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Wikipedia talk:Harassment

Shooting the messenger as a policy?Edit

I'm concerned by a comment here, User_talk:Jytdog#Redundant_one-way_IBANs,_etc. [...] definitely seems to be hounding you (he's edited two ANI threads in the last sixteen months, both related to you, and his comments in both have been serving to undermine you, which would be suspicious enough if he had no prior history with you whatsoever),

So, if someone is regularly named at ANI, and another party comments upon them (not even filing the ANI), then the problem is with the commenter, rather than the person who keeps being reported to ANI? Is this to be any part of our HOUNDING policy or practice? Andy Dingley (talk) 13:02, 9 September 2018 (UTC)

I think that this question comes in the context of Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents#One-way IBAN proposed, and it seems to me that there is an irony in citing the hounding policy based on looking at comments made at the other editor's user talk page. Whether the problem is with the editor making a report or with the editor being reported is a function of the legitimacy of the report, which is why we have WP:Boomerang. --Tryptofish (talk) 18:40, 9 September 2018 (UTC)
Clearly it was triggered by that ANI thread, although I don't quite follow what your point is here. My observations are two-fold:
  • At that ANI thread, there are two themes. One is "Why is Andy complaining of things that happened a long time ago?" and the other is, "Andy is Bad, he has run a long-standing campaign of harassment." Now, apart from me seeing the second of these as a long-standing series of unactioned complaints at ANI about the same editor and their actions elsewhere (I'm not the one making paid editor and SPI allegations), there's a clear disjoint about how long a window is to be allowed for the consideration of past events - and subjectively shifting that around obviously changes the weighting.
Secondly, in the case linked here, there's a messenger being described as who definitely seems to be hounding you (he's edited two ANI threads in the last sixteen months, both related to you, and his comments in both have been serving to undermine you. So how do we interpret that? Is that a long-running problem, or a non-problem with an over-zealous reporter? We seem to be inconsistent and far too subjective in how this is regarded. Andy Dingley (talk) 09:45, 10 September 2018 (UTC)

How do you report harassment?Edit

Sorry if I missed it, but I didn't read anything about how or where to report harassment. Thank you. Holy (talk) 00:10, 20 October 2018 (UTC)

I reported it at ANI. If you see more, edit that section at ANI. There's no need to go into detail for a clear case like this, just mention user names. Ask at my talk if needed. Johnuniq (talk) 00:53, 20 October 2018 (UTC)
For garden-variety Wiki harassment like this, yes, WP:ANI is the place. In cases with serious real-world implications better to email both for privacy reasons and to reach people who can do something about it. Shock Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 00:59, 20 October 2018 (UTC)

Off-wiki contactEdit

I've come across a situation that seems concerning, but I don't want to make a fuss over it in case it proves to be nothing. We have two editors in a dispute - one experienced, one not. The inexperienced editor has not enabled email, nor created a userpage, but at some point in the past included details about their involvement in an event as part of an edit summary and has been open about their identity. The experienced editor used those details to track down their phone number and call them off-wiki about the dispute. It isn't outing, in that the editor did reveal the personal details. However, if an editor chooses not to enable email, should other editors be contacting them off-wiki during disputes? Is this something we should be worried about, or just something that happens and is outside of the policy's scope? - Bilby (talk) 02:38, 27 November 2018 (UTC)

Note: discussion about one specific instance and about the general case was intermingled and causing confusion. I have attempted to separate the two different discussions, but it may not be perfect. Please keep the specific and general separate going forward. Thryduulf (talk) 16:53, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
User:Thryduulf Fwiw I find this to be indeed imperfect and not good -- comments you have left in "general" section are reacting to the framing of the specific incident that was described in the OP (e.g the intentionality clearly implied in the "tracking down" framing which is right there in what User:Ivanvector wrote: Looking up an editor's undisclosed personal info to contact them about a dispute.... I did not go try to find their number in order to contact them about the dispute - I already had the phone number from the booth advertisment, and used it when things deteriorated to try to help them, given their troubles using our interface) Please undo. Jytdog (talk) 17:30, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
@Jytdog: I was explicitly referring only to the general case, not to your specific case. Whether the question as framed has similarities to your case or not is irrelevant. Just because one of the three examples of theoretically possible conduct I used bears a resemblance to something you may or may not have been accused of doing does not change that. Not everything is about you, even if you want it to be. Thryduulf (talk) 17:45, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
@Thryduulf: The OP is about the specific incident, and is framed in a way that doesn't reflect what happened and to cast it negatively. The discussion in the new "general discussion" subsection remains anchored in the specific incident in the OP and its framing (even now) - of course it is.
I agree that a general discussion would be useful, but it is not going to happen given the OP, which you left on top. If you want a general discussion, I suggest you open a new section. You will do as you will do, of course. Jytdog (talk) 17:53, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
Given that there is a general discussion happening that is not about your specific case, and that the only reason there is any discussion of your specific case is because you started it, I see no need to start a second general discussion in parallel. Thryduulf (talk) 18:02, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
We don't agree on a) what people had already written there when you created the section; b) what people are actually doing there, after you created the section. So it goes. I asked you to undo it, you said no. Onwards.Jytdog (talk) 18:17, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
  • Bilby, how did it come to light that this occurred? Did the person contact you somehow? I'm asking because I see no on-wiki communication about this anywhere, from the editor in question. Softlavender (talk) 12:30, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
Jytdog left a message on the user's talk page saying that they had attempted to ring the user, and asking if Skype woudl be preferred instead. - Bilby (talk) 13:54, 28 November 2018 (UTC)

Off-wiki contact (one instance involving Jytdog)Edit

please post any further comment about this incident there. Beeblebrox (talk) 00:02, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

That was me and the presentation is skewed. I don't mind making it clear. The other person has a very strong advocacy issue and has been floundering, and wasting the time of multiple people with 3O requests as you can see at Talk:Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and was in the process of getting themselves blocked for edit warring (they are indeed blocked now).
The person had left an edit note clearly identifying off-WP information (diff - the abstractexhibition booth description (an ad, really) is easy to find).
The situation went very downhill today (they edit warred against 2 3O helpers) and as it did, I thought about how to help them. I checked and they do indeed not have email enabled. I had already gone and found the abstractexhibition booth description to try to understand where they are coming from (what they are doing is baffling), and it has a phone number. So... I called to try to help them -- that was truly my intention. At the start of the call I introduced myself and asked if they were willing to try to talk, and they said "yes". I asked for consent and obtained it. I would not have been surprised, had they said "no", and was ready to end the discussion there.
Unfortunately, they turned out to be just as combative and unwilling to learn on the phone as they have been on-WP, so I ended the call, abruptly. (The abrupt ending is entirely on me.) It was an effort to help that did not go well for either of us. I have had off-WP communication with other advocates and conflicted editors that went well and clarified things that were causing them problems, and that is what I was hoping for.
I debated whether to post here but due to the presentation, which leads one to believe that I called to harass the person and continue the dispute, and which leaves out the crucial detail that the first thing I did was ask for consent, I felt little choice. I do appreciate that there is no claim of OUTING, at least. Jytdog (talk) 04:55, 27 November 2018 (UTC) (redact Jytdog (talk) 16:31, 27 November 2018 (UTC))
The issue remains then, should an editor use information revealed on WP to track down the phone number of an editor (whom they are in an active dispute with) and phone them at their workplace, when that editor has not given permission to be contacted in this manner and has not enabled off-wiki communication through email or any other means? Would this come under the existing harassment policy? Or is it otherwise out of scope? - Bilby (talk) 06:21, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
Your framing is still showing, Bilby. Try "bending over backwards to try help a new editor understand what we do here," or if you want to cast it as an actual dispute, try "trying to work things out by talking, simply, as the first step in DR, with a person who can't figure out how to use WP" as alternative framings. You are trying very hard to make this stalker-y. I also am not sure where you are getting "at their workplace". Jytdog (talk) 06:54, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
Talking is great. Perhaps that is better handled, though, on WP than through using information they provided to track down their phone number and ring them directly, without their permission, using contact information which they never provided. As someone who has been on the receiving end of calls from editors who have tracked down my details and rung me at work during disputes, it is more than a little disturbing when it happens. But I did want this to be a general discussion, not specific to you. If I wanted this specific to you I would have asked elsewhere. - Bilby (talk) 07:11, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
I handled the permission aspect as well as I could, by asking if they were willing to talk, the very first thing, and I have already explained that I reached out in this way because things had deteriorated rapidly today as the person demonstrated that they could not use the WP platform well.
You are continuing to strain to frame this negatively. You are also continuing to assert "workplace", multiple times. (I don't know if it is any better than "at home" or "on their personal cellphone". I have no idea what the number was that I called and am uncertain on what basis you keep making the "workplace" claim.) Jytdog (talk) 08:04, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
And your opening statement is 100% about this specific situation. Not a general discussion, as you just stated. Jytdog (talk) 08:10, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
If I wanted it to be about you, I would have mentioned you. I didn't. If you hadn't come in and said "this is about me" I would not have mentioned you at all. I understand why you are saying you contacted the editor. My problem is not why you contacted the editor, but how. And the general issue is under what circumstances someone should be contacting an editor in real life when their contact details have not been provided on wiki. - Bilby (talk)
I should have commented on the "track down" framing. The phone number is in the exhibition booth description that the person referred to. There was one step, not several. No "tracking down". And there was no intention on my part, whatsoever, to actually find their phone number. It was there and I was already aware of it when things rapidly deteriorated yesterday and I asked myself what alternatives there were to on-WP communication.
If you had done this with good faith, you would have reached out to me to hear what happened and posted a neutral summary of what happened as best you could. I can't help but see your actual posting as a continuation of your bizarre behavior toward me over the last year. Whatever - you did what you did and I will continue trying to avoid interacting with you.
What I asked myself, is what was this person's intention in writing this? That was definitely a "here is my real world bona fides" sort of thing which is why this is not OUTING. Calling the person was a high risk thing to do for sure. If it would have gone well -- if the person had come away understanding how we use MEDRS and what they were doing wrong -- it would have been good for everybody. However I should have a) had my act way more together in the call instead of getting upset by the person's combativeness and b) beforehand, considered the risk that (i) it would go south (ii) it would be badly received by the person afterwards if it went south; (iii) considered how it could be framed here. Considering those things now, I would not have done it and I will not be be trying that again. Jytdog (talk) 16:26, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
  • Jytdog, really? Even if you're trying to be helpful this is not cool. Today I got an email from someone, not through the system, who had found my email address and threatened me. A few years ago, before I was an admin, some dude who'd been advertising himself on Wikipedia found my office phone number and called me at work. These things are scary, like real fucking scary. Please don't do that kind of thing, ever. Drmies (talk) 16:11, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
I am hearing what people are saying. I should not have taken the risk and will not do so again. Jytdog (talk) 16:34, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
I am glad to hear that... --kelapstick(bainuu) 18:24, 27 November 2018 (UTC)

A request for arbitration regarding Jytdog's actions has been filed at Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case#Jytdog by There'sNoTime. Thryduulf (talk) 22:18, 27 November 2018 (UTC)

  • I observe that Jytdog's comment just above, [1], was timestamped at 16:34, 27 November 2018. The original, indefinite block was issued at 20:47, slightly more than four hours later, per the block log. --Tryptofish (talk) 23:49, 27 November 2018 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Off-wiki contact (the general case)Edit

  • Calling another editor over the phone for the first time is a stronger form of contact than usual. It can be perceived positively or negatively, depending on whether the contacted person is satisfied or not with the result, how unexpected it is to them that their contact details were found, etc.
    I actually think that the "workplace" point is not entirely irrelevant: with cultural institutions, for instance, it's not uncommon to go out of our way to help someone who we feel may be unaccustomed to on-wiki processes. Some of them may expect to serve and interact with the public as part of their work; it's not the same as being called at the office for an edit you made in the evening about a personal interest, or vice versa. Nemo 10:48, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
  • Entirely inappropriate. Looking up an editor's undisclosed personal info to contact them about a dispute, even if you're pulling that info from freely-available sources, is 100% cyberstalking, creepy as hell, and disgusting. This has happened to me exactly twice, both times at work, and the police were called both times as well as contacting WMF Legal, and I would advise any editor who gets an unsolicited off-wiki contact to do the same. If you're an editor doing this you should be sitebanned. Ivanvector (Talk/Edits) 11:56, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
    • For clarity, what WP policy or what law has been violated? Also, has there been a specific claim of harassment on the part of the other party? This has been brought by a third party asking general questions.
       — Berean Hunter (talk) 12:52, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
      • @Borean Hunter: I read Ivanvector's comments as being about the general case in response to the general questions. In the general case I also agree that unsolicited contacting of another editor, regarding any Wikipedia matter, using any contact method they have not explicitly made available on wiki (or to you specifically) is an example of Wikipedia:Off-wiki harassment - doubly so if you are involved in a dispute with them, regardless of the circumstances of that dispute. What is "made available on wiki" can be a grey area, but if they've posted a link to their/their organisation's website which has a prominent contacts page then using the methods listed on that page would not involve stalking but might still be inappropriate and could still be perceived as harassment (depending on the context). If you have to actively search or dig for the contact details though then that is never appropriate. Anyone intentionally stalking or otherwise harassing another editor should indeed be site banned - this should be reported to the arbitration committee (by email in most cases). Thryduulf (talk) 13:38, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
  • If the claim is that laws were violated, the editor who was harassed off-site should seek legal counsel in their jurisdiction (not a legal threat, generic advice I would give anyone who feels they are facing off-wiki harassment.)
    If they feel the contact violated our norms on harassment they should contact the arbitration committee, who are the only body able to fully deal with this on-wiki. We shouldn’t be using this talk page to decide a particular case, and that’s kinda what’s happening here. TonyBallioni (talk) 13:48, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
  • WP:OWH is only relevant if the off-wiki contact is actually harrassment. Of which there is no evidence here. Unless you are going to take the extreme view that merely talking to someone off-wiki about a dispute they are engaged in consitutes harrassment, which would be idiotic. WP:OWH directly links to WP:NPA as an example. Where someone is open about their identity it is not cyberstalking. Only in death does duty end (talk) 13:59, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
    • (a reminder that I'm speaking only about the general case) Just because somebody is open about their identity does not mean they automatically consent to being contacted off-wiki, either generally or by specific methods and/or about all matters. If they have made a phone number clearly available to editors then that is different to an editor who is public about their real name and employer being telephoned at work via the company switchboard regarding matters unrelated to their employment which is different again to calling someone on a personal phone number you found via the website of a local community organisation they volunteer for, which you found via a mention on their social media profile, which you found via searching on their name (mentioned on their userpage) and location (which you inferred from a discussion on the talk page of the article about that place). The latter is unquestionably stalking and unequestionably a site-banning offence, but as TB notes it is the arbitration committee who are the only people able to determine what the full circumstances were. Thryduulf (talk) 14:25, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
      • Wikipedia is an open-access 'discussion is required' project. Consent is implicit just by contributing that you may be contacted about your contributions. It may be an oversight in that policy does not explicitly lay out the only means of that contact, but currently none of the relevant policies forbid it. Editors currently use (amongst others) direct email, facebook (and other social media), public events, mailing lists, IRC etc to co-ordinate and discuss editing. If (as you seem to be saying) an editor has to explicitly consent in advance to being contacted by a specific method or it constitutes harrassment (not anything that is reflected in policy anywhere) you will need to get that agreed to by the community and nailed in policy before ARBCOM can touch it. Only in death does duty end (talk) 17:07, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
Discussion may be required but not by phone. Phone calls are different. Paul August 17:15, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
That is not currently a position reflected in policy nor are there any restrictions on any other method as the restrictions on harrassment are rightly concerned with the motive, not the method. I am not saying it *shouldnt* be, but it currently isnt. Only in death does duty end (talk) 17:24, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
Some things should go without saying. Paul August 17:34, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
Yes however 'some things' are not set up to be judged by a pseudo-legalistic body which may result in someone being labelled a harrasser under a definition that is not in line with either common usage or legal ones. Only in death does duty end (talk) 17:41, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
@Only in death: what part of using someone's personal information, that they have not chosen to share with you, to contact them in a manner they nave not consented to is not harassment? Thryduulf (talk) 17:52, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
Pretty simple really, every single reputable definition of 'harrassment' is taking an action where it is known in advance that the action is unwanted. Where there is no mechanism or requirement by which people give or reject consent, you certainly cannot say they have explicitly denied to be contacted in any manner except through their talkpage. You cant say they have implicitly rejected contact when they have signed up on a collaborative website thats core principles are open discussion. Especially when editors routinely utilise other methods. ENWP does not require that people give consent in advance to being contacted by (insert X method here) so you cannot call it harrassment just for intiating contact when someone has not said they dont want to be contacted. You cant imply something when you havnt even asked the question in the first place. There are rules and laws about explicit & implied consent, being added to marketing mailing lists when purchasing goods requires explicit consent as one example, but unsolicited contact is not remotely similar to harrassment and to suggest they are the same thing both weakens the definition of actual harrassment and would be borderline defamatory depending on how and who it was applied to. Only in death does duty end (talk) 19:57, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
@Only in death: Regarding discussion and consent for contact, this has already been fully refused below by Ivanvector (see the comment beginning "Wikipedia is a "discussion is required" project, sure,"). Tryptofish's comment starting "I'm speaking here of the general case. I'm late to this discussion," is also very much relevant. There ins't a need for me to say much more but your entire comment is missing the concept of reasonable expectation. Even if you don't know something will be poorly received it is still harassment if you could and should have had a reasonable expectation that it would be. If you supply an email address and enable email on your account it is reasonable to expect that other editors might contact you by email. There is though no reasonable expectation of contact by phone. I've been editing Wikipedia nearly 14 years, and only three has another edit has contacted me by phone about on-wiki matters without it being prearranged. The first two were when I was on arbcom and the person calling me was a fellow arbitrator and I had made my phone number available to other arbitrators and explicitly noted that I was happy to receive phone calls from them. On the only other occasion I was contacted by my partner, who is also a Wikipedian and someone I've had countless phone calls with before and since. Thryduulf (talk) 22:59, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
  • I strongly agree with what Thryduulf has written above. Let me share a painful personal anecdote. Many years ago, I learned a hard lesson and lost a friend. I was very much worried about the health of a dear Wiki-friend who wasn't editing, and email correspondent who wasn't responding to emails. We had shared real names and other personal info, so it was easy to find their phone number and give them a call. They were shocked and angry that I had done so. Even though we were close wiki-friends, nevertheless they found a phone call a terrible invasion of their privacy. Looking back, it now seems obvious to me why. So if such an intrusion can feel deeply creepy, even from a worried "friend" how would it likely feel from a stranger? Paul August 16:08, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
    • Paul August, yes--same here, with a fellow admin whom I didn't know personally, who was reported dead. I had sleuthed around and found his wife's email address, if I remember correctly, but procrastinated for a week, asking other people (I think I ask my fellow arbs, back two years ago) about what to do, and I felt terrible doing it. Fortunately they took it well, and the guy was alive and kicking still. But this is something that should NEVER be done lightly. Thank you for sharing. Drmies (talk) 16:13, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
  • It sounds like underlying question is "Is it ever appropriate to make an unsolicited phone call to another Wikipedia Editor to discuss their edits, without their advanced permission?" The answer to that is "Unequivocally, no." The fact that this is actually a question that is being asked is, in my mind, ridiculous. --kelapstick(bainuu) 18:22, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
  • Entirely inappropriate, per all those above. Any kind of "I know where you live" behaviour (provided it's proved that editor A has actually initiated real life contact with editor B against editor B's wishes, as there's always going to be the possibility that editor B is trying to get editor A in trouble) should result in an instant and permanent site ban. (I'm reminded of an old case where one editor was emailing another photographs of the outside of their house; yes, the editor in question's identity wasn't secret, but it was still a truly weirdo thing to do.) The sole exception I can see is that in some extreme circumstances such as long-term TOU violations, it might be appropriate to contact someone either to begin legal proceedings or issue a formal cease-and-desist—and I can see theoretical instances where when someone is disrupting Wikipedia from a work computer it would be appropriate to contact their employer—but both of those sets of circumstances should only be done by the WMF themselves as they have the legal teams to decide what is and isn't appropriate and necessary. ‑ Iridescent 18:26, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
  • (edit conflict) Wikipedia is a "discussion is required" project, sure, but one's responsibility to respond to discussions on Wikipedia ends with the website. "Discussion is required" means that if you don't respond to a discussion you might lose your editing privileges. "Discussion is required" does not mean that if you don't respond then you'll have strangers on the internet looking up your personal information to contact your employer or your family, or, say, showing up at your home. And no, it's not a leap at all to think that someone who has gone to the trouble of looking up your info and thinks it's okay to call you uninvited won't also show up at your house uninvited. You know that Gamergaters have tried to kill people over shit like this, right? And those incidents are still happening? Editors should have a reasonable expectation that those kinds of things are not going to happen as a result of not answering a question here, and should be able to expect that we will react if it does happen. It is incredibly disappointing that some people think this is at all okay, for one thing, and also disappointing that we might actually have to write this into a policy for some people to realize it's a serious invasion of privacy and a fucking creepy thing to do to someone. There are awful people on the internet but that doesn't mean we have to tolerate it here. Ivanvector (Talk/Edits) 18:28, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
  • The timing of this is interesting to me as I just spent about an hour on the phone talking to an editor. The situation isn't parallel, as they reached out to me and requested the phone call, but I mention it as anecdotal evidence that not everyone finds phone calls unwelcome. That shouldn't surprise anyone, but given two heartfelt anecdotes about unwelcome phone calls, I wanted to provide some perspective, and make sure that no one leads to the conclusion that all phone calls are unwelcome. Indeed, as an active OTRS agent, hardly a day goes by that I don't field a plea from someone to give them a call.
The challenge, of course, is that some phone calls are unwelcome, some are welcome or neutral, but it's virtually impossible to determine in advance what the reaction might be in any particular situation. That's a good reason for extreme caution.
However, let's be careful not to overreact. I have enormous respect for kelapstick, but the suggestion that the answer to the question "Is it ever appropriate to make an unsolicited phone call to another Wikipedia Editor to discuss their edits, without their advanced permission?" is an unequivocal no, is an overstatement. Imagine a situation where someone invites a phone call, that phone call takes place, and the issue is resolved. Some time later, you note that the editor is running into some difficulty, and you think that calling them to talk about it may help. You call them and help them and they are thankful. Yet, that second phone call is technically unsolicited. It's an overstatement to say that it's unequivocally wrong.
In this particular situation the editor in question had posted some information that contained a phone number. Is that a solicitation? Reasonable people can differ. Personally, I would favor an approach where editor A posts a message on the talk page of editor B, explaining that they have access to the phone number of editor A and plan to call to help solve the problem unless they are explicitly told not to call. I would find that an acceptable circumstance, yet it would technically be an unsolicited phone call.
We probably ought to work out a formal protocol, but let's be careful not to overreact. As I mentioned in my previous paragraph, had I been solicited for advice by Jytdog, I would've suggested a slightly different sequence, but given that the first words of the phone call were to ask permission to continue and granted, my view is that the action was justified. We may want to modify how such a situation should be handled in the future but I'll push back against anyone who says Jytdog was not just wrong but should've known better.--S Philbrick(Talk) 19:45, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
@Sphilbrick, I don't believe for one second that you genuinely can't see the difference between "Hi, I don't know if you remember me, we met in the bar a few nights ago and you gave me your number" and "Hi, you don't know me but I saw you in the bar and liked the look of you, so I found out your name and went home and Googled it until I found your number".
Color me puzzled. Obviously those two situations are different. Neither matches my (original, now modified) understanding of this situation. Following your analogy, it would be, "Hi, I don't know if you remember me, we met in the bar a few nights ago and you handed out a flyer that had your phone number on it". That said, when I responded, I thought the phone number was on material linked, and I now see one had to take an extra step to track it down.--S Philbrick(Talk) 22:21, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
@Only in death, in this case it doesn't make the slightest difference what policy says. We're talking about something that's inherently unethical; that we don't have a formal policy saying "it is not appropriate to track down editors' real-life identities and stalk them" is owing to the fact that when the policies were written, it was assumed that no sane person would think otherwise. We likewise don't have an explicit policy banning editors from mailing dog-turds to the Wikimedia Foundation or from replacing their userpage with a 5000px-width image of themselves having sex with a dead badger; it doesn't mean either is considered acceptable. ‑ Iridescent 20:08, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
Iridescent That is precisely what I wanted to say, you are just better at expressing yourself than I am. --kelapstick(bainuu) 20:24, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
  • I'm speaking here of the general case. I'm late to this discussion, but I would like to offer my take on the general case – to some extent repeating what other editors have said, but putting things together in the way that I see it. If an editor has indicated that they would like to get a phone call, or has done so in the past and common sense indicates that they would also like a phone call again, then there is nothing wrong with contacting them. If an editor has posted some personal information onsite, it is acceptable to be aware of that specific information. If an editor has posted some personal information onsite, it is never acceptable to use that information to obtain any other personal information that was not voluntarily posted. (There can be an exception in situations of personal jeopardy urgently requiring outreach to the editor.) To act on personal information that was not posted onsite is harassment, particularly so in cases where the editors are in any sort of dispute or where there is any kind of indication (such as not enabling email) that they are not welcoming contact. That kind of harassment can be very disturbing to the victim. Even when an editor uses another editor's posted information to try to better understand an editing situation, and in the course of doing so comes across additional personal information, that non-posted personal information is off-limits.
Now that said, it is very dismaying to me to see numerous users, including experienced administrators who should know better, assert that this is something that should always lead to a rapid indefinite block. There is a difference between a user who credibly says that they regret what they did and will never do it again, and a user who is acting out of malice (although there should not be much allowance of repeat behavior). Admins should always evaluate whether or not a block is needed. WP:BEFOREBLOCK says that, as a matter of policy. Frankly, I tend to think that issuance of an "automatic" block can be justification for desysopping. For whatever reason, the harassment policy brings out suspension-of-thoughtfulness in too many users; get over yourselves. And saying, in effect, that when editors in a discussion have differing views, no sane person could disagree with one view, is a violation of WP:NPA. Of course there are some things that can go without saying. But when various editors indicate in good faith that they have differing takes on something, then that makes it something that might not go without saying. What is obvious to you is not always obvious to someone else, and that does not automatically make them insane. So maybe we should look at clarifying some of the wording of policy about off-wiki harassment. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:20, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
Tryptofish, is there a discussion taking place somewhere else? There is not a single person in this thread asserting that this is something that should always lead to a rapid indefinite block; indeed, thus far you're the only person even to use the words "indefinite" or "block". (There are a lot of people saying off-wiki conduct is inappropriate, but as far as I can see nobody except you is thinking about whether and how sanctions should be used.) ‑ Iridescent 22:27, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
Keeping this to the general case, I'm glad to hear that. Please let me change that wording to "an instant and permanent site ban". --Tryptofish (talk) 22:31, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Then I suppose I should clarify that my earlier comment that such activity is a site-bannable offense was meant in the general sense, but of course not automatic. Few things call for automatic sanctions. An editor who makes a habit of contacting other editors in ways that ought reasonably to be seen as inappropriate may be someone who should not be allowed to edit here, but like most things that's case-by-case. I feel that it should be common sense (and basic human decency) not to contact people in ways which they have not given explicit permission, and that decent human beings ought to know better without having it written into a policy, but my faith in humanity has been challenged a lot this week. Ivanvector (Talk/Edits) 22:39, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Note that my "immediate site ban" comment was specifically aimed at Any kind of "I know where you live" behaviour and not just being inappropriate. I don't think you were around for the incident I have in mind, but anyone who was will know immediately to what I'm referring (and why I'm being slightly cryptic). We have empirical evidence for what is the worst that can happen when on-wiki disputes spill into real life, and why we should take any means necessary to prevent them doing so. ‑ Iridescent 22:42, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
Thank you, both of you, for these additional replies. I agree with you both. (I myself can be a bit cryptic about an "automatic" block with which I am familiar.) But I think this illustrates my point that some things that are obvious to you might not be obvious to someone else. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:47, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
  • Arguing for zero contact by means other than Wikipedia is not how academia works. I have emailed multiple owners of medical images (be they people or institutions) asking if they would be willing to release them under an open license. Images were up for deletion and it was unclear if the uploader was the owner (ie they could have been a new Wikipedian or someone could have been trying to infringe upon their copyright). Not a fan of phone calls generally but that is just me. I have had a user I was involved in a dispute with call me. Didn't resolve the dispute, did not see it as a big deal. My phone number is on my publications but not on Wikipedia. I see the content of the contact to be a bigger concern and the issue with a phone call is you do not have documentation. So yes would be supportive of a policy disallowing unrequested "voice / audio contact" Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 23:10, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
  • Jytdog queried the subject after the phone call had been initiated to determine whether or not they could continue the call. I would question the reliability of an answer given under those circumstances. Much research has gone into what's known as the startle effect and the consequences that may occur to a person who is, for whatever reason, startled.[1] Research particularly into pilots in training has shown that pilots who are startled by flashing claxons and alarms tend to carry out incorrect responses to certain actions in the cockpit.[2] Somehow, this startle effect blocks or temporarily causes mild confusion or delay in carrying out a correct response. Even those pilots who previously knew a correct response would nonetheless carry out the incorrect response after being startled. I believe everyone here can recall their own personal reactions to being startled where they found it subsequently more difficult to carry out what they thought was the right action or where it took them longer to perform it. I can only assume that when this person answered the phone, the surprise at finding out who had called effected upon them a mild startle reaction, and their answer to the question "May I continue the call" was not the answer they intended to give. The chances for a more accurate answer might be obtained before making any such contact, while the person is not under the influence of a startle effect, especially in live circumstances such as phone calls. That being said, I hope Jytdog returns to Wikipedia soon where his work is much needed.  Spintendo  00:05, 28 November 2018 (UTC)


  1. ^ Armus, Harvard L.; Guinan, James F. (1963). "Effect of conflict on the startle reaction". PsycEXTRA Dataset. doi:10.1037/e666092011-006.
  2. ^ Grillon, Christian (1996). "Context and startle: Effect of explicit and contextual cue conditioning following paired vs. unpaired training". PsycEXTRA Dataset. doi:10.1037/e526132012-158.
  • I'm going to bring a note of "genderness" to this conversation - as a female ... I do not appreciate uninvited phone calls. I would find a wikipedia editor contacting me out of the blue by phone (not email, but phone) based off of some sleuthing they did by connecting my name with a phone number to be very creepy and I'm betting that a significant number of female editors would feel the same. And I'm not especially someone who has concerns about stalkers or other harassment in my outside-wiki life. I can only imagine how a woman editor who perhaps had experienced a stalking situation in their life would feel to be contacted out of the blue by someone who wanted to discuss their wiki-editing ... and finding out that that other person had gone hunting to find their phone number. (And I can easily say that at least a third if not half of my female friends have had at least one situation in their lives where they were stalked or harassed.) I'm very concerned that some editors don't seem to think that this behavior is concerning or creepy. Just shows how differently men often approach things - and how little the concerns of women about this behavior actually impinge on some folks' thinking. This doesn't mean that if an editor has email enabled (as I do), that they shouldn't be contacted, but if an editor does NOT have email enabled, it's quite likely that they don't desire contact outside wikipedia-space and that choice should be respected. Going beyond that to searching out a phone number from clues left behind on wiki is well beyond the pale, in my mind. Ealdgyth - Talk 23:58, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
    • Damn straight!!! Like Ealdgyth and Iri have said. Let me put it this way. No one has ever contacted me via phone unless we had previously agreed via email or other private messaging system to talk on the phone. No one. Not in 12 years of WP editing. Like Ealdgyth, I am not a person who has had concerns about stalkers in my real life, but I have chosen to keep my real-life identity minimal on WP. And let me tell you, the first time someone traced my real-life identity off-wiki at all, I was completely freaked out -- and they were just someone who was a new editor and pissed off at me -- and all they did was post my real name. By the time I was outed off-wiki during my RfA with outing here as well, I was more or less used to these little hiccup stalkers, but I was still quite concerned when a now-indeffed editor made edits that were basically saying "I know where you live and where you work". So yes, unsolicited off-wiki communication other than by means authorized by WP (i.e. email enabled or IRC or something the editor opts into using) IS HARASSMENT. End of story. If someone I didn't know called me about a WP edit without some prior communication either via enabled email or via a request on-wiki, I would not merely be creeped out, there's a better than 50-50 chance I'd call the cops. It's wrong to contact them unless they affirmatively agree to be contacted. Montanabw(talk) 03:45, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
I have sometimes contacted strangers by telephone, on Wikipedia-related matters, using publicly available telephone numbers. It has never occurred to me that this might be a problem, and the people involved have never shown any sign of regarding it as a problem. I understand that some people don't like to be telephoned by strangers; but they generally don't permit their numbers to be published. Maproom (talk) 10:29, 28 November 2018 (UTC)

What about abuse reports?Edit

I hate to revive a dead thread, but this brings to mind an elephant in the room: what about contacting vandals' ISPs, schools, and employers to report abuse, as we did with WP:ABUSE? Is this still allowed, or is this something that should not be done? PCHS-NJROTC (Messages)Have a blessed day. 00:26, 21 June 2019 (UTC)

To the best of my knowledge, these "abuse" reports were submitted via email to the "abuse" center of the ISP, not by telephone; even if they had been done by telephone, they were not going to a specific editor, they were going to the ISP. There is a world of difference. And no, in this day and age where huge chunks of IPs are nearly hyper-dynamic (almost like the AOL IPs in the "olden" days), there's nearly no value in reporting an IP as being abusive to an ISP. I'm not sure why you might have equated "don't phone editors directly without prior agreement" with "report abusive editing by an IP to their ISP". Risker (talk) 01:57, 21 June 2019 (UTC)
A lot of the abuse reports were/are sent to schools and employers from which vandals were/are vandalizing from as opposed to ISPs like CenturyLink or Comcast, and from experience participating in the project, we would sometimes call these institutions on the phone. In one case, someone physically visited a school in Hawaii to report abuse from the students (and the school asked for an indef softblock, which was granted). I still notify schools, employers, and ISPs if I see an actual pattern of abuse (not just a shared school IP with several instances of kids being kids like a large percentage of what ended up at WP:ABUSE, more like if there's activity that is obviously the same person happening over and over again), but my question is, since calling a school or a company to report such activity is literally an attempt to get the "editor" in trouble at work or school, is that something I should continue doing? I know there is a difference, but it's still an off-wiki action likely to cause serious off-wiki consequences. PCHS-NJROTC (Messages)Have a blessed day. 02:37, 21 June 2019 (UTC)
I'd suggest that either your request will be (largely) ignored or alternately may result in the organization blocking access to Wikipedia entirely. One needs to keep in mind that a stunning array of organizations (particularly those that serve the public) now have not just staff using their network, but also offer wi-fi or other internet access to their customers, and it is likely they will have no idea who created the vandalism. Risker (talk) 05:21, 21 June 2019 (UTC)
Some places do respond well, others do not. As far as them disabling access to Wikipedia, I always stress the fact that it is not necessary as we can block the IPs from editing on our end... and although I don't say this to the network admins, blocking these shared IPs that represent thousands of students or employees is a really, really, really stupid thing to do unless there is a specific vandal (like the "dog and rapper vandal" or Keegscee) that we are trying to stop, because in an era in which networks to access the internet from are plentiful, trying to stop the casual "school vandal" is an exercise in futility; all it does is stop people who are trying to do something constructive from doing so. PCHS-NJROTC (Messages)Have a blessed day. 12:40, 21 June 2019 (UTC)

Suggested revisionEdit

Based on the discussion just above, I have a suggestion. Here is what WP:OWH says, with the sentence in green my suggested addition:

Harassment of other Wikipedians in forums not controlled by the Wikimedia Foundation creates doubt as to whether an editor's on-wiki actions are conducted in good faith. Contacting another editor off-site using contact information that they have not made available on-site can be a particularly onerous odious form of harassment. Off-wiki harassment will be regarded as an aggravating factor by administrators and is admissible evidence in the dispute-resolution process, including Arbitration cases. In some cases, the evidence will be submitted by private email. As is the case with on-wiki harassment, off-wiki harassment can be grounds for blocking, and in extreme cases, banning. Off-wiki privacy violations shall be dealt with particularly severely.

Harassment of other Wikipedians through the use of external links is considered equivalent to the posting of personal attacks on Wikipedia.

