Ban Appeals Subcommittee transparency and WP:EXPLAINBLOCK violations

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Ban Appeals Subcommittee transparency and WP:EXPLAINBLOCK violations

Filipus Klutiero
Dear colleagues,
In April, User:JzG set an indefinite block on my account. This was the third block to affect me in just over one month. Worryingly, 2 of these 3 blocks violated policy (the first violating block was performed by User:Bbb23).

I did not appeal Bbb23's block, which was a lesser offense since it was time-limited, and since I had already decided to retire, but I did appeal JzG's. The Ban Appeals Subcommittee (BASC) operates in secrecy. Until now, the communications with the subcommittee which I am about to disclose here had not been published. Most of you are probably unaware of what happens there, and I hope the following will be seen as an opportunity for improvement rather than a discouraging report.

In my case, I had already decided to retire, and a couple of invalid blocks among the myriads of blocks we issue is not by itself a cause for alarm. This becomes a concern when weeks after they were set, none has been corrected. And this gets extremely worrying when both of the faulty users still have administrative privileges, months after their errors were reported. At that point, we have conditions for such behavior to enter mores - if that has not already happened. In light of what follows though, this is no surprise.


  Transparency

The Ban Appeals Subcommittee operates behind the private email alias [hidden email]. For a radical transparency advocate like me, having to use such a communication channel already raised a red flag. But I had no idea how bad the situation was.

It took me 3 attempts to submit the appeal. While there was no confirmation in the first 2 attempts, since the failure was quiet, and since appeals are kept secret, it is likely that other contributors also failed to submit and are waiting for the results of an appeal which never reached the committee in the first place. I reported this issue to the subcommittee and offered my collaboration to fix it, but 2 months later, no member has either confirmed that the issue is known or asked for details.

Thankfully (in a sense), the BASC appears to decide matters very quickly. The BASC's opacity apparently does not hide a problematic backlog. JzG's case was decided in just 2 weeks. What it may hide, however, is a total lack of accountability. Indeed, when the BASC declined to intervene in JzG's case, the list of arbitrators involved was not provided. In fact, I cannot even tell whether the BASC's decision was unanimous, even though I asked more than a month ago.


  WP:EXPLAINBLOCK

JzG did not explain his block, yet the BASC's decision reads:
> After examining your conduct we have determined that the current block and block log message are correct and compliant with policy.
I asked the Arbitration Committee at large to explain its subcommittee's decision. Having received no answer weeks later, excluding a huge mistake, the subtext must be that the Arbitration Committee does not consider WP:EXPLAINBLOCK to be part of policy.

I am against all rules, and EXPLAINBLOCK is not the one exception to that rule. If an account with a single edit is blocked due to obvious vandalism, linking to that edit is sufficient. Administrators should not have to write even one sentence to justify such blocks. But I do agree with EXPLAINBLOCK in spirit - we should not block important contributors (whom BASC is supposed to be dedicated to) without explanation. If we cannot live up to our slogan, we should at least be transparent. It is also insulting for a major contributor to be blocked without explanation. When I was blocked by User:Swarm, I pointed out his errors and let him some time to fix before I decided to retire. I would likely not have been so diligent had the block violated EXPLAINBLOCK. And if that does not seem enough, of course, the best reason is efficiency. I was blocked 4 or 5 times on the English Wikipedia, and at least 3 were in error. If blocks are not explained, contributors may waste much time
trying to figure out the reason why they were blocked - whether such a reason exists or not.

That being said, the Arbitration Committee is free to oppose EXPLAINBLOCK. However, it should not pretend EXPLAINBLOCK is not part of policy. If the committee opposes, it can voice its concerns on the policy's talk page, but it must refuse to hear EXPLAINBLOCK violation cases until the policy has been changed. If the committee is saying that administrators should not be expected to respect EXPLAINBLOCK with current manpower levels, it *should* seek to recruit quality administrators and certainly *must not* decline to fix violations without explanation. Alternatively, the policy could be changed to state that explanations are conditional to sufficient resources. Otherwise, contributors develop an expectation of accountability.
*If* there is a coverup or anything of that kind, the BASC *must* still unblock to comply with policy, possibly renewing with a pseudo-explanation indicating that the administrators chose to keep their reasons confidential.
In short, if we have a manpower issue, randomly clearing appeals at the risk of turning away even more contributors will not help.

Since the BASC's deliberations have not been disclosed despite my request, and since the BASC will not even disclose the arbitrators at fault, I can only say that they are among the following (apologies to those who are not responsible for the decision):

  * AGK
  * Euryalus
  * Seraphimblade
  * Thryduulf (claims to be Chris McKenna)



Those of you who have had to contact the BASC know that reporting problematic blocks on their own account does not start there. I ended up there because the block revision process is broken from beginning to end. After contacting the BASC, I noticed this issue was already being discussed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_comment/Ban_appeals_reform_2015
My account is still blocked from contributing to any page on the English Wikipedia. I never intentionally violated policy and will not start doing so because my account was blocked, so I will not contribute there. However, I urge those who remain to contribute to this project. Proper ACL management is critical.

