Talk:Oversight policy/Archives/2013

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Warning! Please do not post any new comments on this page. This is a discussion archive first created in 2013, although the comments contained were likely posted before and after this date. See current discussion or the archives index.

Oversighter's Handbook on Commons

Hi,
this is just to let you know that I have just added a link to an unofficial Oversighter's Handbook that I had recently created on Commons. Of course, some of the procedures written down there are Commons–specific, but most of them should apply to all Wikimedia and, indeed, all MediaWiki–based wikis, so I hope that it might be useful for your oversight work.

If anyone has any suggestions for improvements or feedback, feel free to update the Handbook or post messages at its talk page. Thanks, odder (talk) 16:20, 20 June 2013 (UTC)

"Removal of potentially libellous information.. when the subject has specifically asked for the information to be removed from the history"

I am interested in reexamining the November 2009 removal of the "when the subject has specifically asked for the information to be removed from the history" limit, this time with more input from ordinary editors (via a notice on admin noticeboards, request for comment boards, etc). I'm disturbed by an oversighter's stated reason at the time that "This what I've been doing all along... [The Foundation legal team already] has enough work to do." This suggests that the limit was being routinely ignored by oversighters and those with oversighting powers felt a need to significantly expand the number of Office actions. My concern about expanding the number of Office-like actions follows from the fact that the "Office" appears to be far more interested in minimizing the number of actions that are not subject to community review than the oversighting team. Remember we are not talking about deletion here but hiding revisions from any kind of historical inquiry and without any transparency, in other words censorship in the proper meaning of the word (all that is disclosed is things like one oversighter suppressed material 298 times in a single month, a statistic that really says nothing beyond indicating there there is a lot of oversighting going on). I've seen material that had already appeared word-for-word in Italy's largest general interest newspaper and several other English media outlets hidden on English Wikipedia and defended as appropriately hidden by an ArbCom member. The oversighter involved later cited the Privacy policy and "nothing else" as governing his actions as opposed to this policy, such was his familiarity with the chapter and verse of what restricted his discretion. I have no idea how many other times an article's history has been hidden when the community would have opposed the hiding had the community been aware of just was hidden because, of course, it's all done behind the curtain, so to speak. Part of the reason I am suspicious is because English Wikipedia's Manual of Style currently states that article subjects have absolute sovereignty over how their article's read when it comes to their gender identity. I can sound like a man, look like a man, act like a man, be legally a man, and be universally referred to by the media as a "he," and I'm still a "she" according to Wikipedia if I say I am a she. This is how far deference to article subjects has gone, at least on English Wikipedia, and one cannot pretend there isn't a political agenda involved when "left wing" media have praised Wikipedia's stance on that particular issue and the "right wing" media thinks the deference to the wishes of article subjects is excessive. I would be far more comfortable with hiding revisions if oversighters came from an investigative journalism background or other organization whose primary job is to deliver information to the public as opposed to hiding it. When oversighters are not willing to disclose their legal identities to the editing community like I am, that raises further concern in my mind about how concerned they are with the value of transparency.--Brian Dell (talk) 14:29, 26 August 2013 (UTC)

Just how broadly is "potentially libelous" defined?

It is reasonable to assume that Office actions that address libel define libel legally since the "Office" consists of legal professionals. But there is no reference in this policy to the law or the relevance of any legal definitions. Nor is there any indication that oversighters are expected to be familiar with libel law. The definition of "libelous" is up to the discretion of the oversighter amd the oversighter need not feel restricted by the narrow definition of legal libel, is that correct? I note that the policy is, in fact, even broader than the oversighter's self-definition of libel as it extends to "potentially libelous." I dare say that at any given time there is usually somebody somewhere who thinks that something negative about a subject is "potentially libelous." If suppression can be that broadly applied, I believe it would only be fair if that suppression be applied in an unbiased way, and by that I mean extending the courtesy of suppression to other stakeholders. The U.S. government has provided an enormous amount of imagery to the Commons by virtue of deeming works done by U.S. government employees public domain, yet this oversight policy fails to acknowledge any sort of responsibility towards either the U.S. government any other free country. The Intelligence Identities Protection Act makes it a federal crime to expose the identities of U.S. intelligence agents yet I see no acknowledgement of this in this policy, despite the fact that Wikimedia has servers in the U.S. and disclosure of this information - even if the accuracy of that information has been verified by citing an obscure but "public" reliable source - could lead to people being killed. There is also no acknowledgement in this policy that it is illegal to disclose protected trade secrets. "Corporations are people," became a laugh line last year amongst people opposed to the politics of Mitt Romney, but as a matter of law it's true. If oversight isn't going to be either clearly constrained or subject to community review, I submit that these powers should not be used to exclusively advance the libertarian/civil liberties agenda that I see pushed so often on Wikimedia projects. If the subjects of biographies can get their articles censored without even asking for this I think fairness implies broadening this courtesy. I note that the FBI once asked us to help minimize counterfeiting of its official seal by reducing the resolution of its seal hosted on our servers. The FBI was, of course, told to get stuffed, yet if a gang of hardcore criminals should end up getting access to a protected area where they kill innocent civilians because they bluffed their way past security with counterfeit identification that they pulled off of a Wikimedia site, I dare say Wikimedia's sense of responsibility is disturbingly selective. --Brian Dell (talk) 05:45, 29 August 2013 (UTC)