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User:Leucosticte/Wikipedians in Exile

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Wikipedians in Exile is an organization of users who have been banned from Wikipedia and await their opportunity to return. It is not necessarily a situation of opprobrium, any more than getting fired from one's job or getting kicked out of a club is always a sign of disgrace. It could just mean that the person who was removed was not a good fit for the culture of that particular organization at that time. His continued presence was deemed to cause more harm than good to the organizational leaders' actual goals (whatever their stated goals might have been), so a decision was made to exclude him.

This does not mean that the judgment was correct or that the goals it was intended to fulfil were good goals. In some cases, a person is removed for taking, and acting upon, a highly principled stand with which the powers that be disagree. Obviously, those who are willing to go along to get along will have less of a tendency to be removed, but whether their way is superior is a matter of opinion. Sometimes history is made by those who are unwilling to submit to rules with which they disagree, and are accordingly expelled from their community.

There may be some resentment against, or fear of, those who have been banned, for possibly causing alarm, drama, trouble, etc. on the part of their fellow users in whatever process was involved in banning them. There may be a reluctance to reinstate them because it could lead to the same sort of problems in the future. While it is true that there are those who insist on a user's remaining exiled, and will raise a fuss if they don't get their way, this does not necessarily mean that they should be accommodated, or that their reaction is the banned user's fault. It all depends on what one's ultimate values are. Whatever decision is made, Sanger's Law will tend to ensure that a new equilibrium is reached and harmony will eventually be restored.

The desirability of banned users' providing input[edit]

Some might say, "Banned users' input should be disregarded because they have proven themselves to be unfit to be members of the community, and they may have a bias against the current system because of their personal experiences." Of course, non-banned users probably have their own biases from various personal experiences as well; this is unavoidable, and not necessarily bad. Personal experience is an important source of information, even if it is subject to confirmation bias, self-serving bias, and so on.

Henry David Thoreau wrote of "how much more eloquently and effectively he can combat injustice who has experienced a little in his own person."[2] Having personally been subjected to injustice tends to fuel one's passion to combat that injustice. It would be arrogant to proclaim that the community or ArbCom never engage in what will later be regarded as injustice or error in their banning decisions. At any rate, it is a matter of opinion whether a given banning decision was good or not, and the opinion of the "rough consensus" of editors or of an ArbCom that receives evidence and hears cases in secret, and therefore cannot be fully accountable to the community, is not necessarily the correct opinion. But who will care enough to try to fix whatever systemic problems might be at the root of such faulty decisions?


WiE has the following agenda:

Reconsider effectiveness and helpfulness of banning[edit]

Long-term banning goes against the wiki way because it makes bad edits harder to make rather than easier to correct. In many cases, a better solution would be to apply additional scrutiny to the activity of editors deemed problematic. Various wiki-organizations could create their own lists of such editors, based on their own judgments. This would be a wikidynamist solution because it would allow for decentralized action of users and groups thereof on their own initiative.

Arguably, the users with the potential to be most problematic are not the type who get banned, but those who have sysop powers or who sit on the ArbCom. Allowing banning gives them another tool for wreaking havoc and pushing certain agendas by silencing the opposition. Low-turnout elections are not necessarily an effective tool for keeping them under control, especially since banned users aren't allowed to vote.

Also, it's worth bearing in mind that bans are pretty hard to enforce given the current rules of engagement. Suppose a user edits articles A, B and C to insert pieces of information 1, 2 and 3. He is discovered to be a banned user, and reverted and blocked. If he wants to use a new sockpuppet without being unmasked, all he needs to do is avoid distinctive behavior.

E.g. instead of getting in an edit war over his old reverts, he can make edits that bear insufficient resemblance to his old editing pattern to warrant a checkuser. E.g., he can edit articles D, E and F, which he has never edited before under an unmasked sockpuppet account. Or he can even edit articles A, B and C again, and insert pieces of information 4, 5 and 6, as long as he splits up edits among different sockpuppets and thereby maintains plausible deniability. In short, he just has to make sure it's not such an identifiable pattern of edits that it's obvious what's going on.

