Talk:Office actions/September 2021 statement

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Follow-up to statement: a mini FAQEdit

Hello, all.

I am writing to provide you with updates and answers to at least some of the questions that have been raised about the above statement on Wikimedia-L, here, and elsewhere.

I am still working to get an office hour coordinated, but will do so as soon as possible.

Before I do, I would like to apologize that the translation into Chinese that we sourced was not adequate. I am very grateful to the community members who helped provide a better translation for our Chinese communities. We are working to add more Chinese language capacity to our team and hope to do better in future.

As a final note, I want to say that I do my best to answer even very hard questions as candidly as I possibly can. In preparing these answers, I have been working to blend speed and transparency with accuracy, without waiting for input from every possible stakeholder. I have invited involved staff to review and correct me after posting, in case there is any error, but I believe that my answers are all correct.

I am committed to continuing to answer questions. I have said in many forums in the past few years that 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 people disagree with me or I disagree with them. I will not answer loaded questions. I do not expect people to bury hard questions under flowery words, but I also do not believe it is a productive use of my time or the community’s at large to tacitly endorse or engage in such tactics.

I recommend placing further questions here on the talk page of this page, using the current Wikimedia-l thread, or (if you desire less public exposure) emailing them to ca@wikimedia.org, which is monitored by our Trust & Safety team. If you use “September statement” in your subject it will help ensure that it is correctly brought to my attention.

Thanks.
Maggie
--Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 20:16, 14 September 2021 (UTC)[]

Thank you for the FAQ, it's very informative. Two questions:
  • Were the reasons for all seven bans "conventional" reasons (eg, threats of violence or other serious actions of types that the community has accepted as belonging to T&S)?
  • Does the WMF believe that some/many of the involved contributors have been acting as agents of the Chinese government?
(I fully understand if you won't be able to answer one or both of them, given the context.) Thanks. --Yair rand (talk) 20:53, 14 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Has WMF considered the associated chilling effect? Does it mean any editors with China friendly views will be seen as a proxy of WMCUG and be banned?--161.129.46.113 00:40, 15 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Hello Maggie, and thank you for your FAQ. Our local community noticed that an 8th user, User:玄客, has been WMF-banned without announcement. We investigated their edit pattern, and found no connection with the other seven announced ones. Would you please explain why this user was banned (i.e whose sock/provy they are)? Thanks. Itcfangye (talk) 01:56, 15 September 2021 (UTC)[]
An article roughly entitled as "Wikipedia bans 19 infiltrating users from China; Facebook should learn from this" appearing on newtalk.tw, among similar headlines elsewhere. [1][2][3][4][5][6] Ramification effect on Wikipedia's reputation and accountability in promoting communication and understanding probably needs to be watched. --Zhenqinli (talk) 03:50, 15 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Thanks for the FAQ. WMCUG should respect the wills of the HK/TW people who don't share their political agenda in kowtowing to the Chinese communist party. They shouldn't threanten people with violence or rat people out under the National Security Law, unless those people also threaten violence. They need to be way less nationalistic in their pursuit/"struggle." In the meantime, I do think some of their grievances in their response should be addressed and evidence be shown. The foundation should definitely support people living in China who want to edit but can't, and thus have to rely on Baidu Baike. Not everyone can afford to come out of China and enjoy freedom. WMF's inaction will not convince the CCP to lift the ban. So why not just become an advocate for democracy? Finally, Wikipedia itself should reverse from being "not a democracy" per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:What_Wikipedia_is_not#Wikipedia_is_not_a_democracy. That's all I have to say as a member of the Chinese diaspora. Supermann (talk) 05:34, 15 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I do not believe that the "not a democracy" statement has much to do with WMF's political standing (or the lack thereof); it is more about the way Wikipedia is run. --125.59.232.45 07:40, 19 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Thanks for the FAQ. My main question is can you provide some information to substantiate these actions? Or perhaps provide some contexts? Currently there have not been much information around to support these actions, and I believe it would provide valuable grounding to the rationale behind this September statement. Without them, actions against these users seems not reasonable and may further fuel the already existing outside political conflicts surrounding Chinese users and users from other regions, which does not belong in an environment of free knowledge. This also does not help the Chinese community, since this action can easily be painted with the light of another round of political grandstanding, which is all too often very biased. WMF should take into actions to help increase the exposure and accessibility for this under-served community, not to suppress it, if Wikipedia is to continue as a platform for free knowledge. OdyU (talk) 05:05, 15 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Hello @Mdennis (WMF), I think there's no longer having any reason to setup such a public discussion page on Meta-Wiki, as zhwiki already setup it: zh:WP:OA2021. Liuxinyu970226 (talk) 14:10, 15 September 2021 (UTC)[]
zh:WP:OA2021 is for zhwiki community discussion, not for the global community. Since "this case is unprecedented in scope and nature", set-up a public discussion page in meta-wiki for global community is necessary. SCP-2000 14:26, 15 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I second SCP-2000's request. Setting up a global discussion would help clarify what this is about to both people from other projects and the media by letting them know what Chinese Wikipedians have been talking about. --125.59.232.45 07:40, 19 September 2021 (UTC)[]