--Tryptofish (talk) 23:19, 27 November 2018 (UTC)

Rather than a "can be" statement, we should simple state "Calling someone without their explicit consent before hand is deemed not appropriate."
With respect to leaving someone a message on FB on contacted them by email I think we should seperate out that discussion. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 23:34, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
  • Support the change, per my comments above. I don't think that separating out other forms of unwelcome inappropriate contact is suitable for the policy - inappropriate external contact is inappropriate external contact, whether that's a phone call, non-Wikipedia email, Facebook message, SMS message, paper mail, personal contact, whatever. Ivanvector (Talk/Edits) 23:40, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
    • Well one does not know beforehand if the contact will be welcome or unwelcome. Both types of voice contact IMO should be disallowed without explicet agreement. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 00:09, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
      • One ought to presume contact is unwelcome if it has not been explicitly invited. Ivanvector (Talk/Edits) 16:20, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
  • (edit conflict) This doesn't seem to jibe with the rest of the policy page, which defines harassment as a pattern of repeated offensive behaviour. I'm not sure what the solution is, but I wanted to point that out. Also, "onerous" might not be the word you're looking for. Bradv 🍁 23:42, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
  • I absolutely agree with the intent behind this change, but I'm not certain the wording is quite right. I can't quite put my finger on why but Bradv's comments may be part of it. I need sleep though and so I'll look afresh tomorrow. Thryduulf (talk) 00:06, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
  • The mot juste is egregious. --RexxS (talk) 00:43, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
  • I wouldn't characterize it as "particularly onerous", as that seems to say that it is worse than other forms, when the circumstances can vary widely. Just make it clear that some recipients of such calls may feel threatened or outed by the call, and that it is not permitted. bd2412 T 04:47, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
  • The wording is slightly off; as worded if I were to reply to somebody on Wikipediocracy about their on-wiki edits that would be "onerous harassment", regardless of the message. Obviously replying to a person on a web forum where that person identifies as being a specific Wiki editor is different than tracking down their phone number; the wording should reflect that. Perhaps "attempting to contact editors in an unexpected manner"? power~enwiki (π, ν) 04:51, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
  • The whole section is in desperate need of a re-write. Harassment of other Wikipedians in forums not controlled by the Wikimedia Foundation creates doubt as to whether an editor's on-wiki actions are conducted in good faith. Seriously? No, it doesn't "create doubt"! It's outright prohibited And no, it's not can be, it is! And yes, egregious is the word, not onerous. - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 11:19, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
  • This is a good start, but "particularly onerous" should just be dropped. - MrX 🖋 12:51, 28 November 2018 (UTC)

I agree with others that this needs a more extensive re-write. I also think that the view that Jytdog engaged in harassment simply because he made the phone call is wrong and misrepresents what harassment actually is. So, here's a proposal for consideration:

Harassment of other Wikipedians is absolutely prohibited. Harassment occurring online in forums not controlled by the Wikimedia Foundation or in the "real world" are sanctionable on-wiki and may also result in off-wiki consequences. Reports of inappropriate off-wiki behaviour creates doubts as to whether an editor's on-wiki actions are conducted in good faith. Off-wiki attacks, including through the use of external links, are considered personal attacks and may be regarded as an aggravating factor by administrators and is admissible evidence in the dispute-resolution process, including Arbitration cases. In some cases, the evidence should be submitted by private email – outing remains prohibited. As is the case with on-wiki harassment, off-wiki harassment can be grounds for blocking, and in extreme cases, banning. Off-wiki privacy violations shall be dealt with particularly severely.

If an editor wishes private contact with another editor, emailing through the Wikipedia interface is the preferred method. Posting to external forums (such as Wikipediocracy) where accounts are explicitly linked to on-wiki identities is also acceptable. In some cases, editors provide other contact information on wiki, or provide sufficient information for contact information to be located. Posting such information on-wiki is prohibited under the outing policy, and using such information to initiate contact without seeking explicit permission (such as by asking at a user talk page) is strongly discouraged. Even if the message sent is innocuous, such contact may be unwelcome; it could create concerns about privacy, safety, and even be perceived as threatening – and on-wiki consequences are certainly possible if the recipient of such a message makes an on-wiki complaint.

Obviously, as a first draft, there may be many suggested changes, comments, criticisms, etc. – all welcome. EdChem (talk) 12:05, 28 November 2018 (UTC)

The first draft is appreciated. But, let's be entirely clear - if a Wikipedia editor makes unsolicited phone calls to another editor on a phone number that they have not explicitly provided on Wiki, it is an act of harassment - intent is immaterial; how the call is received is immaterial - it is an act of harassment. Anyone who believes otherwise is misguided, misinformed, misaligned, or malicious.
Now, there are parts of what is proposed above which are good. But the whole remains unpolished and full of equivocation. I would be happy to workshop the text, but we will not be ending up with something which provides a posteriori excuse of the recent events; and we will not be ending up with something that equivocates about that with discouraged and maybe and could and perceived and possible and whatnot.
It's harassment. It's wrong. It needs no hedges. - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 13:12, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
Ryk72, you have now posted both here and at the RfAr that anyone who disagrees with you misguided, misinformed, misaligned, or malicious. At RfAr, it was directly generally. Here, it is pretty clearly directed at me specifically. We disagree, that doesn't make me a bad person nor a fool. Please try to express yourself without the assertions that you must be right and the unpleasant comments / personal attacks. EdChem (talk) 14:05, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
EdChem My posting of the comment at both locations is not a coincidence; I consider it apropos to both discussions. My comment here is most certainly not directed at you specifically. There are a number of editors above who have made comment to indicate that the behaviour, or forms thereof, is acceptable to them; I most certainly disagree with them all. I do not, however, in anyway, assert that that makes them a bad person nor a fool. If such was your reading, then you have my heartfelt apology for my lack of clarity. I do assert, however, equally heartily, that those editors are incorrect; and I do couch it as fact.
I do not wish to make further picking of bones, and would rather move forward on workshopping policy. I think your version is better than that which went before, but don't see editing a version on this Talk page to be optimal; and don't see writing a long list of proposed changes to be optimal either. Could we put something on a draft page and talk about it? Or could we put something in a separate section to be edited by all? - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 14:30, 28 November 2018 (UTC)

"Explicitly provided on-wiki" should be something like "Explicitly provided or linked to on-wiki" as someone saying "please phone me, my contact details are here: <link to external page>" is obviously not going to be harassment if anyone follows up on it. "In some cases, editors provide other contact information on wiki, or provide sufficient information for contact information to be located. Posting such information on-wiki is prohibited under the outing policy, and using such information to initiate contact without seeking explicit permission (such as by asking at a user talk page) is strongly discouraged." is poorly worded - it implies that it is outing to post your own contact details on-wiki (it isn't, obviously) whereas what is prohibited is posting someone else's contact information on-wiki that they did not, even if it was clearly linked to (and even then it's not an absolute - e.g. the information posted could be used to verify that a notable person is represented by a particular agent/agency). Also it is not harassment to contact someone unsolicited using methods other than special:emailuser if contact by that method has been invited on-wiki (see e.g. user:Thryduulf/Contact, someone contacting me directly using either email address listed on that page is fine). I don't know how to reword to reflect this without being very clumsy though. Thryduulf (talk) 14:24, 28 November 2018 (UTC)

  • The second 'graph contradicts itself in places. I had notes to suggest but I think I'll just propose an alternative instead:
If an editor wishes private contact with another editor, emailing through the Wikipedia interface is the preferred method. In some cases, editors provide other contact information on wiki or links to their information elsewhere. Contacting a user through external forums (such as Wikipediocracy) where accounts are explicitly linked to on-wiki identities is also acceptable. Posting another user's personal information anywhere on Wikipedia is strictly prohibited under the outing policy, and using undisclosed information to initiate contact without gaining explicit permission (such as by asking at a user's talk page) is prohibited. Even if the message sent is innocuous, such contact may be unwelcome; it could create concerns about privacy, safety, and even be perceived as threatening. Users who are contacted through inappropriate means should report occurrences privately to the Arbitration Committee or Wikipedia:Emergency.
-- For the sake of brevity I dropped the bit about consequences. In my mind, doing something that we recommend be reported to the emergency response team ought to carry a reasonable expectation of severe sanctions. But then again, we're having this discussion. Ivanvector (Talk/Edits) 16:30, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
  • I don't have any problem with this addition per se. But it might be more useful to include language to the effect that "the forms of harassment delineated in this policy are not meant to be a complete list. Common sense dictates that other forms of behavior not listed are unwelcome and harassing and can subject editors to penalties. Administrators need to review the circumstances on a case-by-case basis." We don't want editors to say, "look, I can do it as it is not on the list." Coretheapple (talk) 16:36, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
I agree. I would not want to see us list every possible way that someone could be inappropriately contacted. WP:CIR applies.- MrX 🖋 19:02, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
  • The line on forums does not need to be mentioned. Also, my pet peeve about somehow pretending Wikipediocracy is special and not an external site that is subject to all the same guidelines about external sites as every other external site. It isn't, and we've had issues recently with people not understanding that in regards to linking to external identities. It should not be mentioned explicitly in policy.
    Here's the thing: if two people are members of some other online community that has a PM option, and they deduce that they're the same person on Wikipedia, there is no problem PMing them there being all "Hey, I see you're X on WP based on what you say here."
    What is a problem is someone looking up my Facebook account and adding me as a friend and PMing me there about a block I made. If that happens, I'm calling the cops. Having a specific line about forums creates too big of an exemption and would open the floodgates to some really unpleasant behavior and have situations similar to the current arb case where people misread what should be clear from the general principles of this policy as allowing them to do something that they shouldn't do. TonyBallioni (talk) 19:10, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
(edit conflict)The second sentence is missing a key clause about it being acceptable to use these methods, I'd also recommend making it clear we're talking about very clear links not following a chain of information. My suggested wording (with additions in italics) is: "In some cases, editors provide other contact information on wiki or clear links to their information elsewhere, making contact using these methods is usually acceptable provided common sense is used and any specific requests are complied with. If It is unclear whether a clear link was intended, assume it was not.". However this is very clunky and could probably be improved. The rest is good. Thryduulf (talk) 19:18, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
  • Everyone who has pointed out that "onerous" was inept, that's so true, and I have been self-dope-slapping ever since shortly after I logged off last night. I meant "odious". Anyway, that was only an initial suggestion, and I appreciate how other editors are working beyond that, because I was primarily concerned with getting a discussion going. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:22, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
  • Thanks to everyone who has commented and suggested changes / alternatives. I think most are definite improvements to what I proposed. A couple of specific thoughts:
    • @TonyBallioni: FYI, I included Wikipediocracy as an example as I was looking to mention acceptable options other than email through WP. With the reorganising suggested by Ivanvector and some form of the additions from Thryduulf, such an example is not needed. I'm fine with dropping mention of that site or any other external WP review forum in favour of some version of Thryduulf's suggestion. However, I do feel that your comment about "calling the cops" is over the top and fits with some over-reactions to Jytdog's actions. Calling the police to say something like "I was contacted on Facebook / by phone from a WP editor. I didn't give them my contact details. They asked if it was ok for us to discuss a disagreement we were having on WP. This is harassment. Please do something." will provoke questions like "Did you ask them to stop, or say no? If so, did they persist? Was the message threatening or abusive?" Unsolicited and even unwanted contact is not necessarily harassment and I strongly believe we should not have a policy that says otherwise. In my view, that opens up an undesirable interpretation that we use the term "harassment" for behaviours that are not, and in so doing we diminish the seriousness of unarguable harassment.
    • @Ryk72: I certainly agree that moving forward on workshopping any policy change is desirable. I appreciate your apology, though I do encourage you to reflect on the absolute nature of your position. I accept that you hold the view that I am incorrect and I have no problem with disagreement. However, I don't see the need to declare that all who disagree with you must be misguided, misinformed, misaligned, or malicious. From my perspective, it is you who are mistaken in overstating that intent is immaterial; how the call is received is immaterial - it is an act of harassment. In the specific case at issue, if Jytdog had persisted after being told that Beall4 did not wish to speak to him, that would have moved into harassment territory. As far as we know, what he did was to identify himself and request permission to have a discussion, and to continue only once that permission was granted. He should have waited for permission from his user talk page post, no question, but failing to do so does not (in my view) automatically move his actions into the category of harassment. If you consider my comment above to TonyBallioni, or a single unsolicited call from a telemarketer that was polite and ended when I stated that I was not interested, I hope you can see that alleging that it was harassment is diminishing the experiences people who are subjected to harassment within the more usual meaning of that term.
    • @Ivanvector: Thanks for your changes, they are definitely positive improvements. I am concerned, however, by changing "strongly discouraged" to "prohibited" in using undisclosed information to initiate contact without gaining explicit permission (such as by asking at a user's talk page) is prohibited. I keep thinking of the comment from Doc James about receiving such a call and having no problem with it, and I do believe that others may be similarly accepting of a polite phone call or other contact. On what grounds do we as Wikipedians have the right to prohibit a behaviour that is not experienced as harassment or seen as problematic by the recipient by declaring it to be harassment? Regarding "consequences", if you mean at the end of the second paragraph, I agree that it is not necessary, though I do wonder if moving As is the case with on-wiki harassment, off-wiki harassment can be grounds for blocking, and in extreme cases, banning. Off-wiki privacy violations shall be dealt with particularly severely. to be a separate third paragraph might be appropriate. If you mean the mention of "off-wiki consequences" in the first paragraph, I was alluding to the fact that harassing phone calls can lead to police action and to legal consequences. Perhaps that is inelegantly worded or unclear, but I do think that possibility is worth a mention in some form.
Again, thanks to all who have commented. EdChem (talk) 22:42, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
  • I am not commenting about the case that gave rise to it, which I will do on the arb com page, but I consider it false that "if a Wikipedia editor makes unsolicited phone calls to another editor on a phone number that they have not explicitly provided on Wiki, it is an act of harassment - intent is immaterial; how the call is received is immaterial - it is an act of harassment. " As several people have pointed out, in situations involving schools and universities, this sort of call is not usually considered harassment (depending of course on what is said), and a number of us have regularly or occasionally done this, including myself. There are other situations also. Someone who is openly editing as a PR representative even if they do not give their phone number expects to get phone calls--it's part of their job. Someone editing openly from a business even if they do not give their phone calls expects to deal with people on the telephone. In none of these three cases would any of these people expect to get a email first. It's different of course for private individuals, or people being semi-anonymous. It's different for people editing about personal maters fro ma business address, even if they happen to have given their phone number. Some of it is generational--to people my age, a phone call, not a email , is the expected initial contact, and if we can deal with something over the phone, we do so. WP is somewhat of a special situation, since the expectation of privacy here is greater than almost anywhere else in the world --perhaps unrealistically so, but still, it's good that we maintain the principle, just like it's good that we maintain the principle of respecting copyright more than almost anywhere else. There are virtues in different channels. For almost everything here, I prefer email or postings, because I want to be exact , and I can revise them before I send them. But to explain a nuance or a misunderstanding, phone or in person is better.
We have a tendency to try to find bright line rules; I consider that almost always an error, for circumstances vary. There's a illusion that treating everything the same way makes for fairness--it is in my experience sometimes excuse for being oppressive and over-bearing.. We are humans dealing with humans,and are expected to make use of judgement. the pretended virtue of bright line rules is that it saves thinking; I consider that the opposite of a virtue. DGG ( talk ) 06:30, 29 November 2018 (UTC)
Hello DGG, could you please help me to understand your comments above: when you say "openly editing from a business address" does that include someone posting "hey, I work for Major ISP Company, and this is wrong" on the talk page of the article for the employer? Is it okay to try to contact by phone a person who claims to be the subject of a BLP? (I'm going to hope you don't find that okay.) What about someone claiming to represent the subject of a BLP? How much digging for personal information is allowed? And under what circumstances do you think it is okay to call schools or universities? (I've been around a long time, and can't really think of an example for this.)
What I am thinking here is that it's not really okay for people to be calling someone who posts on Wikipedia without explicit ("here's my phone number") or implicit (phone number is posted on userpage) permission. I think it would make it infinitely easier for trolls and people looking for paid editing jobs to simply say "hi, I'm Joe from Wikipedia, here's what I can do for you" or something like that. I think we're opening ourselves up to some really serious harm to our reputation if we tell our editors it's just fine to call the PR company that's trying to get an article onto Wikipedia. For years and years, OTRS responders have been saying "no, it was probably someone scamming you" if they're asked about someone calling and saying they're from Wikipedia. There's a lot of value in that. There's a reason that the phone calls to police departments come from the WMF Trust & Safety Department, whose staff identities can be verified. Risker (talk) 07:33, 29 November 2018 (UTC)
We all seem to agree that "onerous" is the wrong word but I contend that "odious" is also the wrong word. It is a highly judgmental word with very heavy and emotive negative connotations. I suggest something like "unacceptable" instead. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 07:46, 29 November 2018 (UTC)
  • @DGG: The statement discussed is mine, and so I should answer for it. I thank you kindly for your considered words, as I thank EdChem and any other editors who have commented on the statement; the input is deeply appreciated. My statement is that if a Wikipedia editor makes unsolicited phone calls to another editor on a phone number that they have not explicitly provided on Wiki, it is an act of harassment - intent is immaterial; how the call is received is immaterial - it is an act of harassment. Comparing the statement to the various scenarios in which a phone call might reasonably be considered acceptable - those above, and those mentioned elsewhere - many are explicitly not covered by that statement. I believe that I have chosen my words carefully to achieve their intent.
    Stepping through some of them:
    a) A telemarketer, in their capacity as a telemarketer, cold calling a prospective customer is not a Wikipedia editor, and not covered. (They belong to the De'il and well may he take them).
    b) Situations involving schools & universities outside Wikipedia are not "a Wikipedia editor", and not covered - I accept statements that cold calls are acceptable in academic circles at face value, but what might be acceptable in one industry is not necessarily acceptable in another; not should we here be constrained by or beholden to what is acceptable to a subset of our community.
    c) For situations involving professorial staff being cold called in their capacity as Wikipedia editors to be known to be acceptable (on the basis that they are academics and that this behaviour is universally acceptable in academic circles) must involve them having identified themselves as individuals and as professorial staff and have provided sufficient details for them to be contacted - Name, School, Position, etc. That might be considered to provide an implied solicitation to be contacted; but explicit confirmation should still be sought, particularly, but not only, in situations where there has been an on-Wiki dispute. (I apologise if the wording there is strained, I hope the meaning is clear).
    d) For situations involving undergraduate students being cold called in their capacity as ... oh dear, no! just no!.
    e) Situations involving PR representatives being cold called in their capacity as Wikipedia editors require them having identified themselves as such and having provided sufficient details to be contacted and ... there may be some suggestion of an implied solicitation of contact, but explicit confirmation should still be sought, particularly (but not only) in situations where there has been an on-Wiki dispute.
    f) ... openly editing from a business ... identified themselves and provided sufficient details ... but explicit confirmation should still be sought, particularly (but not only) in situations where there has been an on-Wiki dispute.
    y) Wikipedia editors receiving email through the Email this user function do provide an implied solicitation of contact through that means.
    z) Wikipedia editors identifying themselves as such on other forums or social media ... implied solicitation of contact through that means (though social media may be a grey area for some. I note particularly the comments of TonyBallioni, above; those comments resonate. I do not (as yet) identify myself as Wikipedia editor Ryk72 on any other social media or forums, and would not expect to be contacted elsewhere about my activities here).
    I'll also draw some distinctions: Wikipedia is not the general world. Phone calls are indeed entirely reasonable ways of making even first contact in the real world. On Wikipedia we are already engaged in communication, using a medium for which there is implied consent (Wikipedia itself). It costs very little to use that communication medium to request or offer movement of a dialogue to an alternative medium, including phone calls, and to wait for affirmative consent. It doesn't require emails. It only takes a Talk page post, like this.
    It is a matter of having done the due diligence to ensure that a phone call is an acceptable means of communication. Without that due diligence, the cat is still in it's box, and we must assume that its state is "irate". This really is a case of needing to seek out affirmative consent; and it is incredibly low cost to do so.
    Again, I thank you for your thoughtful comments, and for the opportunity to clarify my intent. I also thank Risker for the comment above. I did have something slightly different drafted, but on reflection find full agreement with her.
    Finally, my statement does not seek to draw a bright line, but to find a place at which we make the incision whereby all of that which is antithetical to the good working and good name of this community is excised. We cannot do otherwise.
    While my intent is to be forthright on this matter, if it helps when reading to mentally wrap the statement in a "my opinion is" wrapper, then editors should feel free to do so. - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 08:52, 29 November 2018 (UTC) - reping Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 09:50, 29 November 2018 (UTC)
I would agree with most of your comments--I'll reply in more detail when I have time later today or tomorrow. But I want to say now that in (b), the school instructors in the educational courses are usually at least technically WP editors. And sometimes these course instructors are in fact undergraduate students acting as undergraduate teaching assistants. DGG ( talk ) 17:08, 29 November 2018 (UTC)
  • Outreach observations
Experienced editors may not appreciate how difficult communication on Wikipedia is for a new editor. New editors are commonly shown how to use the visual editor but talk pages use the markup editor where features such as indents, pings and sigs are not obvious. Getting a user page organised with userboxes and other personal details also takes some time and experience as the interface provides no template or wizard to help with this – just a blank page. I am aware of these issues because I am often interacting with new editors at outreach events such as editathons.
For example, I helped recently at an event. This was ticketed using Eventbrite and there was related activity on social media such as Twitter – both of these are standard for such events in my experience. After the event, one of the new editors contacted me by direct message on Twitter because they "couldn't work out how to reply to you on Wiki". My Twitter account is not listed in my Wikipedia profile but there should be no question of sanctioning or scolding someone for contacting me in such circumstances. It is our policy that Wikipedia is not social media and so editors will naturally tend to use other tools to communicate and collaborate. Organisers of such events commonly suggest a hashtag and get the participants to use a collaborative tool such as Etherpad or an Outreach dashboard. We should not obstruct such activity with a presumption that editors must only use Wikipedia and email.
As another example, an author recently contacted me by email to ask permission to use a picture that I had taken and uploaded. I advised them that they didn't need permission and also advised them that there was a Wikimedian-in-Residence at their institution, who could help them with such issues. I provided contact details to put them in touch with each other and that all seemed fine.
As a third example, I attended the AGM for Wikimedia UK this year and spent some time chatting with a couple of other members after the event. We exchanged business cards and these naturally included a variety of contact details, including phone numbers. This information is not on our Wikipedia profile or page, nor should we expect it to be. The similar monthly London meetup is coming up soon – notice that that is organised on Meta, not Wikipedia.
So, our harassment policy should allow for the fact that editors may meet or communicate outside of Wikipedia and that this is not automatically creepy or unpleasant. Phrasing such as "off-site" should not be used in a narrow, restrictive way to prevent natural and normal communication by other means.
Andrew D. (talk) 10:47, 29 November 2018 (UTC)
@Andrew Davidson: in many of those scenarios, the people being contacted have explicitly given the other person their contact information (e.g. exchanging business cards) and/or have made that information public (by connecting their twitter username, wikipedia username and real-life identity). If you publicly state that you are attending a wikimeet you are implicitly giving people permission to talk to you face to face at that meetup about your editing. Nobody is suggesting that harassment occurs if you contact someone with their permission. Thryduulf (talk) 20:13, 29 November 2018 (UTC)
The proposed text addition would forbid "contacting another editor off-site using contact information that they have not made available on-site...". The examples describe such situations and so demonstrate that the proposed text is unreasonable. Andrew D. (talk) 22:32, 29 November 2018 (UTC)
  • I will reiterate my comments at ARC and state that contacting another Wikipedia editor via off-wiki means without their consent (a means in which they have not provided on Wikipedia) is a serious issue. We have a communication method here on Wikipedia. If they do not respond then it stops there. If editors are disruptive, we have a means of recourse such as reverting, warnings, and blocking. Wikipedia editors should be able to come to Wikipedia and edit its content without fearing the possibility that they will be contacted in-person, by phone, or other means. While other professions or institutions are different and contact information is usually published accordingly, there are still rules that define what constitutes appropriate communication. In most cases, contacting them through other means they have not provided is inappropriate, such as home phone numbers. Harassment can be perceived or actual, and regardless of Wikipedia policy, anyone who inappropriately contacts another person could be subject to much greater repercussions than breaking Wikipedia rules. Mediawiki's Code of Conduct defines some forms of harassment: "Inappropriate or unwanted public or private communication, following, or any form of stalking." I recommend we consider something similar. Mkdw talk 21:29, 29 November 2018 (UTC)
  • Every time there's a bit of one-off drama here, there's always this reactionary attempt to massively overcorrect, usually by means of zweihänder when a scalpel is all that is needed. Attempts to draw a hard line and define off-wiki communication attempts as "particularly odious harassment", or stating that "intent is immaterial; how the call is received is immaterial" are ridiculous, 'harassment' is not just some black and white concept that can be defined with blanket statements, and intent and context is always relevant and needs to be carefully examined in each individual case. For example, a good faith, if unwanted, outreach attempt to someone who has disclosed their identity is entirely different from contacting someone off-wiki to maliciously antagonize them, just because they slipped up and accidentally self-outed one time. Both incidents are inappropriate, but it's ridiculous to attempt to unambiguously equate them. The wording should take a moderate, neutral, generalized approach in discouraging unsolicited forms of off-wiki communication. There is no need to pre-emptively define any potential scenario with blanket statements.  Swarm  talk  22:03, 29 November 2018 (UTC)
  • I agree. The elephant in the room is the arbcom case. That's a total one-off, and apparently not an isolated event by any means. We can't "legislate" for very possible event or close "loopholes" in these policies. Policies are not legislation. Common sense also applies. So does competence. I agree that off-wiki communications can be terrible, and there are also circumstances I guess in which maybe they aren't so terrible. Why not simply acknowledge in this policy that the acts we are describing are not exhaustive? The very fact that we are here buys into the argument I have seen that something not being in this policy is a green light to do it, and that is bogus. This policy is fine as is. We can't "legislate" to deal with the possible future acts of editors who are intent on being harassers. Coretheapple (talk) 14:51, 30 November 2018 (UTC)
  • Although I agree to some extent with both statements above, that we should not try to get overly precise or proceed too quickly, I also think recent events here do indicate some guideline and policy that may need supplementation or revision. The nature of harassment is better understood now than in the past, and there is a greater realization of the susceptibility to harassment, Over the period of time in which WP has existed there has been a considerable and desirable change in standards in society generally and on the internet in particular. Many of us are aware of things we might have thoughtlessly done 15 years ago that we would never do today. Thee has also been a long overdue and very desirable change in the makeup of the WP community, to include a much wider range of people and backgrounds than that most prominent at the very beginning. More specifically, as a starting point I certainly endorse Mkdw's proposed sentence above. There are of course additional things we will need to consider. DGG ( talk ) 20:15, 30 November 2018 (UTC)
  • I agree that the wording Mkdw put in red would be a perfectly OK bit of tinkering, and is in line with what I suggested earlier about the conduct listed in the policy not being exhaustive. It's not necessary, as we are all adults and know or should know what "harass" means, but certainly not a problem to add. As long it's understood in the arbcom case that this is not done because phoning people out of the blue was fine and no longer is. It was never acceptable and was always harassment and always will be. Coretheapple (talk) 01:44, 1 December 2018 (UTC)
  • Endorse inclusion of Mkdw's red highlighted text. Do we also need a Harassment may include, but is not limited to, the following: or Examples include but are not limited to: (from mw.CoC) at the end of the first section of Harassment and disruption? - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 02:07, 1 December 2018 (UTC)

Section break: suggested revisionEdit

I've been quietly watching this discussion for a while in order to get a feel for what other editors are thinking (and I'm quite past onerous, odious, odorous, and the rest). I'd like to suggest another draft, in which I'm trying to take into account all of the comments above, and in which I'm trying to keep the wording brief, rather than overly prescriptive. For comparison, the existing wording is on the left, and my proposed wording is on the right:

WP:OWH, current language:

Harassment of other Wikipedians in forums not controlled by the Wikimedia Foundation creates doubt as to whether an editor's on-wiki actions are conducted in good faith. Off-wiki harassment will be regarded as an aggravating factor by administrators and is admissible evidence in the dispute-resolution process, including Arbitration cases. In some cases, the evidence will be submitted by private email. As is the case with on-wiki harassment, off-wiki harassment can be grounds for blocking, and in extreme cases, banning. Off-wiki privacy violations shall be dealt with particularly severely.

Harassment of other Wikipedians through the use of external links is considered equivalent to the posting of personal attacks on Wikipedia.

Suggested new language:

Inappropriate or unwanted public or private communication, following, or any form of stalking, violates the harassment policy. Off-wiki harassment, including through the use of external links, will be regarded as an aggravating factor by administrators and is admissible evidence in the dispute-resolution process, including Arbitration cases. In some cases, evidence should be submitted by private email. As is the case with on-wiki harassment, off-wiki harassment can be grounds for blocking, and in extreme cases, banning.

If an editor wishes private contact with another editor, emailing through the Wikipedia interface, when enabled, is the preferred method. Private contact is also acceptable when using other contact information posted by an editor on-site, when invited by an editor, or as part of organized projects such as educational, outreach, or meet-up projects. Contacting a user through information not posted by them on-site, without first obtaining explicit permission, is likely to be unwelcome, and even to be perceived as threatening. Users who are contacted through inappropriate means should report occurrences privately to the Arbitration Committee or Wikipedia:Emergency.

--Tryptofish (talk) 18:27, 1 December 2018 (UTC)

  • The current policy says "As is the case with on-wiki harassment, off-wiki harassment can be grounds for blocking, and in extreme cases, banning." Isn't that enough? Why do we need new language? People know what harassment is. If they don't, if they have a problem in that area, they shouldn't be editing. Coretheapple (talk) 23:02, 1 December 2018 (UTC)
I guess that depends on whether or not we, collectively, want to make any revisions at all. As I read the sentence that you quote, it means that any kind of on-wiki harassment that is described elsewhere in the policy is also forbidden off-site. Since there is no way to place a telephone call using the Wikipedia editing interface, I suppose that means that phone calls are never considered to be off-wiki harassment. And we should also delete the existing language about external links. And we should also stubify the policy page to just say "Never harass anyone", because, after all, anyone who doesn't understand that must be a slobbering idiot. Now obviously I'm being sarcastic there, and I want to hasten to add that I don't mean it personally. But I'm making a serious point that sometimes it is not instruction creep to clarify some things, because even if they are obvious to you and me, they are in fact not obvious to someone else who isn't clueless. See also WP:LAZYLAZY. --Tryptofish (talk) 15:16, 2 December 2018 (UTC)
If we add the language in red quoted above prohibiting "Inappropriate or unwanted public or private communication, following, or any form of stalking" and add before the list of examples (see text in green above) "Harassment may include, but is not limited to, the following:" or "Examples include but are not limited to:" we'll probably be OK and accomplish the same objective. Coretheapple (talk) 17:08, 2 December 2018 (UTC)
That "red" language is right at the beginning, and I think it's more to-the-point than what we have now. Do you object to telling victims whom they should contact? --Tryptofish (talk) 19:23, 2 December 2018 (UTC)
"Intimidation" is specifically prohibited by this policy. I just think we're dealing with an extreme situation by filling a loophole that isn't there. Some editors like to intimidate; it's their style. You can write a policy as long as the Magna Carta and they'll still find a way to do it. As for "whom to contact," we already have a "dealing with harassment" section. Coretheapple (talk) 05:35, 3 December 2018 (UTC)
I think we have each expressed ourselves, and it would be best if I not try to go around in circles with you over it. Given that many editors were just recently saying that they were in favor of some sort of addition, I hope to hear what other editors think. --Tryptofish (talk) 15:12, 3 December 2018 (UTC)

The concerns raised are serious and should be addressed, but we should be careful about the wording. As others have said, unsolicited offsite contact isn't necessarily a terrible thing. Although I can't see when it'd be appropriate for an editing dispute, I can imagine times where it might be appropriate to contact, for example, a photographer who uploads a JPEG in order to request the RAW file, or an academic who cites his paper in an edit, in order to request access to that paper. Benjamin (talk) 22:22, 4 December 2018 (UTC)

I think the determining factor there is less about being unsolicited, than about using non-posted contact information. In other words, it's fine to contact that photographer or academic using the email interface, but tracking down their contact information that they did not post here should be against policy.
Also, it looks to me like this discussion has been quiet for a while, and I hope that we can resume the discussion. I think that the individual case about Jytdog is now in the rear-view mirror, and I would hope that editors feel a bit more distance in order to consider these proposals as the general case. Perhaps some editors who have been angry at Jytdog can look at this without being influenced by their opinion of him. And quite a few editors expressed strong support for a revision earlier on, and I cannot tell whether they have changed their minds and now oppose it, or whether there just needs to be a reboot of this discussion. If nothing else, it increasingly seems to me that the existing wording is pretty bad ("creates doubt as to whether an editor's on-wiki actions are conducted in good faith": that's hardly the issue here!), and I hope that we can make that better. --Tryptofish (talk) 23:29, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
No, I think using off wiki contact information can be okay sometimes, as in the examples I mentioned. The determining factor would be if that contact information was meant to be public. Benjamin (talk) 00:18, 11 December 2018 (UTC)
We need a clear policy that the use of contact info that was not meant to be public is prohibited, and no, having your number in the phonebook does not count as "meant to be public". Tornado chaser (talk) 00:23, 11 December 2018 (UTC)
I agree strongly with Tornado chaser that editors should not be making subjective judgments that something was "meant to be public": either it's been posted on-wiki or otherwise voluntarily communicated here, or it's off-limits. And the very fact of these comments seems to me to prove that this is not something that is self-evident to everyone, and that we need to revise the policy page to make it clear. --Tryptofish (talk) 00:35, 11 December 2018 (UTC)
There's a pretty significant difference between, say, a personal phone number found in a phone book and an institutional one found in a paper. Benjamin (talk) 15:02, 17 December 2018 (UTC)
@Benjaminikuta: There is, but those are two ends of a spectrum with no clear break - even institutional numbers are not a single thing (e.g. someone may have a number that gets through directly and another that goes via a secretary). How you found the paper also matters - if the paper is linked on their userpage that is very different to if you took three or four steps to find it. Thryduulf (talk) 01:02, 18 December 2018 (UTC)
@Thryduulf: Exactly, that's why we need to be careful not to make policy that's overly broad or absolute. The purpose of contact matters as well; contacting someone for research or copyright purposes, for instance, is probably going to be a bit more acceptable than contacting them to continue a dispute. Benjamin (talk) 01:27, 18 December 2018 (UTC)
No the purpose doens't matter. Contacting someone using a means they have not provided or linked on-wiki and/or have not explicitly invited is not acceptable, regardless of why you are doing it. If you want to contact someone, ask them first using a method they have made available on-wiki. The policy needs to be absolute because otherwise it relies on editors making their own subjective judgement about what is and is not acceptable, and recent history has shown that not everybody can be trusted to get that right. Thryduulf (talk) 10:06, 18 December 2018 (UTC)
That is not true. There most certainly are times where it's appropriate. For example, Wikipedia:WikiProject Resource Exchange/Resource Request says: "Tips for finding a source yourself: Send a request to the author(s) of research papers for a copy of their paper by email". Benjamin (talk) 11:29, 18 December 2018 (UTC)
If you don't understand the difference between contacting a Wikipedia editor off-wiki using means they have not disclosed on wiki and contacting a research paper author who is not a Wikipedian using contact methods made public in that paper/by their institution then you are the exact reason why we need an absolute policy. Thryduulf (talk) 18:16, 18 December 2018 (UTC)
It could happen that someone contacts an author who is a Wikipedian using contact methods made public in a paper. Would you consider that inappropriate? Bear in mind that the names used are not necessarily the same, but might be. · · · Peter (Southwood) (talk): 19:48, 18 December 2018 (UTC)
@Thryduulf: I'm a bit offended you think I'd know no better than to harass someone. But to the point, that's quite the opposite of what I said: there IS a difference between those two types of interaction, one is okay, and one is not, and policy should reflect that. Benjamin (talk) 00:11, 19 December 2018 (UTC)
I think this is an interesting issue, and I've been trying to work out how I would address it. I think it boils down to the fact that there should be, and is, nothing in Wikipedia policy that forbids editors from contacting people outside Wikipedia to get information about potential content. So if I'm working on a page about "X" and I contact someone who is an expert on "X", that has nothing to do with the harassment policy. For the interesting special case where that expert also happens to be a Wikipedia editor, it depends on whether or not the expert is being contacted simply like any other expert, or by way of their identity as an editor here. So if I have no idea that the expert on "X" is also an editor who does not indicate here that they are that person in real life, I'm not harassing anybody. Or, if the expert/editor provides their identity and contact information on-site, I'm free to contact them that way. But I should get their permission in advance if I want to use contact information that they did not provide here, once I know that they are an editor. It does not matter whether the information not provided here comes from the phone book or from their university website: if it is not provided on-wiki, I cannot use it without prior permission, even if their identity is provided here. (Note: this means that the expert I could contact about content without any issue of harassing them acquires the right not to be contacted that way when they become an editor.) But let's say that I have some reason to believe that the editor is also the expert, but they do not explicitly say so on-site. If I'm just inferring it, or if I figure it out by doing some research that reveals something, anything, not posted on-site, any private contact I make that involves or refers to their editing here is a violation, but that's because they are an editor who has chosen not to provide their personal information. What that boils down to is that editors who are also experts have the same privacy rights as every other editor, and so the policy is the same, regardless of whether the editor is or is not an expert. --Tryptofish (talk) 02:58, 19 December 2018 (UTC)
I agree with Tryptofish. I think this can be summed up with a note saying that this part of the policy applies when you are contacting a person you know or reasonably suspect to be a Wikipedia editor. It does not apply if you don't know the person is a Wikipedia editor, and it doesn't apply if the contact is completely unrelated to Wikipedia. e.g. if I was employed by an organisation unrelated to Wikipedia in a role that required me to contact somebody I knew to be a Wikipedia editor about something unrelated to Wikipedia then this policy would not apply. Although I realise having read what I've just written that this is not perfectly worded as it could be seen as allowing editor A to seek out editor B's contact details that they haven't provided on-wiki to contact them about something unrelated to Wikipedia but which would still be perceived as harassing/stalking (in exactly the same way it would be if A learned of B's existence in a bar rather than on Wikipedia). It's also not a license to harass non-editors. Thryduulf (talk) 14:21, 19 December 2018 (UTC)
Thanks. I think it could be useful to add a note along those lines, and I'd like to examine how we might word it. My suggested revision at the top of this sub-section says: "Contacting a user through information not posted by them on-site, without first obtaining explicit permission, is likely to be unwelcome, and even to be perceived as threatening." We have a consensus to revise that to: "Contacting an editor using information not posted by them on-site, without first obtaining explicit permission, is likely to be unwelcome, and even to be perceived as threatening." I'm thinking that, first, we could revise that sentence further, to: "Contacting an editor using any information not posted by them on-site, without first obtaining explicit permission, is likely to be unwelcome, and even to be perceived as threatening." Then, second, add the following at the end of the first paragraph: This part of the policy applies to all editors and all contact with persons reasonably believed to be editors. I'm not sure if that covers enough, or covers too much. Thoughts? --Tryptofish (talk) 21:06, 19 December 2018 (UTC)
My fear is that will be interpreted as covering too much, per my comments about contacting people we know/believe to be editors when we are not acting as an editor. For example my userpage discloses my real name and the area of London where I live, but does not disclose my mobile phone number. Suppose I provide my real name, address and phone number to XYZ Ltd when making a complaint about their product. User:Example is a Wikipedia editor who works for XYZ Ltd and is the person whose job it is to contact me about my complaint. It would be perfectly reasonable for User:Example to suspect that the person they need to contact is also a Wikipedia editor, particularly if they are familiar with my writing style. It is not harassment for User:Example to contact me about my complaint using the information I provided to XYZ Ltd but not on-wiki nor to them personally, even if we are presently engaged in a heated on-wiki dispute. It would however be harassment under this policy (and hopefully also contrary to XYZ Ltd's policies) for them to use that information to contact me about my (or their) editing on Wikipedia, whether we are in a dispute or not, without my prior permission. I don't know how to make this anything close to succinct though. Thryduulf (talk) 22:31, 19 December 2018 (UTC)
I agree. I do want to add the word "any" where I indicated, but I'm ambivalent about the rest. I'm starting to suspect that this may be a case of less is more, and we should consider it implicit that this policy, like all polices, applies to all editors and to no one outside of WP, and that it goes without saying. On the other hand, the discussion here does seem to suggest that something more needs to be clarified, but I don't know how. If anyone watching here can suggest something, that would be very helpful. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:49, 19 December 2018 (UTC)
OK, I thought of something. The first sentence of the proposed revision is from the sentence that Mkdw suggested, and currently says: Inappropriate or unwanted public or private communication, following, or any form of stalking, violates the harassment policy. Perhaps we could add: "Inappropriate or unwanted public or private communication, following, or any form of stalking, when directed at another editor, violates the harassment policy." It's pretty much a common sense addition that does not really change anything substantive, but it makes it clear that we are talking about harassment of editors as opposed to what WP:HNE says (and HNE is sufficient to deal with what applies to non-editors). --Tryptofish (talk) 22:55, 19 December 2018 (UTC)
@Ivanvector: @Thryduulf: @Bd2412: @Ryk72: @MrX: @EdChem: @Mkdw: I hope this doesn't seem spammy, and I also hope it doesn't come across as canvassing, but I'm pinging each of you because your comments above seem to me to indicate that, at the time of those comments, you were significantly interested in making some sort of revision here. I'm not sure where we now stand, in terms of the discussion having gone quiet. What do you think? Thanks. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:24, 15 December 2018 (UTC)
I'm in favour of the suggested revision above, although I'd tweak "Contacting a user through information not posted by them on-site," to "Contacting an editor using information..." this is just stylistic and shouldn't get in the way of making a change. Thryduulf (talk) 21:49, 15 December 2018 (UTC)
Thanks for the ping and all your work on this. I hadn't forgotten but was finding the discussion aggravating and so felt it best to leave it in capable hands. Yes, I support the suggested new wording with Thryduulf's stylistic change, and also for reasons of style I suggest changing Wikipedia:Emergency to "the emergency response team." (same link, but flows better with "the Arbitration Committee") Ivanvector (Talk/Edits) 14:26, 17 December 2018 (UTC)
I agree with that suggestion as well. Thryduulf (talk) 00:54, 18 December 2018 (UTC)

Sorry Tryptofish for the delay in responding. It has been a busy week! I have not been following the conversation closely, but has the community been opposed to prohibiting off-wiki contract when not consented to by the individual outside of Wikipedia-related events and programs? If not, I would suggest the following (or some variant) for the second paragraph:

Appropriate forms of private communication include: Wikipedia's email interface when enabled; any method of communication an individual has publicly posted on Wikipedia for the express purpose of private communication; or when an individual has received express permission and contact information from the other person. Contacting another editor through off-wiki means without their express permission may constitute as harassment and even be perceived as a threat to their safety and well-being. Participants during Wikipedia-related events and programs may be subject to other prevailing guidelines and policies regarding consent, such as the Wikimedia Foundation friendly space policy. Users who are contacted through inappropriate means should report occurrences privately to the Arbitration Committee or emergency response team.

