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Latest comment: 5 years ago by Lexi sioz in topic Abusive Admins

Upcoming content[edit]

In November, the Community Advocacy team will start to gather focused data on harassment-related issues experienced on the projects. We have been putting together a survey, which will be available in 16 languages, to learn about the ways contributors have experienced harassment and difficult engagements with other users. We will follow this with an open discussion about these issues with our community in the form of an online consultation on these pages. Content to come. We appreciate your patience, and refraining from posting here until the consultation opens; we do not want to bias the survey by opening this part of the process prematurely. Patrick Earley (WMF) (talk) 15:57, 28 October 2015 (UTC)Reply

Content overleaf?[edit]

Hi, I just landed at the attached "content page" following a link at the conclusion of the survey.

It was a little disappointing to find no content except a template.

I suggest that if the project managers do not have time to produce the content now that the survey is live, that the link at the end of the survey should be directed elsewhere or removed.

Yours sincerely, Retired Wikimedian briefly-returned-to-a-familiar-sinking-feeling 11:25, 3 November 2015 (UTC)Reply

@ I completely agree with you, but today is the second day, give them time..

I think the attached page is quite clear, no content until the survey is over, any speculation or suggestions could sway the participants in the survey and thus skew the results scientifically making the data collected tainted at best but totally useless for any scientific/real use of the data collected just wait is correct response but more precicely, WAIT UNTIL THE SURVEY IS DONE Qazwiz (talk) 07:34, 11 November 2015 (UTC)Reply

Abusive Admins[edit]

By far the worst form of harassment that I have experienced is from abusive Admins. I have encountered many at Wikipedia, I'm sad to report. It is similar to the problem of police brutality. Admins are given power and authority, but there is grossly insufficient control, oversight and accountability for their own actions when they all too often refuse to follow policy that has been clearly defined.

I was amazed that the survey questions gave absolutely no indication of this. I happen to see this as the most disturbing problem facing Wikipedia today.

I attempted to use various channels for fixing the problems, including contacting the Wikimedia Foundation directly. Neither their legal department nor their staff would help me with my situation. Far worse than that, they refused to acknowledge this as being a systemic problem.--Lexi sioz (talk) 13:06, 14 November 2015 (UTC)Reply

The issue reported above is genuine. However, my observation is that most of the Admins love to editors, and they do care, but there is exception as well. Thus there should be a tool to check and solve the rare genuine cases and common misunderstanding. Nannadeem (talk) 14:23, 14 November 2015 (UTC)Reply
That's another parallel to the case of police brutality. Most of the cops out there are quite conscientious about doing their job well. I'm sure that this holds for Wikipedia Admins as well. I am certainly grateful to the function that they serve overall. But when things go wrong, this can make for some of the worst of Wikipedia experiences.--Lexi sioz (talk) 03:34, 17 November 2015 (UTC)Reply
First of all I'd like to show solidarity with you Lexi. The problem of administrator misconduct within the English language Wikipedia is very serious. The problem as you state is that there is no effective oversight of the administrator ranks. In this regard the ARBCOM has simply failed. I'm not sure how any of this can be properly discussed or analyzed without citing specific instances. I have to run now but I will comment more in the next day or so. PhanuelB (talk) 14:58, 17 November 2015 (UTC)Reply
There's another parallel between admin abuse and police brutality: at least 90% of complaints are unfounded. Keep that in mind with whatever solutions you come up with. --Carnildo (talk) 02:47, 18 November 2015 (UTC)Reply
"90% of complaints are unfounded"? Maybe so but some aren't, including mine. That's why I'm skeptical of the idea that no one should look at specific instances. Let me show you some pretty significant "harassment" (I prefer "administrator misconduct") of me. If these words by Jimmy Wales do not constitute repudiation then I do not know what does. I'll do my best to keep it "anonymized." This deals with the Meredith Kercher topic.
Criticism of me by a Wikipedia Administrator Comment by Jimmy Wales

You don't understand what reliable secondary sources are. They are not the opinions of various commentators.

