Civility, Wikipedia, and the conversation on Gamergate

Building an encyclopedia requires working together, even when topics are difficult. US Navy Photo by Johansen Laurel. Public domain.
Building an encyclopedia requires working together, even when topics are difficult.
US Navy Photo by Johansen Laurel. Public domain.

This past week, we have seen significant coverage of Wikipedia and Gamergate in the press. Because Wikipedia is such a unique resource for the world, and because Gamergate has been the subject of controversy, this issue has been of interest to many people, some of whom may not be familiar with how Wikipedia works. As such, we wanted to share what we know about the issue, and how it has played out on Wikipedia.
The debates on Wikipedia about the Gamergate controversy article have been very heated, drawing participants from many different perspectives, and have gone on for many weeks now. At times, contributors on various sides of the debate have violated Wikipedia’s standards of civility. Civility is an important concept for Wikipedia: it is what allows people to collaborate and disagree constructively even on difficult topics. It ensures people are able to focus their energy on what really matters: building a collaborative free encyclopedia for the world.
A group of trusted, long-term volunteer English Wikipedia editors (known as the Arbitration Committee) is now reviewing the conduct of the editors who participated on the Gamergate controversy article discussions. Their mandate is to review editor conduct, and address disruptions so that Wikipedia can remain a civil, productive place for all editors. They may do so through issuing warnings, bans, or other means. The Committee does not consider the identity or beliefs of contributors, nor do they make editorial decisions on the content or quality of Wikipedia articles.
Several press stories have mistakenly claimed that Wikipedia has targeted and banned feminist or female editors. This is inaccurate. Although the Arbitration Committee may recommend that some editors be prevented from further contribution to this particular topic, they have not banned anyone from Wikipedia. The sanctions they are considering are broad, and affect many people. As of now, the Arbitration Committee is considering issuing some type of warning or sanction to around 150 people, from a range of perspectives, based on their participation and conduct. This is not about a small group of people being targeted unfairly. It is about a very large group of people using Wikipedia as a battleground.
At the Wikimedia Foundation, we are guided by our core mission to make the sum of all human knowledge freely available. Although the Wikimedia Foundation does not set editorial policy for Wikipedia, we believe that we can only achieve our mission through the inclusion and respect of diverse voices. We offer resources for programs and outreach with our partners across the global Wikimedia movement and engage people that have been underrepresented in traditional encyclopedias. These include women, people of color, people from the Global South, immigrant communities, and members of the LGBTQ community. They are invaluable contributors to our community and partners in our mission.
Let me close by reiterating what the Arbitration Committee’s decision is not. It is not a statement on who is right or wrong regarding the Gamergate controversy article. It is not a referendum on whether Wikipedia supports or rejects feminists. The Committee’s mandate is to uphold a civil, constructive atmosphere that furthers Wikipedia’s mission. At the Wikimedia Foundation, we support that objective and are taking active steps to create and maintain a civil atmosphere for editors of all backgrounds. We ask all our editors to do the same.
Philippe Beaudette
Director, Community Advocacy
Wikimedia Foundation

Archive notice: This is an archived post from blog.wikimedia.org, and as such was written under a different editorial standard than Diff.

60 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I’m not so impressed with Wiki claiming civility is important.
I no longer edit wiki because civility, collaboration, none of that was important to your editors. Verbal abuse, wiki layering, endless reverts, threats of banning, that is what is important to your editors.

Fighting bias and formation of cliques which corrupt the information of the site are more important of civility to be frank, you can have civility at the expense of integrity. The problem was entirely that an entrenched clique deliberately lowered standards of evidence to support their bias.

What a load of horse puckey. The Wikipedia only cares about civility when it is convenient; when it has to do with, say, an editor who writes hundreds of articles for them, then civility policy is set aside. The English Wiki Arb Committee sanctioned veteran editors who were keeping the Gamergate topic area free of the rape & death threat style harassment and innuendo that Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu and others were subjected to. A horde of throwaway accounts created by anonymous cowards from 8chan and reddit, were banned as well, but all that did was pave the way for… Read more »

Was ‘civility’ so important when the same ArbCom, and most of the same members, banned Feminists from the “Gender Gap Task Force”, while leaving the males who were disrupting the project practically unscathed? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Interactions_at_GGTF/Proposed_decision#Proposed_remedies It’s absolutely ludicrous for WMF to publish this asinine excuse for ArbCom when it’s obviously a frat boys club, especially with Brad leaving, with an obvious bias against females and those who stand up for them whilst they are being harassed. Civility and cordial environment? That means that if you are a feminist, you better behave and allow misogynists to berate and behave in any fashion… Read more »

This is the argument of cowards and trolls. How dare you claim to represent “women, people of color, people from the Global South, immigrant communities, and members of the LGBTQ community” while protecting the most toxic voices in your community. You’re no better than anyone defending bigotry under the flag of “civility.” These trash respectability politics have no place in this or any community.

