Trust and Safety/Case Review Committee/Charter
This charter reflects the rights and responsibilities of the Interim Trust & Safety Case Review Committee (henceforth Case Review Committee).
The purpose of the Case Review Committee is to work in close collaboration with designated Wikimedia Foundation staff to review appeals by users directly involved in cases closed by the Foundation under its office action policy for harassment for the time period between the establishment of the review committee and the full operative state of Universal Code of Conduct enforcement as defined in the Board statement on community culture 2020. Cases qualifying for review by the Case Review Committee are those closed by the Foundation with action or inaction under office action policy excluding statutory, regulatory, employment, and legal policies as defined by Foundation attorneys. Only parties directly affected by an office action sanction or directly involved in filing a request can file a case review request. The Case Review Committee will either ratify, overturn, or call for the reconsideration/additional investigation of the Foundation's Trust and Safety team (T&S) decisions in these cases under review. Additionally, they will communicate at appropriate levels to involved parties the outcome of review and will keep a tally for the community of the numbers of cases reviewed and the percentages ratified, overturned, or returned for further consideration/investigation.
The function of this Case Review Committee is to protect community members from overly intrusive, overly strict, or overly lax enforcement of conduct standards by the Foundation. The committee functions as a partner to the Foundation in helping to ensure fair treatment of individuals in specific cases. The Case Review Committee will have access to confidential information to review against a set of criteria defined below, and it will be necessary for members to enter into a legal relationship with the Foundation to access this information. For the protection of committee members and individuals involved in cases, the members of the committee will not be publicly identified, but will be known to some Foundation staff, to the Trust & Safety advisors of the Board of Trustees, and to the Ombuds Commission. All members must be willing to abide by confidentiality and privacy requirements.
The objectives of this process are to:
- Provide opportunity for an interim community review for Foundation office decisions in those behavioral cases where:
- a) the cases are not conducted because of statutory, regulatory, employment, or legal policies as defined by Foundation attorneys (for example, harassment and incivility-focused behavioral cases would be appropriate for review), and
- b) the appealing party is directly involved, either as complainants or accused;
- Ensure that cases receive appropriate review and volunteers are treated fairly if they receive Foundation sanctions or if their requests that the Foundation take action against other users is declined;
- Maximize the degree of transparency the Foundation can provide to the Case Review Committee, aiming to enable the best informed decision possible on any given appeal request;
- Minimize emotional impact for directly involved users by providing timely conclusions of the Case Review Committee’s cases;
- Maximize the safety of committee members in line with the Board’s statement; and
- Maximize the degree of transparency to the community within the framework of objectives 1 to 5.
The General Counsel of the Wikimedia Foundation shall appoint a volunteer committee of ten to twelve international volunteers who will work with staff assigned to the review workflow. The General Counsel may appoint one or more additional international volunteer functionaries to serve as alternate committee members to act in the place and stead of any absent volunteer committee members. Committee appointments are for one year or until a permanent review committee is created and fully operational under the Universal Code of Conduct, whichever comes first, or unless a committee member requests their own removal or is replaced by the General Counsel at her discretion, including upon request of the Committee Chair. (If for any reason a permanent committee should not be operational at the end of one year, committee members may be asked to continue or may apply for a second term, although additional applicants will also be sought.)
Traits sought in committee members include experience participating in community collaboration and discussion workflows, demonstrated ability to assess complex disputes, ability to protect private information, and ability to collaborate calmly and effectively with others in high stakes discussions. Individuals under active sanctions in any project at the time of application are not eligible. Individuals must be at least 18 years of age at the time the committee is formed. English language fluency is a must, as cases are written in often complex English and providing translations would be costly and time-prohibitive. Current and past Foundation staff are prohibited, as are current staff of movement affiliates.
The selection process will be based on the following fields of movement experience, with the goal of achieving linguistic and gender diversity:
- Current or former Steward,
- Former member of the Ombuds Commission (current members ineligible),
- Current or former member of a Wikimedia Arbitration Committee,
- Current or former member of other volunteer functionary roles,
- Current or former administrator of a Wikimedia project, and/or
- Experienced contributor in a Wikimedia affiliate.
