Community health initiative/Editing restrictions

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This page documents a feature the Wikimedia Foundation's Anti-Harassment Tools team may build. Development of this feature has not been decided or prioritized.

🗣   We invite you to join the discussion!

The WMF's Anti-Harassment Tools team would like to support the work done by volunteers who set, monitor, and enforce editing restrictions on Wikimedia wikis, as well as building systems that make it easier for users under a restriction to avoid the temptation of violating a sanction and remain constructive contributors.

This page will be used to collate and share ideas about implementing tools to make this important work more accurate and more efficient. Join us on Talk:/Editing restrictions to determine the best solutions to build. 🚀

Background[edit]

Editing restrictions[edit]

Editing restrictions include several socially-enforced methods of limiting troublesome users from participating in certain areas of Wikipedia. This includes bans (bans are formal probations from editing on Wikipedia while blocks are the technical method to prohibit editing on a wiki.)

A full list of all types of editing restrictions on English Wikipedia can be found at Wikipedia:Editing restrictions#Types of restrictions. A full list of currently enforced restrictions can be found at Wikipedia:Editing restrictions#Users subject to restrictions.

User requests[edit]

This functionality was requested in the 2015 Community Wishlist Survey/Moderation and admin tools#Enhanced per-user / per-article protection / blocking and Phabricator ticket T2674 has existed since 2005.

WikiConference North America 2017 discussion[edit]

This topic was discussed at WikiConference North America 2017 in August 2017. Notes came be found here: https://etherpad.wikimedia.org/p/WCNA2017-session2t3a

Goals[edit]

  • Help users under a restriction avoid violating their sanction so they remain constructive Wikipedians.
  • Help users who monitor restrictions make efficient, confident decisions.
  • Provide tools that create an environment where users under an editing restriction are not villainized
  • Provide wiki leaders with alternative remedies to full site blocks that can be used in dispute resolution.

Problems that software could potentially solve[edit]

  • Editing restrictions can be easily violated which weakens the validity of sanctions if the edit goes unnoticed, or if noticed can require a time-consuming discussion.
  • Monitoring for violations requires a specific knowledge of the restriction and how to respond.
  • There is no technical barrier that reminds a user of their restrictions, which may lead to lapses in judgement when the temptation is too great.
  • There may be other ways to sanction a user through software that currently don't exist as a socially-bound sanction.

Potential tools to support editing restrictions[edit]

Page and category blocking[edit]

There are two types of bans we are considering building into blocks at the moment: 

  • Page bans are for a specific page (e.g. Paul_McCartney.) — We would allow admins to block users from specific pages (e.g. Paul_McCartney, User:Apples, Wikipedia:WikiProject_Foobar, etc.)
  • Topic bans are for a range of pages (e.g. music, which would include the article page on Music as well as all other music related pages and categories. It's up to the admin's discretion.) — We would allows admins to block users from editing all pages within a category.

Setting a page or topic block would be restricted to only users with a new right (e.g. pageblock) which will be granted to administrators. Because this is closer to Special:Block in name and behavior than protection, we believe it should be tied to the user and therefore are planning to add this to Special:Block. Page and topic blocks will include standard block parameters: reason, expiration, talk and subpage inclusion, and autoblock IPs. Page or category blocks would be logged on the block log.

Pros and Cons

This feature would allow users to set simple restrictions in simple circumstances. Category blocking is not a perfect 1:1 for topic bans due to the nature of "broadly construed" but this may still be a useful tool in some situations.


System to allow admins to display warnings to users when they attempt to edit restricted pages[edit]

As an alternate to outright prohibiting the editing of specific articles, we could build a system for admins to set warning messages that display to users when they open the editor (visual or wikitext) to remind them that they are under an editing restriction. This could be configured to a specific page or set of pages (e.g. display only on Paul_McCartney or all pages within Category:Music) or set to display on every edit session. Such a feature could also require the user to mark the warning as 'agreed' or 'understood.' This feature could be optional — a restricted user could opt-in to using this feature on their own accord.

Pros and Cons

This feature would allow the user to make constructive edits and may cover the "broadly construed" nature of topic bans. However, warning messages are not always effective deterrents and the user may grow blind to them over time.


Rate limiting/throttling of edits[edit]

Sometimes users get caught up in a debate and will reply quickly without self-moderating or taking time to consider the implications of their message. We could build a feature that would allow admins to set a limit to the amount a certain user may participate on a wiki. Examples include:

  • Allow three edits to the FooBar article and/or talk page per day
  • Allow three edits to the FooBar article and/or talk page per hour
  • Allow ten edits to the entire wiki per day
  • Require a ten-minute timeout between edits

The user would see an error when they attempted to edit in violation of this limit.

Pros and Cons

This could be an effective tool to allow users to cool off or thoughtfully consider what edits they will make. It doesn't entirely prohibit the user from participating on the wiki, it just slows them down.


Better review processes to see if a restricted user has violated their restriction[edit]

If users placed under restrictions were marked in the system, we could display this information in a few places. The first and simplest would be to build a log of edits made by restricted users, displaying what they are restricted from editing.

Similarly, we could add a message to the diff page for all edits made by a user under a restriction that says "User:Apples is under an editing restriction and are not allowed to edit about TOPIC. If this edit violates this restriction, please report it." This feature could be used by average users not aware of editing restrictions to help reduce the workload of admins. A similar feature could be built into the article creation review workflow.

Pros and Cons

The message on diff pages can be seen as shaming. Who would review the logs?


Please suggest others![edit]

Please edit this page directly, suggest on this talk page, or email us at tbolliger@wikimedia.org with alternative or additional suggestions on how the WMF's Anti-Harassment Tools team can build software to make the lives of Wikimedia community leaders and admins more efficient when dealing with editing restrictions.

Discuss[edit]

Please discuss these suggested types at Talk:Community health initiative/Editing restrictions!