On December 6th 2022, the Foundation undertook 16 global bans to users who
were engaging in conflict of interest editing on Wikipedia projects in the
MENA region. While we are unable to discuss Foundation office actions in
detail due to legal limitations and for the safety of our communities, we
would like to speak a little more to this situation as it involves the
safety and security of all of us.
As Wikimedia projects have risen in prominence across the world, it has
attracted increasing attention of those who would like to control the
information published on it, for political or other reasons. Community
members have addressed concerns of this sort for many years, but sometimes
volunteers who intervene in such cases may themselves face retaliation for
their actions. The Foundation does its best to support volunteers in such
cases, in order to preserve their safety.
In January of 2022, the Foundation began an investigation into alleged
conflict of interest editing on Wikipedia projects in the MENA region. In
that investigation, we were able to confirm that a number of users with
close connections with external parties were editing the platform in a
coordinated fashion to advance the aim of those parties. These connections
are a source of serious concern for the safety of our users that go beyond
the capacity of the local language project communities targeted to
address. Due to the gravity of this situation, and in order to keep our
users and the projects safe, the Foundation issued these 16 global bans.
Such actions can be distressing to those who know individuals involved and
to those who don’t. They can cause volunteers to mistrust each other and to
mistrust the Foundation and to be unsure if they can safely contribute. We
are unable to share more details about this situation due to the reasons
mentioned above, but we want to assure you that the Foundation will
continue to explore various ways to keep everyone safe and free to
contribute to the projects. We want to thank those community members across
the globe who address such situations every day and encourage all of you to
consider how to be safe in your volunteer activities. We recognize that as
we move forward, we will need to work with our communities to find a global
process to navigate safety challenges that allow such situations to be
dealt with as transparently as possible while also prioritising avoiding
risk to the safety of our users.
For anyone who feels unsafe on Wikimedia projects we encourage you to use
the local community processes or to contact us for assistance. The
Foundation and the community will work together, or in parallel, to enhance
the safety of all users whenever necessary with whatever means we can.
To contact the Trust & Safety team please email ca(a)wikimedia.or
WMF Office/Trust and Safety