Mini Faq #2Edit

Hello, all.

I am back to answer some more questions. I will note that my time to do this over the next couple of days will be challenged - I may not be able to respond in-depth unless something is urgent due to a planned medical outage. Nothing serious and that feels a little bit personal to say, but I didn’t want you all to think I was dropping this to traipse off on vacation. I will be able to check in but will have to prioritize my working time according to what is most urgent when I’m available, which may not be immediate communications.

That said, I do have some answers to newer questions.

Best regards,
Maggie
Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 18:48, 15 September 2021 (UTC)[]

@Itcfangye: Hello all, on behalf of the Foundation, I would like to offer a public apology to user 玄客 who was tagged in the recently initiated Global Bans that the Foundation executed. During our investigation, information led us to identify them as a sockpuppet, but upon receiving additional information through our ca@ channel this week, we were able to reassess the account in question. We no longer believe this user is a sockpuppet, and have restored their account.

We are grateful to those who helped us evaluate and correct this misidentification. It is important for us to get this right, and the flagging of concerns helps us reassess as needed.

大家好,我代表基金会,向最近在基金会发起的全球禁令活动中被标记为禁止用户的 玄客 公开道歉。在我们的调查过程中,调查信息使我们误将他们识别为马甲账号。但本周,通过我们的 ca@ 频道收到另外的信息后,我们重新评估了问题帐户。我们不再认为该用户是马甲账户,并对这些账户进行了恢复。 我们感谢那些帮助我们重新评估和纠正这种错误识别的人。对我们来说,正确处理这些很重要,重视大家的关注有助于我们进行必要的重新评估。 亲切问候 WMFOffice留言) 2021年9月16日 (四) 21:45 (UTC)

--Zhenqinli (talk) 22:47, 16 September 2021 (UTC)[]

Wikipedia has suffered an "infiltration" that sought to advance the aims of China, the US non-profit organisation that owns the volunteer-edited encyclopaedia has said.

The Wikimedia Foundation told BBC News the infiltration had threatened the "very foundations of Wikipedia".