I don't agree that this edit [by PhanuelB] should have been reverted. Condensed or summarized, sure, why not, that would be a perfectly OK editorial revision. But censoring the views of prominent journalists and newspapers because it doesn't fit an agenda is the precise opposite of NPOV.

Despite having been told multiple times by multiple editors that the article (and Wikipedia itself) is not the venue to push his conspiracey theories, he continues to do so

And what those objections are, are not conspiracy theory fodder.

He repeatedly claims that reliable sources are being kept out of the article, in reality these are anyone else who has a POV similar to his.

The number of reliable sources that are easy to find which have been systematically excluded on flimsy grounds, is compelling evidence. Someone took them out. I don't think it wrong to call attention to it.

A couple of notes. I tried to make the table formatted better but this was the best I could do. I understand that it has been requested not to provide specific diffs but I just feel here that the need was compelling. Keep in mind that the above "harassment" has been laid out repeatedly in black and white to the English ARBCOM who have done nothing about it. There are very real questions about enforcement of a rule of law on the English Wikipedia. Also, please note that in my block log, I am accused of HARRASS. It's a joke, I never harassed anyone. Take a look, or better yet, ask the administrator to prove it.
Please also understand that the problems discussed above resulted in grave BLP violations against people discussed in the article. Wikimedia Foundation candidate Josh Lim has described the events alluded to above as "reprehensible."Here's a link to more information --PhanuelB (talk) 19:35, 19 November 2015 (UTC)Reply

Lexi sioz, did your problems with the administrators take place at en wiki or elsewhere? GregorB (talk) 18:24, 18 November 2015 (UTC)Reply

I have the same observation. There is a lot of uncalled for aggression coming from administrators on various Wikipedia projects, and no way to handle that. If you try, they ignore all policies and cut off your access. One specific problem is administrators that protect the article version of their own preference by blocking the opposition. Another is that they all have each other's back without even looking at what is going on. The Jolly Bard (talk) 15:50, 19 November 2015 (UTC)Reply
The Jolly Bard, the same question for you: did you experience this in the English Wikipedia? I've experienced the entire arsenal of harassment (incivility, talk page baiting, tag teaming, wikihounding, abuse of admin rights so that one's own view prevails, arbitrary reverts and blocks, etc.) in the Croatian Wikipedia. Nearly all of it came from the admins. They know what they're doing: they're driving out editors who challenge their actions and/or are ideologically suspect (see en:Croatian Wikipedia#2013 controversy about right-wing bias). The main difference between English Wikipedia and a small wiki such as Croatian is that in the latter case, there is simply no recourse: appealing to the harasser's admin buddies gets you nowhere, and the WMF does not care, as it is a "local issue". GregorB (talk) 17:16, 19 November 2015 (UTC)Reply
My experiences are from both the English and the Dutch Wikipedia. The latter one may look large but it's really only a small group of editors with many articles that are either bot-generated or a partial translation from en:Wikipedia. The Jolly Bard (talk) 18:03, 19 November 2015 (UTC)Reply
I must say I've never had a bad experience with en wiki admins (in 10 years!). I suppose many admins in smaller wikis succumb to the "king of the hill" mentality: they seem to think that their opinion trumps everyone's by virtue of them having the badge. Smaller wikis are influenced by personalities rather than policies: it often ends in absolutism, article bias, and harassment. The WMF is still largely unaware, but I believe this is bound to change. GregorB (talk) 18:57, 19 November 2015 (UTC)Reply

I think the key here is to let admins know that they have 2 choices 1) enforce all rules against harassment or 2) stay out of the way. Too many admins seem to feel that every rule is subject to interpretation and re-interpretation, so that ultimately there are no rules. So I guess there has to be the third choice 3) if admins use their tools or their influence to help harassers or to prolong the harassment, their admin tools may be removed by the WMF. In short, enforce harassment rules, stay out of the way, or if you contribute to haassment you are no longer an admin. Smallbones (talk) 17:10, 1 December 2015 (UTC)Reply

