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Preparing a better RfCEdit

I feel that we need to build a better RfC. This RfC is flawed:

  1. It asks two separate questions ("Should there be Global Bans?" and "Are you pleased by the current version of the draft?") at the same time instead of asking them one at a time.
  2. It does a poor job of uncovering what exactly should be rewritten.
  3. The binary / trinary approach creates a feeling of "I must support this option. There isn't any viable middle ground."

I created a draft RfC that I feel would help remedy the above problems. It asks questions separately, it clearly presents options of rewriting the draft policy, and it offers many options. I would like some help. Does anyone have ideas, questions, and proposals to add? I'm sorry about the size of the RfC that I'm proposing, but I don't believe that we can build a satisfactory Global Bans policy without a comprehensive RfC that does more than ask two simple questions. --Michaeldsuarez (talk) 18:58, 12 September 2012 (UTC)

Why not just ask if the community should be able to ban then, if it is yes, allow the community to then draft something on its own? Your questions seem way too complex to determine something rather easy. Ottava Rima (talk) 19:59, 12 September 2012 (UTC)
Judging from the numbers in this RfC, there's consensus for global bans, but there isn't consensus for what should go into a global bans policy. The draft second RfC is complex because it's mostly about finding consensus on what should go into the policy. Isn't what I'm doing a part of "the community drafting something on its own"? --Michaeldsuarez (talk) 20:14, 12 September 2012 (UTC)
Why not just try creating your own Global Ban proposal? Ottava Rima (talk) 21:10, 12 September 2012 (UTC)
Actually, it asks only one question: Given that the TOU requires us to have some process for banning especially problematic users from all projects, should we adopt this particular process? See the fourth sentence on the page: "Now that the Wikimedia Board of Trustees has approved the new terms of use, that means that a community process for enacting a global ban must be created." There's no "question" being asked about this point. There are responses from people who don't understand what "must" means and from others who simply disagree that it is actually required, but the RFC does not ask that question.
I don't think that it makes sense to plan a second round until some uninvolved steward (or other poor person) has actually determined whether the non-responsive answers on the unasked non-question can be sufficiently disentangled from the responsive answrs to make the remaining responses useful. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:15, 13 September 2012 (UTC)
I'm pretty much just tuning you out at this point. You're so determined to invalidate the opinions of others so that your opinion is the only one that matters. Silver seren (talk) 22:15, 13 September 2012 (UTC)
A poll with three options such as this one should've been done with !voters grading each option ("first choice", "second choice", "third choice"). I'm sure Option 3 !voters would've listed Option 2 as their second choice. Option 2 !votes and Option 3 !votes should be counted together. --Michaeldsuarez (talk) 00:33, 14 September 2012 (UTC)

I suggest before any sort of new yes/no vote on another draft policy, it might be helpful to have some sort of workshop to address the issues which came up in this round. In particular, I remain quite concerned about the "escalation attack" (two means a chance to "shoot the moon"). I had originally thought of it in terms of say, Wikipedia + Commons, being used in the pornography arguments. But some of the main discussion pointed out (my paraphrase) that would work very well in smaller wikis which are extensively politically polarized, and there's obvious motives there. In terms of the TOU "must" argument, even if it were true (I strongly believe it isn't accurate), what would be the penalty anyway? Who is going to sue, on what basis, for not being globally banned? Suppose proposed global-ban policies just keep getting !voted down. Could certain WMF staffers claim there must be a policy, so the policy they have in mind will be in effect from now on, since clearly the community doesn't grasp the necessity? (that'd be such an obvious power-grab I think it wouldn't ever happen, but I've been wrong before). That "must" argument greatly strengthens my worries about potential abuse. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 01:49, 14 September 2012 (UTC)

I suppose that the WMF has the right to set policies for their website, including one on this subject. but it seems unlikely to me that the community would be so dysfunctional as to require such a drastic step on their part. They don't seem to have imposed any condition on the contents of the policy, beyond a minimum of two bans to start proceedings and its applicability to all projects, so surely we could come to some agreement. For example, I've wondered whether it would make more sense to require ejection from three communities. That would dramatically reduce the number of people eligible for it (and therefore Meta's workload). A lot of English speakers never use more than two projects, so a ban from en.wp and Commons is, from their perspective, a ban from everything they might want to edit anyway, and any further proceeding might be a waste of time. WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:22, 14 September 2012 (UTC)

CountingEdit

Are there any technically inclined folks who could figure out how many "targets" might exist? I don't want a list of names, just a total number of accounts that have been blocked or banned on 2+ projects, and who are still editing (e.g., anything in the last 30 days) on at least one other project.

I can think of only one person who might be "eligible" for a global ban under this policy (blocked at two Wikipedias and posted here at Meta within the last 30 days; I don't know if he's active elsewhere). Most of the examples people have had in mind have only made themselves unpopular on a single project. I'd be happy to hear that almost no one "qualifies" for a global ban. Can anyone find out? WhatamIdoing (talk) 15:54, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

I don't think one can draw the intended conclusion from any current numbers, as it's not taking into account the problem of the "escalation attack", which would change conditions drastically. That is, currently there's no incentive to get someone banned on a minor project (as part of the predicate for a global ban). Now, if the "target" is banned on a big project where there's a conflict, then it doesn't help the "attackers" much to then go after the "target" on some other small project. But if there is a strong reason to do that second ban - as in, it's the gateway to *try* for the shoot-the-moon global ban - then it's likely those numbers will increases, as it matters much more. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 02:01, 23 October 2012 (UTC)

Wikimedia communityEdit

I think that this proposal might have more support if there was an actual Wikimedia community. Are there those who edit at the various "other" sites besides Wikipedia? Yes, absolutely. Does that include meta? Yes it does. But the WMF (in my humble opinion) has entirely dropped the ball on fostering wikimedia as a "community" of itself. And so, without that global community, how can we approve global community bans?

