Community Resilience and Sustainability/Conversation Hour Feb 15 2023
You are invited to the quarterly Conversation hour led by Maggie Dennis, Vice President of Community Resilience and Sustainability on February 15, 2023 at 19:00 UTC.
Maggie and others from the Community Resilience and Sustainability team will discuss Movement Strategy, Trust and Safety, the Universal Code of Conduct, Community Development, and Human Rights.
This conversation will happen on Zoom. If you are a Wikimedian in good standing (not Foundation or community banned), write to let us know you will be attending the conversation and share your questions at answerswikimedia.org at least one hour before the conversation. Please place “CR&S” in the subject line. Someone will follow up with the Zoom details.
If you do choose to participate in this conversation, Maggie would like to bring some expectations and limitations to your attention:
- I can't and won't discuss specific Trust and Safety cases. Instead, I can discuss Trust and Safety protocols and practices and approaches as well as some of the mistakes we've made, some of the things I'm proud of, and some of the things we're hoping to do.
- I will not respond to comments or questions that are disrespectful to me, to my colleagues, or to anyone in our communities. I can talk civilly about our work even if you disagree with me or I disagree with you. I won't compromise on this.
You may view the conversation on YouTube and submit questions live on Telegram and YouTube.
The recording, notes, and answers to questions not answered live will be available after the conversation ends, usually in one week. Notes from previous conversations can be found in Category:CR&S meetings
- I heard about what is going on in some parts of the world with the arrests of Wikipedia editors. People in my community are a bit scared by this news. Do you have any resources or guidance for us?
- Maggie: Some resources and guidance to help people who want information related to digital security are on the Meta-wiki page of the Human Rights team. It is important to be aware of the context in which we’re working. We work in many different contexts around the world and we're each subject to different risks. Shortly after I first started editing Wikipedia as a volunteer, I found myself targeted by a neo-Nazi group of English Wikipedia users who were trying to do things that I was trying to stop them from doing from my position on vandalism patrol.
- It is important to consider the environment and we are each subject to different risks. We really need to be careful when dealing with high sensitivity information. I've spoken to an individual recently who was in an area of the world that they would have largely regarded as safe for sharing free knowledge, and now suddenly they aren't. So I think that it's pretty important for all of us to consider not only what our current environment is, but what our environment might be.
- Risker (Member of the Movement Charter Drafting Committee): Long time ago, a colleague and I wrote this essay about Wikipedia being in the real world and having to be aware that your actions are political. They are very public. They are very clearly available to the world to see what you are up to. And if you have reasons to believe that your actions or your edits or the things that you post on a talk page may be. That may cause you problems in your real life. It was extremely popular for individuals and groups to go out and actively seek out personal information about arbitrators, very prolific administrators, very prolific editors and use it for harassment. It's common. It has been commonplace for many years. It's not as bad now. And I think part of it is the willingness of the Wikimedia Foundation and other parts of our global community to step up and say, “No, this is not okay. It's not acceptable. And if you're going to behave in this way, you don't need to be here.” But governments and families can still look at your edits. Even if you are just correcting a typo people can still say, “See, he edited that particularly sensitive topic.” This is a big problem for everybody, even major language projects with a fair amount of protection for contributors.
- I know you won’t talk about specific cases. With the recent MENA action and all of the press attention, I think it might have been better if you did. What I’m asking here is why don’t you talk about specific cases? Would you ever?
- Maggie: I'll try to keep it succinct and can follow up if I don't get to the heart of the matter. While we have tried to be a little less guarded when we're talking about cases and involve larger groups of people, we have been informed of potential negative consequences for the people who are involved. I’m very aware that there’s a tension in our movement related to the dedication to transparency. Those of you who know me know I tend to talk way more than I should and sometimes say more than I should. But it's also really important for me to remember that you can't take back when you say the wrong thing and it may result in somebody being targeted in a way that is physically dangerous for them or could result in the loss of their freedom, that's a pretty big mistake that that is very difficult to take back. So all I can really say is we will continue to explore in every case we deal with the benefits of open communication when we are doing an action that is based around protection, we will sometimes work with the individuals who are at risk to make sure that we are working within their comfort levels.
- Sometimes we work with people who are representing them, like attorneys, family members. If we are not able to reach them directly and, you know, we're lucky. Our human rights operations team for whom the lead is here, Cameran, are really good at helping us stay aware of the risks for specific individuals in specific situations. If people don't know what sorts of things can go wrong, they don't understand how to avoid them or what we can do as a movement to address them, because there is no one body in the Wikimedia movement that can provide safety for all of us, not the Foundation, not anybody. We all need to work together on this.
