Talk:Ombuds commission

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Awareness of the accused[edit]

Hi all,

This is not specifically related to the most recent case, it's just one that made me think about asking:

What's the status of notification and evidence sharing with the accused? In ArbCom cases, evidence must be shared with the accused, in WMF bans, the evidence is not shared at all. As a body of community editors, not acting on the legal necessity side, I assume the Ombuds are closer to the former, but wanted to confirm and get the detail. Nosebagbear (talk) 11:28, 7 April 2022 (UTC)[reply]

  • Pinging every English-speaking member: @Ameisenigel, Infinite0694, Faendalimas, JJMC89, Mykola7, Olugold, Udehb, and Zabe: Nosebagbear (talk) 11:32, 7 April 2022 (UTC)[reply]
    Hi @Kbrown (WMF): (apologies if you are also watchlisting this, for the double-notification), since you said you were open to other questions I'd also ask you.
    1) First is just the question for this section - if the CU/OS/Steward (etc) is accused of something, do they receive the information needed to make a full defence? In the nature of the accusation, they would already have the relevant information and thus should have all detail shared to them to make their defence.
    2) You note that the OC can't give specifics because of the PII, but that only means you can't publicly share evidence (which is of course going to be the case for functionally anything with the Ombuds' remit) - it doesn't mean you, or more accurately, they, can't give far more details as to the accusations.
    For example, let's say that a CU has been looking up my and others' IP data without cause. PII would be giving out my IP address while explaining the case, clearly bad. But they could be de-CUed with the explanation "unwarranted CU checks without cause".
    This will inherently require nuance, and a case by case determination, but that's always the case - transparency is usually inefficient, but the positives outweigh the negatives. Nosebagbear (talk) 13:35, 7 April 2022 (UTC)[reply]
    @Nosebagbear: Thanks for the questions. I'll take a crack at them.
    1. Do they receive the information needed to make a full defence? This is part of OC's workflow, not the WMF's, but to the best of my understanding, they would get something along the lines of "We have received a report that [this checkuser/oversight/whatever action] was improper, would you please explain your justification for the action?" and then could engage in dialogue with OC about it.
    2. Can OC or the WMF give more details about these actions than they currently give? This is not something I can answer myself; I'd need to discuss it with the Legal team because that type of additional information disclosure would need to get their okay. I can surface it to Legal, if people think it's important to make the change, and see what they say, though my non-lawyer suspicion is that Legal's preference will always be "publicly share as little negative information about people as possible". Kbrown (WMF) (talk) 13:54, 7 April 2022 (UTC)[reply]
    @Kbrown (WMF) thanks for your quick response! Re point 1, that seems reasonable - given that I'm not aware of the actual functionaries complaining about having evidence withheld from them, it seems a sufficient response for now.
    Re point 2, you're no doubt correct that Legal would always have that preference - as with any compliance activity, their job is to reduce risk in their field. It needs other teams to point out that the reduction of legal risk comes with an increase in other risks. Here, that is a confidence that the conduct authorities of Wikimedia function properly and that the users of the most advanced permissions we have are using them correctly, and when not, that they are being handled correctly.
    In both cases, transparency (as much of it as we can get) is fundamental.
    Between your volunteering and T&S activity, I'm confident that you've read more en-wiki ARBCOM outcomes than I have, and they fairly frequently give fairly negative information about users. Afaik, the WMF isn't needing to spend large amounts of time or money resisting libel cases, and the same would seem to apply here. It's a volunteer body acting - it isn't the Foundation announcing the judgements (even if it may be doing the technical right removal). Nosebagbear (talk) 15:27, 7 April 2022 (UTC)[reply]
    Just a quick update that I've sent a question to the Legal team about the possibility of releasing more detailed information about rights removals. They may get back to me quickly if it turns out to be a simple answer, or it may take a while if it requires them to do research or debate internally. I'll let y'all know what I hear back. Kbrown (WMF) (talk) 13:26, 8 April 2022 (UTC)[reply]