Indeed, I hope good journalists will go down the rabbit-hole and report more directly on the arrogance of the arbiters and the asinine strawmen they invoke to support the wrong-headed punishments of the few people trying beyond exasperation to defend those already harassed enough by the GGers. You should be ashamed of how this was handled. Philippe, make sure to tell your bosses that this blog post fixes everything – no more harassment, no more uncivil behavior – an utopia of misogynistic pedants bleating between each other like the sea lions of 8chan that remain.

I was sent here for further reading, I leave enlightened. I have cancelled my tiny contributions to this foundation after the terrible handling of this issue. I always knew that Wikimedia would eventually correct its actions and sooner or later I’d re-activate my donations. I was just wondering how long it would take. This entire post is just a BS decorated version of the old “Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are black” to try and justify a racist statement. This blog entry clarifies it all and has allowed me to answer my own question. When will… Read more »

What I don’t understand at all: Despite all that happened, there is no trace of a ‘neutrality disputed’ tag on the gamergate controversy article anywhere. Appearantly any attempt to add it gets instantly reverted.

Good. It’s about time those who were maintaining their biased Point of View by any means they could find were stopped.

I for one am glad to see that wikipedia will not be bullied by the hate movement known as “Feminism”.

Well, I for one will be increasing my contribution to Wikipedia. Both sides of this issue act like asses more often than not.

I’m worried that a side effect of Wikipedia’s open standards is a contributing factor to this mess. Holding arbitration just seems like it will boost the egos of everybody involved. I think there’s a core problem in Wikipedia of power hungry editors shutting out new editors or single purpose accounts. What happens when people on the arbitration committee break rules and use articles like their personal battleground? We’re only human. We’re all capable of it. It’s happened in the past, and it will happen again. Their “trusted status” will carry them through long after rules are broken, and good new… Read more »

The comment section is even more telling than the arbcom or screen capped debates.
White cishet privileged warriors, know that we don’t need or want you fighting for us. You are not our voice, you are not our heroes, we are not damsels in distress. Nobody asked you to crusade and you’re continuing to create casualties then blame others for them. You do not belong on a site that presents facts since your thoughts only exist in emotions.
Thank you wiki for sorting this mess out.

Well judging by the comments above I suppose it is wikipedias turn to be smeared endlessly now. Enjoy being called misogynist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, a literal terrorist, the KKK and all the other wonderful things that spring from the creative minds of the new authoritarian feminism. You are gamergate now.

A few days ago, I wrote a series of essays beginning with “Infamous”
http://www.markbernstein.org/Jan15/Infamous.html
Civility matters, but civilization matters too. I asked there for signs that Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation give thought to the suffering of its editors who have been mercilessly harassed and hounded by braying, taunting gangs.
And I asked for signs of care for victims against whom Wikipedia has been and is being weaponized.
My questions apparently remain unanswered:
http://www.markbernstein.org/Jan15/Unanswered.html

I’m glad that wikipedia has, after 6 months, managed to take action that may result in a somewhat neutral point of view regarding gamergate. The journalistic sources that created the false narrative that wikipedia targetted 5 feminist editors for banning, when in actuality it was around 150, are the same sources that started the unfactual claims about gamergate: that it would be about misogyny. Maybe the Guardian should no longer be considered a reliable source for all the yellow journalism they’ve engaged in. I support gamergate, because I don’t like falsehoods being spread by media. I hope that a few… Read more »

” Several press stories have mistakenly claimed that Wikipedia has targeted and banned feminist or female editors. This is inaccurate.” This statement demonstrates exactly why GG exists and will continue to exist as long as biased ideology is trumping facts and fair reporting out there. Feminism is merely a set of politics like any other and people are legitimately concerned about corruption and unjustified slander in the press, which has gone on for decades towards the easy perennial scapegoat of people that identify as gamers. Gamers that have also frequently been the target of harassment and abuse which never gets… Read more »

I doubt this blog post is going to do much to stem the tide of outraged ideologues, but I’d like to take the opportunity to say that I (and what I believe to be a silent majority of casual Wikipedians) appreciate the work of ArbCom in this case and several others that were alluded to, including the part where it involves rudely dousing hot heads and burning hearts with water. There are plenty of soapboxes out there for activists to shout from; Wikipedia does not need to be made into yet another one.

