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Open Letter from Arbcoms to the Board of TrusteesEdit

Dear Board of Trustees,

This is an open letter from arbitrators and arbitration committees from across the Wikimedia movement.

We have followed closely the process of the creation of the Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC). We know that many small communities do not have a basic set of rules, so it's hard for new editors to have a good sense of what is allowed and what not. Additionally, we encourage the creation of basic rules of conduct for all wikis to ensure that nobody gets treated poorly. Editors in our communities wish to have an environment conducive to creating high quality content. We do not want to see editors discriminated against based on opinion, culture, sexuality, etc. Editors should be judged by their editing. In our experience, the global community and our projects will generally endorse rules that ensure no individual is a victim of discrimination or hounding.

However, we are concerned about the enforcement of the UCoC and concerned about how that enforcement will be viewed on our projects. The lack of formal consultation with projects before the board approved the UCoC means it risks being seen as imposed by the Wikimedia Foundation from above, rather than being seen as a legitimate community endeavor. Several of our projects have seen major damage and harm done when the communities have come into conflict with the Wikimedia Foundation (for instance dewiki with SUPERPROTECT and enwiki with FRAMGATE). We do not want that to happen with the Universal Code of Conduct as that could undermine the benefits it has to offer for projects without well-developed policies, systems, and experience for dealing with editor behavior. Recent changes to the timeline to allow for more consultation and discussion are a positive step.

It is therefore vital that projects with more sophisticated governing systems, like ours, be formally involved in the next step of the UCoC process. We note the recent call for a new committee to draft the second phase. At least one person with experience as an arbitrator, or similar experience dealing with complex and difficult behavior issues, should be added as a member of the drafting committee, and at least one additional person with this experience, or experience as a Steward, should be added as an advisor.

We understand that individual projects cannot be given a veto over the implementation of the UCoC. However, we hope that you understand that individual projects must feel committed to whatever enforcement mechanisms arise. Without this sense of investment and partnership the UCoC will ultimately fail. Mere consultation is insufficient. A formal process for ratifying the UCoC enforcement system is necessary.

The UCoC must also be a living document. The community is changing and evolving and so has universal behavior. We know that this is a different document than if it had been created 10 years ago, and we feel that universal norms will be different in 10 years. A way to amend the Universal Code of Conduct must be added, and this amendment process should build on lessons learned to date to ensure that communities and individuals have a chance for meaningful input before any amendment is adopted.

Wikipedia and other projects are only possible because of the hard work of editors at communities to create and maintain the incredible store of knowledge available. This path is longer, but hasty decisions and decisions that lack legitimacy in the eyes of the volunteers they effect could cause real damage to our communities and the work we do. In the words of the Wikimedia Foundation values, "Collaboration is not always easy. Sometimes we struggle. Working together is hard, but it’s worth it. We do it because it makes us stronger." We ask you to be stronger together with us.


