Wikimedia Foundation Board noticeboard/Archives/2019

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Warning! Please do not post any new comments on this page. This is a discussion archive first created on 01 January 2019, although the comments contained were likely posted before and after this date. See current discussion or the archives index.

Conflict of interest with competing businesses

I read that the new appointed trustee was an executive at a multinational publisher. It's certainly a brave decision to try incorporating the know-how of our traditional foes in matters of open educational resources and copyright, although this creates complications for the management of conflicts of interests.

I understand she may not have completed the paperwork yet, but when it's all done can you please confirm that she has sold any stocks and stock options or other business interests with her previous employers and other publishers? Thanks, Nemo 06:47, 1 February 2019 (UTC)

Severe problems (piracy, nationalism, abuse of sysop rights) with EO Wiktionary that can't be solved locally

My name is Taylor and I have been active at various wikies (EN,EO,ID,SV) for more than 2 years. Unfortunately I have run into severe trouble on EO Wiktionary. I am currently permanently (formally 3 months) banned there (without valid reason) for the 3rd time.

The state if the EO Wiktionary is fairly bad (example of a Wiktionary in a good state: SV). The worse thing is the excessive piracy there. The administrator Pablo is obsessed by "improving the quality" of the EO Wiktionary by mass-copying everything from everywhere (other Wiktionaries (preferably DE), Wikipedia, over 100 years old low quality dictionaries, other (non-GFDL) sources, ...). Maybe copying from DE Wiktionary is not a "real" crime, it is just desperately useless. Pablo has already copied 10'000's of pages and templates from there. For example the section about the SV word "mus" (EN: mouse) as left behind by Pablo "improving the quality" was full of explanations in DE and translations to DE. I have fixed that page. I have fixed 100's of other pages with similar problems. Another fine page recently "contributed" by Pablo (efter having banned me) Kaiser - note the red links and the script errors, as well as the dominance of DE and lack of EO. I have also fixed 100's of pages copied from some old SV<->EO dictionary, by correcting the provided translation, adding further translations, or labeling the word as "archaic". There used to be 7 templates for same thing: plural form of EN noun. One of them is copied from EN Wiktionary, others are copied from DE Wiktionary and renamed several times by Pablo. Many of them worked badly due to Pablo's lack of skills and "puristic" changes (replacing traditional grammar terminology like "pluralo" by "genuine" EO words constructed by literally translating ridiculously long compound words from DE) resulting in broken templates showing things like {{{2}}}. I created a new well-working template even suitable for "though" words like "virus" of "die". My work switching to the new template and deprecating the broken ones was violently interrupted by the ban. I have also created several (not insanely many) EO pages with definitions and examples. EO Wiktionary is far away from having satisfactory pages about even the most elementary EO words. Pablo doesn't care at all about definitions (the hardest part). Many pages about EO words "contributed" by em consist of nothing but the translation block, brainlessly copied from DE Wiktionary without changes, frequently even containing EO as destination language (the translation of the EO word "kato" into EO is "kato"). But the "best contributor" Pablo copies (frequently particularly lousily) from other (non-GFDL) sources as well. The problem got pointed some time ago by one former user (who had left EO Wiktionary). Pablo deleted the 3 pointed pages (I re-created 2 of them without piracy soon after) and ey promised to delete all other pirated pages that ey would find. Ey gave a f**k about even searching. Later I pointed 2 further pirated pages. Pablo ignored the message. There are 1000's of more of less directly pirated pages there. Some weeks later Pablo deleted those 2 pages after "some extra pressure" organized via EN Wikipedia. All other pirated pages are left. Can any steward agree with such a sysop?

There are currently 3 active "contributors" at the EO Wiktionary. Me, permanently banned and unable to edit anything except my discussion page full of unproductive bickering with Pablo and appeals than nobody reads. Then Noelekim contributing valuable edits to an EN->EO list-type dictionary. Pablo has even created a few EN pages, (lousily) copying from this dictionary. This contributor doesn't edit any other pages and doesn't participate in discussions and bickering (maybe ey just fears a ban). The last and actually pretty exclusive "contributor" is Pablo "working" hard in order to turn the former EO Wiktionary into another (piracy-powered) DE Wiktionary (bad edits by Pablo bad edits by Pablo bad edits by Pablo bad edits by Pablo bad edits by Pablo).