Mkdw talk 05:53, 18 December 2018 (UTC)

"may constitute as harassment" Or might be completely fine, depending on the situation. It should be clarified. Benjamin (talk) 07:56, 18 December 2018 (UTC)
I think this would be really good with a few changes to clarify thing:
Appropriate forms of private communication include: Wikipedia's email interface when enabled; any method of communication an individual has publicly posted on Wikipedia for the express purpose of private communication; or when an individual has received express permission and contact information from the other person. Contacting another editor through off-wiki means without their express permission is prohibited as it may constitute as harassment and even be perceived as a threat to their the safety and well-being of the person being contacted. Participants during Wikipedia-related events and programs may be subject to other prevailing guidelines and policies regarding consent, such as the Wikimedia Foundation friendly space policy. Users who are contacted through inappropriate means should report occurrences privately to the Arbitration Committee or emergency response team.

Tornado chaser (talk) 15:10, 18 December 2018 (UTC)

Thanks everyone who has been responding. I agree with what Thryduulf and Ivanvector have suggested. But I'm somewhere between ambivalent and uncomfortable with what Mkdw has proposed. The most substantive change that it involves is the way that it addresses things like educational, outreach, or meet-up projects, and it seems to me to go in the wrong direction there, per earlier discussion about outreach, above. It seems to add additional restrictions on top of the policy here. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:18, 18 December 2018 (UTC)
@Tryptofish: I am unclear about what additional restrictions you are concerned about. If you are attending an event that has its own code of conduct, terms of use, or friendly space policy, you are already subject to those policies. If an outreach program has its own policy that prohibits any private unauthorized communication then that policy prevails over Wikipedia policy. We do have the authority to say private contact is acceptable in that situation. That is up to the organizers and stating so here may directly contradict a local event policy. I specifically omitted wording that definitively prohibits private contact because we cannot account for every situation in the real-world. Mkdw talk 19:56, 18 December 2018 (UTC)
I suspect that we are each misunderstanding the other. Where you refer to the WMF Friendly Space policy, it sounds like you are saying that it applies in addition to the en-wiki harassment policy. So it would be like editors here are always subject to the harassment policy, and additionally become subject to the friendly space policy when they get involved with certain organized activities. I'm not seeing what that would accomplish, since WMF terms of use always apply here (but I would not mind having a see also going to the friendly space page). If you scroll up a bit above the section break, to where it says "Outreach observations", there is discussion about how there are certain programs in which some types of off-wiki communication within an organized structure is acceptable, that would not be acceptable if an individual editor seeks out another editor's private information. And, more broadly, I'm just not seeing what it is about the second paragraph that you are trying to correct. Is that clearer? --Tryptofish (talk) 20:16, 18 December 2018 (UTC)
Yes, we're not understanding each other. Plainly, the sentence, "or as part of organized projects such as educational, outreach, or meet-up projects" should be removed. The other changes were for clarity, grammar, and putting it in a more formal language setting. Mkdw talk 00:22, 29 December 2018 (UTC)
I don't in fact understand. Why should that sentence be removed? (Again, please take a look at the comments above, starting at "Outreach observations", before replying.) Thanks. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:56, 29 December 2018 (UTC)
(PS. To other editors: the very fact of the two of us not understanding things the same way should serve as another demonstration of why a revision is needed, and why the existing language is insufficient. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:58, 29 December 2018 (UTC))
I read the concerns about outreach when I first wrote my proposal and I already explained above the issue with this wording. I have provided a more detailed explained at User talk:Tryptofish#Harassment amendment. Mkdw talk 01:20, 30 December 2018 (UTC)

My apologies for coming very late to this discussion. I want to add my voice to those above saying that off-wiki contact, using details not posted on-wiki, is not necessarily harassment and insisting that it is cheapens harassment and plays down some terrible experiences.

I have very occasionally (twice, perhaps?) contacted other editors by phone. This has happened in the course of patrolling UAA where a new editor claims to represent a public institution (museum or library). I've blocked the account for violating the policy on usernames that imply shared use, dropped the appropriate template on their TP but also made what I consider a courtesy a phone call to the reception desk of the institution, asking to speak to whoever handles their Wikipedia presence to explain the problem and what they need to do to fix it. In every case, the call has been welcome and appreciated. Is this harassment? I certainly don't think so, but by some definitions floating around here it would be.

I think some of the disagreements are helpfully clarified by Tornado Chaser's proposed edit above; some proposals here seek to ban all off-wiki contact without prior affirmative consent, not because that is always harassment but because it may constitute harassment or may be perceived as harassment. Imposing a blanket ban, and so losing the benefit of examples above of helpful and welcome off-site contact in order to prevent other inappropriate cases, may be a reasonable thing to do (I'm in two minds) especially given the difficulty we have articulating when such contact is and isn't harassing. But we should be explicit that we are casting the net wide, and prohibiting some unproblematic situations in order to protect people from harassment, rather than simply broadening our definition of harassment to the point where it is nearly meaningless. GoldenRing (talk) 03:17, 30 December 2018 (UTC)

The key thing about those examples, as I see it, is that if someone claims, on-wiki, to be representing an organisation then they are effectively disclosing that they can be contacted through that organisation. Stopping that contact is not the aim of this change nor do I see it being affected by the recently proposed versions either. Thryduulf (talk) 21:31, 30 December 2018 (UTC)
(EC) I appreciate that that is how you see it, but I'm seeing a number of others here who don't see it that way. Eg. Tryptofish above, "tracking down their contact information that they did not post here should be against policy." My example above would breach such a policy, because I googled the organisation to find a phone number for them. Ryk72 takes this even further with "if a Wikipedia editor makes unsolicited phone calls to another editor on a phone number that they have not explicitly provided on Wiki, it is an act of harassment - intent is immaterial; how the call is received is immaterial - it is an act of harassment."
Mkdw's proposed text above is problematic for me because it defines harassment in part as "unwanted contact." How is an editor to know whether contact is welcome until it has been attempted? There seems to be general agreement that finding an editor's personal phone number and using it is unacceptable, but it isn't obvious to me that such cases would always fall under "inappropriate" or "unwanted"; this seems to me to be a case of banning a wide range of contact in order to prevent the fraction that is actually a problem. As I said above, this may well be a reasonable trade-off, but we should not seek to justify it by pretending that every such case is harassment. GoldenRing (talk) 22:27, 30 December 2018 (UTC)
You make a good point about what you quoted me as saying. And I actually did not intend it to apply to what you described. I would very much welcome ideas about how to put this into policy language, since we certainly have a lot of illustrations of how not to say it. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:54, 30 December 2018 (UTC)
That distinction, between "is always" and really-is-not-always, is on my mind too. And it's difficult to put it into precise language. I'll repeat what Mkdw pointed out above, that there is a parallel discussion going on at User talk:Tryptofish#Harassment amendment. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:14, 30 December 2018 (UTC)

Things that are (not) always unacceptableEdit

Following on from comments by Tryptofish, Mkdw and GoldenRing (among others) above it may help if we work out some examples of what we see as always unacceptable, and some examples of what is (sometimes) acceptable and work out if there is an easily expressed way of determining what puts something in one category or another:
Things that are always unacceptable without explicit advance permission:

  • Contacting an editor off-wiki regarding an on-wiki dispute you and they are both involved in - doubly so if contact is by phone - an order of magnitude more so if contact is in person. If unsolicited contact with an editor is necessary it is almost always going to be better if this is initiated by an editor who is not, and has not recently been, involved in any dispute with the editor being contacted.
  • Intentionally contacting an editor in person, other than at an event you and they are both attending.
  • Contacting an editor at an event in any way that breaches the policies of that event.
  • Contacting an editor via their personal phone/email/etc when these have not been made available publicly.
  • Contacting an editor via their place of work when their edits to Wikipedia do not clearly form part of their duties.
  • Contacting an editor using any method they have explicitly asked you not to use (excluding vague or overbroad requests not to post on the editor's talk page)
  • Sleuthing alternative contact details for an editor when working details have been posted/linked to on-wiki.
  • Sharing contact details with third parties (other than exceptions below)
  • Using contact details provided for Wikipedia/Wikimedia matters

Things that are (sometimes) acceptable:

  • Contacting an editor at an organisation they explicitly or otherwise very clearly (claim to) represent, using publicly available contact details for that organisation.
  • Contacting an editor using contact details posted or linked to on-wiki (only regarding Wikipedia/Wikimedia matters unless
  • Contacting a teacher/tutor/professor/etc regarding an on-wiki activity they are (apparently) running/organising/instigated for their pupils/students/etc. Where possible, contact should normally be made through/via their educational institution.
  • Sharing contact details with the emergency response team or other emergency responders.
  • Sharing contact details when required to do so by law enforcement or similar bodies (but inform m:Legal as soon as possible)

These are my initial opinions only (it does not necessarily reflect consensus), not all of them have been thoroughly thought through, wording above is explicitly not intended as policy wording, and I am explicitly not proposing this as a list of examples to be included in any policy and it is definitely not a complete list. Thryduulf (talk) 23:44, 30 December 2018 (UTC)

Thanks, I think that this is a very helpful exercise. To take a pair of examples where I'm having a hard time putting it into policy-style language:
  1. Contacting an editor via their personal phone/email/etc when these have not been made available publicly.
  2. Contacting a teacher/tutor/professor/etc regarding an on-wiki activity they are (apparently) running/organising/instigated for their pupils/students/etc. Where possible, contact should normally be made through/via their educational institution.
I think we all agree that there are situations in which the first example is something we want to prohibit, and I think (hope!) that the second example is something we want to permit. But doing the second example pretty much requires violating the first. I'm coming up blank on how to explain that in a policy. --Tryptofish (talk) 23:54, 30 December 2018 (UTC)
I would say, there is no instance unless for some emergency situation which I am having a hard time imagining, where we contact a teacher personally when the editing work is in the name of students. Working with students is a professional endeavour and we don't have the right unless given permission, in my opinion anyway, to contact a teacher of any kind through personal means.Littleolive oil (talk) 00:42, 31 December 2018 (UTC)
If the teacher is working for/with an educational institution then we should be making contact with them through that institution if we can - no question. If however we can find only personal contact details (which would I suspect be most likely if it was a private tutor or someone not working through an official institution) then the answer is not so clear-cut. Thryduulf (talk) 01:03, 31 December 2018 (UTC)
The more I see of the discussions here, the more I am convinced that we need to clarify the policy about this, and the more I am convinced that it is depressingly difficult to do so. About class projects, I urge interested editors to look over the recent history of WP:Education noticeboard. It is not at all unusual to have class projects that show up at en-Wiki without going through the processes set up by WMF/WikiEd, create significant disruption, and subsequently result in some editors who are also highly trustworthy staff of WikiEd getting in touch privately with the instructor and working helpfully to fix the situation. If that's harassment of the instructor, well, to call it that would be ludicrous.
More broadly, I want to thank Thryduulf for setting up this part of the discussion, and GoldenRing for articulating particularly well why we should not classify a lot of off-wiki contact as harassment. I've slept on it, and I'm somewhat changing my previous opinion, to believe now that we need to define harassment here somewhat narrowly. In considering the lists above, I'm starting to think that the distinguishing factors (thinking out loud here, far from a final determination) between what is and what isn't acceptable come down to (or at least include) two specifics. (1) It's harassment when the communication comes as part of any sort of dispute – because that greatly exacerbates the dispute by adding a menacing aspect to it. (2) It's harassment when the editor contacted has a reasonable expectation that the contact information would not have been used because they had not provided it on-wiki – because that kind of contact is creepy and potentially menacing. But when neither of those two criteria apply, I'm not sure that it is harassment. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:29, 31 December 2018 (UTC)
It occurs to me to add: (3) It's harassment when the editor contacted has asked not to be contacted that way. It might be possible to combine (2) and (3). --Tryptofish (talk) 00:12, 2 January 2019 (UTC)
@Thryduulf: A few times you have mentioned the case of educators organising projects for students outside of an organisational setting (private tutors etc). Is this a case that has ever come up? Or is it more a hypothetical? GoldenRing (talk) 22:29, 1 January 2019 (UTC)
@GoldenRing: I've never been involved with WikiEd so I can't say whether it has ever happened or not - my whole knowledge about this subject comes from this discussion. Thryduulf (talk) 22:59, 1 January 2019 (UTC)
I've followed the issues surrounding class projects for a long time, and I do not recollect any problems related to that. If it is just one or two students editing, I doubt that other editors would even realize that they were doing it as part of a tutorial, unless two students were editing closely-related pages. If it were something with multiple students editing as part of such a tutorial, it would be regarded at WikiEd as still being a "class assignment", whether or not the "class" was conducted within an educational institution or as part of a private teaching exercise. What I think that means for the discussion here is that we can get only so far by basing this policy on a distinction between contacting someone through their institution or contacting them individually. --Tryptofish (talk) 00:09, 2 January 2019 (UTC)

What about something on these lines:

You must not contact other editors off-wiki unless:
  • The editor has explicitly consented to the contact by:
    • Publicly inviting contact on-wiki,
    • Participating in a Wikipedia-related event, the rules of which allow such contact, or
    • Specifically consenting to contact from you in private communication;
  • You reasonably believe that an editor edits (wholly or partly) in a professional capacity or on behalf of an organisation and you make contact through that organisation or using their published professional contact details; or
  • The contract is required by policy or law.

Although in these cases off-wiki contact is generally permitted, unless required by law you must not make contact off-wiki:

  • In relation to an on-wiki dispute, or
  • Where the editor has asked you not to.
This policy deliberately bans some off-wiki contact which is neither intended not perceived to be harassing in order to protect editors from unwanted contact.

The wording is rather clumsy in places, in particular the bit about professional capacity; this is an attempt to capture the private tutor situation. Also the "in Ralston to an on-wiki dispute"is perhaps unclear; where an admin blocks an org account and makes a courtesy phone call, that's intended to be permitted, but where they block an org account and the user kicks up a big fuss on-wiki about admin abuse and so on, then a phone call should not be permitted. The "required by law" language is intended where eg one editor sues another; we can block the plaintiff under NLT, but want to avoid blocking the defendant for responding to the suit. I'm still just thinking out loud. GoldenRing (talk) 23:40, 1 January 2019 (UTC)

My initial thoughts: I see the following as issues, in no particular order. I'd rather omit the legal parts, because the example you give is the only one I can think of where that applies, and both parties would be kept off-wiki until the legal dispute is resolved. We need to add something about it being fine to use email when the email function is enabled. I don't like saying in a policy that the policy bans some things that are actually OK, the way that last sentence does. I'm not sure that "on behalf of an organization" adequately reflects class projects: the students edit on their own behalves in order to get course credit, and the instructor might not be editing at all. Also, I can see an ugly opportunity for gaming if someone says that they contacted someone at their workplace because of a flimsy association between the editing and the workplace. Even if it's not gaming, there can be a lot of confusion over what constitutes "reasonable belief" – after all, the drama over the now-blocked editor that set off this entire discussion arose over contacting someone over their possible COI by using their organizational contact information. --Tryptofish (talk) 00:26, 2 January 2019 (UTC)
Thanks for your thoughts. Having re-read this discussion this morning, I am starting to think maybe "no unsolicited phone calls ever" is the right approach, but I'm trying to see if we can frame a policy that avoids that. To respond to your points:
  1. Would we block an editor for responding to an off-wiki suit? The actual text of WP:NLT says we wouldn't even block the plaintiff, so long as it isn't mentioned on-wiki. I can think of various other hypothetical situations, but admittedly they are mostly real-world-situation-plus-both-happen-to-be-wikipedians.
  2. "publicly inviting contact on-wiki" is meant to capture the email function, but it could be explicitly added.
  3. IMO off-site contact with students in this situation should be off-limits; I can't see a situation where we should be looking up a student's contact details. And if the instructor is not editing, the contact is outside the scope of the policy.
  4. probably the most important part of the text is that it is never okay to make off-wiki contact where there is an on-wiki dispute. In these situations, even if the intent is good and the call would have actually helped, the potential for it to go wrong is enormous. Perhaps there are still opportunities for gaming here, with tag-teaming and such.
  5. I think it is important that the policy sets a clear expectation that off-wiki contact is normally not okay, even in situations where no harm is done. I don't want editors to be able to say, "but the policy is ridiculously over-broad and my particular case didn't do any harm." Even if their particular case of off-wiki contact didn't do any specific harm, it still did a general harm of normalising a sort of contact that some editors are known to find particularly distressing.
Another aspect that I don't think has been discussed is that we encourage editors to contact image owners to ask if they will release content under a free license. In the general case this won't be in the scope of this policy but the owner may happen to be a Wikipedian (and the connection may not be public). I'm generally worried about situations that amount to a real world situation that would normally be fine except both parties happen to be Wikipedians and the potential for the harassment policy to be weaponised in these situations. GoldenRing (talk) 10:46, 2 January 2019 (UTC)
The point about file license permissions is a very good one, that I don't think anyone thought of before. Given that we have three versions being discussed here, the one that I suggested, the one that Mkdw suggested, and yours, I feel like we should be trying to get them into a single version. You've explained a lot of the points I raised, but we will need language that stands on its own, without a separate explanation. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:20, 2 January 2019 (UTC)

Second section breakEdit

Given that most of the editors who have commented here are strongly in favor of a revision of some sort, it's been a surprisingly slow process to actually agree about what such a revision should be. I've been thinking hard about what other editors have been saying, and maybe I can reboot this discussion by suggesting this:

WP:OWH, current language:

Harassment of other Wikipedians in forums not controlled by the Wikimedia Foundation creates doubt as to whether an editor's on-wiki actions are conducted in good faith. Off-wiki harassment will be regarded as an aggravating factor by administrators and is admissible evidence in the dispute-resolution process, including Arbitration cases. In some cases, the evidence will be submitted by private email. As is the case with on-wiki harassment, off-wiki harassment can be grounds for blocking, and in extreme cases, banning. Off-wiki privacy violations shall be dealt with particularly severely.

Harassment of other Wikipedians through the use of external links is considered equivalent to the posting of personal attacks on Wikipedia.

Suggested new language:

Inappropriate or unwanted public or private communication, following, or any form of stalking, when directed at another editor, violates the harassment policy. Off-wiki harassment, including through the use of external links, will be regarded as an aggravating factor by administrators and is admissible evidence in the dispute-resolution process, including Arbitration cases. In some cases, evidence should be submitted by private email. As is the case with on-wiki harassment, off-wiki harassment can be grounds for blocking, and in extreme cases, banning.

Editors who welcome private communication typically post their preferred contact information on Wikipedia, sometimes enabling email through the Wikipedia interface. Contacting an editor using any other contact information, without first obtaining explicit permission, should be assumed to be uninvited and, depending on the context, may be harassment. Never contact another editor in this way as part of a dispute, or when the editor has asked not to be contacted that way. Unexpected contact using personal information as described above in "Posting of personal information" may be perceived as a threat to the safety and well-being of the person being contacted. Users who are contacted through inappropriate means should report occurrences privately to the Arbitration Committee or to the emergency response team.

The mention of the outing section could be blue-linked. What I did was revise the second paragraph to use "depending on the context" as an alternative to trying list what is OK, and then to try to identify what editors seem to agree are the situations where it is never OK. I think it indicates what we consider to be harassment without making everything else harassment. I think that, ultimately, we have to rely on administrator judgment to distinguish between what is and isn't off-site harassment, just as we rely on it in the outing section to distinguish between outing and "unintentional and non-malicious" conduct, and we should not try to enumerate every possible situation. Does this move in the right direction? --Tryptofish (talk) 23:27, 4 January 2019 (UTC)

  • @Tryptofish: I may be a bit behind, since there has been much discussion. If not already stricken, I would remove "Contacting a teacher/tutor/professor/etc regarding an on-wiki activity..." from the proposal. One can always contact the editor on their talk page; I do not see where off-wiki contact without permission would be appropriate. Same for editors claiming to represent a company or an organisation. K.e.coffman (talk) 01:00, 5 January 2019 (UTC)``
  • Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I appreciate all the work you have done on this Tryptofish and I would support the immediate above proposed change. Mkdw talk 01:30, 5 January 2019 (UTC)
    • Thanks, both of you. K.e.coffman, this most recent version omits all mention of teachers, companies, etc. Mkdw, I'm very glad that I came up with something that works for you. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:26, 5 January 2019 (UTC)
  • Earlier in these discussions, some editors expressed the view that no such revision is needed. I'd be interested in what editors believe, currently, about how we should determine whether or not there is sufficient consensus to implement the revision. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:24, 7 January 2019 (UTC)
    • Are there any objections to implementing the version in this subsection of the talk page? If so, that's OK – I don't want to change anything if there are still objections. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:14, 13 January 2019 (UTC)
      • I'm largely happy with the version in this subsection and my only issues are with phraseology rather than the intended meaning. I don't want to let perfect be the enemy of the good, so my comments here should not prevent a consensus to post, especially as I can't immediately suggest anything better in either case.
        My first comment is regarding the "when directed at another editor" clause - I clearly understand that it is intended to limit the applicability in response to the comments in preceding sections of this discussion, but for someone not familiar with that I wonder whether it would be misinterpreted to be endorsing harassment of non-editors? Rather than rewording it may just be better to have an explanatory footnote summarising why this clause exists?
        The other point is that in "Never contact another editor in this way as part of a dispute" it isn't necessarily immediately clear what "this way" refers to - I know what it means, but would someone not familiar with these discussions? Especially if they are wikilawyering, they may argue that it could mean either (or both) of the preceding two sentences. My only thoughts on alternative wordings for this are either very clumsy, repetitious or both and not necessarily without their own problems. Thryduulf (talk) 18:01, 14 January 2019 (UTC)
Thanks for the very thoughtful comments. About the first point, I'm not too worried, because it only says that it "violates the harassment policy", not that anything else is OK – and WP:HNE already has the issue covered.
The second point is actually something I had been thinking about, too. Like you, I've thought about alternative ways to say it, but have not come up with anything that isn't clumsy or repetitious. I do, however, think that the intended meaning is the obvious and common-sense one, and that it would be difficult for anyone to wikilawyer it convincingly. If anyone thinks of a better solution, I'd welcome it. I'm going to wait several more days before enacting anything, to allow for such feedback, as well as to give time for any editors to say that they oppose the change more broadly. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:05, 14 January 2019 (UTC)
Actually, thinking about it a little more, I tend to believe that contacting someone through the contact information they provide or through Wikipedia email, when it's part of a dispute or after being asked not to do so, may, "depending on the context", potentially be harassment. For that reason, I think the proposed language may be OK as it is. Editors who earlier opposed any change have argued that there are times when if a user doesn't have the judgment to understand the difference between what is and what isn't harassment, then that user cannot be helped by a policy revision. I still obviously believe the proposed change fixes something that needed to be made explicit, but I also think that we do not need to explain the obvious for every conceivable circumstance. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:19, 14 January 2019 (UTC)

I remain of the view that prohibiting all off-wiki contact as harassment is both a misrepresentation of the nature of harassment and an unhelpful "bright line" response to a situation containing nuance and grey areas. Looking at the text proposed, I note:

Editors who welcome private communication typically post their preferred contact information on Wikipedia, sometimes enabling email through the Wikipedia interface. Contacting an editor using any other contact information, without first obtaining explicit permission, should be assumed to be uninvited and, depending on the context, may be harassment. Never contact another editor in this way as part of a dispute, or when the editor has asked not to be contacted that way. Unexpected contact using personal information as described above in "Posting of personal information" may be perceived as a threat to the safety and well-being of the person being contacted.

This is badly written. Of course using other contact information is uninvited if you have found the contact details independently and not sought permission, there is no need to "assume" that it is uninvited when it is self-evident that it must be. I find the second last sentence in this quote a little odd, too, as it says not to use such contact channels when in a dispute or when those have been explicitly ruled out, but leaves plenty of space for wikilawyering around those edges – especially as the sort of declarations envisaged here are rare. Perhaps something like:

Editors can choose to accept private communications by email through the Wikipedia interface. Some editors also invite off-wiki contact by providing contact information on their user page while others may post that they do not wish to be contacted in certain ways. Using any channel other than one plainly stated on-wiki to approach an editor off-wiki without first obtaining explicit permission is usually inappropriate and so is strongly discouraged. An editor may well perceive such unexpected contact as harassment or even as a threat to his or her safety and well-being, especially if you and the editor are involved in a dispute or if you have disregarding the editor's stated wishes regarding off-wiki communication.

The final sentence of the proposal has the wrong focus, in my opinion:

Users who are contacted through inappropriate means should report occurrences privately to the Arbitration Committee or to the emergency response team.

The issue, surely, is whether the contact was experienced as harassment rather than whether the means of communication was "inappropriate." I suggest:

Users who experience inappropriate off-wiki contact should report occurrences privately to the Arbitration Committee or to the emergency response team.

I would also like to point out a real-life example from recently. A new editor recently wrote a bio and started an article on an obscure area of chemistry. On being challenged, the editor revealed that s/he was the student of the academic that was the subject of the bio, that the new article was about this academic's research, and that the student had been told to create a bio for the Professor. For some students, on encountering problems (the Professor failed NPROF and the only material for the article was primary literature from that research group) and fearing the Professor's reaction, might well engage in problematic editing. Contacting the Professor directly to explain why their bio was not being kept was preferable to the student engaging in socking, etc, to try to save the pages. Now, under some of the above proposals, whether the Professor could be contacted (by email) would depend on whether the Professor also had an account. To me, this is a case where off-wiki contact was appropriate, so long as it was polite and informative and not aggressive or critical, etc. This is one reason why I think leaving some space (by saying discouraged but not prohibited, for example) is appropriate. Yes, some editors may do foolish things, but if so, judge them on how the recipient feels and / or what was said. After all, they can harass through the WP email option too, and we would sanction them for doing the wrong thing, not prohibit anyone else using the email feature. EdChem (talk) 13:55, 16 January 2019 (UTC)

Thanks for the feedback, and I'll largely defer to what other editors think. Starting with your last point, about changing "Users who are contacted through inappropriate means" to "Users who experience inappropriate off-wiki contact", that strikes me as an improvement, and I'll happily agree to it.
For the rest, I think that it is very important to recognize that the version proposed just before your revisions says "depending on the context". Consequently, it most definitely is not "prohibiting all off-wiki contact as harassment". And it would allow contact with the professor in your example; in fact, the language was crafted with such situations specifically in mind. Such contact is always uninvited, and saying so prevents wikilawyering over "I thought they wouldn't mind", but whether it is harassment depends upon the details. Conversely, where your revision says that it is "usually inappropriate and so is strongly discouraged", that seems to me to get it wrong. A policy that says that something is discouraged is going to be difficult to enforce. There are times when this kind of conduct is vastly worse than "discouraged", and there are other times, not necessarily "unusual", where off-wiki contact is entirely benign.
So that's what I think. I'd like to wrap this discussion up soon. --Tryptofish (talk) 14:46, 16 January 2019 (UTC)
Thanks, Tryptofish. Obviously consensus will determine what is changed so if my thoughts aren't supported then I'll accept that. I don't understand how stating that uninvited contact is, in fact, uninvited precludes or prevents an "I thought they wouldn't mind" response, but I do agree that details dictate whether the contact is harassment. As for enforcement, the only way to make it simple is a bright line "no contact" policy, which I think would be ridiculous. I think the recent fracas over off-wiki contact became far too focussed on the contact being off-wiki rather than on the nature of the contact / discussion... but mine may be a minority view. I'm glad you like the change at the end, which is meant to highlight the response to inappropriate conduct in off-wiki contact, rather than on simply the fact of off-wiki contact without considering its content. EdChem (talk) 11:02, 17 January 2019 (UTC)
Thanks for following up on this. I agree that there needs to be a change, but I'm still at sea as to what the change should be. The difficulty with "depending on context" is that it leaves the door open to contact that is intended to be benign but is received badly by the other party; at that point, the damage has been done. The very situation that kicked off this whole process could easily be cast in this light; Jytdog's intentions in contacting another editor were all good but the conversation went badly, the recipient was upset by it and Jytdog has been indeffed as a result (or that is my reading of the situation; I was inactive for the majority of it and didn't follow it closely). I think even the language about disputes may not have stopped this from happening; the line being between being in a dispute and trying to help a new user understand how their editing doesn't line up with the community's expectations is a pretty grey one.
Leaving what is an isn't okay up to administrators means dealing with many of these situations after the fact by (essentially) punishing the wrong-doers, rather than having a very clear expectation about what is and isn't acceptable and preventing the harm from being done.
The simple fact of the matter is that some editors find being contacted off-wiki about things on-wiki perfectly normal and unremarkable and other editors find it very creepy and threatening. There is, in general, no way to predict which reaction you're going to get.This is why I prefer a blanket ban with specific, narrow exceptions. GoldenRing (talk) 11:53, 17 January 2019 (UTC)
Thanks, both of you, for the gracious and thoughtful replies. I notice how EdChem refers to "a bright line 'no contact' policy, which I think would be ridiculous" and GoldenRing says "I prefer a blanket ban with specific, narrow exceptions". To some degree, we all agree about that, and to some degree there are differences of opinion about how extensive the exceptions have to be in order not to be ridiculous, and we are never going to achieve perfection on how to delineate that. (Maybe a future dispute over administrative judgment about context will illuminate the next round of revisions – nothing we do now needs to be permanent, of course.) I'll give this another day or so, mainly to preclude any complaints that we didn't listen to editors who oppose making any change. But then, I think it's going to be time to make the revision and move on. Thanks everyone. --Tryptofish (talk) 23:06, 17 January 2019 (UTC)
I also think the important thing here is that what we currently have is not sufficient and it needs to be replaced. I suggest we implement the latest proposal and we can always revisit it should a situation arise that we never considered, or editing activities become disrupted. I expect this policy will continue to evolve, especially since harassment law is undergoing massive Common law reform. Mkdw talk 23:40, 17 January 2019 (UTC)

  Done. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:14, 21 January 2019 (UTC)

request for funding - machine learning research on wiki-misconductEdit

Hello, I edit Wikipedia professionally for a university and do Wikipedia research. I am writing to seek wiki community endorsement to receive US$5000 Wikimedia Foundation funds to better wikify some automated research on Wikipedia misconduct. If you can support this research then please sign off at the bottom of the research description.

I recognize that I am not posting on a board which is a perfect fit for seeking support and comments about an "Artificial intelligence in Wikimedia projects" approach to wiki community management, but as I have looked around in other places I think this board might be the most popular place for discussing responses to user misconduct.

The research is a data science examination of variables which have correlated with a user account getting a block in the past. The research output will be a list of accounts which closely match those blocked accounts, but which do not have blocks themselves. There will be no quick solution here, but I am looking to advance the conversation on this topic in both technical and non-technical directions. If anyone has questions I could talk here, but I appreciate any response - including criticism and challenges - on the talk page at the grant request. Thanks. Blue Rasberry (talk) 15:33, 14 January 2019 (UTC)

Wikipedia's identity verification processEdit

English Wikipedia and elsewhere in Wikimedia projects there are various processes by means of which the wiki attempts to match a Wikimedia user account with some other off-wiki identity.

I am collecting whatever practices, guidelines, or essays exist on wiki processes for examining off-wiki identity. If anyone has something then please share at

I am posting here because I have observed that when subjects of articles write to WP:OTRS to complain of harassment, defamation, or libel (these things in the colloquial sense and perhaps not in the sense of legal terms), then the following conversation includes requests for identity verification. OTRS agents may do this, or the client may request this, or there can be requests in other directions.