2018 update[edit]

I'm sad to report that three years later, the problem of Admin Abuse on Wikipedia has gotten worse, based on my own personal observations and experiences. If any steps had been taken toward fixing this problem, they have been ineffective. And GregorB, sorry that I had missed your question. The vast majority of cases I have experienced have been on the English side. Admins need to be held accountable for the power they wield. As it is, there are times when they do not even give the courtesy of explaining the reasons behind their actions. Perhaps the worst aspect is that a ban will get imposed, and then if the member so much as attempts to explain themself over on a Talk Page (not even for the article in question) then the hammer comes down harder for having violated the ban. Just in trying to have a civil discussion.

Wikipedia is BROKEN.--Lexi sioz (talk) 20:50, 15 November 2018 (UTC)Reply


It would be good to define what exactly we mean by Harassment in the Content Page. Users may have different definitions when responding and it's good to collect feedback about a definition of Harassment we all can refer to. --LZia (WMF) (talk) 00:56, 17 November 2015 (UTC)Reply

LZia (WMF), creating a workable definition of harassment is one of the central challenges to coming up with a framework for dealing with it. It is something that we should do as a community. There have been some efforts, such as the draft Code of Conduct at Mediawiki, and the friendly spaces expectations in the Grants space and the friendly spaces policy for events. And many other online communities have also had this conversation. So, that would make an excellent idea submission - researching and formulating a workable definition for the Wikimedia community. We are a multicultural, multilingual community, and that presents challenges. But it doesn't mean we can't find a common ground. Patrick Earley (WMF) (talk) 01:38, 17 November 2015 (UTC)Reply
@LZia (WMF): @PEarley: I think a good starting point for the definition would be using the definition of harrassmrent overall: "aggressive pressure or intimidation". Thanks, Rubbish computer (HALP!: I dropped the bass?) 14:29, 18 November 2015 (UTC)Reply
In terms of clarity, I'd like to suggest that the "kitchen sink" approach is just not helpful. By that I mean, a classification which spans from "violence" to "offensive comments related to ..." covers so much ground that it inevitably leads to heated arguments when people start talking past each other. Different types of issues need different approaches, and that should be helped, not hindered, by terminology. It's like talking about "Crime", where that would cover everything from murder to littering. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 14:44, 18 November 2015 (UTC)Reply
Seth, are there any policies you have come across out there in the wider web that do this (defining harassment) well, in your opinion? Patrick Earley (WMF) (talk) 16:48, 18 November 2015 (UTC)Reply
Patrick, I'm sadly far more aware of the ways this goes wrong, than ways it can be done right. Here, I'm just hoping that if I make some small contributions about avoiding common errors, that will improve the end result. I've seen many of these types of discussions over the years, and they tend to have certain failure-modes. At moment, I'm merely operating under the concept that knowing the problems of the past might help us find a better solution in the future. But I don't know that solution beforehand. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 17:24, 18 November 2015 (UTC)Reply
Is there a working definition yet? If so, where is it? If not. where are we trying to construct it? I have noticed that there are a wide range of dictionary definitions, which is not a useful thing for us. We need something which is clear and simple, and does not rely on examples. · · · Peter (Southwood) (talk): 06:00, 22 November 2015 (UTC)Reply

Attempts at definition (of harassment)[edit]

  • Please add your own, and don't change other people's attempts. If you have an improvement, add it as a separate item.
  • This is an attempt to provide a concise stipulative definition for purposes of Wikimedia/Wikipedia policies, as opposed to lexical definitions, which are available, varied, and possibly not sufficient for the purpose.
  • When assessing a definition, please consider whether each component is (a) necessary, (b) unambiguous (c) sufficient and (d) whether an alternative expression of the same concept in different words or alternative order of concepts might be better. Test examples of harassment against the proposed definition(s) to check these points. Point out where they fail.
  1. The commission of (a) unjustified by Wikipedia policy, (b) systematic, repeated, or continued, (c) unwanted, and (d) annoying, uncivil, hostile or threatening, (e) actions or behaviour of one party or a group, (f) against another party or group. · · · Peter (Southwood) (talk): 06:22, 22 November 2015 (UTC)Reply

I'll try to combine en:WP:Non-discrimination policy with Meta's friendly space policy. I was very surprised to see on that talk-page that an en arb says that the WMF's Non-discrimination policy does not apply to editors discriminating against (or harassing) other editors. We should make clear that it does.