Pablo doesn't appreciate my contributions at all. I have been accused many times for "notoriously destroying other people's work". According to Pablo brainless mass-copying is valuable "work", while fixing such mess by me is "destroying other people's work". I was also working to create a few smarter templates allowing to replace hundreds of primitive mass-created or mass copied-in templates. This was not appreciated either, the work is not finished and I can't continue. There are frequently absurdly many (3 or even 5 or even more) templates for very same thing, just abbreviated and spelled differently ("ark", "Ark", "ark.", "Arkit", "ARK", ...). There are redundant templates copied from other Wiktionaries, spelled in DE, ES, IT and more. Pablo is continuing to "really improve the quality" of the EO Wiktionary by adding further redundant templates. I got also accused for "spreading evil neologisms to all pages via templates". I had admittedly edited many templates, but none of my edits had the effect according to the accusations. More likely Pablo is angry about the fact that I have skills for editing templates and modules while ey does not have such skills, and solved eir problem with undesirable competition by banning me. But it comes even worse. Some time ago (year 2014) Pablo emself performed a (primitive) edit on a template (EO verb declension table) with effect according to accusations: "spreading evil neologisms to all pages via templates". Ey even boasted with this edit in the news (year 2017, pretty late news) on the title page (that nobody else can edit). Apparently Pablo has the right to "spread evil neologisms to all pages via templates" while I don't have such a right, because Pablo is the emperor while I am just nothing. Note that I actually have NOT spread any neologisms to all pages via templates. The previous ban was "justified" by among Other Nonsense Complaints About Me Refusing To Use Uppercase Letters. This seems to be a "rule" imported by the DE nationalist Pablo from the DE Wiktionary. I refuse to follow DE rules (Obligation To Begin Every Word With An Uppercase Letter) at the EO Wiktionary.

I have got banned 3 times. The "justifications" given by Pablo are very long but incomprehensible even for people proficient in EO, and accusing me for including but not limited to "acting like a dictator" (Pablo emself either doesn't act like a dictator, or maybe ey does have the right to act like a dictator while I don't), "using lowercase letters" (see above), "notoriously destroying other people's work" (see above), "repeatedly submitting nonsense" (apparently Pablo's own nonsense (this is DE again, not EO) either doesn't count as nonsense, or maybe Pablo has an absolute right to submit unlimited amount of (pirated) nonsense, while I don't have a comparable right), or "spreading evil neologisms to all pages" (see above).

After having banned me the last time, Pablo published a news item about me containing not only false accusations about "spreading evil neologisms to all pages via templates", but also evil sexist insults using male words despite I am not male. I cannot answer to the post denying the shameful nonsense because I am banned.

Pablo got crowned to permanent administrator in year 2010 by just 3 YES votes from totally 3 votes. Those 3 people left the project long ago, Pablo remained and became the permanent absolute emperor at the EO Wiktionary. The last successful election to an administrator was held 2017-Jan, Castelobranco got 4 YES votes from totally 4 votes. The steward restricted Castelobranco's adminship to 1 year pointing to the low amount of votes of 4, while Pablo with 3 votes previously got permanent adminship. Castelobranco left the project 4 months later, eir adminship expired silently 2018-Jan, and Pablo alone is now the absolute emperor for all eternity.

Pablo gives notoriously a f**k about community consensus. About 1/2 year ago I initiated 2 ballots:

  • "Should DE play a privileged role here at the EO Wiktionary?" -> 4 NO-votes from totally 4 votes
  • "Should non-EO words have a translation block?" -> 4 NO-votes from totally 4 votes

Great! But Pablo gives a f**k about it and continues copying complete pages from DE Wiktionary, together with all "needed" templates with DE names. This method apparently "saves work" for Pablo. The SV Wiktionary does not have a single DE template, and non-SV words don't have any translation block (and not images either). Pablo's aggressive DE nationalism is taking over the EO Wiktionary and nobody (except me) dares to protest.

I have repeatedly suggested for Pablo to go back to the DE Wiktionary where ey apparently came from. No result.

There are further problems with Pablo's conduct. In the recycle bin there are almost 1'000 candidates for deletion accumulated during many years. Pablo gives a f**k about deleting them. Ey doesn't archive the discussion page (90% of content is globally distributed spam in EN) either.

On the title page of the EO Wiktionary (that nobody except Pablo can edit) we can read that the EO Wiktionary is supposed to become "the greatest and most complete" dictionary ever. Just now this "greatest and most complete" project ever has the most incapable and arrogant administrator ever, filling the dictionary by (lousily) pirating from over 100 years old low quality dictionaries and other dubious sources (DE Wiktionary), and banning everybody attempting to contribute in a different manner. Pablo has repeatedly boasted with things like "I have been tolerating your" ... (followed by absurd accusations) ... "but now my patience is exhausted". Pablo behaves like the exclusive owner of the EO Wiktionary and a dictator.

