRS email queues, people on the legal team, etc.)--Jimbo Wales 21:43, 6 February 2006 (UTC)

Jimbo's later clarification[edit]

The core idea is that the process SHOULD work like this:

1. A hysterical phone call comes in to the office. There might or might not be legal threats. The hysteria might or might not be justified. But someone is sad, and Wikipedia is not here to make people sad. So we want to respond in a helpful and loving way.

2. The article is stubbed and tagged as WP:OFFICE. This is a message to good editors: "Please help us. This article is making someone unhappy. We want to make sure that it is a thoughtful, fair, neutral article. We need GOOD editors to pay attention to it, and help us make it good."

I would recommend protection or semi-protection at this point, but with the idea that even if protected admins are (as compared to normal protection) actually encouraged to come help with the article.

3. After some reasonable period of time, hopefully 24 hours, but perhaps as long as a week, the article has become a shining beauty. The subject of the biography (and really, these are most often biographies) is either made happy (because a horrible error was corrected, a troll was vanquished, or whatever) or made at least satisfied (the story of the negative thing he or she did once is now placed in appropriate context, properly cited, including citations to his or her own response and defense).

4. Joy.

Mailing list messages[edit]

I thought I would introduce myself for those who do not know me, and tell you a little bit about what I do. My name is Danny Wool [...] my job is the first level of triage. In most cases, I will call or email our attorney and provide him with as much information as I can, including name, phone number, contact info, etc. He then responds accordingly, sometimes with instructions for me as to what should happen next.
I spend at least one-third of my time just answering the calls. It is very time consuming, and they come in at all hours of the day, interrupting what I am otherwise doing (donor management, for instance). I CANNOT spend another one-third or more of my time explaining every phone call to the community.
  1. This policy merely extends longstanding practice, previously not questioned, because I did it myself.
  2. Nothing about this policy changes anything about our NPOV policies for any article in Wikipedia. WP:OFFICE in no way implies that some articles or some people are given any special treatment in the handling of their biography.
  3. WP:OFFICE is intended to be used only temporarily as a courtesy in certain highly delimited circumstances. In some cases, this will be cases involving a threat of legal action, but in other cases it may be simply as a courtesy while we sort something out.
  4. In all cases, we will communicate the maximum possible information in the shortest possible time period, subject to legal constraints and also time constraints.
  5. Danny has, in my own opinion, formed in long experience, excellent judgment.
  6. In some cases so far, WP:OFFICE was used for a longer period than I would have liked, due to various circumstances. I'm sorry about that. However, I remind everyone that Assume Good Faith is absolutely important to our community.
  1. WP:OFFICE is always temporary, an emergency action, an action of goodwill, thus far used exclusively (or almost exclusively) for biographies of living persons. The issue is NOT "a tradeoff between NPOV and risk of being sued".
  2. Let me repeat that, the issue is NOT "a tradeoff between NPOV and risk of being sued". The issue is responding quickly and effectively to cases where we have a very strong indication from someone that an article is egregiously in violation of NPOV.
  3. If the topic is w:Carbon Tetrachloride and we receive a strong complaint that the article is biased, then sofixit can be a fine response. If the topic is a real live human being about whom someone has written something egregiously false or mean spirited, and the person calls up in hysterics, then the right answer is: stub and rebuild with strong verification. The right answer is: temporary protection of a safe version while good editors take the time to figure out what the heck is going on.
  4. It is very deeply confused to view WP:OFFICE as some kind of rollback of the neutrality policy. It is a means of working towards neutrality. It is the morally right thing to do when we are faced with a serious issue.
  5. Since WP:OFFICE is done publicly and under intense scrutiny from the community and the external world, I hardly see any need for a special narrow committee to be specifically tasked with overseeing it.
  6. What should people do when they see a WP:OFFICE action? Treat it as a call for attention from the absolute best within ourselves, the absolute best within our community. Here we have an article which has gone horribly wrong in some way, and sometimes it can be a mystery as to what exactly the problem is. Why is someone upset? Which claim in the article is false or overstated or biased or hostile? I think dozens of people should swoop in and start working really hard on a temp version (usually protected or semi-protected, depending on the exact nature of the situation), with extreme hardcore attention paid to sourcing, to neutral phrasing, etc.
  7. In this way, WP:OFFICE articles can become models of good behavior by Wikipedia, can show the world how seriously we take our mission, our responsibility.

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