Universal Code of Conduct/Training/Module 1: Orientation (UCoC - General)

Universal Code of Conduct



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As a movement, we share a vision of a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. Yet, this vision is hindered by behaviors that prevent open and inclusive participation. As we strive to empower as many people as possible to actively participate in Wikimedia projects and spaces we need to be a community that fosters an environment that is positive, safe and healthy for anyone.

To this end, the Universal Code of Conduct provides standards for acceptable and unacceptable behavior across all Wikimedia projects, both online and offline. This code empowers us to uphold our values of respect, civility, and the assumption of good faith; guiding us in fostering an environment where everyone can confidently contribute and engage with a sense of safety and inclusivity.

By the end of this course you will:

  • Gain a clear understanding of the Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC) and its fundamental principles
  • Learn about how the UCoC came to be and why it is so crucial to the Wikimedia movement
  • Overview of the enforcement mechanisms and reporting violations



This self-learning course is designed for individuals who are part of or interested in the Wikimedia community. Whether you're an experienced contributor, a newcomer, or simply curious about Wikimedia, this course will provide insights into the Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC) and its role in shaping a respectful and inclusive environment within the Wikimedia movement. No prior knowledge of the UCoC is required; this course is accessible to learners of all levels. Join us in fostering a positive culture within the Wikimedia community.

Overview of the Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC)


What is the UCoC?


The Universal Code of Conduct is rooted in Wikimedia’s values of respect, civility, and the assumption of good faith. It clearly defines acceptable behavior on the Wikimedia projects, outlines what constitutes harassment both on and off the projects, and applies to all participants of our movement. It provides a clear, consistent framework to address potential abuses of power and misinformation, with shared responsibility between the Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikimedia communities.

The UCoC’s most important standards include:

  • Clearly defining acceptable behavior
  • Delineating harassment on and off the projects for all Wikipedia participants
  • Preventing the abuse of power and influence to intimidate others
  • Combating deliberate introduction of false or inaccurate content
  • Providing consistent enforcement process and shared responsibility between the Foundation and volunteer communities

But, where all does the code apply to?

Where is the UCoC applicable?


To put it briefly, the UCoC applies to everyone engaging with both online and offline Wikimedia projects and spaces. This encompasses individuals new to the community as well as experienced members, project functionaries, event organizers, participants, employees and board members of both affiliates and the Wikimedia Foundation.

The UCoC's reach extends to all Wikimedia projects, technical spheres, in-person and virtual events, along with the following instances:

  • In private, public, and semi-public interactions
  • At times of disagreements and expressions of solidarity
  • When working towards technical developments
  • During aspects of content creation
  • Within affiliates and during collaboration with external partners

The UCoC's expansive applicability underscores its important role in fostering a safe, respectful, and inclusive environment. But, how did this come to be?

How did the UCoC come to be? Background


While user behavior policies have long existed on the platform and within various communities, there was no unified standard for acceptable behavior across all Wikimedia projects and spaces. Individual Wikimedia projects, language communities, and affiliate organizations have developed conduct policies to address specific issues and challenges, tailored to the unique needs and cultural nuances of their respective communities. These policies have been very effective and are a testament to the Wikimedia we know today.

However, instances of harassment and bad behavior still affected the health of communities and created unwelcoming spaces for newcomers. The 2015 Harassment Survey conducted by the Foundation highlighted how harassment and toxic behavior negatively impacted the ability of Wikimedia projects to collect, share, and disseminate free knowledge.

The Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC) was introduced not to replace these existing processes, but to address gaps where local enforcement was insufficient and to provide a unified baseline standard. The corresponding Enforcement Guidelines (EG) were created to ensure a consistent process for escalating systemic failures in local enforcement. These guidelines provide baseline expectations and a process to hold local enforcement mechanisms accountable to global norms of civility and conduct.

By doing so, the UCoC and EG aims to support and enhance existing local policies, ensuring a safer, more welcoming environment for all community members.

