Wikimedia Is Overhauling Its Communities to Clean Up Harassment

Photo: Wikipedia
Photo: Wikipedia

The Wikimedia Foundation has been asked by its board to overhaul its safety and compliance standards to better address “harassment and incivility” on Wikipedia and related Wikimedia communities.

The foundation oversees Wikipedia as well as its sister projects like Wikimedia Commons, Wikibooks, and Wikisource, among others. The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees voted last week to update safety standards across the brands, with the foundation sharing details of how it plans to clean up behaviour that the board characterised as “contrary to our shared values and detrimental to our vision and mission.”

In a statement on the foundation’s culture and that of its respective properties, the board made it clear that more can and should be done to create safer and more inclusive spaces.

“The Board does not believe we have made enough progress toward creating welcoming, inclusive, harassment-free spaces in which people can contribute productively and debate constructively,” the board said. “In recognition of the urgency of these issues, the Board is directing the Wikimedia Foundation to directly improve the situation in collaboration with our communities. This should include developing sustainable practices and tools that eliminate harassment, toxicity, and incivility, promote inclusivity, cultivate respectful discourse, reduce harms to participants, protect the projects from disinformation and bad actors, and promote trust in our projects.”

The board has now tasked the foundation with overhauling any toxic behaviour within the Wikimedia communities, including by taking action against users who do not comply with the new rules; working with site mods to develop retroactive review processes; developing a code of conduct applicable to all Wikimedia communities; and develop procedures for prioritising the health of the individuals who run the various sites. While the board did not cite any one particular incident as an impetus for the change, it did say its statement “formalises years’ of longstanding efforts” to curb abuse in its communities.

The board said the foundation will work with “appropriate partners from across the movement” on its new goals for its communities, and further encouraged “every member of the Wikimedia communities to collaborate in a way that models the Wikimedia values of openness and inclusivity.”