Jump to content

Wikimedia Foundation Community Affairs Committee/2024-03-21 Conversation with Trustees

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Recording of 21 March Conversation with the Trustees

The Community Affairs Committee – a committee of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees – hosted a Conversation with the Trustees on 21 March from 19:00-20:30 UTC. This conversation was an opportunity for community members to speak directly with the trustees about their work. The Board of Trustees is a volunteer body of movement leaders and external experts in charge of guiding the Wikimedia Foundation and ensuring its accountability.

How to participate[edit]

This conversation was held on Zoom with a live YouTube stream. The call was 90 minutes and consisted of updates as well as open Q&A and conversation.

The recording was immediately available via the same YouTube link. It is also available on commons (right).

Submit your questions[edit]

Participants brought questions to ask live during the open Q&A, and submitted them ahead of time to askcac(_AT_)wikimedia.org.

Agenda[edit]

  • Board updates
  • The Foundation and Board perspectives on the Movement Charter
  • Foundation's 2024–2025 Annual Plan
  • Open Q&A

Notes[edit]

Notes are provided for documentation purposes. They paraphrase the call. For full context and exact details on what was discussed, please refer to the recording.

Celebrations[edit]

  • Wikipedia celebrated 23 years in January
  • Bengali Wikipedia and Ukrainian Wikipedia turned 20 in January
  • Stewards Elections closed at the end of January; and there are 7 newly-elected stewards
  • Slovenian and Serbian Wikipedias celebrated birthdays in February
  • Wiki Loves Africa just celebrated it 10 year anniversary
  • Wikimedia Australia turns 15 this month

Board updates[edit]

  • The board met in New York two weeks ago
  • New board officers - thanking members rotating off  as vice chairs & welcoming new vice chairs
  • During the meeting, Dariusz, Chair of the Board Selection Working Group, gave an update on the 2024 Board selection process status, which you can read more about here
  • During the strategic retreat part of the meeting, we continued with our three priority topics: (1) financial model, including updates on online revenue trends, Wikimedia Enterprise, and Wikimedia Endowment; (2) product and technology; and (3) roles and responsibilities. This time we also focused  more  on longer-term planning about the work of the Foundation.
  • Governance workshop for trustees, sharing best practices
  • Thank you to community members and affiliates, who took time to engage with the next phase of the Affiliates strategy on Meta and in calls - just ended yesterday the feedback cycle! Next steps will be here: m:Wikimedia_Foundation_Affiliates_Strategy
  • For Sister Projects Task Force, working on a draft policy about what steps are needed for a new sister project proposal to be discussed (what data is needed), but also what are the steps needed to close a project (and which data needs to be taken into account). We hope to have a community conversation on this draft proposal after the CAC will approve the draft for a consultation. m:Wikimedia_Foundation_Community_Affairs_Committee/Sister_Projects_Task_Force

Topic Q&A[edit]

  • Is it possible to discuss versions of projects that are not differentiated by language? What about cultural significance rather than language?
    • Important consideration. We will do the community consultation to see what comes up in terms of how to think about and organize this work.

Board and Foundation perspectives on Movement Charter[edit]

  • Letter on Meta from the Board sent to MCDC: m:Talk:Movement_Charter#Wikimedia_Foundation_perspectives_on_the_Global_Council
  • Summary of changes in responsibilities related to Global Council under consideration:
    • 1. Decision-making on funds dissemination.
    • 2. Decision-making on affiliate recognition and strategy.
    • 3. Advice on Product & Technology
    • Page on Meta goes into details about why: precedent about participatory involvement in these spheres that can be improved / iterated on.
  • and not under consideration. These changes are not necessarily off the table indefinitely, will depend on governing body.
    • Continue to serve as technical platform operator.
    • Maintain the Foundation’s current legal structure.
    • Continue to serve as brand steward.
    • Retain the current principles for banner fundraising on the Wikimedia Projects.
  • A lot of resources went into the Charter–from volunteers, staff members, volunteers, whole movement interacting with it.
  • Board needs to ensure that Movement Charter will be serving the strategic direction we agreed upon as a movement. Give clarity. Address current and future needs. Resolve existing issues.
  • The key principles which would be guiding the Foundation’s approach to the Movement Charter, which we shared with the Movement Charter Drafting Committee as well:
    • Structures must have a clear purpose and accountabilities;
    • Roles and responsibilities should be guided by where decisions can be made with adequate accountability, resources, and visibility;
    • Certain responsibilities cannot be transferred
  • Align on which problems need to be addressed, and how the issues are being resolved with the movement charter :
    • What is the purpose of the Global Council?
    • What are the problems proposed to be solved by a Global Council? Could these problems be addressed by structures that are already in place, even if that required modification of existing structures?
    • In light of the above, what decisions would the Global Council make and how would the Global Council be held accountable to all of the stakeholders within our movement, to our movement's financial and volunteer contributors, and to the public our projects aim to serve?
  • The proposed changes should also be practically possible, and we should be able to evaluate them as the Movement, as mentioned in the relevant Recommendation: m:Movement_Strategy/Recommendations/Ensure_Equity_in_Decision-making

Topic Q&A[edit]

There will be a Wikimedia Summit next month in Berlin. Will it be the last one? Could there be a Summit which is a gathering of affiliate representatives from all over the world? A kind of Global Council which could be codified in the Charter. What’s your take?

