Universal Code of Conduct/2021 consultations/Enforcement
This page summarises the local language consultations for Phase 2 of the Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC) project, held from late January to early March 2021. They discussed how to enforce the UCoC policy with target language communities in discussion channels and platforms frequented by each of those communities. The findings of individual outreach can be read at:
- Bangla + Assamese + Bishnupriya
- Wikimedia Commons
- Igbo + Hausa + Twi
- Maithili + Newari + Bhojpuri + Doteli
In October 2020, after concluding an open feedback-sharing process with the community, the drafting committee completed the Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC) policy draft. The draft was then sent to the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees for review. The UCoC project team then began preparations for phase 2, which involves additional collaboration with communities to explore potential enforcement pathways for the global policy. Drafting a universal set of guidelines that could apply to the entire Wikimedia movement was a complex task in itself. It was evident in the drafting stage that the task of exploring potential enforcement pathways would be even harder.
This is particularly true for a system that has to function well in a diverse set of existing local governance models. Cognizant of this challenge, the Trust & Safety Policy team conducted research to better understand the existing enforcement pathways in various communities. Given the complex nature of the Wikimedia ecosystem and the diverse functioning ways of communities, it was difficult to gather and gauge all the elements that effectively determine the efficacy of a governance system.
The project team collected as much information as available, to map, understand, and distinguish the various practised enforcement models in different communities. This included checking which communities have governing bodies and functionaries such as ArbComs, Checkusers, or Bureaucrats that look into cases of behavioural violations. The team analyzed factors such as the general activity levels at the administrative notice boards of different communities, the existence of an appeal process, and the average number of blocks that a community issued over a certain period. Taking all this information into account, the team then classified the communities into three groups: communities with effective enforcement systems, communities with moderately functional enforcement systems, and communities with little or no enforcement systems.
The team hired three facilitators from each of these categories taking into account potential facilitators' experience levels in their projects, their language skills, and their knowledge of other communities in the movement.
In January 2021, the UCoC project team launched local language consultations with the help of nine multilingual facilitators who were able to engage with twenty-one language communities, including Wikidata and Wikimedia Commons.
The consultation started simultaneously in all the target communities. It commenced with announcements on village pumps or community portals. Those were followed by a continued discourse on several other channels as per community practices.
Overall, the six-week-long facilitation process was divided into three major segments. The first stage involved posting the call for participation on community portals and widely used social media channels. This was done to inform the community about the start of the consultation and to invite them into an open discussion on the subject of UCoC enforcement. The second stage involved launching surveys. It was observed in previous consultations that many community members preferred surveys as a more secure place to express their opinion. Through surveys, a large number of users voice their concerns or share their ideas in an anonymised manner. Therefore, this avenue of input sharing was kept open in Phase 2 consultations as well. Most of the surveys were posted publicly as site notices on community discussion pages, which facilitated wider outreach. The third stage of the consultation focused on getting more personalized inputs. Several virtual group meetings and personal chats were organized with interested community members. This provided them with a platform for open verbal discussion and collective brainstorming on feasible enforcement pathways for UCoC for their respective communities.
Medium of Engagement
Like the Phase 1 Initial consultations, the medium of engagement was determined by the needs, preferences and existing practices of the communities and participants. The facilitation team tried to incorporate as many methods and channels as possible, to allow a wider range of venues for community members to participate in the discussion according to their comfort level.
The facilitation team received responses from 3553 community members. The number is indicative of the users and not the number of responses as multiple responses from a single user were counted as one. The redundancies concerning responses from similar users on different platforms were also removed. For example, if one user took part in discussions on multiple channels (village pump, social media chats, group calls, one to one meetings etc.), they were still counted as one. However, this could not be entirely done for the responses received through surveys, as a majority of them were submitted anonymously. Thus, it is likely that some of the users who responded to surveys also engaged on at least one other medium. The total number of participants who responded through surveys is 2995, and the number of people who responded through other mediums is 558.
The local language consultations brought out diverse ideas on potential enforcement pathways for UCoC, the structure of enforcement bodies, and peer support systems for the targets of harassment.
