Community Wishlist Survey 2021/Admins and patrollers/New on-wiki block appeal process

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  • Problem: Currently there are several on-wiki and off-wiki block appeal processes. They have some deficiency:
  1. Talk page
    • This proposal will not replace talk page as the primary venue for appeal in the foreseeable future. This proposal is dedicated to situations that talk page is unusable or inappropriate.
    • Global locked users can not log in and use this venue without evading blocks.
  2. EmailUser
    • This may only make a specific admin (usually the blocking admin) aware, which may not receive attention from unbiased admins. In addition, this admin may be inactive.
    • Some wikis have a mail list for appeal. But a mail list is less usable than a request tracker system.
    • EmailUser is not publicly logged.
    • There are no case list available.
  3. UTRS
    • Only existed in few wikis such as English Wikipedia.
    • Because it is in WMF labs, UTRS can not automatically fetch the block status of user or IP currently involved (i.e. user must provide one). There is no integraton with the CheckUser extension either.
    • No on-wiki way to query the past appeals so admins must left a note in user talk page (such as this).
    • No integration to notification system (i.e. admins does not get a notice if someone they blocked have submited an appeal).
    • Case list is updated by a bot and not real-time.
  4. IRC
    • This requires some admins online and active watching IRC messages.
    • Appeal is not publicly logged.
  5. For global lock the primary route to appeal is steward OTRS
  • Who would benefit: Blocked users who are not suitable to use user talk pages to appeal, especially:
  1. Users with both talk page and email access revoked. (User may be banned from this process, but I propose local admins other than stewards and ArbCom members) can only issue bans up to one year.
  2. Users blocked in a wiki with few active admins. (This may be handled by stewards and global sysops.)
  • Proposed solution: We introduce a new special page Special:BlockAppeals and allow users to appeal through this page. This page works similar to UTRS (appeals and comments are private), though log of status changes on individual tickets are public (i.e. admins may provide public summary when closing an appeal). See also proposed workflow.
  • More comments:
  • Phabricator tickets:
  • Proposer: GZWDer (talk) 00:04, 18 November 2020 (UTC)

Discussion[edit]

