The term “harassment” covers a variety of aggressive, invasive, or undesirable behaviors that are committed by one person or a group of people against another(s) for the purpose of, or with the effect of, making the victim feel threatened or unwelcome. These actions can include things like name-calling, purposely embarrassing someone, making threats (physical or non-physical), sexual harassment or unwanted sexual attention, invasion of privacy or the publishing of private personal information, stalking (both physical or online), or bullying.
Various policies and guidelines from the projects give more specific definitions; see the Friendly Spaces Expectations or the English Wikipedia’s policy on harassment. The Wikimedia technical community is also in the process of creating a Code of Conduct that defines specific behaviour that constitutes harassment.
Is harassment the same as "trolling" or other disruptive behaviour?
The two categories often overlap, but “trolling” and “harassment” are not always synonymous. Trolling often has a public, performative aspect to it, in which the perpetrator’s goal is to force a reaction out of the victim; harassment, on the other hand, may take place publicly, privately, or both, and can have a more specific goal than just “a reaction”. Harassment may also be targeted at a specific characteristic of the victim; for instance, targeting people of a particular gender or racial background would constitute harassment rather than just trolling. See the links in Q.1 above for some definitions of harassment within our movement.
Is harassment a problem on Wikimedia projects? Is it a problem on the Internet in general?
Yes. A survey the Wikimedia Foundation ran in 2015 showed that 38% of responding users have experienced being harassed on or about Wikimedia projects, and that more than 50% of people who reported being harassed this way also reported subsequently decreasing their participation on the project they were harassed on. An exact number of how many users have been affected by harassment on Wikimedia projects is difficult to calculate. The reason for this difficulty is that many instances go unreported; some types of behaviour reported to community noticeboards may not fit accepted definitions of harassment, and other types of harassment are very unlikely to be publicly acknowledged. In spite of these challenges in measuring harassment, the Harassment survey gives a broad indication that many users have been affected by the problem. In terms of the wider Internet, the Pew Research Center found that, “Fully 73% of adult internet users have seen someone be harassed in some way online and 40% have personally experienced it”. Most platforms and online communities are experiencing problems related to harassment, and many are looking for solutions. See also Research:Online harassment resource guide.
Has harassment been previously discussed in the Wikimedia movement?
This issue has been discussed in many different areas of the movement; recently, both the 2015 Harassment Consultation and the ongoing Harassment Workshop have explored ideas around the problem. The Wikimedia technical community is discussing these issues as they create a Code of Conduct.
What is the difference between previous efforts, like the 2015 harassment consultation, and this Inspire campaign?
Previous consultations about harassment have largely been generalized, with the goal of information-gathering about what the issues are and what types of solutions could be possible. This Inspire campaign’s goal is to build on what those consultations have established, by allowing contributors to suggest and discuss concrete, actionable proposals for ideas such as new behavioral guidelines, events, research proposals, new software ideas or changes that might then be submitted for Rapid Grants and Project Grants (launching 1 July 2016) for funding.
Isn’t there a high risk that anti-harassment tools and policies could be used to stifle free speech, or be “gamed” by editors to remove ideological opponents?
In the broadest sense, yes, this is a danger to be considered. In practice, however, it is much more common for laws or policies about harassment to go routinely unenforced than it is for such a policy to be over-enforced. As this Electronic Frontier Foundation article points out, not putting anti-harassment policies in place is known to stifle free speech from those who fear harassment. This disproportionately affects members of marginalized groups, and results in a decreased diversity of opinions and contributions - itself a major free speech issue.
In addition, a recent research project by the WMF’s Support and Safety team found that among social media sites they investigated, those which have a conduct policy that includes harassment usually explain in specific detail what is and isn’t considered harassment (noting that, for instance, a nude image may be harassment if it’s an unsolicited nude picture but not if it is Michelangelo's sculpture of David) and provide human review of reported harassment prior to any action being taken. This greatly limits the amount of "gaming" possible in these cases, as bad-faith reports could generally be easily written off based on explicit policies and, failing that, to be reviewed and discarded by moderators who recognize them to be non-actionable.
If I have been harassed on a Wikimedia project, where can I report it?
Many Wikimedia projects have policies prohibiting harassment, and such behavior is generally handled locally on each project. If you want to report your experience of harassment, you can find your project on this list of harassment policies and follow the reporting instructions that your project recommends. If you have ideas for how to improve the way that harassment is handled, please submit your ideas during this campaign. If you feel that you or another person is in imminent danger of physical harm, please follow the emergency reporting instructions provided here.
I have an idea for reducing harassment, but I don’t want to publicly post it on Meta. Can I submit an idea by email?
Yes! You are welcome to e-mail them to Chris Schilling, cschilling wikimedia org, who is in charge of the IdeaLab space. These can be posted on your behalf by Chris or another WMF staff member to gather feedback from others. However, for an idea to reach the grant stage, it will need a public proposal. But the Inspire coordinators can help put you in touch with others who might be willing to take on the idea.
Part of IdeaLab, Inspire campaigns are roughly one-month events where we encourage ideas along a specific theme relevant to Wikimedia projects. The goal is to promote and elevate ideas that have been developed by participants that address that theme, and turn them into action. One way of doing so is through the use of the grant programs that the Wikimedia Foundation offers. These defined ideas can also be brought back to local projects for discussion, improvement, and consensus-building, and implementation.
Last year, the first Inspire campaign focused on the gender gap, specifically, increasing women's participation in Wikimedia projects in addition to the general topical coverage of women. The second campaign was focused on content curation and review. Ideas were submitted as a part of this consultation. If you have suggestions for future Inspire campaigns, please feel free to suggest them at the discussion page.
No. Ideas created through the Inspire Campaign proposals will be submitted through the same grant channels as all other proposals. They will be reviewed using the same criteria as proposals not associated with this Inspire campaign.
- Duggan, Maeve (2014-10-22). "Part 1: Experiencing Online Harassment". Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Retrieved 2016-05-25.