Are there ways to foster this? Sure. One example is one I've been hoping for ever since SUL was announced: moving all same language userpages/user talk pages from every same language wikimedia project to a single wiki (and close the namespaces on the individual wikis). And of course, transwiki all the user-related templates, images, categories, and so on. (And to ease implementation, just make the interwikilink to be user:) And thus even by mere appearance, we would be treating all wikimedia reference projects as one "global encyclopedic project".

But as long as every project has it's own seemingly isolated community, you're not going to get the sense of an overwhelming wikimedia community. And so, wikimedia will always be "something over there somewhere" to most editors.

(Want proof? Look to see how many people make a point to say on their user page here on meta that the best way to contact them is through their user talk page at their "main project", usually wikipedia. Here, and here for just two examples.)

And as long as this perspective continues to exist, an actual "global community ban" will be impossible to be genuine. - Jc37 (talk) 03:52, 21 October 2012 (UTC)

Why not just have interwiki watchlists, and leave it up to individual users if they want to have their main user page on meta? That would probably accomplish most of what you're trying to achieve, while still allowing for individual preference concerning what wiki to put userpages on. Different wikis often have different rules about user pages; for example, enwiki allows userboxes and enwiktionary doesn't. So what happens when the enwiki users say, "We want userboxes" and the enwiktionary users say, "We don't want users to have userboxes"? Then it becomes a problem for meta to sort out, when we could have just left it to communities to decide for themselves in a wikifederalist manner.
Also, there's the fact that people may want to tailor their userpages on different wikis according to what's relevant to that wiki. E.g., users on Wiktionary may not care what featured articles someone has written on enwiki or what extensions he's written on MediaWiki.org or whether he's an administrator at Wikiquote, but that could be useful information to members of those communities. Leucosticte (talk) 21:07, 21 October 2012 (UTC)
Userboxes - A great example why userpages should be their own wiki. The global community can have an rfc on it, and decide on that wiki. And userboxes would thus have zero to do with editing wiktionary or wikipedia - they are, after all, notices for fellow editors, and have nothing useful for a project's readers. Remember a separate wiki means that users would now have a template space and a category space specifically tailored just for things involving users.
And that includes what kind of notices a person may deign to have on their userpages. - Jc37 (talk) 23:15, 21 October 2012 (UTC)
I would like to see this happen somehow, but I am afraid it will never happen. Another avenue is actually creating meta-projects, facilitating coordination between different languages (at least of Wikipedia), but we see already with the recent example of medicine that the choice was made in favor of creating a real organization rather than a meta-project.--Ymblanter (talk) 21:28, 21 October 2012 (UTC)
Nod, it's tough to coordinate between separate projects. Imagine how many talk pages would need to be notified if you wanted to notify merely 5 editors who are active on 3 projects, but not necessarily the same 3 projects.
It's rather labour intensive, to say the least.
I've given this a lot of thought over the past few years. I'd write up a proposal, if I thought anyone would give it serious consideration.
But the solution finds itself in the midst of the problem it seeks to help fix - think of how crazy the notification(s) even of such an rfc would be? - Jc37 (talk) 23:20, 21 October 2012 (UTC)
About the Wiki Medicine organization, I believe that they expect to be handling money, which can't be done by any on-wiki project. You need a real organization to process real money. WhatamIdoing (talk) 15:58, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
Even if you write up a proposal that doesn't get adopted by Wikimedia, there are other wiki farms that may take notice and give it a try. Perhaps most notably, the forthcoming Inclumedia. Leucosticte (talk) 18:05, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
I thought about turning WLM into such a meta-project since it requires a lot of coordination, and much of it is done anyway. May be I will send a mail to the WLM mailing list after the 2012 results have been announced (mid-November). Concerning the notifications, it is not that serious as it looks like. Wikiprojects is a luxury, and only smth like 20-30 biggest Wikipedias can afford them. Others are struggling having a dozen or less regular editors, all of whom are bi- or multilingual and also contribute to a bigger Wikipedia.--Ymblanter (talk) 18:07, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
Fair enough. Any help would be most welcome. To start with, what would be the best venue for this proposal? - Jc37 (talk) 03:53, 1 November 2012 (UTC)
As I said, I believe now it is not a good time, when many people are still busy with the contest. I will try smth like Nov 20, and my starting point will be Wiki Loves Monument - l. If you are not subsrcibed, I can leave here a link or/and notify you personally.--Ymblanter (talk) 21:50, 2 November 2012 (UTC)
I did write the e-mail [1], and there is some discussion going on (if you are not subscribed, this is the best way to follow, in the original thread as well as in the thread Long term.--Ymblanter (talk) 14:09, 4 November 2012 (UTC)

This is a great thread- the best one I have seen come out of this rather legalistic discussion of bans. I agree that this is one of the main unsolved problems we have, and efficient solutions all require platform changes. Solving the problem of multiple userpages may also help solve the problem of combining messages/alerts across projects. SJ talk  12:22, 4 November 2012 (UTC)

Are you aware of the new (planned) messaging system? It is expected to work cross-wiki. Platonides (talk) 21:43, 4 November 2012 (UTC)
So I've heard; wonderful... haven't seen a timeline for implementation. Global user{pages, boxes} still needed. SJ talk 

Jc37 makes an excellent point -- due to the lack of any coherent global community, talk of bold action by such a community is a rather disturbing concept, and something that should be approached with great care and careful deliberation.