Signing members of the cswiki-arbcomEdit

Signing on behalf of the dewiki-arbcomEdit

For the enwiki-arbcomEdit

Signing members of the frwiki-arbcomEdit

For the plwiki-arbcomEdit

Signing members of the ruwiki-arbcomEdit

Signing members of the ukwiki-arbcomEdit

Signing members of the pswiki-arbcomEdit

Hello ArbComs,
The Board’s Community Affairs Committee (CAC in short) highly appreciates your letter, which is a great example of global collaboration. Composing the text, encouraging the creation of basic rules of conduct for all wikis, and recognizing that users should be protected from discrimination and hounding, is an excellent step towards the upcoming global functionary meeting.The Board is naturally following on all UCoC developments, and more specifically, the CAC is very interested in the coming meeting and following more closely.
The committee will carefully study both your letter, with its three constructive proposals, and any additional outcomes from the coming functionary meeting, in advance of our own next meeting, so we can discuss it at our first opportunity. We hope to respond more substantively after that next meeting, which takes place the week after yours. On behalf of the CAC, Shani (WMF) (talk) 22:50, 30 March 2021 (UTC)
Adding to Shani's excellent response, with a more personal touch: It is refreshing and really great to receive a constructive, thoughtful letter, with a sensible proposed path. Thank you. The analysis and the overall proposed direction make perfect sense to me, and both CAC and the Board will definitely look into details. Pundit (talk) 06:47, 31 March 2021 (UTC)
Speaking for myself, I appreciate the comments provided here by Pundit and Shani (WMF). Best, Barkeep49 (talk) 16:19, 31 March 2021 (UTC)
I fully agree with Barkeep. Best regards, Luke081515 18:01, 31 March 2021 (UTC)
Hello ArbComs,
Following up on the CAC's initial response, I wanted to let you know that the CAC has read and thought about your open letter, as well as studied what came out of the functionary meeting that was recently held. Maggie, in her briefing to us about that meeting, remarked on how constructive the contributions from attendees were.
Regarding your 3 asks:
1) We agreed with you and with Foundation staff that you are important to the UCoC process and should be included in the drafting committee. We appreciate those of you who volunteered and are happy to see you involved.
2) Staff will be working with the stakeholders on whether and how to host a vote about the UCoC enforcement outline;we agree that a formal process of ratification of this enforcement outline is important.
3) Foundation staff will also be working with various stakeholders, including the new drafting committee, to formalize our commitment to having the UCoC be periodically reviewable (and amendable during those reviews).
Thank you again for all the time and effort you have put into this matter, and for your extremely useful thoughts. Best, Shani (WMF) (talk) 20:27, 28 April 2021 (UTC)

The Global Council, the CEO transition, and the global Wikimedia ambassadorEdit

During Katherine Maher's term as WMF ED/CEO, she has taken on a lot of the responsibilities of basically being a "global ambassador" for the Wikimedia movement: giving speeches, doing interviews, and explaining what Wikimedia is to the broader world. While she has done an excellent job at this, I think it would be worthwhile to reconsider whether this should be part of the WMF ED/CEO role long-term. There are two problems:

  • This ambassador role takes away from the work of actually managing the Foundation, which is an extraordinarily tasking job in its own right, and quite important.
  • We end up having the public "face" of the global, volunteer-oriented movement being a Silicon Valley executive, which is I would guess is quite bad for conveying who we are, and probably adds a fair bit of incongruity to our public image.

The upcoming Global Council is specifically intended to be "representative of the Movement in its role and composition". I think it would be fitting if a new role were created, appointed by the Global Council (perhaps specifically from its own membership, perhaps not), to be the "face" of the movement. This would allow our public identity to be closer to the communities,

The reason I'm bringing this up now is that, if this is to be done, it has nearer-term implications for the CEO Transition Team's search. In such a case, I would recommend that the Transition team not specifically look for a charismatic figure who can effectively present Wikimedia's mission to the public (having experience as a "key spokesperson", per the current prospectus), or at least not particularly prioritize those abilities. --Yair rand (talk) 19:06, 12 April 2021 (UTC)

Thanks, @Yair rand:. Acknowledging receipt of your note. The Transition Committee is already considering this. Best Shani (WMF) (talk) 20:01, 28 April 2021 (UTC)

When will we have a legitimate board again?Edit

The only legitimacy of the board derives from the elections by the community, and those have been postponed for far too long now. So the current board has a significant diminished legitimacy, thus must not decide anything really important, until the next proper legitimisation has been done, i.e. the next election has been done. When will this process finally be started? There is really no excuse for this any longer, as Covid-19 is no real excuse for an online grassroots organisation at all. Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) Hold the election 07:08, 14 April 2021 (UTC)

