Grants:Programs/Wikimedia Research Fund/Codifying Digital Behavior Around the World: A Socio-Legal Study of the Wikimedia Universal Code of Conduct

statusStage 2
Codifying Digital Behavior Around the World: A Socio-Legal Study of the Wikimedia Universal Code of Conduct
start and end datesJuly 2023 - July 2024
budget (USD)49,402.77 USD
fiscal year2022-23
applicant(s)• Florian Grisel and Giovanni De Gregorio



Florian Grisel and Giovanni De Gregorio

Affiliation or grant type

University of Oxford; Universidade Católica Portuguesa


Florian Grisel and Giovanni De Gregorio

Wikimedia username(s)

Florian Grisel - Wikimedia username: FlorianGrisel

Giovanni De Gregorio - Wikimedia username: GDeGregorio

Project title

Codifying Digital Behavior Around the World: A Socio-Legal Study of the Wikimedia Universal Code of Conduct

Research proposalEdit


Description of the proposed project, including aims and approach. Be sure to clearly state the problem, why it is important, why previous approaches (if any) have been insufficient, and your methods to address it.

The spread of harmful behaviour such as hate speech and misinformation online has raised questions concerning the online protection of user rights and community values. These challenges have led online providers and networks to produce standards and rules on which they can rely when regulating conduct that could affect the values of their communities.

The emergence of the Wikimedia Universal Code of Conduct (the “UCoC”) is a significant development in this regard. The UCoC seeks to “provide a universal baseline of acceptable behavior for the entire movement without tolerance for harassment.”[1] This set of guidelines is “being developed in consultation with the Wikimedia community with respect to context, existing local policies, as well as enforcement and conflict resolution structures”.[2]

The proposed project aims to examine the codification process of the UCoC and its enforcement guidelines. By examining this codification process, we hope to explore two key questions. The first question is to examine how the drafters of the UCoC identify universal values across Wikimedia projects, despite significant differences among these projects. The second question is to understand how the inclusive values of the UCoC interact with the existing “enforcement and conflict resolution structures” of the Wikimedia projects, which are often criticized for being non-inclusive.[3]

We will gather empirical data to address the research questions of this project. Firstly, the research team will conduct a series of interviews with the members of the UCoC drafting committees, revisions committee and coordinating committee. Secondly, the team will track the ongoing discussions of the Wikimedia communities relating to the codification of the UCoC such as in content and discussion pages, as well as in email lists.

By looking into the debates that led to the formulation of the UCoC and its enforcement guidelines, we hope to identify salient points in the resistance/acceptance of the UCoC on Wikimedia. This research will be a pilot study leading to a broader project on the interpretation and application of the UCoC across different Wikimedia projects and spaces.

[1] See <> (last checked Dec 5, 2022, emphasis added).

[2] Ibid. (last checked Dec 5, 2022, emphasis added).

[3] See, eg, Zachary McDowell & Matthew A. Vetter, Wikipedia and the Representation of Reality, Routledge, 2021.




Approximate amount requested in USD.

49,402.77 USD

Budget Description

Briefly describe what you expect to spend money on (specific budgets and details are not necessary at this time).

This budget covers (i) 0.15FTE of each applicant’s time for 9 months, (ii) recruiting a research assistant for 0.2FTE for 9 months to support the applicants in the data collection (interviews and collection of archival data concerning the codification process of UCoC) and to document progress of the project on MetaWiki:Research, (iii) transcription services for 25 interviews, (iv) costs relating to travel and subsistence for the applicants to participate in Wikimania 2024, and (v) 15% overheads.


Address the impact and relevance to the Wikimedia projects, including the degree to which the research will address the 2030 Wikimedia Strategic Direction and/or support the work of Wikimedia user groups, affiliates, and developer communities. If your work relates to knowledge gaps, please directly relate it to the knowledge gaps taxonomy.

The project will help understand the ways in which Wikimedia communities are coping with and monitoring harmful behavior and harassment. The UCoC is the most significant and recent development in these ongoing efforts. In this context, documenting the ways in which the UCoC and its enforcement guidelines are codified will contribute to the 2030 Wikimedia Strategic Direction (from which the UCoC is derived) of “creat[ing] a culture of hospitality where contributing is enjoyable and rewarding.” This research will support the enforcement process of the UCoC in ways that are compatible with the diversity of values of the Wikimedia projects, particularly by examining the articulation of the UCoC with Wikimedia’s governance structures.


Plans for dissemination.

The project will take place from September 2023 until May 2024. At the end of the 9-month period, we will issue a report (around 5,000 words) that will be advertised for comments on MetaWiki:Research. We will subsequently work on a scientific paper (around 10,000-15,000 words) that will be submitted to an international journal of socio-legal studies. Besides, research outcomes will be documented every month on the project page on MetaWiki:Research, and will be presented at Wikimania 2024.

Past ContributionsEdit

Prior contributions to related academic and/or research projects and/or the Wikimedia and free culture communities. If you do not have prior experience, please explain your planned contributions.

The project combines the expertise and disciplinary traditions of two scholars based in different institutions. Florian Grisel is a socio-legal scholar based at the University of Oxford whose recent work explores the functioning of the Arbitration Committee and the place of law on English Wikipedia based on interviews and quantitative data. He was a member of Facebook’s Data Transparency Advisory Group in 2018/2019. Giovanni De Gregorio is a constitutional and digital law scholar based at Católica Global School of Law in Lisbon who authored the monograph Digital Constitutionalism in Europe: Reframing Rights and Powers in the Algorithmic Society (CUP 2022) and numerous influential articles in the field of digital governance.

I agree to license the information I entered in this form excluding the pronouns, countries of residence, and email addresses under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0. I understand that the decision to fund this Research Fund application, the application itself along with all the information entered by my in this form excluding the pronouns, country of residences, and email addresses of the personnel will be published on Wikimedia Foundation Funds pages on Meta-Wiki and will be made available to the public in perpetuity. To make the results of your research actionable and reusable by the Wikimedia volunteer communities, affiliates and Foundation, I agree that any output of my research will comply with the WMF Open Access Policy. I also confirm that I have read the privacy statement and agree to abide by the WMF Friendly Space Policy and Universal Code of Conduct.



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