I would go a step further, and this many months in I think this needs to be stated bluntly. This is a bad proposal. It lacks even the most basic structure that any major proposal should have -- it doesn't clearly identify the problem that needs to be solved, it doesn't build a case, it doesn't discuss possible alternatives. It doesn't have the appearance of something that arises from a diverse group of stakeholders deliberating pros and cons. In spite of many good points being raised in discussion, the "why we're having this discussion" has not been improved or clarified since it was first proposed in April. This is not what healthy deliberation looks like.

I do not mean to disparage any individual's work on this, as I know the circumstances that led to the proposal have been complex and messy. But to the WMF as an organization, I would like to say this: I expect better. I think we all should.

Some coherent process for global bans is needed, for reasons that have been stated. But for an organization dedicated to supporting a massive global community, a clear, well-thought-out, and clearly presented/advocated policy is not too much to expect.

A bad proposal has two negative consequences:

  • It leads to bad policy
  • It wastes a lot of people's time

I would like to see this proposal withdrawn, and redone from scratch prior to a new proposal. In my opinion, a good policy on something like this cannot be written by committee, but needs to be carefully prepared to balance needs before being put up for broad discussion. Careful research and discussions should inform the next draft before it is put up for community review, and the reasons for however it is structured should be explained in a clear way that takes into account possible objections. -Pete F (talk) 06:24, 16 November 2012 (UTC)