I would like to know if the BBC report accurately reflects the event(s) that happened at Wikipedia as well as the views of WMF. Also, given the seriousness as described by the BBC report, is there a time frame that substantial portion of the evidence behind the allegations implicating the 18 (19 minus User:玄客) former Wikipedia contributors in the infiltration can be made public to the Wikipedia community? This would be of interest not only to the Wikipedia community, and also in the spirit of due process and "innocent until proven guilty". Thanks in advance for any clarifications. --Zhenqinli (talk) 15:35, 17 September 2021 (UTC)[]
The BBC editor undoubtedly did his best to frame a very complicated situation that was not within his particular experience. I had, for instance, to try to clarify to him the difference between editors and administrators, so I'm sure there are facets of this that he didn't grasp. I don't see anything he quoted me as saying that I disagree that I said, but I will say that I talk a lot and he quoted a little. I think in that context, he probably did a very good job.
But, for example, with respect to the involvement of the Chinese state, he quotes me as saying, "I am not in position to point fingers at the Chinese state nor in possession of information that would lead me to do so." That is from the written portion of our interview. The full statement I gave them is above in the collapsed portion of Mini-Faq 2; I shared it before the article came out. What I wanted to emphasize to him was that this is not a uniquely Chinese problem. I will say that the "very foundation of Wikipedia" was from the 30 minute verbal part of the interview, and I do not have a transcript, so I cannot be 100% sure what I said, but I surely know I did not say that this incident threatened our foundations. It is nowhere near that level of severity. What threatens the foundation of Wikipedia, as I hoped to explain, are groups that coordinate to overwhelm the policies around collaboration on content and practices. I believe that whole-heartedly and was working to deal with that even before I was employed at the Foundation as a volunteer. That ranges from paid, promotional editing firms to conspiracy theorists to political groups - any group that wants to subvert the open community practices for their own ends.
In terms of evidence, we do not release evidence. The decision has been made after staff and attorney review and is not subject to appeal. There are times when I wish we could release evidence, but as I explained in probably too many words in the FAQ above, releasing evidence can have damaging effects for the users who brought the issue to our attention, the users who have been targeted, and even for the users who have been sanctioned. I would rather people be angry at me than to hurt any of them unnecessarily. The Foundation has a legal and moral responsibility, and we have to live up to that. I truly do, however, regret the harm and mistrust this causes to the Chinese community at large. I can well imagine the chaos of being unsure what is going on. I hope we can heal that with good collaboration over time, but I know it won't be instant or easy. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 13:52, 18 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Thanks for the clarification. The BBC report has been widely sourced and circulated in the news media. At the minimum, should Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) ask the BBC to issue a correction based on the actual facts and conversations, aligning with the WMF official views? The incident has been sensationalized in news media as "19 infiltrators from China" "threatening the very foundation of Wikipedia" in the same vein as the 19 "9-11" terrorists who brought down the World Trade Center, causing collateral damage and backlash along the way.
I believe one of the lessons from this episode is that some of the WMF processes (such as investigation and press interview) should be improved along the line of Neutral Point of View. For example, it is error-prone to take the narratives from one side of a noisy dispute at face value and as the fact. --Zhenqinli (talk) 17:48, 18 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I do agree that the phrasing of "infiltration" is a bit over-the-top -- despite the statement's clarification that it can be intentional. --125.59.232.45 14:00, 19 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Agree. Using "infiltration" without being able to show evidence in the context of discussing global blocking of former editors or administrators, seems incompatible with Wikipedia's own fundamental principle of Assuming Good Faith:

Unless there is clear evidence to the contrary, assume that people who work on the project are trying to help it, not hurt it.

--Zhenqinli (talk) 02:01, 20 September 2021 (UTC)[]

Global Times is not happyEdit

Global Times is not happy about this action in their English report (WMCUG quoted). On Chinese WeChat they have resolved to targeting one specific zh.wp user (PhiLiP), digging out his LinkedIn and Twitter and branding him as a "traitor" (汉奸). I recommend WMF and especially its Legal team keep a close eye on this matter. All involved editors should take precaution -- lock your social media accounts, for example. --125.59.232.45 07:29, 18 September 2021 (UTC)[]

Similar news popping up from other Chinese outlets. I believe WMCUG is talking to major media for clout and chaos. Wait until they learn about Grayzone. --125.59.232.45 08:03, 18 September 2021 (UTC)[]

Thank you for that very good advice to us and to involved editors. Now is a time to be very careful. I would encourage editors who may be or have been threatened with retaliation to reach out to ca@wikimedia.org or, if the threat is immediate physical danger, to emergency@wikimedia.org. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 13:55, 18 September 2021 (UTC)[]

