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Grants:IdeaLab/Propose Wikimedia Code of Conduct (adapted from open source Contributor Covenant)

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Wikimedia Code of Conduct, adapted from open source Contributor Covenant
Use existing code-of-conduct model to align our community norms and prohibitions on harmful behavior with thousands of other open source communities.
idea creator
Ocaasi (WMF)
community organizer
this project needs...
project manager
community organizer
created on18:09, 31 May 2016 (UTC)

Project idea


What is the problem you're trying to solve?


We have not done what many other open collaborative communities have done: commit to inclusiveness and define limits on behavior. We have also not used what has worked for others as a guide to our own issues. This idea adopts the "Contributor Covenant" and other likeminded-organization policies to apply to the Wikimedia Project as a whole.

This code of conduct has already been adopted by nearly 10,000 open source projects.

Efforts towards a Project-Wide Code of Conduct have been seeded by language-level policies (Harassment policies), Code of Conduct for Wikimedia technical spaces (CoC DRAFT), WMF Friendly Space Policy for events (POLICY), and the WMF Grants online Friendly Space Expectations (EXPECTATIONS).

These need to be applied broadly, to all participants in all of our forums, with an overarching, combined, or synthesized approach to/of the above precedents.

What is your solution?


Propose an adapted code of conduct



As contributors to and stewards of this project, in the interest of fostering an open and welcoming community, we pledge to respect all people who participate through editing, creating content, removing vandalism, improving quality, sharing constructive comments, classifying and categorizing information, developing tools, writing templates and code, designing pages, translating pages, organizing events, running outreach programs, and engaging in other useful activities that advance our mission of sharing knowledge.

We are committed to making participation in this project a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of level of experience, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, personal appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, age, religion, or nationality. Harassment is behavior by individuals or by groups, whether in severe single incidents or disruptive patterns of behavior, that aggressively or persistently intimidate, torment, attack, persecute, threaten, or harm people (or at least, appear or attempt to do so).

We are also deeply committed to the free expression of information, knowledge, and ideas through civil discourse and debate, with a basic respect for the dignity of all participants. Robust critical analysis of views, arguments, beliefs, proposals, projects, programs, and behavior does not, by itself, constitute hostile conduct or harassment. However, in order to create an environment where diverse participants may learn and contribute safely we identify and prohibit certain conduct as incompatible with our project, its mission, and its goals.

Examples of unacceptable behavior by participants include:

  • Personal attacks or trolling that degrades others, rather than constructive engagement with content and ideas
  • Public or private harassment, including offline stalking and any threats of harm
  • Publishing others' private information such as physical or electronic addresses, without explicit permission
  • The use of sexualized language or imagery, where not serving an educational purpose
  • Excluding or denigrating marginalized or underrepresented groups through discrimination, not plainly aimed at improving the encyclopedia
  • Inappropriate or unwanted personal advances or physical contact, clearly beyond the scope of advancing our mission
  • Off-Wikipedia coordination to harass an individual, if identities can be reliably linked without outing
  • Deeply unethical or irresolvably unprofessional conduct, that most reasonable participants agree cannot be tolerated

Project maintainers--ranging from WMF staff to Wikipedia admins--have the right to remove, edit, or reject comments, commits, code, wiki edits, issues, and other contributions that are not aligned to this Code of Conduct, and/or to ban temporarily or permanently any contributor for other behaviors that violate this Code. Those of us who do not follow the Code of Conduct will be informed of the community's norms and may be permanently removed from the project for not following them.

By adopting this Code of Conduct, we commit to applying these principles to every aspect of managing this project. This Code of Conduct applies both within project spaces, online outside of project spaces, and in public spaces when an individual is representing the project or its community.

Instances of abusive, harassing, severely disruptive, or otherwise unacceptable behavior may be reported by contacting harassment@wikimedia.org. Complaints will be reviewed when relevant, investigated where possible, and will result in a response that is deemed necessary and appropriate to the circumstance--dependent on the capacity of the response team and its volunteers. Maintainers are obligated to keep confidentiality with regard to the reporter of any incident, while reporters are permitted to privately share personally identifying information with maintainers in the interest of addressing harassment.

