May 26, 2020 - Technology

Wikipedia plans new code of conduct to curb online harassment

Photo illustration of the Wikipedia logo

Photo Illustration: Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit behind Wikipedia, have tasked the organization with developing a new code of conduct to curtail "harassment, toxic behavior and incivility" among Wikipedia editors, The Verge reports.

The big picture: Wikipedia remains one of the web’s most enduring collaborations, drawing volunteer editors from around the globe. But it has long faced charges that its editorial ranks aren’t sufficiently diverse and have been rife with abusive behavior.

What they're saying:

"The Board does not believe we have made enough progress toward creating welcoming, inclusive, harassment-free spaces in which people can contribute productively and debate constructively.... the Board is directing the Wikimedia Foundation to directly improve the situation in collaboration with our communities. This should include developing sustainable practices and tools that eliminate harassment, toxicity, and incivility...."
— Wikimedia Foundation trustees

Context: Wikipedia's editorial process has evolved over almost two decades to organize contributions and edits from volunteers who often deeply disagree over politics and various controversial issue.

  • But the project has failed to meet goals of diversifying its ranks, particularly in terms of attracting women editors.
  • Its procedures have sometimes been opaque and have sparked conflicts among the project's volunteers, most recently in 2019, after the ban of a longtime editor.

Our thought bubble: Facebook, Twitter, Google's YouTube and other commercial platforms are struggling to curtail misinformation, harassment, and hate speech by beginning to evolve more Wikipedia-style collective processes.

  • Meanwhile, Wikipedia is trying to follow the giant platforms in standing up clearer policies to rein in some of its more toxic users.
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