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Request for WMF Internal audits and appeal procedures

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This topic is to be discussed at the Affiliate Chairpersons meeting August 15, 2019.

It is a proposed agenda point for the Affiliates Chair meeting at Wikimania 2019, to propose the Chair meeting to request for a review or an internal audit[1] based on international best practices/standards/norms, and the subsequent amelioration, of the Office actions, the Friendly space policy, the T&S procedures, and the sAPG/APG procedures.

What we propose


Several Affiliates have encountered during the last several years a lack of appeal, both in the Office actions, the Friendly space policy, the T&S complaints handling procedure, and in the grants team handling the (s)APG requests.

At the General assembly of Wikimedia Belgium of June 2019,[2] it was suggested by one of the participants that, in order to bring clarity and objectivity in the general working of the T&S and the Grants team, legally and technically, a WMF internal audit could be requested about:

  • the way T&S is handling complaints, and applies decisions about complaint cases, whether the cases are handled in an objective and neutral way, and to verify whether the rights of defendants are sufficiently guaranteed;
  • how the Grants team handles, evaluates, accepts, or refuses grant requests.

We want to review the processes, not specific cases that are mentioned as reference to this article.

Reasons for this proposal


We would like to propose a review of the Office actions and the Grants process.

We might have doubts about the T&S procedures not being transparent, or at least not sufficiently publicly documented, the T&S team giving the impression being too powerful, deciding based on its own rules without sufficiently taking into account the specific personal and organizational context of the subject, nor taking into account all objective facts, and without any possible of appeal.[3][4][5][6] Some cases might suffer from international differences in culture.[7]

Bans can lead to additional personal damage with the subject. Certain decisions of the T&S team could severely impact the personal psyche of the subject. It can lead to personal distrust in the T&S and WFM management, and might in some circumstances be better replaced by specific personal and psycho-social coaching. Damaging the subject may never be the result of any T&S decision, irrespective of the rights of the complainers.

Affiliates are responsible for Grant requests, but have no possibility to appeal when there would be discussions about a refused Grant.

What should be investigated?


In the T&S handling procedures, the rights of the alleged offender are not sufficiently guaranteed. There is a possibility that rumors are invoking a punishment without hearing the defendant, without careful verification of the facts by a neutral investigations team, without the defendants being sanctioned in a neutral way, and without taking into account certain handicaps like hard-hearing, or autism, and without appeal procedure.

Missing in the current Friendly space policy: alleged offenders should be guaranteed an equally trustful space. The Friendly space policy should be equally safe for both the victim and the defendant. The defendant should never become a victim, because of the procedure, or the sanctions. The alleged offender should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Being a Board member is a dangerous function. A Board member is exposed to the community, the WMF, third parties, government, justice, and the general public.

During the (s)APG process, frequently, there are different viewpoints between the Grants team, and the Affiliate. Neutrality and objectivity in evaluating of Grants are insufficiently assured.

Our proposal to the Affiliates Chair meeting, and to the Foundation, related to missing steps in the Office actions, the Friendly Space policy, and the T&S and the sAPG processes, are specifically: defendant hearing, honest defense, impartial sanctions committee, appeal procedure. The principle of hearing both sides is not sufficiently documented. There is no procedure to submit an appeal.

The Foundation bans:-

  • Global ban: is not appealable, not negotiable and not reversible
  • Temporary global ban: not appealable, its duration is final and non negotiable
  • Partial ban: not appealable, its duration is final and non negotiable
  • Event ban: in-person events funded by Foundation resources, local /global (not appealable)

are all missing the following: alleged offenders should be guaranteed being heard, have the possibility of self-defense, and having access to an appeal procedure. They should be innocent until proven guilty.

Affiliates should be timely notified about incidents with volunteers/members/board members within their territory in sufficient detail (date, time, place, activity, impacted persons, circumstances) to allow preventing further damage, to take proactive actions, and to evaluate, prevent, or mitigate related risks (financial, organisational, reputation). The impacted affiliate's management should be proactively informed about pending problems. The complaints, and sentencing are generally only revealed very lately.

When one of the complaining parties is a WMF staff member, there is a possibility of conflict of interest, since the T&S is composed of staff members as well. This could invoke loyalty conflicts, and doubts about an independent jurisdiction.

Questions for this Chair meeting

  • Can the Chair meeting agree with a demand for such a review or internal audit?
  • Is the above demand clear, objective, and complete?
  • How should this review or internal audit be requested? What is the process and timing to do so?


  1. An internal audit is a review of procedures as being implemented in an organisation or an enterprise, followed by a management review, and a proposal for subsequent amelioration. It is typically a yearly process in ITIL or ISO 9001 companies. It part of the Deming circle/cycle/wheel for a continues quality improvement program (PDCA or Plan Do Check Act), see w:en:PDCA.
  2. Minutes of the 2019 WMBE Genenal Assembly (WMBE)
  3. Fram en.wp office yearlock block (Wikimedia-l)
  4. Review of T&S actions (Wikimedia-l)
  5. Wikimedia Belgium concerns about WMF (en.wp)
  6. Demand for appealability (en.wp)
  7. Safe spaces amongst multiple cultures (en.wp)