The findings of individual language outreach can be read below:
- Bangla + Assamese + Bishnupriya
- Wikimedia Commons
- Igbo + Hausa + Twi
- Maithili + Newari + Bhojpuri + Doteli
As expected, the team received a diverse set of ideas about workable enforcement mechanisms for UCoC. The phase 2 consultations which were primarily focused on the enforcement discussion of the UCoC, was an open conversation. This means there were numerous back and forth exchanges between community members and facilitators. Because it was a dialogue, it is hard to quantify the ideas shared on the potential enforcement mechanism and enforcement body. Communities acknowledged that it is imperative to form a feasible enforcement system for UCoC to be effective. However, the ideas around what that enforcement system should look like were extremely varied. Some were shared with certainty while others with apprehension. There was no clear unanimous choice and similarly no unified opposition. It was observed that communities felt implementing one standard structure throughout the movement would be impractical. If implemented, the system will have to go through multiple rounds of changes and amendments, until it can satisfactorily be called functional by the communities.
1. Creation of local bodies within communities
Formation of local bodies to specifically look into and handle cases of conduct violations, was one of the most popular choices from several community members in almost all the language communities. Some communities wanted the local body to be something like ArbComs whereas some wanted a group of Administrators to be appointed within the community with the sole responsibility of looking into behavioural issues. A few communities also supported the idea of creating an altogether new body for UCoC so as not to add to the responsibility of existing functionaries. But, it was stressed throughout the consultation that the knowledge of cultural context and language is imperative to anyone responsible for handling cases of abuse or harassment.
For this choice, several community members also said that to function effectively, the local body would need to have support from the Foundation so that communities can build their own tools and resources to better handle issues at the local level.
When it comes to enforcement, I want the projects with the arbitration committee to remain self-ruled/independent, in the sense that no outsider can, under the pretext of UCoC, impose locks / global bans (blocks/locks) on users solely for their actions on those projects. [...] In my opinion, local communities should self-regulate; only in extreme cases should there be an intervention by WMF; and this is also unlikely to change because even now WMF can intervene with the help of the so-called Office Actions.— A Polish community member
Administrators already deal with some of the unacceptable behaviors in the UCoC as there is considerable overlap between the UCoC and local policies, administrators seem the most natural choice to handle reports. I would be concerned that if stewards were put in charge of handling reports they could be overwhelmed if the volume of requests is high across all Wikimedia projects. I also don't think a new global body is necessary given that there are already several user groups that deal with similar issues.— A Wikidata community member
2. Creation of a global enforcement body
The communities were divided on whether this body should exist on top of local enforcement bodies or as an isolated one. According to some community members, a global oversight is imperative to successfully implement a global policy such as the UCoC. But many communities also made it clear that they do not want that body to be either a team within the Foundation or a body appointed solely by the Foundation. Most of the comments received indicated a preference for a community-elected global enforcement body such as a global ArbCom. It was expressed that the composition of this body, selection process, and term lengths, would need to be thoroughly considered.
I support the establishment of an Ombudsman Commission to enforce the code of conduct, maybe the sysops could be the one that would help its enforcement. If there is a dispute between editors that is regarding code of conduct violation, it should be handled per the procedures. My next questions would probably be about how to establish the Ombudsman Commission, once the discussion has started.— An Indonesian community member
In my opinion, it is better to assign an elected group of individuals from the community (they don't have to be administrators) who directly have relations with the foundation.— An Arabic community member
3. A combination of local enforcement and global bodies
Another major option popular among the communities was the setting up of local resolution councils/bodies for UCoC that have a defined escalation channel leading to the global body. Communities expressed that often there are cases where the local enforcement bodies are not or might not be the appropriate body to look into behavioural violations. Particular areas of concern were:
- Cases where an admin or a member of the enforcement body is involved in the case.
- Cases where a target does not feel safe reporting the issue to the local body
- The case involved is remarkably complex
For this selection, there were also strong suggestions of setting up a system of appeal process so that reporters who are not happy with the way their cases were handled could approach the global body for a review.
The global body can work like an appeal panel which will come into picture after exhausting the existing local arbitration methods.— A Yoruba community member
At every level i.e from the community level to executives of the WMF there must be a team/cell/desk to handle UCoC violation issues. At community levels, the members could be elected publicly by registered users. This team shouldn't be bigger than the 4-5 members and one of the members must be a female member. When issues and grievances pertaining to female editors must be addressed by a nominated female member. Fixed criteria must be set for the membership of the committee.— A Santali community member
4. Trust & Safety team of the Foundation
A very small portion of the responses also suggest that some communities are not opposed to the idea of T&S playing some role in the overall enforcement process. For the most part, this option was only considered acceptable in cases where individual communities did not have the capabilities to develop an enforcement system on their own.