2. The Wikimedia Foundation prohibits discrimination or harassment against editors on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, or any other legally protected characteristics. The Wikimedia Foundation commits to the principles of equal opportunity and non-harassment for all editors. Anyone who violates these principles must leave all MWF projects.

Harassment includes:
  • Offensive comments related to the above legally protected characteristics.
  • Deliberate intimidation, stalking, unwelcome following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events.
  • Non-contextual display of sexual images, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention or comments
Participants asked to stop such behavior are expected to comply immediately.
Smallbones (talk) 17:36, 1 December 2015 (UTC)Reply
Smallbones, regarding the WMF's non-discrimination policy, I think discussion goes best when people keep in mind that there's a big difference between law, versus community rules. WMF is required by law to follow certain non-discrimination legal obligations. However, these don't extend by law to all community interactions which take place on the websites it runs. If legal non-discrimination obligations extended to community rules of all an organization's websites, quite a few notorious websites could not exist. That is, it's quite legal under US law to have a website that traffics in general offensive comments on the basis of race, gender, etc (this is the business-model of too many!) - but the organization running it could not discriminate in employment based on those characteristics. It's even a debatable topic nowadays if an organization can legally run a website dedicated to outright individual harassment (that's a part of the "revenge-porn" legal situation). Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer (and I'm sure not part of WMF), but I've studied this topic -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 00:02, 2 December 2015 (UTC)Reply
I don't think it matters whether it is legal or not, it's just plain wrong to harass somebody on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation. So we have community rules saying that it will not be tolerated - what's wrong with that? Smallbones (talk) 03:09, 2 December 2015 (UTC)Reply
Sadly, such phrasing is assuming the conclusion. If one expands it per your above, to "Don't make any offensive comments related to ...", do you see where there can be a very large debate over meaning and scope? This returns to my point about how I feel that the kitchen-sink definition works very badly in practice. We must separate out the culture-wars from the death-threats. Using the same word to encompass both of them leads to massive problems. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 11:14, 2 December 2015 (UTC)Reply
User:Seth Finkelstein. Could you explain what you mean by kitchen-sink definition? I am not familiar with the term, and on-line definitions appear to vary considerably. · · · Peter (Southwood) (talk): 12:15, 2 December 2015 (UTC)Reply
It's an elliptical use of the American colloquialism "Everything but the kitchen sink". Here, meaning a large collection with the implication that the members of the set are a mismatched ill-fitting assortment, and there are too many pieces for the task. Definitions which throw in everything from offensive comments to the context of sexual imagery to assault and battery are thus "everything but the kitchen sink". -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 12:32, 2 December 2015 (UTC)Reply

I have to disagree with Seth. Harassment is not just about death threats. There are many things that are harassment that are less obvious than death threats and our goal is to stop it well before death threats appear. Reference to "culture wars" trivializes harassment. Sure, there are cultures where it is acceptable to beat your wife or lock your insane uncle in the attic, but we're talking about what's acceptable on a world-wide website, not about whether different cultures do things differently. Lists of items that are considered harassment make the definition operational, so please don't downplay lists of items. If you have a working definition please submit it. Smallbones (talk) 17:28, 2 December 2015 (UTC)Reply