  • Summit may not be proto-Global Council. It was a place to host discussions like Movement Strategy, meet BoT candidates, capacity development for Board members of affiliates and affiliate members. Not created to make decisions. Summit that was will probably not work for that purpose.
  • If there will be a need for a codified event for people to come and make decisions, it will likely be codified in Charter in a general way.
  • This will be the last Summit how we know it, but what is going to happen next may be discussed at the Summit itself. WMDE and WMIT did a lot of work to support it. How it’s going to be used, not used or changed. We can find out more on 2 April when next draft of Movement Charter is released.
  • Hope that the goals will be considered first before talking about the forum.

What does the Board think should be fixed in Movement governance? Why share these thoughts now? Does budget exist for Wikimedia Summit 2025?

  • Does not currently exist in the budget.
  • How decisions were being made was not equitable or participatory enough, we need to make sure decisions have more input from affected people. We want to focus on the three areas outlined for improvement.
  • In terms of timing, we didn’t have all the data needed to look at the Foundation operations against concrete ideas / recommendations for the Movement  Charter until now. We were figuring out what the Foundation was best positioned to do within what has been discussed. These have been parallel processes and we’ve been learning during the whole process.
  • Because we haven’t had a global body, the Foundation has been a go-to for everything. That is not sustainable. We need to better define what it is the Foundation will do, and make sure we transfer power, ownership, responsibility, accountability to other movement forces.
  • Thank you to MCDC, complex process. Not easy, no precedent.

Foundation's Annual Plan[edit]

  • Community Affairs Committee works to support engagement with community, good coordination between all stakeholders in the movement, and better transparency about what the Board does and what the Foundation does. Part of it is the Annual Plan, and overall strategically supporting the  Foundation goals.
  • Foundation does different types of planning for different horizons, but this is to start in July 2024 until June 2025.
  • This year process began with Talking:2024. Conversations between Foundation leadership, trustees, community members to learn, listen, share. Understand each other’s priorities and plans. Over 130 conversations with affiliates, technical volunteers, organizers etc. Understand challenges people are facing, Foundation’s priorities.
  • Takeaways from conversations helped inform the Annual Plan and the Board meeting in March.
  • Informed also thinking about movement needs in a multi-year way.
  • Talking:2024 is still happening, you can sign up for a conversation.
  • Consistent over the last few years: our planning starts with looking at external trends that are shaping our world and our work: changing internet, generative AI, future audiences we need to reach on other platforms, changing regulation and legal landscapes.
  • Plan continues to be anchored in 2030 Strategic Direction / Movement Strategy recommendations.
  • Prioritizing supporting technical and human infrastructure of our movement. Build on progress made last year.
  • Attempting to put as much information in the open as soon as possible: P&T publish objectives and key results ahead of the Annual Plan: m:Talk:Wikimedia_Foundation_Annual_Plan/2024-2025/Goals/Infrastructure
  • Rate of growth is slowing so there is a need to be clearer with each other about tradeoffs. Rate is slowing even as we work hard on new revenue channels. Foundation has been slowing its own growth significantly over past two years, last year there were a series of staff and expense reductions.
  • Rate in funding growth for movement entities has outpaced growth of Foundation itself. Looking ahead that will probably even out in future years.

Topic Q&A[edit]

Division of resources. We are still sticking to geographic/regional distribution as we did in the past, but we have huge discrepancies within regions. May make sense to create a new region that is not geographic but includes countries / areas that have been under-resourced.

  • There has been an imperfect way of trying to divide resources between regions and within them. Important question about funding thematic work that is not necessarily divided by region.
  • Ideas around convenings: some have been happening for a long time that can teach us how to do this more strategically. Celtic Knot, for example, developing expertise on how to think about minority languages. How can we translate that into a global conversation?

I love the focus on experienced editors, but are we devoting enough resources to maintenance for readers, such as the Graphs bug?

