Universal Code of Conduct

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The Wikimedia movement needs a binding set of ethical guidelines[edit]

Together we have imagined a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. At times, our contributor communities and projects have suffered for a lack of guidelines that not only bind us all together but also help us collectively create an environment where free knowledge can be shared safely without fear. In order to move closer toward this vision, we need to ensure that everyone who would like to share important knowledge on our platforms feels comfortable and welcome to join us.

We have missed out on important knowledge because people did not feel comfortable and safe contributing to our platforms.[1][2] There has been talk about the need for a global set of conduct rules in different communities over time. These guidelines can help build a constructive and inclusive environment that encourages sharing free knowledge. This page describes the background, potential benefits, and timeline for a proposed universal code of conduct.

The universal code of conduct will apply to all of us - staff and volunteers alike, all around the globe. It will function as a tool to harmonize the many existing behavioural policies and guidelines in the Wikimedia movement.

Communities work in highly varied contexts and we value this diversity. No code of conduct will be able to cover every situation and issue. Building on the approach taken for the BLP policy it aims to provide a basic level of norms that everyone working on the projects will be asked to follow and build upon. This will help all of us to safeguard Wikimedians from abuse, harassment or similar experiences on Wikimedia platforms.

Wikidata, Commons, Wikipedias, Wiktionaries, Wikisources and other projects already represent a vast and valuable collation of knowledge. They also host many different approaches and systems to guide communities of online volunteers on behavioral issues. Many amazing people have put in countless hours, not only to create the content but also to help communities thrive in this context. They have already created a rich collection of knowledge on norms and policies for online work. Yet, more than half of Wikipedias, for example, currently do not have behavioral policies guiding their self-governance.

As per the Community Insights report (2018), 40% of over 250 people surveyed reported that the existing conduct policies on various Wiki projects needed "Quite a bit" or "A lot" of improvement in order to be effective, while 48% reported the amount of improvement required to be "A little" or "None". Also, about 22% of Wikimedians reported avoiding Wikimedia projects for one to three days because they felt unsafe while contributing to the projects.

Circle frame.svg

Wikipedia conduct policies distribution according to T&S assessment, by active editor count. (The accuracy of these assessments has been disputed.)      Wikipedias with no or little conduct policies (9.88%)     (English Wikipedia) (44.02%)     Very similar policy names and content to en.wiki (3.98%)     A combination of original and translated policies (15.85%)     At least one unique policy (23.44%)     Unassessed (2.83%)

Learning from and reflecting behavioural policies from across the movement[edit]

For more information on research methodology used - a. Wikipedia projects, b. Other Wiki projects.

Over the years, many of the larger Wiki communities have developed nuanced sets of behavioral/conduct policies that promote and encourage a friendly environment within the projects. The universal code of conduct learns from those existing policies. Larger communities can use this universal code of conduct to review and polish their existing policies by seeing the bigger picture around the movement. New communities and communities that have only started to develop their own policies can look at the code of conduct for guidance and take it as a baseline until they have developed their own set of rules to build upon it.

The Trust & Safety Team has gathered behavioural policies and guidelines from all Wikimedia projects, all the languages, and all the communities, and aims to combine them into one large framework of globally accepted behavioural policies across Wikimedia movement. Any suggestions for the universal code of conduct are rooted in this work. Looking at the final version of the code of conduct, hopefully,  will see something new which they can further develop and adapt.  

The universal code of conduct aims to serve as the reference point for all behavioural guidelines in practice across the movement.

Wikipedia conduct policies distribution. Caption clockwise from right: 53.1% (Wikipedias with no or little conduct policies); 16.3% (Very similar policy names and content to en.wiki); 1.63% (A combination of original and translated policies); 14.3% (At least one unique policy).

Community participation[edit]

The T&S team presented the idea of a universal code of conduct at the Wikimania 2019 in Stockholm and the CEE meeting in Belgrade. Community members engaged actively in discussions and came up with strong ideas for making the project more comprehensive. Community members shared their thoughts on elements they would like to see in the universal code of conduct and elements that should be kept away. The T&S team collected feedback from both the conferences in written format. The team and the community also brainstormed on possible ways of collaboration and doing collective work on the project.

This will be followed by a public consultation soon. These active interactions will facilitate the influx of wide-ranging ideas and novel perspectives which will help us in making the universal of conduct more robust and inclusive.

Upcoming steps[edit]

As per the Board of Trustees’ statement, there will be two phases for this project; the first, looking at behavioural standards, aims to present a draft of proposed behavioural minimums to the Board in late August 2020. There will be three focus areas in preparing for this stage:

  • Wikipedias and active sister projects
  • Building on the work of the 19 preliminary community consultations, we will be launching on-wiki outreach to every language project, with discussions facilitated on as many projects as possible where a discussion has not already occurred.
  • Where active, Arbitration Committees in our larger communities will be formally contacted, given space to outline concerns, and supported to talk with their communities.
  • Affiliates
  • We will conduct focused outreach to affiliates, including surveys and interviews, resources, and assistance in bringing the topic to their membership

The Draft UCoC will be prepared by a hybrid volunteer/staff Drafting Committee, working from the baseline document of the Contributor’s Covenant as recommended by the Movement Strategy Community Health Working Group. This committee will review feedback and research, and will be facilitated by a dedicated staff team outside of Trust & Safety. The committee’s draft will be posted on Meta as part of the comment period before a finalized version is sent to the Board.


Wikimedia early community outreach Date
Publish a summary of local language consultations June 15
Affiliate outreach: surveys and interviews June 15 - end of July
Large communities: Arbitration Committees and feedback from local on-wiki discussions compiled Late July
Medium and smaller communities: Outreach completed, and feedback compiled. Late July
Wikimedia Foundation Staff Research: Survey completed and summarized Late July
Drafting stages and community review Date
Call for Participation - Drafting Committee July 1
Application period closes July 15
Drafting committee selected July 17
Reading Period - Committee reviews research, consultation summaries, and previous discussions July 17 - 31
Drafting Committee: Active Drafting Stage August 1 - 23
UCoC Draft: Community comment period August 24 - September 23
Committee Revision period: final draft revised in light of community comments September 23 - 29
Final stage: UCoC Draft delivered to Board of Trustees for review with links to community comments September 30

Subsequent work[edit]

Over the coming years, our communities will grow and evolve. We are not only a knowledge institution but also a learning institution, therefore, we will continue to find ways to integrate new concepts and improvements into the code of conduct. The movement will want to review the Universal code of conduct at regular intervals in order to keep it relevant and efficient.

A similar question goes for the enforcement of the guidelines once they are drafted. The Wikimedia movement is run by the communities, therefore they remain the prime authority to roll out the guidelines. As per the current plan, the responsibility of enforcement will be handled by the communities and administrators of various wiki projects. Enforcement of the Universal Code of Conduct will be the subject of a second phase of this project, currently scheduled to be discussed from September through December 2020.

We want to grow and thrive together - we hope with your input we will create a code of conduct that will help our movement advance.

Communities are strongly encouraged to regularly share their experiences, ideas, and learnings with behavioural policies here on Meta, in upcoming consultations and discussions, or via email.



Below, these proposals are not from the Wikimedia Foundation. These are individual proposals from specific users.


  1. "Harassment_Survey_2015" (PDF). Commons.wikimedia.org. WMF. 
  2. "Community_Insights/2018_Report". meta.wikimedia.org. WMF.