Talk:Universal Code of Conduct/Draft proposal from User:Pine

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Response from Aron[edit]

Originally sent to wikimedia-l. —AronM🍂 edits🌾 20:10, 20 June 2020 (UTC)

Your proposal was thought-provoking. I was about to share my thoughts on it for a long time:

First, I think there are 3 aspects to the discussion on the CoC:

  1. The values and standards defined in the CoC: policy making.
  2. Establishing those standards in the community: education.
  3. Ensuring those standards are upheld: enforcement.

These have very different considerations and challenges, therefore it's important to distinguish. I saw in the community feedback that 1. and 3. (definition and enforcement) are discussed intermixed. Most notably I've seen many reactions worried about how enforcement (3) will be done, finding fault in the idea of having a CoC (1).

Furthermore, I haven't seen education (2) being discussed, although I believe that part is necessary to prevent issues escalating to enforcement. For ex. if we take a look at the first five points of the Contributor Covenant:

  • Demonstrating empathy and kindness toward other people
  • Being respectful of differing opinions, viewpoints, and experiences
  • Giving and gracefully accepting constructive feedback
  • Accepting responsibility and apologizing to those affected by our mistakes, and learning from the experience
  • Focusing on what is best not just for us as individuals, but f+or the overall community

These are values we strive for, therefore I would include in a CoC. These are not to be enforced, it would be ridiculous to ban an editor for not being empathetic, but it's an important declaration of values to aim for. To make these values a reality I believe the key is education, showing an example and rewarding such behavior.

I reckon your proposal discusses the 3rd aspect: enforcement. That comes into effect when the opposite of the above values is experienced, such as hostility. My thought on your points:


I think that a global code of conduct, and a way to enforce it, could
be good in some limited but important circumstances:
(1) Where the governance of a Wikimedia project or another WMF conduct
review organization has allegedly been compromised so extensively that
removal of all of its administrators, functionaries, and/or other
authorities should be considered for the purpose of providing a
relatively "clean start" for reforming the affected domain's
governance, or a domain is allegedly becoming so anarchic that
peacekeeping from outsiders is necessary to restore order.

That would be a very beneficial application. The "clean start" requires criterions or some form of an election for choosing new admins or functionaries. That's worth a separate topic in itself.


... I think that local
administrators and functionaries who have good knowledge of a
project's policies, guidelines, and language(s) are best placed to
address these disputes.

In a scalable dispute resolution system with well-defined paths of escalation local admins then functionaries would be part of that path.


(4) silencing debates or unwelcome opinions for the purpose of making
people feel safe.

This is a valid concern, in my opinion observable in how the Technical Code of Conduct committee interprets the CoC and deals with feedback about development mistakes and decisions that startled the community. There are a few editors, who weren't careful enough when expressing their disappointment - mostly about Flow and VE - and received a temporary or permanent ban in response.

I've also observed this very regularly in disputes on the big wikis (not just enwiki). I think this is one of the major reasons for editors leaving and it will be difficult to address this issue. I believe the high stakes of blocking makes the threat of blocking (usually implied, not explicit) a strong tool in silencing debates. As blocks are very difficult to apply to editors, whose work is highly valued, that threat usually affects one side in a dispute, thus becoming discouraging from open debate. This shortcoming of the original blocking model predetermines the outcome of many debates, when one side is practically exempt from the conduct policies. These stakes were somewhat reduced by the introduction of partial blocks, which reduces the severity of sanctions and might even be applied to editors, who would have been considered unblockables.

To avoid use of bans as a silencing tool, a similar refined approach needs to be taken with CoC enforcement as well. The focus should be on resolving disputes and - only if necessary - applying the minimal effective sanction. Bans should be the very last resort, only after a number of smaller sanctions failed. These escalation models can be well defined, detailing the possible breadth and length of sanctions.

In comparison, the length and severity of blocks is now at the discretion of administrators without limitations, allowing overzealous blocks.


The Internet is not a safe place, and no amount of
heavy policing will effectively guarantee safety on a large scale.
Also, heavy policing can have the effects of stifling uncomfortable
debates and providing cover for incompetence and corruption.

Yes, that's part of the reality of any governing structure. "Checks and balances" are the way to counter and minimize the use of privileges in ways that benefit individuals, not to the community. Transparency and diverse committees (the members motivations and biases are different - balance), accountability, regular review (checks) are the models to be applied. Furthermore, cases should be evaluated by a committee that's most independent from the involved parties. This necessitates having more committees, for ex. enwiki ArbCom could be one. Collaboration between committees should be an option too.


This is
not to say that we should accept people trying to bully newcomers or
publish political propaganda on content pages, but I think that these
issues are best resolved locally and the norms for them are best
created locally. In some cases, problems with content may be resolved
as a secondary effect of resolving problems with conduct.

We are at a point of discussing these issues movement-wide, because these were not resolved locally. To handle CoC reports, the old structures need to be revitalized and new structures created with the involvement of trained personnel. These would improve and extend the current local processes, not replace those.


The above are personal opinions. Thank you for reading.

Aron 7 Apr 2020

Comment from Pbsouthwood[edit]

Pine makes several good points, and mostly I agree with them. Aron's commentary is also worthy of consideration. All of these points should be considered in the draft CoC, and where there is significant deviation, this should be motivated, preferably with supporting evidence. · · · Peter (Southwood) (talk): 18:37, 16 August 2020 (UTC)