  • We have multiple audiences and limited resources. Readers, experienced editors, newcomers, etc.
  • Differences in opinion with respect to what should be prioritized for readers. You can talk directly to the team about your thoughts around prioritization at the Annual Plan OKRs page: https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Talk:Wikimedia_Foundation_Annual_Plan/2024-2025/Goals/Infrastructure.
  • Point added after the call from Product and Technology: The situation with graphs has been a particularly challenging one because of the wide range of things that the extension can do, and the security implications of those capabilities.  A team is working intensively now to propose a path forward that would enable the most important functionality of graphs.  In the coming weeks, we’ll be talking about that proposal internally and with communities, though we are not yet sure when we would be able to resource it.

Open Question and Answer[edit]

Relocated from Movement Charter topic Q&A to general section: Present a report presented in the UN by the World Jewish Council related to bias in English Wikipedia against Israel. Request to present findings and discuss recommendations. Findings suggest failure to uphold neutrality.

  • Report just came out, in hands of Disinformation Team. They will check all references and links and understand against editorial policy. Will take some time to look at it.
  • Will look for appropriate venue to discuss once the team has reviewed.

Discussion of affiliates–using Wikimedia brand and grants money– not complying with movement values in their conduct, engaging in harassment and other misconduct.

  • Chapters have their own legal identities and independent responsibilities.
  • Some of these issues–regarding in person misconduct–may be legal matters for local law enforcement. But there’s also the question about movement values and how the movement expects people to treat each other. Universal Conduct Coordinating Committee will hopefully handle issues like this: areas where people are struggling at local level, how do we have accountability to each other. Big body of work, still in development.
  • Then there’s the issue of responsible use of grants funds. Acknowledgement of a need for global standards that go beyond Governance Best Practices

For more than 3 months, Arabic Wikipedia has displayed a banner to spread political claims. Longest use of banner in movement history, not used to promote values of movement. Principle of neutral, reliable, credible information neglected in banner text. Why has the Foundation been silent on this? How does the Board view the current banner, how does it related to the movement mission? Where is the line about the powerful tool of site notice being used to promote political views?

  • Different projects reaching different consensus on principles like neutrality. Policy alone won’t fix this but policy improvements can make spaces for conversations that might be able to.
  • Arabic language Wikipedia actions contains two actions subject to two different policies and precedents: puzzle globe logo, modified to have colors of flag, second the banner itself at the top of the page. On modified logo, governed by local community approval and Wikimedia trademark policy adopted in 2014, based on extensive discussion. Volunteers requested latitude to use and modify logo across projects, and there’s a long history of logos being changed including with national colors. This wans’t the use we anticipated when we were writing the policy–those uses were more about project milestones and local holidays. The uses we’re seeing today raise a number of other considerations.
  • Different communities have reached different conclusions independently about modifying the puzzle globe and whether it’s appropriate. Lack of global place to make these decisions.
  • This type of use is permitted under the trademark policy, so long as it complies with the Terms of Use.
  • Community governance for content decisions. Volunteers determine how to implement Wikimedia’s core principles. Foundation does usually not get involved in content decisions made by communities. In this case, decision was made by consensus and the Foundation was not involved at all.
  • Other applicable policies include CentralNotice Guidelines, but ultimately it’s the Terms of Use that govern what is on the platform.
  • There is some vagueness around how banners could be used. No firm policy that answers this question.
  • Foundation and volunteers should look at how these different policies come together and how we can improve them. Priority under 2024-2025 Annual Plan to add clarity to these policies, together with volunteers.
  • Best place to address these banners now is on Arabic Wikipedia or Meta.
  • Not a satisfactory answer, but this is the one we have right now. The Board has not discussed this topic–we are figuring out if the Board is the best entity to weigh in. It’s a policy change, a stance, it falls within what we perceive to be the role of the projects. Acknowledgement that this is not an easy topic.

Follow-up: So as long as a community decides on a banner or action including site notice, they can do anything?

  • Different policies that apply for banner versus logo, but in all cases decisions need to follow our Terms of Use. There are cases that are clearly outside the bounds like hate speech or things that are outright illegal.
  • Where there’s room for debate on what is neutral and what is not, that’s where we generally entrust volunteers to have conversations necessary to reach the right conclusions.
  • Currently policies are not adequate. There are many hard questions we can use to test out these policies and when tested the policies don’t arrive at the right answer. So we need to examine and improve them as a whole. But for now, this is what we have: Terms of Use, Central Notice guidelines, trademark policy, and community judgment through dialogue.

French language Wikipedia: last queer admins stepped down recently. Issue of vocal minority of editors overwriting previous consensus on deadnames in trans biographies. While these issues are happening on French Wikipedia now, they are universal issues. We believe French Wikipedia is actively hostile and in need of office actions. The Board may need to be prepared to act to benefit the community in ways that don’t always defer to the consensus of the community. Will you commit to supporting the trust and safety findings on this even if doing so is unpopular? Can you reassure LGBTQ+ editors and other minoritized groups that we won’t have to endure growing hostility?