The presence of this Code of Conduct cannot guarantee that all abuses or reports of abuse will be seen, investigated, or acted upon. Ultimately, the safety of each user--and their personal decision to disengage from aspects of, or the project entirely, and whether to contact formal authorities for help--remains in their hands and their sole responsibility.

This Code of Conduct is adapted in part from the Contributor Covenant, version 1.3.0, available from http://contributor-covenant.org/version/1/3/0/

Promotion of Code of Conduct

  • Mention in Terms of Use for the site
  • Link in project sidebars or page footer
  • Standard link in any event registration or signup page

Potential workflow for flagging problems

  • Any issue can be raised directly to harassment@wikimedia.org
  • Add a (undo) (thank) (report) option to all diffs
    • The simplest option is to just provide a link to email harassment@wikimedia.org when the user clicks report along with some basic guidance
    • Further development could create a guided wizard that would route complaints appropriately, including when a particular situation is out of scope or doesn't rise to the level of harassment

Anticipating challenges

  • Protecting against harassment may be perceived as limiting free speech
    Harassing behavior is more than incivility. It effectively censors participants by making them actively, directly feel physically and emotionally unable to engage safely.
  • Accepting harassment reports centrally may be seen as: promising a sufficient response; accepting liability for responding sufficiently or preventing behavior from occurring; providing the same level of response to all reports
    We must start somewhere. The first step is having any Code of Conduct, even if no reports can be accepted. It sets a standard individuals can appeal to. Once reports are accepted, only the most serious may be flagged by staff. And then only some of those may be investigated at all. Future triage could involve volunteers as Functionaries or more collaboratively through OTRS. Submitting a report will simply come with a disclaimer that the WMF cannot guarantee to give a response to all reports (or even see all of them). The safety of the reporter is ultimately still in their hands and they must decide if leaving a project or contacting formal authorities is their best option in any situation.
  • Staff and volunteers may be unprepared to handle the seriousness, or ambiguity, of reports
    As with current OTRS methods involving legal issues, there is always a tiered approach to handling issues. The most dire receive expert staff support or are even outsourced to formal authorities. Those beneath that are given to vetted volunteers who have identified to the WMF and have a track record of professionalism, sound judgement, and confidentiality. The remainder of reports may be bumped back down to administrators at projects, or simply left unresponded-to completely.
  • Reports could come in from multiple languages without available speakers to investigate and respond
    This is a challenge with any initiative our global movement takes on. We do our best, and not being able to do it perfectly is no excuse not to do it at all.
  • Reports could involve multiple users across multiple projects in complex or ambiguous scenarios
    You start with the most singular glaring, conscience-shocking, unambiguous violations. You deal with these where possible. After that, as with OTRS, complaints are handled on an as-needed and as-feasible basis. This is basic triage. The goal is not to solve every problem but to address the most urgent and critical ones first and do the best with what remains.
  • Reports could be used to "game" the system by reporting good-faith participants in an attempt to silence of discredit them
    A report is not a guarantee of action. There is no automated mechanism to block or ban editors who are reported a lot. Gaming systems is an inevitable possibility of having any system and it's not a reason not to have any system. Individuals who consistently falsely report or make clearly false accusations could be warned, banned from making further reports or even banned from the project themselves.
  • Individual projects will view this as an imposition-from-above of their right and ability to moderate their own wikis
    As with WMF Global Bans or ArbCom cases, harassment issues should only be handled by staff or selected volunteers when the home-wiki community is unable to handle the problem effectively themselves for either privacy or severity issues. Moreover, trusted volunteers from many communities should be part of the solution in triaging and addressing reports, including those that are not cases of harassment and should be properly bumped back down to the local community.
  • Much harassment happens from groups 'tag-teaming' an editor in small but cumulative abuses rather than a single perpetrator who can be removed
    This is a challenge in any open, collaborative community, and again it is not a reason to do nothing. Tag-teaming is a thorny problem, but not one that should make us abandon all our efforts.
  • Much harassment happens off-Wikipedia, away from the rules of our projects and without any direct link to particular users
    This is also an endemic problem to online bullying and abuse. We simply will do the best we can, and hopefully will catch some of these cases and deter others from engaging in off-Wikipedia collaboration by doing so.
  • For many editors, perfectly acceptable behavior, like deleting someone's non-notable pages, removing their biased content, or watching their talk page and contributions, will be seen and reported as "harassment"
    Naturally, many new editors find it unacceptable that their edits are rejected or even reviewed by others--this is a simple misunderstanding of the nature of our wiki and movement processes. As with any unintentionally false harassment report, the solution is to kindly inform the reporter of community norms and help them distinguish between normal challenging behavior and abnormal abusive behavior. Crucially, a harassment report does not inevitably lead to a harassment response. We will obviously use our best judgement to process complaints.
  • Wikipedia is a frank and challenging environment and not everyone can "handle it"; those who aren't tough or thick-skinned enough to cope should leave, because they aren't competent