    @Nosebagbear: Ok, I got sign-off from Legal to share a bit more information. What I can say is that both cases actioned last week involved situations where a Checkuser publicly connected one or more IP addresses to one or more accounts. Feel free to share that statement with anyone who's asked about the reasons behind the removals, if I don't get there first. I'm also looking into whether and how we can make it part of our workflow to release that level of detail (basically a general "what the problem was" without giving any specifics that might reveal private or confidential info) in all Ombuds-related WMF actions in the future. Kbrown (WMF) (talk) 12:15, 11 April 2022 (UTC)[reply]
Last time I was accused, If I Recall Correctly I only got 'we have complaints about XYZ' sort and had to defend from there, and not the full accusation like enwiki ArbCom evidences. — regards, Revi 04:38, 10 April 2022 (UTC)[reply]
Yes when we contact the defendant, which we do, we can only discuss the issue that the complaint was about we cannot reveal the Plaintiff. It is not always obvious. Although many of our requests come from people who feel they have been victims of some action they disagree with, such as being blocked for sockpuppetry, those are often dismissed. That is usually because its out of our mandate. The Ombuds do not adjudicate if a particular block, for example, was fair that is usually a local issue, if not local its the Stewards job. The ones we end up investigating are often sent to us by a third party, not directly involved in what happened. Possibly another CheckUser, or a Steward. Please note I am generalising here. The defendant will certainly have the opportunity to explain themselves. But in general theplaintiffs role was to point at an issue, the logs and edit histories are the evidence. Cheers Scott Thomson (Faendalimas) talk 23:35, 12 April 2022 (UTC)[reply]
Interesting, althought this is an international project, this wording seems to me contradicting the Sixth Amendment of the US-Constitution. Perhaps you should not treat the as "Plaintiffs". Habitator terrae (talk) 22:44, 14 April 2022 (UTC)[reply]
I think you could frame this as an argument about rights of the accused in general, but the constitution has zero bearing on the internal processes of a privately-owned website. Bringing it up harms rather than helps your point. Beeblebrox (talk) 02:15, 15 April 2022 (UTC)[reply]
It is not a private foundation. Furthermore how could I prove my point about existing rights of accused, without showing that it exists in e.g. the US constitution. Habitator terrae (talk) 14:00, 15 April 2022 (UTC)[reply]
en:Wikipedia:Free speech might be a worthwhile reading for you. — regards, Revi 19:51, 15 April 2022 (UTC)[reply]
"editorial discrection" in my view is still limited and can only decide whether this is the appropriate place, e.g. a lot of free speech in dewiki is happening in the, in my view useless, place de:Wikipedia:Café. So in fact free speech is possible on sites by Wikimedia.
So lets look whats the ombuds comission about: It is about "fairness and impartiality". Therefore we must take a look about how "fairness and impartiality" is defined and therefore I thought a look in e.g. the US-Constitution would be helpfull.
Habitator terrae (talk) 22:06, 15 April 2022 (UTC)[reply]

If you want to look at the US constitution as a source of inspiration that's one thing, but it does not actually apply to the governance of a website not administered by the US government. Beeblebrox (talk) 18:17, 18 April 2022 (UTC)[reply]

Since the O-commission describes its actions with legal terms like "plaintiff" and "defendant", we (the community) will recognize it as sort-of legal institution, which inevitably ends up at the constitution since there is no due process. - We should stop using legalese, and start with normal volunteer-to-volunteer communication. The point is: Volunteer communites considerably dislike being disregarded and held in the dark, and exactly this seems to happen right now. --MBq (talk) 08:52, 17 May 2022 (UTC)[reply]
And also that CU in particular relies on extremely nuanced detail both in the outcome but also, on whether a check should be run at all. Because of that nuance, it is also functionally impossible to defend yourself against a charge of misuse without referral to a specific incident - otherwise it's functionally general principles.
Notwithstanding any ombuds case (likely none, but possibly not) where there is a credible risk of significant off-wiki retaliation, I don't believe the accused should have any details hidden from them (even if required to keep it to themselves - obviously ombuds cases can't be heard fully publicly) Nosebagbear (talk) 15:30, 17 May 2022 (UTC)[reply]