I think the proposal does a great job of identifying the problem that needs to be solved. The first section explains it quite clearly: The TOU requires us to have one of these policies, so we have to have one.
Perhaps you meant that it doesn't give you an emotional spiel about how a few especially problematic users are going to destroy the projects for everyone if we have to process bans project by project? It's true (within limits), but I don't think that was the main motivation. I think this is proposed by way of ticking an item off the bureaucratic to-do list. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:55, 16 November 2012 (UTC)
@PeteF - I agree about careful preparation. I'm surprised by the finger-pointing of your comment.
It's not intended as finger-pointing. It's not uncommon for a bad result to emerge when good people proceed with good intentions; there are lots of reasons it can happen. I'm pretty confident that's what has happened here. And it seems to me the WMF has intended to "be willing to fail" in its experiments in recent years. Being willing/able to recognize when something has failed is an important component of that. WMF has done a good job of community engagement elsewhere (e.g. the TOU rewrite); it would be nice to see similar methods employed. -Pete F (talk) 17:05, 17 November 2012 (UTC)
@WID - I hope not! re: ticking off a to-do list.
@StevenW - I don't think this is 'required' by the ToU. Any time a proposal says "because the Board of Trustees said X" I start to worry. fwiw, the Board has no stance on whether or not there should be a global bans policy beyond the language in the ToU, which doesn't necessarily help in drafting specific language here.
That said, I agree with the commenters here, including dissenters (with specific aspects of the proposed language), who think there should be some such policy.
It's not about an emotional appeal, it's about clear communication that supports attaining shared understanding. When a variety of people, with varying levels of familiarity with a problem or situation, are asked to endorse or approve a certain solution, it is reasonable, common practice to present them with a clear and thorough case of why it's a good idea, and to explore and address possible objections. This is not a foreign concept to WMF or any organization: the WMF's grant-giving process is but one of many examples. Grant applicants are required to make a proposal with several sections, each designed to help those reviewing the grant understand the thinking that went into it, and evaluate its merit.
Your comment about the TOU is true, but not germane to my point. I agree with you that there needs to be a global ban process. It's even possible that the process proposed is the best design; but it seems unlikely, given the number of different objections that have been raised by Wikimedians with highly varied backgrounds and experiences. Those perspectives should be taken into account in the design of the proposal, before it is put up for broad review. The Wikimedia Foundation should take this as an opportunity to model how to run a constructive deliberative process, but it appears that instead, it has thrown something out there and hoped that it will stick, or that it would magically fix itself in the process.
Productive, broadly inclusive discussions and decision-making processes don't run themselves. I think this is common knowledge. -Pete F (talk) 19:56, 16 November 2012 (UTC)
You're right, but you're ignoring the plain truth in what Jc37 has pointed out, which is one of the reasons this has been a less than productive conversation is that Meta is a hodpodge of participants from random parts of Wikimedia sites, rather than a representative global community. Steven Walling (WMF) • talk 20:25, 16 November 2012 (UTC)
I don't know; community is what you make of it. When an idea is put out with an inclusive attitude that defines the participants as a community, things often work. The converse is also true. SJ talk  13:43, 17 November 2012 (UTC)
I'm not ignoring that -- on the contrary, it's central to my point. The lack of a cohesive community is one (of several) known facts that should have better informed how this process was approached from the beginning. More perspectives should have been solicited and integrated into the plan, more effort should have been put into a comprehensive and easy to digest writeup, and into facilitating discussion after the presentation of the proposal. This probably means more resources should have been directed at the process and more staff or staff hours should have been assigned to it; I don't know how it was approached, but I want to be clear I'm not saying any particular person dropped the ball. -Pete F (talk) 02:00, 17 November 2012 (UTC)
{{sofixit}}. :-) A global ban policy isn't a staff issue, and success or failure isn't a matter of 'staff hours'. A more coherent rewrite is always an option for conflicted discussions with lots of partial support. SJ talk  13:43, 17 November 2012 (UTC)
Steven issued this proposal and has been engaging in discussion under his staff account; if the project isn't an action of WMF, then there's a much more important problem at play here (lack of either coherence or transparency in what the use of a staff account means).
As for "sofixit", let's look at the scope of that suggestion. I would guess that the WMF's investment in the TOU rewrite (which I consider an unqualified success) greatly exceeded $50k; this is of more limited scope, let's say 10%. While I see this as an important project, I'm not able to make a voluntary contribution of $5,000 worth of effort to it. Even if I were, I lack the expertise required, which would make it more expensive for me to do it right. (I have had contact with very few banned users, have hardly ever followed ArbCom cases, etc.) (Also, I've certainly invested substantial volunteer efforts into similar efforts in the past, and will continue to do so where it seems worthwhile.)
Bottom line, to me: if WMF sees a process like this as important enough to merit paid staff engaging the community, WMF owes it to the community to do it right. Present a draft and a process that respect volunteers' time and varying levels of expertise/familiarity; and do so after some analysis that produces confidence in a positive outcome. In my view, that simply hasn't happened here. I'm not blaming or pointing fingers, but as I suggested above, I believe it's time for WMF to step back, reassess, and come at this fresh. -Pete F (talk) 17:23, 17 November 2012 (UTC)
fwiw, the Board has no stance on whether or not there should be a global bans policy.
I wonder how you "know" this? I have exactly the opposite impression of the Board's position. WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:29, 18 November 2012 (UTC)
An excellent reminder that it would be tremendously helpful if people in positions of trust include an indication in their signature, like WMF staff members do. SJ knows this because he is a longtime, dedicated member of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Directors. -Pete F (talk) 18:52, 18 November 2012 (UTC)
Let me re-phrase this:
Earlier this year, the Board voted for a legally binding contract that includes this sentence: "Especially problematic users who have had accounts or access blocked on multiple Project editions may be subject to a ban from all of the Project editions, in accordance with the Global Ban Policy."
How does voting to approve a legally binding contract containing this sentence not constitute "a stance on whether there should be a global bans policy"? WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:14, 19 November 2012 (UTC)
Well, one could argue it's permitting such a policy if "the community" approves it, but that's not that same as saying there should be such a policy. A parent saying to a kid "You may watch TV after you finish your homework" is not stating that the kid should watch TV, but only that the authority has the view it'll be allowed if desired. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 23:06, 19 November 2012 (UTC)
The TOU is policy for the projects, designed with extensive input from the communities. Its strength comes from that collaboration, not the final resolution approving it. The Board signed off on it, and supported and trusted its drafting process, but wasn't deeply involved in specific language. Individual lines would be better described as a "TOU stance" or "Wikimedia stance" than a "Board stance".
As Seth notes, this policy is referenced by the TOU, not required in any particular form. There should be a page on Meta about such a policy, to avoid a TOU redlink, but it could read "There is currently no global ban policy." or "Global bans may be applied to mass spammers and vandals by any steward. A discussion about expanding this scope is here: <link to RfC>"
That said, I support the work going into this RfC so far, and hope it come to a fruitful conclusion. I hope to see a policy developed that addresses the issues raised above and complements current steward work. SJ talk  23:57, 26 November 2012 (UTC)
SJ, do you see the problem with these statements:
  • Contractual agreement: Users may do X by following the Y Policy.
  • Y Policy: Users may not do X.
Doesn't that seem self-contradictory to you? WhatamIdoing (talk) 09:29, 27 November 2012 (UTC)
Whatamidoing, I'm pretty sure everybody in this discussion sees the point you have been making, but you may be alone in believing it compels a specific action. (It's also impossible to perfectly tune a guitar, but I don't think many people would insist that guitars be abolished as a consequence.) I don't know that it matters though -- on the deeper issue, I think most people here agree with you. There seems to be strong consensus that some form of global ban is important; whether or not people justify it the same way as you, there is a collective will to move forward.
If we are going to move forward though, I still believe it would be valuable to have a clear articulation of the various issues and consequences, and an orderly, well moderated discussion. A distinct, fresh start would help a great deal, as I strongly doubt that the dozens of voters here are following this chaotic discussion, or would return to it without a compelling reason to do so. -Pete F (talk) 17:51, 27 November 2012 (UTC)
It is not clear to me that SJ was seeing this point, even though I believe it's tolerably obvious when it's described in generic terms.
The only action that I believe it requires is for a global ban policy to exist, and for that policy to have a theoretical chance of some user being banned. I don't believe that I am alone in this belief; as you say, there seems to be strong consensus that some form of global ban policy should exist, and "a policy that it may not ever happen" is not where that consensus lies. WhatamIdoing (talk) 08:02, 28 November 2012 (UTC)
I think the core of the dispute is whether it should be geared towards extremely narrow applicability, where basically someone has to be doing near-illegal things, with many safeguards against hijacking and abuse - or whether it's going to be in practice more of a "We, the game-players of Meta, run this place, and you're out of all our clubhouses!" type of thing. I'll repeat my view, which is that a global ban policy is permitted but not required by the TOU. I'll also go so far as to say a global ban policy wouldn't bother me if it was basically a community rubber-stamp on, e.g., a Wikimedia Foundation General Counsel finding that someone was too close to legal lines like child-pornography. But Wikimedia needs another drama-board like a crack-house needs another room. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 10:39, 28 November 2012 (UTC)
I, for one, think that there has to be something that would handle Poetlister type situations. The "illegal" or "near-illegal" is questionable. But the rampant socking, the abuse of privileges, deceit to become an admin on multiple projects, etc. are reprehensible and vary dangerous to the integrity of the community. Ottava Rima (talk) 15:16, 29 November 2012 (UTC)
I don't see the point behind rubber-stamping the legal team's decisions: the legal team doesn't need our endorsement to ban these users, and public discussions of illegal or borderline-illegal activities are a minefield for libel that the WMF ought to avoid (and that we all ought to avoid, out of old-fashioned decency). I also believe that we-the-community don't need the legal team's endorsement. I'd be happy if no one was ever banned, of course, but I think the point behind this is to give we-the-community some direct, transparent control over its members, involving situations like drama-mongering, rather than global bans depending primarily on who has friends on the staff.
If you want to move to a staff-based proposal, then we could do that. I suspect that a policy like "after discussion at Meta, every full-time WMF staff member can vote one user off the island each month" would be very popular with certain parts of the staff. I just don't think that provides any power to the user community. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:10, 29 November 2012 (UTC)
It's not a question of need, but rather there's many situations where two "branches" of an organization can act on their own, but working together makes for an outcome which is more widely respected than either operating alone - again, even if either has the theoretical power to act on its own. We're unfortunately already in libel-minefield territory, as discussing why someone is such a Bad Character that they should be Globally Banned involves making many charges. One of my experiences which informs my view is seeing how civility and no-personal-attacks rules simply do not apply to high-status Wikimedians throwing mud at those deemed fair-game. I believe this actually has descended to outright libel at times, though please don't ask me to give examples here! Note I said "General Counsel", not "staff" - meaning I'm looking to someone who presumably knows something about legal lines and when someone is getting close enough to be a problem. I'm thinking basically a step below WP:Office, where the situation may not require emergency action, and allows for a more deliberative, "consensus", approach (note again, sigh, not requires, but allows). Obviously we differ in our views of global bans. I'm simply outlining how my thinking is not per above "a policy that it may not ever happen", but there are options as designed to be restrictive to cases verging on illegality, and not expansive. Phrases like "control over its members" tend to worry me that it becomes "Cliques (not cabals) use it against their opponents". -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 11:37, 30 November 2012 (UTC)
I really doubt that the WMF's current General Counsel would agree to hold public discussions on whether someone's behavior constituted a crime, and if he did, we'd probably be quietly figuring out how to have his head examined. The legal team isn't best positioned to deal with other situations, such as a user whose behavior is both legal and wholly destructive to our educational goals. NB that the TOU doesn't say "Users committing crimes or engaged in borderline illegal activities may be banned from all Project editions". It says "especially problematic users", which is a different set. WhatamIdoing (talk) 13:03, 30 November 2012 (UTC)
Regarding public discussions, let me just say it remains a great mystery to me how Commons has so far avoided becoming a huge media scandal. I keep expecting something to explode there, scattering popcorn all over, but it never does. But, I didn't say Counsel would hold these discussions. Rather, I was thinking along the lines of the "finding" which has to be done by the President before someone can be assassinated (note, metaphor!). Again, we're circling back to the practical interpretation question, how narrowly or expansively "especially problematic users" will be construed. For example, Larry Sanger's reporting problematic images to the FBI and making an issue of it got him briefly blocked on Wikipedia - so there's disquieting evidence that would considered "problematic" by at least one Wikipedia administrator. Of course it's a ways from that block to a ban. But perhaps not as a far as one might think given the feelings stirred up. However, it does show these issues are the other side of the coin. Maybe it's a case of having to deal with "One man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter". (sigh, do I tediously have to make sure to say that pointing out this dichotomy causes controversy is not the same as claiming all controversies are examples of this dichotomy?) -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 14:13, 30 November 2012 (UTC)