Note that [hidden email] is intentionally not Cc-ed, since this will cause lists.wikimedia.org to refuse the message "for privacy protection".

--
Filipus Klutiero
http://www.philippecloutier.com

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Re: Ban Appeals Subcommittee transparency and WP:EXPLAINBLOCK violations

Luca Motoc
I do agree with this. As I have been blocked and appeal and was directed in
so many places and when I wrote to ARBCOM twice I got no answer.

2015-08-02 18:41 GMT+02:00 Filipus Klutiero <[hidden email]>:

> Dear colleagues,
> In April, User:JzG set an indefinite block on my account. This was the
> third block to affect me in just over one month. Worryingly, 2 of these 3
> blocks violated policy (the first violating block was performed by
> User:Bbb23).
>
> I did not appeal Bbb23's block, which was a lesser offense since it was
> time-limited, and since I had already decided to retire, but I did appeal
> JzG's. The Ban Appeals Subcommittee (BASC) operates in secrecy. Until now,
> the communications with the subcommittee which I am about to disclose here
> had not been published. Most of you are probably unaware of what happens
> there, and I hope the following will be seen as an opportunity for
> improvement rather than a discouraging report.
>
> In my case, I had already decided to retire, and a couple of invalid
> blocks among the myriads of blocks we issue is not by itself a cause for
> alarm. This becomes a concern when weeks after they were set, none has been
> corrected. And this gets extremely worrying when both of the faulty users
> still have administrative privileges, months after their errors were
> reported. At that point, we have conditions for such behavior to enter
> mores - if that has not already happened. In light of what follows though,
> this is no surprise.
>
>
>  Transparency
>
> The Ban Appeals Subcommittee operates behind the private email alias
> [hidden email]. For a radical transparency
> advocate like me, having to use such a communication channel already raised
> a red flag. But I had no idea how bad the situation was.
>
> It took me 3 attempts to submit the appeal. While there was no
> confirmation in the first 2 attempts, since the failure was quiet, and
> since appeals are kept secret, it is likely that other contributors also
> failed to submit and are waiting for the results of an appeal which never
> reached the committee in the first place. I reported this issue to the
> subcommittee and offered my collaboration to fix it, but 2 months later, no
> member has either confirmed that the issue is known or asked for details.
>
> Thankfully (in a sense), the BASC appears to decide matters very quickly.
> The BASC's opacity apparently does not hide a problematic backlog. JzG's
> case was decided in just 2 weeks. What it may hide, however, is a total
> lack of accountability. Indeed, when the BASC declined to intervene in
> JzG's case, the list of arbitrators involved was not provided. In fact, I
> cannot even tell whether the BASC's decision was unanimous, even though I
> asked more than a month ago.
>
>
>  WP:EXPLAINBLOCK
>
> JzG did not explain his block, yet the BASC's decision reads:
>
>> After examining your conduct we have determined that the current block
>> and block log message are correct and compliant with policy.
>>
> I asked the Arbitration Committee at large to explain its subcommittee's
> decision. Having received no answer weeks later, excluding a huge mistake,
> the subtext must be that the Arbitration Committee does not consider
> WP:EXPLAINBLOCK to be part of policy.
>
> I am against all rules, and EXPLAINBLOCK is not the one exception to that
> rule. If an account with a single edit is blocked due to obvious vandalism,
> linking to that edit is sufficient. Administrators should not have to write
> even one sentence to justify such blocks. But I do agree with EXPLAINBLOCK
> in spirit - we should not block important contributors (whom BASC is
> supposed to be dedicated to) without explanation. If we cannot live up to
> our slogan, we should at least be transparent. It is also insulting for a
> major contributor to be blocked without explanation. When I was blocked by
> User:Swarm, I pointed out his errors and let him some time to fix before I
> decided to retire. I would likely not have been so diligent had the block
> violated EXPLAINBLOCK. And if that does not seem enough, of course, the
> best reason is efficiency. I was blocked 4 or 5 times on the English
> Wikipedia, and at least 3 were in error. If blocks are not explained,
> contributors may waste much time trying to figure out the reason why they
> were blocked - whether such a reason exists or not.
>
> That being said, the Arbitration Committee is free to oppose EXPLAINBLOCK.
> However, it should not pretend EXPLAINBLOCK is not part of policy. If the
> committee opposes, it can voice its concerns on the policy's talk page, but
> it must refuse to hear EXPLAINBLOCK violation cases until the policy has
> been changed. If the committee is saying that administrators should not be
> expected to respect EXPLAINBLOCK with current manpower levels, it *should*
> seek to recruit quality administrators and certainly *must not* decline to
> fix violations without explanation. Alternatively, the policy could be
> changed to state that explanations are conditional to sufficient resources.
> Otherwise, contributors develop an expectation of accountability.
> *If* there is a coverup or anything of that kind, the BASC *must* still
> unblock to comply with policy, possibly renewing with a pseudo-explanation
> indicating that the administrators chose to keep their reasons confidential.
> In short, if we have a manpower issue, randomly clearing appeals at the
> risk of turning away even more contributors will not help.
>
> Since the BASC's deliberations have not been disclosed despite my request,
> and since the BASC will not even disclose the arbitrators at fault, I can
> only say that they are among the following (apologies to those who are not
> responsible for the decision):
>
>  * AGK
>  * Euryalus
>  * Seraphimblade
>  * Thryduulf (claims to be Chris McKenna)
>
>
>
> Those of you who have had to contact the BASC know that reporting
> problematic blocks on their own account does not start there. I ended up
> there because the block revision process is broken from beginning to end.
> After contacting the BASC, I noticed this issue was already being
> discussed:
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_comment/Ban_appeals_reform_2015
> My account is still blocked from contributing to any page on the English
> Wikipedia. I never intentionally violated policy and will not start doing
> so because my account was blocked, so I will not contribute there. However,
> I urge those who remain to contribute to this project. Proper ACL
> management is critical.
>
> Note that [hidden email] is intentionally not Cc-ed, since
> this will cause lists.wikimedia.org to refuse the message "for privacy
> protection".
>
> --
> Filipus Klutiero
> http://www.philippecloutier.com
>
> _______________________________________________
> WikiEN-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> To unsubscribe from this mailing list, visit:
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikien-l
>