Thanks, @Sänger:. Please see Quim's note below. This is a high priority for the board and WMF staff and we are working on resolving it. Best, Shani (WMF) (talk) 20:05, 28 April 2021 (UTC)
More then overdue, the only legitimacy of the board derives from the elections by the community, the board has no other legitimacy. Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) Hold the election 20:11, 28 April 2021 (UTC)
Soon. I agree with you that elective legitimacy relies on proper process. It was delayed not to obfuscate things, but because of the heavy overload of the pandemic on the staff, and the community - and arguably running elections at suboptimal time would also lead to poor legitimacy. In any case, we're on a good track. Pundit (talk) 06:53, 29 April 2021 (UTC)

Resolution about the upcoming Board electionsEdit

The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees met last week to decide on a plan for the 2021 Board elections. The Board Governance Committee created this proposal, based on the Call for Feedback about Community Board Seats. Please check the related announcement for details. Qgil-WMF (talk) 18:18, 21 April 2021 (UTC)

Guidelines to prevent legal and illegal actionEdit

Noble members of the Board of Trustees, I would like to draw attention to a serious safety issue for volunteer editors. In User talk:AKeton (WMF)#Legal guidelines and intervention the AKeton (WMF), Jrogers (WMF) and JSutherland (WMF) did not answer the direct question about the existence of fundamental guidelines that editor/users should follow to prevent biographers, companies, etc. from threatening editors/users by legal or even illegal means as well as to access WMF's "Defense of Contributors" program if this should occur. I mean objective guidelines, obviously.

Silence from WMF's legal repesentanets must mean that these guidelines do not exist, and I think it is critical that they be created immediately. In addition, of course the silence of WMF's highest legal representatives is a personal protection for them, but it puts all editors at risk; it would be more appropriate to say that there are no such guidelines, so that measures could be taken --Felipe da Fonseca (talk) 11:45, 5 May 2021 (UTC)

Noble members of the Board of Trustees: I would like to let you know that I have just received a reply from Jrogers (WMF) (diff), who informed me that there are no general guidelines. Despite his reasons, I am particularly against this policy and would like to, if possible, discuss the topic, best, --Felipe da Fonseca (talk) 18:25, 6 May 2021 (UTC).

June Board meeting updateEdit

Hi all, on June 1st and 2nd, the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees had our regular meeting for Quarter 4 (April – June) of the Foundation’s fiscal year. We will have more details about what transpired at the meeting once the minutes have been prepared and approved, but we wanted to quickly release this brief update on some key topics and decisions:

  • We have unanimously approved the Call for Candidates for the 2021 selection process for Community-and Affiliate selected Trustees. There is a revised timeline that accommodates the implementation of single transferable vote in the SecurePoll extension, as follows:
    • June 9 - 29: Call for candidates
    • June 30 - July 2: Announcement of confirmed candidates
    • July 7 - August 3: Candidates campaign and answer questions
    • August 4 - 17: Voting
    • August 18 - 24: Vote counting and processing
    • August 25: Announcement of vote results
    • August 25 - 31: Foundation vetting of selected candidates
    • September: Board appoints selected candidates

More information on the process will follow over the next few weeks.

  • We have unanimously approved a committee evolution plan to maintain and improve the Board’s effectiveness, to be implemented in stages.
  • We have unanimously approved the donation of $5 million in FY 2020-21 to the Wikimedia Endowment.
  • We have reviewed the proposed Annual Plan for the Foundation for 2021/22, and unanimously authorised the Audit Committee to approve minor adjustments to the 2021-22 fiscal year budget in response to Board input during the June meeting. More information on the Annual Plan will follow once the Audit Committee has met.
  • We also unanimously approved the minutes from the previous Board meeting, to be published on Foundation-Wiki.

On behalf of the Board, Raystorm (talk) 17:55, 3 June 2021 (UTC)

Privacy, policies and democracy on it.wikiEdit

This is an open letter to the Board of Trustees.

The topic is the level of privacy, security and democracy on Since part of this discussion involves a user which is not only admin, bureaucrat and checkuser in that project but also global steward, checkuser and admin at meta, since there is a decision by the Ombuds Commission at the basis of this case, I think the issue is of interest of the whole community, in particular in view of the ongoing works on the UCoC.

