Threats of harm

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Crystal wordprocessing.png This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.
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The Wikimedia Foundation is a nonprofit organization created for the purpose of supporting the Wikimedia movement to advance the sum of all human knowledge, and hosts various wiki projects and websites to that end. However, it is not a mental health or support institution, and as such the information it presents cannot substitute for the advice of a medical professional. Individual wiki communities of the Foundation-hosted projects are mainly comprised of volunteers focused on building content for their individual wiki; but these volunteers are generally ill-equipped, and do not have any of the necessary formal training, to deal with complex situations involving real-life emergencies or threats of physical harm. This concept differs from real-life forms of harassment, including outing, on individual wiki projects; whereas harassment usually results from one's activities as a Wikimedian, threats of physical harm, including self-harm or suicide, occur when one real-life entity publicly announces the intention to cause physical harm to another. This page serves to outline and document the procedure for dealing with such issues, and complement the Foundation's legal policies addressing them.

Treat all claims seriously[edit]

The first thing you should do when you witness a threat of harm is to treat all claims seriously. Do not simply dismiss the threat out of hand, as a "joke" or an "attempt to troll". While it might be tempting to dismiss it as a childish cry for attention; if the threat turns out to be false, the worse that would happen is a little bit of time was wasted responding to it, and if the threat turns out to be true, you might well have saved some lives. Simply put, it is better to be safe than sorry.

In addition, although individuals who discuss suicide may not be actively suicidal, some of those people may become actively suicidal. The same can go for claims or threats of violence. Such claims may well be empty threats or hoaxes; however, Wikimedians generally are not properly trained to determine if they are true or verifiable, and should always assume the worst possible scenario. Treat all claims seriously and act as you would in a real emergency.

Contact the Wikimedia Foundation[edit]

As soon as you see a claim or threat of physical harm to persons ("I'm going to kill myself"; "I'm going to kill Person"; "I'm going to kill you") or property ("I'm going to blow up your school") , immediately contact the Wikimedia Foundation office staff at this special email address: emergency(at)wikimedia.org, which automatically forwards to a trained team of staff members available to respond to these incidents even outside of normal business hours. The Wikimedia Foundation has internal policies for office actions, such as the "On-Wiki Threat Protocol", which applies both domestically in the United States and internationally. Emails sent to other addresses or Foundation staff may not be received in a timely manner, or response might be delayed; thus this email address is the preferred contact point for such incidents and will produce a near-immediate reply of acknowledgement. (Please note: emails sent to this address for non-emergency issues may receive no response at all. If you need assistance of another kind, they cannot help you.)

Contact a functionary[edit]

Except for edge cases and other cases requiring common sense, such as where a functionary is the source of a threat, you should also contact the closest designated functionary for your local wiki immediately.

"Functionary" here is defined the highest body of authority responsible for overseeing your wiki, one that is typically governed by local policies and guidelines; for example, an Arbitration Committee and/or a resident team of appointed CheckUsers and Oversighters. If there is no ArbCom process, the "functionary" role may be relegated to local bureaucrats, or another special group as determined by local policy; and if there are no local bureaucrats, the "functionary" role may be relegated to local administrators, or another special group as determined by local policy. And finally, if there are no local members of your community elected to hold advanced permissions, or they may be inactive or hold the positions only temporarily, you may contact a steward to serve as local "functionary".

Recommended communication for receiving prompt attention include:

Functionaries should contact other functionaries even if they discover such a threat on their own. Other functionaries may be able to provide help more effectively, and a wider announcement is key to mobilizing such effort.

Functionary action[edit]

Consider blocking those issuing threats of violence to others, with their talkpage and email access revoked. However, if it is a threat of suicide or self-harm, discretion should be used as to whether or not blocking might be appropriate. The threats or claims should be RevisionDeleted or oversighted from the page history.

Responsibility[edit]

Wikimedia is primarily comprised of several volunteer-driven sites, and its volunteers might not be readily able to identify a threat or situation requiring emergency response even if they spot one. While Wikimedians' legal obligations to report a threat of harm might vary by country, volunteers do have a policy obligation to adhere to the Wikimedia Foundation's Terms of Use, as well as a moral obligation as members of the Wikimedia movement to not only spread free knowledge but also empower those suffering depression or violence.

See also[edit]