    This is a very dangerous attitude to have, because it confuses being able to handle legitimate and vigorous debate with tolerating grossly inappropriate abuse. In the same way that we can't coddle people who are enraged by having an edit reverted, we cannot tell someone who is being doxxed and stalked offline that they are simply "too thin-skinned". That attitude enables abusers and blames victims.
  • If such a Code of Conduct is passed, some active or prolific contributors will leave in protest
    Inevitably, some in our community who value its tremendous freedom of speech will chafe at the notion of an overarching code. They will consider it speech-chilling, or a power-grab of their autonomy and expression. Some of them will leave. In any community there are certain behaviors that are incompatible or intolerable: if certain people--however valuable--refuse to address those behaviors, refuse to cease those behaviors, or deny the consequences of those behaviors--then they are a part of the problem of harassment. We will miss the contributions but have to accept the trade-off of an inclusive and safe environment for all instead of a maximally unbounded arena for those few.
  • Harassment isn't a real or major problem ("I don't see it much") and the trade-off of trying to police it is not worth it
    Recent surveys have made clear that harassment is an endemic problem in our projects--experienced and/or witnessed by an unacceptable number of our participants. To some, harassment is merely invisible, because they don't recognize it, don't experience it themselves, or are perhaps unknowingly doing it. A Code of Conduct can seem unnecessary to those who are not vulnerable; however its very existence is designed to protect those whose vulnerabilities and injuries are all-too-often invisible. Moreover, a Code of Conduct is a statement of who we aspire to be and what we will not tolerate to get there. It's a protective and ennobling device for any member of our community, because it makes clear that we value our participants and the health of our community. This is not just about rooting out a few bad apples but addressing culture that tolerates harassment and in doing so turns off a huge swathes of people -- those who never contribute to our Project because they hear or see Wikipedia endangering large groups of editors. That unknown loss should haunt us for all the contributors and content we are missing out on, systemically, with an ever-increasing gap that results in systemic gaps in our participants and content.
  • Our project is constantly under attack by fools, agenda-pushers, POV warriors, marketers, and tendentious editors: if I can't call a spade a spade (or an asshole/idiot/[other epithet]), then I can't say what's clearly true
    Using language that does nothing more than degrade, even if it reflects deeper real problems, escalates situations and ignores established mechanisms for dispute resolution. Too many people in a debate choose harsh personally-attacking language without understanding or tolerating genuine differences of opinion, those often motivated by ignorance rather than malice. Even if one is sure that a person is up to no good, then there are community policies, admins, stewards or staff to appeal to which can resolve situations without inflaming them. The need to personally attack even legitimately bad actors risks intimidating or endangering far too many well-meaning contributors.
  • What about Assume Good Faith? We shouldn't be setting expectations that people have bad motives when we are offended or harmed by their behavior
    You assume good faith the first time you meet someone. You don't assume good faith after they've punched you in the mouth. AGF does not mean that you remain persistently blind to the negative consequences of someone's behavior--that is tantamount to always rationalizing and accepting it. At some point, you take consequences seriously and protect people and the project when a lack of good faith is obvious, or when the harm is so great that someone's intentions don't matter.
  • What if the Code of Conduct or responses to violations of it are imperfect, incomplete, mistaken, overbroad, or otherwise disastrous?
    Having a Code of Conduct is a first step. It can be amended over time. Having a response team and protocol is something that needs to evolve with iteration, consultation, feedback, measurement, surveys, statistics, and good sense and judgement. There will be an appeals process. Harassment is already happening and going unreported on a massive scale, so the question isn't "what will version 1.0 get wrong?", but "what are we continuing to suffer if we don't make a first attempt to address the problem?"
  • We have the 5 pillars. If you're not here to advance the project in a civil way, then you're already in violation. Thus, There's no need for a new Code of Conduct. This is a "solution in search of a problem".
    The 5 pillars are foundational but not sufficient. They do not clearly, specifically address harassment in an encompassing and prohibiting way. This Code of Conduct is a a solution TO a problem, one we have evidence is infecting our community and which we cannot handle effectively. To the extent that this Code merely specifies and practically clarifies the 5 pillars for all spaces and participants on Wikipedia, then it's no problem--nothing new and nothing to worry about. That is Not problematically saying that if you're doing nothing wrong then you have nothing to fear; quite the opposite, it's saying that there are those who are in fear who lack security in their engagement, their voice, and their contributions. This Code stands to validate, defend, and protect them. If you don't need this Code personally, you're probably lucky to have not been a target of harassment.
  • Volunteers can never be forced, compelled, or required to address any issue on Wikipedia. They do not take on the liability for others' behavior and they can't be expected to handle especially contentious or emotionally labor-intensive issues such as harassment. They may have neither the interest, motivation, training, capability, nor personalsecurity to do so.
    Absolutely correct. This evolving Code of Conduct draft, as updated, gives every member of our Project the "right", but not the responsibility to address harassment. No volunteer will ever be punished for not taking action against harassment by others. This is not a Good Samaritan's law where one must intervene.


