Kicking off the conversation – what should a Universal Code of Conduct look like?

Together we have imagined a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. Every single person associated with the Wikimedia movement is committed to this vision. The journey towards this enormous goal is not effortless. 

While we have always adhered to high standards of content on our projects, we have at times fallen considerably short in addressing challenges around maintaining civility in the movement. There have been incidents where the contributors on many projects have faced abuse, harassment, or personal attacks at the hands of their peers. The Harassment Survey of 2015 and the Community Insights report 2018 give telling insights into this. Because of such incidents, many users have both reduced their participation in Wikimedia projects, or left entirely, causing the movement to miss out on important knowledge.

One of the many reasons for the existence of unpleasant conduct in the movement has been a lack of consistent behaviour guidelines in communities. To better discern the challenges of behavioural policies of various projects, the Trust & Safety team at the Foundation collated and studied the existing conduct policies, behavioural guidelines and recommendations on various Wikimedia projects. This included Wikipedia policies in 98 languages and policies on various other projects in whichever languages they were present.

The idea was to look at the policies and understand the inherent culture in various communities through their practices. The team read hundreds of discussion pages and took note of policies have been working well in the past and policies that have had problems. 

The study brought out some intriguing and thought-provoking observations. For example, it was observed that different communities have different priorities and definitions when it comes to policies. Some communities have intricately detailed policies on harassment, whereas some communities do not even include harassment in the list of their main policies. Some communities have listed sock puppetry under ‘conduct’ policies, while there are others that have listed it under ‘content’ policies. On the one hand, where many communities have chosen to create their policies, many others have chosen to adopt existing policies from bigger projects such as English Wikipedia and translated them in their local languages. 

We understand that whatever communities have done for their projects are done per their needs, their resources and their cultural and project-specific requirements. Not every community has to invest in time and resources to develop a vast range of policies if it has not felt the need for those policies. We respect this. We respect the autonomy of communities in the movement. Yet, we need to figure out the means to establish a basic set of shared conduct values in the movement as these values project to the world, our respect for diversity and inclusiveness.  

In addition to this, we observed that the policies on Wiki pages are extremely scattered. While some communities list their policies on ‘policy pages’, there are others that list them on community portals, or Village Pumps. At times, some policies are under consideration or discussions and are therefore on discussion pages or talk pages. This scatteredness makes it difficult for users to be aware of all the existing policies on their projects. This also necessitates the need to harmonize the key and common policies from all the projects and bring them to one easily accessible place. 

The idea behind Universal Code of Conduct is to tie-in the existing behavioural guidelines on various projects to create a shared set of conduct policies binding throughout the movement. It is an attempt to create an environment where free knowledge can be shared safely without fear. 

The Universal Code of Conduct is an upcoming project and is important to every single Wikimedia wiki. It is at an initial stage at the moment, but the Foundation will soon launch consultations about it on different language projects. The project highly depends on ideas and feedback from the community. And thus, we highly encourage community members to participate in the discussions. We understand that it is extremely difficult to have a ‘universal’ set of values that are representative of all the cultures and communities, however, it is possible to come up with the most basic set of guidelines that can ensure that we have a safe space for everyone to be able to contribute. 

This is your chance to influence the language and content of the code of conduct and contribute to making the Movement a harassment-free space. 

More information on UCoC is available on Meta. Active discussions, expression of support, constructive criticism, and idea-sharing are highly encouraged even if they are not in the English language. 

Archive notice: This is an archived post from Wikimedia Space, which operated under different editorial and content guidelines than Diff.