Grants:IdeaLab/Partnership between Wikimedia community and Tor community

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Partnership between Wikimedia community and Tor community
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Make a process by means of which logged-in Tor users can contribute to Wikimedia projects
created on: 11:48, 7 February 2014

What is the problem you're trying to solve? edit

At this time global society agrees that people have a right to personal privacy and whenever possible, personal privacy should be granted. Beyond that, significant numbers of people have an exceptional need for privacy. In Wikimedia projects, there are reasons why good project contributors would want to preserve their privacy by avoiding the sharing of their IP address with either the Wikimedia Foundation or those with Checkuser status. However, there is currently no process in place by means of which it is possible to contribute to Wikimedia projects in this way. It is difficult to design a system to allow access, because there has to be a compromise in which the Wikimedia community gives up some of its defense against vandals while the privacy community must be willing to overcome some additional barriers so that the net effect is that with with extra work, good private contributors can still participate in the Wikimedia community but bad actors will be detected and deterred.

So long as Wikimedia projects require that people must share their IP address to contribute, valuable perspectives are lost when some users are unable to contribute and some people who contribute to Wikimedia projects sacrifice their personal safety in doing so.

What is the current solution? edit

  1. Consider past conversations, documented on the talk page here.
  2. New Tor users will find them automatically blocked. Tor users must request an IP block exemption. This gives that user the right to edit using an open proxy. This step is intended as a bottleneck to give the Wikimedia community ability to assess the users' intention.
  3. The No open proxies global policy, which gives Tor users this right to request an exemption from the automatic block, applies to all projects so that there is no discrimination. It's also translatable, and linked by the interface so that users in all languages of all Wikimedia projects can know about it.

What is your solution? edit

  1. Note that Tor users are currently automatically blocked from creating Wikimedia accounts. Grant Tor users the ability to create Wikimedia accounts. The Wikimedia Foundation has to change configuration of their server to allow this. These accounts would be blocked upon creation, except that the Tor user can post to their own talk page.
  2. After posting the request for an exemption, an established Wikimedia community member must name themselves as "mentor" of this Tor user.
    1. This is a bottleneck step which gives the Wikimedia community time to begin monitoring the Tor account
    2. The hassle of this step encourages the Tor user to build a persistent identity within the account they create
    3. This step can be paused, and community regulation of the process would likely happen here.
    4. This is modeled after the Adopt-a-user project on English Wikipedia
    5. The main responsibility of monitors is to disable access if the Tor account was requested for doing harassment or vandalism, which is the Wikimedia community's biggest fear
  3. After the mentor volunteers, the IP exemption will be granted on the basis of any established Wikimedian committing to watch them.
  4. Different Wikimedia projects may have their own policies about granting IP block exemption. This system is designed for English Wikipedia.

Background edit

Persons using Tor (the anonymity network) are currently blocked from creating Wikipedia accounts and contributing to Wikipedia while using Tor. The rationale for this is a 2006 policy, en:Wikipedia:Open proxies, was mostly developed from 2004 conversations about preventing vandalism and harassment. Since then, Wikimedia projects have developed their communities more and have tools to prevent vandalism, while at the same time the demand for and utility of channels for having contributions through open proxies has increased.

Currently, the ban on open proxies includes a ban on a diverse, vulnerable and vocal population of users who would like to contribute to Wikimedia projects but risk their personal safety by doing so. It would be aligned with Wikimedia community values to create a system to allow some users to have the ability to edit through an open proxy.

What is an open proxy and why does it matter? edit

An open proxy is an IP address which is not tied to a physical location. The Internet can be accessed from open proxies through an anonymization service, which work by providing an open virtual private network which anyone can use to withhold their IP address and instead present the IP address of an intermediary computer which acts as a proxy for making the request for the webpage or for sending a message forward.

Wikimedia projects have banned open proxies because people who wish to vandalize or harass the Wikimedia projects could cause more trouble if they used an open proxy to hide themselves while they did bad things. However, most people who use open proxies have good intentions and good reasons for using them, and as a side effect of this ban, these people also cannot contribute to Wikimedia projects.

This page is a proposal to develop a system to allow open proxies, and particularly editing through the Tor anonymization service, in certain circumstances that will create barriers to vandals but still allow good contributors to share in Wikimedia projects.

Problems which exist right now edit

I met and talked with these people in person. Each of them presents a case why Wikimedia projects should allow editing with Tor.