Thanks. Blue Rasberry (talk) 19:13, 9 February 2019 (UTC)

Does OUTING apply to deceased editors?Edit

The recent death of User:Shock Brigade Harvester Boris caused me to wonder: If a Wikipedia editor has died, and that person's real-world identity is not publicly known (not really an issue for Boris as he previously edited under his real name, although the Wikipedia article on his real-life identity still does not mention this), does it violate OUTING for someone who knows the connection between their Wikipedia identity and their real-world identity to make it public? Or does OUTING only apply to still-living Wikipedians? —David Eppstein (talk) 00:21, 6 March 2019 (UTC)

I would say yes - treat it like BLP, in that there are certain things we shouldn't do in the 6 -24 months after the death of a person. --Masem (t) 00:29, 6 March 2019 (UTC)
I'm hard pressed to say it's outing. It's normal to link to a real-world obituary (which will invariably include the person's real name), and many deaths are reported by family members, who will usually include the editor's real name. Let's just say I wouldn't normally consider it a blocking offense except in rather extreme circumstances. Risker (talk) 18:04, 6 March 2019 (UTC)
I think its best to use common sense. If a family member or someone else close to the deceased editor links to an obituary then that's going to be fine in most circumstances. However just because they are deceased doesn't give you permission to make the connection public without a reason. It will also depend how private they were about their real life identity - if it was an open secret (for want of a better term) then making the connection public isn't going to harm, but if they are very careful about keeping the two parts of their life separate then I'd be very wary of saying their death changes that without knowledge of any explicit wishes or knowledge of why they kept their real name very private. Thryduulf (talk) 20:33, 6 March 2019 (UTC)
Yes, of course it applies, let's say per WP:BDP. If the deceased editor's family posts an obituary or otherwise intentionally reveals their identity, well then fine, WP:OUTING already really covers why that's not forbidden by the policy. But discovering and revealing a deceased editor's identity when they had not disclosed it themselves is indeed outing, and there could very well still be BLP-level implications for the editor's family. Ivanvector (Talk/Edits) 20:38, 6 March 2019 (UTC)
Yes. For those of us who live, work or travel outside the relative safety of the West, editing according to our policies & guidelines is not necessarily an apolitical act, and can create a degree of risk. In particular locations, such risk does not expire with the death of the individual editor, but extends to friends, family & associates. - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 01:29, 7 March 2019 (UTC)
No, if the purpose of the identification is to let wiki-friends and colleagues know that a beloved wiki-colleague will no longer be editing. This has happened numerous times, with the details of the wiki-colleague's identity and real-world accomplishments in the area of their wiki-expertise also being denoted. See for instance User talk:Viva-Verdi#Rest in peace, Viva-Verdi, a tireless long-term contributor to opera articles all across Wikipedia. Harassment is harassment; caring memorialization and community notification is not harassment. Softlavender (talk) 03:43, 7 March 2019 (UTC)
Comment I am concerned that wikipedia editors may mention a real-world relationship with another editor, without either one disclosing anything else personal like location, but if one of them dies and is posthumously "outed" this could risk outing of the still living editor. Tornado chaser (talk) 23:58, 8 March 2019 (UTC)
Sometimes: Echoing Thryduulf above, use common sense. Remove/revision-delete "outing" material that was posted without the obvious consent of the family. Remove/revision-delete information that was posted with the consent of the family if there is good reason to believe that it puts other living people at risk of harm or would otherwise violate WP:BLP - family members may innocently post materials that put other editors at risk of real-world harassment or other harm. davidwr/(talk)/(contribs) 20:28, 13 June 2019 (UTC)

Misconduct - word for blockable behavior?Edit

Sometimes user accounts do inappropriate things which are not harassment. What is the word for things like blockable 3RR, COI without disclosure, spam, use of proxy, or test edits?

  • Abuse
  • Misconduct
  • Error
  • Transgression
  • Misuse
  • Offenses
  • Misbehavior

When we talk about the wiki justice system, what is the general term for what we try to prevent? If anyone can point me to policy pages for the umbrella concept then thanks. Blue Rasberry (talk) 00:00, 31 March 2019 (UTC)

  • "Abuse" includes a clear assumption of bad faith; "error" includes the opposite assumption. עוד מישהו Od Mishehu 19:27, 13 May 2019 (UTC)

RfC: Clarification of OUTINGEdit

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section. A summary of the conclusions reached follows.
This RfC presents a disagreement on whether it should be a violation of our harassment and outing policy when User A posts personal information about User B when User B has previously voluntarily publicly shared that personal information on another Wikimedia wiki. Supporters of Option #1 believe that policy should not prohibit User A from doing so. Supporters of Option #2 believe that doing so is still outing and should constitute a violation of policy. An alternative proposal made after the beginning of the RfC tries to strike a middle ground, and would permit users to refer to information voluntarily shared on the English Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, Meta-Wiki or Wikidata.
The current policy, many participants assert, is ambiguous, and there is disagreement as to what it currently allows; some participants believe that the plain language of the policy currently allows references to information shared on other-language Wikipedias (such as the French Wikipedia), while others believe it only applies to the English Wikipedia. Still others believe that SUL projects are already functionally "Wikipedia" for the purpose of this policy and the policy as currently applied does not prohibit references to information voluntarily posted on other public Wikimedia projects.
24 users supported Option #1, including one user who would also prefer no change and one user who only commented in the alternative proposal area but clearly meant to support #1, and excluding one additional user noting that they would "trend" towards Option #1 if Wikipedia were starting from a blank slate. 22 users supported Option #2, including one supporting it "weakly", one advocating a prohibition on all links/references to personal information, and one preferring no change.
Of the users commenting on the alternative proposal, 14 supported, including four second-choice preferences to Option #1, six second-choice preferences to Option #2, two additional supporters of Option #1 (including one who "weakly support[s] at best"), and one additional supporter of Option #2. 14 opposed, including six users who support Option #1 and six users who support Option #2.
In short, this was a close RfC. Normally, in such a close policy RfC, the default is to close as "no consensus" and let the current policy remain. In this case, there is a lot of disagreement as to what the current policy means, so even if none of the words of the policy change as a result of this RfC, it would be ideal to have a definitive statement on what the community will allow and what it will sanction at a noticeboard as a matter of practice. Of course, this does not 100% rule out a "straight" no consensus close, but it makes such an outcome less favorable as I begin my analysis.
At the outset, I should note that it was clear to me that supporters of Option #1 and Option #2 were generally looking at the policy from different lenses, with some potential misunderstandings between the two: Option #1 supporters seemed to be thinking substantially from the perspective of someone who might run afoul of a strict policy here (e.g. someone who’s worked with a user on multiple wikis and usually uses a real name on other wikis and mentions the user’s real name on enwiki by accident, or someone who is cleaning up spam/PAID violations and sees a Commons "own work" declaration for a company-produced photo and wants to use that as evidence for TOU enforcement on enwiki). Option #2 supporters seemed to empathize more with the perspective of victims of harassment and outing, who might find their edits on other wikis "researched" and pored over for personal information. One exchange toward highlighted this difference in perspective: one editor worried that "If some good-faith editor fails to read the policy change and violates the new policy, he/she will get indeffed, although he/she meant no harm. E.g. outing someone who disclosed his/her own identity at" An administrator disagreed in reply, noting that in her experience, administrators have much more discretion and may choose shorter blocks, or no block, for good faith violations. This flexibility is how outing enforcement works in practice and guides the outcome of this RfC, as where there is no clear consensus to change it, our policies are meant to reflect our accepted practices.
The arguments behind Option #1 are pretty simple to boil down: All the Wikimedia sites are linked, and if someone has voluntarily disclosed information about themselves on another Wikimedia site, we should be allowed to reference it for the same reasons that we should be allowed to reference information voluntarily disclosed on the English Wikipedia. It’s a unified login, after all, and many Wikimedians interact with each other on multiple wikis, all of which have the same visibility and access as the English Wikipedia. Supporters note that there are legitimate reasons that editors might reference personal information voluntarily posted on other wikis, including to help enforce policies like PAID or copyright; to paraphrase, users should not be able to immunize voluntary public statements simply by posting them on another Wikimedia wiki.
Supporters of Option #2 had a number of objections to Option #1. Supporters note that different projects have different policies, cultures, norms, and protections surrounding disclosure of information, and it’s possible that posting information about others on one project might be treated very differently than on another. Supporters argue that editors might expect that the projects are separate entities and that some might not want to apply the same standards to all wikis; that it might be very easy to make a mistake and accidentally reveal one’s identity on another wiki; that adopting Option #1 would encourage harassers to fish through other Wikimedia sites for personal information; that they wouldn’t want information disclosed on enwiki discussed on other Wikimedia wikis and thus we should adopt the inverse rule to protect those who work on other Wikimedia projects; that some Wikipedians would prefer to go back to a time before SUL. Supporters argue that Option #2 is easier to administer and enforce. And in any event, some supporters argue that even if some of these individual problems are addressable, our dedication to user privacy means that it would be safer to err on the side of privacy (the precautionary principle, as one editor referred to it) when in doubt in drafting our policies.
Supporters of Option #1 noted, in response to some Option #2 supports, that Option #1 refers only to information that was voluntarily publicly disclosed by the user in question. Further comments clarified an understanding that Option #1 refers only to non-enwiki accounts that have been voluntarily, publicly disclosed to be the same user as the enwiki user (typically through linking on SUL), and at least one Option #2 supporter said they would "be amenable to a version of #1 that clarified that only publicly connected accounts are included".
The alternate proposal was supported by some users from both sides. Its supporters note that it addresses the problem of users who consider different cultural contexts and share information (e.g. their name) in the context of a different linguistic community that they would be opposed to sharing here. It was few users’ first choice, though, and many participants on both sides opposed the alternate proposal. Overall, it was clear that the alternate proposal did not receive consensus and was not seen as a good compromise between the two options because it failed to address many of the concerns each side had with the other proposal.
Stepping back from the specific wording of the proposals, there was a lot of common ground which helps define what the community wants to allow and prohibit, even though at the surface appears substantial disagreement. Many participants on both sides agreed (implicitly or explicitly) that editors should not be digging through ("researching") old contributions to try to find outing or harassing material; many participants (except those who oppose any links or references to personal material, from enwp or not) also seemed to agree (implicitly or explicitly) that editors should not be penalized for information posted on a global/meta user page, or places of similar prominence.
I found it noteworthy that very few participants chose to disagree with the current rule that if someone posts "their own personal information, or links to such information" (emphasis added), at least on the English Wikipedia, then referencing that information is not outing. If the provision about links to information remains policy, interesting results may ensue: What counts as a link? If I say See my meta talk page for a relevant discussion, does that count as a link? What if I use one of those charts with my accounts across SUL? How about a {{User admin somewhere since}} userbox? Or an essay in my userspace on another wiki? Link to a grant proposal that clearly says my Meta account is the author? If links to other wikis don’t count, that also has interesting consequences: if I link my Twitter handle and my Meta userpage, is it fair game to mention things I put on Twitter, but not Meta? That result seems inconsistent with the intent of our policy. And just as importantly, isn’t the point of SUL that all the accounts are linked? By voluntarily using the same SUL account on multiple wikis, by voluntarily merging them, isn’t that voluntarily posting links to the other accounts? I’m aware of no policy that says you can’t use one username on the English Wikipedia and another on Wikidata. This isn’t just a discussion about the technicalities of policy; this exception reflects the purpose of the outing policy in the first place, and the broader community’s intention that voluntarily publicly connecting one’s English Wikipedia account with another link or identity makes it much less categorically unacceptable to refer to that other identity.
Ultimately, when determining the outcome of this RfC, because our policies should reflect our community’s actual practices, I have envisioned some scenarios and imagined the outcome of a noticeboard thread had the participants at this RfC responded to it, based on the arguments and positions presented at this RfC:
  • It’s likely there would be consensus to sanction for harassment a user who has searched through ("researched") the contributions of someone on another project, especially in the context of a dispute or apparent retaliation, or any other factor that would make it seem like the personal information is revealed with the intent to harass. A revert-revdel would likely have consensus too.
  • It’s likely there would be no consensus to sanction a user who revealed personal information voluntarily posted on another project in good faith (e.g. forgot where they learned it, or thought it was public on the English Wikipedia) or used it in order to enforce policies and norms (e.g. Commons author information for PAID enforcement). In some circumstances, a courtesy revert-revdel may be appropriate. In some cases, depending on circumstances, the community would trout for bad judgment in posting personal information.
  • It’s likely there would be no consensus to sanction a user who posted personal information first voluntarily disclosed on another project in a prominent location, or with the clear intent of dissemination, or which was later linked to on the English Wikipedia.
A number of Option #2 supporters argued that the precautionary principle should apply in privacy matters, which can be taken as an argument against a more equivocal, circumstances-determine-the-outcome policy approach. This argument is real and reasonable. However, that’s not how most of Wikipedia works; because, as I’ve set out above, there are circumstances that the community probably tolerates or even accepts sharing personal information voluntarily revealed on other projects, a bright-line rule against such sharing either would be inconsistent with practice or would result in acceptable/tolerable actions being now viewed as outing. We do have bright-line rules on Wikipedia, but only when all (or nearly all) of the underlying conduct is considered harmful, such as 3RR. And even then, there are a litany of codified exceptions from which arise somewhat frequent disputes (such as 3RRBLP). All in all, there is no consensus for a bright-line rule that posting personal information about an editor is outing, even if it was voluntarily publicly disclosed on another Wikimedia project.
Having considered all of the above, the result of this RfC is:
  • It remains a bright-line violation of OUTING to post personal information that has not been voluntarily disclosed on a public Wikimedia project. It is also a bright-line violation to post personal information if it has only been disclosed on accounts that are not publicly connected to the English Wikipedia account in question (i.e. by SUL).
  • Circumstances will determine whether a particular edit referencing or revealing personal information that was not previously posted on the English Wikipedia is harassment in all other cases. It is generally more acceptable to reference information if it is clear the user does not mind wider dissemination (e.g. posted on a user’s public userpage) and less acceptable if it requires much "research" to find (particularly information later removed by the user in question). There was no consensus that referring to such information is always or usually a violation.
  • Editors are urged to take care to err on the side of privacy, and to ask users before posting their personal information if there is any doubt. This RfC does not constitute a green-light to snoop around, and in fact demonstrates the community’s continued emphasis on the importance of privacy. One sentiment that arose was that posting information which might not constitute outing per se, such as information shared on another project, can still be very unwise and reflect poorly on the poster’s judgment.
  • Administrators continue to be entrusted with the discretion to act with judgment, including e.g. revision-deleting personal information without finding that the user who had posted it had intentionally engaged in outing and blocking them as a result.
I will be making some changes to the harassment policy to implement these results, but the consensus was for the principles as established above, not for any specific wording that I will be adding to the policy. I’d like to take this chance to thank everyone who participated in this RfC; it’s a difficult, personal topic, and I’m grateful for everyone who contributed so thoughtfully. Also, I’d like to apologize for the delay in closure; I revised and rewrote this closure a few times. If anyone has any questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Best, Kevin (aka L235 · t · c) 01:25, 7 September 2019 (UTC)

Current wording of WP:OUTING:

  • Posting another editor's personal information is harassment, unless that person has voluntarily posted their own information, or links to such information, on Wikipedia.

Should this be revised to instead say one of the following:

  1. unless that person has voluntarily posted their own information, or links to such information, on the English Wikipedia or another public Wikimedia project.
  2. unless that person has voluntarily posted their own information, or links to such information, on the English Wikipedia.

(See also previous discussion at Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard#Question about outing) GMGtalk 19:04, 13 May 2019 (UTC)


  • #1 (as proposer) - The current language is ambiguous and seems to imply that posting information on the German Wikipedia is fine, since it's "a Wikipedia", but posting on Commons or Wikidata would not be, which is absurd on its face. Having a local only policy is not technically feasible, since a number of pages, such as file descriptions from Commons and user pages from Meta are already automatically transcluded here locally, meaning that this would still be "outing", even though the information is here locally, because it was transcluded rather than posted here directly.
    Cross-wiki self identification is already used regularly in a number of ways. Maybe most prominently is the use of OTRS verified accounts and "own work" files for means of validating licenses, in addition to using cross-wiki activity to identify and dispose of cross-wiki spammers, who are want to post G11 autobiographical type pages here on the English Wikipedia and elsewhere, as well as spamming out-of-scope files on Commons, and pages on Wikidata, etc.
    At the end of the day, these are all interconnected sister projects, none of which truly operate as an island unto themselves, and posting personal identifiable information anywhere is fundamentally identifying your SUL, which is inherently cross-wiki in nature, and where everything you do under your SUL is decidedly "on wiki" in nature. GMGtalk 19:04, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #1 - There is precedent for this interpretation and so we could have perhaps made this change without an RfC but I think it's clearly the correct meaning of the idea. Best, Barkeep49 (talk) 19:57, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #1 – this seems fairly straightforward, and reflects the current practice. The main reason we can't consider off-wiki information is that we have no means of confirming that our user X is the same as X on another website, but we can for Wikimedia projects. – bradv🍁 20:12, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #2 The above is a different answer than I seemed to get at the discussion at WP:AN - that GMG links to above. My question there was whether it is OK for someone to publicly identify another editor who has never given out personal information on the English Wikipedia, but did so on another language Wikipedia. That discussion was non-committal but it seemed to be leaning toward, no, it isn't OK to do that. Now you just changed the wording to say if a person gives out their identity or personal information on any wiki, it is fair game to repeat that on any other wiki. Is that really consensus? -- MelanieN (talk) 20:25, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
    That's generally the way we do business in my experience, yes. If someone for example, has an OTRS verified account on Commons for uploading corporate photos, there's nothing stopping someone from combing through potential COI contributions here or on other projects based on the verification. That doesn't just verify the account on Commons; it verified the SUL. GMGtalk 20:30, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
    @MelanieN: this request for arbitration was declined based on evidence of off-wiki information posted on Meta. I would suggest that this supports the view that #1 is already the position held by the community, even if the policy doesn't state this explicitly. – bradv🍁 20:35, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
    There's also this ongoing discussion on Meta which in part involved the identity of an admin because they were OUT on their home project. That's not to say that we shouldn't conduct ourselves in good taste. There are a handful of people who have met me personally, and could find images of me on Commons without too much trouble. But that doesn't mean they have leave to start posting them on random talk pages, because that would be disruptive without serving any legitimate purpose. GMGtalk 20:59, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Caution: Wikipedia is referenced twelve times in the paragraph and over seventy times in the whole policy. In looking at the context of how "Wikipedia" is being colloquially used throughout the whole policy, I would argue it is being used consistently to refer to the English Wikipedia. If we're going to introduce a distinction by adding "English", then you are potentially also introducing a new aspect where "Wikipedia" refers to all Wikipedia projects and not just the English Wikipedia. The policy can only apply to the English Wikipedia and its editors. I do not have a strong opinion one way or the other, but as with any document or policy, you have to ensure usage is consistent throughout. In fact, if you read most of our policies, "Wikipedia" is frequently and fairly consistently to refer to this Wikipedia and not generally about all Wikipedias. Mkdw talk 20:38, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
    Mkdw, part of the confusion here and at AN stems from exactly that - what does "Wikipedia" refer to? Does it include other languages? What about Commons? For most policies the answer is fairly self-evident, but this one requires reviewing how this has been interpreted in the past, as in my comment above. – bradv🍁 20:51, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
    @Bradv: I understand the original issue and why a clarification was sought; the AN link is included as part of the proposal. The question you ask, "what does "Wikipedia" refer to?", raises my point. The question is general and not specific to one sentence in one policy. I do not think it is entirely clear if you read other policies if you automatically interpret "Wikipedia" to mean all Wikipedia projects. There are other implications and changes might very well be worth considering. This RFC is not just a clarification request. That could easily be accomplished by a proper policy RFC to obtain a consensus. The proposal to amend the policy does not list a no change option. Both options include "English Wikipedia", which I believe is not necessarily the convention used in most other policies. The fact that it is being introduced by RFC with this larger question above it may prove to be a cited precedent for interpreting other uses of Wikipedia as well.
    The policy amendment proposal, whether it intends to or not, introduces a convention where "English Wikipedia" refers to the local project and "Wikipedia" refers to all Wikipedia projects. The most common practice in determining the exact meaning of wording is to look at other examples of how it is used. For example, if you change the definition of a word used in many places for one specific issue, the change must be considered with respect to how it is used in all places.
    Again, all I am cautioning is that changing this proposal may have greater consequences than just one sentence. Mkdw talk 23:39, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
    I've always perceived this "Wikipedia" to mean all public Wikimedia projects, which as you can see, is conflicting with your viewpoint. --qedk (t c) 22:09, 19 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #2 or no change. First, I'm happy to see a proposal for a change, that didn't come from me.   I think there can be unintended consequences of opening this up to information posted at other projects. Under the proposed #1, Phabricator (or whatever they call the place where software bugs are addressed) would be included as a "public" project. But they have much less stringent safeguards for user identity than what we have here. (I once considered registering there, but then decided that it wasn't secure enough for me to be comfortable with.) And I think we should err on the side of respecting any editor's right to open an account here at en-wiki, without worrying about anything anywhere else. An editor might register here without revealing personal information here, and we have no way to know a priori whether they intended to keep their identity private here or assumed that anyone could find it at another wiki. What if someone who has long been active at another project, with their identity made public there, decides to delete it there (but not have it oversighted) and then shortly after starts editing here? Should the presumption be "tough luck, you once posted it there and it's in the edit history", or "maybe they deleted it there because they no longer want it to be public"? And why should anyone be "researching" another editor at another WMF project, anyway? Now that said, I read the AN discussion and I think that MelanieN's decision was a good one. Posting information found at another WMF project is clearly less malicious than posting information found somewhere else. Editors often assume wrongly that the Outing policy must be written so that any infraction must result in harsh repercussions. I think it's quite reasonable to take the position that personal information can only be posted here if it was made public here, but that if it was public at another wiki, its posting probably wasn't intended as maliciously as it would be if it was found elsewhere. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:05, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
    Phabricator is not a Wikimedia project. And I regularly research users across projects for a variety of reasons. GMGtalk 21:15, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
    I'm surprised that it isn't. But right there is an opening for all manner of confusion about how to enforce the policy with the proposed change. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:17, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
    Uh, I think Tryptofish is referring to . It is hard to say that is not at least a Wikimedia space if not an outright Wikimedia project... --Izno (talk) 21:20, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
    Yes, that's it, thanks. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:21, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
    As I was. Apparently there is a listing at m:Complete list of Wikimedia projects. GMGtalk 21:22, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #1 seems to be the common sense application that any reasonable person would currently implement. Due to SUL, what's posted on enwiki and what's posted on, say, meta is essentially the same in terms of visibility and intentionally releasing some bit of information about oneself. If something were to come to my attention as an Oversighter that had been publicly stated on meta but not enwiki, I would not suppress that information on enwiki. ~ Rob13Talk 23:23, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
    • BU Rob13, quick query: so you would need them to go to meta and get it suppressed first. And what if meta oversighters were to say that as the mention is already there on enwiki, they would not suppress it either? Lourdes 03:11, 14 May 2019 (UTC)
      • @Lourdes: Nothing an editor posts themselves is covered by the outing/suppression projects on either project. If it qualified for suppression on meta (e.g. it was outing by another editor there), I would obviously also suppress here, whether or not it was still public on meta at the time. If it were still public on meta, I'd also try to find a meta oversighter to handle that bit if possible. But if the editor posted their full name on meta themselves, for instance, and then years later asked for it to be suppressed here, I would decline as not covered by our suppression criteria. ~ Rob13Talk 03:22, 14 May 2019 (UTC)
        If a minor posts their personal identifying information on meta, I would suppress it on the English Wikipedia. There are a few other areas of discretion as well such as individuals with varying intellectual abilities and individuals with mental health considerations. It is probably not worth discussing further per WP:BEANS. I will admit I have reservations about making a change to solve a problem that seems to have occurred once, recently, and could have been resolved quickly by simply seeking consent from the individual. The OUTING policy has been around for a considerable amount of time so I wonder whether this change is even required. Mkdw talk 04:41, 14 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #2 An editor's contributions on one project should not count towards their assessment on other projects. One may have common sense presumptions, but there is much a slip between the cup and the lip, especially when it is about one's identity. Keep it clear and simple as this is policy – if it has not been disclosed on the English Wikipedia, then that's about it, you should not refer to it. Lourdes 03:17, 14 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Option #2 at a bare minimum, but no change should have been offered as one of the options in the 'survey'. We have no idea the consequences of introducing this change retroactively with respect to people's desired privacy, nor would have many people who value their privacy necessarily considered being forthcoming on one project could be construed as consent on another years later. Editors have different relationships with each project. There are very few occasions when consent could not be verified with the individual before publicly posting their private information. Mkdw talk 04:29, 14 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Either. #2 is simpler to understand and administrate (per Lourdes). The change is needed as the original is open to argument, as can be seen here. However I would quite happily accept #1 · · · Peter Southwood (talk): 07:29, 14 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #1 I support either but I prefer to keep the definition of public to public Wikimedia projects, restricting it seems unnecessary since you place information on a public wiki knowing it is public. --qedk (t c) 17:53, 14 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #2. WMF-hosted projects are all independent of each other, with widely variant rules. One's roles, reasons for participating, usernames, and revealed details may vary widely from site to site. People seeking version #1 are mistaking WP:MULTIACCOUNT and related policies and guidelines for global cross-WMF rules; they are not, but are particular to en.WP only.

    I was recently a target of hounding across multiple WMF sites by someone for pointed political reasons, using my full name at one project (where I had not disclosed it – I'm simply SMcCandlish on almost every site of any kind; my full name is only used at Wikipedia, Wiktionary, and some social networking and blogging and other content sites; for sites at which I'm performing some kind of function other than primarily a writer of content, I don't use my full name). The intent of this harassment was to get me "fired" from a specific volunteer role and to ensure that employers, etc., Googling for my full name would pull up this person's nasty and demonstrably false accusations there. Different WMF projects have different civility/attacks/aspersions rules; going with option #1 would make it trivially easy to WP:GAME the entire WMF system, by seeking out the most lax venue in which to attack people, using all their information you can dox from all WMF sites combined. Nothing like that should ever happen again. If you are going around trying to tie en.WP user IDs to real-world identities or to userIDs at another website (even one hosted on the same server farm as en.WP), you are engaged in WP:OUTING, period.
     — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  06:03, 15 May 2019 (UTC)

  • #2 per SMcCandlish and Lourdes, or no change per Mkdw. For a long while my name was fully public at Commons for attribution of my photos, but it wasn't here as I wanted to keep my text contributions distinct from any real-world associations. That desire faded and now I don't distinguish, but we should not presume that a user wants to apply the same standards to all wikis. As one example an editor may be much more comfortable sharing information among the community of speakers of a small language than they are about making the same information clearly accessible to English speakers. Thryduulf (talk) 13:42, 15 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #1 If someones post the handle of his twitter account on Commons or the German Wikipedia it should be fair game to discuss, say, their canvassing on twitter. The moment one identifies on one Wikimedia project, it makes no sense maintain separate compartments for each sub-project they may be active in. In terms of wording - it may make sense to define "Wikipedia" throughout Wikipedia policy in a more precise manner - but that's a wider scope than the question here. Icewhiz (talk) 05:24, 16 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #2 As raised above, not all projects have the same rules and/or technical protections. Also, people may wish to be more open on one project than another about their identity. I think it would be reasonable to say "on English Wikipedia or Meta". StudiesWorld (talk) 10:05, 16 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #2 Each wiki is a separate wiki entity and should be treated as such. Sir Joseph (talk) 14:56, 16 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #1 A Wikimedia account is a unified identity, by nature, and policy should recognize this. Benjamin (talk) 23:35, 16 May 2019 (UTC)
    • If that were the case, then I should get admin rights on all projects; and a person blocked on one project should be blocked across projects... and so on so forth. Lourdes 02:38, 17 May 2019 (UTC)
      • The username is the same, and publicly linked. That's the significant part. Benjamin (talk) 05:31, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #2 Seems the spirit of the original. Plus I also worry that the "on other public wikimedia projects" is a case of WP:BEANS where we'll be giving bad actors the green light to go snooping on other wikis or game policies per SMcCandlish. In cases where #2 may cause weird stuff like someone potentially getting sanctioned for posting on enwiki info from an editor's global user page, see WP:COMMONSENSE. Wugapodes [thɑk] [ˈkan.ˌʧɹɪbz] 03:33, 17 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #1 But change "his or her" to "their". Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 13:50, 17 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #1 seems pretty obvious. SUL exists if I reveal my identity on my meta global user page it is absurd to think that I have some right to have no one mention it on TonyBallioni (talk) 17:17, 17 May 2019 (UTC)
    • #1 does not distinguish between something posted on a global user page (where your argument isn't completely unreasonable) and something posted on a much smaller project (say hr.wikibooks) which might be a very different environment to en.wp and so your argument is unreasonable. Thryduulf (talk) 11:03, 18 May 2019 (UTC)
      • Thryduulf, I typically agree with you on everything OUTING/OS related, but I disagree here. The risk is people using this policy as a weapon to silence their political opponents based on something reasonable people would not consider outing. For example, if I post my Facebook and Twitter all over Commons and encourage people to contact me on my WhatsApp there, and then someone points out here that they’ve been canvassed via a Facebook post from me, that’s not reasonably construed as outing in my view. There’s substantially more risk of that happening than someone going to hr.wikibooks and trying to dig up dirt on my RL stuff. So while your counterpoint about #1 is correct, #2 doesn’t distinguish between the two either, and that is also a flaw. I’d be fine finding some compromise wording that would leave room for judgement in both your example and mine, however. TonyBallioni (talk) 13:59, 18 May 2019 (UTC)
        • I agree #2 doesn't distinguish either, but it offers a much greater protection against outing than #1 does while we work out the details of any compromise. That degree of protection is much more important than possible canvassing (and canvassing can be dealt without necessarily tieing it to a specific person anyway). Thryduulf (talk) 15:29, 18 May 2019 (UTC)
          • I agree that #2 offers more protection, but I also think the odds of us having someone who is public with their identity on a small language project are much lower than us having someone who is extremely public about their identity on meta or commons using our stricter outing rules to bludgeon opponents. I don’t at all want to make our outing rules less strict, but I don’t think someone who is running for a WMF board seat and has linked to their real life ID on meta should be able to request suppression of mention of that on, and the wording of #2 currently would make that the case. As a compromise, I’d be fine to limiting it to meta, commons, and other English language Wikimedia projects (or even just meta and Commons.) TonyBallioni (talk) 18:10, 18 May 2019 (UTC)
  • I tend toward #1, but I wonder if we shouldn't also protect persons who are somehow OUTED by others on those other Wikimedia projects by blocking/banning the offending editor. --Izno (talk) 18:17, 17 May 2019 (UTC)
    • Izno, if xwiki outing is going on (and this has happened recently) stewards will lock the account and we'll coordinate with them or local oversighters to deal with the cleanup. TonyBallioni (talk) 22:52, 17 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #1. Regarding outing on another project — that's completely different from what this is talking about, since it only affects self-posted information. If we can't refer to voluntarily provided information, how will we define what's prohibited? Imagine that you post your identity on your Commons userpage but not here. Can I provide a link to the Commons diff where you added the name (or even your Commons userpage where that name appears) in a relevant discussion, or are we suddenly no longer allowed to provide links to Commons in certain circumstances? Moreover, I'm a Commons admin. Imagine that someone at Commons says "My name is John Smith" and claims a self-uploaded image here, as an own work, with a different name, e.g. "source={{own}}, author=John Jones". We have a copyright problem here: either one of them isn't an own work, or we're in a shared-account situation, but if #2 be the policy, I'm risking a siteban if I refer to this fact when nominating the en:wp image for deletion. Or maybe I just delete the image at Commons with a rationale of "COM:PCP — uploader claims this file and en:file:whatever as own works under different names, John Smith and John Jones". If someone else nominates the image for deletion here and quotes my Commons deletion rationale, #2 would make that person liable to sanctions: that's simply absurd. The point is harassment, not personal information: if you posted your information in a random conversation at the Azerbaijani Wikivoyage, and I then dump the diff in a dozen places here for no good reason, I need to be sanctioned for harassment, but if your posted-on-another-wiki identity is relevant to a discussion (e.g. Essjay controversy), there's no way we should sanction someone for referring to your posting in that discussion. Nyttend (talk) 21:56, 19 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #2 or no change. Particularly for those of us who go back to when they were entirely separate logins. Espresso Addict (talk) 06:11, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #2 Completely and entirely. People should have the right to stay anonymous on the English Wikipedia (Which seems to already be the community interpretation in some cases but we should clarify this) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Elitematterman (talkcontribs) 12:38, May 20, 2019 (UTC)
  • Not to be permitted at all. We are not here to "out" anyone. Even if an editor posts up personal information about themselves, no matter where they post it or to what extent is the information detailed, we are not here to amplify or facilitate the dissemination of such information in any shape, way, or form. Even if the individual posts up personal information with an explicit permission (or even a request) to use that information any way we want, we should strictly avoid using it: We're not here to promote anyone, either.
Unless an individual has chosen to work in Wikipedia only under their real name, the correct way to address that individual is by their chosen Wkipedia-pseudonym.
We are here to improve the encyclopaedic content of Wikipedia. That's it. The social interaction encouraged by the existence of user pages and talk pages, as well as the existence of community projects, often confuse people. Well, Wikipedia is not a message board. -The Gnome (talk) 09:20, 17 May 2019 (UTC)
  • My sentiments are wholly with The Gnome on this issue, but as a matter of written policy, I would err on the side of #2, per Lourdes and  SMcCandlish. Also amenable to no change whatsoever. Javert2113 (Siarad.|¤) 16:42, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #1 is the only workable option, per Nyttend. That is not to say that it isn't harassment, just that it shouldn't automatically be considered as such. As usual, common sense applies. ansh666 19:28, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Not to be permitted at all. "Posting another editor's personal information is harassment." No matter where or when they may have posted it previously. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 14:23, 26 May 2019 (UTC)
    • Lol what? Posting personal information that a user has disclosed willingly on-wiki is definitely not harassment. ~Swarm~ {sting} 18:46, 26 May 2019 (UTC)
      • They put it on their userpage once. Or they revealed their birthday in an innocuous post once. Now removed. You keep reposting it. Yes, that’s harassment. Why else would you keep reposting their personal information? Many early Wikipedians have vanished. Many new new admins quietly U1 their userpage before re-creating it. I don’t think this is a mere laughing matter at all. —SmokeyJoe (talk) 22:16, 26 May 2019 (UTC)
        That particular scenario is already covered by policy though. Posting personal information that has been removed is already considered outing. Obviously the situation you describe is egregious harassment that would be treated with zero tolerance. You're currently only allowed to post personal information if it presently exists and has not been removed. Obviously I'm not harassing someone if I refer to a piece of information they're willingly hosting on their userpage. That's the only thing your proposed brightline stance would change. ~Swarm~ {sting} 06:56, 27 May 2019 (UTC)
  • #2The project is generally best served by being extremely conservative in protecting users' privacy. Situations in which personal information from off-(en)wiki is actually essential to a decision would be vanishingly rare, and in those circumstances we have systems in place to take sensitive evidence into account while preserving privacy. I can appreciate the philosophy behind arguing against ever republishing anyone's personal information, ever, but it would be very easy to breach such a strict policy by accident and incur heavy sanctions, or at least strongly worded warnings, despite acting in good faith and causing no real harm. —Rutebega (talk) 02:44, 29 May 2019 (UTC)
  • I don't know. I'd lean towards #1 if we were starting the project all over again, but I worry that there might be some unforeseen consequences for editors if we were to apply it retroactively. --Rschen7754 05:52, 29 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Solidly #2. If I've never edited on a project, I don't consent to sharing my information there, even if I've shared it here. Recent incidents on the Azerbaijani and Amharic Wikipedias (detailed on Meta) make me wonder about the status of some of the sister projects. Having been outed and attacked on a sister project back in the day (when I wasn't "out" the way I am here), and having had to ask a Steward for help (because the local admins 'crats refused to do anything about the issue), I am very leery of anything like proposal 1. Guettarda (talk) 15:07, 29 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Support #2 -- this is further removed from the apparent intent of the current wording, but there is currently no policy forbidding anyone (even, AFAIAA, admins) from using different accounts with different levels of privacy regarding their own personal information on different Wikimedia projects. Unified login was pretty sloppy when it was introduced, and to the best of my knowledge there has never been any rule that says if I operate a different account on a different Wikimedia project with more personal information disclosed than my English Wikipedia account, that qualifies as justification for trying to link my English Wikipedia account to the other account; the proposed wording of #1 could very easily be interpreted that way. Hijiri 88 (やや) 05:27, 30 May 2019 (UTC)
    I would, however, be amenable to a version of #1 that clarified that only publicly connected accounts are included; having used more than one undisclosed account on a sister project is not a violation of's sockpuppetry policy (or even, necessarily, the policies of our sister projects) and cannot, of course, be used as a justification for attempting to connect such accounts. Hijiri 88 (やや) 15:24, 3 June 2019 (UTC)
  • #1 I support this change as outing can occur on any Wikipedia or other Wikimedia projects, not just the English version. However, I propose shortening the addition "on the English Wikipedia or another public Wikimedia project" to instead simply "on any public Wikimedia project" as it is more concise and more accurate. —TheSameGuy (talk) 12:41, 3 June 2019 (UTC)
    @TheSameGuy: You seem to be reading the proposed changes the opposite way to me and the first few !votes up top (I haven't read everything); it is assumed that outing an user on another Wikimedia project is forbidden, but the difference between the proposals is whether it is "okay" to repeat personal information that someone has disclosed on a sister project. Hijiri 88 (やや) 15:24, 3 June 2019 (UTC)
  • #1 is the better and cmorecomprehensive rule, and will provide for most special cases. DGG ( talk ) 02:02, 4 June 2019 (UTC)
  • #2 is the tighter and therefore (especially when it comes to matters of actual people [rather than just accounts] and privacy) the better rule. Happy days, LindsayHello 06:35, 4 June 2019 (UTC)
  • My preference order is: #1, no change, alternate (below), #2. With all WMF public wikis linked under one set of common log-ins (CentralAuth / SUL), we should allow the scope of "not outing" to include all WMF public wikis. Deryck C. 13:34, 6 June 2019 (UTC)
  • #1 - I don't use my first name on here, but I have published it on Commons. So if anyone was to use my first name on en-Wiki, I would not consider it to be a violation of WP:OUTING. "Wikipedia" should be taken to mean any language Wikipedia and associate projects. Mjroots (talk) 10:06, 8 June 2019 (UTC)
  • Each projects are indeed independent but it's still inter-connected. #1 if you dare wonder. — regards, Revi 11:26, 8 June 2019 (UTC)
  • I'm not quite sure how to interpret this change if the outing info is posted to a different language that many struggle to find an online translation of the evidence (e.g. African or North American aboriginal languages). OhanaUnitedTalk page 16:09, 8 June 2019 (UTC)
  • #1, but (and its a very big but)... (changing to #2, see below) - As a general principle, I think the most feasible principle ought to be that if you share your private/identifying information on Wikimedia, that is considered a fairplay topic in any Wikimedia space. However, I do believe the exact wording of the section is going to need some additional nuance with regard to at least one additional issue: the personal information discovered with regard to one account on a Wikimedia project should be linked to another account only if the connection of both accounts to a single individual is already known--whether because those accounts are part of a universal log-in or because the individual made it affirmatively known that they were the same person behind both accounts. Otherwise this rule could become a loophole under which harassers could out/dox someone who is operating multiple identities (under good faith allowances) across different projects, and would thus become an exception that swallows the rules--rules which exist for very serious reasons regarding anonymity and privacy, as a person's involvement with a given project can be harmful or indeed, in some instances, even dangerous for them.
I understand the argument that someone using a unified log-in account and declares their identity on one project should be considered to have waived their interest in keeping that info secret on all projects, and should not be able to rely on a bureaucratic technicality to call out someone else who references that information in good faith. However, if we adopt option 1 without further caveats, we are clearly opening the door to doxxing. I almost !voted for option 2 as a consequence, just to pursue the precautionary principle on this issue and avoid creating the possibility of people using the technical wording to avoid sanction for clearly inappropriate disclosures of another's private information. But I think with some effort, we can come up with wording that clearly expresses a rule that people with expressly linked accounts are deemed to have disclosed their own identities on en.Wikipedia if they have disclosed it on any Wikimedia project, but only where the accounts in question were clearly meant to be expressed as a common identity by the person operating them. It is a clear principal of the broader Wikimedia community that people should have the right to operate different identities across multiple projects if they feel this is essential for their privacy and well-being--provided of course that they are not abusing multiple accounts for any disallowed purpose on a given project, of course. its essentially that we safeguard this broader Wikimedia community right against any inadvertent eroding as result of rule creep here that is meant to clarify one of our local policies, even one as important as our harassment policy. Snow let's rap 22:01, 8 June 2019 (UTC)
Changing my !vote to #2. You know, with the benefit of a little more time to think about this, I've decided that the safest course of action to preserving the privacy and safety principles embraced by the broader Wikimedia community (and indeed, the local en.Wikipedia community) is to just utilize a simpler standard here. I do believe there is a way to approach option 1 in such a way that those interests are protected, but A) I don't want to endorse an option which may not receive that additional protective language, and B) writing that language such that the standard couldn't be abused would be difficult. So I'm shifting my preferred approach to be in line with the KISS principle. Snow let's rap 22:21, 8 June 2019 (UTC)
  • #1 The outing policy should be strict, but if you post something about yourself in Commons or whichever other project, it's really not a private matter here. I feel like this would be used as a "gotcha" in a dispute, to claim someone was harassing you if they simply used some cross-wiki information. If it's really something private, tell them to stop talking about it, remove it from the other project and request revdel. --Pudeo (talk) 00:42, 9 June 2019 (UTC)
    @Pudeo: Yeah, but who is the "you" in if you post something about yourself in Commons or whichever other project? If you have an alternate account for use on English Wikisource, which you never use to edit English Wikipedia and which you have never publicly connected to you English Wikipedia account, isn't it beyond the purview of HARASS -- and indeed of all policies -- to insist that that counts as "outing" oneself? Hijiri 88 (やや) 23:25, 9 June 2019 (UTC)
    I'm inclined to agree: all of this project's policies regarding privacy and outing make it clear that any willing disclosures that limit a person's ability to complain about invasions of their privacy have to have been made on this project; if a person reveals the connection between themselves and their Wikipedia account while on Twitter, you are still not allowed to mention that fact here, unless you have their full and express opinion. I believe that other Wikimedia projects ought to be treated similarly to all other social media/websites in this regard, because they all, as Hijiri correctly points out, have their own standards and policies, and on this project, we have always treated such rules as discrete to this narrow platform.
    If someone has a universal log-in or otherwuise clearly identifies the connection between their account here and other accounts on other Wikimedia projects, and that disclosure is made here on en.Wikipedia, then yes, then they have disclosed that connection in a manner that it is acceptable for this project's policies to regulate (i.e., they can't bitch too much if someone else references a connection they have already disclosed here). But if someone makes the mistake at some point in time of disclosing their identity/a connection between accounts on another project, I think its problematic for us to decide that its justification to WP:OUT them here, on this project. And when you factor in the fact that some editors will be working on versions of Wikipedia that are subject to substantial state surveillance, the concerns become even more pronounced. The more I think about this, the more convinced I am that this a case where we ought to be applying the precautionary principle. Snow let's rap 00:36, 11 June 2019 (UTC)
  • #1, Stop making it hard for crosswiki patroller, please.--AldNonUcallin?☎ 01:39, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
  • #2—outing and other forms of harassment should be given as few loopholes as possible. Curly "JFC" Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 01:45, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
  • Comment - can the eventual closer post a note on my talk page about the eventual result of this RfC. Thank you. starship.paint (talk) 02:42, 29 June 2019 (UTC)
  • #2 Tend to agree there should be no loopholes for harassment. Also one question, could a person be wrong about the two ID's being in fact the same person?Slatersteven (talk) 17:12, 29 June 2019 (UTC)
  • #1. If the owner of the account has publicly disclosed via-that-account their identity or linkage to an account elsewhere then it is silly to pretend otherwise, and it would be even worse to come down like a ton of bricks with "harassment" charges on an editor who makes a good-faith observation of that fact. Furthermore I would like to note that the Foundation created a feature where a Userpage posted on Meta will appear here (and every other wiki) if there is no local userpage. That creates a rather ugly ambiguity whether that counts as "On English Wikipedia". I'm pretty sure that the Foundations (now dead) Gather feature also raised effectively the same issue. One of the Foundation's intended design features of Flow was that discussions could appear on multiple wikis, which would have demolished any sane definitions of "where" the discussion happened. I fully expect that future Foundation projects will continue to raise this issue in various forms. It's a unified account, and trying to deny that fact will only tie us in socio-technological knots. If the owner of the account has publicly disclosed then it's not outing. Alsee (talk) 00:00, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
  • #1 If someone posts a Twitter account on their Global Userpage, one should be able to reference it in a talk discussion with that person. Right now, by strict definition, that would be classified as outing. Furthermore, discussing the WMF CEO's controversial Tweets on en-wiki could be construed as a violation of WP:OUTING because they may not have disclosed that Twitter account specifically on en-wiki. Promethean (talk) 13:28, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
  • No change (preferred) or #1 while I can understand the concerns over obscure stuff like Tweets and Twitter acounts and real names, I don't believe 2 would be the correct way to handle this. Someone already brought up PAID editing concerns. While it's true there are ways to deal with these privately, IMO such things are likely to lead to duplication of efforts and less effective response. If there are good privacy reasons to do so, then it's an acceptable compromise and in cases where the info can reasonably considered private I would agree. But consider this recent example [2]. A bunch of different editors created an article in different language wikipedias most likely in violation of WP:PAID. The other editors hadn't edited here but it was possible they had. If they had and the wording was 2, I could not bring up their contributions here without violating our outing policy. While looking in to this, I also noticed the same editor here said they translated an article from the Italian wikipedia. A look at the article on the Italian wikipedia shows that coincidentally it was created very recently by yet another editor. As it turns out, this editor has edited here. Again, I could not raise public concerns about this editor if 2 had passed even though I'm just relying on an article they created on a different language wikipedia. I suspect more investigation of the different editors may find more suspicious editors here. Some of this may be uncovered by a simple SPI but who knows? Still as I said I can understand concerns of active discussion of details publicly disclosed in other wikis perhaps keeping it ambiguous is the best option unless we find a better solution. Nil Einne (talk) 07:32, 8 July 2019 (UTC)
  • #1 per proposer. The alternative, that someone's details might be "public" on one Wiki but "private" on another, just seems bizarre. Adoring nanny (talk) 03:58, 22 July 2019 (UTC)
  • #1 i have faith in our admins and crats to understand the spirit of the rule, and harassment is harassment, otherwise the issue would be easily solved by talking to each other and having the information revdeled as needed. This change simply clarifies -- Aunva6talk - contribs 21:57, 29 July 2019 (UTC)