  • Keeping the Board accountable to its commitments in protecting marginalized Wikimedians impacted by situations like this.
  • Based on the T&S investigation, Board will be prepared to stand by its commitments to support community health and inclusive and safe communities.
  • Also stand by commitment Foundation made in 2020 to be vigilant in cases where individuals are targeted by identity factors.
  • The Foundation has been closely looking into the situation in French Wikipedia. Board will commit to supporting T&S findings and any related actionable steps toward protecting marginalized communities being targeted by hostility and harassment, regardless of whether it will be a popular decision.
  • The Universal Code of Conduct Coordinating Committee will eventually be responsible for these types of investigations but since we haven’t constituted that yet, the Foundation is handling this investigation now through Trust & Safety and is taking it very seriously.

Questions answered after the call[edit]

What is the reasoning behind the willingness to give the Global Council advice scope on Product & Technology but for example not topics like fundraising strategy which seems a logical complement to dissemination?

  • The letter from the board to the MCDC about the Wikimedia Foundation's perspectives on the Global Council covers the reasoning behind why certain changes are under consideration while others are not currently. The changes that are under consideration are decision-making on funds dissemination, affiliate recognition & strategy, and advice on product & tech. Changes not under consideration are that the Foundation continues to serve as technical platform operator, that the Foundation’s current legal structure is maintained, and that the Foundation continues to serve as brand steward and retain the current principles for banner fundraising on the Wikimedia Projects. The Global Council would be a logical fit for advice and strategy on technology, both because they are and would represent users of that technology and because of the precedent of successful collaboration on this front. Fundraising strategy will likely center more on donor needs, because they are the audience for fundraising and are, as it stands, not represented on the Global Council. In terms of ongoing and embedded community involvement in fundraising, however, the Foundation’s fundraising team will continue to run open, collaborative processes around fundraising banners.
  • Additionally, as stated in the letter, any changes not under consideration have the potential to be disruptive to operations, and would thus require extra consideration. They are not necessarily off the table forever, and if the GC proves effective, there may be other opportunities.  
  • Next fiscal year, the Foundation, in line with the Movement Strategy recommendation to “distribute the responsibility of revenue generation across Movement entities and develop local fundraising skills to increase sustainability” we will be partnering with affiliates to support their individual fundraising strategies, through the support of a fundraising consultant. Fundraising is contextual to specific markets, and this consultant will be working with affiliates to create and implement localized fundraising strategies.

Is it possible to have an abridged version of the Charter? - Something that will simplify the whole topic to newbies and other Wikipedians who may not be interested in the administrative area of Wikimedia.

  • The new version to be published in April 2 is much shorter than the initial first and second drafts. The MCDC is working hard to consolidate to have a document that is simpler and more concise.

The perspectives on the Movement Charter represent recommendations by the WMF hired lawyers; how can we be sure that this is a neutral reflection on possible changes within our movement to reach more democratic decision making?

How do we enforce the UCoC to a very experienced community member who continuously violates the Friendly space policy and UCoC?

  • We are at a transitional point in UCoC enforcement, with the appeal out now for applicants for the Universal Code of Conduct Coordination Committee (U4C) and with reporting software in development. However, at this point, we rely heavily on existing structures, particularly using local processes to begin review when possible. Where possible, the reporting structures detailed in the Enforcement Guidelines should govern, so - for instance - friendly space policy violations should be reported to the organizing team of the conference or, in some cases, Trust & Safety. On wiki violations should be handled by local administrators and other processes whenever possible, unless their severity dictates other handling.
  • Concerns of systemic failure which are somewhat implied here - that a person is continuously violating these policies and nothing is being done about it - will eventually be managed by the U4C, but at this point may be appropriately reviewed by broader community consultation on Meta or by forwarding to Trust & Safety at the Foundation. The Foundation’s Trust & Safety staff has intentional limitations on their mandate to act, but can often advise if action falls outside of their remit. We know there are limits to the usefulness of both Meta and, given their mandate, Trust & Safety in such cases, but hope to help as we build out the new process to support.

Regarding the Arabic Wikipedia banners, wouldn’t the safe approach be to ban, for the duration of the discussion, any banner not directly related to Wikimedia’s actions? Better worded of course but to create the space for discussion?

As stated in the meeting, the banner approval process currently relies heavily on local community consensus with limited policy frameworks, resulting in some vagueness that can be potentially problematic. At present, neither the Terms of Use (that govern all user activity on the site) nor the CentralNotice guidelines (that govern usage of banners) draw this particular distinction. However, a goal of the Foundation under the upcoming Annual Plan is to lead a discussion to add more clarity to the policies, as was stated on the call. This question would be under consideration by communities and the Foundation during that consultation, and we encourage anyone interested to be part of posing questions and proposing solutions.