Credible threats to safetyEdit

I'm not sure what the standard is to assess "credible threats" for people who have access to private information, but whatever the method is I wonder: is it being applied to users in other high risk locations, particularly the USA? In light of a continued defiance by the NSA, we'd want to be extra careful that people aren't exposed to the risk of being put in a very difficult position. Nemo 08:49, 18 September 2021 (UTC)[]

  • I suppose there's an argument that with WMF servers mostly located in the US there would be an easier (hopefully overt) way for the feds to access the information. --125.59.232.45 11:47, 18 September 2021 (UTC)[]
We thought about that pretty hard, because it really is a growing concern across the world. In the immediate, we wanted to deal with the existing threat, but not close access too broadly without a clear and consistent policy. We are also hoping to do some serious work on digital security in the movement in the near future. It's not just people with that access who can be put in difficult positions (although those people are positioned to do a lot of harm). We have dealt with editors taking part in editathons or other movement activities coming under scrutiny when they are too easily located. We need to help people evaluate their risks and risks to others, and we need to figure out as a movement how to balance transparency, openness, and safety. It's a blend we'll probably have to evaluate and reevaluate in coming years. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 14:00, 18 September 2021 (UTC)[]

Code of conduct & Quality of sourcesEdit

User:Mdennis (WMF) mentioned in at the end of her second FAQ that WMCUG has not agreed to Wikimedia's UCoC. I believe this is a good opportunity to point out that zh.wiki content, especially those contributed by individuals associated with the WMCUG, has historically been and continues to be in defiance of the UCoC. One of the seven globally locked users declares support for NazBolism on his page. On the article side zh.wiki have a consistent trend of anti-internal-migrant activism, going so far to include an article about "Shanghai's internal migrant problem". On en.wiki you would expect such crime-rate arguments to be countered by more mainstream research or at least a mention of socioeconomic factors, but in the mainland they are the mainstream research, and as such are protected or even favored by NPOV (esp. WP:DUE) and RS.

For the WMF and the zh.wiki community to effectively uphold the UCoC, it must confront the fact that a good bunch of Chinese-language research, not just from the mainland, is (pardon my language) horse manure. Beyond the casual racism, classism, light authoritarianism, there's also a heavy dose of pseudoscience especially of the medical kind. The Falun Gong, the Taiwanese MOHW, and the Chinese government all swear by the "miraculous" effects against COVID-19 their alternative interventions (listening to Master Li, NRICM101, Lianhua Qingwen) have. Every article for a random fruit has some 養生 stuff sprinkled in about how TCM thinks it's a cooling substance with the ability to smooth your skin. You simply cannot keep pillar #2 up with this sort of sources. I guess I should phrase this as a question: Does WMF acknowledge the overall trends of content difference among sources of different languages? (Hope this unloads it :/) If so, what has the WMF done and what does it plan to do to ensure the quality of sources?

Perhaps the even bigger barrier to upholding the UCoC is its relative inaccessibility. The UCoC isn't fully translated yet. I shall get to it. --125.59.232.45 06:02, 19 September 2021 (UTC)[]

I'm sorry for the lack of clarity, but i didn't mean that the WMCUG had not agreed to the Universal Code of Conduct. I should have linked it. I meant Wikimedia user groups/Agreement and code of conduct - all officially recognized user groups must comply. I note that it, too, is only 57% translated into Chinese. :/ However, I'm extremely grateful for your translation intentions with the UCoC. :D
I'm sorry to say that I cant entirely answer that question because it extends beyond my realm of responsibility. I know that information literacy is a key focus of some of Wikimedia Foundation Community Programs team, including the education program. That said, it strikes me that the problem you raise here is a ripe one to solve as part of our movement strategy efforts. I feel it probably falls into one of those movement challenges that the community can lead on. Maybe Cluster H? Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Transition/Discuss. I wonder if this is an area where a grant in the next cycle could fund community connections to explore the problem and solutions. Hmm. Something to think about and explore!
In case this sounds like my goal is to say that I don't think this is important or that I don't think the Foundation can take responsibility here, that is not my intent. :) One of my responsibilities is to think about how we make a strong community, and that includes not taking over work that the community can and should do, while also not failing to support them when they need support. Delicate balance. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 14:10, 19 September 2021 (UTC)[]

