[Foundation-l] Re: Outsiders on the Board? (was Re: Poll for Wikistandards)

GerardM gerard.meijssen at gmail.com
Thu Feb 2 10:13:49 UTC 2006

Given what has been written, I fail to see where the danger is in what
I wrote. So far I understand I was correct in my understanding of how
things work. If anything what Brad wrote did more to confirm my
understanding than to change my understanding.

I do not believe in security by obscurity. It is a protocol that fails
miserably. It is best to be open and honest about where riscs come
from and in what way liability can occur and how such dangers can be
lessened. It is prudent and more cost effective to do this analysis
well and invest in sensible procedures that are communicated well than
in taking out expensive insurance policies that may cover a lot but in
the end give a false sense of security because it does not make the
risc less, it makes the risc different.

The bottom line of securtiy is that to a large extend you define how
secure you are by your behaviour. This means that risc analysis is not
something that you do occasionally, security is an attitude. It is
something that needs to be done continuously based on the observation
of changing circumstances.

When people are employed, they have some protection. When people are
fulfilling their specified role as a volunteer they have some
protection. When people are expressing what is considered a neutral
point of view, they are probably protected because it is the freedom
of speech that allows for this. When people transgress against the
neutral point of view policy and they add for instance libelous
content, they are clearly in violation of everything we stand for.

Our community of volunteers do a remarable job at weeding out all the
cranks and crackpots. I agree with Waerth that it makes no difference
if you are an anonymous or a signed in user, POV pushing, a-social
behaviour, vandalism needs to be stopped. There is no excuse.

If anything when we look at risc analysis, being able to deal with
contentious issues in an even handed way is our best strategy. Having
mediation and for the hard cases arbitration is exactly right given a
sufficiently sized community.

The one thing that escapes me is not OTRS, it is how people are
affected when they are personally sued in their own country. My
understanding here is that people have to obey the laws of the land.
When this means that certain things cannot be written about because it
would be dangerous; ie write about politicians / corruption etc it
makes sense not to pressure these people to write about this in the
light of our precious NPOV. It is their risc that is to be kept into
mind. I hope we will never see the day that a Wikimedia editor has his
day in court when it is clear to all that he or she did everything
within the guidelines of the Wikimedia projects.


On 2/1/06, Anthere <Anthere9 at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Anthony DiPierro wrote:
> > It seems to me that he is basically right.  The doctrine is
> > [[respondeat superior]], and it typically applies only to people
> > working in an official capacity.
> >
> > Anthony
> I looked at the article [[respondeat superior]]. It typically applies
> only to people in a relationship of employer/employee.
> "is a legal doctrine which states that an employer is responsible for
> employee actions performed within the course of the employment."
> The problem is that there are only two people in that type of situation.
> Others are not a relationship of employer/employee. Neither the board
> members, nor the officers (except possibly Danny, but he is not employed
>   as an officer).
> So, I am not sure how this doctrine exactly applies to us.
> But let's imagine that for some reason, it actually applies to us.
> What is missing is Gerard argument (which is to claim that board members
> and officers are better protected than volunteers) is the field of
> application of the protection.
> What would be the field of application ? it would be the activities
> directly in relation with the Foundation itself. And only those
> activities. So, I do not see where the comparison stands.
> Editorial field : If a board member edits an article and adds defamatory
> content, he is responsible just as a regular volunteer. This activity is
> unrelated to the Foundation activities and I doubt much the board member
> (or the officer) will be more protected than any one else. This is his
> own responsability to add defaming content to an article imho.
> However, if a board member makes a real bad decision in terms of
> allowing expenses, it is normal that he holds a certain responsability.
> A volunteer not involved in the Foundation can *not* take that decision,
> so there is no reason why he would be held responsable. Hence, the first
> may be protected by the Foundation, but there is no reason to protect
> the second person from a decision he can not be involved. There is no
> lack of equality or unfairness, since the field of application only
> applies to the first person.
> Now, what I think bother Gerard is this : what if a volunteer answers in
> OTRS and does so in the name of the Foundation, even though he has
> received no authority/delegation to do so? Will he be protected ?
> Probably not. He is even liable to the Foundation and should the
> Foundation be threatened by the answer given by the volunteer, the
> Foundation could indeed defend itself by suing the volunteer. In that
> sense, yes, the volunteer is *less* protected than the board
> member/officer. But here, I think the volunteer must use common sense
> and not "imply" he is talking in the name of the Foundation when he is
> not. Or if he does so, it is best he be careful of his answer.
> And... for those of you who do not have access to OTRS, any message sent
> through info-en contains at its bottom the following message :
> Disclaimer: all mail to this address is answered by volunteers, and
> responses are not to be considered an official statement of the
> Wikimedia Foundation. For official correspondence, you may contact the
> site operators at <http://www.wikimediafoundation.org>.
> So, the risk is very limited indeed. It mostly relies on common sense
> and good faith from both parties.
> ant

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