Alternate proposalEdit

Per discussion above and below, I'm proposing an alternate compromise wording:

unless that person has voluntarily posted his or her own information, or links to such information, on the English Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, Meta-Wiki or Wikidata.
  • Support per discussions above and below. TonyBallioni (talk) 21:06, 19 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Ping of those who have already commented@Risker, Thryduulf, Bradv, Mkdw, GreenMeansGo, SMcCandlish, Xaosflux, MarginalCost, Wugapodes, Doc James, Benjaminikuta, Sir Joseph, Icewhiz, StudiesWorld, Izno, Pbsouthwood, QEDK, Lourdes, BU Rob13, Tryptofish, MelanieN, and Barkeep49: I think that got everyone. If I missed someone, please feel free to let them know. Also noting that I do not see this as affecting's policy of suppressing information regarding children, which to their shame other projects do not follow. TonyBallioni (talk) 21:14, 19 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Support I like that. It would avoid the situation I had (which precipitated this whole discussion) in which a user who had revealed his real name on another language Wikipedia was strongly opposed to having it given out here. I gather there was a similar situation involving a person who was "out" as an admin on another language Wiki, but did not wish to be "out" here. People may very well be more comfortable giving personal information among what they feel to be their peers, their co-linguists, without wanting it broadcast to the world. -- MelanieN (talk) 21:21, 19 May 2019 (UTC)
  • I'm more-or-less neutral about this. I think that it is better than #1 above, and slightly inferior to #2, and I'm also not entirely convinced that it is needed. I remain uncomfortable with my previously stated concern that someone should be able to have an account here without having to worry about what they might have posted elsewhere, so I guess one could consider that a mild oppose, but it's not something that I would fight over. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:28, 19 May 2019 (UTC)
    • After reading subsequent comments by other editors, I'm coming back to move from neutral to Oppose. I see no good in making fair game out of personal information posted anywhere else. So to summarize my views, I Support #2 above as well as no change, and I Oppose #1 above and this alternate. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:24, 21 May 2019 (UTC)
  • 2nd choice to 1. I mean it's a unified account so the idea that we only count disclosures in English spaces is better than nothing but strikes me as overly cautious. I again am not sure that this whole RfC was needed (see Mkdw) but not now that it's out there rather than what I had felt to be acceptable status quo I am on board with this compromise. Best, Barkeep49 (talk) 21:46, 19 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Nah. A unified account means, quite literally, that your accounts are automatically linked together. It's a bit nuts to consider information posted in another language Wikipedia from the same exact account to be outing. It would be like restricting personal information posted in one namespace on enwiki from being discussed on other namespaces. Just doesn't make much sense. ~ Rob13Talk 21:56, 19 May 2019 (UTC)
  • 2nd choice to 2. I still think it is best to allow silos, but this would be acceptable.StudiesWorld (talk) 21:57, 19 May 2019 (UTC)
  • No idea how to feel about this. I agree with Rob, it is a bit weird to draw information posted to a public wiki and consider that as outing, but then again, a lot of the information we post off-wiki is public as well, just not connected and that is quite obviously, considered OUTing. There is an obvious grey area, with how we are connecting accounts and which wikis' information become considered as OUTing. I'd say I weakly support this proposal, at best. My take is as simple as I commented on the thread before, it is useless to waste your time OUTing anyone, there's just no point in it — just don't do it. --qedk (t c) 22:07, 19 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Support as compromise, though I still prefer 2 above. I don't find the unified login arguments very convincing; someone blocked on dewiki isn't automatically blocked here so we already ignore "unified" accounts when blocking. I don't understand why we would be reluctant to extend privacy for users across projects because of a silly technological feature. Of course there will be exceptions that obviously aren't outing, but we generally shouldn't be creating a loophole for bad faith actors to go snooping around other projects for harassment material. Wugapodes [thɑk] [ˈkan.ˌʧɹɪbz] 22:31, 19 May 2019 (UTC)
  • 2nd Choice to 2 above Sir Joseph (talk) 23:40, 19 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Oppose – in almost every case it would be considered unwise to bring information cross-wiki without the subject's permission, but it should not be a violation of OUTING to do so. I'm particularly concerned by the idea that investigations into issues such as paid editing or conflict of interest might be hampered with restrictions on cross-wiki evidence. For this reason I still prefer #1 above, and my second choice would be to leave the text ambiguous. – bradv🍁 00:10, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
    • Paid editing and COI allegations are not reasons to dismiss outing concerns, and they are not exceptions to the outing policy (either before or after these proposals) which is why there is a specific email address to forward such evidence to so that you don't need to make non-public information public. Thryduulf (talk) 00:21, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
      Sure it is - forcing such information to get sent to functionaries by email rather than posted in an ANI thread, COIN thread, or arbitration case definitely could have a chilling effect on such investigations. And if a user has linked to their twitter account on one wiki, and then on another claims they weren't off-wiki canvassing and whoever is accusing them should be blocked for outing, this policy change would also hamper that investigation. – bradv🍁 00:31, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
  • 2nd choice to #2 above, mostly per Wugapodes. Thryduulf (talk) 00:21, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
  • 2nd choice to #2 above as above. Lourdes 02:36, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
  • 2nd choice to #1 above. If someone revealed info on a language-Wikipedia they use once in a blue moon - I can see why this makes sense. However for users whose primary language-wiki is something other than enwiki (e.g. an account with 100k edits on dewiki, and 1k edits on enwiki) - looking at their userpage on their primary language wiki should be allowed.Icewhiz (talk) 03:30, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
  • 2nd choice to #1 above. If someone revealed they are a paid editor in Hebrew yes we can use those details in discussions on EN WP. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 05:32, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Bradv. Cross wiki info is not outing. Benjamin (talk) 05:33, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
  • meh. More complicated than one and no improvement on the other. On the other hand, no strong feelings about it either. Will go with the flow. · · · Peter Southwood (talk): 07:08, 20 May 2019 (UTC)

*2nd Choice to #2 above.. Mostly support though. Tbh I feel like this is probably going to be the best choice in the end. (Also I didn't forget to sign this time c:) --NikkeKatski [Elite] (talk) 13:56, 20 May 2019 (UTC)

    • Like tryptofish I also am actually going to completely Oppose #1 and the Alternate Proposal in favor of Supporting #2. As I really don't like the idea of "Cherrypicking" Information on other people by going as far out as they can in attempt to out someone. The Gnome has some really good points however I think that perhaps in some cases it may be the only option. --NikkeKatski [Elite] (talk) 13:49, 22 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Not to be permitted at all. We are not here to "out" anyone. Even if an editor posts up personal information about themselves, no matter where they post it or to what extent is the information detailed, we are not here to amplify or facilitate the dissemination of such information in any shape, way, or form. Even if the individual posts up personal information with an explicit permission (or even a request) to use that information any way we want, we should strictly avoid using it: We're not here to promote anyone, either.
Unless an individual has chosen to work in Wikipedia only under their real name, the correct way to address that individual is by their chosen Wkipedia-pseudonym.
We are here to improve the encyclopaedic content of Wikipedia. That's it. The social interaction encouraged by the existence of user pages and talk pages, as well as the existence of community projects, often confuse people. Well, Wikipedia is not a message board. -The Gnome (talk) 09:20, 17 May 2019 (UTC)
The Gnome Let's play that out. Say someone has identified who they are on a different Wikimedia project. They come here, and, bypassing AfC, write an article about themselves. This would be promoting themselves but we would be banned from pointing this out because to do so would be OUTING by your standard. How do you reconcile this? Best, Barkeep49 (talk) 02:27, 4 June 2019 (UTC)
Exposing a violation of policy should never be inhibited. Therefore, that would be the sole exception to the rule I support, since, by creating an article about themselves, the editor has violated Wikipedia policy. Thanks for this very valuable comment, Barkeep49. -The Gnome (talk) 09:02, 4 June 2019 (UTC)
  • 2nd choice to #2 above: per above arguments, especially those by Wugapodes. Javert2113 (Siarad.|¤) 16:45, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Oppose Because good-faith editors would get indeffed because they did not read the policy change. Changing policy too much makes it unpredictable. Tgeorgescu (talk) 20:43, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
    How would good-faith editors get blocked that way exactly? I don't really see it. --NikkeKatski [Elite] (talk) 21:04, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
    The consensus is that outing deserves indeffing. If some good-faith editor fails to read the policy change and violates the new policy, he/she will get indeffed, although he/she meant no harm. E.g. outing someone who disclosed his/her own identity at Tgeorgescu (talk) 21:54, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
    I see your point and it is definitely valid but imo I think the change is worth it. --NikkeKatski [Elite] (talk) 00:51, 21 May 2019 (UTC)
    Indef blocking for outing is not mandatory; it is an admin decision. In the discussion at the other page, several people said that revealing an identity that was disclosed on another wiki should be reverted and probably revdel'ed, but the person who did it would not necessarily be blocked. Admins are capable of recognizing good faith vs. bad faith - malicious harassment vs. innocent mistake - and adjusting their response accordingly. -- MelanieN (talk) 01:17, 21 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Oppose, I don't see a point to cherrypicking projects (or whatever they're called) to allow or disallow; either all or nothing makes more sense. All of the different projects are interconnected, not just these four. ansh666 06:26, 21 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Nope. Doesn't address any of the concerns I raised at all. Maybe this is a compromise for someone(s), but it's just an "I'm not hearing you" to me.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  21:00, 25 May 2019 (UTC)
  • I haven't come to a decision on the original proposal, but I would have to Oppose as I don't see why there would be a difference here. --Rschen7754 05:49, 29 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Strong oppose per my comment in the section above. Guettarda (talk) 15:08, 29 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Strong Support per discussions above and below.   —  Hei Liebrecht 22:06, 29 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Oppose as I mentioned in the above discussion, outing can occur on any public projects, so I don't see the point in limiting it to just the English Wikipedia and a few other projects. —TheSameGuy (talk) 12:46, 3 June 2019 (UTC)
  • Oppose This provides too many opportunities for gaming. #1 is the better rule. DGG ( talk ) 02:01, 4 June 2019 (UTC)
  • Prefer #1 above. I understand the rationale that some people don't want personal information to cross language boundaries, but I disagree with this rationale both in principle (something written publicly in a different language ought not to be treated as less public) and in practice (why are Commons and Wikidata singled out, but not English Wiktionary, English Wikibooks, etc?). Deryck C. 13:39, 6 June 2019 (UTC)
  • 1 If you put content into Wikimedia projects, I don't see how using that information could be outing. As Mkdw mentions, most references to Wikipedia should be changed to Wikimedia projects. Chris Troutman (talk) 15:03, 8 June 2019 (UTC)
  • Oppose this still creates problems in dealing with COI problems as I highlighted above. Nil Einne (talk) 07:33, 8 July 2019 (UTC)


  • What does "publicly" mean in this context, and why are we proposing to add this word? – bradv🍁 19:33, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
    @Bradv: - This is to disqualify private Wikimedia projects, such as and possibly also GMGtalk 19:37, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
    GreenMeansGo, okay that makes sense. In that case I would propose a slight rewording, to "on the English Wikipedia or another public Wikimedia project." – bradv🍁 19:39, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
      Done GMGtalk 19:42, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
  • "#1" above wouldn't really need the "or", since enwiki is a member of the later group. — xaosflux Talk 20:23, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
    Either one is fine with me. The meaning is unchanged. GMGtalk 20:33, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
  • It should probably also clarify that accounts must be publicly linked, such as with a unified login. If someone has an account name that is different and not publicly linked on another project, then none of their personal information may be cross-posted despite the fact that they publicly disclosed their information on another Wikimedia project. Mkdw talk 23:52, 13 May 2019 (UTC)
    Honest question @Mkdw: Do these still exists? I thought we rectified the old system with the new SUL some time ago. GMGtalk 00:25, 14 May 2019 (UTC)
    And yes, I understand that this would cascade through the rest of the section, but would establish a principle none-the-less, in the interest of putting together a succinct and intelligible RfC. GMGtalk 00:36, 14 May 2019 (UTC)
    Yes, we even allow alternate accounts here on Wikipedia. While SUL may unify that name across all projects, it would not prevent an individual from having multiple accounts. Mkdw talk 04:23, 14 May 2019 (UTC)
    And it only unifies in cases where the same user ID actually belongs to the same person, which is not always the case.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  06:04, 15 May 2019 (UTC)
    I'm not sure I see the relevance. If someone registers an alternate account for privacy reasons, as is allowed by policy, and they have not publicly disclosed a connection between those accounts, I don't know that there's any interpretation of policy that would not consider that a form of outing. Per policy and standard practice, if there are reasons that the connection between the two accounts or the individual person need to be examined, they should be emailed to ArbCom or a functionary. There is no sense that I see where this would change that arrangement one way or the other.
    As to the other comments, as I indicated above, any policy on outing, including the current one, is not leave to be disruptive, or to post personal information, even information which has already been disclosed, in settings where that information serves no legitimate purpose. But neither does it make sense that, given a consistent application of an " interpretation", if you disclose on Commons, Meta or that you are the public relations officer for X Pharma Inc, I now need to email that to ArbCom because we have to act like Commons doesn't exist, even though it's the same account editing cross-wiki. GMGtalk 12:26, 15 May 2019 (UTC)
  • I think it's also worth mentioning that the example used for the proposal was a case where the person in question was "strongly objecting to having their identity revealed here". Mkdw talk 07:02, 15 May 2019 (UTC)
  • I would prefer some language like unless subsequently rescinded be included as well. If someone admitted their real name 10 years ago (possibly even on another project), and has since made clear they wish to avoid drawing further attention to that indiscretion, their wish should be respected. MarginalCost (talk) 12:21, 16 May 2019 (UTC)
  • I would prefer a third way, similar to what TonyBallioni suggested: if the user has published their information on English Wikipedia, or one of the three "global" projects (Meta, Commons and/or Wikidata). Otherwise, #1 with the inclusion of "any software operated by Wikimedia". Thus, mailing lists, phabricator, github, Discourse and a few other locations. Risker (talk) 02:34, 19 May 2019 (UTC)
    • If we're going down that way (which I think is probably generally good) I'd rather be more specific than "mailing lists" as there are many lists with differing degrees of privacy expectation. For example posting using your real name on Wikipedia-l is different to doing so on the Functionaries list for example. Thryduulf (talk) 10:21, 19 May 2019 (UTC)
      • That's fair. I'd suggest "mailing lists hosted by the WMF that are publicly accessible" instead, although we might want to limit that even further. There are a huge number of non-private lists at m:Mailing_lists/Overview, and I'd suggest eliminating those that are chapter-based, related to another project, or non-English. (I'd leave in the technical ones, though.) I once had to persuade an administrator to unblock someone who got blocked for referring to me by my first name (which I commonly use on mailing lists); I can't claim "privacy" when my full name is there (including photos!) on Meta, and I'm really hesitant to grant it to someone who tries to do so when the information is easily accessible via SUL on another Wikimedia project. I've been writing about this for more than 10 years, and I'm still stunned at how unaware people are about their personal responsibility with respect to their privacy. Risker (talk) 01:32, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Query. A number of us have been here since long before the global logins. Should details have to be posted on other Mediawiki sites after the change to global logins? Espresso Addict (talk) 05:58, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
    @Espresso Addict: What do you mean by that? --qedk (t c) 06:10, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
    @QEDK: A justification for this being an obvious change is that with global login, every editor has only a single Mediawiki account. When I joined, this was not the case. For years, I had more than one account with different passwords, to which I gave somewhat different information. Global login only came along much later, and somewhat against my will, my accounts were automatically associated. I personally strongly do not wish any information I gave to other sites to be publicised on en-Wikipedia. Espresso Addict (talk) 06:16, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
    If you want to keep your accounts separate, you could always just use separate accounts. Benjamin (talk) 06:28, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
    I'm not sure whether that's permitted. But I certainly can't now untangle accounts that were separate, and were inextricably linked to one another by no action of mine, years after I created them. Espresso Addict (talk) 06:49, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
    Privacy is a legitimate reason to have multiple accounts, as long as they're not used illegitimately, of course. Benjamin (talk) 06:59, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
    You can have infinite alts as long as you don't use them illegimately. Disclosure is necessary sometimes, because you cannot have your alt edit different topic areas with 100% unquestionable behaviour. Accounts were globalized because SUL could not work with different passwords for each wiki, thus single user login. It was a good step towards tracking cross-wiki behaviour and questionable behaviour across wikis meant that it was now associated with that SUL account, instead of separate accounts. --qedk (t c) 07:39, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Just a question but.. If A large portion of us prefer the alternate proposal as a second choice (Both #1 and #2 supporters) would that mean the alternate proposal is considered the "better" choice as it can appeal to both sides? (In some way) --NikkeKatski [Elite] (talk) 15:26, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
  • I realized, in discussion at another board, that part of the problem here is that OUTING is treated as a subset of this article, WP:Harassment. But IMO they are kind of different issues. Harassment sounds like it should be about actions done with malice - actions that deserve punishment. But personal private information should be protected, to whatever extent that we decide here, regardless of the motive of the person who reveals it. For that matter, once it has been revealed, blocking the person who revealed it does not solve the problem; the genie is out of the bottle. Maybe this question - whether personal information/outing should be treated as a subset of harassment - should be reconsidered in a separate thread. -- MelanieN (talk) 16:31, 20 May 2019 (UTC)
  • I firmly believe that editors should be allowed to edit pseudonymously here without fear of being revealed, and that our OUTING policy is an important protection for this. However, I have increasingly encountered situations in which an editor is not trying to hide their identity (e.g. they edit under their real and uncommon first name in a specialized area in which they are a leading expert, or reveal their identity publicly but off-wiki) and I am unable to give them public credit on off-wiki forums for the good editing work they are doing, because they did not bother to explicitly and on-wiki write their full names. In exercises like this where we try to parse more carefully what has already been revealed and what should be considered still private, we should think about whether we are setting up barriers that will prevent good editors from being publicly recognized as good editors, something that I think is important in encouraging more contributors to join the project. —David Eppstein (talk) 17:39, 3 June 2019 (UTC)
  • Status quo for first choice, #2 for second choice. I'm uncomfortable with anything that encourages is to turn into amateur detectives. Even hunting through edit histories ON en.wikipedia for IRL information feels creepy. I don't like any change that encourages such nonsense.--Jayron32 10:18, 8 June 2019 (UTC)
  • Comments: Not to be permitted at all. We are not here to "out" anyone. --- Per The Gnome. While I support registration we allow anonymous users and we have "Wkipedia-pseudonyms". While I can understand the idea of giving accolades to "the real person" this is a "no-brainer" if that person has not opted to "connect the dots" to themselves. If ANYONE cares to have real names connected they would, or should, let this be known themselves otherwise we should stick to no outing. Also, this form of "exploring" is confusing with all the supports and opposes (and others) all mixed. I think they should have been listed separately like I normally see. Otr500 (talk) 01:00, 9 June 2019 (UTC)
Note concerning comments on Unified login above: Should I remove my email account, cancel my global account, and place a disclaimer on my user page? I only have one user name. I suppose the "User committed identity" is also not a good idea? I started the Wikipedia:Unified login ("allows users to use a single global login on all public Wikimedia Foundation projects. This allows users to maintain a consistent identity throughout Wikimedia and work on different projects without having to sign up and log in to each project individually.") for ease of navigation. It now seems this could have been a bad idea. I HAD NO IDEA that by linking accounts there would be the remote thought I would be subjected to possible privacy infringement or that somehow I have given some proxy agreement that it might be alright just because I linked accounts. I sort of had the apparently mistaken idea, mentioned by user:David Eppstein "I firmly believe that editors should be allowed to edit pseudonymously here without fear of being revealed", and I thought this was a given but apparently not. I would have though there was a concrete expectation that personal private information ALWAYS BE PROTECTED ---EVERYWHERE on Wikipedia or connected Wikimedia Foundation projects to the best of our ability. If any editor chooses to use a real name, or otherwise reveal their real identity, that would be their prerogative but it still boils down to my above comments that outing should not occur. Since there are possible legal implications here should we seek a WMF opinion? Otr500 (talk) 04:10, 9 June 2019 (UTC)
  • Question Above in my support for 1 or no change I mentioned the problem of dealing with COI concerns. Thinking about it more, if 2 passes I assume this means someone could not even mention here publicly that different editors have suspiciously created articles on some obscure subject in different language wikipedias at all? Even without naming the editors on the other wikipedias. Since by mentioning the other articles and their creation, I'm effectively revealing the possible link between the editor here and these other unnamed editors. Likewise you could no longer reveal that editor X was blocked on other language wikipedias for COI editing (or anything else e.g. vandalism etc). So cross language editor problems could not be discussed here at all except with the explicit permission of or mention here by the editor concerned. Nil Einne (talk) 08:19, 8 July 2019 (UTC)

The above discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

Addition to WP:HOUNDEdit

Could we add a clause that more explicitly states the policy (as agreed to by all members of ArbCom who were elected last year, virtually all members of the 2015 ArbCom, and pretty much every other long-term contributor I've talked to on the matter) that it is not hounding to go through another editor's contributions if one believes there are serious issues with textual plagiarism, misreading of sources, etc.? Use of wording like "an apparent aim" and so on implies we are starting out with the assumption that hounding is taking place, since in common parlance that word implies something that appears to be the case, whether or not it actually is, and "usually for collegial or administrative purposes" seems to imply that anyone who is engaged in malicious POV-pushing or the like can just say they don't feel comfortable with User X monitoring their edits and it is therefore not "collegial", when I'm pretty sure that doing so for the good of the encyclopedia is not considered hounding whether or not the offending party considers it to be collegial; how about "usually for purposes of improving the encyclopedia" or the like? Hijiri 88 (やや) 05:20, 30 May 2019 (UTC)

I think we need to be careful about making any such changes, because they can potentially open up a lot of opportunities for wikilawyering by users who actually are hounding someone. I'm not aware of bogus accusations of hounding being a problem; such accusations happen, but they are usually recognized for what they are. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:58, 30 May 2019 (UTC)
@Tryptofish: I'm not aware of bogus accusations of hounding being a problem See the most recent ANI archive; the accusations were recognized, but not before a bunch of users showed up and said "well, the accusations are bogus, and ongoing despite multiple warnings, but let's not warn them this time and see if it works out better". See also the 2015 Hijiri88/Catflap08 case, where a bogus hounding accusation went so long with only the long-term allies of the victim (me, in case I need to explicitly disclose that) noticing it that it led to an IBAN, which in turn went all the way up to ArbCom, where ArbCom said pretty clearly "No, that wasn't hounding" -- and yet people were still trying to pretend that wasn't what they said as late as summer of last year.[3] Hijiri 88 (やや) 01:39, 3 June 2019 (UTC)
I didn't want to find the "summer of last year" diff, but then the "people" in question showed up again below (I'm sure by complete coincidence[4]) and I needed to track it down for a post elsewhere, so I figured I might as well add it to the above. The other comments immediately before and (I think..?) after also contain the same kind of content. Hijiri 88 (やや) 01:46, 10 June 2019 (UTC)
I actually am aware of those various things. It's not up to me, and if other editors want to pursue this further, I'm happy to follow the discussion. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:13, 3 June 2019 (UTC)
Actually, someone just tried to do exactly that ^^^, they were in violation, but tried to claim they were being helpful, citing the fact that those of us who clean up after vandals and copyvios etc do have to follow contribs. It didn't fly. I added the following before seeing the above, so I'll go take another look and see if I think it needs any more tweaks.
Per a discussion at ANI about the spirit of this policy being violated, I have added a clause to the last paragraph to emphasize that it's not always about the type of edits made when a user is hounding another; the main problem is the hounding itself. It now reads, with the new text italicized here: The important component of hounding is disruption to another user's own enjoyment of editing, or disruption to the project generally, for no overriding reason. Even if the individual edits themselves are not disruptive per se, "following another user around", if done to cause distress (such as following an editor with whom the user is in conflict), or if the following is accompanied by tendentiousness, personal attacks, or other disruptive behavior, it may become a very serious matter and could result in blocks and other editing restrictions. - CorbieV 19:38, 7 June 2019 (UTC)
I think that your addition was a good one, thanks. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:40, 7 June 2019 (UTC)
As was yours, Thank you, too. :) - CorbieV 21:21, 7 June 2019 (UTC)
@CorbieVreccan: Are you referring to the thread you recently opened at ANI? That was not "exactly that"; following around editors you don't like for the purpose of harassing/intimidating/whatevering them, and not directly reverting their edits but making it clear you are monitoring their edits without good reason is not at all even comparable to following the edits of a disruptive editor and reverting those edits because those edits are disruptive. It's practically the opposite: if the person claimed they were monitoring disruptive editors, that claim could be easily refuted by pointing out that if their "followees"' edits had been disruptive they would have reverted them.
I was hounded once in 2012/2013 by an editor behaving in the above-described manner, but I've encountered far more bad-faith hounding accusations, so I really don't think editing this policy page to make it harder to violate this policy in the former but easier to violate it in the latter. I don't mind the recent additions overall, but I think such as following an editor with whom the user is in conflict definitely needs to be discussed: any disruptive POV-pusher can claim to be "in conflict" with an editor who is protecting the encyclopedia from their disruption. Believe me, when you edit in topic areas like I often do, proving consistent violation of our content policies to the community at ANI or to ArbCom is extremely difficult, and making this policy more permissive of their argument that it's "just a regular conflict between Wikipedians" is not likely to help improve the experience of building the encyclopedia. Pinging User:Curly Turkey and User:Nishidani, who can vouch for what I'm talking about: a certain disruptive editor whose username was 11 characters long created massive problems for our Japanese history articles over a period of more than three years. (It wasn't anyone I've ever been IBANned with -- I'm not naming them because I suspect both the pinged editors could name the editor in question off the top of their head without needing to look it up despite how long ago it was, because that's how bad it was.) The user frequently made bad-faith hounding accusations, and was for a time able to get a sympathetic ear at ANI from those members of the community who looked at the content of their edits and couldn't tell immediately that they were disastrous for the project. We still have not fully cleared up all of the messes they caused. And I've encountered similar problems with other editors more recently -- serial plagiarists, POV pushers, and generally tendentious editors don't want their disruptive editors monitored and reverted, but the harassment policy is not meant to enable them.
The proposed wording would make them technically right to say that editors who were "in conflict with them" were hounding them by going around reverting their edits, even though this was never the case -- they made disruptive edits, and knowledgeable and diligent Wikipedians went to the effort of undoing those edits.
Hijiri 88 (やや) 14:34, 8 June 2019 (UTC)
The user hounding me did try to claim they were just following me to be helpful to the 'pedia. They tried to claim they didn't know about the Recent Changes or Random Page functions so had to use other editors' contribs as their watchlist. As someone who's also had to clean up against long-term vandals, and those who've flown under the radar for years as citespammers, or those who've used the wiki to push POVs or even perpetuate hoaxes, I deeply sympathize with not having this abused against those of us who have to use a disruptive user's contribs to clean up their mess and abuse. I am open to whatever we need to do to keep it clear that cleaning up after disruption is completely different from a creep stalking a constructive editor. - CorbieV 17:41, 8 June 2019 (UTC)
I see Hijiri 88's point about (such as following an editor with whom the user is in conflict). Let me suggest tightening it up as either (such as following an editor with whom the user is in conflict in order to harass that editor) or (such as following an editor with whom the user is in conflict in order to further that conflict). --Tryptofish (talk) 21:22, 8 June 2019 (UTC)
I'm not sure what wording would do away with the accusations. I'm in the habit of checking the contribs of those I interact with, and when I see MOS non-compliance (for example) in the articles I'm skimming through, I fix them. This has led to an accusation of hounding with someone I was in conflict with, even though the edits were unrelated to the dispute and not directed at the other editor (say, a MOS:LQ fix when the dispute has to do with an unrelated grammar or usage issue). Curly "JFC" Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 00:25, 9 June 2019 (UTC)

I approve of Tryptofish's revised wording. It adequately addresses my concerns. Hijiri 88 (やや) 07:13, 9 June 2019 (UTC)