We hope that the Foundation will reply to the conflict between the current Note regarding global bans and some of the cases in the Chinese Wikipedia.Edit

@Mdennis (WMF):

First of all, let me thank you for this righteous act.
I know that you have worked hard during these months in order to conduct a more extensive investigation.
On my own behalf, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Foundation.
We have currently initiated a number of motions, one of which is about removing all links from WMC. But it also covers the issue of whether to allow WMC to hold "editorial competitions" with Wikipedias in other languages(Before this group of Wiki-terrorists is completely confirmed and expelled).
According to our current case, which is this one and only case of the administrator Ch. Andrew
"If one person from the organisation (the moderator of the editorial competition) abuses his authority to discriminate against others in the context of the editorial competition, the organisation in :which that person is involved is also banned from promoting its activities on this site for one year."and this ban is still in force.
However, there is a conflict between“...Users may still join the user group and participate in the group's events, but should be aware of and comply with the Global Ban policies, and must not participate in Wikimedia projects in proxy of globally banned users”under the provisions of the Foundation's territory-wide prohibition notice and the case of "prohibited from promoting related activities on this website because of discrimination against others"
We hope that the Foundation will be able to answer this question, as it may be relevant to the question of whether the case of Ch. Andrews will be overturned.
I would also like an answer to the question of whether this community behaviour is allowed by the Foundation, assuming that the WMC is banned from the whole area due to its members - and thus our community is judged not to hold any activities until these "Wikiterrotist" (is a disparaging term used by our community for such people)are confirmed to have been completely expelled from the organisation.
And furthermore, does the Foundation recognise the validity of the case decided by the administrator, Ch. Andrew?if so, should Temple's announcement be amended?
I sincerely hope you can answer this question.
Finally, please allow me to thank you once again for all that you have done to keep justice alive!——WMLO (talk) 20:45, 21 September 2021 (UTC)[]

@Mdennis (WMF): The Chinese banned users have been called "wiki-terrorists" here by User:維基百科最忠誠的反對者. Are the WMF folks okay with that? If not, could you please make the user retract his/her words and sanction him/her perhaps? This is an egregious personal attack in my opinion. 4nn1l2 (talk) 21:07, 21 September 2021 (UTC)[]