As the board of trustees perhaps already know, I had sent a complaint to the Ombuds Commission in novembre 2019 on evidence that a checkuser was inappropriately targeting my account with repeated unmotivated checks. I was using open proxies but in a legitimate way (which the policy does not forbid); there was a case open on my user on the but solely related to my perdurance in discussions, not due to any kind of abuse in my account activity (if someone from the community come across, I ask, as I did many times already without a single answer, to point out edits that show any abuse on my side). The perdurance was in contending that an edit made by that very same checkuser was not correct and should be changed, because it goes against the project consensus on the general way to express such things. It resulted in a ban for me on for one year. I started again to edit in January 2021. I left that issue aside and no complaint on my activity was raised between January 2021 and May 2021.

On April 24 I was informed that the Ombuds Commission had finished the investigation and that the checkuser had actually violated the CheckUser policy with routine unmotivated checks on my account.

On May 31 this checkuser was to be re-confirmed in his posistion and I voted against it, supporting my vote (since this is required) with a proof of the policy violation. I have since realized based on reactions that I did so in a formally incorrect way, since I pasted part of the text received via email. I sincerely apologize with the members of the Ombuds Commission which have then received strong attacks by some admins on the The reason I did so was that I wanted not to distort the exact words of the commission. I am ready to pay for this error (if it is) but I think this should be decided by the Commission and measures be taken by WMF, not being left in the hands of some administrator.

After that vote, I received (together with the Commission) a couple of strong attacks that I tried to defend from, and in a couple of days I was indefinitely banned on by the action of a single administrator. The reasons are anti-democratic to the point of even asserting that I abused the confirmation page since I had premeditated to vote against the re-election. No other administrators commented on this and complaints that I sent to them via the apposite wikimedia mail list seem to be entirely fruitless.

The reason why I question the level of democracy in the community is that I fear the ban I received for voting against the checkuser re-election might just be the top of the iceberg.

In the community there is no ArbCom, and checkusers are appointed by consensus. However, re-elections have been tied to confirmation in the role of administrators (CU are always sysops there), which are automatic unless there are at least 15 votes against it, after which an actual vote is needed. That is, the rules adopted by the community is that CU rights and sysop rights go hand in hand once acquired, both automatically confirmed unless there are 15 explicit votes against it. Now, explicitly voting against the automatic confirmation a powerful long-term administrator which is also a steward globally is something that no one with some long activity would dare to do (you need to have 500 edits at least to vote) unless there are entirely self-evident inappropriate behaviours which do not even need to be discussed. Previous cases of votes against long-term administrators (by far not so powerful anyway) in the italian wiki lead to huge fights against sub-portions of the community and it is understandable that no one wants to be the first that might trigger something like this. Much easier to close the eyes in front of some misbehaviour. Notice that as of today, 5 days after my vote and the discussion on the OmbCom investigation, only 10 people expressed explicit support to the checkuser confirmation (out of which 7 administrators, and we have something like 114 of them on That is, the community is entirely silent, and believe me it is not for lack of interest.

The reason I mentioned the level of privacy and security on the is about my concern on the general level of control that checkusers have on each other. In this specific case, a global steward is also acting as an admin and checkuser in that project and the level of trust among peers is such that he could violate the CU policy for two months without any other CU noticing anything. I could notice the behaviour because I could keep track of everything, took the trouble to report to the Commission, wait for more than one year, finally deciding to report to the community accepting that I would face strong attacks. I wonder whether other cases just passed unnoticed and how much power that single community is allowed to have on this kind of important global privacy related issues (and on banning users which vote against an admin confirmation). The reaction of the checkuser and of some other administrators to the "leak" about the Ombuds Commission investigation was such that different components of the Ombuds Commission felt the need to clarify, in some way or the other, that the abuse was not so serious in the end in their personal opinion. I am not sure whether there will be an official statement by the Commission. LuxExUmbra (talk) 13:38, 5 June 2021 (UTC)