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Wikimedia Taiwan/The Chinese Wikimedia Open Meeting on the 2021 Foundation Official Action/Documentation

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The Chinese Wikimedia Open Meeting on the 2021 Foundation Official Action/Documentation[edit]

  • Date: 3 December 2022
  • Time: 20:00~21:00 (UTC+8)
  • Host: Wikimedia Taiwan Secretary Reke Wang
  • Guest: Wikimedia Foundation, Trust and Safety Director Jan Eißfeldt
  • Meeting format: Reke read questions, Jan answered through a professional interpreter.

Meeting Documentation[edit]

Overview of Trust and Safety and the Official Action, from Jan[edit]

Trust and Safety (T&S) is a team of the Foundation that focuses on keeping the Wikimedia community safe. As a subdepartment, it has several workflows aimed at reducing the exposure of harm to volunteer and reader communities - including terrorism, CSAM, threats of imminent physical harm such as suicide and school shootings, and partners with the Human Rights team on persecutions. T&S administers the office action policy under the guidance of Foundation attorneys, and supports communities to address disinformation on the projects.

As a team, we work across several departments of the Foundation to solve problems and develop ways of combating harmful content. To do this, we enforce the policies regarding Wikimedia Foundation bans of users from the projects and from Foundation-funded or supported events. We further work with other Foundation teams to address concerns about user privacy and freedom that do not necessarily rise to the level of bans.

As a part of the Foundation’s commitment to respect and foster community autonomy, T&S does not handle general community or community-member disputes that may be addressed through community processes. We also do not serve as an appeal avenue for community-made policies and decisions. We are normally happy to assist community members who are in need of help, but most times this help will consist of assisting the community members to find the right community avenue to solve their problem.

The Office Actions that the Foundation took in September of 2021 were as a result of Foundation investigations into activities around some members of the unrecognized group Wikimedians of Mainland China. These investigations were initiated by the Foundation as part of its obligations as the platform provider. While there remain limits to what we can reveal in order to protect the safety and privacy of users in China and in that unrecognized group, I want to acknowledge that the decision to undertake this was not easily made and followed the Office Actions Policy. It was arrived at after months of investigation with an aim of keeping the community safe.

Question 1: Could you disclose the reasons for banning users and the evidence that supports these bans? This can help people outside the community understand the Foundation's actions.[edit]

While the Foundation never publicly comments on specific details of individual office action cases for legal reasons, it has different models of engagement with local communities depending on their local governance structure that might help with this question:

For example, the English Wikipedia Arbitration Committee signs NDAs. It therefore gets some more insights on many issues without creating legal problems. Often, ArbCom (仲裁委員會) handles issues locally directly as an elected community body with NDA privileges.

Polish language Wikipedia also experienced an office action on their wiki over the last year. Naturally, they too had questions like this one that could not be answered in a public format. However, they strongly felt that it was important for their community to understand the context of Foundation office actions better. Therefore, they decided to have a community-elected NDA-signing arbitration committee like English language Wikipedia. The now NDA-signing Polish Wikipedia ArbCom now, too, meets regularly with the Foundation and handles many issues that otherwise would fall to the WMF.

If the Chinese language Wikipedia community strongly feels it, too, wants that additional layer of knowledge and control, we can advise on how other communities created such NDA-signing bodies or organize a meeting with arbitrators from such wikis. Then you could learn more.

Question 2: Could you please disclose more detailed reasons about the Foundation's Action, either to the community or to trusted users (such as those who have signed NDAs)? For example, regarding the role(s) of the persons who have been either banned or had their rights removed in the Action, what specific actions did the WMC take? What were the detailed reasons for the CU rights removal in 2018, etc.? Clarifying these would allow one to understand the truth behind the Foundation's Action.[edit]

If the Chinese language Wikipedia community strongly feels it, like English and Polish language Wikipedia, wants an additional layer of knowledge and control on such matters, a credible group of NDA-signing volunteers is needed. That group still won’t know everything - nor could they tell you about what they learn - but there would be more community context and control compared to now. See my answer above for more context.

The challenge is whether the local community trusts itself to elect such a group and then trusts the volunteers serving in that group to collectively deal with the Foundation on some delicate matters under NDA. Having such a group would certainly be good for community-Foundation collaboration but it ultimately comes down to the community and its trust in a group of people it needs to freely elect to such NDA-signing roles handling work that otherwise the Foundation continues to do as good as it can on its own.

Question 3: In this Action, several administrators were removed without being globally banned. I would like to ask whether it was the case that these people did not participate in the "community ‘capture’" and did not make personal threats or harm people, but rather that their rights were removed because their RFA results were invalidated due to adverse interference of their RFA by the above-mentioned situation?[edit]

When reviewing the concerning actions of the group that undermined community self-governance ahead of the office action, the Foundation recognized that different people participated in that group in different ways. Therefore, the office action addressing the harmful effects of that group undermining the community involved a range of different policy measures as merited by the public and non-public evidence. That included people who benefited from the group that they were members of manipulating their RFAs but were not themselves the manipulators.

