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Requests for comment/Unauthorized screenshots from private WhatsApp conversations

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Dear Wikimedians,

We are writing to seek clarification on Wikimedia's stance regarding the use of unsolicited screenshots taken from private WhatsApp groups as a basis for blocking editors.

Recently, there has been a concerning incident where such screenshots were utilized to justify the blocking of four editors, among them an editor with a 19-year history on Wikipedia and a woman with 14 years of editing.

Given the gravity of these actions and their potential implications for the community, We wish to understand Wikimedia's official stance on the use of such evidence in disciplinary actions.

We would also like clarification on whether Wikipedia's policies and rules extend to an editor's everyday life and external writing activities. Additionally, we would like to understand the mechanisms Wikipedia employs to monitor its editors in such contexts, if applicable.

Could you please provide clarity on Wikimedia's position regarding the appropriateness of utilizing unsolicited screenshots from private platforms in editor blocks? Furthermore, any guidelines or policies related to this matter would be immensely helpful for the community to comprehend and adhere to. Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to your prompt response.

La Nave Partirà (talk) 17:48, 14 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]

User:ELappen (WMF), User:CAshraf (WMF), User:Mdennis (WMF),
I look forward to hearing from you,
La Nave Partirà (talk) 18:46, 14 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]
First of all, editors should not share their experiences via DM excessively. What if Meta has access to the convos and sell data to advertisers? Ahri.boy (talk) 12:09, 16 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I understand this may sound absurd, but on my local Wiki, admins have blocked editors based on WhatsApp screenshots. I am seeking guidance from the Wikimedia team. La Nave Partirà (talk) 14:18, 16 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Dear Wikimedia team,
I am writing on behalf of myself and other editors of the Hebrew Wikipedia. Recently, 43 editors were blocked at once, all with about a year of experience, and the story even reached the Israeli press. The block had a justified reason, but a week later, 4 veteran editors were blocked without justification, supposedly based on screenshots from WhatsApp groups. I will share all the details of the strange story later; we would like to hear Wikimedia's position regarding the use of private material such as WhatsApp screenshots.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
La Nave Partirà (talk) 05:31, 20 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Can you link these accounts and details of the block here? We (as a Wikimedia community) cannot judge on basis of impartial data. A09|(pogovor) 18:44, 22 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Note: This RFC will also apply to other messaging apps regardless. Ahri.boy (talk) 13:41, 21 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]
That's not on you to determine. A lot of stuff, like enwiki revdel/oversight as well as Meta lock processes happen offwiki (however there are also onwiki alternatives set in place). A09|(pogovor) 18:42, 22 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Comment Comment You might want to rephrase the title of this request for comment, as far as I can understand the screenshots were not made public, which makes the title itself a bit conflict. Best, A09|(pogovor) 18:45, 22 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]
The person who took the screenshots uploaded three of them a year ago, and they were deleted. However, the question is fundamental: Is Wikipedia allowed to use such photos, inform the community about them, and take actions based on these screenshots?
The use of the screenshots was justified by arguing that the admin of the WhatsApp group was careless and allowed a person he did not know to join. Therefore, Wikipedia is not to blame, and the photos can be used.
The other fundamental question is whether Wikipedia's rules apply to the personal life, thoughts, and writings of editors. La Nave Partirà (talk) 07:18, 23 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Could you link the image filenames so someone could verify they were actually uploaded and that this saying is not just a baseless accusation? Furthermore, without at least a transcription of these messages one cannot fairly judge on whether it's fair to take an action or not. I see no problem in WikiMedia groups existing outside the wiki sphere on various social media platforms and should not be in domain of WMF to close down such groups. I'd like to see more context regarding these messages and not just "messages exist, someone got banned for that, please take action". I'd like to see more data for a fair judgement/comment.
