Wikipedia talk:Blocking policy
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I have noticed a pattern of new editors being blocked indefinitely when their first article is promotional in tone. I believe this is harmful and would like to see a move towards lengthy blocks of finite duration:
- In many cases, English is not the first language of the person being blocked.
- In many cases, they are editing as part of a club or classroom exercise with the twin goals of improving their language skills and improving our coverage of subjects local to their country.
- Often they simply do not know any better and choose a subject too close to them, and write an article that reads like a hagiography.
- They will respond to the block with either: a cycle of appeals, or abandoning the account and creating a sock.
This all requires a good deal of administrator time and effort to handle. I think we would be better off with shorter blocks, 10 days, 30 days, which can then be lengthened if necessary. This will be at least as effective behaviorally, and will require less effort on the part of the admin community by discouraging socking and allowing block appeals to be more readily closed as "just wait it out." I would like to propose amending the blocking policy to encourage shorter blocks in this situation. At present, the policy is silent on COI blocks, since they were not as serious a problem as vandalism or disruption at the time the blocking policy was drafted. UninvitedCompany 20:32, 24 May 2019 (UTC)
- I think this needs to be considered case by case. I think if it's the "standard" situation (new editor puts together a clearly inappropriate/promotional draft or sandbox page,), that does indicate lack of knowledge rather than malice, and I prefer to handle that with a notice or warning rather than a block. In that case, hopefully the "No, you can't do that" gets their attention. On the other hand, there are plenty of cases where the editor either deliberately made ten inconsequential edits to duck the autoconfirmed restriction, or posted exactly or almost exactly the same thing as a previously blocked spammer. In that case, I think more robust and immediate action is called for; in that case they clearly know they're spamming and do not care. Block them for a finite duration, and they will either wait out the block and go right back to it, or they will just create a sock rather than waiting. But I would strongly oppose a blanket prohibition against indef blocks in that case; there are cases where they are entirely justified and necessary. Seraphimblade Talk to me 21:06, 24 May 2019 (UTC)
- I agree with all that. I have seen a number of cases where editors are indeffed after their first few edits based on WP:CIR and WP:COI. I'll add some examples here as I come across them. UninvitedCompany 19:15, 28 May 2019 (UTC)
- Have a look at Pakinam Ashraf for an example. Started editing with a poorly chosen username, made a bunch of edits at User:World Youth Forum/sandbox that have since been deleted, asked for a rename, and is still indeffed and going through appeals, which is in accordance with policy as presently written. It is also fairly widespread practice, so I don't want to single out the blocking admin. UninvitedCompany 19:39, 28 May 2019 (UTC)
- I agree.
- The case of User:Pakinam Ashraf is a good example.
- I feel that it's inappropriate to block a user for anything happening in a sandbox. Who's going to be affected by that?
- There seems to have been an unsubstantiated assumption that the user was an organiser of the event that they were trying to write about, or were paid by an organiser. (Probably due to the poor initial choice of username,) But the user themself denies it. So if they've now been made familiar with the policy not to write in a 'promotional' fashion, why shouldn't they be allowed to continue contributing about that event. I know nothing about the event, and it doesn't interest me, so I won't be doing it. If that user is keen, then WP should harness it. And the user has supposedly also been 'blocked' from editing about "youth empowerment issues" — not sure how that would be enforced.
- By the way, I haven't seen too many of these appeals, but the discourse at User talk:Pakinam Ashraf is actually quite constructive from all parties, so that's something positive. And I take the point made by User:UninvitedCompany that the admin in that case may well have been faithfully following the policies and established practices. Those policies and established practices are being questioned — not the individual admin.
- —DIV (188.8.131.52 (talk) 12:28, 1 July 2019 (UTC))
- If you spend a few moments on Google, you will quickly find that the user's relationship with the event they were promoting is rather more substantial than they are claiming on their talkpage. This is indeed a good example - of the type of editor that creates a promotional article about their organisation and then studiously avoids admitting their actual relationship when accusations of COI crop up. Yunshui 雲水 12:46, 1 July 2019 (UTC)
Stronger warning against IP address range blocks, supported by mention of key Principle and trimming of 'fig leaves'
The Administrators' Guide to Blocking appropriately emphasises that blocking ranges of IP addresses should be considered a last resort. I don't think there is sufficient explicit emphasis of that nature here, under "IP address blocks", or at the linked page Blocking IP addresses. They do certainly convey a message to 'be careful', but that lacks the appropriate forcefulness of expression.
I also think it would be helpful to support that warning by linking to the central/founding/core/sacred/guiding principle that Wikipedia shall — in general — be editable without requiring user registration. A fact that some editors have disputed (without providing any evidence to back their statements).
