This is split off from the comment section of CSinders (WMF) leaves WMF to work on feminist chatbot art.
According to this comment by Renée Bagslint:
*Nobody* has “ultimate responsibility” for Wikipedia. That’s exactly what’s wrong with its community, that’s why it is not and never can be a reliable source of information, and that’s why it’s so dangerous and damaging to the knowledge eco-system.
The original context here was harassment/discrimination but here Bagslint uses it to make an argument about article content. The alternative would seem to be to make one person responsible for the content of some 5 million articles, in which case you could end up with an Alex Jones Infowars type of person with no way to remove them, as well as an easy target for defamation lawsuits. The other (current) way is to agree on a set of principles and have a way to enforce the principles.
But what about harassment and discrimination? The focus of this blog is, after all, women. Who has the authority there?
There are two (legitimate) influences: rules and principles. In a consensus based model like Wikipedia, the volunteer section is supposed to be dominated by discussions leading to consensus, while the employee section will lean heavily towards the consensus mode but also have a fixed set of rules based on the laws where they are located, and occasionally interpreted by WMF Legal.
The third (and illegitimate) influence is what I will call here the “Al Capone” principle. A group of individuals seizes power, along with the means of staying in power. This can be by vote-stacking (canvassing), by intimidation, or by surreptitiously getting rid of anyone with an unwanted idea. On Wikipedia, all admins have unlimited authority to indefinitely ban/block anyone they want. Unless the person has a protector, Al Capone-style, the chances of being unbanned, or even noticed, are slim and none.
In theory, there is oversight of admins by the arbitration committee, but in practice they rarely take any action as they themselves are either complicit in the abuse, or will be subject to retaliation.if they interfere. This is complicated by the absence of an agreed-on definition of harassment.
This is what has happened on Wikipedia, the power structure having been seized by a group surrounding a local “culture” based on domestic abuse.
Now, back to the “rules and principles”. Here is a list, take your pick
- Wikimedia Foundation Code of Conduct for staff
- Technical Code of Conduct for technical events and virtual spaces (where staff will be present in an official capacity)
- Friendly space policy for WMF events, and sometimes requested voluntarily for virtual spaces
- Legal_Policies#Harassment (on Meta) “contact an administrator” ROFL, or your local police for “credible threats of violence”, which frequently leads to your identity and address becoming public and known to the perpetrator.
- The handbook for the WMF Board of Trustees on oversight
- WMF non-discrimination policy (for discrimination against staff and contractors)
- Wikipedia:Non-discrimination policy – a soft redirect to the above policy for staff and contractors
And just for kicks, these were proposed more for non-binaries, (I’m afraid to ask, but good for them, and thank you to Fæ for proposing it ). Like the 1964 Civil Rights Act, it will probably have more impact on women than on the demographic they were meant to target.
- Commons:Use of gender neutral language for policies, guidelines, and help pages
- Failed proposal for gender neutral language on English Wikipedia
- Manual of style on gender neutral language
In case anybody doesn’t remember about Al Capone, he may have had the local police and city hall under his thumb, but he had not been able to buy off the federal government. His crime empire was eventually stopped when he failed to file federal taxes on his illegally acquired gains.