I would like to suggest that you RfC this proposed change before there is any consideration of altering the wording of the policy accordingly. This would be a not-insubstantial change to key wording in one of Wikipedia's most important behavioural guidelines--indeed, after WP:NPA, perhaps the single most important policy on the project with regard to restraining bad acts and maintaining a hostility-free environment for all editors. I therefore do not think three editors (two of whom are currently involved--as either party or commentator--in a live and as yet unresolved ANI about this exact behaviour, who therefor have skin in the game as regards what this policy currently says) bouncing around a prospective change is sufficient indicia of community will to change the policy without a broader effort at securing consensus on the matter. I think it's entirely possible that the policy reads as it does because the community embraces a precautionary principle on such matters and does in fact prefer (or even expect) that editors will not follow other parties with whom they have conflicted on one issue to additional spaces, no matter how convinced they are that the other party "needs to be restrained"; at the very least, I think this point is deserving of further and broader discussion than has yet taken place before the proposed change is seriously considered. Snow let's rap 08:10, 9 June 2019 (UTC)
@Snow Rise: who therefor have skin in the game as regards what this policy currently says Not really -- the precise wording used on this policy page does not affect what the actual policy is, which has never been ... well, the way you've interpreted it in virtually all of my prior encounters with you. ArbCom and community consensus have been clear about this over and over and over again, and everyone here (both those who have recently been falsely accused of hounding -- me and Tryptofish -- and those who have recently accused others, who used "good edits" as an excuse, of hounding -- me and Corbie), not mention everyone in the thread you refer to who isn't either (a) a new user unfamiliar with policy or (b) a tendentious editor themselves engaged in hounding behaviour, agrees that monitoring the problematic edits of problematic editors is not hounding. What's more, I opened this section discussion before that ANI thread was filed, and the amended wording came from people who actually disagreed with my original proposal.
Moreover -- would it be okay if I asked how you found this discussion? You say this is a very important policy page, but you've never edited here before yesterday, and given how you were the "people" I was referring to above it seems highly suspect that you would show up here to oppose amended wording that would make this policy more clearly out-of-line with your somewhat idiosyncratic interpretation of it. (Not to mention that "coincidentally" showing up to accuse someone of "hounding" literally every time they notice a problem editor like the 11-character one above has something of a WP:KETTLE flavour about it.)
Hijiri 88 (やや) 02:14, 10 June 2019 (UTC)
A) Insofar as you opened this before the ANI thread, that's a fair point, but clearly this suggested change of wording does not come out of nowhere, and you are in fact highly motivated to see the wording of this policy changed for reasons that go beyond an abstract interest in the topic. In other words, you are not the most neutral of parties. You might rightly respond "I don't need to be neutral--it doesn't matter what context gave rise to my interest, I have a concern about the policy language and think it should be changed." And fair enough, if that were your position.Even so, this is a not-insignificant change to policy language that is vital as a bulwark against harassment and disruption on this project and I simply do not think it is appropriate to change the language without broader indication that this represents true community consensus rather than the perspective of a handful of contributors whose outlook on the issue is currently coloured by their present disputes concerning the matter. Even if we give you every benefit of the doubt and assume that the person currently accusing you of stalking is exactly who you say they are--a histrionic problem editor, abusing the wording of the policy to give you headaches for your good faith efforts to clean up his mess--the circumstances could still blind you to consequences of changing the language in other contexts, where hounding being reported is genuine.
I'm sorry, but I'm just not comfortable as a community member (with a decade of experience understanding how these issues impact dispute escalation and editor retention) having that change made without RfCing it, ideally at WP:VPP, for the wider community to validate or reject. And let me be clear: I am not even saying that your position is without merit or out of nowhere--I get the argument you are advancing, but I think there are a lot of consequences to changing this language which may not be immediately obvious from your own personal experience and that it ought to benefit from more than a couple of days haggling between a handful of editors (some of them incensed by their own recent interactions involving issues covered under the wording) before the language of this policy is changed; said language is too important to project integrity and an open and inclusive community to have it altered in a fly-by-night fashion.
B) I am here on this talk page responding to the RfC in the thread above, a link to which you can find on my talk page, where it was posted three days ago. A minimal amount of review/a simple ctrl-f search of this page might have saved you the trouble of making a baseless and paranoid accusation which is surely doing nothing to augment your position here. And I'll thank you kindly to strike your smarmy little "I'm sure it's just coincidence" comment further up the thread. I don't know why you would think that my comments (as a non-involved community member) at your ANI threads in the past would evidence some sort of preoccupation with your activity on this project, but I assure you, I have zero personal interest in your comings and goings. If I were involving myself now out of some ulterior motive involving you, I'd be at the ANI, where your conduct is being reviewed. But I don't care about the outcome of your dispute, other than to say that I hope the community volunteers there get it right. However, I am quite concerned about issues that might be implicated by changes to this policy--and it is that and that alone that spurred my comment when I saw this thread. I don't know if you are still of the belief that you are being persecuted by an organized effort involving various editors, as you have expressed in the past, but I can assure you (not for the first time, but hopefully for the last) I am no part of any such supposed effort.
So please, let's keep this clinical and wiki-professional: if you think my concerns about the policy are exaggerated with regard to how the larger community would feel about it, the solution is simple enough--solicit such opinions. My cup does not exactly floweth over with regard to time for the project right now, but I do recognize that insofar as I've raised the procedural/scale of consensus issue here, I've inherited a certain small burden of reciprocal responsibility for advancing and defending the precautionary position, so if you would like to collaborate on co-authoring an RfC, I'll make the time to do so. Indeed, if you are of the opinion that it's my responsibility alone since I raised the need for broader community discussion, I'll do all of the leg work if that is your preference. Again, I do not reject your position wholesale, but alterations of key policy language ought to be done slowly and methodically and (where our policy regarding harassment is concerned in particular) with a full and detailed contemplation of possible unintended consequences. We can stand to talk about this a little longer and with the benefit of more voices, is what I'm trying to say. Snow let's rap 05:21, 10 June 2019 (UTC)
Well, I never implied I was "neutral". My initial replies to both Trypto and Corbie made direct reference to my interest in this matter. But my interest in this matter is what gives me an awareness of prior community and ArbCom rulings on the matter; you're every bit as non-neutral as me but your history on the matter shows you consistently in the minority (virtually everyone who at one time agreed with you in this or that discussion later recanted upon seeing the evidence, was banned, or was given a limited sanction and left the site). Any addition to policy wording that is simply making clearer an overwhelming community consensus on what the policy actually is does not need a prior VPPRFC, especially when the only editor opposed to the simple talk page discussion has a demonstrated history of counter-policy statements on the matter. Hijiri 88 (やや) 06:09, 10 June 2019 (UTC)
Forgive the painfully long response: it may be a day or more before I can respond further, and I wanted to be as plain and detailed about my concerns here as I could:
You're purporting to know my position on this better than I do, because I don't recall any instances in which I have previously commented anywhere on this project (at least at any length) concerning the particular issue raised in this thread. You'll have to refresh my memory if you think I have previously weighed in on the topic before, and who these other editors were who I was supposedly in alignment with. For the record, my opinion on the matter today, based on the change you propose in the abstract, rather than particular conduct, is that it is a situation-contextual call, when someone follows someone another editor to numerous spaces and engages in either combative exchanges or undoing/thwarting the other person's work. There are occasionally good faith reasons to do this, but there are also a bevy of ways in which it can represent thoroughly inappropriate harassment--either transparent or thinly disguised as being in the project's best interests, even where taking the issue to a central discussion space specializing on the relevant content or administrative issues would have been far more appropriate (and cost the community far less time) than going off to engage the vandal/bad actor in one-on-one editorial combat. On the whole, I think the policy ought to lean to the side of encouraging people away from following other editors with whom they they have recently conflicted, at least as far as "following" includes actively reverting them or commenting upon their contributions in diverse areas, rather than including wording which will definitely be perceived by some problem editors as saying "Go ahead, track someone like a bloodhound, provided that you feel you can make an argument that to (and you alone) sounds honest that what you are doing is in the best interests of the project."
That's an incredibly low threshold for some people to meet, particularly if we adopt the breadth of the standard you propose above, where concerns about the "misreading of sources" would be substantial enough grounds to stalk someone's edits (here meaning the party would be reverting at least some of them across disparate pages. In my opinion, that kind of activity definetly falls solidly within the category of behaviours this policy is designed to prevent; and if you want to establish consensus otherwise, I suggest you are going to need to get more specific about where you think ArbCom has expressed differently or who exactly these large numbers of editors are who agree that we should adopt a more laissez-faire standard to permitting editors to decide for themselves that they should undertake a unilateral chain of actions to stopping and editor who they perceive as a net negative, rather than bringing serial issues to the attention of an appropriate workspace--which it seems to me is the usual and most stable response to problem editors. Greenlighting a policing instinct may seem like a good idea to you from where you are standing now, but this would open up a huge can of worms regarding two classes of problem editor: the outright harassing troll and the (possibly well-intentioned) overzealous editor looking to throw their weight around regarding particular content or meta issues.
And look, clearly this is an area where the particular facts and nuances make a lot of difference. At one end of the spectrum you have blatant vandals: no one is going to have a problem if a regular good-faith contributor follows this person from page to page reverting 50 instances of "Eat more spam." We rely upon such attentiveness, though it's worth noting that most of this work is undertaken within task forces dedicated to these simple calls, with clear rules urging caution on even borderline cases. Then you have situations where one might perceive a common thread of an obvious content issue running through a series of edits; in rare instances, this might be an acceptable response if you think the other editor is going to be receptive to your edit summary and comport accordingly, rather than reverting and/or continuing on with the activity--either way, as soon as it's clear that you are not having a meeting of the minds, it's time to take it to a community space or process. Towards the other end of the continuum is when someone has had a disagreement and continues to engage with the editor they perceive as a problem in a unilateral fashion, particularly over a significant period f time, dropping in to discussions they are involved in across disparate subjects or doing serial reverts of content that that are unrelated to a very specific common mistake--at that point, red flags ought to be going up for everyone, including the person doing the commenting/reverting.
Now obviously, the issues are always judged on a case-by-case basis, either by an admin, the community at large, or (in extremis) ArbCom. And generally the requisite amount of attention to the details is made. The question is, what default standard here best serves the community's wishes and interests best here? And let's be honest, we pretty regularly find every possible way to excuse an editor with a positive track record from even the hint of a sanction, so long as it is clear that they were operating from legitimate editorial/community concerns. We typically take no action even where there were clear issues with over-zealousness or a needlessly aggressive approach. So we are then left to ask which is the greater harm: 1) Preserving the traditional wording and having some editors continuing to have to account for why they are following someone else around, undoing their edits without community involvement even where they are not obvious vandalism, even if it occasionally leaves some of those editors feeling burned by what they feel is unkind or unwarranted scrutiny (sometimes a very legitimate complaint, sometimes not), or 2) Changing the wording uncarefully and end up greenlighting the most aggressive instincts of some of our more disruptive editors, and providing a rhetorical safe harbor for those looking to outright harass, so long as they can argue that they had a concern about an editor that seemed legitimate to them.
Now, this is not necessarily a zero-sum argument: there may be wording that is both nuanced and concise enough to be added that would address both areas of concern. But to the extent there is a conflict between addressing these two harms, I know which one I think is of deeper concern and greater scope for this project and which I think the policy ought to be engineered towards more, where there is a conflict. And I'm not at all convinced that the community is as supportive as you believe it to be of the notion of being more permissive about letting editors follow eachother around, engaging in unwanted interactions, provided they can argue they were doing it for the project. That just seems like an untenable standard to me. I'm willing to be proven wrong by a community discussion, of course. And genuinely, I am curious to hear what ArbCom rulings you feel are most on point here and which arguments from others you have found most compelling. But at present, I remain concerned about putting language expressly allowing or encouraging following behaviour into the policy, due to the forgoing concerns. Snow let's rap 07:46, 10 June 2019 (UTC)
Myself, the accusation of hounding was leveled by the person who actually was hounding me, and the whole thing was reasonably quickly resolved, so I've been experiencing it from both sides – but I really do not see the issues in these edits here as having anything to do with my personal experience, and I'm not approaching it that way. I don't think it's productive to keep discussing the personal aspects anyway, because we need to consider the general case. I'm friendly to having an RfC, but I think it would be useful to have some more local discussion first, in order to give the future RfC the best possible focus.
It seems to me that the specific thing that might benefit from wider discussion would be the part about "such as following an editor with whom the user is in conflict". Am I right about that, or is there anything else? I assume (but could be missing something) that the rest of the recent changes are things like this: [5], which seem noncontroversial to me. I'd like to identify locally, first, what specific language is in question, and what possible fixes to it there might be. --Tryptofish (talk) 18:53, 10 June 2019 (UTC)
  • Comment: I like the above "addition" (support) for clarification. If "hound" was meant literally not to follow any editor it could hinder many forms of maintenance on Wikipedia so the wording "for no overriding reason" seems important. Otr500 (talk) 13:48, 8 June 2019 (UTC)]]
  • Comment: No matter how perfectly we manage to word this, there will always be disruptive editors who gaslight, DARVO, wikilawyer, and, to be blunt, just out and out LIE. There will always be cases that wind up at ANI. This is the current wording of the final paragraph:

The important component of hounding is disruption to another user's own enjoyment of editing, or disruption to the project generally, for no constructive reason. Even if the individual edits themselves are not disruptive per se, "following another user around", if done to cause distress, or if that following is accompanied by tendentiousness, personal attacks, or other disruptive behavior, it may become a very serious matter and could result in blocks and other editing restrictions.

I think it's about as clear as we can get without further introducing issues per WP:BEANS. If you really want an RfC, you can go ahead, I guess. But I don't think we're going to manage to really improve it. (ETA: If we are discussing adding a bit at this point, I have lost track of which bit it is. It needs to be proposed in a clearer manner after so many long comments.) - CorbieV 20:30, 10 June 2019 (UTC)
I also am not particularly alarmed by anything that has been suggested, but if an RfC would calm any concerns, I'm friendly to that, too. As far as I can tell, the only part that really lends itself to an RfC is this: [6], with variations like this: [7]. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:01, 10 June 2019 (UTC)
I'm more amenable to the first of those options than the second, personally: the second option is about as paradigmatic an example of begging the question as I can imagine; of course following someone around "in order to harass them" is impermissible, but that's a pretty clearly circular description. The entire purpose of this policy (and that section in particular) is to try to describe what harassment/hounding looks like and what behaviours the community expects editors to avoid. So, again, saying "following someone around for the purposes of harassment is hounding, and hounding is a form of harassment" gets us nowhere and is in fact a form of syllogistic fallacy that is going to clarify nothing for anyone trying to act in good faith, while also simultaneously giving problem editors all kinds of cover whenever the community tries to hold them accountable for stalking behaviour, because they will be able to (quite honestly) state: "Well the policy says I can follow them around so long as I wasn't doing it to harass, and I give you my solemn vow that I wasn't doing this to harass and here's my "proof": [insert five issues they pull from the other user's edit history in order to justify the stalking].
In contrast, I believe the community actually does feel that editors should not be following one-another around when they have recently conflicted, reverting eachother on articles or responding on talk/project spaces that are unrelated to a common issue. If an editor comes across someone who is (just as an example) changing the formatting of a template across twenty different articles, such that is is not transcluding properly, and the reviewing editor makes an effort to discuss the changes, but sees no reason to wait to revert the clearly harmful effects, per WP:BRD, by all means they should be able to do that without too much worry about accusations of bad faith behaviour--because that is clearly not hounding. However, suppose the problem editor then responds tersely or antagonistically to the correcting editor, and two days later, the correcting editor decides to follow this person to an RfC, a village pump discussion, and an AfD, despite never contributing to any of the involved articles/spaces, and then corrects three edits of the other editor that were made at unrelated articles, without a common underlying editorial issue. I believe that crosses into the kind of behaviour the community definitely expects this policy to prevent. Because at that point, the reacting editor, no matter how good faith their intentions, has appointed themselves chaperon, judge, and gatekeeper with regard to another editor and their contributions, in contravention of all of this project's norms on dispute resolution.
If a community member believes there are issues with core competency in another editor, there are spaces on this project set aside specifically for addressing such concerns. And if there isn't an over-arcing WP:CIR concern, they can raise the individual issues on talk pages (which, frankly, they should be doing anyway). Deciding instead to revert numerous unrelated edits of another editor without consensus discussion in that context is just never going to be an appropriate means of controlling the problematic edits, and at that point, no editor should be trying to face down the situation as a self-appointed Wikipedia policeman. For one thing, it almost always creates more work than it saves for the community, when the other editor pretty invariably feels hounded and lodges their own complaint and/or ends up feuding with their "persecutor". Put otherwise, following this impulse to shadow someone almost always ends up being a net negative for the project, even if it let's you clean up a larger number of problem edits a couple of hours earlier. We have a consensus-based approach to disputes on this project for a reason, and our policies are expressly designed to edge editors towards consensus processes, rather than deputizing themselves to review another editor's contributions whole-cloth and act unilaterally in reverting all that they find to be in error.
Personally, I think the language of the policy is already well-balanced to neither encourage improper following nor hinder appropriate following, and my first choice would be to leave it as is in this regard. After that I would support your re-phrasing here as a second most desirable choice. I believe introducing this wording would be a huge mistake, as it would add almost no real clarity for good actors and would become a rhetorical shield for parties engaged in harassment, who would also be more than happy to engage in gamesmanship surrounding the ambiguity that the "you following is only hounding (a form of harassment on this project) if you are doing it to harass" standand would open up. Of course, we shouldn't paint ourselves into a corner here: there are probably many more workable options than these three, and that's exactly the kind of thing an RfC can help to shed light on. Snow let's rap 23:54, 10 June 2019 (UTC)
Your whole comment, when read together, doesn't make sense: you say it is circular and begging the question to say that following around for the purpose of harassment is a form of harassment, but then your counter examples are all cases where the following is clearly done for the purpose of harassment. What has the rest of us concerned is cases where the following around was not done for the purpose of harassment but for the protection of our free encyclopedia's integrity, but that this fact is only "clear" to someone with a knowledge of the subject matter, thus making it much too easy for the self-proclaimed "houndee" to convince a significant portion of the community to sanction an editor for doing the right thing.
AGF says that an ANI contributor (or an Arbitrator, for that matter) should not assume that harassment was the intent if they do not understand that, for instance, our original Battle of Shigisan was an OR nightmare compiled of a bunch of obscure references in ancient primary sources that contradict both each other and the known facts about the geography of that part of Japan, but the sad fact is that they sometimes do assume that, which is why this policy page should be worded in a manner that does not make it easier for such accidents to happen. The 11-character editor probably should have been sitebanned immediately following that Shigisan incident in 2013, but instead it took a long three years because the rest of us were afraid of being accused of "hounding" him (or at least that was what I was afraid of).
(As an aside, I've found that about 90% of the time when editors claim they are being hounded when in fact what they are trying to do is violate policy while avoiding scrutiny, they are themselves also engaging in clear harassment of the party they claim is hounding them: case in point at the current ANI, how did some I first interacted with a month ago know about a conflict I had had with another editor more than six years ago? That is what WP:HOUND is meant to be condemning.)
Hijiri 88 (やや) 01:18, 11 June 2019 (UTC)
There is such a thing as trying to do the right thing, but going about it in the wrong way. I don't believe that its an omission that this policy language imparts the idea "Avoid following editors with who you have recently conflicted." rather than "Avoid following editors you have recently conflicted with (unless you are of the opinion that they are really in the wrong about something)."; I think that's entirely by design and reflects community consensus to discourage such behaviour. Or at least, I'm convinced enough that I'm willing to test the belief against community feedback.
Regarding AGF, I couldn't agree more as to its crucial role here, and I would expect anyone actually analyzing user conduct to apply it liberally in a community discussion. But we're not evaluating any actual user's conduct here at the moment; we're considering what proscriptive language will better serve the community's interests and guard against more serious harm, and ideally best serve to prevent conflict in the first place. I understand your argument, but, at least where the second of the proposed changes is concerned, I believe such an alteration would admit a much greater harm for the community (particularly for those who face inordinate amounts of harassment to begin with) than would leaving the language as it stands. Though again, we shouldn't necessarily limit ourselves to just the three options that have been considered thus far; there may be wording that threads the needle to address all concerns.
I will say though, that I don't share your perspective on the likelihood of a some slick troll managing to hoodwink a 'significant enough portion' of the community at ANI such that they manipulate the community into sanctioning a completely innocent editor who in no way even so much as brushed up against violating a policy themselves. That strikes me as a phantom concern. Wikipedia brings together experts from the entire span of human endeavour and inquiry--we don't all have to know eachother's fields of expertise inside and out in order to recognize whose behaviour is more wp:disruptive--because that question is more about out standards of conduct than it is about an interpretation of any particular area of content. Experienced community members are pretty good, if imperfect, at sniffing out the bull and reconstructing a chain of events--that's one of the virtues of our systems: nothing said is lost from the record completely. Collectively, we usually manage to identify the one troll (if there is one in a given conflict--more often there is a mix of poor behaviour and blame to go around for all involved parties). Beyond all of that, as I noted above, we are, if anything, immensely predisposed to giving free passes at ANI these days for petty lousy behaviour, when we see that there was a significant enough underlying editorial issue. I'm struggling to think of anyone who ever got CBANned (or even faced a block of significant length as the result of an ANI consensus) who did absolutely nothing wrong in my eyes; I don't think I've ever seen that. I've seen plenty of sanctions that were more severe than I thought were warranted in the circumstances, but that's another thing entirely.
But it's always nice to end on some degree of agreement, and as to your last point there or hounders being prone to the loudest complaints of being hounded, I think that's essentially correct. But in my view that's all the more reason not to allow the waters to be further muddied by introducing language that would let both sides (whoever is "more" in the right/the original "victim"/whatever) be more liberal in following eachother around and refusing to disengage. It's actually one of the more compelling reasons for why adding "unless you think they are a problem" type language (into the statements in HOUNDING that otherwise just plainly discourage following between parties recently in conflict) would spur more disruption overall. Snow let's rap 05:14, 11 June 2019 (UTC)
I don't share your perspective on the likelihood of a some slick troll managing to hoodwink a 'significant enough portion' of the community at ANI such that they manipulate the community into sanctioning a completely innocent editor who in no way even so much as brushed up against violating a policy themselves He hoodwinked you, didn't he? honestly, it doesn't really matter whether you share my perspective on the likelihood of something that actually happened over and over again. (FWIW, I'm not so much talking about successfully getting the so-called "hound" sanctioned as successfully avoiding sanctions for themselves by playing on the sympathy people might have for an editor who claims to have been hounded and can present clear evidence of having been followed; neither I nor any other user was ever sanctioned as a direct consequence of CurtisNaito's hounding accusations, at least not by the community, but there was also this case where an editor who repeatedly inserted OR, unverifiable content, fake citations, and BLP violations with virtually every mainspace edit he made, and I was sanctioned as a direct consequence of trying to clean up the messes he made and his convincing enough of the community I was "hounding him" that no one was willing to sanction him, eventually leading to an IBAN.) Hijiri 88 (やや) 06:41, 11 June 2019 (UTC)
I don't think its particularly helpful to rehash a five year old discussion, and re-litigate particular points where you think the community let you down. I will say that this much is not only clear in my memory, but also the closure summaries of the numerous ANIs you two filed against one-another: there was blame to go around there, and that was definitely an example of a situation which would not have been helped by either one of you feeling more free to follow, revert, and comment upon eachother. I've been trying to avoid reference to any particular editor or episode in this discussion for a number of reasons, but if you are going to make your years-long issues with Catflap08 the platform upon which we test your proposed change, I'd say it very much highlights why it is a bad idea, because what was needed there was definitely not for both parties to have more license to argue you were in eachother's business for good reasons. And anyway, surely from your perspective you must feel that ANI got the situation more right than wrong, insofar as it ultimately removed Catflap from the project, and not you? All of that said, I think you ought to try your best to consider the implications of your proposed change from a wider perspective than your own personal experience; I won't waste my time telling you to try to put it from mind altogether--if its still so fresh in your mind all these years later, that's clearly not happening any time soon. But this section of this policy is critically important to protecting open-access to this project, and it deserves to have you examine it from all angles and consider the likely flip-side consequences of what you are proposing.
Anyway, maybe we're at an impasse. I still believe there could be wording to side-step the apparent conflict of factors here and leave all concerns addressed but perhaps its time to step back and see if anyone can put something feasible forward. Failing that, I still favour the status quo version, am open to Tryptofish's first proposal, but opposed to the second/reworded proposal, for reasons discussed at length above. If we can't find a reasonable middle-ground or simply all-around superior wording, it's probably time to consider how to neutrally format the prompt and arguments for an RfC, but I'm not keen to leap at it today. Snow let's rap 07:43, 11 June 2019 (UTC)
I'm not talking about the community letting me down (I'm fine, and basically always have been). I'm talking about the community letting the encyclopedia down. As I said above, CurtisNaito's mess still has not been cleaned up.[8] Given that, it seems a bit disingenuous to talk about it as "rehashing a five year old discussion". Anyway, you are the one who brought Catflap into it by honing in on the "hoodwink the community to sanction an innocent editor" point that I was never trying to make. I could name easily a half dozen editors but chose CurtisNaito because his disruption was more widespread and insidious. Hijiri 88 (やや) 08:05, 11 June 2019 (UTC)
Anyway, you are the one who brought Catflap into it by honing in on the "hoodwink the community to sanction an innocent editor" point that I was never trying to make. No, I didn't. Own your own decisions. I purposefully avoided referencing any particular editor or situation and kept all of my arguments rooted in abstracts for a number of reasons. Do no attribute you to me your decision to bring your own history into this: that was 100% you. I advanced the argument that your hypothetical scenario of someone convincing the community to ban someone at ANI who had done absolutely nothing wrong was unrealistic; you and you alone chose to present your history with Catflap as a counter-argument to that situation.
And for the record, it's a really bad example. First off, Catflap "hoodwinked" pretty much no one: he came in for a lot of criticism in those threads, including from yours truly, as best I can recall. It's just that he wasn't the only one. Indeed, not even he and you were the only ones: as I recall there was a whole cluster of you, multiple parties on both "sides", who were far too incapable of leaving eachother's orbits, ultimately necessitating an ArbCom case to separate you all, and (just like those of us who had tried to contain the spiraling fiasco at ANI over the course of years) ArbCom found there was plenty of blame to apportion between you; they very clearly did not find that you were a completely innocent bystander. That whole situation is just bad ground for you to stake your argument for liberalizing these rules on, considering the findings of that case and the consensus of many of those ANI threads.
But once again, I strongly urge that we discuss these matters in more generalized terms rather than examining them through the lens of your past conflicts. It's not going to make you any happier examining the issue in only that light and it won't be good for discussion and isolating and addressing the broader issues here. We can examine the policy implications of this proposed change without using the names Hijiri88, Catflap08 and CurtisNaito as subject matter, and I strongly, strongly urge that we use such an approach. Snow let's rap 08:29, 11 June 2019 (UTC)
Replying on your talk page, since hardly any of the above is related to this discussion. Hijiri 88 (やや) 08:39, 11 June 2019 (UTC)

I think this is the tl;drEdit

I think we need to boil this down to a reasonably simple set of decisions. Until the most recent edits, this was the stable version of the Hounding section: [9]

Hounding on Wikipedia (or "wikihounding") is the singling out of one or more editors, joining discussions on multiple pages or topics they may edit or multiple debates where they contribute, to repeatedly confront or inhibit their work. This is with an apparent aim of creating irritation, annoyance or distress to the other editor. Hounding usually involves following the target from place to place on Wikipedia.

Many users track other users' edits, although usually for collegial or administrative purposes. This should always be done carefully, and with good cause, to avoid raising the suspicion that an editor's contributions are being followed to cause them distress, or out of revenge for a perceived slight. Correct use of an editor's history includes (but is not limited to) fixing unambiguous errors or violations of Wikipedia policy, or correcting related problems on multiple articles. In fact, such practices are recommended both for Recent changes patrol and WikiProject Spam. The contribution logs can be used in the dispute resolution process to gather evidence to be presented in mediation, incidents, and arbitration cases. Using dispute resolution can itself constitute hounding if it involves persistently making frivolous or meritless complaints about another editor.

The important component of hounding is disruption to another user's own enjoyment of editing, or to the project generally, for no overriding reason. If "following another user around" is accompanied by tendentiousness, personal attacks, or other disruptive behavior, it may become a very serious matter and could result in blocks and other editing restrictions.

And this is the version as of now: [10]

Hounding on Wikipedia (or "wikihounding") is the singling out of one or more editors, joining discussions on multiple pages or topics they may edit or multiple debates where they contribute, to repeatedly confront or inhibit their work. This is with an apparent aim of creating irritation, annoyance or distress to the other editor. Hounding usually involves following the target from place to place on Wikipedia.

Many users track other users' edits, although usually for collegial or administrative purposes. This should always be done carefully, and with good cause, to avoid raising the suspicion that an editor's contributions are being followed to cause them distress, or out of revenge for a perceived slight. Correct use of an editor's history includes (but is not limited to) fixing unambiguous errors or violations of Wikipedia policy, or correcting related problems on multiple articles. In fact, such practices are recommended both for Recent changes patrol and WikiProject Spam. The contribution logs can be used in the dispute resolution process to gather evidence to be presented in mediation, incidents, and arbitration cases. Using dispute resolution can itself constitute hounding if it involves persistently making frivolous or meritless complaints about another editor.

The important component of hounding is disruption to another user's own enjoyment of editing, or disruption to the project generally, for no constructive reason. Even if the individual edits themselves are not disruptive per se, "following another user around", if done to cause distress, or if that following is accompanied by tendentiousness, personal attacks, or other disruptive behavior, it may become a very serious matter and could result in blocks and other editing restrictions.

In my opinion, the changes (all in the third paragraph) leading to the present version are fairly trivial and should be noncontroversial. Does anyone else see anything there that needs to be put to an RfC?

Then, the lengthy discussion above focuses on the following addition to it (shown in green):

Hounding on Wikipedia (or "wikihounding") is the singling out of one or more editors, joining discussions on multiple pages or topics they may edit or multiple debates where they contribute, to repeatedly confront or inhibit their work. This is with an apparent aim of creating irritation, annoyance or distress to the other editor. Hounding usually involves following the target from place to place on Wikipedia.

Many users track other users' edits, although usually for collegial or administrative purposes. This should always be done carefully, and with good cause, to avoid raising the suspicion that an editor's contributions are being followed to cause them distress, or out of revenge for a perceived slight. Correct use of an editor's history includes (but is not limited to) fixing unambiguous errors or violations of Wikipedia policy, or correcting related problems on multiple articles. In fact, such practices are recommended both for Recent changes patrol and WikiProject Spam. The contribution logs can be used in the dispute resolution process to gather evidence to be presented in mediation, incidents, and arbitration cases. Using dispute resolution can itself constitute hounding if it involves persistently making frivolous or meritless complaints about another editor.

The important component of hounding is disruption to another user's own enjoyment of editing, or disruption to the project generally, for no constructive reason. Even if the individual edits themselves are not disruptive per se, "following another user around", if done to cause distress (such as following an editor with whom the user is in conflict in order to further that conflict), or if that following is accompanied by tendentiousness, personal attacks, or other disruptive behavior, it may become a very serious matter and could result in blocks and other editing restrictions.

Based on the preceding discussion, "in order to further that conflict" is the version that all three editors seem to prefer or at least object to the least, so that's how I presented it. Would it be best to (1) leave the entire parenthetic phrase out, thus maintaining the present-day wording? Or should we (2) have an RfC over whether or not to add that phrase? Personally, I don't care, although when I look at the section as a whole, the green part actually seems somewhat redundant to me. --Tryptofish (talk) 18:54, 11 June 2019 (UTC)

  • Current Version (no parenthetic) is fine with me. I am the editor who first added the stuff about "in conflict", but I now see it's not necessary, and could lead to misinterpretation. This is fine as it is. (P.S. But I really don't care. If others really want the green clause, I will not try to block consensus.) - CorbieV 22:17, 11 June 2019 (UTC)
CorbieVreccan: Courtesy ping, I think you are supporting what Tryptofish proposed as option one, but with an !vote that flags 'Version 2'; was this an error or am I misreading? I'd like to format my own response below as a formal !vote as well, but before I do that, I'd like to make sure we are all using the same scheme for what option 1 and 2 are. Snow let's rap 22:31, 11 June 2019 (UTC)
I don't usually reply mid-stream like this, but so it doesn't get lost: Oh, OK, I see what you mean. I was referring to the middle version above, that shows as Diff 2 in the preview. The Current Version. I spaced that Trypto was calling that "option 1". So, yeah. Option 1, no parenthetic, which to simplify matters I'll leave all numbers out and just call Current Version. Editing my comment for (hopeful) clarity. - CorbieV 22:43, 11 June 2019 (UTC)
I understood it the way that you intended it, so no worries, I think we all agree. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:49, 11 June 2019 (UTC)
Current/Status quo version. Thanks for putting in some time to simplify matters, Tryptofish. One of the benefits of your having repeated the entire three paragraphs is that it helps to emphasize that there's a lot of content around the proposed change that helps clarify what this section of the policy means (both for editors acting in good faith/in a non-disruptive, and those who are going beyond their remit)--I'm sure that was probably the major reason you decided to approach it like that, and its effective in reducing my concerns some at least. That said, I'm in agreement with you that the green portion is at best redundant, though I would personally argue that the "in order to advance the conflict" bit introduces an issue into the wording and encourages bad acts/gives rhetorical safe harbor to those who actually do hound; it is ever-so-slightly less problematic than "in order to harass that editor", but insofar I feel this section is intended to discourage certain classes of aggressive engagement between editors, I don't like either proposed additional caveat. So, my hierarchy of preference (in descending order) of proposals to date:
  • Status quo version (do not add any of the additional text highlighted in green in Tryptofish's post above)
  • "(such as following an editor with whom the user is in conflict)"
  • "(such as following an editor with whom the user is in conflict in order to further that conflict)"
I'm really only keen on the first option, but if it will resolve the issue to everyone's satisfaction, I can see myself embracing the second. The third is a shade farther than I can see myself supporting, but it may be worth waiting to see what other people think of it. The variation of the third option that would have ended in "in order to harass", I definitely cannot support. I gather from your last message that your preferences are similar, except in that you don't see a hugely problematic difference between choices options 2 and 3? Snow let's rap 22:24, 11 June 2019 (UTC)
Thanks both of you! I want to wait until we hear from Hijiri, but I tentatively think that we may be able to resolve the whole issue simply by leaving things as they are now, without adding the green part and without any need for an RfC: just declare victory now, and be done with it! I think the present-day version is my first choice, and it sounds like both of you feel the same way. Hijiri reverted the "green" addition back to the present-day version, but also expressed support for the version with "in order to..." while opposing it without a modifier. I think that means we are all satisfied with leaving things as they are, and I'm crossing my fingers that that's really the case. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:33, 11 June 2019 (UTC)
  • I agree that the text is fine with the parenthetical clause completely removed. Hijiri 88 (やや) 08:48, 12 June 2019 (UTC)
  • Great, who'd have guessed we were so close to a version that was acceptable to everyone all along? There's probably a lesson in that. But any thread that ends in solid consensus is a good one I suppose, compared against alternatives. Thanks again to Trypto for putting a point back on things. Snow let's rap 10:14, 12 June 2019 (UTC)
All's well that ends well!   --Tryptofish (talk) 22:35, 12 June 2019 (UTC)

Question about relationship of WP:OUT with the Terms of Use and claim to copyrightEdit

See Wikipedia:Media copyright questions#Copyright holder posting their own text on Wikipedia? Basically I'm wondering if someone adding text to Wikipedia and implicitly claiming the copyright on that text means that they have admitted to being an off-wiki individual who had previously published the same text elsewhere. Hijiri 88 (やや) 02:57, 21 June 2019 (UTC)

I think that if someone posts on-wiki something to the effect of "Here is some text that is authored by [name], and I am that person", that would be voluntarily posting their identity onsite. But it still would be a bad idea for other editors to search that information out if it isn't posted on that person's user page. Do other editors agree with that? --Tryptofish (talk) 22:36, 21 June 2019 (UTC)

Abuse of Administrative BoardsEdit

Since people have noticed that it works very well to harass people by taking them to noticeboards (eventually if you complain enough and you're well enough known, you'll get the other person sanctioned regardless of the merits.

This is how Sagecandor operated. Another person, an inveterate administrative board user, was recently banned by the WMF. I have recently received a no-fault IBAN with someone who has contacted every disciplinary board known to Wikipedia to lobby against me.

This is also very much common knowledge to Wikipedians. (AE abuse, in particular, has been mentioned in the current ArbCom case on Poland.) So, could we have some statement as to why we should not include:

On-wiki harassment via repeated groundless prosecutions at administrative boards such as WP:ANI, WP:AE, WP:ARBCOM, or WP:AN can lead to sanctions. WP:GANG activity is likewise strictly frowned upon.

