The Community Resilience & Sustainability (CR&S) team at the Wikimedia Foundation is hosting a new conversation meeting (‘previously called ‘Office Hour’) led by its Vice President Maggie Dennis. Topics within scope for this call include Movement Strategy coordination, Board Governance, Trust and Safety (and the Universal Code of Conduct), Community Development, and Human Rights. Come with your questions or feedback, and let’s talk! You can also send us your questions in advance.
The meeting took place on March 24 at 15:00 UTC and be rewatched on Youtube
Maggie Dennis, Vice President of Community Resilience & Sustainability, a division of the Legal Department at the Wikimedia Foundation, hosted the office hour. Maggie oversees the functions of Community Development, Trust & Safety Policy, Trust & Safety Operations, Human Rights protection, and Movement Strategy.
As in previous calls, there is an important note from Maggie:
- I can't and won't discuss specific Trust & Safety cases. Instead, I can discuss Trust & 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.
- Are you planning to request more budget for hiring translation agencies for the Fiscal Year 2022-2023 so that CR&S can support/reach out to underrepresented communities with a large number of non-English speaking users?
- Maggie Dennis: This has been a big subject of conversation. We have a stream of conversations for translations in our annual plan planning. Last year we did an outstanding job in reaching out to different communities, but we have way more languages that we are not yet included in our dialogues.
- We received a request asking Maggie to talk about the Universal Code of Conduct (the UCoC). Given the voting of the enforcement guidelines just closed last week on the 21st, and we are still waiting for the voting results, would you share with us what will happen if it is a “Yes” vote, and what will happen if it is a “No” vote?
- Maggie Dennis: We are measuring an overall idea of support or dislike in the community. If the vote is not approved, we know there is not enough support to go to the Board review phase, and then we will be moving back into drafting to be sure to have identified some of these pain points. If the vote passes, we are going to collect all the feedback and publish it in meta-wiki, to later send it to the Board to have a look and see the feedback to determine their support. There is a possibility that the vote is favorable and the board decides that additional work is needed before it is approved.
- We have a direct follow-up question from the chat: what would happen if it fails to pass twice?
- Maggie Dennis: My personal understanding is that we keep talking about, we keep working on it until we have a decent state in our policy, following the evolution of policies in all of our projects as an example.
- Why is the phase one UCoC policy text not going through ratification the same way?
- There are some questions around affirmation of the UCoC and the training; the person submitting the question thinks there are community concerns on these areas due to uncertainty. The questions are: If there will be mandatory training sessions, who will be required to attend them? How does the training work? Should somebody decline to sign the document or attend the training sessions, what will be the consequences?
- Maggie Dennis: I don’t know, I know that the WMF is not going to impose training unilaterally, any training that we do, we are going to co-create with the community.
- Patrick Earley: There is something in the EDGR regarding “mandatory” training and I can understand the concerns, but there is no desire to take tools off people. We need to have a discussion around this with the community, some projects have a large base of admins, other projects don’t, and that is a larger problem to address. In short, we need to have more conversations around this topic.
- There is another question regarding the affirmation of the UCoC: In the event that affirmation of the UCoC is required due to using the Wikimedia trademarks, will all members who are part of an activity (e.g. editathon, etc) be asked to sign the declaration or will a representative signing the declaration suffice?
- Maggie Dennis: Let me ask, maybe someone in this room knows, currently in events that the Foundation finances must abide by the Friendly Space Policy. Does anyone know how it is applied?
- Anne/Risker: I have attended several events where we have been informed that this policy is in effect, and at the registration of those events we are asked to abide by it. On some registrations you have to place a check mark.
- OwenBlacker: At our events we also require participants to abide by the friendly space policy.
- Roy Smith: Certainly it is widely publicized in the invitations to the New York events the application of Friendly Space policies.
- Maggie Dennis: I would imagine it would be something similar with the UCoC and the EDGR.
- The enwiki Arbitration Committee has had at least one case where the accused was not allowed to see some of the evidence against them as it was thought that it would put the editor providing the evidence at risk. How will the UCoC impact this sort of case?
- Maggie Dennis: This would be more a question of content of the EDGR. There is a clause that states that the accused has the right to be heard.
- Patrick Earley: There are cases that require a balance of transparency, especially harassment outside the wiki, and the editorial board wanted to apply this in the compliance guidelines, the rights of defendants and accusers as long as it is allowed.
- It is important to hear voices outside of North America and Europe regarding the UCoC. Are there any plans to listen to these voices?
- Maggie Dennis: We have the vote statistics and we are happy to see communities that we don't always hear from, we are actively focusing from MSG to reach more voices. We are working to expand our translation work, and we are supporting what the regional hubs will look like. But there is still a lot to do.
- If there are users with community respect (admins, functionaries, ArbCom) who refuse to affirm the UCoC or refuse to engage with training, and another user has a UCoC complaint about that "respected user", would Trust & Safety shepherd some form of process to address the situation? The person also mentioned that not everyone shares the same faith in the on-wiki processes that UCoC enforcement relies on.
- Maggie Dennis: I hope the answer will be more with the future global body that will oversee the EDGR. We need to build systems that are not built on trust in individual people. We need to build systems where we trust that the system itself reduces the risks of abuse. I believe that a movement where everyone needs oversight from a different party to know that things are working.