@4nn1l2:Believe that the idea that users who do real harm to our users, who flesh search them, who give out their personal information, do so to achieve their own goals - I think we can call this "wiki-terrorism", and it is perfectly reasonable to call these Chinese Ban users "wiki-terrorists".And I swear that I will not call a wiki user a "wiki-terrorist" without an investigation by the Foundation and a trial outcome.
Also, you are here to defend this group of people,right?But when I started the discussion on the "WMC members resort to legal threats against Hong Kong Wikipedians" a few months ago, why didn't you participate in the discussion? I urge you to discuss with us how to prevent further threats to the Wikipedians of Hong Kong, rather than defending this group of vandals who have been banned from editing Wikimedia projects and defending their already lost "reputation as Wikipedians".
In my opinion, no offence - but it is a very false thing to do.---WMLO (talk) 21:37, 21 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Just because they have been banned from a website on the internet does not make them "terrorists" or "wiki-terrorists". I'll wait for the WMF people to answer my question. If need be, I may go to the Meta:Requests for help from a sysop or bureaucrat and ask their assistance too. 4nn1l2 (talk) 22:03, 21 September 2021 (UTC)[]
@4nn1l2 Don't you know why they were banned from editing wiki projects and why their actions were called "wiki-terrorism"? I choose not to call those who were warned about election rigging in the Chinese RFA, but not blocked, "terrorists" in the Foundation's campaign, which I think is already a manifestation of AGF. But as for the six people who leaked the privacy of Hong Kong Wikipedians, thus causing them physical harm in reality, such as violence, and who organised bad actions to cause damage to Wikipedia, and trampled on the Foundation's friendly rules, I refuse to withdraw my comments about these Wikipedian terrorists unless the Foundation has evidence and found them not guilty.---WMLO (talk) 22:30, 21 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I recommend remain civil to others who have different opinion with you and follow Dispute resolution to resolve the difference with others. Thank you. SCP-2000 05:00, 22 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Hello, all. I'm going to try to take this in order.
First, WMLO, you ask a good and very hard question. I am not 100% sure if I am understanding fully what you are asking, so please excuse me if I overlook something and help me understand what more you need. What I said above about the user group represents the Foundation's stance at the time of this writing. This is a new situation for us, and we are hoping that if the members of the group choose to continue as a group, they will work within policies in doing so. User groups are, as I mentioned before, meant to be lightweight and easy to set up and to be dedicated to activities that build out the impact of the movement. That's important work.
Based on what you've said here (concerns about abuse of the role), I believe that it is best decided by an individual community whether a group should be able to promote its activities on their sites. The only exceptions I can think of off of the top of my head would be if that group was being excluded for factors such as their gender or race, and even then at some point I hope we have a global body of volunteers who can help settle such situations. I know from conversations that I've had with colleagues that we want to help the Chinese community if our help is needed, but we do recognize the validity of the Chinese community to decide such issues. Whether that decision is one that can be made by one administrator is, I think, a question for the community itself to decide. If there is help that is needed (I do not know what form it might take), I am certainly open to hearing about that and understanding what we might do. I know one of my staff has engaged on the Chinese project about potential safer voting mechanisms. We are certainly open to exploring what we can do to support.
In terms of your concerns, 4nn1l2, I need to start by noting that the Foundation does not sanction people for personal attacks, not unless they constitute a pattern of harassment and are beyond the ability of community processes to handle. We prioritize community self-governance whenever possible, and regardless of the specific term used here this would not be a case that would fall under the Foundation to review. Meta has very capable administrators. I suspect that the question of what constitutes a personal attack against a group of people, rather than one, may be complicated, as may be the question of what constitutes a "fellow community member" (quoting the meta policy at Meta:Civility), but nobody is in better position to answer the question than Metapedians.
In terms of my personal opinion, I agree with SCP-2000's recommendation completely. I think it is best if we remember that there are a lot of people in a lot of pain. People have been hurt, physically. People have also been hurt emotionally, and that can include those who have been afraid or who have known people who have been hurt and people who are confused and upset that friends of theirs have been accused of doing something wrong. I have had friends blocked by the community and the Foundation, and it can be difficult to process those emotions. It can cause anger and grief. I have also experienced being angry when it seems like others are missing the point that people have been injured, especially if they have been asking for help and feel that their cries have not been heard. In my experience, it can be very hard to talk calmly in such situations, but in the long run it is usually better for all if we can. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 23:50, 22 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Thanks, Mdennis (WMF), for your response. Just to be clear, I have no friendship at all with these Chinese banned users. I don't know any of them whatsoever, and I was the person who removed all Techyan's privileges on Commons as soon as I understood he got banned by the WMF: c:Special:Redirect/logid/316152287 (only a few hours after he got banned). Still, I believe calling these banned users "wiki-terrorists" is way off, so I'll raise the issue on the admins' board. My main objective is to make 維基百科最忠誠的反對者 retract his accusations. We know little about this incident, and the WMF, for better or worse, has not been transparent about the issue. 4nn1l2 (talk) 17:32, 23 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Return to "Office actions/September 2021 statement" page.