All Case Review Committee members are required to:
- Abide by the terms of this charter;
- Sign committee-specific NDAs or other legal documents as required by the Wikimedia Foundation’s Legal department to obtain access to confidential case data;
- Agree that their Wikimedia user names will be shared with the Wikimedia Foundation, certain members of the Board of Trustees, the Ombudsman Commission, and other members of the Committee;
- Otherwise agree that their membership in the Case Review Committee will remain anonymous and that they will not share the legal identities or usernames of any other members of the Committee, in order to protect all volunteer participants in the committee from retaliation;
- Complete a series of training on policies and protocols conducted by the Wikimedia Foundation’s Legal department;
- Be available to review cases before the Case Review Committee of up to five hours per week for most weeks for the duration of their appointment by reading existing Trust & Safety case files (not by independent investigation), with as much advance notice as possible of upcoming unavailability;
- Inform the General Counsel immediately if subject to any community sanctions during their term. Sanctions are not automatic grounds for exclusion, but will warrant counsel review; and
- Inform the Committee Chair and the General Counsel if at any time they are asked to review a case for which they feel they may have a conflict of interest (such as close relationship with an individual involved in a case) for their assessment of appropriateness of assignment. Individuals are encouraged to instead recuse themselves if they are aware that such a conflict does exist (whether positive or negative) or if they have been involved in the details of the case in question.
Specifically, the committee’s responsibilities include:
- Appointing a committee chair by vote. The duties of the chair include ensuring that at least five members of the committee are assigned to each case review, with the goal of diverse experience and backgrounds assigned to each case, and ensuring that the members of the committee are active as necessary to meet their duties.
- With communication support provided by the Foundation, maintaining a Case Review Committee presence on Meta through a role user account, providing
- a) General information about the Case Review Committee, protecting the anonymity of all individual members while also detailing relevant qualifications of the participants in general enough terms to maintain that anonymity;
- b) The Case Review Committee charter and general process information;
- c) Contact information for review requests;
- d) Procedural case updates on opening and closure dates of cases before the Case Review Committee (in aggregate; individual cases under review will not be identified except where sanctions are overturned); and
- e) Overall tallies of numbers of cases ratified versus numbers of cases modified after review.
- Promptly disclosing review requests for eligibility consideration to assigned Legal Liaison.
- Standing five members of the committee to review each eligible case file to determine by simple majority within 14 business days of appointing the five members whether:
- a) The cases were appropriately handled by the Foundation rather than deferred to local community processes,
- b) The Trust & Safety team assembled sufficient evidence to assess the allegations within the parameters of respecting the safety of any confidential information,
- c) The Trust & Safety team correctly determined according to evidence assembled if the conduct described in the report does or does not qualify as a violation of relevant policy, and
- d) Sanctions issued by Trust & Safety (or choice to issue no sanction) are appropriate to the circumstances of the case,
- Upon decision to ratify or overturn a case, or to send it back for reevaluation or further investigation, communicating that decision to the General Counsel for formal approval and, thereafter, to appropriate parties involved in a case.
- Meeting quarterly as a committee to discuss committee function and recommend improvements to the system as well as meeting if necessary to discuss complex case closures within essential timeline.
Eligibility for review and parameters of action
Only individuals directly involved in a case may request review, either as requestor or as an individual under investigation. Only cases within the scope of Trust & Safety under the Foundation’s office action policy are eligible for review. If Trust & Safety declines to investigate a case, deferring it to community processes, it is not eligible for review under this process.
Some office cases are not eligible for review. Excluded cases are those conducted because of statutory, regulatory, employment, or legal policies as defined by Foundation attorneys. A Foundation attorney will check each case appealed before turning over case files to the committee. If a case falls under the exclusion, the attorney will explain why to the review committee and the committee will notify the review requester of the limitation. In all such cases, Foundation decisions are not subject to appeal and case files cannot be shared for review.
The case review body does not have the authority to issue sanctions itself, but may overturn eligible Foundation office action decisions where they deem appropriate or send a case back for further investigation. Any sanctions placed are maintained during further investigation, but overturned sanctions will be reversed as soon as the Foundation is able to implement. If the Case Review Committee determines that a case closed with no action should have incurred action, it will be returned to Trust & Safety to propose actions to the General Counsel through the usual process. The Case Review Committee will be consulted to review cases remanded for further investigation or new or more severe sanctions before the Trust & Safety case is concluded. Overturned sanctions are not an automatic endorsement of the behavior of an individual involved, but may result from a conclusion that the matter should have been handled at the community level. In such cases, the issue may be remanded for community review, where an appropriate body exists to review the same (although without access to Trust & Safety’s case files).
