User:Kbrown (WMF)/TM prototypes/tabs/H11

 H1: Introduction H2: Basics H3: Handling harassment reports H4: Communicating with victims of harassment H5: Immediate action H6: Investigating reports H7: Providing support and advice H8: "Doxxing" or release of personally identifying information H9: "Off-wiki" harassment H10: Image-based problems H11: Closing cases H12: Reporting out H13: After a case H14: Other resources 

H11: Closing casesEdit

We've covered a lot of skills that are important for closing a case in previous lessons in this module. Let's review them now.


Any case closure will need to start with documentation. While the case is still fresh in your memory, write enough information down so that anyone who is asked to review the case in the future can figure out what went on. Your documentation should have information about what the case was about, who investigated the report and what they found, and what the outcome was.

This documentation may be stored on your team's private wiki, or in a post to your team's private, secured mailing list. Do not document your cases publicly or in a low-security location like an etherpad; remember that while you are trusted with access with private and/or personal information about editors so you can investigate these cases, not everyone is; this information is still private and personal and should not be made public.

Closing non-actionable reportsEdit

Even in a case where you and your team take no action – whether because the case was weak or erroneous, or because there's simply nothing your team can do – there are some steps you will need to carry out as you close a case.

First, you will need to notify the victim of the outcome of your investigation. Remember to communicate with empathy and to offer the victim further resources for help if such resources exist. You may wish to provide some detail about why the case was deemed non-actionable, but do not become over-detailed: it is relevant to the victim whether the case is being closed because the facts could not be verified, as opposed to because the facts were verified but no on-wiki action was possible, but it is rarely a good idea to go into detail about whether you, personally, believed their report or whether a particular piece of evidence was found lacking.

Third, you may need to notify the subject of the report. Whether this is necessary will depend on the situation: was the report obviously mistaken, and you closed it at a glance without needing to do a full investigation? In that case, the subject of the report may not know a complaint was even filed, and will be surprised to hear from you. On the other hand, did you do a full investigation, including speaking to the subject and/or witnesses about the existence of the case? In that case, you owe it to the subject to let them know that the case is closed and what the outcome is.

Closing actionable reportsEdit

Closing an actionable report is a bit more involved, though it is based on most of the same steps.

Usually, your first step in closing an actionable case will be to take any on-wiki action your team has decided on. The timing of this step is important; if it has become necessary to place a block or ban on a user, you want to avoid leaving them in a state of "nothing left to lose," especially if they have advanced user rights that could be misused in retaliation. That will mean placing any blocks or bans first, before notifying the sanctioned user. Remember that in severe cases that involve advanced user rights, you may need to contact a steward or bureaucrat to request removal of those rights, and that these teams may not make instantaneous decisions on such requests. In a case where you must reach out to stewards or bureaucrats for higher-level action, you needn't delay your closing of your case or your taking any necessary local actions unless you have reason to believe that the need for these actions will be affected by the decisions made by the stewards/bureaucrats.

There should not be a gap in time where the sanctioned user is left wondering why a sanction has been placed on them; immediately after placing any blocks or bans that are needed, you should notify relevant parties. This will include the sanctioned editor, first; the victim or person who reported the case to you, second; and possibly any on-wiki venues your community requires sanctions to be posted in (for instance, your community may expect things like desysops to be announced on a noticeboard – see H12, below, for more on public reporting).

When communicating with the subject of a report in cases where you have decided to take action against them, keep your statements factual and as non-judgmental as you reasonably can given the situation. Your goal is to communicate what action is being taken against them and, in general terms, why, and what they can do if they wish to appeal your decision. Even in the context of explaining how to appeal, however, it is not appropriate to provide a sanctioned user with the name of, or detailed information provided by, their accuser or victim.

As always, you should attempt to communicate with victims with empathy, but without violating your obligation to protect the privacy of others involved in the case. Let them know the outcome of the case and any additional details they need to know, and provide them with additional resources if you know of them. Do not go into detail about evidence or how it influenced your team's decision, and do not be congratulatory or speak negatively about others involved in the case.

