IRC office hours/Office hours 2022-08-18

The Community Resilience & Sustainability (CR&S) team at the Wikimedia Foundation is hosting a new conversation meeting (‘previously called ‘Office Hour’) led by its Vice President Maggie Dennis. Topics within scope for this call include Movement Strategy coordination, Board Governance, Trust and Safety (and the Universal Code of Conduct), Community Development, and Human Rights. Come with your questions or feedback, and let’s talk! You can also send us your questions in advance.

The meeting will take place on August 18 at 13:00 UTC (check your local time).



This call will be streamed and available on-demand at Youtube (Link to stream).

We will host this office hour on Zoom, taking questions from participants joining Zoom itself as well as via the YouTube chat, as well as collecting them in advance over email at answers (with "Question for Maggie" in the subject line).

If you want to participate verbally from the Zoom call, please ask for the link at, at least an hour in advance of the meeting's start (please use "Conversation with Maggie" as the subject line).

We will be taking notes to go alongside the video recording. We will be fielding questions from Wikimedians in good standing (that is, not Foundation or community banned) and will follow up with anything we can't get to during the meeting in writing after the call.



Maggie Dennis, Vice President of Community Resilience & Sustainability, a division of the Legal Department at the Wikimedia Foundation, hosted the office hour. Maggie oversees the functions of Community Development, Trust & Safety Policy, Trust & Safety Operations, Human Rights protection, and Movement Strategy.

As in previous calls, there is an important note from Maggie:

  • I can't and won't discuss specific Trust & Safety cases. Instead, I can discuss Trust & Safety protocols and practices and approaches as well as some of the mistakes we've made, some of the things I'm proud of, and some of the things we're hoping to do.
  • I will not respond to comments or questions that are disrespectful to me, to my colleagues, or to anyone in our communities. I can talk civilly about our work even if you disagree with me or I disagree with you. I won't compromise on this.



This is a summary of notes taken during the Conversation Hour with Maggie Dennis held on 18 August 2022. These notes are condensed and summarized rather than a transcript of the conversation. You can watch the full recording on Youtube. Please let us know if you notice any difference in the notes as compared to the video recording.

Vivien Chang (Movement Strategy and Governance team) facilitated and read out the questions submitted for this conversation. Besides Maggie, Quim Gil (Director of Movement Strategy and Governance) and Patrick Early (Lead Trust and Safety Policy Manager) provided answers and further details to specific questions related to their thematic areas. The notes were prepared by Maciej Nadzikiewicz (Movement Strategy and Governance) and Nhu Phan (Movement Strategy).

Board Elections 2022

  • Why was the election delayed?
Maggie: The Board election was delayed because we wanted to make sure that all of the candidates’ responses to the Election Compass tool were translated. Some candidates requested longer character counts, which required more time for translations. A single extension wouldn’t require too much work but spread over multiple questions, multiple candidates and multiple languages, it can be a substantial task.
  • When will the results of the election be announced?
Maggie: After the election closes, the Elections Committee will scrutinize the vote (this could take 1-2 weeks). We would like to announce the selected candidates by mid-September.
  • Looking back, would you say that the combination of affiliate vote and community vote for the election made sense? For Wikimedians not deeply involved in these conversations, it might have been challenging to understand the complex election process.
Maggie: Yes, it made sense. There were challenges, and we had to figure out how to make the elections better. When you have an imperfect system, you need to figure out what to do to make changes to make it better. We wanted to balance the role of affiliates and give the community voice. It was a meaningful conversation, and no one was given more attention or influence in this process. We still have room to improve here.

Human Rights

  • Why isn't the Wikimedia Foundation more transparent about what's happening to editors and violations of their human rights?
Maggie: A couple of reasons for that. The highest priority for us is to make sure that Wikimedians are not put in additional danger. There were cases where we have heard of individuals being prosecuted because of their Wikimedia activities. We want to give support without endangering people. We are trying to balance this. We do not want to give people ideas on how to hurt our system. We don’t want people to get ideas or for them to learn about the ways they can do that. We share information with this in mind. We want to be transparent where possible.