Also, Wikipedia rules do not apply to private life, editors are not thoughtless machines and they have their own lives. Thus no policy should regulate ones own private life. A09|(pogovor) 08:38, 23 June 2024 (UTC)[reply]
La Nave Partirà. Your post is a misrepresentation. The reason for the blocks, as the bureaucrats have pointed out more than once, is not just screenshots (what's more, one of the blockers admitted to the existence of the WhatsApp group in question[1]), but cross-references of information. You can be sure that they didn't make an "easy job" for themselves, and blocked anyone they didn't like.
I would add that I would be happy to have the actions of the bureaucrats checked by an external party (for example, an employee of Wikimedia Israel - since a Hebrew speaker will probably be needed), but a complaint about the bureaucrats that they blocked only because of a WhatsApp group that does not exist is incorrect, both because of the fact of its existence and because the bureaucrats performed many tests, and did not rely on just one screenshot (which, of course, as has been pointed out many times, is not difficult to create such fakes).
Thank you for your investment in the search for justice🙂. Neriah - 💬 - 08:17, 8 July 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks for your insight. @Neriah I am very interested in the additional test bureaucrats had made. Was there any checkuser action? Per my experience determining sockpuppetry solely on behaviour is misleading, especially when blocking such a large group of editors. Thanks for your further input on this matter. Best, A09|(pogovor) 09:23, 8 July 2024 (UTC)[reply]
As far as I know there was CheckUser intervention in some of the operations. However, the reason for the blocking in some cases is not the use of multiple accounts, but the recruitment of voters to politically bias Wikipedia. Since I am neither an CheckUser nor a Bureaucrat, I am pinging דגש and PurpleBuffalo for his answer. Thanks, Neriah - 💬 - 09:30, 8 July 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I know but that's not what I was asking. I'm specifically interested in Meta's position on two things:
Does Meta approve of using secret recordings of editors for any purpose?
Do Wikipedia's rules apply to the private lives and writings of editors La Nave Partirà (talk) 09:33, 8 July 2024 (UTC)[reply]
As I have told you before, you're gravely mistaken in your premise already. Each Wikipedia is an independent community and theoretically such a block could be justified with rules set up by a local community. As far as I am aware, no such rule ever existed that would apply to private lives of editors nor would Wikimedia Foundation spy on its users. I asked you something completely different and you have yet to respond with it. A09|(pogovor) 13:31, 8 July 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Thank you, @A09, for your words and clarification. I will not respond on what CU actions were taken, or what the findings were, only that the Bureaucrats' actions were justified as far as I'm concerened. Pinging @גארפילד & @ביקורת. PurpleBuffalo (talk) 17:53, 8 July 2024 (UTC)[reply]
@PurpleBuffalo: Thanks for your response. I don't care about CU data specifically nor should you disclose it. I only care on whether this group was technically confirmed. If the checkuser team determined it was a sockpuppet abuse then I think we don't need to discuss this and all of the subsequent requests for comments as they are pointless sock complaining. A09|(pogovor) 18:19, 8 July 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I think the Bureaucrats better respond, since most blockings had nothing to do with CU actions. I will say, however, that there were a few troubling indications regarding some of the blocked users. PurpleBuffalo (talk) 06:03, 9 July 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Dear Wikimedians, we would like to hear Meta's position on the fundamental issue of the overlap between individual privacy and Wikipedia, in light of Meta's policy on maintaining privacy and preventing breaches. It is important to clarify that we are not seeking Meta's intervention in the decisions of the local Wikipedia community. Rather, we are requesting the perspective of Meta and its legal team on the philosophy of Wikimedia regarding this matter.

The issues are:

Does Meta approve of using secret recordings of editors for any purpose? Do Local Wikipedia's rules apply to the private lives and writings of editors.

User:ELappen (WMF), User:CAshraf (WMF), User:Mdennis (WMF), Could you shed light on this topic? Thank you very much. La Nave Partirà (talk) 01:47, 9 July 2024 (UTC)[reply]