Seeing the comments from the PC-police on this blog pretty much confirms that Wiki is handling the properly. Wikipedia is one of the best resources of the internet(the world, really) and keeping the “social justice” plague away from it, is essential at keeping it that way.

You can dress this up however you want, however the reality is that nobody in their right mind is now going to touch a BLP issue with a ten foot pole if there’s a hate mob that’s behind the issue. Arbcom has set a precedent that says that anything short of _walking away_ (and yes, they’ve said explicity this is what the so-called “five horsemen” were supposed to do, and Wales has told at least one editor that was supposedly what he was supposed to do) risks topic or site bans. GamerGate has discovered that, just as “terrorism” is the… Read more »

I always did think Wikipedia was one of the worst information resources on the planet (no offense!) and was genuinely pleased to hear that ArbCom was taking steps to prevent the Gamergate page from being biased. However, whether that truly happens or not remains to be seen. Currently, it’s nothing more than a propaganda hit-piece against the gaming community, rife with lies and disinformation “sourced” from the very same liars and corrupt journalistic institutions that Gamergate is fighting against. Only time will tell if this issue is resolved. This is far from over.

It’s pretty funny, just from reading the comments below you can tell some of these people who are toxic and have this battleground mindset – whom can’t even resist bitching and moaning about a fair arbcom result, are requiring a hard look into the mirror to see why they are the problem in Wikipedia future.
Wikipedia shouldn’t be a soap box, and it should just be facts. It’s not your social club for political party X. It should not be a means to spread propaganda of any type or to fight what you see as “injustice”.

To those commenters lamenting Wikipedia’s reaction to feminist editors editing articles regarding gender: Wikipedia does not allow individuals to edit pages created about them, as it is virtually impossible for them to retain a neutral point of view. Wikipedia strictly regulates the amount of editing that anyone associated with a given business can contribute to a page on that business, as it is virtually impossible for them to retain a neutral point of view. Similarly, activists should largely refrain from editing anything related to their movement, as it will be virtually impossible for them to retain a neutral point of… Read more »

I think this problem highlights a big problem about the whole Wikipedia editing system. If anti-gamergaters can find an editor to do these things (and at the exact same time, said editor’s GoFundMe account goes from $0 to $350 – http://pastebin.com/80xtSGVz), then we’re dealing with a bigger problem. How many non-GamerGate articles (political and gender, etc), past and present, have been poisoned like this and by whom? Do you have a “Revert” button to delete all of the input of corrupt editors? Is the damage permanent? At least with GamerGate, their members care a lot about their immediate realm, so… Read more »

I for one am glad Wikipedia reaffirms its neutral stance. The articles should only be about facts. Not an extension of an editors own personal echo chamber.

And now it’s time for Wikipedia and the ArbCom members to get a taste of what GamerGate supporters have experienced over the last half year, as the biased press, so-called “social justice” warriors, and radical third-wave feminists sling false accusations and slander depicting Wikimedia as anti-Feminist misogynistic avatars of “The Patriarchy” who are problematically silencing the pure and true words of underprivileged minority and feminist editors who are simply fighting against bullying and harassment propagated by those “nasty MRA GG terrorists” (by engaging in bullying, doxxing, and harassment themselves, but it’s all good because that’s “punching up”). I look forward… Read more »

Actually this article contains lies, as the popular, veteran, feminist editor Ryulong was recently banned from Wikipedia. I recommend abandoning this failed experiment and migrating to a more rational website, like RationalWiki, which features many feminist, and therefore unbiased and neutral, editors unlike Wikipedia who chomps at the bit to take out any feminist viewpoint, as seen in the sexual dimorphism article previously. It’s known and well cited that Wikipedia has a anti feminist bias (The Guardian) and by Wikipedia’s own standards this makes it a fact. If Wikipedia would like to fight these factual claims I suggest they find… Read more »

Oh dear, it appears you’ve failed to cite your sources properly. This blog could scarcely be taken as fact by even the most delusional #gamerhate member, let alone a rational human thinker. Speaking of “rational” have you heard about the alternative Wikipedia that greatly increases quality by *not* actively seeking and banning all the feminist editors they can? It’s called RationalWiki and our lord and savior Ryulong has already made his Exodus, like Moses, to the promised land and you should to if you value the truth over slanderous anti-feminist lies. Wikipedia likes to pretend they aren’t anti-feminist with their… Read more »

Wikipedia doesn’t blindly support your point of view, instead prefers to remain unbiased as a Encyclopedia should.
Better throw a hissy fit!

