I'm glad that work on detecting and addressing harassment are moving forward.

At the same time, I'd appreciate getting a more precise understanding of how WMF is defining the word "harassment". There are legal definitions and dictionary definitions, but I don't think that there is One Definition to Rule Them All. I'm hoping that WMF will be careful to distinguish debate and freedom to express opinions from harassment; we may disagree with minority or fringe views (even views that are offensive to some) but that doesn't necessarily mean that we should use policy and admin tools instead of persuasion and other tools (such as content policies about verifiability and notability) to address them (and in some cases Wikipedia may not be a good place for these discussions). Other distinctions include (1) the distinction between a personal attack and harassment (https://blog.wikimedia.org/2017/02/07/scaling-understanding-of-harassment/ appears to have equivocated the two definitions, while English Wikipedia policy makes distinctions between them), and (2) the distinction between a personal attack and an evidence-based critique.

Also note that definitions of what constitutes an attack may vary between languages; for example an expression which sounds insulting to someone in one place, culture, or language may mean something very different or relatively benign in a different place, culture, or language. I had an experience myself when I made a statement to someone which from my perspective was a statement of fact, and the other party took it as an insult. I don't apologize for what I said since from my perspective it was valid, and the other party has not apologized for their reaction, but the point is that defining what constitutes a personal attack or harassment can be a very subjective business and I'm not sure to what extent I would trust an AI to evaluate what constitutes a personal attack or harassment in a wide range of contexts. I get the impression that WMF intends to flag potentially problematic edits for admins to review, which I think could be a good thing, but I hope that there is great care being invested in how the AI is being trained to define personal attacks and harassment, and I wouldn't necessarily want admins to be encouraged to substitute the opinion of an AI for their own.

I understand the desire to tone down some of the more heated discourse around Wikipedia for the sake of improving our user population statistics, and at the same time I'm hoping that we can continue to have very strong support for freedom of expression and differences of opinion. This is a difficult balancing act. I think that moving the needle a bit in the direction of more civility would be a good thing, but I get the impression that there are plenty of edits that are blatant personal attacks that we don't need to move the needle a lot, and could instead focus on more rapidly and thoroughly addressing instances where there is ample evidence that people's intentions were malicious.


On Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 2:08 PM, Leila Zia <leila@wikimedia.org> wrote:
Hi Dan,

Thanks for your note. :)

On the Research end, Dario is still a big supporter of the efforts
around research to help us better understand harassment (as you
noticed in our commitments to the annual plan) and with Ellery's
departure, I've been helping him a bit to make sure we can move
forward on this front. More specifically, and while we're continuing
the research with Nithum and Lucas who were Ellery's collaborators on
the Detox project, we recently initiated
with Cristian and Yiqing from Cornell University. We are very excited
about this new collaboration as Cristian has years of experience in
spaces that are very relevant to the socio-technical problems related
to harassment. I think you will enjoy reading that page which signal
the early directions of the research.

The whole harassment research team meets every 2 weeks, if you're
curious what's going on on this front and on our end and you want to
listen in, please ping me. And, thank you for the offer to help. We
may take you up on that. :)


Leila Zia
Senior Research Scientist
Wikimedia Foundation

On Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 7:55 PM, Toby Negrin <tnegrin@wikimedia.org> wrote:
> Hi Dan -- we are actually in touch with Detox as part of the Community
> Health initiative. They are doing their first quarterly check in this
> quarter so expect some updates then. Ping me offlist if you want more info.
> -Toby
> On Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 10:48 AM, Dan Andreescu <dandreescu@wikimedia.org>
> wrote:
>> I'm reflecting on this work and how awesome it was.  I see that it's
>> continued in our annual plan under the Community Health Initiative, but I
>> am afraid it's taking a secondary role without Ellery and others to drive
>> it.  On
>> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Community_health_initiative/AbuseFilter
>> it's only featured as a question under the #Functionality section.
>> I just wanted to point this out and offer to help if I can be of use.
>> On Tue, Feb 7, 2017 at 5:16 PM, Ellery Wulczyn <ewulczyn@wikimedia.org>
>> wrote:
>> > Today we are announcing
>> >
>> > <https://blog.wikimedia.org/2017/02/07/scaling-understanding-of-harassment/>
>> > the
>> > first results of the collaboration between Wikimedia Research and Jigsaw
>> > on
>> > modeling personal attacks and other forms of harassment on English
>> > Wikipedia. We have released
>> > <https://figshare.com/projects/Wikipedia_Talk/16731> a corpus of 95M
>> > user
>> > and article talk page comments as well as over 1M human labels produced
>> > by
>> > 4000 crowd-workers for a set of 100k comments. Documentation on our
>> > methodology and future work can be found in our paper Ex Machina:
>> > Personal Attacks Seen at Scale <https://arxiv.org/abs/1610.08914> (to
>> > appear at WWW2017) and on our project page on meta
>> > <https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Research:Detox>. If you are interested
>> > in contributing to the project, please get in touch via the project talk
>> > page <https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Research_talk:Detox>. Another
>> > great
>> > way to get involved is to label a set of comment in the Wikilabels
>> > discussion quality campaign <http://labels.wmflabs.org/ui/enwiki/>.
>> >
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