In light of several feedbacks to this request, I would like to clarify once again that the subject of the inquiry is a request to ascertain the Wikimedia Foundation's position on issues related to editors' privacy, which I raised earlier. These are fundamental questions that pertain to all Wikipedia editions worldwide.
The issue at hand is not the blocks on Hebrew Wikipedia, and this is not the place to justify or refute them. La Nave Partirà (talk) 06:48, 9 July 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Wikimedia Foundation usually does not interfere with community driven requests for comments. And they will give the same answer as I did so I do not see point in not droping the stick from your side. A09|(pogovor) 10:17, 9 July 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Thank you A09, The question is about the policy of the Wikimedia Foundation, and they should be the ones to answer. I agree with what you're saying, but you are not Wikimedia staff or the legal department of the Wikimedia Foundation. Therefore, in this case, your answers are not helpful. La Nave Partirà (talk) 11:12, 9 July 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Hello, La Nave Partirà. I'm afraid this is not the forum or mechanism to ask questions of the Foundation. As Requests for comments notes, this process is for broader input and open to anyone. If you have a question about the Foundation's legal policies, you may best request response by emailing legal@wikimedia.org. None of the individuals you have pinged is a lawyer, including me. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 21:32, 9 July 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Thank you very much, Maggie, for the referral to the appropriate address. La Nave Partirà (talk) 00:52, 10 July 2024 (UTC)[reply]
The UCOC applies also to external discussions:
This Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC) defines a minimum set of guidelines of expected and unacceptable behaviour. [...] It applies to all Wikimedia projects, technical spaces, in-person and virtual events, as well as the following instances:
  • Private, public and semi-public interactions
The UCOC also prohibits "Systematically manipulating content to favour specific interpretations of facts or points of view", which can lead to a block.
The UCOC is official Wikimedia policy and valid in all projects, including he wiki.
Looks like it's ok to use Whatsapp conversations to block accounts on wikipedia.
WMF's privacy policy covers information that YOU give WMF (your IP adress, email if added to your account). What you do on Whatsapp, is related to whatsapps privacy policy. Der-Wir-Ing ("DWI") talk 08:17, 12 July 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Thank you, Der-Wir-Ing, the Universal Code of Conduct is interesting and well thought out, and yet a bit confusing. The document deals with relationships between editors and other contributors, outlining what is expected of them and what constitutes unacceptable behavior.
Expected behavior: Mutual respect, civility, collegiality, mutual support, and good citizenship.
Unacceptable behavior: Harassment, abuse of power, privilege, or influence.
I guess "private interactions" in this context refers to harassment of another editor in person, by mail, or by any other form outside Wikipedia. I wouldn't have thought that Wikimedia would intervene in such cases that occur outside the Wikimedia sphere, but that seems to be the intention, at least in theory.
My question is not about anything illegal like harassment, but rather about simple local Wiki rules. Suppose an editor who is temporarily blocked sends WhatsApp to her partner who is also an editor, to write something in a discussion. This is not allowed, and the conversation is intercepted by the local Wiki. La Nave Partirà (talk) 06:11, 13 July 2024 (UTC)[reply]
For local rules, you have to ask the local community.
You don't tell the whole story here, I don't even know if it concerns your block or someone elses. But if they blocked you to stop you doing something specific and then you asked someone else to do it for you instead: Not cool. Der-Wir-Ing ("DWI") talk 09:03, 13 July 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I am not one of the blocked editors but I do oppose the measures that were taken, as I believe they are not ethical and contradict the fundamental spirit of Wikimedia.
True,I am not detailing the specific case, this is in order to avoid veering off into a debate about specifics instead of focusing on the principle. The example I provided is theoretical but it is fundamentally similar to the case.
The code of conduct document does include a the principles, but the term "private interactions" is not sufficiently clear. Since the document pertains to the behavior among editors, I assume it refers to harassment of an editor personally outside of Wikipedia. Such harassment is illegal anyway, and I can understand that if the editor complains, Wikipedia would take action against the harasser and potentially block them. The editor can also seek help from the police.
Perhaps one of the authors of the document could clarify this.
What about simple rules of the local Wikipedia, like in the example I gave? You are right that it is not cool to ask a partner to write your opinion while you are blocked, if it is a violation of local Wikipedia's rules. The question is whether Wikipedia can impose such a rule on the private lives of the editors. If an editor asks another editor on their talk page, it happens within Wikipedia's sphere and can be addressed, but not "bedroom conversations". Am I right?
Since Wikimedia has no intention of intruding into bedrooms, has no means to monitor private conversations, and since the only way to obtain such information would be if someone else eavesdrops on conversations and sends a recording (which Wikimedia certainly would not accept), it is impossible to apply such rules to private lives.
This is my perception. La Nave Partirà (talk) 10:43, 13 July 2024 (UTC)[reply]