Trust and Safety

  • This question was asked of the Board. I want to ask you as well. Wikimedia Foundation swept in with Office Actions in response to project capture/admin abuse on the Azerbaijani, Chinese, and Croatian Wikipedias in the last two years. This was rarely done in the past but was very welcome. Do you think there should be more or fewer such interventions in the future?
Maggie: It depends on the number of cases there are. I hope there will be fewer as I hope that we won't have such problems. We have to be prepared to act when we see these kinds of problems. These are not easy situations; they use a lot of resources. We have to be careful. There should be a right amount of these cases, not more, not less.
  • Some fear that several Foundation privacy initiatives, such as IP masking, might really help vandals and paid editors hurt the project. Do you think these are the right things to do?
Maggie: They are the right things to do, but also very hard ones to do. From my point of view, I can see how open IPs can abuse the good faith of people. We want to do something to protect the people and not expose them to danger. It is also important to protect the projects and make it easy for people to do the work they are doing. There isn’t a perfect solution to satisfy both needs, but we want to balance them. Protection matters to me; it is close to my heart.
  • What specific steps will T&S take to proactively improve admins; behavior?
Maggie: The original question was about admin abuse. The UCoC is something that we are working on (Enforcement Guidelines). Ways to create accountability and local practices. I think that the greatest value of UCoC is that it tells everyone what is expected, needed and allowed. Sometimes people abuse because they don’t know what their parameters are. We can now show it and remove the ambiguity. Sometimes, people who behave in abusive patterns can be coached. Sometimes they have to be limited.
UCoC applies to all of us, including within the Foundation and the way staff interact. Everyone that is a part of the Wikimedia Movement will be held accountable. It is a big task to undertake. We are trying to create a governance mechanism that crosses cultures. It won’t be perfect, but we want to make it better.
  • Related to the above, Wikimedia Foundation has taken away some community rights, including saying that editors in some countries are not allowed to hold certain positions. Why is this happening?
Maggie: Let me clarify: there is no current policy that I know of that editors cannot hold certain positions. The current policy says that editors that are publicly known outside of the WMF, cannot hold certain positions. This is because of vulnerabilities, because of people/organizations trying to take advantage of them. If you have access or permission, people can come after you or your loved ones for this very information. We will continue to protect the security while also securing the autonomy of the projects.

General questions

  • It feels like the Wikimedia Foundation really only cares about English Wikipedia. How can the Foundation improve the way it balances the needs of different projects and communities?
Maggie: I wish this person could give me more details. They may have something more specific in mind. I encourage a follow-up. I would assume that it may feel this way to people. For me, English is the only language I can communicate with, and it is also widely used in our Movement. For the longest time, we had been English first. Our movement organises ourselves around English. English is widely spoken, but not everyone speaks it. If the question is about language, we want to be conscious of that. We want to make sure that we bring people in, while also being aware of budget constraints. Quim Gil and his team are experimenting with the Movement Strategy Forum, which allows for machine translations, which makes it better for people to communicate with one another. There are some people that wish it was happening on Meta-wiki. We want to serve the people we have now, rather than wait and build something for the people in the future. We want to make space for people to contribute in a way that feels good to them. Outside of language: some people say that Wikipedia’s needs may be dominant (software, policy changes etc). We want to be very inclusive and to make sure that we are not only conducting consultations on Meta-wiki or, as we want a lot of people to engage. We still have a long way to go, but if there are more solutions, let us know, so we can change that.
  • What is going to be done in terms of protecting Wikipedia from censorship attacks from governments?
Maggie: We have a public policy team in the Legal Department that is very active in seeing that laws around the world are staying friendly to our projects, our movement and our values. We have seen censorship at its most extreme in many countries around the world. When it happens, we are getting together to get a quick response without compromising our values. We don’t restrict access to knowledge just to appease those who don’t want the content exposed to the people. We have legal limitations, which governments minimally require. At the individual contributor level, we are working on policies and practices to protect people, individuals may be watched or threatened to change content, and we are helping them (IP masking, restrictions of rights).
  • We have seen how editing Wikipedia is still risky for people in the world. The recent situations in the world have shown this. Are there any updates about the IP Masking progress?
Maggie: This is more of a Product Department thing. We will follow up in writing.
From the Product Department: We have formed a cross-functional WMF working group in September to work on this project. This is not a problem that can be solved by any one team. The purpose of this project is to find better ways to protect our wikis and contributors from harassment and vandalism, in a world where IP addresses are becoming less useful for the purpose of identifying and tracking individual users. We need to be able to stop bad actors in a way that has a minimum of collateral damage on good-faith contributors, and we need to protect people's privacy in keeping with the current data privacy laws and standards. This is a very big problem to solve, and this work will involve a lot of discussion, learning, technical exploration, and reflection on some closely-held values. We need to work with a lot of people, including volunteers on our projects, in order to get a complete picture of what's going on, and determine a workable plan. As a Foundation and a movement, it is crucial for us to figure out how to transition from the current public IP-based system with increasing proxy blocks, to a more sustainable approach that has much less collateral damage.
  • On Wikimedia-l, there was a recent discussion about travel and visas. What is being done about that?
Maggie: This is outside of the scope. I may be wrong on this. A lot of the problem seems to come from the world being open again after a lot of time being closed. Systems are overfilled, especially the hotels and agencies that do visas. We have to plan well in advance to accommodate the long lines and delays. It is possible that our Travel team may have a better answer. For me? We have to start sooner.
  • As you probably know, information about our cultures (for African users) is told orally, rarely, if ever, written down in books. Wikipedia, for example, asks us for our sources. What are we supposed to give as sources?
Maggie: This is something I am excited about, but this is not my scope. I read a couple of years ago from Zora Neil; she was interviewing the last survivor of the slave trade. Her book went unpublished for decades. This knowledge was almost lost. I don’t know how Wikipedia can combat that. There are challenges (copyright, libel, verifiability), but I look forward to the Wikimedia Movement coming up with the solution. I don’t have an answer for that. I would love the community to talk about the ways to capture these stories.