Thank you.

“doesn’t ban anyone”? That’s bull. And this started way before gamergate. It’s been a year since I attempted, over and over, to edit the English language wikipedia entry on the ON word “ergi,” a concept of interest to my fellow heathens, to cite examples from ON mss. of the world being used to reference women and to reference nonsexual gendered behavior, and someone kept re-editing the entry to make it look like the word is a synonym for gay. And one day I found I suddenly could not edit wikipedia articles anymore. Not just that article, but any article.

Hi, I am glad to see that this has happened, for those who talk about using “rationalwiki” and you are wondering what it is, go there, take a look at the gamergate controversey article, they literally use tweets from Srhbutts as sources. For those unfamiliar with srhbutts he/she (and a few others) literally sit on twitter 24/7 “exposing” #GamerGate with tweets like “ducks say quack, frogs are raped” how is this at all a credible source? I am wondering if you could look into this http://theralphretort.com/wikipedia-blocks-veteran-editor-for-being-pro-gamergate-off-site-1715/ concerning the ban of two wikipedia admins who are banned for no reason, the… Read more »

I can believe people are citing RationalWiki as a more neutral and unbiased online encyclopedia than Wikipedia. That is seriously delusional. What’s next? Conservapedia?

lawl at people promoting rational wiki instead of wikipedia. Rationalwiki has been massively and very obviously under SJW control and narrative for a long time. at first it was okay. Everything is triggering or patriarchy. Amazing that these are the same people destroying atheist groups in usa with atheist+ this mentality seems to be dangerous, power hungry and loves to rewrite history. if you are for feminism, equalism you don’t go silence, criticisms, agreements with feels, “believe us” and no evidence. Usurp all these positions in media, knowledge databases and eventually write everything is the enemy, patriarchy, triggering, needs to… Read more »

I spent a few hours looking into this issue and fully support the decision of the Arbitration Committee. The editors punished have behaved like jerks and many have long histories of bad behavior. As best I can tell they deserve the punishments they received. I advise anyone interested to take the time to look at Arbitration Committee records documenting this decision. I understand that some of these editors have also made useful contributions to the project. While their work will be missed their needless disruptions won’t. I intend to increase my support both financially and as an editor to make… Read more »

I suspect the people who’re posting about people’s sex lives are the same ones posting here about neutrality. If Wikipedia is going to exclude anyone who’s a not GG supporter or one of their sock puppet accounts then I’m not going to be donating in the future.

This is from Rationalwiki’s facebook page where popular members have told people they disagree with too “Die by being set on fire” and everyone who they disagree with is a MRA. “Andrew Pang 12 hrs (Before this gets censored by MRAsshole editors)” Rationalwiki is far from rational. Any deviation from the the popular opinion and you’re immediately labeled a misogynist or MRA. The couple who even run the page have stated in the past have stated that supporters of GG will be banned on the spot. They have gotten little bit better with the purge of the most toxic members… Read more »

You don’t care about off site harassment. You don’t care about on site harassment.
The best part is, you’re going to continue wondering why your volunteers are overwhelmingly male.

Awwwww shucks did poor wikipedia make an effort to create an open and honest dialogue and get slandered for not toeing the line of a group of people? Did you guys get attacked for disagreeing with a clique like group of like minded thinkers for simply entertaining the thought that they might be wrong in some ways…….Awwwwww that must be so terrible. I can’t imagine what that is like.

“Although the Arbitration Committee may recommend that some editors be prevented from further contribution to this particular topic, they have not banned anyone from Wikipedia. ”
This is incorrect and was a premature statement. But it also ignores the effects the arb com decision has for Wikipedia in general and the impression it leaves with other editors. Even people who are not outright banned will be discouraged from further contribution.