Now, Smallbones, I didn't say (emphasis added) "just about death threats". Like crime is not just about murder. But if one lumps everything from littering to murder into a Crime Task Force, which will be Tough On Crime, can you see where that might cause problems? Interestingly, I think the "Offensive comments (etc)" viewpoint trivializes harassment, which I focus on as more towards extortion and battery. It's rather telling that there's almost not the language to convey that perspective now, given the rhetorical inflation. I do agree with you that there's a deep issue of acceptability on a world-wide website. The following is not a digression, but bear with me since it's a complicated thought: A long time ago, I tried to write an essay arguing that civil-libertarian free-speech concepts were the only stable way of having a workable multicultural society. But I abandoned the essay because it seemed like it wouldn't convince anyone who didn't already believe it (or nearly so), thus being a sort of a paradox of preaching to the choir. And plenty of people straight-out didn't believe it. Similarly, I feel that consultations like this one will be most productive if they proceed from the widest areas of agreement on the worst problems. As opposed to determining a unified theory, then applying it to a wide class of problems (some of which are extremely contentious, especially given the world-wide aspect). But this perspective will not convince anyone who does indeed believe that a unified theory approach is correct, as many do. Honestly, I don't know where to go from there. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 05:59, 3 December 2015 (UTC)Reply

User:Smallbones. Is your edit number 2 above intended as a definition of harassment? It looks more like a policy than a definition to me. This section was intended to contain attempts to define harassment. · · · Peter (Southwood) (talk): 05:46, 2 December 2015 (UTC)Reply
The definition we use is dependent on a context - what we are going to do with it. I assume we will have a policy which prohibits harassment - what else is this about? So I suggest one such policy and define harassment in that context. It's an operational definition, intended to be used. Smallbones (talk) 17:28, 2 December 2015 (UTC)Reply
Do you consider that definition to be (a) sufficient? (all cases of harassment will be positively identified when compared against the definition) (b) unambiguous? (not allowing interminable wikilawyering and gaming the system) · · · Peter (Southwood) (talk): 05:53, 8 December 2015 (UTC)Reply

Why No Discussion of Specific Incidents?[edit]

The Community Advocacy Team runs this page and their direction is not to use names or specific diffs. I'm not sure I see how they can gain the necessary expertise in this topic with that strategy. Many people who claim harassment are harassers themselves. There's just no way to know without taking a look.

A professor named Daniel Citron gave a presentation at the recent Wikimedia event in DC. She talked about "hate crimes on the Internet." In the Q&A period following her presentation, somebody commented that "20 female editors per week" were contacting him about their harassment and the lack of response to it. Then he said something to the effect of "I have only one wordː Manchester." Nobody had the faintest idea what he meant by Manchester. How can anyone pass judgement on his claim of 20 complaints per week by female editors without looking beneath the surface?

One of my concerns is that the English ARBCOM isn't getting the job done. There's no rule of law and false allegations reign supreme. There should be a much larger role for the executive branch (Jimmy) and the WMF. There should be a Constitution that says all blocks must reference at least one diff. Right now the WMF doesn't believe there is a place for intervention when a project takes a serious wrong turn. The least they could do is speak out about it when they see a need. I hope that the committee will open up and allow some discussion of specific topics.--PhanuelB (talk) 21:21, 19 November 2015 (UTC)Reply