  • What’s happening now with UCoC Enforcement Guidelines? When do we see it again?
Patrick: A lot of months of hard work are behind us. We have received many contradictory changes/opinions from many stakeholders. We are now putting the EG into the translation process. We hope to launch the consultations on September 7th with an official announcement. We are rethinking the process and difficult aspects, and we want to see what the community thinks about these changes. We are planning on holding another vote in January to make sure we meet community expectations.
  • Was the UCOC revisions committee restricted in any way from editing the phase 1 policy text to the same degree that they are amending phase 2 (Enforcement Guidelines)? If so, why?
Maggie: Honestly, I don't know. Patrick was in those meetings, and I was not.
Addison Bryant/Barkeep49 (UCOC revisions committee member): We were tasked to change the EG and to change UCoC. There were conversations about changing the UCoC (specific line). It might result in a change by the Board. There is a commitment to see the policy text revisioned once the Enforcement Guidelines is ratified.
  • I think [the UCOC] is important for the Wikimedia Movement. What is the Foundation doing to enforce the UCoC? Some people do not want to enforce it.
Maggie: The WMF enforces the UCoC since it has been ratified. It is standard of our T&S practices; we consider compliance with the UCoC as one of the factors. It is a part of the Terms of Use, which states that Board resolutions are binding. The challenge of enforcing it in the communities is hard. It depends on many factors if the policy is enforced. We need UCoC because users don’t know which rules are real or enforceable. Enforcement Guidelines will help with that. At this point, WMF cannot do a lot of things. We hope that Enforcement Guidelines will create a stronger sense of community and drive to work on these problems. The community is being asked on a lot of occasions to comment on the Enforcement Guidelines.

Elections Committee

  • What changes are coming for the Board coordination with the Elections Committee?
Maggie: As this election is moving into the final phases, we are planning a retrospective to support the Board of Trustees and Elections Committee on better approaches to the election processes in the future. We are starting this conversation in a couple of months, and we will share information about it.
  • The Elections Committee is appointed by the Board. Some have felt the Elections Committee was not responsive. Will they be revised?
Maggie: I will start by defending the EC. I remember when I was a sysop that it could put you under a lot of scrutiny. It can be neverending work. The EC has a hard job, and they are under a lot of scrutiny. I feel for them; any time someone disagrees with the process, the EC seems to be blamed and comes under fire. There is some accountability on the side of our team; we should have made better steps to decide what should happen and when. We will be attending the retrospective to do everything we can to support people that step out into these stressful situations. It is impossible to make everyone happy. After the election had been delayed, we had seen both people thanking and criticising the EC.
  • Is there a consideration to revise the selection/election method of the Election Committee to make it work better? Just changing the selection method of the Election Committee. Not only improving the way they work.
Maggie: I can tell you that we are not taking this off of the table. It is possible, but it hasn’t been decided yet. Elections are costly in terms of resources and community time, and that has to be considered as well.