While this is in verity a special case of hounding it should be treated separately because it is so common. This seems signifcantly more important than the question of whether one may or may not restore user-deleted posts on a userpage (treated at length in the text), especially given the current discussions on community health related to another over-zealous prosecutor. 🌿 SashiRolls t · c 11:51, 22 June 2019 (UTC)

The only problem with this is that sometimes people need to be taken to boards over and over again, like User:Keegscee. In my experience at the admin boards, people who make groundless claims often get WP:BOOMERANGed. PCHS-NJROTC (Messages)Have a blessed day. 14:47, 22 June 2019 (UTC)
I would suggest that that is not a problem: you are saying that in fact we don't have a problem, based on what you've seen, that boomerangs happen when they should. I'm saying there is a problem, that I can and probably will eventually get around to further documenting. But regardless, administrative actions should follow policy, so it's a good thing when justified boomerangs happen, not a problem. It is pretty clear that the WMF did not feel that the "community" had done enough boomeranging in the much publicized case about the en.wp banned admin, suggesting that insufficient attention is perhaps paid to abuse of administrative boards. I believe they said there was a problem with the community's enforcement of the TOS. Sagecandor, incidentally, was never bothered for harassment, the case was just quietly zipped up in an SPI. 🌿 SashiRolls t · c 15:21, 22 June 2019 (UTC)

I generally support the sentiment, but I think PCHS-NJROTC raises a valid practical concern. However, User:PCHS-NJROTC, isn't the fact that this Keegscee fella had to be taken to boards over and over again itself indicate that these boards fail at what they're suppose to do (assuming your characterization of the user is correct)? Volunteer Marek (talk) 00:20, 23 June 2019 (UTC)

@Volunteer Marek: you make a great point there yourself. Keegscee got away with spreading a lot of garbage on Wikipedia because enough people gave him sympathy due to personal biases until finally he outright admitted to being WP:NOTHERE to build an encyclopedia and using WP:Open proxies to WP:HARASS people. As long as personal biases infiltrate objective discussion, the boards will be ineffective to a certain degree. PCHS-NJROTC (Messages)Have a blessed day. 07:00, 23 June 2019 (UTC)
I think the more targeted question here is whether the proposed additional language actually accomplishes anything. I don't think it's likely to change the proportion of legitimate vs. abusive filings in administrative/beahvioural review spaces, nor change the realpolitik reasons why the inappropriate uses of such forums are difficult to contain while many perfectly reasonable fillings fail to address or restrain truly disruptive behaviour. The reasons for those issues are nuanced and too difficult to capture in brief format here, though at the same time, the proposed addition reflects something that is manifestly true and yet probably represents more complication than clarity to say expressly in this policy.
All factors weighed, I think I would oppose the additional of that sentence, under a WP:CREEP rationale: whether a given AN/I filing raises a legitimate issue for the community or represents harassment worthy of a WP:BOOMERANG is a case-specific call that the community will need to make in each instance (with the community members who volunteer in those spaces being largely practiced in making that call), and adding language that prejudices that call in one direction or the other here probably is not useful--afterall, can we really say that it's more common than not that a thread in an administrative space is frivolous? I'm certainly not comfortable making that assertion as an empirical matter. So it's probably not worthwhile to bloat out this policy by even one more sentence for the purpose of saying something that (as a textual matter) is taken for granted by most of the community, but which could be easily weaponized by repeat offenders who have to be brought to the community's attention time and again. So not withstanding Sashi's presumably good-faith motivation here, I'd be opposed to adding that language.Snow let's rap 20:32, 26 June 2019 (UTC)
Were I to rewrite the policy, I would eliminate a lot of dross in other areas: the hounding section in particular is not well written. For example, the following is rather meandering:

Many users track other users' edits, although usually for collegial or administrative purposes. This should always be done carefully, and with good cause, to avoid raising the suspicion that an editor's contributions are being followed to cause them distress, or out of revenge for a perceived slight. Correct use of an editor's history includes (but is not limited to) fixing unambiguous errors or violations of Wikipedia policy, or correcting related problems on multiple articles. In fact, such practices are recommended both for Recent changes patrol and WikiProject Spam. The contribution logs can be used in the dispute resolution process to gather evidence to be presented in mediation, incidents, and arbitration cases. Using dispute resolution can itself constitute hounding if it involves persistently making frivolous or meritless complaints about another editor.

It could be shortened to:

Other users' edits should not be tracked when motivated by a desire for revenge or to harass. Edits can be tracked in the context of recent changes patrol or WikiProject spam to fix unambiguous errors, policy violations and related problems on multiple articles. While evidence from contribution logs can be gathered for use in dispute resolution. Repeated groundless prosecution at administrative boards -- such as WP:ANI, WP:AE, WP:ARBCOM, or WP:AN -- is considered hounding and can lead to sanctions. WP:GANG activity is a severe form of (tag-team) hounding and is strictly frowned upon wherever it takes place.

and still it contains more actual information. ^^ (The very important bit about the serious WP:GANG problem en.wp suffers from needs to be added.) 🌿 SashiRolls t · c 21:23, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
I am strongly opposed to those changes, for the reasons I expressed above, and those of Tryptofish below. It would do next to nothing to forestall actual harassment via process, which is an issue that can (and should) be addressed by the community in the forum in question when the process is being abused (i.e. the most common context for a WP:BOOMERANG sanction). Meanwhile, every disruptive editor who legitimately need to be restrained via a community processes in one of those spaces would find rhetorical shelter in the language you want added and and constantly stonewall discussion by flippant reference to WP:Harassment--that is "This is the fifth time I have been brought to ANI by editors working on articles pertaining to subject matter X!" would become (to the mind or at least the tactics of the disruptive editor) evidence that they are being harassed, rather than evidence that maybe there is indeed a particular long-term behavioural issue needing addressing. ArbCom and the admins/community volunteers at AN/I know how to recognize and deal with abusive filings. They don't need this policy language to recognize and react to it, and the downsides are far too substantial. There are also a number of issues with the wording you've employed there. We don't "prosecute" at noticeboards or ArbCom, we discuss issues. Yes, we do occasionally sanction community members (very rarely, when compared against the over-all number of complaints), but it's not a punitive process and its not meant to be adversarial by design. Lastly, you cut out a lot of language there that stresses the precautionary principle and urges people to be mindful and cautious of anything that looks like it leans more towards harassment than productive activity. No, I'm sorry, I'm just very much opposed to replacing the present wording of that passage with your proposed language, well-intentioned as I am sure it is. Snow let's rap 06:05, 4 July 2019 (UTC)

Basically I removed a bunch of adverbs, meandering text, and pointed out the gang problem which is sorely lacking from the policy. Policies should be clear and concise with pertinent examples. Tony gave one example wrt 'outing' below, about how on-wiki activity reported in off-wiki RS articles critical of Wikipedia, as long as a pseudonym is not doxxed, can be cited as evidence. Your point about discussion GOOD prosecution BAD is very much in line with my thinking. Here is a second draft:

Other users' edits should not be tracked when motivated by a desire for revenge or to harass. Edits can be tracked in the context of recent changes patrol or WikiProject spam to fix unambiguous errors, policy violations and related problems on multiple articles. While evidence from contribution logs can be gathered for use in dispute resolution, collegial and evidence-based community discussion should always be the goal. Repeated groundless prosecution at administrative boards -- such as WP:ANI, WP:AE, WP:ARBCOM, or WP:AN -- is considered hounding and can lead to sanctions in extreme cases. WP:GANG activity is a severe form of (tag-team) hounding and is strictly frowned upon wherever it takes place.

Also there are more paragraphs, the tag-team harassment bit does not need to be the renvoi of this paragraph, It could be in one of the other paragraphs. I just think this section is the right place to mention it, as that is often how it feels to many contributors who end up feeling, sometimes mostly mistakenly that they are dealing with teams. It is reassuring that policy reflects ideal practice, and from experience, I will tell you that tag-team behavior should be WP:NOTHERE but it's not. 🌿 SashiRolls t · c 21:46, 4 July 2019 (UTC)

Also just for info, you may want to compare two versions of WP:NOTHERE in terms of the veneer given to the question of tag-team POV Railroad: the current version " diverting dispute resolutions from objectives", which leads to the same place, is rather rickrolicking if you ask me, and is buried in a host of other boring links. Here is a proposed streamlining of the nothere policy, which can be commented on at the policy talkpage. The WMF should really activate wiki-who (authorship data) on wikipedia namespace (it's currently only activated for mainspace) so we could see who's effectively written the policies.🌿 SashiRolls t · c 22:40, 4 July 2019 (UTC)

  • I had no intention of commenting in this section, but because of the comments in a section below, where I had already commented earlier, I will now. I think that tightening up the existing wording in the Hounding section is a good idea. I think adding any of the proposed new material would be a mistake. It would open up the door to users who were properly being sanctioned for disruptive conduct trying to wikilawyer that they were being harassed by administrators and others. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:27, 1 July 2019 (UTC)

Link to Trust & Safety ? Add section on legitimate criticism?Edit

Strangely, the word "safety" appears only once on the page as I write, the words "trust" and "support" are both missing from the policy page. Shouldn't we have a link to the T&S anonymous tip jar?

I also notice that the root "crit" (criticize, criticism, criteria, critique, etc.) is nowhere to be found on this page. Shouldn't we have something defining legitimate critical inquiry in policy? 🌿 SashiRolls t · c 12:42, 26 June 2019 (UTC)

It is interesting how the elephant in the room is being scrupulously avoided. T&S and ArbCom concur that en.wp is not doing a good job dealing with harassment (cf. ArbCom statement). Part of the problem is that there is no explanation of how the line should be drawn between legitimate criticism and harassment. We all agree that calling someone on the telephone after doing opposition research to dig up their phone number, as in the jytdog case, is harassment and not legitimate criticism. But some attempt should be made to define legitimate (i.e. diff-based and easily verifiable) criticism. Why is everyone avoiding the elephant and focusing on an already far too long section on outing?) 🌿 SashiRolls t · c 21:48, 30 June 2019 (UTC)*
added a link to T&S, citing their meta page. I got a pat on the back then reverted. The board of trustees recently said this: "The Board views this as part of a much-needed community debate on toxic behavior. In spite of the considerable disruption this has caused for many, we hope this serves as a catalyzing moment for us to move forward together to ensure the health and vitality of our communities. source (in which nowhere is it said that the en.wp harassment policy should not have a link to T&S). Did I stumble into some sort of turf war again? ^^ 🌿 SashiRolls t · c 23:09, 6 July 2019 (UTC)

Proposal of adding a sentence to WP:OUTINGEdit

I would like to propose an addition to the second paragraph of WP:OUTING: Even in the case that a person claims on an external website to be a Wikipedia editor, sharing any external information not present on Wikipedia is still a form of outing. This sentence provides an example of outing, to clarify a potentially confusing situation, when external people claim to be Wikipedia editors. I can attest to this situation being confusing, having been blocked for it myself. I hope that this example will educate editors, and since it is just an example, I don't believe there are loopholes created, but please post any if you find them. Maybe this can be discussed for a week for any improvements before we go to asking for supports and opposes. starship.paint (talk) 14:07, 30 June 2019 (UTC)

What the section would look like

Any edit that "outs" someone must be reverted promptly, followed by a request for oversight to delete that edit from Wikipedia permanently. Any administrator may redact it pending oversight, even when the administrator is involved. If an editor has previously posted their own personal information but later redacted it, it should not be repeated on Wikipedia, although references to still-existing, self-disclosed information are not considered outing. If the previously posted information has been removed by oversight, then repeating it on Wikipedia is considered outing. Even in the case that a person claims on an external website to be a Wikipedia editor, sharing any external information not present on Wikipedia is still a form of outing.

Starship.paint, thank you for this proposal. I think that this clarification is important. I think the question that remains for me is how strictly this is to be interpreted: For instance, if a user links from their user page to their personal website and their personal website links to their Twitter account, can that Twitter account be referenced? StudiesWorld (talk) 14:25, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
I have no idea (obviously from recent events I'm not an expert in this policy). @Oshwah:, hard question here! starship.paint (talk) 14:38, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
Yes, it can. ~Oshwah~(talk) (contribs) 14:39, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
starship.paint, if that's the case then I think there needs to be some clarification, but I'm not sure how best to clarify without opening a loophole or overcomplicating the policy. Let me think on it for a while and if I have a thought, I'll get back to you. StudiesWorld (talk) 14:51, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
@Oshwah: - since you said yes to the Twitter account being linked from that linked website, what about this example. Editor links to his website. His website says: "I'm gay." I discuss with that editor: "hey, you linked to your website, which said you're gay." Is it outing? starship.paint (talk) 15:02, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
Starship.paint - No, it is not. ~Oshwah~(talk) (contribs) 15:29, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
I feel like that has to be decided on a case-by-case basis based on whether it's clear they intended to share that information on Wikipedia. Something like eg. someone using their userpage to link to their personal website, which has all their personal information prominently placed on the landing page you immediately arrive on after clicking the link, would reasonably mean they're sharing that information themselves on Wikipedia, so referencing it would not be outing. On the other hand, someone linking to their Reddit account, which happens to contain a post in their history from 2015 where they shared their personal details, probably would not count as intentionally sharing those details, so bringing them up on-wiki would probably still be outing. --Aquillion (talk) 16:40, 4 July 2019 (UTC)
  • I see a complication here, related to socking and particularly self-promotion.
Editor Mr X makes a series of edits. They're not great, and they're somewhat self-promotional. They're reverted by numerous editors. Clearly consensus is against them.
IP *.999 comes along, makes the same edits again. An unproven suspicion arises that IP *.999 and Mr X are connected.
IP *.999 geolocates narrowly and robustly to Argleton. Mr X Industries is based in Argleton, as can be seen from their own website, or from their Facebook.
Is it permissible SPI investigation to connect all three? Or is that outing? Andy Dingley (talk) 14:31, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
Erm, Andy Dingley … I'm not an expert on socking stuff … but can't an SPI investigation (and CheckUser requested) be proposed purely because Mr X and 999 have made the same (or very similar) edits? Is there even a need to mention the off-wiki stuff? starship.paint (talk) 14:38, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
SPI refuses to address IPs with checkuser. In some cases, the WP:QUACKing is enough to link them, or often it's errors by confusing which sock they're editing as. But there are certainly cases – and some are blog posts saying, "Ha ha, I'm socking on WP" – where it's off-wiki evidence that gives the link. Andy Dingley (talk) 14:44, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
Andy Dingley - It's not outing to take on-wiki edits, evidence, and information and use them to connect the dots between users to genuinely assert that sock puppetry, block or ban evasion, abuse, or other policy violations in this aspect are occurring. Since you wouldn't have access to the geolocation of Mr X (only checkusers do, and after they retrieve the account's IP information), you'd be making the assertion in the SPI that, due to the very similar edits to the same article from the .999 IP and Mr X, they are most likely the same person and both users should be blocked due to repeated self-promotion. Saying that the .999 IP and Mr X are both from Argleton based off of the geolocation that you pull from the .999 IP is speculation based off of the similar edits that you believe links the two users as the same person.
That's completely different than (for example) performing an internet search for "Mr X", finding that there's LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube accounts that are very similarly spelled or worded as "Mr X", finding a tweet that the Twitter account you found posted saying that they're "Mr X" on Wikipedia, then going back to Wikipedia, posting the external links there and saying that you found "Mr X" on the internet, here's his other accounts, and look - his name is actually Richard Head from California. Do you see the (very big) difference between the first example above regarding the SPI, and this one? The first example is not considered outing. This example here is absolutely a violation of policy and would be considered outing if Mr X did not publicly disclose those links on Wikipedia or any WMF project site using his account. :-) ~Oshwah~(talk) (contribs) 14:55, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
So what about a case where we're dealing with Commons, and Commons content sourced from Flickr or Facebook, where there's a clear indication from the Mr X account that they are Mr X industries (they're claiming this as justification for using the images), and where the off-wiki Mr X identity links publicly to Argleton. Similarly those who (Mr Y) who are linking their on-wiki edits as promotion of Mr Y's other interests, such as th Mr Y public Facebook. Now yes, none of this is proof that they are Mr X (they could simply be joe-jobbing). But if there is then an IP which geolocates to Mr X (with a degree of confidence, if not certainty, as good as any other use of IPs in CU) I see that as a reasonable connection to draw. No off-wiki information has been acquired here beyond what Mr X has offered themselves ("I am Mr X of Facebook", "Mr X of Facebook is based in Argleton"), and so it's no more than if Mr X on WP had claimed directly to be based in Argleton, then the IP's geolocation reveals the crossover.
Also there's some inconsistency of IPs at SPI. Some CUs won't reveal linking information in order to avoid making such a link. However others simply refuse to look at IPs at all, even keeping the results to themselves, so IPs effectively get a free hand. Andy Dingley (talk) 16:01, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
Andy Dingley - If the images were uploaded by Mr X himself, and they clearly display or show that he has a non-ambiguous and obvious relationship with Mr X Industries, I would not consider it outing for you to discuss on-wiki what you see in the image and what you believe that it means. This is a case where the user has provided (and hence disclosed) that information themselves, and so long as you're not disclosing or sharing information that you found on your own by using external off-wiki searches, websites, or other means in your comments or statements, I don't see an issue with "calling it as you see it". It's perfectly fine for you to see an image that Mr X uploaded to Commons that shows him wearing a Mr X Industries uniform and posing together with other Mr X Industries employees, and then say in a comment, "hey, this image Mr X uploaded looks to be an image of him wearing a Mr X Industries uniform. He edits that article a lot, and he includes a lot of unsourced and non-neutral content that adds a positive bias to the article's content. I believe that he works for this company and that there's a COI issue with him and this article subject." ~Oshwah~(talk) (contribs) 18:45, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
My goodness, my ears are burning.- MrX 🖋 19:06, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
The gig is up, MrX! You've been able to fly under the radar for a long time, but you put your hand in the cookie jar too many times to not be caught. We know what you're up to, and your tyranny toward everyone while behind the cloak and sword of Mr X Incorporated is over! I'm gonna go blow the lid off the whole conspiracy, and the trails are all going to point to you! I also have evidence that will lead to the arrest of Hillary Clinton. (I hope people here will get that joke and reference) :-P ~Oshwah~(talk) (contribs) 00:13, 1 July 2019 (UTC)
Oshwah, please retract that statement or I'll have to take you to WP:ANI for casting WP:ASPERSIONS that MrX could be related to Mr C Incorporated or Hillary Clinton. StudiesWorld (talk) 00:15, 1 July 2019 (UTC)
Neverrrr! :-P ~Oshwah~(talk) (contribs) 00:21, 1 July 2019 (UTC)
This makes me think we may need a joke version of ANI, if only for April Fool's Day. StudiesWorld (talk) 00:24, 1 July 2019 (UTC)
Oh no! I knew my day of reckoning would eventually come. - MrX 🖋 00:46, 1 July 2019 (UTC)
Andy Dingley - After re-reading your follow-up question above, I'll expand a bit in order to try and fully answer your question regarding the situation. So long as you're using on-wiki information that the user disclosed or added themselves to directly connect the dots to information (wherever it may be), you will not be engaging in outing of the user. I'll summarize it in a simple manner by saying it like this: If the user discloses the information or URLs, etc using their account, then they opened that door for you to walk through. Going through the door that they opened is not outing. If you go out and begin searches on your own to find information about that user and then publish that information about the user on-wiki (meaning you didn't start from information they posted on-wiki, but instead started from searches or other external means that you instigated on your own), you opened that door. If you walk through the door that you opened for yourself, it will be considered outing and a severe breach of Wikipedia policy.
If Mr X publishes an external URL to website A on their user page using their account, and website A contains their personal information, posts, photos, whatever..., and you click on a URL that you found on website A to go to website B, and website B contains more information about them that website A doesn't have published, discussing the additional information about the user that you found on website B is not outing. You used the URL that he disclosed, visited the site, found the other site directly from the first site, and found that information. Now, lets say that Mr X discloses the URL to website A just like in the previous example, but website A does not contain a link to website B. Instead, you use information from website A to start a web search about Mr X and/or start looking around the internet for more stuff on Mr X yourself and on your own, and you then run into website B from your searches, discussing the additional information you found on website B that was not shared on website A would not be acceptable. You didn't find website B and the additional information from website A and hence from information that Mr X disclosed on Wikipedia using his account. You found that information on website B using other searches or means. That's the difference. I hope these simple examples help put everything into perspective and that they make sense. :-) ~Oshwah~(talk) (contribs) 00:34, 1 July 2019 (UTC)
I don't agree with the final paragraph. If someone doesn't intend to share information, spending time researching (including eg. pouring over every post on a social media account they linked) and then sharing it on-wiki is outing them. The example I posted above is someone linking to their Reddit account; if you go through their posts and find one from 2015 where they shared personal information, then post that information on-wiki, you are absolutely outing them, since it's unreasonable to infer that they intended to share that information themselves, and since it could reasonably be considered to have been hidden before. More generally, outing will almost always involve a user accidentally leaking information in some form; interpreting an accidental release of information as sufficient to make something not outing them would undermine the entire policy. I don't see how "you posted your real name, which I was able to use to connect the dots and find your address even though you wanted to keep it hidden" is any different from "you posted a link to your Reddit account, which I was able to pour over and find your address within even though you wanted to keep it hidden." --Aquillion (talk) 16:50, 4 July 2019 (UTC)
  • I think the policy is already fairly clear on this: simply editing under a real name is not an invitation to off-wiki opposition research. I think a lot of the confusion here is that this isn’t really outing in the sense of making a real life identity known. It very much is harassment as opposition research. If anything, I’d be more inclined to add an ALLCAPS anchor and shortcut about opposition research than anything else.
    Speaking more generally, people get caught up in the specifics of the harassment policy and question what the lines are, which I don’t think is a good approach to it. A good axiom to follow about the harassment policy is this: if it’s creepy or would make someone feel violated in real life, it will be creepy or make someone feel violated on Wikipedia.
    In the recent case: yes, 100%, if you came up to random strangers in real life, at their job, and knowing who they were asked them to verify their social media profiles, it would be creepy and make someone feel violated. People don’t like strangers looking through their details and letting them know they’re being watched, even if the info is public. I’ve said it before: if anyone came around doing that at any workplace I’ve been at, the cops would be called and they’d have been trespassed. I don’t mean to harp on it, but it is a really good example of the creepy IRL is creepy on-wiki rule. TonyBallioni (talk) 15:30, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
    • I agree with everything that Tony said. I think it's also important to recognize that there can be false flags in these kinds of situations. It occurs to me: maybe it would be a good idea to have a quote box on the page about the "creepy IRL" rule. --Tryptofish (talk) 18:22, 30 June 2019 (UTC)

I'm looking closely at the existing language in terms of the proposed clarification. I see that the policy already says:

The fact that an editor has posted personal information or edits under their own name, making them easily identifiable through online searches, is not an excuse to post the results of "opposition research"
and Posting links to other accounts on other websites is allowable in specific situations (but see also Wikipedia:Linking to external harassment). There are job posting sites where employers publicly post advertisements to recruit paid Wikipedia editors. Linking to such an ad in a forum such as the Conflict of interest noticeboard is not a violation of this policy... To combat impersonation (an editor claiming falsely to be a particular person), it is permissible to post or link to disavowals from that person, provided that the person has explicitly and in good faith given their consent, and provided that there is a high degree of confidence in the authenticity of the source.

This already covers a lot of what the proposed sentence would address. As I see it, the only new information it would add is that, outside of the "specific situations" that are cited, such linking is usually not permitted – and it seems to me that this fact really is already so clearly implied that we would be getting into a situation of instruction creep if we were to add some version of the proposed sentence. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:48, 30 June 2019 (UTC)

And the danger of instruction creep on this policy in particular is pretty big. It gets us focused on red lines and on the assumption that if you don't cross one, you're okay. The difficult cases are ones where there aren't red lines, but there exists enough of a pattern that a block is justified. When we get into instruction creep, those situations become much more difficult from the oversighter/admin side of things. The policy here is clear: do not do off-wiki opposition research. TonyBallioni (talk) 21:01, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
What some call "opposition research" others call investigative reporting. I must say knowing that a user who harassed me was associated with the "donkey punch" entries and the Dan Savage Rick Santorum meme (as well as being topic banned from the area they were editing) would not have been possible were it not for off-wiki sources (i.e. the wider world). Those of us who are a bit cynical about the state of the current health of en.wp (like T&S, like the NYT, like Salon, like ArbCom, etc.) might suggest that saying "do not do off-wiki investigation" gives embedded power users a pass allowing them to avoid legitimate scrutiny/criticism of their actions. The problems with Cirt, jytdog, Fram, and many others would all have been much more quickly resolved if more people had listened to the off-wiki wiki-watchers. Walled gardens & echo chambers are dangerous, especially when people get gagged or gas-lighted in those lovely gardeny spaces. 🌿 SashiRolls t · c 21:57, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
Jytdog was blocked for violating the very policy you're critiquing. Sagecandor was not blocked because of off-wiki stuff, even if it existed. He was blocked based on a publicly filed SPI containing diffs and based off of CheckUser data reviewed by a local functionary. That didn't require digging into his personal life off-wiki, and anyone could have done it. Those are both very good examples of why this policy works. Off-wiki opposition research of personal lives is entirely unneeded. If there really does need to be off-wiki evidence submitted, ArbCom or the functionaries list are always available for people, and speaking from the perspective of the functionaries list, we do treat allegations, even made against "power users", very seriously. If people don't trust ArbCom or the functionaries team, T&S exists as well. There are structures in place where the people involved are held accountable for any actions they take so we don't need individuals who have no source of accountability taking matters into their own hands and posting opposition research on a public wiki. TonyBallioni (talk) 22:21, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
No, Sagecandor was blocked because a whole host of evidence was compiled for the SPI through work done by several people off-wiki... (and it still took over a year from the time ArbCom was first informed). I am not criticizing the "outing" policy, I am saying that "off-wiki investigation" is not at all the same thing as "trawling through someone's FB and linkedin", so we should be very careful not to say, as you did, that policy prohibits "off-wiki opposition research" unless we're clear about exactly what that means. For example, by linking to the mainspace definition of opposition research this policy page currently suggests that we cannot use prior media coverage about problems on en.wp to point out further problems on en.wp... that's rather odd, no? 🌿 SashiRolls t · c 22:36, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
You can't use press coverage of individuals for their off-wiki activity. You can use press coverage that critiques Wikipedia in general. That is my understanding of the policy, and I think it is one that would be shared by others thinking back to a few cases we've had. On the Sagecandor point: yes, you can gather diffs via email or other forums, but the things that are posted on-wiki cannot be things such as "SashiRolls publicly identifies as Example Person and here is their Twitter." You could send it to a CU via email or to the functionaries list or the CheckUser OTRS queue. In general, off-wiki evidence is much less damning than people involved think, and I can personally only think of one SPI where it made me change my mind. I'm sure there are others, but the percentage is pretty small, and the CU team is able to handle it to the point where people posting it in a public forum is unneeded. TonyBallioni (talk) 22:46, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
Thanks for your response here... it's clear and concise. Maybe we could focus on some of the difficult questions in other sections? ^^ 🌿 SashiRolls t · c 00:53, 1 July 2019 (UTC)

@TonyBallioni: - I don't agree with your approach that you're looking at it that simply editing under a real name is not an invitation to off-wiki opposition research. Yes, there may be cases of opposition research, I don't like Editor Z, I search for things about him online. But what if things weren't opposition research (it wasn't, in my case, not sure if you knew). Let's say on Twitter, there's this user that is the #1 supporter of Fraser Anning, and is posting comments many view as racist. Let's say this user claims to be an English Wikipedian, regularly edits articles on Fraser Anning, and uses the same user name both on Wikipedia and Twitter, but did not reveal it on Wikipedia. If I discussed the Twitter comments with this editor, that would be outing, which is not permissible. But that wouldn't be opposition research, don't you agree? starship.paint (talk) 03:44, 1 July 2019 (UTC)

Starship.paint, uh, that's pretty much the definition of opposition research and that was what you were doing before... TonyBallioni (talk) 03:47, 1 July 2019 (UTC)
@TonyBallioni: - no argh. I think I wasn't clear. Let's say I am totally unaware of Editor A on Wikipedia. I start by chancing upon the Twitter account that claims to be Editor A. So, I ask Editor A a question about Twitter on Wikipedia. That is outing, but is that opposition research? starship.paint (talk) 03:49, 1 July 2019 (UTC)
I think it falls under the same premise. We can come up with all of these hypotheticals, but in practice, it is not going to be likely that someone comes across a Wikipedia editor's external accounts unless they were looking for them. Most Wikipedians are not public figures, and the odds of someone finding a Tweet from a random account related to Fraser Anning unless one was looking up things related to Fraser Anning with an eye for controversy are relatively low.
If you were to find the name of an editor you recognized on Twitter, go to the article and see them editing it, and then ask the person if it was them, yes, I would classify it as opposition research because that's exactly how it looks to me, a neutral third-party. TonyBallioni (talk) 03:57, 1 July 2019 (UTC)
@TonyBallioni: - it is not going to be likely that someone comes across a Wikipedia editor's external accounts unless they were looking for them - it may not be likely, but that's what happened in my case. Was I performing opposition research on specific WMF staffers? I would say no, because I've never known of them before. However, I was probably performing opposition research on the WMF in general, yes. Was that permissible? Floquenbeam and Espresso Addict, probably did similar actions in this case. GorillaWarfare, Swarm and Wehwalt responded to my 'opposition research on the WMF' actions, but did not object. Casliber probably read what I wrote, and didn't object either. Moe Epsilon did object. And then, we have people who posted / discussed Katherine's tweets, a larger group I won't identify. Is discussing Katherine's tweets opposition research? Is opposition research on the WMF not permissible? It's all not very clear. starship.paint (talk) 04:20, 1 July 2019 (UTC)
I don't want to relitigate your block, but what you did was indeed opposition research. Looking up negative information in general about people off-site, finding specific people as a part of that research, and then coming back to use that information against them is opposition research. I'll repeat what I said above: we don't want this page to be overly specific. If we start listing everything that is inappropriate, we get into the realm where if something isn't listed here it is okay, which is not how a policy like this should operate. TonyBallioni (talk) 04:43, 1 July 2019 (UTC)
@TonyBallioni: - I'm not looking to relitigate my block. If what I did was indeed opposition research, then it was tolerated by several prominent members of the community. If opposition research is bad, do you see how that would be a problem? starship.paint (talk) 04:49, 1 July 2019 (UTC)

I’m done here. Cheerios. Someone else will have to officially table my proposal, if it ever comes to that. starship.paint (talk) 06:59, 1 July 2019 (UTC)

  • I'm a little late here but I do think the policy should be clarified, even if not with the exact wording as proposed. Maybe different wording? Maybe it needs an information page with examples of do's and don'ts? Pinging Winged Blades of Godric in case he has some ideas. Levivich 01:50, 4 July 2019 (UTC)
This discussion has not been formulated as a straw poll, but I'm personally prepared to support the additional language more or less as Starship presented it. It's clearly what the policy has always urged, and how it has been consistently interpreted by the community, including by ArbCom and admins and veteran community members working in relevant spaces such as SPI and ANI--at least to the extent that I've ever seen the issue expressed. There are massively important community priorities behind our commitment to protecting the identities of our users their access to anonymity if they so choose to embrace it when participating in this project, and it's manifestly clear that it cannot be abrogated by technicality, no matter what someone says off-project; connecting on-project and off-project conduct is vastly beyond the permitted remit of another community member, no matter that might allow this or that editor "make a case" against a sock puppet who will otherwise go un-blocked, or a similar situation. Clarifying the language to formalize that point can only be a positive change. Frankly, I'm a little confused by the back and forth above between Starship and Tony as to where the line between outing and "opposition research" is. Clearly there's a lot of overlap between the two and, regardless, it's not the like the proposed change is a zero-sum contest between those two interests: making the outing rules more express will eliminate (or at least proscribe) more instances of outing, regardless of whether they contain opposition research or not. those two concerns are in alignment, with regard to the proposed change, as far as I can tell. Snow let's rap 06:25, 4 July 2019 (UTC)
I don't have any good ideas, but is there perhaps an alternative way of wording it? --Tryptofish (talk) 15:53, 4 July 2019 (UTC)
I disagree quite strongly: spelling things out will name it significantly easier for people to harass others because of the “it’s not forbidden” effect. On the opposition research point: not sure what’s confusing. Don’t be creepy and go through another editor’s Facebook looking for pictures of them drunk while in school, even if they say their identity on here.
I’m fine with tweaking wording here, but spelling out specifics is less than ideal. What about this Dredging up their off-site opinions or other undisclosed off-wiki information to repeatedly challenge their edits can be a form of harassment, even if their identity is public. change is in the bold, I also removed the clause about past edits since it’s a bit weird in that section and it’s covered adequately elsewhere. TonyBallioni (talk) 16:32, 4 July 2019 (UTC)
I guess I'm still not following the nature of your argument. We are still talking about Starship's proposed addition, right? Why would adding "Even in the case that a person claims on an external website to be a Wikipedia editor, sharing any external information not present on Wikipedia is still a form of outing." to the existing language regarding WP:outing lead to more, rather than less, undesirable behaviou?. It would be an express expansion of the definition of what is considered outing. And I've seen the situation Starship describes happen several times, only for the outing editor to (at least initially) argue that the policy is ambiguous to this point. It's not, really, as I see it: the prohibition on bringing any outside evidence of another's identity here at least implicitly makes this behaviour proscribed, and it's clear from community discussions (up to and including ArbCom) that this is not allowed, no matter the their level of disclosure off-site. But insofar as there is some confusion out there, why would we not sharpen to language of the policy as Starship suggests, so this point gets enshrined in the most relevant policy and strengthened as common knowledge, rather than something we have to deal with at ANI after the principle has already been violated? Our admins have enough work to do without adding in needless WP:OVERSIGHT work that could have been prevented in the first instance.
Your alternative proposal may very well be something we would want to consider in addition, but your wording doesn't really address the issue that Starship brought up here and which the rest of us are discussing; there's a lot of overlap (that is, there would be plenty of disruptive behaviour that would be covered by both Starship's proposed addition and your proposed additions), but the issue of whether or not to add wording saying essentially "You cannot connect an editor to their off-project identities, even if they identify themselves as a Wikipedian on other webpages." is not really the same question as to whether or not to also sharpen language regarding "opposition research". Plenty of conduct would be covered by both proposals, but they're not in opposition (they'd actually row together in pretty much all circumstances). More to the point, I'm still struggling to understand why you would think that Starship's proposed additional wording would invite more outing, when it simply clarifies that the particular behaviour of bringing a person's off-project identity and activities into a discussion here is textbook outing, regardless of whether they disclose their editorial identity elsewhere. And again, that's already the standard: we're just making it clear for those who didn't realize that was there is no exception to the general outing principle here, just because someone discloses (or seems to disclose) their identity as a Wikipedian on another site.
Not to sound like a broken record, but your proposal may well be worth considering, and you should open a separate thread to consider it. But it's a discrete issue from that which Starship has raised here, and the two are by no means mutually exclusive proposals. Unless I'm misapprehending your position in some way--which I may very well be, because your argument is still not adding up for me, if I'm reading it correctly. Snow let's rap 21:52, 4 July 2019 (UTC)
My issue with Starship's addition is that the entire point of the current wording of this policy is that it is intentionally ambiguous as to what is and isn't allowed. This is because of the complexity of these situations. Adding hard and fast rules makes it more like a checklist and instruction creep. We don't want to list that many specifics here otherwise it will look like things we don't list are things that are permissible to do. In the case of harassment, this is not ideal as unfortunately people will find new and unique ways to target other human beings. I think my addition makes the point Starship is trying to make more clear without the risk of instruction creep, and I don't think it needs a new section to discuss it because the idea is similar. TonyBallioni (talk) 22:33, 4 July 2019 (UTC)

I agree in general with the principle that when connections to a real-world identity are only incoming (from other sites) and not outgoing (from here to those other sites) then they cannot be revealed per OUTING, and with the idea of making that more explicit. However, I think the exact sentence "Even in the case that a person claims on an external website to be a Wikipedia editor, sharing any external information not present on Wikipedia is still a form of outing." goes too far, in that it requires people to write on Wikipedia all possible information that can be shared. As an example, I link from my Wikipedia user page my real name, my professional home page, my blog, and a Wikipedia article that happens to be about me. I do not link from my user page various other network identities that are, however, linked elsewhere: my home page links to an account on the Mastodon social media server, and to my Google Scholar profile, for instance, neither of which is linked on my user page. The proposed wording would make it a violation of OUTING to mention my Mastodon account or my Google Scholar account, even though I make no secret of those accounts, because they are not explicitly mentioned on-Wikipedia. I think that it should be allowed to mention identities such as these that are either linked directly on-Wikipedia or indirectly and publicly from a page that is linked on-Wikipedia (only one level of indirection to prevent gaming by following long chains of links). We could either make a rule about this or let common sense prevail. But I don't think we should make it ridiculously difficult for users to disclose their identity even when they try, by adding requirements that the user page should be an exhaustive list of all possible connected accounts that might ever come up in conversation. —David Eppstein (talk) 19:22, 4 July 2019 (UTC)