--



Prof.Dr. Luca Motoc
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Re: Ban Appeals Subcommittee transparency and WP:EXPLAINBLOCK violations

Nathan Awrich
In reply to this post by Filipus Klutiero
Filipus,

You failed to link to your account or your block log. You may not realize
that most editors of the English Wikipedia edit quietly for many years
without even a single block, so accruing 5 blocks in any period of time is
extraordinary. I'm sure I won't be alone in remaining skeptical of your
tale without convincing evidence that somehow all the blocks were in error.
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Frequency and validity of blocks (was Re: Ban Appeals Subcommittee transparency and WP:EXPLAINBLOCK violations)

Filipus Klutiero
Hi Nathan,

On 2015-08-03 09:07, Nathan wrote:
> Filipus,
>
> You failed to link to your account or your block log. You may not realize
> that most editors of the English Wikipedia edit quietly for many years
> without even a single block, so accruing 5 blocks in any period of time is
> extraordinary.

My account is not particularly hard to guess. I did not attempt linking to my block log, but if someone failed to find it, it can be seen at https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special%3ALog&type=block&user=&page=Chealer&year=&month=-1&tagfilter=&hide_patrol_log=1&hide_tag_log=1&hide_review_log=1&hide_thanks_log=1

I have myself contributed to another subproject without a single block for what could be considered many years, but I still find your perception a little naive although I do not know of statistics on the topic. The only Wikipedia I may have contributed to quietly for that long is the French Wikipedia, and that's certainly related to the fact that my only significant contribution there has been to fix articles or flag their issues as I read them. Try doing some serious article maintenance, and I can't imagine you would qualify edition as "quiet"... unless you maintain articles on decorative flowers, in which case you might want to try maintaining Wikipedia for a while and see if your opinion remains unchanged (in which case you could try Criticism of Wikipedia :-P ).

Obviously, the number of times one is blocked depends on how much one contributes, among other factors, and I contributed more than most editors. This offender is certainly not a reference, but even though he joined the project after me and enjoyed administrator status for most of his presence, he accrued as many blocks (but at least one of them was also in error).

This situation is not Wikipedia-specific; I have personally been blocked on Wiktionary, even though I didn't contribute 100 edits there (again in error).


That being said, if you realize the situation the hard way, you may also realize blocks tend to come by... blocks. My average time between blocks is over 2 years, yet my median time between blocks is under 20 days (JzG's log shows a similar pattern).

> I'm sure I won't be alone in remaining skeptical of your
> tale without convincing evidence that somehow all the blocks were in error.
>

I'm not sure what you mean, but I did not claim that all the blocks were in error. I claimed the first 3 blocks were in error, but the reasons (if they exist) for the last 2 remain unavailable, so I cannot tell whether those are in error. (Of course, they *are* also errors in the sense that a policy violation is necessarily an error, but they are not necessarily errors in the sense that the responsible users would have refrained from blocking had they realized that they were committing factual errors).



I have not seen discussions about block usage and misusage, and find the topic interesting, so you're welcome to discuss it, but I'd like to be clear on the [main] purpose of my message, which was to discuss block reviews. (Granted, a high rate of inappropriate appeal declines would be less concerning if there were fewer inappropriate blocks in the first place, so both processes equally need fixing for proper ACL management.)

--
Filipus Klutiero
http://www.philippecloutier.com


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