Question 4: In the recent administrator election, one of the candidates was someone who had had their rights removed due to the Foundation's Action. Some in the community voiced the concern that since these people had a close relationship with WMC, they could not support the candidate’s reinstatement as an administrator < https://w.wiki/5v3y >. On the other hand, in previous discussions about reintroducing CU rights, some users expressed concerns about former checkusers < https://w.wiki/5v49 >. Therefore, I would like to ask whether the administrators and former checkusers who have had their rights removed by the Foundation's actions will no longer pose risks to or harm the community. And whether they can hold the position of administrator, checkuser or other bureaucrat again in the future, as long as they can regain the trust of the community and undergo a fair election? Do they also need to go through a review by the Foundation before they can be re-elected?[edit]

If the local community, which collaborates with these users every day, expresses its trust in such a user in a

  1. free and fair election that is
  2. conducted as part of community self-governance
  3. within the framework of policies the Foundation has set for the platform (including the NDA policy),

then the Foundation will respect that trust. Expressing concerns about past participation in a group that harms self-governance is a legitimate issue to discuss in the context of such elections and should be addressed by candidates in a manner that other volunteers who are evaluating the candidature find persuasive.

The organization always tries to strengthen local wiki self-governance generally. It is why we support admin elections through SecurePoll for this wiki and we also aim to deliver the other two parts: providing CheckUser learning modules and improving SecurePoll in early 2023.

Questions 5: The current SecruePoll system still shows who the voters are. It is even possible to infer how a particular voter intended to vote by examining the comments they left. Are there any plans on further reducing the amount of voter personal information that is being disclosed?[edit]

The Foundation continues to improve SecurePoll and should roll out changes in early 2023. Aside from voting itself, where SecurePoll does help, free discussions are an important part of community self-governance as well as writing good articles. Many volunteers have reason to be concerned and the Foundation strongly recommends practicing good digital security. We are building learning materials for that aspect, too, for 2023.

Question 6: Is "Someone seems to be related to WMC in some way, so he/she can't become an admin" a legitimate objection? If so, can the reason be used in anyone's RFA? If not, how can you prevent this kind of comments from happening again?[edit]

In the context of elections for roles entrusted by the community with self-governance work, expressing concerns about past participation of a user in a group that harmed community self-governance is a legitimate issue to discuss. RFAs are such elections and not everyone participated in that group in the same manner. Legitimate concerns that have been reasonably expressed should be addressed by candidates in a manner that other volunteers who are evaluating the candidature find persuasive.

Question 7: Has everything related to WMC been cleaned up? How to deal with the discrimination of some groups in zhwiki community against some mainland Chinese users who would like to become admin?[edit]

It is useful to distinguish between groups and individuals on the one hand and the bigger tension between the five pillars of Wikipedia and the desire of any particular government or political organization from any country to interfere with them and control knowledge on the other hand. The second challenge to the communities and the Foundation will keep us busy together for a very long time.

Communities should evaluate users interested in helping as admin candidates based on how they contribute to the wiki, how they treat their fellow volunteers, and their work within the policies. Both the fourth pillar of Wikipedia and the Universal Code of Conduct are clear that discrimination has no place on wiki.

The Universal Code of Conduct provides a baseline of behavior for collaboration on Wikimedia projects worldwide. They transparently help everyone to identify situations of bad behavior. The Office Actions policy also details how the Foundation specifically evaluates its cases. It also states how Foundation investigations are different from community sanctions; for example, Foundation Global Bans ban the natural person from participating and not only the user accounts and sockpuppets that the person creates. As we identify and evaluate users interested in helping as admin candidates it is important to remember that behaviors such as harassment, abuse of power, privilege, or influence, and content vandalism and abuse of the projects are considered unacceptable within the Wikimedia movement.

Questions 8: What is the Foundation's position towards future work related to mainland China? How will the Foundation continue to help user groups in mainland China to promote Wikimedia projects?[edit]

The Foundation aims to empower communities around the world to freely share the sum of humankind's knowledge. That is aligned with the five pillars of Wikipedia that local communities follow. We regret that the blocking of Wikipedia in mainland China has made it more difficult for the mainland Chinese people to join a broader Chinese-language community in sharing neutral facts with one another and the world. We believe that people from all countries - including mainland China - share the same right to access and share free knowledge. The Foundation is committed to protecting and respecting that right in accordance with our human rights policy, based on international human rights standards. Our commitment to human rights includes the commitment to protect all volunteers - regardless of national origin or any other characteristic - from threats, intimidation, harassment, or physical violence by other volunteers.

Question 9: Some people who have been banned in this Action have branched Wikipedia. They took most of Wikipedia’s content to create a so-called “求闻百科” [Enquiries encyclopedia] ( www.qiuwen.wiki ) and adopted CC-BY-SA 4.0 for the branched site. What is WMF's position towards this site? Will there be any kind of sanction?[edit]

The community voted to adopt CC-by-SA licensing for the content the wikis host in 2009. This freely licensed content isn’t owned by the Foundation and the organization respects that the licensing allows freely reusing content as licensed for many purposes.