Reinstate the "standard offer"[edit]

Wikipedia used to be fairly lenient and forgiving. It is not so much that way anymore. Bans of indefinite length are handed out much more often than they used to be, and it is very hard to get them overturned. Pending the adoption of a more radical solution (viz. abolition of banning), Wikipedia should go back to the practice of letting banned users return after a period of six months (at the most; some shorter period, such as three months might be more reasonable) without sockpuppetry.

Conduct all ban and ban appeal processes openly[edit]

So that the community can weigh in on bans and judge whether there is a sound basis for bans, all ban and ban appeal processes should be conducted openly. The practice of the ArbCom's receiving evidence and arguments in secret should be ended. The votes of each Arbitrator on every decision should be published.

Establish safeguards against unnecessary global bans[edit]

Users who are controversial on some wikis might do just fine on others. Therefore, it is best for the Wikimedia community as a whole to avoid global bans that are binding on all local wikis, except when legal circumstances would require such bans. Rather than unduly interfering in the affairs of local wikis, the larger Wikimedia community should practice tolerance for local wikis' unique cultures.

Allow users banned pursuant to secret ArbCom proceedings to appeal to the community[edit]

Cato's Letter No. 115 points out that it is expedient to secure the "sacred right of appealing to the people" rather than entrusting a person's fate solely to the magistrates.

Show leniency for technical violations[edit]

Minor violations, such as making productive edits while banned, should not be severely punished. Presently, the practice is to require these technical violators to wait one year before applying for an unban; this could probably be shortened to six, three, or zero months without causing a problem.

Stop banning users for incidents that occurred off-wiki[edit]

There seems to be increasing ArbCom support for banning users if they have been convicted of crimes that had nothing to do with Wikipedia. For instance, one ArbCom member writes, "If it becomes known that a user is a convicted sex offender - that is someone who has been convicted of offences against a person or persons under legal age of consent, should that user be blocked? . . . My thinking is that someone having sex with someone younger than the lowest legal age - 12 - would be seen by most reasonable people as a "child sexual abuser", and if they had been convicted of that, and we were to find out, then both for the protection of our younger users, and for the protection of Wikipedia's reputation, we should have a clear policy that allows us to block them."

Users can be proactive in reducing the likelihood of such bans from occurring by going anonymous. Still, in the event the user is unmasked as being a particular person — and there are probably many people willing to email the ArbCom with evidence outing a person, although it would be deemed inappropriate to out a person on-wiki — under current practices, he is probably screwed if he has certain crimes in his past.

This edit by Alison made it so that users like Tyciol will basically never be able to come back to Wikipedia.

Allow indef-banned users to continue to edit their talk pages, unless they abuse that privilege too[edit]

Otherwise, how will they tell their side of the story to the community? If someone doesn't like what that user has to say, he can avoid watching that page.

Abolish CSD G5[edit]

See Wikipedia:Criteria_for_speedy_deletion#General. Many other Wikimedia wikis do not have a rule allowing summary deletion of pages merely because they were created by a banned user, and they seem to be doing fine. GregBard remarks, "While it is obviously horrible that the Nazis experimented on people for research, it would be very very stupid to throw all that data away with the notion of honoring the dead." If a user produces a good work product, the work product should be kept for the benefit of the readers rather than deleted just for the sake of upholding a rule. This is so obvious that repeal of G5 is practically a perennial proposal, but like almost all proposals, it never goes anywhere.


How does WiE intend to accomplish its agenda, since banned users cannot participate in discussions on the wiki from which they were banned? It is possible to influence wikipolitics from a distance, e.g. by posting commentary here or in other places on the Internet. It is possible to gather information; e.g. it would be interesting to compare current ban rates to what they were in the past. It is possible to prevent bad policies from spreading to other wikis or from being globalized.

See also[edit]


  1. Pearse, Roger (22 August 2012). "Reading what ex-Wikipedians have to say". 
  2. Thoreau, Henry David. "Resistance to Civil Government".