There is no reason at all why Pablo should be an administrator. Neither the election 8 years ago (electors went away long ago, and on many wikies all admins have to be reconfirmed evey year), nor merits (the amount of edits is tremendous, but it's >= 99% piracy, Pablo is a manually operating pirating bot), nor the skills (Pablo can barely code templates, and not at all code modules), and last but not least nor the conduct.

On the EO Wiktionary there is a page Administrantoj with section Misuzo_de_la_administrantaj_rajtoj (abuse of the admin rights) saying:

Al administranto povas esti liaj rajto deprenita, se tiu la rajtoj misuzas. Nuntempe povas la admnistrant-statuso esti deprenita aŭ per decido de Jimbo Wales, aŭ pere de decido de Arbitracia komisiono. Laŭ ilia decido oni povas doni malpli altajn punojn, ekz. limigo de uzado de iuj funkcioj. Teĥnike povas la administrantajn rajtoj depreni stevardoj.
An administrator can be deprived of eir rights if ey abuses those rights. Currently the admin-status can be canceled by either Jimbo Wales or the Arbitration Committee. According to their decisions lower punishments can be ruled, for example restricting the usage of some functions. Technically the stewards are responsible for removing administrator rights.

The "Arbitration Committee" is a red link. There doesn't seem to exist any Arbitration Committee on the EO Wiktionary, and the promised "Global Arbitration Committee" doesn't exist yet and probably never will. I tried to appeal via my user page but the template {{unblock}} doesn't work there (it used to be a red link, later some IP-user created it with content "M"), Pablo gives a f**k about my appeals and no other admin exists. Then I appealed to the Arbitration Committee on the EN Wikipedia. The result was a rejection by only 8 NO-votes from 8 total votes sending me to "Requests for comment". Nobody seems to read that page, one comment posted there sends me to King Jimbo, the other one was posted by "Lojbanist", a silly user who succeeded to get globally permanently banned 2 days later. During a pause between 2 bans I seized the occasion and posted a proposal to desysop Pablo. Not a single comment or vote came it. I tried to contact King Jimbo. Result: no answer User_talk:Jimbo_Wales/Archive_232 [ATJ_Misbehaving_sysop_%22Pablo_Escobar%22,_piracy,_and_permanent_ban_at_the_EO_Wiktionary User_talk:Jimbo_Wales/Archive_233].

It is extremely easy to create a new account and continue editing from it, or just edit as an IP-address. Unfortunately I would prefer to leave Pablo alone with bad behaviour and avoid coming near to sockpuppetry. Nor I am willing to wait until 2019-Feb-13 when the ban is expected to expire, allowing me to perform a few edits before I get banned again, maybe for 2 years, maybe genuinely permanently.

The EO Wiktionary has been hijacked by a severely misbehaving administrator. There is no local community able to deal with this. The "unblock" template is deliberately defective. The 2 instances suggested at the local sysop page are both deliberately defective (red link to Arbitration Committee, and King Jimbo who gives a f**k about answering). There is no exclusive private right for Pablo to own a public wiki. Neither by the Grace of God, not by the grace of an incapable bureaucrat who left Wikipedia 6 years ago.

There are many places where such complaints can be submitted (RFC, Arbitration Committee at EN Wikipedia, ANI at EN Wikipedia, Stewards, King Jimbo's page, ...). Unfortunately they are all useless, generating rude or silly answers, or no answers at all, and pointing to each other or to an unspecified "community" that does not exist and cannot be contacted. The "case Pablo" at "Requests for comment" is still open, unfortunately it is obviously dead. Interestingly, there is an other case "Til Eulenspiegel" generating many answers, most of them supporting the idea "ban Til globally and permanently".

I expect to have the "case Pablo" heard and investigated. Thank you. Taylor 49 (talk) 12:36, 31 January 2019 (UTC)