- What is the Foundation doing to protect volunteers from these kinds of threats?
- Cameran Ashraf (Human Rights Lead): The Foundation is taking a number of steps. There's a global movement and a global platform. So there are diverse risks around the world from different cultures, different jurisdictions and so on. So one of the important things is to be thinking from the bottom up, so to speak, not from the top down. And this means working with local communities and understanding how to approach their concerns in a way that makes sense for them. We have a digital security resources page anybody can access. The human rights team is available and partners with various communities to conduct digital security training or assessments, or to work with individuals and communities with their digital security risks.
- We have an actively and regularly updated list of digital security resources that we're translating that has been translated in a number of languages. We have one course launched, which is a pilot course. We're hoping to launch some more courses that might focus on different aspects of digital security so that we could actually help community members sort of narrow in rather than on high level specific aspects of digital security. And then we also want to launch some courses on wiki digital security, something more focused specifically to Wikipedia in addition to having a better overall digital hygiene. And again, we're always open to email being contacted via email: Talktohumanrightswikimedia.org
- I noticed Nataliia's email about postponing AffCom elections and Foundation affiliate strategy; what are the next steps?
- Maggie: So Nataliia is working with a consultant who is helping her pull together conversations with affiliate leaders, with Affcom, to basically begin understanding what people are thinking, what they are seeing. And so that's where she is right now. It's a learning journey. And frankly, we are all learning the next steps right along as the community does. Staff is supporting her on this, but this is not a staff-led program. We are a staff supporting this.
- Jack “Xeno” Glover (Senior Committee Support Manager): I did have a chance to meet with the consultant today. They are asking the right questions, and trying to kind of get different perspectives from those various stakeholder groups that you mentioned.
- (UCoC) The vote just closed on the Enforcement Guidelines, and it had more support than last time. What’s next?
- Maggie: The Board is convening in March for their regular meeting, and they will be looking at it. And I assume that they will then be directing us to move forward or not. We will move forward or not based on the outcomes. I rather imagine we will be moving forward and beginning to build the systems like the software support that has already been underway, but things like you foresee will need to be built. We got to get moving on that because our commitment is a year after everything closes to say, “How is it working? Is the policy fit for purpose?” The goal is to get everything running and assess how it’s working.
- Does it bother you that some community members are still calling for a vote for the policy to consider it official?
- Maggie: No, it doesn't bother me per se. I understand that it is very difficult for people to figure out the best ways to coordinate governance on a community scale as large as ours. That's why we have the Movement Strategy and Governance team. I feel like it's very important for people to be involved in helping make decisions that impact them. So I get that for some people, the fact that there wasn't a vote or a review process, because some people don't like the term vote, on the first part, the policy makes it feel less comfortably like it was approved by the community. I think it would be a mistake for us to slow down progress. I think that at this point we have a history as a movement of wanting perfection. I mean, I'm speaking from my perspective here as a Wikipedian of many years on English Wikipedia. I remember, and those of you from English Wikipedia probably also do, that we have closed down so many forums for addressing behavioural concerns. We always say we're going to figure out a better way, and then we never do. So I think it's important for us to start trying and get moving. So it doesn't bother me. I understand it, but I think we can't afford to just keep waiting and waiting. I think we really need to try stuff, figure out what works and doesn't and keep going.
- Why would you run a vote on any of this, including the one you just closed, when voting is not the community way?
- Maggie: Well, what we just ran, I mean, I know it’s weird. Years ago, as a staff member, I facilitated a conversation about the logo for one of our projects, and I was combining people from different language communities. And the reaction I got was, ‘We must have a vote, and we can't have a vote based on what language community we are from.’ So not every community feels the same about voting. And this is a surprise for those who come from communities who feel strongly about it. But it is a poll to understand how many people thought it was fit for purpose and more importantly, to gather data about why or why not, so that we could see what problems there were. I mean, there's always unintended consequences when you create new policies. And any one of you who have ever worked on a policy on Wikipedia has undoubtedly seen this in action. And we hoped to be able to surface some of those consequences before we got to the trial and error by asking people their opinions. Based on the results of the survey, I think that worked because the support was much stronger after the second round of conversations addressed the problems that were raised the first time.