PhanuelB, there are separate parts to our approach to this. Collecting data on the nature of harassment, and specific incidents of it, was the focus of our survey. The survey provided a non-public avenue for people to share their experiences, which we consider essential when asking people about harassment. This consultation process was designed to give people the opportunity to discuss what they would like to be done about the problem. By asking people to not name other editors or specific incidents, we are hoping to keep discussions from being derailed by conflicting positions on an incident or specific editor. That said, I don't want to give the impression that we want to tightly control the discussion here. We simply want to give editors a focused place to work on the many complex aspects of this problem. Patrick Earley (WMF) (talk) 22:03, 19 November 2015 (UTC)Reply
If you are dissatisfied with the English Arbcom then go and vote for candidates you agree with. My experience is that when people raise cases with them they are very quick to desysop admins. As for "There's no rule of law and false allegations reign supreme." I'd be tempted to add citation needed on both those claims. WereSpielChequers (talk) 16:17, 26 November 2015 (UTC)Reply
Hi WereSpielChequers. Thank you for taking a look at this. Here are some interesting links that I hope you will take a look at that document my claims above. The Kercher article is an epic scandal. Have you ever seen a dispute where Jimmy Wales has made these kind of statements? I don't agree the English ARBCOM is providing any kind of credible oversight of the Admin ranks.
(1) Unblock Petition to English ARBCOM
(2) One of my Articles
(3) RS excluded from the article
(4) Commentary by Jimmy Wales
(5) Criticism of the article by RS and retired FBI agent Steve Moore
(6) Signpost article talking about the dispute
(7) Article on Hate Site by a Wiki administrator who has implemented many blocks on the topic
(8) British tabloid reporting
(9) Threats made to family of RS Nina Burleigh by Peter Quennell, Webmaster of TJMK
(10) Presentation to a Wiki Meetup in NY
(11) Article detailing the dichotomy between the article's administrators, RS, and Jimmy Wales
(12) List of Editors blocked on the topic
(13) My Question to Wikimedia Foundation Candidates. See Josh Lim and Denny Vrandecic
PhanuelB (talk) 21:55, 18 December 2015 (UTC)Reply

Scope and overlap with IdeaLab community discussion[edit]

First let me say thank you to the Community Advocacy team and to the Foundation for their continued efforts on this subject, and most of all, for taking it seriously.

My question is this: the information asked for above is almost identical to the conversation at Grants:IdeaLab/Community discussion on harassment reporting which was "meant to serve as a central space where the various stakeholders in these proposals and other community members can discuss which methods might serve our community best so that we can unify our ideas into collective action". That conversation ended up encompassing fourteen separate proposals made by twenty-six users. If I am not mistaken, the current survey came about at least in part as a direct result of that discussion. A lot of people spent a lot of effort to reflect on exactly the issues you are presenting here, and present detailed proposals, but I do not recall seeing any response. Is this meant to be a separate effort or will the two conversations be dovetailed in some way?

Feel free to move this comment if it belongs somewhere else, but it occurs to me that anyone landing on this page who has already provided a detailed response to the issue at the IdeaLab will be wondering if they need to start all over again from the beginning. —Neotarf (talk) 23:36, 1 December 2015 (UTC)Reply

Hello, Neotarf. :) As User:Siko (WMF) mentioned in her response in June, the ideas generated in the INSPIRE campaign that were reviewed by the committee and selected for resourcing were funded. Other ideas, the ones that weren’t quite right for a grant at that time or weren’t even proposed for a grant, certainly haven't been abandoned or forgotten, but I don't think that the issue of “what to do about harassment” is closed or has been fully explored. There’s room for new thoughts.
As Philippe noted also in June, our team has been doing extensive research. Calling for thoughts from people who might have hesitated to speak up in a space specifically tied to the grants process is the next step in that process; we’re hoping it may bring broader thoughts and ideas - on what harassment is, how it can be addressed, what's working in other places, what's working for us, and what it isn't working for us. It may also bring newer iterations of old ideas, as people’s thinking has evolved, or less fully formed ideas - things that people might not think would constitute a “project” but just potential approaches.
We are collaborating with grantmaking on how to get ideas that require resources back into the funding pipeline for re-assessment (or in some cases first assessment) there. Ideas that require other kinds of work - for instance, there are proposals here for a global policy or code of conduct - we will be bringing back for further discussion after the results of the survey are in, so we can start prioritizing and implementing community-supported solutions.
We are taking it very seriously, and we appreciate that others are, too. It gives us all much better chance of actually making change! --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 15:54, 2 December 2015 (UTC)Reply
Fair enough. Brainstorming[1], then, but with wikicode instead of circle diagrams or idea maps. A very useful interim statement of goals, and how the community outreach group is thinking about this. I can see it will be a long-range discussion, with more to come after the survey results are available, but this overview will be good to come back to later for reference. —Neotarf (talk) 01:02, 8 December 2015 (UTC)Reply