┌─────────────────────────────────┘
So the General Counsel would make a "finding" that some user's behavior is (probably or nearly) illegal, and ban him, and then what? Then you complain about a lack of transparency because there was no public discussion about whether this person really was engaged in illegal behavior that warranted a ban from all projects?

How's that different from what we've been doing for years? The office has banned users over illegal behavior, users have complained about the lack of public discussions, and we still have a (small) problem with a few "especially problematic users" whose behavior is destructive to the WMF's educational purpose, but not technically illegal. WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:56, 1 December 2012 (UTC)

I was thinking more of a "bicameral" process, with requiring both WMF Counsel and discussion to sign-off. This would differ from the current process in that I also envision loosening the criteria for action by a small amount. That is, there would still be WP:OFFICE for some situations, I'm not proposing to replace that at all. But for cases which are "close", but not quite emergencies, or would seem to benefit from open consideration (yes, I know, a minefield, but we already have that), then there could be a dual process. The idea is to try to constrain the public process from becoming a tool of a clique, while giving WMF actions some sort of both community check and endorsement. I'm hardly saying it's all problem-free. But it does seem like the idea itself should be clear. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 08:46, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
So would the current policy proposal, with the addition of a mandatory requirement for the office (either the General Counsel or perhaps someone he designates) to sign off on a ban, basically work for you? WhatamIdoing (talk) 13:10, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
My thinking was that the senior WMF official would need to do the "finding" to initiate the process, perhaps even write up the "indictment" (metaphor) BEFORE the public discussion. This goes back to whether this is ideally to be an extremely rare, maybe once-a-year if that, process, so this wouldn't be too burdensome in that situation. The goal is in part to put a check on zealots using the global ban process as a free shot at a target - again, drag the target through the process, NO DOWNSIDE to the zealots if the global ban doesn't pass, but plenty of grief for the target as it's basically a free-for-all to personally attack them. Obviously a sign-off if and only if a ban passes doesn't do anything to address that problem. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 13:23, 3 December 2012 (UTC)
So if you wanted to globally ban me (Note for new folks: this is purely hypothetical; Seth and I get along fine, despite being on opposite sides of a few issues), then you would send an e-mail message or other relatively private communication to a Designated Senior Official, who would decide what to do with it. We might stick with the must-be-banned-twice rule to keep the Designated Senior Official from being drowned in requests. The Designated Senior Official then either rejects (or ignores) your suggestion that I ought to be globally banned, or chooses to open a discussion (or at least endorses your creation of a discussion, if we want to put the writing burden on you) to see whether the community chooses to have me globally banned.
The Designated Senior Official would basically be a check on starting the process that is similar to the en.wp's ArbCom voting to accept or reject a case.
The two potential constituencies for opposition that I foresee will be the staff, if it happens that nobody wants to do this, and the community-is-in-charge crowd, which will probably want to be able to start proceedings without the WMF staff agreeing that they're allowed to. I won't even try to guess how significant these possible objections will be.
My only concern is that agreement by the Designated Senior Official to talk about a global ban might be interpreted as agreement by the Designated Senior Official to impose a global ban. It will likely be seen as an endorsement that a real problem exists. What do you think about that? WhatamIdoing (talk) 15:59, 3 December 2012 (UTC)
(n.b. the thought of me trying to get anyone globally banned is classic incongruity humor) I think I've apparently not quite conveyed what I'm thinking. In very loose, very metaphorical terms (as in, I know Wikimedia is not a government, but this is to convey a concept concisely using analogy), in a criminal case, the "prosecutor" (senior WMF person) must decide to go forward and bring charges, but the "jury" (community) has the final say in terms of guilt or innocence. Anyone can go to the prosecution and complain and say someone should be charged with a crime - but the prosecutor will at least in theory not bring charges on frivolous accusations or dubious evidence (I know of course it doesn't always work that way in practice, but the preceding is how it's supposed to be). Again, keep in mind I'm trying to come up with some safeguard so "the community-is-in-charge crowd" can't trivially act like a bunch of bullies who want to kick someone when they're down. The WMF official is also so that a person with a real name and some accountability puts their name to this determination, which I hope acts as a way of insuring the accusations are reasonably factual and not political gaming (which again I know is not perfect, but it's the best I've been able to come up with so far). -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 00:04, 4 December 2012 (UTC)

