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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
WMF Office/Trust and Safety