50 days have gone and no answer. Taylor 49 (talk) 13:06, 20 March 2019 (UTC)
I don't think you can expect an answer from the Board of Trustees on this issue. It falls within the remit of the Stewards, and you would do well to approach them on Steward requests/Miscellaneous. Ijon (talk) 14:56, 21 March 2019 (UTC)
Thanks for the answer. The case has been at the Steward requests/Miscellaneous and got closed "does not fall within the remit of the Stewards" with exactly no result and mocking "hints" as bonus. Among others I got send here to this Board. Any other ideas? Until now I have been hunted among various unsuitable places. Where is the suitable place with a desysopping policy and an instance hearing complaints and investigating misbehaving sysops? Taylor 49 (talk) 11:40, 22 March 2019 (UTC)
Hi Taylor 49, I am sorry to learn about your bad experience with the projects. Please head to Trust and Safety so they can examine the situation and try to help. Kind regards Raystorm (talk) 16:55, 22 April 2019 (UTC)
@Raystorm: Hi and thanks for the answer. I have had a look at "Trust and Safety". In the meantime the ban had expired and I returned to EO wiktionary. I have made a large amount of edits and received one explicit threat with a ban (from the very same Pablo) and one "ordinary" complaint. I am not banned now. But if Pablo dares to ban me again then I will contact "Trust and Safety". Taylor 49 (talk) 07:23, 23 April 2019 (UTC)
Taylor 49, you can bring this to Requests for comment to be reviewed by fellow wikimedians and get closure by meta-admins and Stewards.--AldnonymousBicara? 07:41, 23 April 2019 (UTC)
@Aldnonymous: already there (see above). Taylor 49 (talk) 07:44, 23 April 2019 (UTC)
Taylor 49, I will review this tonight, and may bring this to the attention of stewards.--AldnonymousBicara? 07:47, 23 April 2019 (UTC)

Fifth column

Fram supporters on English Wikipedia are attempting to control the outcome of the case by removing discussion on administratrices' personal talk pages. For example, on Friday the following was removed (by "Future Perfect at Sunrise") from the talk page of BrownHairedGirl:

Good morning! I have been reading the AN discussion regarding Legacypac. If you were the subject of the following exchange, how would you react?

Ah, that ref desk troll – better known as Wikipedia:Long-term abuse/**** *** *** ****** – supposed to be of the female persuasion, btw. Blocked. I'll the page is now on my watch list, but no guarantees.

- Favonian 14:59, 8 September 2016

I wonder who persuaded her.... Muffled Pocketed 15:00, 8 September 2016 (UTC)

Her progenitors have much to answer for!

- Favonian 15:02, 8 September 2016

(This comment was under edit summary original sin. His next comment was under edit summary he, she, it, what?) 92.19.174.96 (talk) 08:23, 26 May 2019 (UTC)

(Edit conflict.)The context is that when misogyny is reported to an Arbitrator (example reports [1], [2]), an administrator shows up within two minutes to shut down the investigation by protecting her talk page [3]. When Favonian is reported for vandalism administrators show up within the same timescale to shut down the investigation by edit warring the report out [4]. 92.19.174.96 (talk) 19:19, 26 May 2019 (UTC)
This is the ANI report "De-sysop time for Favonian" which was revision deleted by Oshwah with an ingenuous log entry:

[Shouldn't the above be disingenuous? Rouge administrators (especially Favonian, who removed the following) will note that my report to the Trustees of 01:02, 29 April) was secretly suppressed (by Mr Nobody). No problem - I can re-post it to the talk page of a senior Foundation staffer.]

In the case of Winhunter the Arbitration Committee decided that restoring false information to articles after removal (even by a "banned user") is "pathological" and will result in de - sysop. This pathology has been noted in Favonian for over a decade. For example, at Hemen Majumdar he

  • Changed his birthplace from Kishoreganj, British India to Bongaigaon, India
  • Removed his date of death (22 July 1948) from the infobox
  • Changed his profession from Painting to Philosoper [sic]
  • Changed his date of birth from 14 April 1894 to 19 September 1871.

Within the past few minutes he has

  • Added the nonsensical phrase "his (the householder) hands" to Feralia
  • Inserted the claim that "19th century Dutch and Frisian almanacs" were "submerged in 2194 BC" in Oera Linda Book
  • Changed the ENGVAR of Prime Meridian (Greenwich) without consensus from ENGVAR B to ENGVAR A (you can't get more British than that)

He's also been closing SPIs without even reading the evidence and without reasoning. This afternoon an editor alleged an IP "reverts the national variety of English template on the talk page, then started a talk page discussion about it". The diffs show that the template was added without consensus and removed three hours later after the discussion had been started. The OP builds his case on an edit made to Julian calendar in September but the diff is not of an edit to Julian calendar, which was made by someone else. It's time to ring down the curtain on Favonian and block Jc3s5h. 31.51.38.40 (talk) 19:38, 25 October 2017 (UTC)

This museum of Indian Culture [5] confirms the year of birth, profession and birthplace in Bengal. Kishoreganj is now in Bangladesh. Bongaigaon isn't even in Bengal - it's in Assam. 81.143.201.72 (talk) 19:38, 25 October 2017 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by 156.61.250.250 (talk) 12:04, 26 October 2017 (UTC)