The almighty enwiki banEdit

http://simple.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:Administrators%27_noticeboard&diff=3961554&oldid=3957002 – People demand bans without thinking. Once you're banned from one wiki, they attempt to have you banned from all wikis. Look at this. They want to block me for moving "mini-skirt" to "miniskirt". What's wrong with these people? I didn't even start an edit war. They'll search for any excuse (even a hyphen) to bring out the pitchforks and torches. --Michaeldsuarez (talk) 13:03, 15 November 2012 (UTC)

Easy: Don't get banned in the first place. While the enwiki banning process is... insane... it is also easy to avoid. Ajraddatz (Talk) 13:32, 15 November 2012 (UTC)
Easy as in "don't rock the boat," "don't be bold," "don't take risks," "don't confront anyone about issues," and "don't speak out." I'm just saying that it's easy to become banned from a second wiki once one is banned from enwiki. The two-wiki threshold in this proposal is too low. --Michaeldsuarez (talk) 13:37, 15 November 2012 (UTC)
You can do all of those things in a nice way and not get banned. Trust me, I've done that. But you are right, the two-wiki threshold is not enough, and the actions of people on simple.wp are just silly. Ajraddatz (Talk) 13:40, 15 November 2012 (UTC)
Let's not exagerrate here. The two wiki threshold is for requests for comment here on Meta. It doesn't mean you get auto-banned globally, it means there can be a discussion about it if someone starts one. Nothing in this policy is going to solve the problem where a single wiki like Simple wants to pick up English Wikipedia blocks. Steven Walling (WMF) • talk 20:22, 15 November 2012 (UTC)
simple:WP:ONESTRIKE suggests that Simple does pick up en.wp blocks, but not automatically. Overall, I suspect that this sort of issue could be handled by the Meta community on a case-by-case basis, after considering all the facts and circumstances.
Steven's right, though: two bans only creates the possibility of a discussion. There are no automatic global bans. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:55, 15 November 2012 (UTC)
So in other words, if there is even one other wiki, out of the hundreds, that has a reciprocal ban policy concerning the wiki you get banned on, it's pretty easy for you to become fair game for meta to propose global banning. Also, I agree with suarez's comments above, that it's not that hard to get banned (especially arbcom-banned) on enwiki for standing for certain extremely unpopular principles. The arbcom can just say, "This user is banned for reasons we can't tell anyone. If you have a comment, email us." Leucosticte (talk) 03:46, 16 November 2012 (UTC)
Not quite: you have to actually get banned on the second wiki. And the list of known users who could be subject to this process still stands at exactly one (1) user. So it might be "pretty easy" in theory, but so far it doesn't seem to be happening in practice.
I agree that it's not hard to get banned on en.wp for "certain extremely unpopular principles", so long as "certain extremely unpopular principles" is a code phrase for pro-pedophilia activism. On the other hand, that's true on all the WMF projects. But that's not what Michael was talking about. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:50, 16 November 2012 (UTC)
Pro-pedophilia activism, or even advocacy that the government should simply stay out of the matter altogether, would be a prime example of the type of speech that can lead to a ban (since anyone who expresses a dissident viewpoint with which others vehemently disagree is considered guilty of trolling), but one can also get kicked off for being outed by others as having a criminal record. It's been cited as partial justification for a ban in at least two cases I know of, and who knows how many there are that we don't know about, because of the lack of transparency. Once global banning becomes available, it increases the incentives of users to enact local bans that will help meet the prerequisites for global banning. People will probably game the system that way.
People might argue, by the way, that those of us who lack a desire to advocate fringe viewpoints shouldn't worry about others getting banned for it. I tend to agree with NearlyFreeSpeech's sentiments: "For the bulk of our member base, the 'fringe' web sites we host frequently serve as the proverbial canary in the coal mine: they act as our global censorship early warning system. As long as the fringe sites can remain online, we can all be confident that the rest of us with more moderate views have real freedom to express ourselves. When people attack such sites or attempt to get them shut down, we learn more about what techniques (legal and technological) we need to use to keep your site protected.
"NearlyFreeSpeech.NET isn't necessarily about saying something controversial. In a lot of cases, it's merely about knowing that if you need to someday, you won't find out that your freedom to do so atrophied away while you weren't looking." People who claim to be keeping the wiki neutral and unbiased are often actually suppressing even the giving of what limited weight is due to fringe viewpoints under Wikipedia policies. But if there truly aren't many users who would get banned under this policy, then it's probably not all that important to enact, and we might as well skip enacting it. If the board wants to force the policy upon us, then let them take the initiative to do so; we can at least wash our hands of it. Leucosticte (talk) 22:54, 18 November 2012 (UTC)