How did the UCoC come to be? Developing a UCoC


It was during the Wikimedia 2030 Strategic Direction process, which included the Foundation, volunteer communities and affiliates, that the need for a Universal Code of Conduct was identified.

The UCoC was introduced to provide a common framework that would help maintain consistency, set clear expectations, and ensure a respectful and inclusive environment for everyone involved in the Wikimedia movement.

The UCoC doesn't replace local policies but aims to complement them and provide a baseline for behavior that applies across the Wikimedia ecosystem.

To that end,the Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC), whose development was a multi-year process involving the participation of over 1,500 community members from 19 different projects spanning five continents and 30 languages, received approval from the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees on December 9th, 2020.

Why do we need a UCoC?


Wikimedia has yet to realize the full potential of our initial promise of creating a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

Our volunteer community is not representative of the world we serve, and women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups often face increased scrutiny, pressure or outright harassment.

In order to achieve our free knowledge vision, the Wikimedia movement must be a place where everyone feels welcome, knows that their contributions are valued, and sees that their participation matters.

The UCoC contributes to fulfilling our promise by:

  • Fostering diversity and inclusivity: The UCoC mandates respectful interactions, creating an environment where contributors from diverse backgrounds feel valued and comfortable sharing their knowledge.
  • Promoting safe spaces: By addressing unacceptable behavior, the UCoC establishes a safe environment where users can engage without fear of harassment or hostility.
  • Facilitating collaborative work: The UCoC promotes constructive dialogue, enabling collaborative efforts and preventing conflicts that can disrupt projects.
  • Enhancing content quality: By addressing content vandalism, disinformation and abuse of the projects.
  • Reflecting Wikimedia's values: The UCoC embodies Wikimedia's values of openness, collaboration, good faith, and respect, guiding behavior in alignment with the movement's mission.
  • Encouraging global engagement: The UCoC ensures a consistent and comprehensible conduct standard across diverse cultures, facilitating global engagement.

Below are are just few stories of how toxic behavior on Wikimedia has negatively impacted community members:


UCoC Enforcement


What are the UCoC enforcement guidelines?


Laws lack effectiveness in isolation, just as policies lack meaning without enforcement. The Enforcement Guidelines (EG) outlines a path for the Wikimedia community and Wikimedia Foundation to achieve UCoC goals and objectives.

With the aim of establishing a basis for consistent and equitable UCoC implementation throughout the Wikimedia ecosystem, the guidelines include information on: promoting understanding of the UCoC, engaging in proactive work to prevent violations, developing actionable principles for responding to UCoC violations, and supporting local enforcement structures on Wikimedia projects.

In line with the movement's decentralized and bottom-up philosophy, enforcing the UCoC will be a shared responsibility, and prioritize local enforcement.

While the particularities of UCoC enforcement are still a work in progress and will likely remain an iterative process, let’s move on for an overview of how the enforcement is expected to look like in practice!

How can you report a UCoC violation?


The EG notes that a centralized reporting and processing tool for UCoC violations will be developed and maintained by the Wikimedia Foundation.

Here the idea is to lower the technical barrier for reporting and processing UCoC violations. This may be especially useful for smaller projects or organizations in the movement who don’t have the needed resources or capacity.

However, individuals charged with enforcing the UCoC are not required to use this tool. They may work with whatever tools they deem appropriate, as long as cases are handled according to the principles of ease-of-use, privacy and security, flexibility in processing, and transparency.

What happens next? Who is responsible for addressing a reported violation?

Who is responsible for addressing the reported violation?


As noted earlier, both the communities and the Foundation will work together to enforce the UCoC. Consequently, the responsibility for addressing violations depends on the type of violation.

As a rule of thumb, the majority of cases will be handled by community enforcement mechanisms or the U4C. The Foundation's involvement will be limited to cases where the community is unable to address the issue.