Nice try “DDoto” if that is your real name, which it isn’t because I know who you really are, Jimbo Wales, attempting to defend your feeble site Wikipathetic against the juggernaut that is RationalWiki by slandering it with hearsay and unsourced lies. Well guess what DDoto aka Jimbo Wales, we at RationalWiki have not been accused of anything ever by any primary (read: credible) sources, and since your accusation not only comes from an unreliable site, but the comment section of an unreliable site, that makes it double wrong and much laughter is had at your expense. RationalWiki would like… Read more »

I feel this wasn’t harsh enough. The Guardian published a short article filled with multiple easily-verifiable falsehoods using as a primary source a person sanctioned by WIkipedia for the same sort of behavior that the other arbcom investigations were over. The author didn’t contact anybody from the Wikimedia foundation. The article was then repeated uncritically across half a dozen other influential websites. Nobody involved has apologized or owned up to making a mistake, probably because the only possible interpretations are gross professional incompetence or intentional malice.

“I feel this wasn’t harsh enough. The Guardian published a short article filled with multiple easily-verifiable falsehoods” Actually, they were not at all easily verifiable to be false. The claim that 150 editors were being targeted is strenuous at best, as the actual arb com decision referenced did not deal with 150 at all, but with a much, much smaller number. “using as a primary source a person sanctioned by WIkipedia for the same sort of behavior that the other arbcom investigations were over. ” So? That doesn’t disqualify a source at all. “The author didn’t contact anybody from the… Read more »

“Several press stories have mistakenly claimed that Wikipedia has targeted and banned feminist or female editors.”
Saying “mistakenly” sounds like original research. I’m afraid we’ll need you to cite a reliable news source that defended wikipedia, or the accusations of anti-feminism and misogyny will have to stand unchallenged.
Only the media is allowed to point out flawed reporting in the media.

When is feminism going to be seen for what it is: an ideology and a religion, like Buddhism and Communism? It’s not about equality of sexes as adherents claim. That’s called humanism.
There needs to be a mechanism put in place so that special interests and people like Ryulong are checked long before it ever gets to ArbCom.
Maybe when this question is seriously addressed, I might resume contributions.

Well “Mr. Rational” funny you mention ‘RationalWiki’.
(http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Essay:I_thought_this_was_supposed_to_be_RATIONALWiki)
tl;dr ‘RationalWiki’ was originally created as a counter for ‘Conservapedia’ and they needed a cool name to make them look intellectual-like.
A good majority of the wiki is pretty damn biased by just skimming through pages, like their article on Christopher Hitchens (http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Christopher_Hitchens).
Hell, I doubt you even know what rationality is if you believe “RationalWiki” is it.

I’m sorry, Wikipedia but you can’t claim you didn’t unfairly target Feminists. The Guardian, a publication, said you did these things. One thing we all learned during this controversy is that if the media labels you–Wikipedia must accept those labels. Even if they are grossly unfair and more a product of selling papers through controversy than reporting a balanced, broad view of the facts. This is a serious issues, Wikipedia. The media has been having ethical issues for decades now due to the competition of a 24 hour News cycle, and internet media. Most media does not even employ an… Read more »

What do you mean the Arbitration committee “has not targeted and banned feminist or female editors”? This is inaccurate. According to an administrator who is familiar with the Gender Gap Task Force: “the GGTF was set up to discuss the gender gap on WP, but as soon as we got it started, several men turned up to disrupt it. The ArbCom handed out indefinite bans against two people (one or both of them women) who tried to stop the disruption, and only topic bans against some of the men who had caused it. Other men who had caused the disruption… Read more »

I think a lot of the actions of the pro #GamerGate editors were a reaction to the obvious wrongs which was seen being done on the anti #GamerGate side first. I mean we even had wiki editors taking public donations on Reddit FFS. And although I welcome these actions, I still doubt we would have reached this point if it was not for the push back from those pro #GamerGate editors. How many sacrificed their standing with the encyclopaedia just to exercise their right of free speech, and to defend the integrity of the encyclopaedia? (which although a mod can… Read more »

Less than 24h later and this mealy-mouthed press release is already a lie; the Arbs pulled a fast one at the end, swapped some votes around, and banned Ryulong.
This hadn’t even been set in stone yet when the slut-shamer redditor-in-chief Loganmac started to go around and edit-war a watchlisted article of Ryu’s. He was given a 24h time-out, hopefully it will escalate to more.
The Wikipedia is as hostile to women as 8chan or reddit or anywhere of that nature. The same type of people control each.

LOL, did Gamergaters even look beyond the title of the “Gamers are Dead” article before deciding it was slander? Alexander and others were talking about the “death” of the traditional gamer identity, as indie gaming development allowed more females and POC to enter gaming and shape it in contrary to the one traditionally dominated by young White males. To respond to her criticism with countless harassment over social media says a lot about why Gamergate is portrayed that way by the mainstream media.