I commend Michaeldsuarez for providing additional empirical evidence for establishing the danger of the "escalation attack". While I grant Steven Walling's contention that it "doesn't mean you get auto-banned globally", I also point out it does mean those trying to ban you get a chance to try. And practically, there is NO DOWNSIDE for a clique (not cabal) to initiate what is in effect "vexatious litigation" against an unpopular person in this manner. And I repeat, WhatamIdoing's numerical calculation is not applicable, because currently there is no significant incentive for the second small-wiki ban. The moment that second small-wiki ban becomes the ticket for a shoot-the-moon global ban *attempt*, the incentives in the situation have changed drastically. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 18:32, 18 November 2012 (UTC)

How would you (1) have a process that could result in "a ban from all of the Project editions" for "especially problematic users who have had accounts or access blocked on multiple Project editions" and (2) not have an incentive to use it against people you hate?
Changing it to three projects doesn't eliminate this; it would just be a little more work. I'm not convinced that any process at all is immune to "vexatious litigation" or to overreach. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:11, 19 November 2012 (UTC)
I am still unsure what we are discussing here. I think it is clear that "automatic" bans which were not discussed on the project individually should not count. We did not put it in the proposal (which is currently dead anyway) because we were not aware that such bans exist.--Ymblanter (talk) 17:42, 19 November 2012 (UTC)
@Ymblanter - It's not obvious to me that "automatic" bans wouldn't count. Right, they weren't considered - but one should never underestimate the literalism of potential wikilawyers. That's exactly the sort of thing someone might seize on for a talking-point ("The policy currently says etc, and you can try to change it, but right now it is ...). What we're discussing here is the evidence for the "escalation attack", where something like an English Wikipedia ban can be easily leveraged into a Global Ban *attempt*, via finding some other minor wiki ban and then taking those as the preconditions for opening the process of total banishment from all lands of the realm.
@WhatamIdoing - This is indeed the civil-liberties problem (i.e. how do you make sure the police don't become the private army of the politicians in power?). I'm not going to try to solve it right here, both because of the complexity and because I'm not in a good political position to do so. I do think it's reasonable that the next iteration of DISCUSSION of this proposed policy seriously contend with the issue. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 23:21, 19 November 2012 (UTC)
Once again Seth: this is website with a Terms of Use and community-created policies. Not a state with a constitution that grants you inalienable civil liberties. They don't exist here. Steven Walling (WMF) • talk 23:23, 19 November 2012 (UTC)
I am using metaphorical language to concisely convey certain general philosophical concepts. I assume people in this discussion can recognize that, and not make silly sneering strawman attacks. That fact that you, as the main policy proponent, manifest such seething hostility to concerns of fairness and guarding against abuse (note, hardly exclusively legal matters!), greatly fuels my skepticism as to what the eventual application of this policy would be :-(. Seth Finkelstein (talk) 23:40, 19 November 2012 (UTC)
Indeed. Often, principles that have been found to promote good governance in governments also promote good governance in other organizations. For example, "organizational democracy" calls for transparency, dialogue, listening, choice, accountability, decentralization, fairness, and integrity. It would be silly to say, "This is not a democracy" as a reason for not wanting to follow some of the principles that have made certain democratic countries great. (Of course, there is some dispute as to whether it's "democracy" that made those countries great, or liberalism; but the same principle applies in discussion. We shouldn't necessarily conclude, "We don't need to apply liberal principles in our organization because we're not a government.") Leucosticte (talk) 13:36, 20 November 2012 (UTC)
"Not a state with a constitution that grants you inalienable civil liberties." Actually, by having principals like "assume good faith" and "civility," we do acknowledge objective standards of treating others. Any time you put forth rules of conduct and behavior, you have created a government. Why do you think all charity groups have their own "constitution" and "bylaws"? We have our own. We have a government and there is no way for us not to have one. Ottava Rima (talk) 16:17, 20 November 2012 (UTC)
All charity groups do not have their own "constitution" and "bylaws". Offhand, I can't think of a single non-profit that has a constitution. WhatamIdoing (talk) 11:23, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
Um, then you don't know what you are talking about. All non-profits fall under "corporations" in the United States and are govern by rules which are defined as a constitution, by-laws, or other such names for the same basic system. I work with many non-profits and they all have such things. You cannot have membership in a group without forming such by-laws and rules. Ottava Rima (talk) 00:40, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
Most non-profits are incorporated, but not all, in the US. However, incorporation papers are not a "constitution". They may or may not have bylaws, which are optional for corporations. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:20, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
To legally operate within the US, you have to be incorporated here. Otherwise, you aren't a "non-profit." Furthermore, they all require bylaws and the such. Hence, the Foundation has a Board. It is not optional for charities. Ottava Rima (talk) 00:57, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
Incorporation is not technically necessary (go read the code), but is by far the most obvious method of being recognized as a tax-exempt non-profit organization. One major class of non-profit organizations (churches) has traditionally not been incorporated, and an org can be a non-profit without being formally recognized as such.
Similarly, bylaws are not required for incorporation. Go look at the incorporation paperwork: writing bylaws is not a necessary step. You can be incorporated without any bylaws, and some non-profits never get around to officially adopting any. WhatamIdoing (talk) 10:21, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
" has traditionally not been incorporated" You've obviously lack the proper background to discuss this. Churches are incorporated. They have to be legally. They own property. Here is the Maryland Code and every state has similar codes. Whole sections of law are devoted to the corporation of churches. The Catholic Church in particular needs these laws to ensure that it has the proper rights over the use of "Catholic." You are barking up the wrong tree and you are very, very wrong. Ottava Rima (talk) 15:43, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
In Virginia, it used to be illegal, not that long ago, to incorporate churches. Leucosticte (talk) 17:17, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
Yes, and the ban was found unconstitutional because it was denying the ability for Churches to have legal rights (ownership and the rest) and be instituted as non-profits are. Read the benefits of corporation: "By incorporating, Falwell's Lynchburg church will be able to expand the size of its property, gain legal protections and have the power to enter into contracts. " These are necessities for non-profits/charities to operate. It doesn't really matter though, because Wikimedia is a Foundation with a Board and follows these standards already. By claiming that there are no "rights" and such is legally unsound and goes against the whole principals behind the Foundation's founding. Ottava Rima (talk) 18:49, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
We're going a bit off track here, I think. Back to the point: yes, this is not «a state with a constitution that grants you inalienable civil liberties». However, legal, pseudo-legal and cultural restrictions are used as reasons for blocks and bans. Moreover, things like "universal human rights", which are not quite universal[ly accepted as such] (as some religious leaders of all sides kindly take care of regularly remind us), do have a vaster effect on people than mere legal obligations. The result is that on the wikis of some language/culture things can happen/survive (or even be considered obvious) which would be considered impossible and unacceptable elsewhere, and can't therefore be generalized.
Simple proposal to address the problem: keep the "two wikis" requirement, but require the two wikis to have a different [language/project] subdomain: for instance, es.wiki and en.wiki, or en.wiki and es.books, or es.wiki and commons/meta. --Nemo 17:59, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
If the user gets banned from meta, where/how is he going to contest his global ban? I would be interested to hear more about what you see to be the advantages of this scheme you have proposed. Given that English projects are probably dominated mostly by monolingual folk, requiring that the two bans be by people from different languages at least increases the odds that it will be by two different sets of editors.
I'd prefer to keep meta, MediaWiki.org, commons, etc. separate from the whole global banning scheme, though. The way I see it, the metapedian and exopedian aspects of the WMF universe are radically different, so what happens on one should not affect the other. The kinds of issues that cause problems on content wikis are often irrelevant to meta wikis. Leucosticte (talk) 03:46, 25 November 2012 (UTC)
Well, this is what I proposed, "different language" in its most basic form; what language "multilingual" projects (which mostly conduct their affairs in English) should be considered in, is another matter. It might make sense not to count Meta, while Commons should probably be counted (although you might decide to count it as English), but anyway this doesn't change rules for local block/ban, which is extremely unlikely on Meta and would most likely be immediately suspended in case of an RfC the user has to intervene on, so that I doubt the global bans scheme would encourage blocks with by-ends. --Nemo 09:30, 25 November 2012 (UTC)
Commons would theoretically need to stay within the ban because of the inherent problems of having access to so many projects via the pictures. I agree on the Meta parts though. Ottava Rima (talk) 15:17, 25 November 2012 (UTC)
"Controversial Content" disputes often span both English Wikipedia and Commons. And some of those disputes have been contentious enough that I have no trouble envisioning the zealots of one side trying to make a global ban out of it (note by "one side", I mean whichever clique wins out attempting to impose victor's justice on the losing side, not making a moral statement about the wikipornpornporn vs no-censorship adherents). -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 18:55, 25 November 2012 (UTC)