Boing! said Zebedee is another one who falsifies logs in an attempt to hide his tool abuse by quoting RD5 (other valid deletion under deletion policy) without giving the precise ground of deletion, which is mandatory. His apparent reason is "partial outing", which is absurd - either it's outing or it's not. His beef seems to be use of his Christian name - if that's outing then we've outed about ten million people as well as him. I was able to get a screenshot of the content before the tool abuse (to which he freely admitted) caused it to disappear. Here it is with the offending moniker redacted (out of courtesy I've redacted his previous account as well):

Boing! said Zebedee [redacted] supports Eric Corbett, who was banned for using language offensive to women. He has been de - sysopped twice (on one occasion after only three weeks). His opinion of administrators and Wikipedia in general is here:

I finally no longer wish to be part of what is becoming an increasingly tainted category of users.

- 5 July 2013.

I don't want to be a part of this community any more.

- 31 July 2014.

GorillaWarfare has detailed how she has been the subject of serious harassment. This increased in the weeks leading up to her resignation, so much so that she felt impelled to remove the report which I posted on her talk page on 27 October (along with one from 86.176).

[redacted] has another account, [redacted], which he has not declared in his userspace. 92.19.172.89 (talk) 12:24, 21 November 2017 (UTC)

-

  • see his comment 04:29, 26 September 2014

He also described WMF Director Erik Moeller as "the worst".

  • see his comment 21:37, 29 September 2014

There's more in the same vein:

  • Easy like Sunday morning? Any reply to this? (to Danny Horn) 07:35, 4 September 2014
  • Are you being deliberately obnoxious? (to Danny Horn) 07:13, 5 September 2014
  • Get lost, WMF (to Danny Horn) 07:49, 5 September 2014
  • ... may be facing the Erik Möller treatment (not how he acts, we wouldn't do anything as bad as that, ... (to Danny Horn) 09:57, 5 September 2014
  • Flow people are unable to read archive pages, it doesn't fit their worldview! They are probably equally unable to see the right side of the screen, or anything but the colon of their superiors. - 08:22, 12 September 2014 (if this comment puzzles you, see Double entendre)
  • They have no honesty, no integrity, no respect , and no competence ... - 08:31, 12 September 2014
  • Get lost. (to Whatamidoing) 04:34, 26 September 2014
  • You like her input, I don't. It is too often deceitful ... - 10:44, 26 September 2014

Does this comment win the prize for hypocrisy:

Accusing people of "lying" is a personal attack, so please read WP:NPA; even if you think I am mistaken, you should stay well clear of such accusations unless you are very, very certain that a deliberate lie is being spread, and not something expressed in a way that you have misunderstood completely. - Fram 06:44, 7 October 2014

Board statement posted at Community response to the Wikimedia Foundation's ban of Fram

Below, for archival purposes and for discussion at this noticeboard, is a copy of a statement issued by the WMF Board and originally published on the English-language Wikipedia at: Community response to the Wikimedia Foundation's ban of Fram.

Everyone,

The Board is a deliberative body and we strongly believe that it is important that we consider issues of high importance thoroughly. We realize that for many of our community members our silence has been frustrating, but we genuinely used this time.

A recent ban of an editor by the Wikimedia Foundation under the Terms of Use on the English Wikipedia has generated discussions and debate. There were calls for the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees to respond to the discussions.

Almost three years ago, the board published a strong statement against toxic behaviors and directed the Wikimedia Foundation teams to work to make Wikimedia communities safer for all good faith editors. A safe and respectful environment is not only one of our five pillars, it will also allow for more diverse voices to join our communities, bringing new knowledge with them.

While we remain fully committed to this position, we also recognize the critical importance of allowing communities to be self-governing and for the movement, as a whole, to make high-level decisions. While we realize that the Wikimedia Foundation staff did not take this decision lightly, we also believe that we need the right processes to reach the right results.

It is also evident that existing processes within the communities and T&S have failed, as we have cases which obviously need some form of sanctions, in which sanctions have not occurred.

We believe that the communities should be able to deal with these types of situations and should take this as a wake-up call to improve our enforcement processes to deal with so-called "unblockables". In fact, those in a position of authority should be held to a higher standard. We also recognize that the communities may need support to carry out these needed steps.

This could include funding for training of community members involved in dealing with harassment or helping long term contributors correct behaviors that are inappropriate. We support the provision of the necessary resources to allow the community and its representatives to discuss these issues with the board and staff members.