Finally, I am concerned that the advice on the rangeblock template, inter alia, for (collaterally) blocked IP address editors to create an account in order to keep editing not only flys in the face of the above-indicated fundamental principle that editing should not require registration, but also acts as a fig leaf such that editors can (wrongly) claim that range blocks are not such a bad thing, and needn't be left as a 'last resort', but instead turn into responses of first resort!
- There are some things I consider issues that should be addressed. The scope of blocking (according to the lead) is to "prevent damage or disruption to Wikipedia, not to punish users".
Purpose and goals
"Blocks serve to protect the project from harm, and reduce likely future problems. Blocks may escalate in duration if problems recur. They are meted out not as retribution but to protect the project and other users from disruption and inappropriate conduct, and to deter any future possible repetitions of inappropriate conduct.The wording "to protect the project" is important but and other users is not found in the lead, is relegated to a third sentence (buried), so seems an after-thought.
- The first listed reason to block is:
- There is more than one reason using persistent is out of place and improper. Everyone should be able to be a part of this community without fear of being personally "attacked". The policy seems very clear:
"Do not make personal attacks anywhere on Wikipedia. Comment on content, not on the contributor.", and also includes;
Insulting or disparaging an editor is a personal attack.
is a pattern of repeated offensive behavior."
- The opening paragraph of the policy on civility offers:
"Stated simply, editors should always treat each other with consideration and respect.", yet there is a leniency factor of the added word "persistent" (continued) that gives clear implications that some amount of "attacks" are tolerated. Some attacks do not deserve a chance to be repeated before becoming a concern. An interpretation of "persistent" could be several times, while "repeated" would be on the second occurrence, and both allow leeway to "Do not make personal attacks anywhere on Wikipedia".
- I think fostering a safe and friendly environment to those participating in this community, as well as apparent WMF concerns, dictates that the community not take too soft an approach with attempts to water-down wording that at best can foster gaming the system. I think being overly-tolerant when there are civility issues, particularly personal attacks, creates an atmosphere that "this is not allowed" --BUT-- tolerated to a point. Editors should not be subjected to personal attacks to have to be advised to just ignore it.
- That safe-guards be in place to "protect the project from harm" are important it should be important to include wording of a goal to ensure that Wikipedia is a place where participants not be intimidated by insensitive words or personal attacks. Wording that at the least, makes it seem tolerated, should be left out. Within that context it would seem wording that includes "and other users" not be buried. Considering these things I feel that "persistent" does not belong in the above sentence and mention of the protection of others be made more prominent. Otr500 (talk) 12:21, 27 August 2019 (UTC)
- In practice some attacks already result in immediate blocks, others merit a warning or a request for clarification. We are a diverse global text based community, and not everything that is perceived as an attack by some is considered an attack by all. I think that replacing "persistent personal attacks" with "egregious or persistent personal attacks" would bring the policy closer to longstanding practice, and be a step in the direction that you want. As for the WMF, I'm conscious of their shift from having lower standards on this than the community, to wanting the community be stricter but having difficulty in being specific as to what change they want. I've been here long enough to remember when the WMF made it clear that one of their staffers was unblockable, despite issuing death threats on IRC. I think overall their shift has been positive, even though some of their recent behaviour has been toxic. For example in issuing a 12 month ban without disclosing to the banned person what behaviour they are accused of and by implication should discontinue at the end of the ban. ϢereSpielChequers 12:49, 27 August 2019 (UTC)
Improvements will not come easy
- WereSpielChequers: If "an attack" can already result in a block or ban then I still don't see the need for the added word. In "practice" a block is usually considered after other options have been tried anyway. As far as secret proceedings, I am 100% against those. The entire idea of transparency becomes moot when there are closed-door sessions with the community in the dark, or the community being asked to be involved knowing only part of the story because of gag orders. There are too many ways where we can be kept more in the loop while sensitive or private information can be redacted. I certainly saw a "positive shift" or I would have joined others throwing in the towel. You mentioned that "some attacks already result in immediate blocks, others merit a warning or a request for clarification.", and that is and should be, discretionary sanctions.
- The "Incivility" section of the Civility policy:
Incivility consists of personal attacks, rudeness and disrespectful comments. Especially when done in an aggressive manner, these often alienate editors and disrupt the project through unproductive stressors and conflict. While a few minor incidents of incivility that no one complains about are not necessarily a concern, a continuing pattern of incivility is unacceptable. In cases of repeated harassment or egregious personal attacks, then the offender may be blocked. Even a single act of severe incivility could result in a block, such as a single episode of extreme verbal abuse or profanity directed at another contributor, or a threat against another person.
- A protection block must be discretionary but "if" it is decided such a block was unnecessary or even wrong then figure out how to expunge it. The way it is written now, by the time "persistent" has been determined an editor (or more than one) may have been alienated, run off, or there is other damage requiring mitigation. Four warnings may work most of the time but we don't need to unnecessarily hamstring any process concerning uncivil behavior.