  • With respect, there are a few misconceptions you have about UTRS. This may be because a lot of things have changed in the switch from Version 1 to Version 2. That said, I feel a complete replacement is a waste of volunteer time and foundation money. First, UTRS was designed initially for only English Wikipedia. Since then, I've only received requests from stewards and ptwikipedia to have systems setup for them. Because of different types of communities, the requirements for the software are different. We are currently working on internationalization and it would give us the ability to scale to any wiki that wishes to have it given that they can show a consensus that their community wants it.
UTRS does automatically obtain the block information based on user input. We can't automatically call blocks for IPv6 because the Cloud Services has refused us IPv6 for years despite multiple asks, but may now be giving it to us. If this is the case, we'd be happy to integrate the use of that into the tool. Even then, you can't use OAuth to gain information on blocked users because OAuth refuses to authenticate blocked users even for identification purposes only.
While UTRS does not integrate with CU, it has the same functionality as CU. Any checkuser can sign in with their OAuth credentials and look at the details of any appeal where data has not expired. If you think there should be a generic interface to search it from, that can be done with a feature request. Either way, external software is never meant to integrate into the database of another software. I also have yet to see a proper use case for that functionality. Typically most CheckUsers don't care about specific actions taken, as the data is usually sufficient already and CU isn't meant to be magic pixie dust.
There is no onwiki way to query past appeals, you are correct, but that is partially because the English Wikipedia community outright rejected making appeals publicly visible as when I did make most visible with version 2 forcing a complete code reversion. I'd be happy to make a onwiki master list of sorts if that would help alleviate the concerns. We also still plan to return to talkpage posting about appeals, it's just something that still has to be coded.
There is no integration with the notification system to notify administrators of their blocks because no administrator has asked for it. It's also never been implemented even in the form of a bot pinging an admin. I know personally I would never want such pings as policy is we can't review to decline ourselves, we can only unblock them. This would also allow socks to preform targeted harassment of admins with each and every sock they create.
As for the appeals list not being in realtime...again, no one has ever asked for a real time version, and the the one that handles the onwiki appeals has never been realtime either.
I also would like to note for the majority of the time, we have only ever worked with two developers at a time at most. We are willing to onboard others who are willing to step up instead of forcing the WMF to pay for staff to rewrite. I also started to consider a grant for this year, but the process for getting one grinded to a halt in June and there is no indication the WMF intends to return to it. So a fair chunk of the deficiencies that already exist because of issues related to WMF administrative decision fallout, so I don't see how the WMF replacing the tool would fix that.
Overall, a lot of the complaints about UTRS listed above are not something that has been requested or expected out of the tool, and to replace something where the system hasn't even been tried to have been fixed is frankly a slap in the face of volunteer time and effort, and even WMF money for the travel to hackathons that created this tool in the first place back in 2012. -- Amanda (aka DQ) 08:24, 18 November 2020 (UTC)
  • UTRS is imperfect, but it is adequate. It does not need replacement. Any developer effort spent replacing it would be better spent refining it. Please see AmandaNP's response for fuller details. Emailing the blocking admin needs to be deprecated. Email requests cannot be scrutinized as we are discouraged from revealing email contents. UTRS can be scrutinized if only by a group that has been vetted, which is actually a good thing. I don't like IRC and I never will. Secret and secretive sub rosa back channel. I prefer requests be in the open. There is a final avenue of appeal apart from TPA and UTRS. Appellants can email the ArbCom. --Deepfriedokra (talk) 08:43, 18 November 2020 (UTC)
As UTRS affects mostly the English Wikipedia, and as it seems evident that UTRS is adequate to English Wikipedia's needs, perhaps we can close this discussion as moot and start a new discussion for those other projects that have unmet needs. As to transparency, it is easy enough to post a decline note and link on the user's talk page (as I do). Posting their appeal to their talk page might defeat the purposes of maintaining confidentiality and preventing disruption. I will go on to reiterate that developers that might create a replacement for UTRS would be better utilized optimizing it.--Deepfriedokra (talk) 01:32, 19 November 2020 (UTC)
  • I concur with AmandaNP and Deepfriedokra. We don't need something new. Agree that emailing the blocking admin should be depreciated. 331dot (talk) 10:08, 18 November 2020 (UTC)
    • At least since 2014 I did have some concern about UTRS - not such listed above but a lack of transparency (everyone should be able to see a list of currect and past appeals and for declined appeals a summary for why they are declined). If English Wikipedia does not want to replace UTRS let's focus on smaller wikis with inadequate appeal processes (e.g. Commons does not have one).--GZWDer (talk) 11:05, 18 November 2020 (UTC)
  • In general, I would say that the policies of the different projects and languages of each wikiproject are rather different. Not to mention the different attitudes of each individual sysop everywhere. For users who end up blocked, I think most of them end up leaving the project for a while, at least. Especially for vandals who might be young children, and then come back to the project later in life. I am not sure how many of these people want of be associated with a former blocked account. The unblock process is a little weird, to say the least, but this is due to the decentralized nature of wikis in general. It could use some positive changes, but I don't see much of a way of doing so without hurting the distributed power necessary for a decentralized project. Cocoaguytalkcontribs 16:43, 18 November 2020 (UTC)
  • I don't think creating a different version of UTRS, when UTRS is actively maintained, is a good idea. If wikis want a system like this, UTRS seems good enough. If UTRS could be integrated into the wikis more, like letting OAuth work for blocked accounts only for UTRS, in my opinion that would be a better use of WMF money and developer time. Perhaps something like this is needed for smaller wikis, but the proposed idea talks about a special page on the wiki. I would have thought that for global sysops a central place would be better (like a global version of that special page). I would have thought global sysops won't want to be checking many small wikis for unblock requests, so having a centralised system might be easier for them. Perhaps UTRS can be this centralised system, which is enabled for wikis that want it. Dreamy Jazz talk to me | enwiki 23:41, 19 November 2020 (UTC)
Perhaps UTRS can be extended with configuration options which allow wikis to opt in to having appeals and their responses public. Also perhaps UTRS can be merged into the WMF sphere, and WMF money + developers could be used to work on UTRS? Dreamy Jazz talk to me | enwiki 23:45, 19 November 2020 (UTC)
  • Question: why UTRS system hasn't been publicised more? It'd be probably good to have it by default on small wikis. Sannita - not just another it.wiki sysop 11:40, 20 November 2020 (UTC)
    • Maybe technical support isn't so readily available or it's an enwp only issue? Will be good if UTRS system can turn global too. Camouflaged Mirage (talk) 11:43, 20 November 2020 (UTC)
      Currently UTRS only supports enwiki, however that's something that we're expecting to change in the near future. Majavah (talk!) 19:01, 24 November 2020 (UTC)
      Can metawiki be included, I think will be useful here. Thanks @Majavah: Camouflaged Mirage (talk) 19:02, 24 November 2020 (UTC)
      I don't see why not once we've fixed the remaining technical blockers and there is community consensus for it. Majavah (talk!) 19:34, 24 November 2020 (UTC)
  • OTRS / UTRS or mailing list emails are confidential, there is clearly a breach of privacy for summaries to be given up. If it's a brief conclusion of decline reason I am still okay, but to give a comprehensive summary of appeal reasons clearly shouldn't be encouraged. It may OUT users or it may endanger PII/minor information. Camouflaged Mirage (talk) 11:43, 20 November 2020 (UTC)
  • I think this is perhaps only an enwiki issue. While I don't reflexively think the wishlist should be absolutely restricted to more global issues, I don't think this is a big enough issue even on enwiki to justify devoting developer time. It also seems to me that (while there may be a few technical tweaks that could be made) this is mainly a policy issue. Other contributors have described above why this isn't a great idea and how easily it could run afoul of user privacy and safety, and I agree with these points. Risker (talk) 18:40, 20 November 2020 (UTC)
    • Some notes: 1. It is currently focused on other wikis that does not have such process. 2. For "summary", yes I mean "conclusion of decline reason" - and currently this may be only manually posted in user talk page and many appeals do not have it.--GZWDer (talk) 16:39, 21 November 2020 (UTC)
  • From an enwiki perspective, I fully agree with AmandaNP and I doubt that the proposal here would receive enwiki consensus. Best, KevinL (aka L235 · t) 06:42, 1 December 2020 (UTC)
    • It is no longer targetting enwiki.--GZWDer (talk) 18:44, 1 December 2020 (UTC)
  • @Awesome Aasim: have made a very similar (though much broader) proposal at phab:T269207.--GZWDer (talk) 09:25, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
  • Regarding Commons does not have one (a block appeals process). I've just come from there, and they do have such a process at Commons:Blocking_policy#Appealing_a_block. --Deepfriedokra (talk) 01:50, 3 December 2020 (UTC)
    • @Deepfriedokra: For Commons: [1] - Commons has no standard way for a user to discuss their block if they have had both talk page and email access denied - this is actually the direct reason that I made this proposal (Yes I have this idea for years). The process described in blocking policy does not handle such situation. Note I have such idea, even informally, since 2014. Another issue to consider is in some wikis, it is a common practice to revoke both talk page and email access of blocked users. (All three wikis I mentioned do not have a thing like UTRS.)--GZWDer (talk) 04:55, 3 December 2020 (UTC)