See the non-exhaustive list below to get idea of some UCoC violations and potential enforcement mechanisms:

Type of Violation Enforcement mechanism
Threats of physical violence Wikimedia Trust & Safety team
Nonconsensual disclosure of PII
  • Generally handled by users with oversight or edit suppression permissions
  • Occasionally handled Wikimedia Trust & Safety team
Violations related to affiliate governance Affiliations Committee or equivalent body
Violations in technical spaces Technical Code of Conduct Committee
Systemic failure to follow the UCoC like:
  • Lack of local capacity to enforce the UCoC
  • Consistent local decisions that conflict with the UCoC
Universal Code of Conduct Coordinating Committee (U4C)
... ...

Enforcement Principles


Now that you have gained an overview of how violations will be reported and addressed, let’s look at the principles the EG outlines for its enforcement.

The EG recommends using existing enforcement structures to receive reports of and dealing with UCoC violations. However, being a global community such processes may vary widely.

As such, to maintain uniform UCoC enforcement across the movement, the EG recommends some baseline principles that should be applied when handling UCoC violations.

These include:


  • Fairness is a fundamental principle that revolves around treating individuals or groups impartially and without bias. It ensures that decisions, actions, and processes are equitable and just.


  • Transparency is about openness and clarity in decision-making processes and actions. It ensures that information is accessible, understandable, and available to those affected by a decision.


  • The principle of appeals involves providing individuals with a mechanism to challenge or question decisions that affect them. Appeals are crucial for ensuring that decisions are fair and just, and they offer a layer of protection against errors or biases.

UCoC Coordinating Committee (U4C)


What is the role of U4C?



How is the U4C selected?



UCoC Orientation - Test your knowledge!


1. What is the primary purpose of the Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC)?

  1. To establish local guidelines for each Wikimedia project
  2. To provide a global standard for acceptable behavior across all Wikimedia projects
  3. To replace the Wikimedia Terms of Use

Answer: 2 → The UCoC sets universal behavioral standards to ensure consistency across all Wikimedia projects.

2. To whom does the UCoC apply?

  1. Only Wikimedia Foundation employees
  2. Only new contributors to Wikimedia projects
  3. All participants engaging with Wikimedia projects, both online and offline

Answer: 3 → The UCoC applies to everyone engaging with both online and offline Wikimedia projects and spaces.

3. How was the UCoC developed?

  1. By a small committee within the Wikimedia Foundation
  2. Through the participation of over 1,500 community members from 19 different projects
  3. By external consultants hired by the Wikimedia Foundation

Answer: 2 → The development of the UCoC was a community-driven process involving broad participation.

4. What is a primary function of the UCoC enforcement guidelines?

  1. To develop new Wikimedia software tools
  2. To outline a path for achieving UCoC goals and objectives
  3. To recruit new Wikimedia contributors

Answer: 2 → The enforcement guidelines provide a framework for implementing the UCoC's objectives.

5. How can UCoC violations be reported?

  1. Through direct emails to the Wikimedia Foundation
  2. Through a centralized reporting and processing tool i.e. incident response system
  3. Through existing community reporting mechanism such as as an Admin’s noticeboard
  4. All of the above

Answer: 4 → All of the above.

6. What does the UCoC complement?

  1. Local policies and guidelines
  2. Wikimedia software updates
  3. New content creation projects

Answer: 1 → The UCoC is designed to work alongside existing local policies to provide a consistent baseline.

7. What was a key finding of the 2015 Harassment Survey?

  1. Harassment has no significant impact on Wikimedia projects
  2. Harassment and toxic behavior negatively impact the ability to collect, share, and disseminate free knowledge
  3. Only experienced contributors face harassment

Answer: 2 → The survey highlighted the detrimental effects of harassment on the Wikimedia community and its goals.

8. What is NOT a goal of the UCoC?

  1. Fostering diversity and inclusivity
  2. Promoting constructive dialogue
  3. Developing new Wikimedia projects

Answer: 3 → The UCoC focuses on behavior and community standards, not on project development.