Movement Strategy Forum

  • There have been mixed feelings about the MS Forum. I know the testing period just ended. What was the result of that?
Quim: I am happy to announce the report of the review. We are announcing after the end of this call to post it, not to overtake the session. It took us a bit longer than we wished because our team also worked on the UCoC and the Board of Trustees Election, and we were busier than expected. The report was ready to be published last week, but we had a bug with our star feature of translations. As soon as the call ends, we will announce the report.
  • For someone who wants to be involved in the movement but has limited time, what places should they be prioritizing? Meta-wiki, Wikimedia-l, Movement Strategy Forum, other places?
Maggie: My answer would be, “Go where your heart takes you!” When I started, I went where my interests were. If you want to be particularly active in Movement Strategy, let’s hear from Quim.
Quim: This question comes up pretty often. First, I want to say when you are in a privileged situation of a dialogue (Wikimedia, other meetings), people can frankly speak about the Movement. There is an agreement that the current situation isn’t great for newcomers. When anyone tries to change something, we have seen ourselves; it is very easy to get a lot of resistance to these proposals. It is easy to criticize whoever is trying to change or improve anything. At the same time, nobody is also happy with the current status. The Movement Strategy Forum aims to improve that.
The worst place to have deep, complicated and impactful discussions is a mailing list. Many people know that if your goal is to get noise or attention, you should just go there. If you want an enriching discussion, there are other places where it could happen in a constructive way.
If you want to get involved in a global conversation about anything spanning more than just one Wikimedia project, go to the places that try to cross the communities. You either got to Meta-wiki, which was originally created for exactly this purpose. You can also give a chance to this new tool we are trying to provide. Today it offers a much better environment for rich collaborations with people you don’t know that may bring comments you have never heard, coming from different cultures or perspectives than your own. On mailing lists or Meta-wiki, all have the same mindset because of the hurdles one has to cross even to post there and be accepted. If you are ready to talk about Movement Strategy and you are willing to have your mind changed, let’s give a chance to the Movement Strategy Forum.

Questions answered after the Conversation Hour

  • What is the WMF's position on joining as a signatory to the code of conduct on hate speech and code of practice on disinformation of the European Union?
On the Code of Conduct on Hate Speech:
In contrast to other bills currently considered in other parts of the world, the Code of Conduct targets illegal content only, which we appreciate. We also support the Code in encouraging platforms to work civil society to combat hate speech. However, the Code of Conduct does not adequately protect Wikimedia’s model of community decision-making and lacks any mention of platform architectures that drive the proliferation of hate speech.
Overall, the Foundation still sees too many gaps in the Code of Conduct to sign it.
On the Code of Practice on Disinformation:
Similarly, given that the Code of Practice currently doesn’t adequately consider Wikimedia’s model of decentralized decision-making, we are not planning to sign in at this stage. Yet, we are interested in working with European policymakers to improve it and will re-evaluate the Code in the future
  • What is the benefit to an ordinary Wikimedian on WMF’s observer status to the World Intellectual Property Organization?
First, thanks to the question’s author for following up with more information about what they mean. The question is complex because it actually covers the work of several teams and likely also gets into community autonomous processes. Because of that, I - Maggie - am answering myself, in consultation with the appropriate people (including a verbatim quote. I am writing this fairly quickly, because things are busy and the question is complicated, but the information should be accurate even if there is a typo or two. :)
On the question, “What is the benefit to an ordinary Wikimedian on WMF's observer status to the World Intellectual Property Organization?”
WIPO shapes international copyright rules that may affect the way in which knowledge can be made available. Many affiliates have been on the front lines in their countries advocating for a balanced copyright regime in which the public interest is taken into account. Should they opt for accreditation at WIPO, they could contribute to the debates with their first-hand experience on the legal barriers that hinder access to knowledge in order to seek changes in those international norms that eventually permeate national legislations.
Generally, observer status for Wikimedia will empower the whole movement to engage in long-term debates on the future of copyright. Over time, this will protect and promote individual editors’ rights around access to information and content and their ability to collect knowledge and bring it to the Wikimedia projects.
Second: in regards to copyright removals, the Foundation receives fewer than 50 takedown requests for content world wide on average in a given year. For those who are unaware, one of those aforementioned laws comes from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which allows copyright holders to demand that online service providers remove content from their sites that violates their copyrights. The demands the Foundation receives are publicly listed in our transparency report. In our most recent, for instance, you see that in the year 2020, the Foundation granted 4 DMCA takedown requests.
The other requests received that year were deemed improper by the Foundation for one reason or another and not actioned.
Where DMCA takedowns are valid, the Foundation has no choice but to comply. Users have rights to a counteraction in DMCA takedown situations. For more information, you might want to look at the Commons page for takedown notices.
In terms of copyright concerns that do not involve takedown situations, one of the reasons why the Wikimedia Foundation likely receives so few actioned takedown requests in an average year is because the community does an excellent job at self-patrolling and responding to most concerns before they reach the legal stage. I don’t doubt that sometimes copyright complaints are made to communities on false bases. As a volunteer years ago who did quite a lot of work on copyright, I encountered a few suspicious claims myself. It is difficult work for community members to arrive at good approaches that respect legal limitations, protect intellectual property owners, and protect downstream reusers from potentially expensive infringement lawsuits. However, for both legal and community-self governance reasons, the Foundation is not able to advise on such matters beyond confirming that existing community policies are acceptable from a legal perspective.