A combination of a global committee and T&S can be put in place— A Commons community member
We are all volunteers at the end of the day, we only have so much time. Am I willing to sit in the committee to talk about labour and law? Not really. This is my job, my profession. I enjoy myself by writing articles [...]. We have been trying to get the committee going on Afrikaans Wikipedia for the last few years. [...] People are interested not in politics, but knowledge, in birds and fishes and dams and bridges and roads. None of us is interested in politics, we have spent too much time going at it anyway.— An Afrikaans community member
5. Reporting Systems
There was unanimous demand for a reporting system that allows users to report issues anonymously. The facilitators discovered that in many communities, a vast majority of harassment cases are never reported to the governing bodies because of the absence of secure reporting mechanisms. This is particularly true in smaller communities. Facilitators discovered that way more harassment cases happen in their communities than are reported. This was news even to facilitators who have spent over 10 years in their communities. This attests that the fear of speaking up is deeply entrenched in many communities. On top of this, multiple factors make reporting hard and also complex to deal with.
Communities shared the following situations where users find it hard to report a case:
- Reporting as a minor.
- Reporting in cases that involve different legal standards. Here, most common are the cases where the perpetrator and the target are governed by different legislation.
- Reporting about issues involving sexuality. Such cases are reported less in general, mostly because of the fear of further escalation of an already difficult situation.
- Difficulty in reporting cases long after the time of the incidents
- Reporting against well-known people or users holding positions of power in the movement. The same is true for the reverse situations. Users holding positions of power also find it harder to report cases.
- Male users are often reluctant to report sexual harassment.
- Reporting across language barriers.
Similar to what happens in known websites or social media, talk pages could have a well visible button "report". Clicking on it there should be a page where the user can write what happened.— An Italian community member
There should be alternative reporting pathways including implementing the private (protected) reporting pathways. However, the use of private reporting pathways should be limited to the behavioural violation.— A Korean community member
Several users shared that they have been either targets or witnesses of harassment for their work on Wikimedia projects. But such cases could either not be reported or did not lead to action when reported because they took place outside Wikimedia platforms. A large number of users insisted that such violations of policies should also be considered under UCoC.
At least one community expressed opposition to the anti-discrimination policy in UCoC. This community is in outright denial that significant non-binary editors or editors belonging to minority groups are present within the community. Yet, a significant number of survey respondents from this community identified themselves as non-binary. As per the facilitator, publishing those numbers will make the community further divided.
Engagement from female participants and members from minority groups remained low. Even those who engaged did so mostly through private channels. In one community many female participants freely identified themselves in the surveys but requested the facilitator not to reveal their gender identity in public. This was surprising to the facilitator, who was under the impression that their community doesn't have many female editors but is generally safe for women. But it turns out there are many. This is not a piece of common knowledge as women don't want to identify themselves.
At least two of the communities said that they would prefer not to have any intervention from the Foundation in their local governance mechanism. To avoid this, they are willing to take all measures to upscale their governance system. At least one of those communities has already started working on bringing its local behavioural policies at par with the UCoC and is thinking of ways to have an enforcement model where local issues could be resolved satisfactorily within the communities.
In contrast to this, a few of the small communities stated that they would prefer to continue channelling their time and resources in building the content on their platform. Therefore, they would need support from the Foundation in developing policies or governance systems that are compatible with that of the UCoC. Most of the medium-sized communities remained conflicted between the ideas. They prefer a solution that offers support without disrupting their existing governance models.
Call for peer support
A large number of community members shared the idea of forming peer support groups for the targets of harassment. As per some users, after reporting a case of harassment, targets are often faced with three groups - one that's on the side of the abuser, one focused on getting the case solved impartially, and one that extends moral support to the targets. For a target, who is already going through a period of distress, the presence of the third group is paramount. Community support groups encourage people to speak up for even small scale incidents and thereby playing a role in preventing the bigger ones.
A large number of community members expressed that such groups should be organized throughout the movement. Some communities suggested creating a dedicated platform or channel where people could come and seek support, while some communities said that a small closed group would provide a safer environment. This conversation received ideas but the development of a full-fledged system, if developed, would need a lot of work especially to prevent the misuse of such groups.
A drafting committee is going to be formed that will review the feedback received from the communities. The committee will propose potential enforcement mechanisms to the Board of Trustees for review.