[Wikimedia-l] Request for comment on global bans policy

Steven Walling swalling at wikimedia.org
Thu Jul 5 22:34:29 UTC 2012

Hi everyone,

This is a long email, so the less TL;DR version is: there is a request
for comment on Meta about a community policy for global bans.[1] This
is vitally important, and I hope you will both comment and help spread
the word in your community. The background on why we're doing this

One of the most important elements of the new Terms of Use,[2] at
least from my perspective, is the fact that it clearly and
unequivocally states that if you engage in harassment, threats,
stalking, or other kinds of behavior that harm other people you are
not welcome on any Wikimedia project.

The Terms state that we do not tolerate harassment etc., and on the
individual project level, I think we deal with that with a stunning
degree of effectiveness for a volunteer movement. However, there is an
area of weakness: someone banned or indefinitely blocked on multiple
projects can simply go to a new project and start up all over again,
even when a large number of community members from different projects
agree that this person poses a danger to others.

Now, the traditional way other big, participatory sites enforce these
kinds of requirements to simply hire a team of people to moderate
these requests. That's the way Facebook, YouTube, et. al. do it today.
While the ToU does say that the Foundation may have some prerogative
to remove people's access when required, we all know that in reality,
having the WMF handle any global banning requests by default is not in
line with our values. That's not us. The volunteer community is at the
core of our movement, and the Terms state this over and over again.

The lack of a policy and process for Wikimedians from different
communities to collectively agree that someone should be globally
banned allows bad actors to exploit our instinct to Assume Good Faith
in all situations, and use smaller projects as a safe harbor for
continuing to harass others. Even if the new Terms empower Wikimedia
overall to deal more strongly with harmful behavior, to do this in a
volunteer-led way, we need a global bans policy.

A framework for how to reach a consensus decision on global bans has
been put forth,[3] so we need to make a decision about whether it's
the right approach. The RFC has been translated into some of the most
important languages other than English, but anything you can do to
forward this on to the community you're a part of would be most

Thanks for reading,

Steven Walling

1. https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Requests_for_comment/Global_bans
2. https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Terms_of_Use
3. https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Global_bans

P.S. On a personal note, I wanted to say that though I'm writing this
with my staff accout during working hours, this is not really a part
of my core job description now that I've joined Engineering and
Product Development. I've spent my time authoring this policy and
proposing it because I think it's really important, not merely because
I was assigned to do so.
P.P.S. If you'll be at Wikimania next week and want to talk about
this, please don't be shy. :)

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