Even the larger projects struggle to effectively address the most difficult and controversial cases. There is a gap between our movement principles and practices. This is an issue we need to solve together. That is a task that needs to be led by the communities, with the support of staff and guidance from the board.

As such, we have asked Katherine Maher, CEO of Wikimedia Foundation, to work closely with staff in support of our communities to identify the shortcomings of current processes and to propose solutions. This could include current and upcoming initiatives, as well as re-evaluating or adding community input to the two new office action policy tools (temporary and partial Foundation bans).

We recognize that T&S has established a track record for managing highly complex situations. While the aforementioned conversations between T&S and our communities take place, we recommend T&S focus on the most severe cases, for instance: the handling of legal issues, threats of violence, cross-wiki abuse, and child protection issues until consultation and agreement between T&S and the community are achieved.

Any changes in the long-established practices of dealing with toxic behavior within the communities should be introduced carefully and only following close collaboration with the communities. As discussed above, we have directed the Foundation to take on that conversation.

We support ArbCom reviewing this ban. We have asked T&S to work with the English Wikipedia ArbCom to review this case. We encourage Arbcom to assess the length and scope of Fram’s ban, based on the case materials that can be released to the committee. While the review is ongoing, Fram’s ban will remain in effect, although Arbcom and T&S may need ways to allow Fram to participate in the proceedings.

We do not consider any of the admin resignations related to the current events to be “under a cloud” (under suspicion) though we also realize that the final decision with respect to this lies with the community.

The Board views this as part of a much-needed community debate on toxic behavior. In spite of the considerable disruption this has caused for many, we hope this serves as a catalyzing moment for us to move forward together to ensure the health and vitality of our communities.

The chair has formally delegated this matter to the vice chair and was not involved in the issuing of this statement or in any of the deliberations that led to our response.

On behalf of the board,

  1. Schiste (talk) 23:02, 2 July 2019 (UTC)
  2. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 23:14, 2 July 2019 (UTC)
  3. Pundit|utter 04:57, 3 July 2019 (UTC)

Discussion on en-Wikipedia of the above statement is primarily taking place here. Carcharoth (talk) 16:47, 4 July 2019 (UTC)

13 years

I would like to draw the Board's attention to this thread started by @Guy Macon:. Guy sets out the problem - and the lack of effort from the Foundation in addressing it - very clearly. I have asked if anyone on the Board has a responsibility for equalities issues such as this. I would expect an organization such as this to have a lead member assigned for equalities. DuncanHill (talk) 19:48, 10 July 2019 (UTC)

Hi there. The Board recently approved the WMF Medium Term Plan, where Platform evolution is very much a top priority. The Core Platform Team explicitely includes increasing accesibility and usability among its outcomes. Kind regards, Raystorm (talk) 18:36, 11 July 2019 (UTC)
@Raystorm: That's a 3 to 5 year plan. So hopefully 18 years after becoming aware of the problem WMF will have a fix. I don't think that's an acceptable timescale. Pinging @Guy Macon:. DuncanHill (talk) 21:38, 11 July 2019 (UTC)

┌─────────────────────────────────┘
On 03 February 2006, it was reported to the WMF that our CAPTCHA system discriminates against blind people. See phabricator T6845. This appears to be a direct violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and leaves Wikipedia open to the possibility of discrimination lawsuit.

In particular, National Federation of the Blind v. Target Corp. was a case where a major retailer, Target Corp., was sued because their web designers failed to design its website to enable persons with low or no vision to use it.

So why, after 13 years of inaction, do we not have a set of software requirements (including a testable definition of "done"), a schedule with milestones and updates, and budget and staffing information for solving this?

And no, I will not accept any proposed "solution" that lacks the name of an WMF employee who has been given the assignment of fixing this, a budget that says how much the WMF expects to spend on solving this, a deadline that say how long the WMF expects it to take to solve this, and a way for an independent third party to look at the results and verify whether the requirements were met.

Regarding hiring someone else to fix this, I would very much like the idea to be given careful consideration rather than being dismissed out of hand. The WMF is great at running an encyclopedia. Nobody else, anywhere on earth, even comes close. However, running an encyclopedia does not magically confer the ability to create high-quality software, and the WMF has a pretty dismal track record in this area (Examples: Visual Editor, Flow, 13 years of failing to making an obvious but boring improvement to accommodate blind people.) I realize that this will anger some people, but why should it? Olympic-level athletes don't get angry when you tell them that their athletic ability does not magically confer the ability to repair automobiles or do astronomy.

