Universal Code of Conduct/Functionaries meeting/Summary
The Wikimedia Foundation convened a meeting of self-selected representatives or individuals from existing standing Arbitration Committees, Stewards, and Global Sysops on 10 and 11 April, 2021. Eighteen community members attended over the course of the weekend. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss global processes in a future Wikimedia movement with the existence of the Universal Code of Conduct. The meeting attendees recognized there are gaps in global processes around conduct, content and how to best manage these issues in the long term, and agree that it is in the best interest of the global community to work together to fill the gaps. The meeting attendees offered ideas on how to move forward with building and strengthening the global governance system, and the Wikimedia Foundation intends to follow up with stakeholder community groups to pursue the ideas outlined by the attendees.
As Wikimedia's Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC) moves into drafting enforcement pathways, the team supporting the process identified it as very important to discuss problems that exist with the current structure with sitting arbitrators, stewards, and global sysops. The purpose of this discussion was to establish if there was a shared understanding within these groups that gaps exist in global processes and governance around conduct and content, and that community solutions are necessary when figuring out enforcement for the UCoC.
Planning for the meeting began in mid-February, with six weeks to organize and hold the meeting. All active arbitration committees had been invited to the meeting by the beginning of March, as well as the stewards and global sysops. By the time of the event there were representatives and individuals from each group signed up with the lone exception being the Dutch Wikipedia Arbitration Committee. Twenty-four community members in total planned to participate in the weekend.
The first day of the meeting was themed around threats to the Wikimedia communities based on the reality we currently have without robust global governance processes. Maggie Dennis, the Wikimedia Foundation's Vice President for Sustainability and Reliability, gave a presentation on external pressures that exist to the Foundation and to the sites it hosts, largely related to global movement towards legislation and regulation of the internet. The consultant working with the Wikimedia Foundation in preparing a report on the long-running situation with Croatian language Wikipedia provided a status update with preliminary findings of the ongoing evaluation in a presentation themed more towards internal threats to the Wikimedia communities. A lack of robust global governance within the projects may lead to repeating cycles of mis-use of our platforms, damaging the projects’ reputation and doing real-world harm to communities that need information free of bias and political persuasion.
The second day of the meeting was focused on discussion. After the publication of the Open Letter from Arbcoms to the Board of Trustees regarding the UCoC, there was space to talk about the roles that people from the groups present might expect to play in the process of discussing enforcement, and the future of enforcement itself. There was talk of some options for providing communities with more structure around global processes, and ideas were put forward as to how the Wikimedia Foundation can move forward in talking to other involved groups. The fact that this planned meeting was the first of many that are expected to be held meant that this meeting did not contain as many concrete places for discussion as future talks will, and opening up meetings with other groups about how to form better structures will have more solid underpinnings for the discussions of UCoC enforcement mechanisms moving forward.