- Stella (Senior Manager, Trust and Safety): The only thing I could add on is I want to give a big thank you. But extra to everyone who helped on this really long journey. I've been at the Foundation for about two years and two years of working on the UCoC.
- Definitely, I want to give a big thank you to our volunteer-led drafting committee and the voters. One of the things that the team prioritises is reading and going through all the feedback.
- Recently, it was discovered that a staff member had canvassed participation for an RfC on English Wikipedia. Why would that happen? What are you doing about it?
- Maggie: So, for those of you who don't know, there's a conversation on English Wikipedia right now about whether or not the recent Vector 2022 release should be default. And one of the staff members working on this felt like it would be useful to get input from people who have design experience, and attempted to do so in a way that would not violate canvassing approaches. However, it was a mistake. I don't feel comfortable speaking about personnel issues. It was a mistake. And part of that, I think, arises from the fact that there's a lot of nuance and working with international communities and different policies and approaches. I think I can say that there's a lot of need to make sure that we keep people aware not only of what the policies and guidelines are, but why they exist, what their purpose is, and that we make sure that we take accountability when things don't go well.
- It’s challenging for User Groups to get registered as Non-Profits with tax exemption benefits in my country which is a prerequisite for formal affiliation (Chapter/ThOrg). What can we do to function as formal movement bodies?
- Xeno: There are two parts to it. So it's about user groups who need to register as a non-profit in order to become a chapter or a thematic organisation. And then there is sometimes an expectation to have a tax exemption. So the questioner didn't specify their country. So I'm just going to answer the top tax-exempt status first. Basically, there's a misunderstanding here. Tax-exempt status is only required for U.S. based organisations. The second part of the question is that it's difficult registering. So that could be whether the questioner is from the U.S. or maybe just having difficulty registering a non-profit in general. And that question, I can confirm that the Affiliations Committee charter does include. Connecting affiliates with each other for peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and directing affiliates to participate in the Wikimedia movement's various capacity building programs. So I'd say this is like a knowledge-sharing opportunity here. So if someone is having trouble registering a non-profit or registering a non-profit with tax-exempt status, then they should reach out to the Affiliations Committee or my team to help coordinate with the Affiliations Committee. And I know that there are a number of capacity building programs that are in place. Right now I’m thinking about Let's Connect, which is a place where grantees can go to share knowledge. So Let's Connect might be a really good venue to help people.
- There was a recent article about Holocaust denialism on Wikipedia. What is the purpose of your disinformation team? How are they helping with situations like that?
- Maggie: One thing I bet all Wikimedians know is that misinformation and disinformation is our daily bread. We are trying to put together factual information in a world that argues about every fact. I know people are going to immediately out there saying it's about verifiability, not truth. But the reason why we want it to be verifiable is because we want it to be factual. Now, I think that our communities do an excellent job of dealing with this when the systems that we've created as Wikimedians work. They are amazing in terms of keeping content neutral, keeping it clear, those of us who edit or who have edited because I'm kind of slack in that regard, all know that it is possible to be worn down because there are people who continue to push a certain angle, push a certain line, and if the community is not able to rally around to defend a certain topic, it can be really hard to keep information accurate. It doesn’t surprise me to hear that a particularly political topic would be an embattled area. I’ve seen it.
- Jan Eissfeldt (Global Head of Trust and Safety): I think this is crucial, increasingly intense on larger projects, on smaller projects, and on very small projects as well. But that's also where sometimes the similarities end. So one of the three key purposes of the disinformation team is to help to explore and understand what these challenges are in the specific circumstances and what the local community respectively has already in place in order to address challenges of this nature. In this example Maggie just talked about, there is the capacity in a local body to review really complicated cases. Most of our communities don’t have that. In the case where the communities do not have capacity, that is where the second layer kicks in, which is the disinformation team becoming a hub of skills and complementary support that these community processes can access.
- Communities go through cycles where they have heightened risk that they are facing as individuals, but also as communities more broadly. Be that national elections, for example, where local communities come under more pressure or geopolitical events where this team, also alongside legal and the human rights team, plays a leading role in helping individuals and helping the community at large to navigate those challenges successfully. But it starts consistently from the lens that every community has different needs. So there is no one approach that would be deployed for all communities.
- How are the true advantages of a movement strategy grant proposal measured once it is received and finalised, especially for funds that focus on specific skill development and community improvement? How is the improvement evaluated and assured?
- Maggie: Grants are under another department, so Yop, who happens to be in the room, is asked to address the question.
