[Wikimedia-l] Request for comment on global bans

Steven Walling steven.walling at gmail.com
Sat Jul 7 22:14:14 UTC 2012

On Sat, Jul 7, 2012 at 2:32 AM, ENWP Pine <deyntestiss at hotmail.com> wrote:

> Hi Steven,
> OK. I have a few more inquiries.
> 1. Let me make sure that I understand a few things correctly.
> * A "global lock" is a technical action that is currently effective only
> against SUL-linked accounts.
> * A "global block" is a technical action that is currently effective only
> against IPs. Development is in progress to make this effective against
> registered accounts on all projects.
> * A "global ban" is a wikijudicial action taken against an account that is
> enforced by a global block or a global lock.
> Are those right?


> 2. May I ask what the rationale is for proposing that global bans be
> decided via global community consensus on Meta, instead what appears to be
> the status quo of stewards making decisions about global bans based on
> requests at SRG?

Stewards are not, as a rule, elected to make on the spot calls about
whether someone should be banned, and to my understanding they don't want
to handle requests that come along without a consensus of some kind backing

The SRG only very rarely has handled requests to ban someone, not simply
globally lock an obvious spammer or vandal, and to my knowledge it has been
confusing and difficult to make any decision that wasn't "no, decide these
on a case-by-case basis in your local community". In at least one case,
this has lead to wheel-warring.

> 3. I would appreciate hearing your response to the concerns that I raised
> in my previous email and appear to be shared in part by AFBorchert, about
> Meta’s suitability to serve as a battleground.

I completely reject the notion that any wiki is a battleground or should be
assumed to be so. Currently I think it's a big problem that
our communities don't use Meta more to discuss decisions that have global
importance, and talk to each other more in general. That's why the wiki
exists at all.

The solution here is not stick our heads and pretend we don't need to have
these discussions. We do. The issue has cropped up more than a few times in
the last few years, and there is still no concrete answer. I for one will
not pretend that it's okay that users banned from multiple projects for
stalking, harassment, and other nasty business are allowed to hop from
project to project, solely in the name of preserving the myth that there is
no relationship between the projects and their governance.

> 4. I would like to ask if you are aware of the RFC at
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Requests_for_comment/Global_requests_committee,
> which appears to be a third possible way of handling global bans and other
> types of decisions which Stewards feel would be best reviewed by more than
> one individual Steward. I would appreciate hearing your comments about the
> merits of that RFC. The proposal appears to have become inactive, but it
> may be worth reviving if there is a consensus that there is need to change
> the status quo of stewards making decisions about global bans.

As you hinted at, the idea of a global requests committee has been sitting
around with no action for almost two years. I chose to start the current
global bans policy based on the assumption that simply having an open
community discussion is better than relying on a hypothetical committee
which is yet to exist. As examples of others show, including ones currently
with open nominations like the FDC, getting people to volunteer for meta
committees is not easy or simple. Based on the frequency of past incidents,
I suspect that a committee would be overkill.

That is all just my intuition though. If it turns out people would trust a
global requests committee or a global ArbCom more, then let's do that. All
I really want is a fair and consistent way to deal with global ban

> 5. My understanding is that in the recent past, WMF globally locked an
> account and feels that it should not publicly discuss the reasons for that
> global lock. Quoting Philippe: “ And that's precisely why we would like a
> global ban policy implemented. We would prefer an established,
> community-monitored process that we can turn to when at all possible (and
> make no mistake, in this case it was needed; I wish we could give all the
> specifics, but for privacy reasons, we just can't). Because we didn't have
> that, we had to break new ground with the Office actions policy. I hope we
> never have to use that again.” If a situation arises in the future where
> another account is accused of the same undisclosed type of conduct, is
> there any way in which the community could handle that situation instead of
> having WMF handle that situation? It seems to me that handling confidential
> information is an inherent part of the work of stewards when they perform
> oversight and checkuser functions, so I would like to think that stewards
> could also be trusted to make global locks based on whatever information
> the office had that led to its decision to impose a global lock on the
> account in question. I hope that whatever process emerges for global bans
> will have the capability and trustworthiness to handle this type of event
> in the future. It seems unlikely to me that a global and public community
> discussion on Meta would be a good way for WMF to ask for a global ban if
> the evidence and accusation are confidential, but individual stewards or
> the proposed Global Requests Committee should be able to handle a case
> where the evidence and accusation are confidential. I would appreciate
> hearing comments from you or Philippe on this issue.
> Thank you,
> Pine

I actually don't have a firm answer about how to handle cases where the
reason for bans needs to stay completely secret. My gut says that, if the
requirements include a user having been banned on multiple projects, that
it's unlikely that this kind of situation would be the norm. Philippe or
someone who is a functionary on their home wiki would have a better answer
for you on this.


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