Comments from phabricator:

  • "This doesn't just effect addition of external links, it also prevents new users from registering, requiring them to use ACC to request an account."
  • "There is no one currently assigned to this, so no one is taking it upon him to fix this at this moment. It's also not something that any team at the foundation is responsible for, so it's not likely to be prioritized from that end."
  • The only thing stopping us from having an audio captcha is that nobody's put the work into implementing it yet." --Source: Chief MediaWiki developer as of 2008
  • "So the question is why has work not been put aside to fix an issue of recognised high importance that will, 13 years after first being raised, resolve an issue that results in us discriminating against people who are (in many jurisdictions) a legally protected minority?"

---Guy Macon (talk)

Questions

@Raystorm: Thanks for the update. Would you be so kind as to answer the following questions?

  • What is the name of the WMF employee (or employees) who has been given the assignment of fixing this? Alternatively, when will that employee be named and by who?
  • What is the budget -- in other words how much does the WMF expect to spend on solving this? Alternatively, when will the budget be created, and by who?
  • What is the deadline -- in other words how long does the WMF expect it to take to solve this? Alternatively, when will the deadline be decided on, and who will make that decision?
  • Where will the software requirements be published, and how does the WMF propose that an independent third party can look at the results and verify whether the requirement were met?

I can help with that last bit by lining up several people who are vision impaired and use different screen readers and have them test the solution if and when it is ever completed. --Guy Macon (talk) 22:51, 11 July 2019 (UTC)

