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Wikipedia to have new rules to tackle ‘harassment’, ‘toxicity’, faced by editors


Wikimedia Foundation, the organisation that operates Wikipedia, will develop and introduce a universal code of conduct (UCoC) that will be a binding minimum set of standards across all Wikimedia projects by the end of this year. This code of conduct is a means to battle, what the Foundation called, “harassment, toxicity, and incivility” faced by some volunteers. Wikipedia is written and updated by volunteers, and many of them, particularly women and people from the LGBTQ community have faced abuse and harassment from other editors (more on that below).

Wikimedia Foundation said that there has not been “enough progress toward creating welcoming, inclusive, harassment-free spaces in which people can contribute productively and debate constructively”.

What the new rules will involve:

  • The UCoC will have to be prepared in two phases:
    • The first phase will cover policies related to in-person and virtual events, technical spaces, and all Wikimedia projects and wikis, and developed in collaboration with the international Wikimedia communities. This will be presented to the Board for ratification by August 30, 2020.
    • The second phase will outline clear enforcement pathways, and refined with broad input from the Wikimedia communities, will be presented to the Board for ratification by the end of 2020.
  • Wikipedia editors who do not comply with the rules will face a ban, sanctions, or limited access.
  • A retroactive review process will be created for cases brought by involved parties, excluding those cases which pose legal or other severe risks.

Till the above rules are finalised and adopted, an interim review process involving community functionaries will be in effect. The Foundation will also make additional investments in Trust & Safety capacity, including development of tools needed to assist our volunteers and staff, research to support data-informed decisions, development of clear metrics to measure success, and development of training tools and materials, among others.

Several Wikipedia editors have faced harassment from other editors: Wikipedia’s editors can interact with each other over the changes that one editor might have made to a certain article, and the platform has had a long history of harassment of editors, especially women and people from other underrepresented communities.

  • A New York Times article from 2019 highlighted how some transgender contributors were harassed by other editors, including receiving death threats, and that volunteers who put themselves out as feminists or LGBTQ tend to be more targeted than others.
  • Another study focussing on the gender gap in Wikipedia conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, found that some women were subject to doxxing by other editors, where there personal information was exposed on the internet.
  • In 2015, a Wikipedia editor had written that “harassment of women editors, hostility toward addressing editor gender imbalance, and underrepresented groups feeling disconnected from the rest of the community” were among the most common topics of discussion at the Wikimedia Foundation.

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