Hi folks,

Leaving aside everything else for a minute, I want to reply to Maggie’s statement regarding the T&S case here. As someone with direct and specific knowledge of the issue, I feel responsibility to affirm Maggie’s version of events. 

Although we provided notice to the board that we were considering a difficult T&S case regarding a well known admin on English Wikipedia, we did not consult with the board on the case. When we made the determination, following two warnings, to take action regarding the user, it was at the recommendation of staff following an investigation that followed all standard operating practices. The Board was not notified in advance of our decision to move to action; something that was in line with existing policies and IMHO, in line with an important distinction between governance and operations, but also arguably may have contributed to some of the mess that we’re all familiar with.

I have taken responsibility in various fora for this decision, and accepted the subsequent criticisms, many of them legitimate, by community members. I continue to bear that responsibility, and it is precisely because it was my responsibility that I want to reiterate that there was no COI of María in any capacity. 
While I would handle that case somewhat differently were we to revisit it, that is besides the point. 

Whatever conversation the community wishes to have with Foundation leadership about governance and this recent decision is up to the community. However, I would encourage to avoid conflating these issues, as there is no basis for the insinuation or accusation, and unnecessarily muddies the waters for valid concerns.


On Sun, Jun 27, 2021 at 13:42 Maggie Dennis <mdennis@wikimedia.org> wrote:

Hi, everybody.

It’s Sunday, and there’s a lot of meetings today, and I wrestled with whether to say this without necessarily having the full time to think about all the ways I could say it wrong and potentially make misunderstandings worse. We’re having a meeting on Tuesday specifically to discuss issues of concern to people around this consultancy. But I’d like to openly address the suggestion that María may have influenced a Trust & Safety case here.

First: it is against policy (and it is a policy I helped write and support whole-heartedly) to talk about the specifics of Trust & Safety behavioral investigations in public in order as much as possible to protect the privacy and dignity of all involved. Public in this case includes even among staff, most of whom have no need to know when a case is even under review. We do discuss these cases with some volunteer groups who have signed non-disclosure agreements, but even that is limited. Only recently have we created a body who can review Trust & Safety case files on appropriate appeal. 

Given this policy, I’m going to have to be uncomfortably vague, but I want to address and firmly deny rumors that any Board member has ever attempted to influence Trust & Safety (T&S) to take office action (including warnings) in relation to any behavioral investigation. (See the Meta page, which includes a list of the individuals.) I know that my saying so isn’t necessarily going to reassure folks. Some may think I’m deluded, and some may think I’m lying, but for me silence on this point is unacceptable.

Neither María nor any other trustee ever exerted any influence over any Trust & Safety case. The Board does not provide guidance on how cases should be handled unless asked (which is rare). Even executive staff do not weigh in on Trust & Safety recommended approaches until an investigation itself is complete and has been reviewed by an attorney. 

I know this because I’ve been involved in one aspect or another in Trust & Safety’s behavioral investigations since 2012, when we imposed our first Foundation ban. Over the years, we have created a process by which behavioral investigations may be launched by request from anyone; Trust & Safety staff review all requests, no matter who makes it, to determine if a request is within their mandate. If it is, they open a case.

Speaking candidly, in the 9 years I’ve been involved in this, I have seen bias when issues touch on treatment of staff members or Board members or those who are close to them. But it is a bias against taking action that might make it look like the Foundation is trying to silence legitimate criticism. Those of you who handle behavioral issues on our projects are very aware that “trolls” are not our major problem. People who are hostile with no reason are easily taken care of. The problem is when people who go on the attack may have reason (even if only partial) to be unhappy. It’s hard to address the way people approach problems independently of those problems. It’s hard to say “You have a point, but you can’t handle it that way” without some people seeing you as trying to avoid the point. But there are some approaches to problems that are unacceptable. Staff, Board members, and those who are close to them deserve reasonable protection, too. 

The involvement of anyone close to María in a behavioral investigation has only been speculation by some in community. That makes it questionable for me to say this, but I think it’s important to say: it is true that one of the several people who reached out with concerns about Fram had a connection to a member of the Board. This did have an impact on the case. The impact it had was that Fram was given two warnings (about a year apart) before we took office action instead of the more common one. (Fram has acknowledged receiving warnings, otherwise I would feel very uncomfortable noting this myself.)

Whether consulting with María at this moment and in this way is appropriate or not is a discussion we will have on Tuesday. However, it disturbs me to know that some people claim María acted inappropriately in regards to a Trust & Safety case when I know better. Granted, I was on leave when the final office action was enacted, but I was not on leave in the months and years that preceded it and was not unaware of the discussions surrounding that case. I wouldn’t feel very good about myself as a person if I didn’t push back on that misimpression of her behavior in that case and explain that (I fully and honestly believe) any bias goes the other way.

As uncomfortable as it will make me, I will not respond to other questions about this case in this venue, with this audience, although (as always) I am happy to talk about Trust & Safety’s general approach with people and will do so at other opportunities. 

Best regards,

Maggie Dennis
Vice President, Community Resilience & Sustainability
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
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