There's a logical problem at the root of this thread -- Michael's initial post doesn't distinguish between blocks and bans. From a policy perspective, they are very different things (even though the end result for the user is very similar). (There does appear to be a poorly worded header at simple:WP:ONESTRIKE, which probably led to the confusion "reciprocal bans" is not an accurate heading for what the section says.) Simple English Wikipedia does not appear to have any policy preferring bans when a user is banned elsewhere; it explicitly says "A ban is when the community decides that an editor may not make any changes to Wikipedia ever again. This should occur after many users have talked about it and reached consensus (agreed)." -Pete F (talk) 17:57, 19 November 2012 (UTC)

  • Banning on various wikis is sometimes arbitrary. Ajraddatz, many users who advocated for what you have stated have been banned before. I am of the belief in a global ban, but saying "don't get banned on any project" isn't necessarily the most accurate of behavior. Pete revealed an interesting point - there are inherent problems in how different communities use the block/ban ability. Ottava Rima (talk) 16:14, 20 November 2012 (UTC)
I wouldn't call that an inherent problem -- after all, there are probably 250+ words used for "block" and "ban" on the various projects. Since it is defined here on meta as a consensus-based process, it would be easy enough to use language in a policy that explicitly cites that definition; if a project chooses to use the word "ban" in a way that doesn't match that definition, it would be disregarded by the policy. I'm pretty convinced this section is making a big deal out of something that just isn't. (Also, since I posted this, the Simple community has acted to correct the problem over there.) -Pete F (talk) 01:17, 27 November 2012 (UTC)
Still requires work to figure out the language/cultural use, and the community as a whole would have to trust the individual providing the information. I've seen some odd disputes from the Russian wikis or similar projects where there would be 2 or 3 users from the project present. Unless we somehow got a neutral interpreter, we have to take their word for it about the events at the project and that a "ban" according to our definition was actually put in place. Ottava Rima (talk) 03:47, 27 November 2012 (UTC)
Return to "Requests for comment/Global bans" page.