  • Find a project and community organizing leader or team (this will not be lead by Ocaasi)
  • Revise the draft of the Contributor Covenant to "localize" and "globalize" it for our diverse community
  • Propose adoption of the draft publicly and rewrite it if necessary
  • Create some process to modify the Code of Conduct if suggested/necessary
  • Ratify, adopt, and institute the Code of Conduct (even if all the "what then?" questions aren't figured out fully)
  • Sketch out a hypothetical triage system for handling reports (as WMF legal does through OTRS)
  • Institute a process for handling appeals for those found in violation of the Code of Conduct
  • Evaluate the implementation of the Code of Conduct over time
  • Report out on aggregate numbers of reports, responses, and responders
  • Survey the community to detect changes or improvements as a result of the Code of Conduct

Get Involved


About the idea creator



  • Developer I'm a software developer from India. Ready to take up anykind of technical development. Nagavamsikatari (talk) 04:12, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Community organizer Glad to help on enwiki... TJH2018talk 04:22, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Volunteer Willing to help however I can. Funcrunch (talk) 16:15, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Researcher je travaille en sois enfin de valider mon projet Papykabi (talk) 12:32, 11 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Volunteer Knowledge should be accessible by anyone. Any means to prevent to access it is unacceptable. I will promote this idea to my circle always. Numanatalay (talk) 11:54, 12 June 2016 (UTC)