But why would we balance the policy to facilitate easier willing disclosures rather than to proscribe inappropriate ones? Remember, this is WP:NOTASOCIALNETWORK. A person's off-project activities should rarely, if ever, be a source of significant discussion on this project. Besides, if we're talking about not getting in the way of editors who wanted the information in question disclosed here, this policy is not a problem, because they aren't going to be pushing for sanctions/oversighting on something they want people to know. This policy, rather, is aimed at protecting the right to anonymity that has been enshrined as a protected feature of this project and community since their inception, and which assurance is absolutely vital to large numbers of out editors (sometimes as a question of livelihood or even personal safety). The policy against outing needs to stay focused on that interest, not making things easier for those who have no such concerns and wish to promote or socialize and link to aspects of their identities that have nothing to do with the workings of this project.
If people want to index their social media, career, or other personal webpages here, I guess more power to them, though I don't see the point of it, given what we are meant to be focused on here. And I suppose to the extent that such information is listed here, referencing those accounts here should be considered an exception to outing (I don't why you would ever do that in a way that has anything to do with this project's work, but whatever). But allowing a daisy-chain exception would be a stupendously bad idea to me: even if we attempted to limit it to a "two degrees of separation only" rule as you suggest (which I think would actually be extremely difficult to catch in the policy in a manner that is both clear and succinct) it would still invite all manner of gamesmanship of our outing principles and focus on off-project activities that are just not appropriate topics of discussion here to begin. Even if someone lists their Facebook account on their en.WP user page, I would still consider it borderline (if not outright) inappropriate to go look at their conduct on that site and then bring here whatever is found there. There's just no legitimate project-oriented purpose for it. And we definitely should not be watering down (even a small amount) protections for people who wouldn't want their off-project identities/activities mentioned here, just to make willing disclosures more convenient for those who want to. That would just turn our hierarchy of priorities (regarding the people and interests WP:OUTING is meant to protect), completely on its head. Snow let's rap 22:28, 4 July 2019 (UTC)
It is not just on-Wiki discussions that this policy affects. As an active Wikipedia editor, I don't want to fall afoul of this policy even in my off-wiki activity. Because of this, this policy has already repeatedly prevented me from publicly crediting editors with their good edits. To do so, I would have to name those editors in a way recognizable to the external communities in which I want to give the credit. And although the people I have in mind have not actually been hiding their identity here, they have also not been familiar enough with the ins and outs of this policy to have created an explicit link from their userpages here to their identities elsewhere. If we can't tell the world about the good edits people are doing, it makes it harder to attract other people to help edit. And if we make our outing policy so complicated and difficult that only experts on outing policy are capable of making their identities public, we won't be able to tell the world about anyone else's good works. —David Eppstein (talk) 22:57, 4 July 2019 (UTC)
Well, such concerns, if they require more finessed language to avoid issue, are better addressed in WP:OWH rather than WP:OUTING, since they would involve activities covered by the former rather than the latter. But generally speaking, this community does not get involved in policing off-project behaviour. It occasionally comes up in an ArbCom case, where it involves harassment that is directly and clearly related to an on-project dispute, but if the significant nexus of the dispute doesn't arise here, it's generally seen as beyond this community's remit to police off-project activity, owing to the facts that A) it is often difficult to establish identity with certainty (and dubiously ethical under our policies to publicly probe that question in depth), or to establish the facts and chain of events (it's not like our admins have revision histories and checkuser tools to work with on other sites as they do here), and B) because that's just not seen as an appropriate function for our community to get entangled in off-project matters. There are exceptions, but they are rare and I can't imagine anyone getting taken to ArbCom by a party who got celebrated for something off-project, when they make the connection between their off-project accounts and their account here and are looking to engage in cross-site chatter.
Basically the harassment policy as it is currently written is just never going to be invoked by somebody who doesn't mind your off-project comment. And if you messed up and did contact someone off site who didn't want that attention, then it's hardly a benefit if the policy is changed to greenlight that behaviour, because you clearly were over-confident in your analysis that the person was seeking or open to such plaudits. Either way, it's virtually impossible that you'd end up with a sanction for one off-hand compliment: you'd either have to be repeatedly contacting someone who already made it clear to you that they didn't want to hear from you off-project, or you'd have to have made a large number of similar blunders involving a significant number of editors, all of whom brought their concerns to ArbCom. And if either of those things is happening, I can't see it as a positive development to weaken our WP:OUTING standards for the sake of protecting the ability of someone to thank others off-project who don't even want that communication. Snow let's rap 00:21, 5 July 2019 (UTC)
I think it's worth considering that the outing policy already defines outing in terms of the disclosure of "personal information". So, working off of David Eppstein's examples, his disclosure of his real name, professional page, blog, and BLP makes the associated kinds of personal information (such as his real name, profession, workplace, and anything else at his BLP) voluntarily disclosed. He doesn't link from here to his Google Scholar account, so (unless it's in his BLP; I didn't look) some information about how many times he has been cited by other scholars might not be directly linked to from on-wiki. But is "number of cites" considered to be "personal information" as defined by this policy? I don't think so. So if an editor looked that information up and added it to his BLP would that be outing? No, I don't think it would. But if they found his home phone number at an external site and posted that? Yes, it would. One way to think about it is whether the kind of information could be considered to be something that a person could be harassed with, or as TonyBallioni put it, whether that kind of information would come across as creepy. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:49, 5 July 2019 (UTC)

One problem to be solved here is clarifying the (as David Eppstein put it) "inbound/outbound" dichotomy–the notion that "outing" your WP account off-wiki isn't the same as "outing" yourself on-wiki. I like Snow's formulation of "You cannot connect an editor to their off-project identities, even if they identify themselves as a Wikipedian on other webpages", to which I would add, "unless they have posted their identity on wiki" (or language to that effect, noting the #RfC: Clarification of OUTING thread above about what "on wiki" means, exactly). A second issue is the scope-of-outing issue raised by David Eppstein immediately above. That's an interesting question that ties into the opposition research concerns, and that whole "I know it when I see it" line-of-thinking about whether something is "creepy" or just referring to public information. I'm not sure that there is a "rule" that can be written for that particular point, as it's a very fine line between saying (hypothetical example) "Hey David, I read in the newspaper you won the Nobel Prize–congratulations!" and "Hey David, I read in the newspaper you didn't win the Nobel Prize–too bad!" The latter can be an honest expression of sympathy, or it can be sarcastic trolling or "opposition research", depending on who's saying it and in what context. However, to TonyB's point about leaving it vague, I must disagree about the philosophy behind it; I've never before heard someone make the argument that the clearer you spell out a rule, the easier it becomes to break, and thus what we want are vague rules. I believe the point of a rule (or policy) should be to set clear expectations of behavior for the purpose of teaching people what to do and what not to do, so that they can do (or not do) the right thing. Thus, I think we want clear rules, so that people can read and follow them, as opposed to vague "principles" whose purpose is to provide justification for future enforcement actions without first being clear about what does and what does not violate the principle. Levivich 17:32, 7 July 2019 (UTC)

Sarcasm is one thing. It's easy enough for people who think they can get a rise out of you to say other borderline-insulting sarcastic things without having to out you to do it (I probably shouldn't name names). Complaining to your employer (which has happened to me, not recently) is an entirely different matter, and something that I think should be disallowed regardless of how public the identity is. But often the people who do that sort of thing are not actually editors, just people who dislike something we include in our articles. Maybe we should keep in mind that there's this bigger class of potential outing violators over whom we have little or no control. —David Eppstein (talk) 20:04, 7 July 2019 (UTC)

From the Board statementEdit

I think there have been some questions about whether the WMF T&S are currently handling basic harassment issues at en-wiki. Here is the link to what the WMF Board have said: [11], where they say that they have instructed T&S to work only on things like "legal issues, threats of violence, cross-wiki abuse, and child protection issues until consultation and agreement between T&S and the community are achieved." --Tryptofish (talk) 20:28, 7 July 2019 (UTC)


There is a discussion about where, if anywhere, it is best for the WP:GASLIGHTING shortcut to point (it currently links to Wikipedia:Gaming the system#Gaming the use of policies and guidelines). Your input to this discussion is invited at Wikipedia:Redirects for discussion/Log/2019 July 26#Wikipedia:GASLIGHTING. Thryduulf (talk) 18:26, 26 July 2019 (UTC)

Implementing the RfC outcomeEdit

Hello all, I recently closed the OUTING RfC above. It's getting fairly late here and I'm having trouble translating what I wrote into actual edits to the policy, so if anyone wants to take a crack at implementing the RfC closure, I'd be grateful. (Alternatively, perhaps it doesn't need to be really integrated into the text of the policy; a footnote quoting an excerpt from the close might do just fine.) Best, Kevin (aka L235 · t · c) 04:42, 7 September 2019 (UTC)

I have added a footnote with some of the conclusions of the RfC, but would appreciate anyone who has time to integrate it into the text or at least make the note more elegant. Best, Kevin (aka L235 · t · c) 22:23, 10 September 2019 (UTC)

"Overriding reason" vs. "constructive reason" in WP:HOUNDEdit

In June, Tryptofish changed "overriding reason" to "constructive reason." I think the long-standing "overriding reason" is better because it's saying "for no essential reason/unnecessarily." In other words, going by the definition of "overriding," it's saying for a reason that is not about adhering to a policy or guideline. By contrast, saying "for no constructive reason" is subjective because an editor may feel that they are being constructive by following the other editor around. It's been made clear countless times before that an editor following another around because that editor thinks they are being constructive is not enough of a reason to keep following the editor around if it's annoying the other editor/causing the other editor distress and the following isn't actually necessary/helping at all. Besides, disruption to the project is usually considered unconstructive.

We could also change "for no constructive reason" to "for no policy or guideline-based reason." But following an editor around to enforce a guideline has also been criticized. Following an editor around to enforce a policy, especially one like the BLP policy, has more support. Maybe change "for no constructive reason" to "when it is not necessary for improving the encyclopedia"? Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 03:23, 22 September 2019 (UTC)

You could argue that what is and isn't constructive could be based on community consensus :P, but no I do agree we should do something about this. --NikkeKatski [Elite] (talk) 16:42, 22 September 2019 (UTC)

It would have been nice to ping or notify me, if you were going to refer to me by name. It seems to me that "overriding" is a very strange locution, because the word usually refers to a situation where something is being overridden. What is being overridden here? I'm not very persuaded by the argument that if someone who is hounding someone else thinks that they are doing it for constructive reasons they could use that to wikilawyer. It should be obvious that "constructive" means "considered to be constructive by consensus". To say otherwise is to say that someone could only be violating the harassment policy if they believe themselves to be violating it: "I thought I was doing something good, so how could it be harassment?" In any case, I find the timing of this proposal rather strange, coming a day after the Fram ArbCom case was closed. There, much of the controversy was over whether or not Fram was hounding someone who was repeatedly violating policy by repeatedly telling that person that they were doing so. To incorporate the nonsense that came out of T&S into en-wiki policy is a horrible idea. In any case, ArbCom has just announced that there will be a community RfC about how hounding (and private information) will be defined at en-wiki, and that seems to me to be the proper venue for proposing such changes. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:15, 22 September 2019 (UTC)
I didn't ping you because you commonly edit this page and clearly watch it. I personally don't like being pinged to pages I am obviously watching. But since you'd rather be pinged, I'll keep that in mind in the future.
As for your reasoning for changing the text, I still feel the same way I did when I made the above post. I explained why "overriding" is better and what seems to have been meant by it. It's my opinion that the text should either be changed back to the long-standing "overriding" text or to something else, like "when it is not necessary for improving the encyclopedia." I'm not going to point to a recent example of an editor arguing the "constructive" angle in the way I described, since it will only give that editor an actual reason to show up to this section after I made the above post (although I'd use their showing up in this section as further evidence of hounding). The timing of this post has to do with that. It has nothing to do with WP:FRAMGATE, which I haven't been involved with at all. I noticed that the wording was changed, and apparently not for the better, and I made the above post. This is the proper venue for suggesting that the wording you changed be changed backed to the wording that was there for years. It is the appropriate place to propose any change to this policy. By suggesting that "overriding" be restored, I'm not suggesting we incorporate anything that wasn't there before....for years. By suggesting that the subjective "constructive" be replaced, I'm not suggesting anything that would enable "the nonsense that came out of T&S."
Elitematterman (NikkeKatski [Elite]), since you agree with me, would you rather "overriding" be restored, that we use "when it is not necessary for improving the encyclopedia", or do you have some other suggestion? Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 05:05, 23 September 2019 (UTC) Updated post. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 05:13, 23 September 2019 (UTC)
Just about the ping thing (I'll reply about the other issues below), I take stuff on and off my watchlist all the time. Given that you were disagreeing with me about something, and referring to me by name, a single ping would have been appropriate. Once I'm aware of a talk page section discussion, there's no need for repeat pings. Thanks. --Tryptofish (talk) 17:41, 23 September 2019 (UTC)
I prefer the word "constructive" because I believe that word is much easier to understand, and to debate if necessary, than "overriding" which I perceive to be vague, legalistic and almost impossible to define or debate in context. Our purpose here is to build and improve an encylopedia. Anything that contributes to that goal is "constructive", a word and concept we frequently use to evaluate whether specific behaviors or long term patterns of behavior either improve or do not improve the encylopedia. If asked to evaluate whether a pattern of behavior is "overriding", I would be bewildered and would have no reasonable metric for separating "overriding" from "not overriding". What do those things even mean? Cullen328 Let's discuss it 05:25, 23 September 2019 (UTC)
Cullen328, I'm not necessarily suggesting that "overriding" be restored (although "overriding" was there in the policy for many years without any problem), but I am suggesting that "constructive" be replaced. You and I both know of what case I'm referring to where "constructive" is already being invoked. Like I stated, anyone can believe that their following another is constructive; it's been argued times before by those who have hounded. And now it's in the policy for people to use, and I don't think that's beneficial. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 05:37, 23 September 2019 (UTC)
We should not be writing the language of policies and guidelines based on one specific case where an editor may have misunderstood or misused the plain meaning of a word. Instead, we should use language that is easy to understand and commonly used and properly understood on this encylopedia every day. Trying to confuse or complicate the language to foil people who are not acting in good faith is a fool's errand. Clarity comes first and and should always be the top priority. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 05:57, 23 September 2019 (UTC)
We write and change policies and guidelines based on specific cases of misunderstandings all the time. We do this for clarity, and that includes limiting or stopping the misuse of a policy or a guideline. It's why after this recent discussion at Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Words to watch, we changed the wording of that guideline. I am never about "trying to confuse or complicate the language to foil people who are not acting in good faith." I am about having clear language so that editors can't wikilawyer in any way. I don't find the subjective "constructive" -- the exact word that has been used by hounding people to excuse their abuse and to actually confuse and complicate situations with debates about what is or isn't constructive following -- to be clear language. Why state "constructive" and not be clear what we mean by it? Assuming that "it should be clear" what we mean has failed countless times with regard to our policies and guidelines. That is why we tweak, tweak, and tweak them. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 06:12, 23 September 2019 (UTC)
On the contrary, as an administrator, I find the word "constructive" to be easy to understand and a useful tool for evaluating editor behavior. "Overriding" is a word that I simply cannot understand in the context of evaluating editor behavior and any policy language that uses that term in a general sense is a policy that I will be unable to implement because of the baffling and unclear language. If you do not like "constructive" then please propose another word or words that increases clarity rather than radically reducing it. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 06:41, 23 September 2019 (UTC)
In my first post above, I proposed two different wordings. I stated, "We could also change 'for no constructive reason' to 'for no policy or guideline-based reason.' But following an editor around to enforce a guideline has also been criticized. Following an editor around to enforce a policy, especially one like the BLP policy, has more support. Maybe change 'for no constructive reason' to 'when it is not necessary for improving the encyclopedia'?" And when replying to you, I stated, "I'm not necessarily suggesting that 'overriding' be restored (although 'overriding' was there in the policy for many years without any problem), but I am suggesting that 'constructive' be replaced." I'm open to different wording. Per my arguments above, I just don't agree with "constructive" replacing the long-standing "overriding." Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 06:48, 23 September 2019 (UTC)
  • "Overriding" seems to me far more appropriate than "constructive". Suppose I do something which has large and extensive aspects of "disruption to another user's own enjoyment of editing, or disruption to the project generally", but which also has a very small element of doing something constructive. What I am doing is not done "for no constructive reason", so according to the wording that Tryptofish introduced what I am doing is OK, but I would venture to suggest that it isn't OK. Suppose, however, we asses the situation according to the previously existing wording. The small constructive element is not sufficient to override the much larger disruptive element, so according to that wording what I did was not OK. It seems to me so obvious that "for no overriding reason" is reasonable in the context and "for no constructive reason" isn't that I am, frankly, bewildered as to why anyone might think otherwise. Isn't it insufficient that there is just some constructive reason, as opposed to a sufficiently constructive reason to override the negative aspects of the behaviour?
  • I have read, but don't understand, various objections raised above to "overriding". For example, why is "constructive" easier to understand than "overriding"? I understand both. Why is "overriding" vague and legalistic? I have no idea. Indeed, I can't figure out how it can be both, since one of the primary characteristics of legalistic language is that it aims to define things with absolute precision, in contrast to common usage, which is often imprecise and ambiguous. I am also puzzled by "... the word usually refers to a situation where something is being overridden. What is being overridden here?" Surely what is (or isn't) being overridden is the negative effects which may be regarded as harassment. In the context that seems perfectly obvious to me, but evidently not to everyone.
  • In my opinion the original "for no overriding reason" was absolutely fine, and better than anything else which anyone has suggested, but since a couple of editors don't like it perhaps we could compromise on Flyer22 Reborn's suggestion of "when it is not necessary for improving the encyclopedia". JBW (talk) Formerly known as JamesBWatson 14:30, 23 September 2019 (UTC)
  • Thanks everyone for the comments, and I've read and thought about all of them. For starters, I decided to do some, um, archaeology, and look into the edit history of the passage in question. Here is the edit, from October 28, 2008, that put the word "overriding" into the policy: [12]. Here is the talk page section from around that time: Wikipedia talk:Harassment/Archive 1#Wikihounding. At that time, editors were changing the term from "stalking" to "hounding". There was never any discussion that I can find about the word "overriding". It's worth noting, I think, that the wording just after it was, and continues to be now, wording that places hounding at the level of "tendentiousness, personal attacks, or other disruptive behavior". I feel that there is a significant difference between that, and following someone who is violating policy, in order to enforce policy.
Regardless of whether the discussion was intentionally started just as the Fram ArbCom case ended, we must inescapably take into account what is happening at en-wiki right at this time. Look, for example, at comments just today at WT:Arbitration Committee/Noticeboard#Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Fram – including [13] and [14]. These issues are about to be discussed at Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Fram#Arbcom RfC regarding on-wiki harassment, where the discussion will be community-wide.
Where JBW says it's obvious that what gets "overridden" are "the negative effects which may be regarded as harassment", that's not obvious to me. Are those "negative effects" the harm to the project, or are they the harm to the happiness of the person making the complaint? Is it possible to make that person unhappy, while also advancing the good of the project? Yes, and that was very much at the heart of the Fram case. Someone who was repeatedly violating policy and guidelines, and was not hearing complaints about it, considered Fram's repeated pointing out of those violations to be hounding. Do editors have a "right" to violate policies and guidelines without having to respond to editors who have concerns, or to administrators who keep trying to enforce our norms? No. Are those administrators acting "constructively"? Yes. (At ArbCom, they decided to almost no one's satisfaction that it was "borderline hounding" because of the way in which Fram did it, as opposed to the fact that he did it. And the issue is sufficiently murky that ArbCom have decided to have that RfC.) In any case, if some of us find "overriding" unclear, and some of us do, it's worth rethinking it.
But JBW's comments about a small constructive element were very helpful to me in understanding the potential shortcomings of "constructive". So that got me thinking. Just being "constructive" might not, in itself, be sufficient. It has to be, sort of, very constructive. And "overriding" is clearest when we know exactly what has to be overridden.
And that gave me this idea: Each of those two words actually corrects the other word's limitations. I'd like to suggest that we change it to: "overridingly constructive". --Tryptofish (talk) 19:02, 23 September 2019 (UTC)
A very good suggestion, Tryptofish, and better, I think, than anything else that has been suggested. I support that. JBW (talk) Formerly known as JamesBWatson 20:03, 23 September 2019 (UTC)
I'm glad. Thanks! --Tryptofish (talk) 21:34, 23 September 2019 (UTC)
I've read this entire discussion, and have come to agree that "overridingly constructive" is the best option here. -Crossroads- (talk) 22:12, 23 September 2019 (UTC)
JBW (especially JBW) and Crossroads, thanks for giving your thoughts. Tryptofish, thanks for thinking this over. Where JBW says "Suppose I do something which has large and extensive aspects of 'disruption to another user's own enjoyment of editing, or disruption to the project generally', but which also has a very small element of doing something constructive." is what I referring to when I said "But following an editor around to enforce a guideline has also been criticized. Following an editor around to enforce a policy, especially one like the BLP policy, has more support." I mean, an editor could be following another to make sure that the other is adhering to MOS:BADHEAD. But is it really necessary for that editor to do so, especially if the one doing the following has a bad history with the other editor? In that case, bringing MOS:BADHEAD to the offending editor's attention once on the editor's talk page and bringing in others to assess the matter if it continues is enough. With regard to "Is it possible to make that person unhappy, while also advancing the good of the project?", my point has been that the "at the expense of the editor's happiness" aspect should be necessary, such as stopping BLP violations. But even in those cases, the community feels better about uninvolved admins continuing to address a specific editor, such as with warnings, rather than an editor with a bad history with the other taking on the task. I'll go with "overridingly constructive" as a compromise. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 00:32, 24 September 2019 (UTC)
I have to hand it to trypto, thats probably the best thing we can do here. --NikkeKatski [Elite] (talk) 13:26, 24 September 2019 (UTC)
Thanks everyone; I'm genuinely flattered. About the points that Flyer22 makes, I agree that these are things that the community needs to come to a consensus about, whatever one's personal opinion. If I understand correctly, the planned RfC is going to be the start-off point for such a community discussion. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:12, 24 September 2019 (UTC)
I want to reiterate that, for me, this discussion had nothing to do with Fram/FRAMGATE. I haven't been keeping up with that case. With it mentioned in this discussion, however, I wondered if "overriding" was replaced with "constructive" because of it. But I see that it was changed days before FRAMGATE. Still, as seen by the provided links above, the "constructive" wording has affected the Fram case. So I understand why you brought it up. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 23:40, 24 September 2019 (UTC)
Are you going to implement the agreed-upon wording, or would you rather someone else implement it? Or are you waiting for the RfC you mentioned? I don't see that we need to wait for that. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 23:53, 24 September 2019 (UTC)
Just so you know exactly how I came to make that edit, if you go a few edits back in the edit history, someone else made some changes to that section following a discussion that I had not (to my memory) been involved in, and I made a series of copyedits to clean up after that, and I made that edit along with those. At the time, I truly thought that the change was just a minor change that didn't alter any meaning. Go figure. Had I realized that there would be any issues about it, I would not have made that edit without prior discussion, and I would not have made it after the Fram thing had begun.
I didn't make the edit yesterday, because I figured I would give it one more day in case of any late objections. But I'm happy that JBW took care of it. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:10, 25 September 2019 (UTC)
Yeah, Tryptofish, I'd examined the series of edits leading up to the change from "overriding." And, again, you made that change before FRAMGATE happened. I know that the disputes regarding Fram happened before FRAMGATE, meaning they are what led up to FRAMGATE, but your "overriding" change wasn't in response to FRAMGATE. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 22:44, 25 September 2019 (UTC)

I am the editor who is being discussed here who has been accused of hounding. [15]. I've read this discussion, and I feel like what's being missed is the word "reason". Either the reason to follow an editor is constructive or it's not; it's not acceptable to follow an editor with the intention of causing them distress while also making constructive edits which override their bad faith reasons. What I also find problematic about the language is the focus on appearances and the perceptions of the effected editor: "an apparent aim of creating irritation.". I believe hounding is when the aim is to cause distress, and regardless of whether that behavior is accompanied by constructive edits. Administrators can decide whether apparently hounding behavior is hounding behavior. So then the question is, if the "reason" is purely constructive, but the followed editor feels distressed, is that simply not hounding, or must the constructiveness outweigh the distress felt by the other editor? I would say that's an impossible thing to measure, and that harassment is actually defined by intentions.
In summary, I would change the language to "for anything other than constructive reasons" and remove the word "apparent". Kolya Butternut (talk) 03:24, 25 September 2019 (UTC)

Administrators, including JBW and Johnuniq, were clear on your talk page. And you unnecessarily showing up here for more confrontation, just like you unnecessarily watch my talk page to keep tabs on me (and drop in at talk pages I'm at) and try to justify that (watching my talk page) with some claim that I'm focused on/after you, is further proof that you have an issue when it comes to understanding WP:HOUNDING. Stating "I'm not going to point to a recent example of an editor arguing the 'constructive' angle in the way I described, since it will only give that editor an actual reason to show up to this section after I made the above post (although I'd use their showing up in this section as further evidence of hounding)." and "You and I both know of what case I'm referring to where 'constructive' is already being invoked." is not truly discussing you. In fact, it is a clear effort to have you stay away, as I do not want to interact with you at all. But, alas, you couldn't resist. The only reason I even noted that I was not "going to point to a recent example" (you) is because Tryptofish stated, "I'm not very persuaded by the argument that if someone who is hounding someone else thinks that they are doing it for constructive reasons they could use that to wikilawyer." Otherwise, I wouldn't have alluded to you at all. But even if I hadn't, we both know that you would have showed up here anyway. I'm not stating anything else in this section to you, except that I oppose any proposed wording you suggest. Compromise wording has already been worked out, and for valid reasons (which JBW couldn't have been clearer about). Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 05:49, 25 September 2019 (UTC) Updated post. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 05:58, 25 September 2019 (UTC)
  • Since there is unambiguous consensus for "overridingly constructive" I have made the change. JBW (talk) Formerly known as JamesBWatson 13:50, 25 September 2019 (UTC)
    • JBW, I understand the unambiguous agreement you're referring to, but my understanding is that a "consensus decision takes into account all of the proper concerns raised". My concern hasn't been discussed. I may be failing to understand the concept and my comment may be quickly dismissed, but it has not yet been taken into account. I might understand what "overridingly constructive reason" is intended to mean, but I still find the overall language of the policy to be extremely unclear. If my previous proposal is dismissed, can we then just use Tryptofish's explanation of the language in place of the more vague "overridingly constructive reason" itself? Kolya Butternut (talk) 15:01, 25 September 2019 (UTC)
I'm having an issue seeing where someone contributing in a truly constructive manner can cause warranted distress. It may very well be possible but it seems like an odd situation to me. Would anyone be so kind to point me towards an example case so that I may understand better perhaps? Or am I missing the point entirely? --NikkeKatski [Elite] (talk) 21:15, 25 September 2019 (UTC)
I hope that I don't sound like a broken record, but those are exactly the kinds of questions that came up in the Fram case and they are likely to be discussed more systemically than we can do here in the forthcoming RfC. I don't want to get drawn into the dispute just above, and so for that reason I don't want to parse what I see as the differences between the Fram example and this one. But they do need to be parsed eventually. For now, I hope that we can close the discussion here. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:23, 25 September 2019 (UTC)
Elitematterman (who signs as "NikkeKatski [Elite]"): It happens all the time. I can assure you that in my administrative work I have come across that situation thousands of times. Here is one example. An editor with strong antisemitic views goes round posting Jew-hating statements in many articles. Other editors follow their editing history and revert their edits. Editors post warnings to the editor, which escalate into very strong warnings. Eventually the editor is blocked from editing. The editor who did it in the first place, who sincerely believes that Jews are evil and that he or she is doing a good job by publicising their wickedness, is genuinely distressed to find his or her good faith work destroyed, and to be subjected to what he or she perceives as personal attacks, but the actions which cause that distress are fully warranted, and the fact that they cause distress is an unfortunate downside that we have to accept. That is a fairly extreme example, rather than a typical one, but I have chosen it because that very fact makes the point clearer. However, every day there are situations where one person's actions are totally unacceptable, so that steps have to be taken against them, even if those steps run the risk of causing upset for that person. JBW (talk) Formerly known as JamesBWatson 10:27, 26 September 2019 (UTC)
For what it's worth, I support the compromise language that Tryptofish came up with. Thanks. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 22:55, 25 September 2019 (UTC)
Thank you for the insight. Its quite clear to me now that this can be a very complex matter. --NikkeKatski [Elite] (talk) 15:19, 26 September 2019 (UTC)

question about outingEdit

If someone has posted on their Twitter account their Wikipedia information, and also post hate speech there against someone whose article they then try to get deleted, can that information be used against them in an ANI? Is every single thing said off of Wikipedia simply blocked out no matter what? Dream Focus 17:53, 5 November 2019 (UTC)

They would need to post their twitter account on Wikipedia, otherwise linking a twitter account and a Wikipedia account on Wikipedia is outing. That being said you can email the information to ARBCOM if you think it needs to be dealt with. --Kyohyi (talk) 18:00, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
Seconding what Kyohyi said. The connection needs to be made on Wikipedia* by the owner of the Wikipedia account - in part this is to protect against Joe jobs, but you believe the account is controlled by a Wikipedian then you can email the information to arbitration committee. You can, and should, also report the account to Twitter as hate speech is against their terms of service. *It's less clear whether it is outing if the connection is made on another WMF project - if it's linked to prominently from en.wp (e.g. their userpage here says "see my userpage at Commons" and the link is made there) then it's almost always going to be fine though; where it is less clear cut (e.g. the connection is on a subpage on the Esperanto Wiktionary and they don't make a big thing here about contributing to that project) it's better to err on the side of caution and send the info to arbcom privately. They can post the information publicly if they determine the connection is public and they feel there is benefit to doing so. Thryduulf (talk) 19:23, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
The above replies are correct. I would just add that if the editor has, on Wikipedia, given any clue that they control or otherwise approve of the Twitter account, that should be included in an email to Arbcom (see User:Arbitration Committee). Make the email brief with the point in the first sentence: should editor X be sanctioned due to Y? Unfortunately Arbcom is snowed under and an email might not be answered for a long time, but it is best. Johnuniq (talk) 22:21, 5 November 2019 (UTC)

Does anyone recall a detailed discussion clarifying the boundary between hounding and disruptive editing?Edit

Just putting this out there as I wonder if more clarification is needed (and whether we have discussed it before...?) - We have under Wikipedia:Harassment#Hounding "Correct use of an editor's history includes (but is not limited to) fixing unambiguous errors or violations of Wikipedia policy, or correcting related problems on multiple articles." - hence clarifies when we can review edits for copyvios etc. and then at the other end of the spectrum we have stalking/hounding of editors (i.e. harassment). How about the grey area in the middle? Has this been looked at before and discussed?

e.g. possible scenario - left-leaning editor A edits an political article and the source and text are (let's say) a little bit open where the text in the wikipedia article is a bit more "left" (positive/whatever) than the source. Not grossly wrong but possibly a little. Now, right-leaning editor B comes along and they have a discussion and afterwards the article is reworded so that the text better matches the source. Now both editors edit political articles. Is editor B justified in looking at other edits of editor A on political articles to check and possibly reword text? Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 00:50, 7 November 2019 (UTC)

I don't recall anything exactly like that, but there have been two recent discussions about that boundary: #Addition to WP:HOUND and #"Overriding reason" vs. "constructive reason" in WP:HOUND, both above. I think there has been sentiment that the exact boundary is something best left to administrator judgement, rather than being something that can really be spelled out, and that the boundary is based on whether the following of an editor is about advancing polices and guidelines, or about causing unpleasantness for the person being followed, and that it needs to be clearly the former. I think if editor B in your example is just making corrections based on what editors A and B agreed upon, that would be fine. But if editor B is focusing on editor A in a single-minded and nitpicking way, that could potentially be hounding. --Tryptofish (talk) 01:07, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
Also, I'm under the impression that ArbCom is working on having a community RfC that will, in part, touch on that issue. --Tryptofish (talk) 01:08, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
My eyes went square looking at the walls of text. I think some sort of RfC to get more of a quantitative feel would be good. Yeah....about that community RfC...... Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 12:19, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Support defining misconduct types I do not recall that particular discussion but these kinds of discussions are common enough to sort them into their own pages. I started Wikipedia:Misconduct to try to collect the various categories of these things. If wiki-patrol is able to put labels on behavior then we become better able to group cases, identify patterns of misconduct, and make changes to promote fairness. There are discussions in various places and eventually we need to combine those talk pages discussions on central pages too for the various categories of misconduct. Blue Rasberry (talk) 14:31, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Regardless of the merits of the idea, it is impossible to define complex behavior as good or bad. The rich still rort the tax system despite it having enough verbage to drown an office of lawyers. Regarding the question, the answer is it depends. The whole picture has to be considered including the percentage of effort involved in pursuing each other and the benefits of their edits. Johnuniq (talk) 00:57, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
  • I think the general rule is "would a typical user, looking at this, see a clear pattern of problems that require systematic correction?" If the user's edit history came up on WP:ANI, WP:AE, or some other board, would there be a general consensus that something is wrong here? To some extent it's always going to have to rely on editorial judgment, but here's some points I'd make (apologies for the wall-of-text, but if we're talking definitions and guidelines, I think it's important to break things down into categories):
  • The question of "could I reasonably get ANI to reach a consensus that the user's edits are a problem, taken as a whole" is a good start. Another possible way of looking at it - suppose, after user B makes a bunch of changes to user A's edits, user A takes objection to the changes and goes back to revert all of them. If this then ended up at WP:ANI, would there be a general consensus that A was in the wrong and B was in the right? Or would they call it a bunch of content disputes? If it's the former, B is probably in the clear; if it's the latter then what B did has to be stopped, because otherwise we'd see content disputes spill out over the entire wiki in ways that make WP:BATTLEGROUND problems even worse.
  • I think it is almost always acceptable to check closely related articles for the same extremely specific problem or dispute, as a one-time thing - eg. if there's a content dispute about one specific quote, or the coverage of one specific event, or some other very narrow thing that you've realized one editor just added to a bunch of articles, I think it's always reasonable to check their edit history and go over what's essentially the same edit made on multiple pages, since that still falls under the general locus of one dispute and discourages things like WP:COATRACK or people trying to push something through by editing a bunch of articles all at once (generally I feel mass edits without a clear consensus behind them are questionable due to the difficulty of dealing with them - of course that also applies to mass-reverts, but eg. putting together a list of every place the discussions touch on and placing notices to centralize discussions is reasonable.) Particularly when an editor makes a bunch of very similar edits on related articles, it's reasonable to object on all of them or to try and centralize discussions. But that requires that everything fall reasonably under one core reasonably-narrow dispute that B could articulate - it doesn't extend to eg. obsessively double-checking everything A does in an entire topic area. As a general guideline, you shouldn't even need to check their edit history most of the time for this because the related articles will be obvious anyway.
  • Perhaps related to the above, the length of time you do something for matters as well. Which isn't to say it's the only thing that matters - checking every single edit an editor made just because you're in a dispute with them is not OK, even if you only do it once - but the most serious types of WP:HOUNDING continue for extended periods of time. And, conversely, it's hard to justify continuously following a user's edits like that - if there's a constant problem that requires correction, it should be brought up on an appropriate editor-conduct board, and if there isn't then the "fix one specific problem" and "catch all instances of one specific narrow dispute" justifications rapidly disappear when you're following someone's edits for an extended period. So "repeatedly seems to follow the user over an extended period of time" would be a major alarm.
Also of course sometimes you'll bump into another editor all over the place because you edit the same topic area. --Aquillion (talk) 04:51, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
I'm generally of the mind that this is the kind of thing that cannot be quantified. And a caution that comes to mind about the ANI test is that ANI is sometimes a lousy measure because warring camps often show up to yell at each other. But, that said, I do like the idea of trying to list some of the things that can distinguish acceptable from unacceptable behavior. If nothing else, I think it's useful to find out whether there are things editors tend to agree on, or things that turn out to lack consensus. Just throwing out some thoughts that I haven't really worked on as they pop into my mind:
Things that tend to be acceptable:
  1. The editor being followed is violating policies and guidelines, and the editor doing the following is simply seeking to uphold those norms.
  2. The editor doing the following has previously been a frequent contributor in the topic area where there is overlap.
  3. The following is done in a polite and friendly way.
  4. The interactions take place only briefly, and are not a chronic pattern.
  5. The editor doing the following is also directing attention to a lot of related edits by editors other than the editor being followed, rather than focusing narrowly.
Things that tend to be associated with hounding:
  1. There is no obvious and overriding policy reason to be monitoring the other editor's work.
  2. The editor doing the following suddenly takes an interest in an area they never edited in before, in order to follow the other editor.
  3. There is an unfriendly or menacing tone to the way the following is done.
  4. The following of the other editor is a chronic pattern over time.
  5. The editor doing the following is conspicuously focused on the editor they are following.
None of these criteria, taken alone, proves much of anything. Rather, it's the preponderance of the pattern. To be acceptable, there should be a clear preponderance of the acceptable criteria. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:48, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
Automated detection of Wikipedia misconduct!, 15-minute video presentation of the research paper!
  • AI can do this Wikiconference:2019 is happening right now. In wikiconference:Submissions:2019/Machine learning for wiki by university students I am presenting a talk including an overview of meta:Automatic Detection of Online Abuse, which is an attempt to make predictions of misconduct on Wikipedia. The more examples we have of users getting blocked for a particular cause, the easier it is to use automated support to report their behavior and identify patterns of abuse. Humans alone cannot review and analyze lots of patterns in every case, but bots can point out suspicious patterns and ask humans to review just those. This research product had one result. There will be countless other attempts to do this from now on.
@Tryptofish and Aquillion: If you converted your ideas of what hounding is to a human readable policy, then humans could apply that in a few cases to stage the field for bots to supplement human review in the future. If we had labeled cases which were specifically hounding then that would help make the automation more precise. Blue Rasberry (talk) 21:32, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
What happens if a bot starts hounding me? --Tryptofish (talk) 21:59, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
Got you covered - we are already making bots to seek out and punish earlier designed bots gone rogue. Blue Rasberry (talk) 22:14, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
Hehehe. Will have a read. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 22:23, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

Is suggesting harassment (outing) an indef ban offence or less?Edit

In relation to the incident discussed at Wikipedia:Administrators'_noticeboard/Incidents#Unblock_request_now_at_two+_weeks,_editor_apologized,_seems_simple_enough?, where an editor suggested that another editor's identity should be revealed, how seriously do we wish to reprimand them? In this particular case, the editor was indef banned for making such a suggestion (to be clear, no outing has occurred, but a suggestion was made, effectively saying that "a newspaper that mentioned editor X should have revealed his identity... revealing it would be informative".). Should such a suggestion, made on wiki, merit 1) indef ban 2) shorter duration ban 3) warning 4) no action 5) something else? There is no consensus in the thread about this (so far only two admins have commented on this issue). I think it might be helpful to discuss this here and formulate a policy for future incidents. Personally I think that anyone who suggests some form or harassment should be sternly warned, and repeated offenders might merit an interaction ban, but I wouldn't go as far as a full editing ban for merely making a tactless suggestion. Thoughts? --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 02:51, 10 November 2019 (UTC)

  • You keep saying it depends. On what? On who editor X's friends are? On what has been rumoured to have happened off-wiki in BADPLACES you can't link to, only summarize (as one does)? What does it depend on JohnuniQ? 🌿 SashiRolls t · c 03:46, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
  • whose context? yours? mine? the deleted one? the banner-bot's blocker-bot's?
& the suprasegmental data, where is it stored? As I recall, the case Piotrus speaks about is complicated. Bots (simply the best at go & chess) like rules. 🌿 SashiRolls t · c 14:35, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Nobody has been banned. Do you not understand the distinction between WP:BAN and WP:BLOCK? There is an unblock appeal pending. El_C 03:49, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
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