Test yourself!
#4: Closing an actionable case
This module will periodically present you with multiple-choice questions you can use to test your knowledge of the module you are studying. While more than one of the suggested answers may seem correct, remember that you should try to pick the most correct of the options.
Your team has just finished investigating a case where user:Q was shown to have harassed user:R through the Wikimedia email service. You have decided to ban Q from your project for this behavior. What set of actions best represents what you need to do next and the order you need to do it in?
Which option would you choose?
  1. Notify user:Q that they are banned from your project, then place the block to enforce that notification. Email user:R to let them know you have banned Q, then document your investigation by posting a summary and evidence analysis on your project's administrative noticeboard.
  2. Document your investigation by summarizing the case on your team's private wiki (if you have one). Notify user:R that you will be banning user:Q from the project because of their behavior, then go ahead and place the block to enforce that ban on user:Q. You don't need to notify Q specifically, since they'll find out next time they try to edit, anyway.
  3. Document your investigation by summarizing the case on your team's private wiki (if you have one), then place the necessary block on user:Q. Send an email notifying Q that they have been banned for harassment, then send an email to user:R letting them know that the case has been closed and that Q has been banned.
  4. Document your investigation by summarizing the case on your team's private wiki (if you have one). Place the necessary block on user:Q, then send them an email officially notifying them that they have been banned for harassment. You don't need to notify user:R specifically, since no action is being taken against them.

Ready to see the correct answer?
Click to expand! (click to expand or collapse)
The correct answer is: Answer C is the best option. Detailing the case publicly, as in A, would be a failure to protect the privacy of the involved parties. Answer B makes the false assumption that you do not owe a blocked user a notification that they have been blocked and an explanation of why, while Answer D makes a similar mistake by assuming that the victim will not want to hear from you directly about the case's closure.
(Discuss this question)
Test yourself!
#5: Challenge question: closing a case that involves advanced user rights
This module will periodically present you with multiple-choice questions you can use to test your knowledge of the module you are studying. While more than one of the suggested answers may seem correct, remember that you should try to pick the most correct of the options.
Your team has just finished discussing how to handle a case where user:X was alleged to have harassed user:Z. You believe the evidence shows that user:X, who is also a Steward, has used their access to Z's private information to harass Z off-wiki. While your team believes that banning X from your project is an appropriate action, you are also concerned about X's continued access to private information through his Steward user right. As a local project team, however, you have no ability to revoke the Steward user right. In fact, the only body with that power appears to be either the other Stewards, or the Wikimedia Foundation's Trust and Safety team. Do you:
Which option would you choose?
  1. Close the case by locally blocking X and notifying them that they are blocked from your project. They're off your territory; the global community can decide what to do about the rest.
  2. Contact the Wikimedia Foundation or the other Stewards and pass your conclusions and evidence on to them, expecting them to handle the case from there.
  3. Close your investigation internally but take no action against X yet. Pass your conclusions/evidence on to the Foundation or the other Stewards, asking them to contact your local team to alert your team to the timing any sanctions or rights removal they perform, so you can do yours at the same time.
  4. Close your investigation internally and alert the Foundation or the other Stewards to the situation and the evidence. Place a local block on X but do not alert X about your escalating the issue; the Foundation or Stewards will decide on what, if any, further actions need to happen.

Ready to see the correct answer?
Click to expand! (click to expand or collapse)
The correct answer is: This is a very complex situation, but the best answer is D: take whatever local actions your investigation calls for, and then alert the stewards or the Foundation to the higher-level issues. You have a responsibility to protect the privacy of your project's users, so you cannot, as A suggests, take no action to prevent X from continuing to violate users' privacy with his user right. Similarly, your team (and your project's community) are responsible for handling local behavioral issues, while the neither the Foundation nor the Stewards are empowered to handle these, so you cannot simply pass the entire situation off to them. Answer C could work, but it places much responsibility for local governance on the outside team you're contacting: what will you do if they decide to take no action at all, or if they forget to notify you in advance of their action?
(Discuss this question)
What would you do?
#2: Closing a non-actionable case
This module will periodically present you with “what would you do?” scenarios - hypothetical accounts of difficult situations. The goal in these sections is not to test whether you arrive at an objectively "correct" single answer, but rather to give you a chance to think about the different types of situations you may encounter, and the many issues and decision points that affect any eventual outcome you settle on.
Your team has just finished discussing a case where you were unable to agree on whether the evidence proved that user:B is the person who conducted a harassment campaign against user:A, with some team members being convinced and others remaining skeptical. Deadlocked as a group, you are therefore are taking no action. You are in charge of notifying the involved parties that the case has been closed with no action, and you write to user:A to explain that while you understand their concerns, your team will not be able to take action against user:B. You suggest a few support organizations that may be able to help A cope with the situation.

A replies to your notification to express their disagreement with the conclusion of the case and make the following points:

  1. Asking you to give specifics about what evidence your team did not believe
  1. Suggesting that since the majority of your team is not part of the marginalized group A is part of, your team may have had a flawed perspective on the evidence

A asks that, particularly in light of point 3, your team either reconsider the evidence or pass the case to another, more qualified team to evaluate. They add that if your team is unable to handle situations like theirs, they may be forced to apply pressure via public comment.

If you were in this situation... what would you do?