  • Since, a Trustee says that CPT has the reponsibility to look into this issue:- Paging @Tim Starling, Legoktm, and Anomie:-Can you answer the above queries and/or share anything else around the locus. Regards, Winged Blades of Godric (talk) 08:16, 14 July 2019 (UTC)
    I can't speak about prioritization or resourcing. But I think trying to fix CAPTCHAs is just a dead end. They're fundamentally broken, bad UX, and don't do that good of a job of keeping spambots out. So-called "accessible" ones are broken even more. Except based on our last testing, they do stop some spambots, and that was a significant amount of them (I can't find the link to when we last tried this, I'll look later). So I'd rather figure out some % of spambots they're blocking, figure out how to improve our antivandalism/antispam tooling to improve productivity or success by that same or better % (so in theory we're not adding an additional workload to patrollers), and then just turn off the CAPTCHA. Legoktm (talk) 17:07, 14 July 2019 (UTC)
    I think you mean mw:Extension:ConfirmEdit/FancyCaptcha experiments, which was 5 years ago, but that test didn't prove anything. Most of the additional bot edits were easily prevented by abusefilter, they were just not yet covered by existing rules. We were supposed to repeat the test after adding at least some minimal abuse filters (which is now easier with Global AbuseFilter). Nemo 18:56, 14 July 2019 (UTC)
    Yep, that was it. I think repeating it in 2019 for some pre-determined time with sysops prepared to add more AF rules would be a good start. Legoktm (talk) 15:58, 15 July 2019 (UTC)
[Edit Conflict] Any discussion of how to fix this is a distraction and a huge waste of time. That discussion should happen after the WMF decides to fix it and gives me straight answers about staffing, budget, and schedule. I don't care how the WMF stops breaking the law. All I care about is that the WMF does stop breaking the law.
Regarding what percentage of spam bots CAPTCHA stops, imagine for a moment that we suddenly have reason to create a National Federation of the Blind v. Wikimedia Foundation page with content similar to Federation of the Blind v. Target Corp. Do you think that the court will look favorably on a "but it stops X% of spam, reducing the workload of our patrollers!" defense to the charge of purposely discriminating against blind people? Also imagine that you tried spamming Wikipedia and the CAPTCHA stopped your spam bot. Why wouldn't you simply buy a spam bot that defeats the CAPTCHA? Just counting blocked spam doesn't tell us how often the spammer gives up and how often he adapts to the countermeasures --Guy Macon (talk) 19:31, 14 July 2019 (UTC)
Sorry, I have no interest in engaging if you're going to be making veiled legal threats about theoretical lawsuits. Legoktm (talk) 15:58, 15 July 2019 (UTC)
I deny making a legal threat, and invite you to report me at ANI if you seriously think I have made a legal threat. While you are at it, you might want to report everyone on our legal team, because every one of them has, at one time or another, said something like "we should do X or stop doing Y in order to comply with the law and/or reduce our risk of being sued."
Did you at the very least "get it" when I told you that your "here is how I think we should fix this" comments are not helping? Again I tell you, any discussion of how to fix this is a distraction and a huge waste of time. That discussion should happen after the WMF decides to fix it and gives me straight answers about staffing, budget, and schedule. --Guy Macon (talk) 15:48, 16 July 2019 (UTC)
  • Since the CAPTCHA was first deployed, I have supported simply removing it. I filed T6845 as a position statement along these lines. The task description has since been edited to say that this would "invite too much abuse for our communities", which I don't believe. "Too much" is subjective. I think we should address spam and vandalism by other means. At the time, I suggested configurable heuristics as an alternative to CAPTCHA, and this has since been implemented in the form of AbuseFilter. So what is left to do, on the technical side? In my opinion, it is a policy question, not a technical question. -- Tim Starling (talk) 00:24, 15 July 2019 (UTC)
    @Tim Starling: That was me, and it is based on conversations I had with I think Brian, where they tested this and had to roll it back because it was holding back way more crap than they had expected... I can't exactly find the history of that, but i'm pretty sure I remember this correctly. —TheDJ (talkcontribs) 08:19, 16 July 2019 (UTC)
  • My name is Evan Prodromou; I'm a product manager in the Core Platform Team. I'm probably about to step in it, but... I think we're missing out on an opportunity here with the Captcha. Google, for example, uses reCaptcha as a mechanism for training image classification AI for self-driving cars ("Click all the images with cars/crosswalks/traffic lights/storefronts"). I wonder if there are classification tasks for media on Commons (images, video, and audio) that we could do with a Captcha? Perhaps we could even make a widget that 3rd-party websites could include, similar to how they use reCaptcha...? I'm going to follow up on this issue, both for the immediate and long-term. Feel free to contact me at eprodromou *at* wikimedia *dot* org for follow-up on CPT. --EvanProdromou (talk) 15:06, 15 July 2019 (UTC)
    That's phab:T34695. Legoktm (talk) 15:58, 15 July 2019 (UTC)
    EvanProdromou and Tim Starling, be careful that you don't make the error of talking about how to fix the problem while the WMF has not assigned anyone to fix the problem. I have been talking about this for years, and every time the conversation gets sidetracked into discussions about how best to fix the problem by people who have zero authority to actually change the Wikimedia software. Following that path leaves us without any actual improvement being made. We don't have a "we don't know how to fix this" problem. We have a "The WMF refuses to assign someone the job of fixing this" problem. Once we get someone who's job it is to fix this, we can discuss how to fix it with that person. Until then any discussion about how to fix this leads us way from solving the real WMF inactivity problem. --Guy Macon (talk) 16:12, 15 July 2019 (UTC)
    Disabling FancyCaptcha takes about 5 min of developer time, if the community decides so. Nemo 16:22, 15 July 2019 (UTC)
    Right. I don't know why Winged Blades of Godric is pinging me and other engineers. I've made my opinion on the matter perfectly clear, but I'm not empowered to change it. If there's a legal argument for disabling the CAPTCHA, then talk to the legal team. If their advice is to turn it off, it could be done in a few minutes. -- Tim Starling (talk) 05:45, 16 July 2019 (UTC)
    I have sent this to the legal team at least 3 times over the years, and have never received a reply of any kind. I encourage anyone interested to contact them and see if they have better luck.
I strongly oppose pinging or contacting any engineers or developers. Unless you are dealing with one person working out of his garage, engineers don't get to decide what projects to work on.
As I have repeatedly stated, we don't have a "we don't know how to solve this" problem. We have a "WMF management has not given anyone the job of solving this" problem. We need someone in WMF management to name an individual who's job it is to fix this along with a budget and a schedule. --Guy Macon (talk) 15:37, 16 July 2019 (UTC)
  • EvanProdromou: the existing captcha is already reasonably good for accessibility, since it is easily defeated by OCR. I tried the OCR extension described on this page against our existing captcha, and it worked 4 times out of 5, with short solving times. If the idea is to optimise for a false sense of security for editors while still allowing blind users to create accounts, the existing captcha is a pretty good solution, and presumably much better than image classification. The main problem with it is that it is unwelcoming. Installing obscure Chrome extensions is a barrier to entry. That would not be improved by switching to image classification. -- Tim Starling (WMF) (talk) 06:23, 16 July 2019 (UTC)
    That's all fun and all, but before we know it we end up in another WMF mega project that drowns in its own ambitions.. KISS.. —TheDJ (talkcontribs) 08:20, 16 July 2019 (UTC)

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So, will anybody from the WMF be answering the questions at the top of this section any time soon? (...Sound of Crickets...) --Guy Macon (talk) 01:08, 17 July 2019 (UTC)

(...Chirp...) --Guy Macon (talk) 01:25, 2 September 2019 (UTC)