User:Alexis Jazz/The chain of accountability

Noto Emoji Pie 1f4c4.svg (English) This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.

Accountability is vital. When people, groups or organizations can't be held accountable, you get the financial crisis of 2007–08, Harvey Weinstein, Enron and Nicolás Maduro.

To hold any person, group or organization accountable you need another person, group or organization. Problem solved, please LIKE and SUBSCRIBE!

You guessed it, it's not that easy. That second party that is holding the first accountable also has to be held accountable. Because if not, the first party could simply bribe the second party, pull the wool over their eyes or (if applicable) cut their funding and corruption could prosper. While in some cases reasonable, this is why it would generally not be preferred for two parties to only check each other.

So you need a third party to hold the second accountable. And obviously you're just going to have the same problem here. So you need a fourth party. And so on. This is where the "chain" part comes in: eventually, you will arrive at a party you've already seen in the chain. That could be the first, but it doesn't have to be. And as long as parties are sufficiently independent, this is generally fine. Worthy of note is that not anyone can hold anyone accountable. Generally speaking, in addition to needing some way to pressure the party one has to hold accountable, one also needs to have access to essentially the same information that the party to be held accountable has access to. This is basically why you're not allowed to burn the evidence.

On WikimediaEdit

So who holds who accountable on Wikimedia projects? Please feel free to fill the blanks. If you find any row for which you can't fill in the blanks, you've spotted an accountability issue! And whenever you add a party to the second column, make sure to also add that party to the first column if it's not already there.

For the purposes of this table, accountability means the ability to make another party face consequences. Discussion is always preferred and users could, for example, correct other users. But if some user is edit warring, another user can't actually do anything to stop that. So only admins can hold users accountable.

First party Held accountable by Accountability method
Administrators Users Starting a desysop procedure
Arbitration Committee (some projects) Request bureaucrats to remove administrator rights[1]
Wikimedia Foundation Florida Attorney General and Internal Revenue Service Ultimately, state and federal authorities are the only external check on what the Wikimedia Foundation does, as long as it's a 501(c)(3) non-profit.
Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees? Voting
Donors Withholding donations
General public Transparency (a core value), public discourse and public opinion.[2]
Users Refusing to contribute; right to fork.[3]
Users (technical) Using fully free software (a core value) ensures full transparency on the operation of the services, the ability to change them and ultimately the right to fork.[4]
Funds Dissemination Committee (intended)[5] Spending review, withholding funds
Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees Itself Only the board itself has the ultimate power to change bylaws, its own members and every other act by the Wikimedia Foundation. Everyone else can be overridden at whim by a majority of the board.
Florida Attorney General and (no?) others with standing Trustees are potentially subject to various kinds of liability, but in practice it's extremely unlikely that anyone acts except in extreme cases.
Users Voting for the community seats on the board elections (not binding).
Wikimedia movement affiliates Voting for Affiliate-selected Board seats (not binding)
Wikimedia movement affiliates Members Voting (binding under national laws and standard bylaws for incorporated entities; not binding for unincorporated groups).
Affiliations Committee
Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees
Withdrawing recognition
Funds Dissemination Committee (intended)[6] Withholding funds
Users Administrators Blocks
Bureaucrats Prevent a desysop procedure from being started or nullify its outcome[7]
Stewards Global locks
Wikimedia Foundation Foundation global ban
Stewards Users Steward annual confirmations
Bureaucrats Users Starting a de-'crat procedure
Checkusers Ombudsman commission[8]
Arbitration Committee (some projects) Request stewards to remove administrator rights[1]
Oversighters Ombudsman commission[8]
Arbitration Committee (some projects) Request stewards to remove administrator rights[1]
Funds Dissemination Committee Users Voting in elections
Affiliations Committee
Ombudsman commission
Arbitration Committee (some projects)
OTRS members OTRS admins
OTRS admins
  1. a b c Varies from project to project. Wikimedia Commons for example does not have an ArbCom.
  2. Generally disabled since the late 2010s because the Wikimedia Foundation transparency gap and lack of public reporting makes most Wikimedia Foundation decisions, including annual plans and financials, invisible to the public.
  3. The Spanish Wikipedia in 2005 was the first case of a major project-wide protest against the Wikimedia Foundation.
  4. This is being weakened since the late 2010s by expanding the usage of unfree software and SaaSS, which reduce visibility on how the websites are operated and concentrate power in the hands of the few managers which pick such external services and control the money flows towards them.
  5. FDC is currently inactive, since 2019 when elections were supposed to happen but didn't. WMF failed to file requests since 2018, and refused to proceed through the process since 2014.
  6. Approval of grants to affiliates taken over by WMF. This is supposed to be a temporary situation.
  7. Varies from project to project.
  8. a b Only for infringements of the Privacy Policy, the Access to nonpublic information policy, the CheckUser policy and the oversight policy. Bad behavior that doesn't technically infringe these policies appears to be outside of their scope.