- What has the Foundation been doing to support Ukraine?
- Maggie Dennis: I always struggle to stay open and keep people safe.
- Cameran Ashraf: It is important how we talk about these things in public places. Wikipedians have been targeted in the past for sharing knowledge. The HR team has a couple of key points, the first is around international partners in order to have regional and local support for communities and point them in the right direction in moments of distress. We have a dedicated HR fellow to support the Eastern Europe and, as the rest of the team, is monitoring the situation at all hours.
- Maggie Dennis: We are a nonprofit and receive money for a certain purpose from our donors and have a responsibility with them, we are not a human rights intervention organization. But we can provide immediate connections to people who are put in danger because of their Wikipedia related activities.
- How can volunteers become involved or help our community in regard to human rights?
- Maggie Dennis: It’s significant to be aware that sharing knowledge is a radical and dangerous act in parts of the world. Even in the US/Europe we have people doxxed or suffering hate crimes only for sharing information. I encourage people to be careful with their digital identities, because it is not that hard to figure out who is behind a keyboard. Trying to be compassionate and comprehensive of people facing different risks, and encouraging them to have safe online habits
- Cameran Ashraf: Many people around the movement live in very different jurisdictions, which can impact on what they can or cannot say online.
- Maggie Dennis: Even back channels that we use to communicate with people might not be safe in some parts of the world. We need to be careful about how we open our conversations, because they might be monitored.
- Anne/Risker: One of the things community members can do is work in helping users to get IP block exceptions in projects in order to use VPN and make things a little safer for them to edit. Wikipedians should stop being so focused on Wikipedia, users detained while being in those conflicts, ended up with a Wikipedia article about them, and that is not very wise and safe practice.
UCoC (part 2)
- Would the WMF provide any remuneration if one is required to attend the UCoC training? (for example, food etc)
- Maggie Dennis: Depends on what the training would look like, specially in the duration of the training and such.
- Patrick Earley: This is a recommendation that our drafting committee have to move forward. We need community approval first.
- Do affiliates have to organize or be involved in the UCoC training process for their community?
- Maggie Dennis: Some affiliates are big and well-equipped, others are small and need more support. They need different ground of support, and we (WMF) have support available according to their needs.
- I'm interested in a specific area of Movement Strategy (for example, a recommendation, a cluster,an initiative) but so far it hasn't been prioritized. What can I do to make it a priority?
- Quim Gil: It would also be rare if we only worked on one recommendation and left the others for later. We need to find a balance between all the MS recommendations, and that is why the prioritization system is in place. If you’re interested in a recommendation not prioritized, let us know, by email or other communication channels, we also have MS grants if what you have in mind has a request for funding.
- How is the Foundation supporting the Movement Strategy recommendation on“ Invest in Skills and Leadership Development”?
- Simona Ramkisson: In our team, we are looking to contribute to projects to growth communities and welcome newcomers. With the skills and leadership development recommendation we found that not everyone shares a similar definition of what a leader is, an organizer can be a leader, a trainer can be a leader, an executive director of an affiliate can be a leader. In that sense, we are working to convene a working group of volunteers who will be stewards to help find a common definition of what leadership means to the community. There is an open call right now in meta. Once we have that shared definition, it highlights how we move forward with the implementation and what kind of infrastructure is needed to achieve this recommendation.
- How is the Foundation supporting capacity building and skill development as we enter year 2 of the pandemic?
- Simona Ramkisson: There is no shared approach on how communities are coming back together to learn together. We haven’t done a consistent job ensuring that training has been accessible. Our team has been piloting the idea of online learning. The community programs team in product help develop the roadmap to online learning with greenhouse training the trainer program, so we are leveling up on that. Developing a learning platform to host curriculums, develop their own modules for different elements of capacity building. In 2021 we piloted two online courses on moodle.
Movement Strategy (part 2)
- It's been almost five months since the Movement Charter Drafting Committee was formed. What is happening there?
- Quim Gil: 15 people have been voted and selected in different channels, and now they are all in an online room, and now they need to work in drafting a charter that we haven’t done before, and they are so many expectations. They have been organizing themselves on how to work together, meeting with board members, and with MSG team on support. So there is a lot of work to do before embarking on the first line of the draft.
- Anne/Risker(a member of the Movement Charter Drafting Committee): We are starting to be doing our outlines for what we are going to put into the charter. We communicate pretty regularly with the community. In the charter, we probably are going to start with the preamble to share our values. We have developed subcommittees to handle things. We are planning to have an in-person in June, because there are some things that work better in person.
Trust and Safety
- Regarding the safety of users, there are people in a community creating anonymous bulletin boards online dedicated to criticizing, marginalizing, ridiculing users, especially admins. Therefore no new people want to be admins in this community. What would be the support the WMF can provide?
- Maggie Dennis: Trust and Safety handles all sort of weird stuff and how we can address it. They are thing that we can do directly, sometimes they’re not much we can do. We can reach to individuals to change their behaviors, this sometimes works, others do not. We have the local first principle, we allow local communities to handle things when they can, we sometimes got involved when local functionaries ask us to help out. In some cases we reach out to web hosts depending on how serious the issue is.