  • A well known LGBT activist and contributor to projects in the open movement lives in a country where being LGBT is a serious crime. This person wishes to contribute to Wikipedia.
  • A person who is in the witness protection program of their country and is willing to share government provided proof of their need for privacy has made a request for an en:Wikipedia:IP block exemption, and was denied and cannot edit with Tor.
  • A major international conference in the open movement hosted a speaker and presenter who claimed to be a refugee from their own country and expected never to return, and claimed that editing Wikipedia was the primary factor in their government's persecution of them.

These are people who would have excellent reasons for wanting to increase their online security. Given the option, people in these situations might use Tor. Right now, the option is disallowed to them. The policy by means of which people can create Wikipedia accounts and edit with Tor should be clarified and a definite path should be described so that the risk to contributors is better defined and so that contributors can better protect themselves. Please do not identify these people by trying to research them or putting their names here. I personally have met them and I could give more details to a trusted third-party if there is any doubt of my interpretation of these cases.

Until and unless Tor users are given a channel to constructively contribute to Wikimedia projects, the Wikimedia community should acknowledge that the perspectives of a vulnerable class of contributors is excluded from representation in Wikimedia projects. Among the demographics excluded and harmed by a block on open proxies include the following:

  • Those who would share LGBT content in places unfriendly to LGBT persons
  • Those contributing to political discussion in places with government restriction
  • Those having a desire for personal privacy in places in which Internet activity is indiscriminately monitored.

The cost of excluding vandals who use open proxies is that we also exclude good users who need their privacy, and until we allow Tor users to contribute we should acknowledge and regret that Wikimedia projects have a prohibitive bias against very vulnerable populations who contribute to Wikimedia projects in a way that significantly compromises their own safety. Blue Rasberry (talk) 02:04, 17 December 2014 (UTC)

Wikimedia Foundation and Tor edit

The Wikimedia Foundation has made the friendly gesture of setting up a Tor relay node. This was announced in November 2014. That is unrelated to anything else Tor related, including this proposal.

Drawbacks of this method edit

From the Tor community perspective, the following concessions would be made:

  1. Tor users start as restricted contributors, because on making an account they are blocked until they get an IP block exemption.
  2. Tor users have to get a mentor to make their first edits, which is an extraordinary restriction not imposed on any other class of users.
  3. All of these extra steps are expected to take not more than 7 days to sort between the request and the granting of editing rights.

From the Wikipedia community perspective, the following concessions would be made:

  1. Someone would have to technically permit Tor users to edit; this happens on the Wikimedia Foundation side.
  2. Community volunteers would have to set new policy and regulate enforcement about the IP block exemption userright.
  3. Community volunteers would have to manage the "mentoring" process as a way of escorting new Tor users.

Project goals edit


  1. Create a process through which Tor users, who create an account and agree to some kind of moderation, can contribute to Wikipedia despite the 2006 procedural policy en:Wikipedia:Open proxies, which bans Tor users from contributing to Wikipedia.
  2. Retain protection for the Wikipedia community against vandals while seeking to lessen discrimination against users who wish to use Tor either to protect themselves from danger or as a personal choice.
  3. Give members of the Tor community the support they need to be able to collaborate with the Wikimedia community until and unless there is a reason to believe collaboration is not reasonable.
  4. The Wikimedia community helps Tor users contribute to Wikimedia projects, and the Tor community helps the Wikimedia community use Tor services.

Get involved edit

Welcome, brainstormers! Your feedback on this idea is welcome. Please click the "discussion" link at the top of the page to start the conversation and share your thoughts.

Endorsement edit

Oppose edit

  • We already have a global policy. I oppose anything which gives a local process. --Nemo 10:14, 18 December 2014 (UTC)
Nemo bis already has a local process - see en:Special:ListUsers/ipblock-exempt. I agree that I would rather this process be global, and only proposed a local process because I thought that was the way that things already were. I would support a ban on local processes in favor of only having global processes, but if that ban cannot exist, then I would support a change to's existing local process. I could be misunderstanding any part of this. Note that seemingly, the global process still gives no options to register accounts with an open proxy. Blue Rasberry (talk) 16:23, 18 December 2014 (UTC)

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Comments edit

I am neutral on this issues for now, but I would like to share what I wrote when asking for an ipblock exemption on the English Wikipedia:

"I regularly travel to China on business (electronics engineering for the toy industry), and the last few times we were there we had a problem with our hosts showing a suspicious familiarity with our online activities. Our management is concerned about the possibility of industrial spying. Because of this we have been directed to only use the Tails operating system and the TOR browser while in China."
"I would still like to be able to edit Wikipedia after work, but editing is blocked for me when I use TOR, so I am asking for an IP block exemption. I am I am listed at the Wikimedia Identification noticeboard,[1] invite anyone to run a CU on me at any time, and have been editing since 2011 with a clean block record."