Duration of Interim Committee
The Interim Trust & Safety Case Review Committee is being established with anticipation that it will be superseded by a permanent process by July 1, 2021. It is possible that the interim process will become the basis of a permanent process with appropriate policy review and refinement as part of the development and follow-up from the ongoing Universal Code of Conduct conversations. If a permanent process is not prepared to supersede it before July 1, 2021, the Interim Trust & Safety Case Review Committee may be maintained with another call for applications or the General Counsel may implement a one-time extension of the committee for up to six months, if it is believed the permanent process may be completed by the end of that extension.
The operation of the committee may be suspended if information about cases or committee members is leaked and there is credible reason to believe the leak originates within the committee. The Foundation will remove any committee members found responsible for leaking information and may pursue additional actions, including office actions, if leaks are discovered to be intentional. Once the leak is addressed and information processed by the committee is again secure, the committee will resume operations.
- The Chair, the Vice Chair, and the Chair of the Product Committee, which also advises Trust & Safety work within the Foundation
- Members may choose to disclose their own identities, but not the identities of other members, six months after their departure from or the dissolution of the committee.
- If a leak originates within the Foundation, the committee may not need to be suspended, and the leak will be addressed under personnel disciplinary procedures.
- Q. Why are the committee members anonymous?
- A. Community governance carries with it several risks, including a risk of retaliation by people disappointed with case review outcomes (even from those who are simply informed that their case is not eligible for review, for instance, because it is criminal in nature) and a risk of pressure to expose private information, even through hostile external organizations or governments. For the safety of the interim committee members and for the safety of individuals involved in cases, the Foundation will be requiring this anonymity to reduce these risks. However, the members of the committee will be identified to the Ombuds Commission, a small trusted group of community functionaries, who can confirm general details about the composition of the committee.
- Q. Who will be reviewing these applications?
- A. Some stewards who do not themselves intend to apply have agreed to review applications to help assess suitability to serve in this capacity. The final selection from amongst candidates they deem eligible will be made by the General Counsel.
- Q. What steps are being taken to protect the privacy of individuals who lodge complaints with Trust & Safety or are accused of wrongdoing?
- A. In order to even review the case files, the Case Review Committee will need to enter into a legal relationship with the Wikimedia Foundation that allows us to safely share this material. The legal documents they sign will also include a very specific non-disclosure agreement. These legal documents will be made public when complete so that the communities can see the terms.
- Q. What kind of cases can this committee review?
- A. This committee is able to review cases that are accepted by Trust & Safety for assessment under its policies that are not conducted because of statutory, regulatory, employment, or legal policies. A Foundation attorney will determine what cases are eligible for appeal. The intention of the review is to provide assurance of appropriateness and fairness for what has been termed “borderline” cases of harassment and incivility, including cases that should perhaps have been left to community governance processes. Cases where the Foundation’s attorneys assess a legal duty to act are excluded. Members of the committee will not be given access to those files.
- Q. Will the case review committee be able to review older cases?
- A. The case review committee may review any eligible case handled by Trust & Safety regardless of whether the case was closed before or after the date the committee was established. Each case may be reviewed only once. Launching the review of a case requires that an appeal be made by an individual directly involved in a case, either in requesting the case or being the subject of the case.
- Q. How will this committee work? What are its precise processes?
- A. This information is still in development and will be finalized in consultation with committee members. However, we anticipate creating a special account for this committee to receive appeal requests that is accessible by the committee chair and by a contractor supplied to support the committee with its communications and paperwork.
- Q. Who in the Wikimedia Foundation will know the identity of committee members?
- A. The Executive Director, the General Counsel, the Deputy General Counsel, the Senior Counsel supporting the committee, the Vice President of Community Resilience & Sustainability, and the contractor hired to support the committee's work will have access to the finalized list of participants. Additional legal staff required to support in finalizing and filing signed agreements may also have access to this information. Each of these individuals is (or in the case of the contractor will be) under a Non-Disclosure Agreement with the Foundation and aware of their responsibilities to hold this information confidential. Beyond this, there is no current intention to share this information with other staff and contractors of the Foundation; rather, steps have been taken to isolate this information, including from individuals who work on the Foundation's Trust & Safety team. There may be reasons that will arise that will require additional staff being made aware of the identities of these individuals, and thus the agreement requires that the committee members authorize sharing this information with the Foundation in general. Foundation attorneys need to remain flexible to support and protect the committee and the community and will determine if additional internal Foundation disclosure is required. The members of the committee will be advised if their identities need to be shared with any others on staff or contracted by the Foundation and why.