  • This is MUCH needed. You've laid out the plan greatly! :) CoolCanuck (talk) 03:53, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • This idea can be adopted to any wiki page. Nagavamsikatari (talk) 04:15, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Absolutely, a standardized policy needs to be in place cross-projects... TJH2018talk 04:21, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • That many other organizations have adopted this seems to be a good sign. This is a step in the right direction. Rotideypoc41352 (talk) 04:49, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Project maintainers--ranging from WMF staff to Wikipedia admins--have the right and responsibility to remove, edit, or reject comments, commits, code, wiki edits, issues, and other contributions that are not aligned to this Code of Conduct, and/or to ban temporarily or permanently any contributor for other behaviors that violate this Code. Frhdkazan (talk) 06:54, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Amazingly planned and would be very benificial. Anarchyte (talk) 07:22, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • I am surprised that such a thing does not already exist. I am not sure that this really helps, but: it does not harm and it is good to have an common understanding how to act with each other. So therefore I support this Idea. One question: is this Code of Conduct for all Wikis (e.g. german, commons,... ) or should each create a separate one? I ask this stupid question, because I am from Germany. --GodeNehler (talk) 08:48, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • A panel of participants to monitor the activities and endorse actions would likely be an effective tool against harassment. Tachs (talk) 08:51, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Well, this place is as good as any other to start, if you ask me. But I still believe that the WMF would be much better off if it were to develop, adopt and commit to comprehensive anti-harassment policies (you know sort of like Facebook did), but that is probably never going to happen... Stas12333 (talk) 10:22, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • A code of conduct would help to clarify what is expected and what is inacceptable. Rikuti (talk) 11:51, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • needed long ago. Slowking4 (talk) 12:25, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • A very good idea. This gives a concrete standard of conduct that should help projects delineate acceptable from unacceptable behavior. I have found that the mish-mash of current guidelines, at least on en:wiki, to be rather weak and easy to "wikilawyer" - this code will be more effective. LukeSurl (talk) 15:10, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Well-worded. Appreciate the attempt to make Wikipedia a safer space for marginalized people. Funcrunch (talk) 16:14, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Well thought out. Clarkcj12 (talk) 17:21, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Looks good, and is needed. Note though that version 1.3.0 of the Contributor Covenant Code of Conduct (linked above) is now superseded by version 1.4.Tommy Kronkvist (talk) 10:14, 5 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Like it. Many businesses have for employees a mandatory annual online retread of policies for topics important to the enterprise, such as security and diversity. Perhaps something similar for editors? Lynda Roy (talk) 15:32, 5 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Many people consider it important to have a document called a Code of Conduct, so we might as well satisfy that desire. I would suggest rather than the using the proposed text to use the text of NOTHERE Rhoark (talk) 18:48, 6 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Harassment is a major problem we need to address. I think this is exactly what we need. Wikicology (talk) 21:34, 6 June 2016 (UTC)
  • This unifies a few less-effective codes that I've seen, thoughtfully laid out. A simple workflow for rev-flagging is useful (fit it into flagged revs? :), though I'd avoid sending the resulting stream of flags through staff. Community moderation and automatic classification continue to be useful there, as also suggested above. SJ talk  23:34, 6 June 2016 (UTC)
  • This is doable with mandatory training for admin & functionaries, and a public campaign that highlights the reasons for the change. Sydney Poore/FloNight (talk) 15:46, 7 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Great idea I fully support it Rberchie (talk) 13:20, 8 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Comment The WMF already has a Privacy policy, a Non discrimination policy, and Terms of Service that are not being enforced. —Neotarf (talk) 23:55, 8 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Like it very much. أحمد الآلوسي (talk) 12:38, 9 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Definitely an interesting idea. SarahSV talk 17:57, 9 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Long overdue. Gamaliel (talk) 21:32, 10 June 2016 (UTC)
  • bonjour j écris encore pour planifier et orienter mon projet Papykabi (talk) 12:28, 11 June 2016 (UTC)
  • This is definitely moving in the right direction. It deserves re-reading 5 times, as it would be a major change to Wikipedia governance. Smallbones (talk) 16:24, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
  • I had a similar idea. This is very well developed and formulated. My total support. Kenzia (talk) 09:08, 15 June 2016 (UTC)
  • A code of conduct would establish a healthy framework for all the contributors. It would provide further depth to the fundamental pillar "Editors should treat each other with respect and civility". Gabrielle Marie WMCH (talk) 16:54, 15 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Seems like a good idea that is probably overdue. Kaldari (talk) 18:40, 15 June 2016 (UTC)





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