I occasionally edit other wikis as part of a project I am working on, (looking for bugs in the create account --> change language to English --> log in --> edit process and reporting them) but have no particular need to do that while using TOR.

Am I to understand that an engineer in my situation who speaks another language has no way to request an ipblock exemption on his local Wikipedia? --Guy Macon (talk) 08:20, 1 April 2015 (UTC)

  • This is hard to act (I'm leaning toward oppose), I know how hard is Government censoring affect my own account (I even ask G Ipbe to circumvent this), but to give Ipbe to almost everybody who uses TOR disregarding if they are trustworthy or not is a dangerous act.--AldNonymousBicara? 09:23, 1 April 2015 (UTC)
Aldnonymous Giving IP-block exemption to everyone is not what is being proposed. The proposal is that there be some system for measuring trustworthiness, and if a user passes, then they get IPBE based on some kind of public review and endorsement from trusted Wikipedians.
I cannot find it just now but for example, there is a German Wikipedia project with significant software development which allows users to "verify" each other if they have met in person. The verifying Wikipedians use their personal reputation in something like a Facebook "friending" scheme, so that if personal word is a factor in trusting someone, then it can be given in this system.
The other system already in place is the Wikimedia Foundation's own verification system, in which they ask to see people's identification to do certain things like serve as a Steward. I do not think the Wikimedia Foundation should have the identify of would-be Tor users, and maybe the German verification system is not perfect either, but there are other ways that people could be verified.
Another system without verification could be enhanced policing. In this system, Tor users have all of their actions heavily flagged until they have done enough good things to leave the additional scrutiny.
No one is suggesting to give extraordinary anonymity to a certain class of users without similarly extraordinary safeguards and checks. Blue Rasberry (talk) 14:10, 1 April 2015 (UTC)
Please be specific @Bluerasberry: I have not seen anything like this on Phab: or gerrit:, can I see the frame of the system of this? Example, is it going to be like OTRS when that supposed to be unregistered user need to confirm his identity and such? --AldNonymousBicara? 14:19, 1 April 2015 (UTC)
Aldnonymous I had to ask around to find it.
Blue Rasberry (talk) 15:33, 1 April 2015 (UTC)
Both of the pages you just listed are only for established user (between established user who met each other IRL), not new account (nor you can give proper confirmation if you can not meet them IRL like on the pages you just listed), or do you planning to use the same procedure for this Idealabs?--AldNonymousBicara? 15:51, 1 April 2015 (UTC)
Aldnonymous I have no plans and am only talking for now. The "personal acquaintances" system is only for meeting IRL, so that could meet some of the need for review but not all of it. For people who are totally unknown, perhaps they could have a flag which notes all of their edits as needing extra review, as with the Wikipedia:Pending changes tool which currently is only applied to Wikipedia articles and not to particular users. Maybe someone has other ideas for verification. Most probably would need to be at least 2 verification systems so that people can choose, and it would be a matter of money and finance to set them up. To decide whether to do these things there would need to be community support for funding, as I think that will be more complicated than actually setting up a process. Here are some verification ideas:
  • use en:Wikipedia:Personal acquaintances
  • be under Wikipedia:Pending changes for first 500 edits
  • verify to WMF as for stewards
  • verify to some other organization, like a Wikimedia chapter
  • do no verification, but operate with a restricted account, perhaps one that only allows posts to one's userpage
  • do no verification, but be forced to do an online anonymous interview and get a sponsor or overseer perhaps from a WikiProject
If the community really wants these things then there are options to explore. Some people have reasons for wanting to protect their identity and right now, these people are unable to contribute to Wikipedia because of fear they might be vandals. I wonder if there can be some balance to keep out vandals but let in good people. Blue Rasberry (talk) 16:06, 1 April 2015 (UTC)
Guy Macon There is an IP-block exemption process on meta which as I understand is supposed to be global. All of the policies are difficult to navigate. Someone should clean them - I do not remember where those policies are here. Also when last I saw them, they were not being used, and there was no steady stream of requests for them. I think you are correct in observing that this is mostly an English Wikipedia request. Blue Rasberry (talk) 14:13, 1 April 2015 (UTC)