- In legal terms there can be a personal attack (that can result in no serious effects) or a more serious aggravated (severe, aggressive or egregious) personal attack. There can be simple annoying harassment or aggravated harassment. In the on-wiki world we mandate "make no personal attack anywhere on Wikipedia" yet in wording we nullify this by repeatedly using "persistent".
- The Wikimedia Foundation has determined there are specific harassment concerns on Wikipedia that has created an "impetus" to find solutions. I will offer that we can be proactive, in reviews, discussions, and solutions, or lackadaisical and be forced to accept some ultimate determined conclusion or solution.
- Reduce the amount of harassing behavior that occurs on Wikimedia projects.
- Fairly resolve a higher percentage of incidents of harassment that do occur on Wikimedia projects.
- Potential measures of success (according to the link):
- There are challenges to measuring harassment but we still want to be sure our work has an impact on the community. Current ideas include:
- Decrease the percentage of identifiable personal attack comments on English-language Wikipedia.
- Decrease the percentage of non-administrator users who report seeing harassment on Wikipedia, measured via survey.
- Increase the confidence of admins with their ability to make accurate decisions in conduct disputes, measured via survey.
- Increase new user retention
- I do not think the above ideas to be unreasonable. If an admin sees an incident or reviews a complaint they can make an initial determination if a block is required or not. As I understand this is current practice and should be left to the Admin community as a first line of defense for the protection of Wikipedia and individual editors. The WP:NPA policy lists "What is considered to be a personal attack?", which would already be an elevation as opposed to any other "lessor" act of incivility, and may be determined to be an "extreme" case, even if a single isolated personal attack. That was mentioned as being what is practiced.
- Admins do not need the extra burden of worrying about exactly where a line has been crossed or exactly how much damage may have been inflicted on another editor or Wikipedia (it may be serious and possibly extreme but maybe short of egregious or catastrophic) before a block is clearly uncontroversial. Blocks, as a last absolute option, are important but it should remain discretionary to the Admin. and we already have a list of those willing to make difficult blocks.
- The Administrators' guide on blocking uses the word "persistent" or references multiple incidents (3RR, edit warring, etc...) as to "When to block", and this clearly shows a protectionist stance stacked against a potential victim. In seeking improvements, such as making Wikipedia a "safer place", increase new user retention, increase the confidence of admins, or other nice words, we should not just use token words. If the way we have been doing things is shown not to be working, possibly out of date, then instead of fighting to maintain the status-quo, maybe looking at all areas would be a better idea.
- In this case, adding the word persistent, in effect makes it appear a reviewing admin has to look at the editing history of a potential offender before first determining any potential severity or harm that could be inflicted. That sort of makes sense, in a twisted way, since two other examples given under the "Reason to block" section of WP:Administrators' guide/Blocking (concerning behavior), is persistent gross (egregious) incivility and persistent Wikipedia:Harassment.
- At one point the policy stated "
In cases of gross or extreme vandalism a warning is not needed at all, such as in the case of promotion of hate or racism. Other users will deserve only one warning, others more warnings. Decide on the severity of the behavior and the likelihood of salvaging a good user. No hard and fast rule will do; use your good judgment.". This looks to have been replaced in 2008 with the edit summary of "tweek" where seven instances of the word "persistent" was added, uncontested, and still surviving. I guess a plus would be that the WMF is looking for "better reporting systems for volunteers, smarter ways to detect and address problems early, and improved tools and workflows related to the blocking process.". I submit that one way would be to stop advancing that an editor already be clearly exhibiting they are not here to build an encyclopedia before considering protective blocks and bans.
- If there just has to be an adjective added then possibly "extreme" would be a better candidate like:
- "personal attacks considered extreme". I do not think anything needs adding because the reason for a possible block or ban would simply be a violation of that policy as evidenced by the link. However, extreme would be considered acute or severe (even extraordinary), without rising to egregious.
- "We are a diverse global text based community, and not everything that is perceived as an attack by some is considered an attack by all." is very true but it does not mean we have to be accommodating to an editor with a behavior problem at the expense of those that do not. I am in no way advocating increasing blocks. Removing stumbling blocks that can fertilize inappropriate behavior cannot be a bad thing though.
- I still submit that the word "persistent" needs to be omitted as unnecessary. Otr500 (talk) 04:07, 2 September 2019 (UTC)
Fairness of blocking
The perceived fairness of a block seems to have a small effect on whether an editor will respond to a block. If you're interested in some preliminary research on the subject of what happens when you block a user, then you might want to see the most recent mw:Wikimedia Research/Showcase at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiUfpmeJG7E WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:49, 9 September 2019 (UTC)