- Yop Rwang Pam(Senior Movement Strategy Specialist): I see this as a two-part question: how projects are evaluated and how outcomes are assessed?
- Evaluation: every grant application is evaluated on how it could impact the specific initiative it targets as well as the impact on the communities where it might be implemented. And this is the same, of course, for skills, skills development applications. And so that's sort of how the proposals are sort of evaluated. Proposals are also put on Meta-wiki, MS forum and community can provide feedback and that feedback is taken into account when evaluating a proposal.
- Part 2: Currently, the Movement Strategy team is working on a learnings evaluation from these reports that are now coming in to help us answer the questions about how these skills development projects have actually impacted the communities in relation to what they had proposed to do and the measurable impact and metrics that project teams had proposed in those proposals. Sometimes it happens better in sort of a bit of retrospect and refresh to help us sort of strengthen the approach moving forward.
- Why don't volunteers from the community participate in the movement strategy grant-making process?
- Yop: The approach is about being a little more deliberate about how and what projects are being implemented. But this is a really great point. The process to date had been or the process that we had sort of put in place had been for community members to support the development of these proposals in the first place. And this is why a community of practice was set up initially. It's currently on Telegram. There are perhaps about 80 members, many gone silent for now, but we have learned that more intentional effort is required to make sure that community voices are reflected in that process. And so in the refresh to the approach, which is happening at the moment, the community voices would be better reflected with community participation in the review process and not only in the process of developing those proposals. So here you are on that question makes a lot of sense. We are learning that that will be reflected, of course, in the approach moving forward.
- Can we define the conflict of interest of people within the movement? Is there a history? How can we detect it and/or avoid it if necessary? (Original message: peut-on définir le conflit d'intérêts des personne au sein du mouvement? a ce qu'il y a des antécédents? comment peut-on le détecter et/ou l'éviter s'il y a lieu?)
- Maggie: Conflict of interest typically refers to when people are attempting to push something above and beyond what we are called to do in the movement. So different projects have different purposes, Not all conflicts of interest are at the same level of severity. But when a conflict of interest causes a person to undermine the intent of the project or the impact of the projects or the service, then it can be a real problem. Many, many of our projects like English Wikipedia, and I think probably dozens of others have conflict of interest policies that explain this better than I just did. Most of the projects have some sort of protocols for dealing with conflict of interest and you should follow those when you are dealing with potential conflict of interest editing. And in terms of avoiding it, I think it's important to remember whatever the core policies are on the project you're working on and approach the work accordingly. If somebody seems to be using the project inappropriately or if they're not working in consensus, it's important to pay attention to those things because they can quickly subvert our intentionality.
- What are the next steps for the Movement Charter discussions? When will they start working on key topics around the roles and responsibilities and the Global Council?
- Risker: We’re done with 3 chapters and have sent out those chapters for community review. Now we are going to review and integrate feedback. But at the same time, right now we are starting work much more intensely on roles and responsibilities, specifically on hubs and global councils. So that is our trajectory for early to mid-year this calendar year, we anticipate getting together in June and doing some final preparation of text.
- Approach: reaching out to groups that express interests and to hear from them to know what is working and not. Other committee members are working on the global council. We are also working on the ratification process. It‘s going to take a while still.
- What about conflict of interest of people in affiliates or staff with community members?
- Maggie: People have relationships and people have opinions and people have biases, and all of us do. And we have to do the best that we can to keep each other accountable, to keep each other honest, and to resolve these problems when they occur. In terms of what to do about it, we really don't yet have robust structures for working out conflicts between groups and communities. I mean, it's mostly right now left to, if it's problems with an affiliate, it's left with the affiliate. Or with the Foundation, it's left with the Foundation. And we don't we don't have much way of working across groups to deal with these problems. I have a feeling that in the long term, hubs are going to help with this.
- Jan: There is guidance from 2014 called Conflict of Interest Guide for Movement Organizations on Meta-wiki. It’s hard to find common ground because it can be personal.
- What's something since the last conversation hour that Maggie is really proud of and wants more people to know about?
- Maggie: The UCoC. It was a moment of sheer elation when I found out that the Enforcement Guidelines had so much more support this time, because that made me feel like all the effort that went into refining it was worthwhile. The learning platform is now available. I also want to note Simona is in the room. I don't have time to ask her to speak, but she is the head of our Community Development team and the learning platform, WikiLearn, is now open. Excited about the meeting done with the Board and the Elections Committee in November to find ways to better organise elections.