Friday, March 20, 2009

Why arbitration enforcement usually fails

David Hoffman sent a very polite reply to my email yesterday about his paper. If he wishes to post his response as a comment to this blog it will certainly get published here. As Sage Ross noted in yesterday's comments, some of Hoffman's findings certainly are provcative.

The most intriguing part of that is the negative correlation between multiple varieties of policy violation, and actual sanction. Although my observations are anecdocal rather than statistical (and it would be very difficult to assemble statistical date on community sanctions for reasons described yesterday), it looks like that counterintuitive finding would not only hold up but would worsen at the community level. In the end this leads to insights about why arbitration enforcement and discretionary sanctions usually fail. First, we'll identify the dynamic: wiki discussion is not well suited to handling multifaceted problems.

Take an example from about a month ago: an editor gets reported to one of the adminitrative noticeboards for edit warring. Simple edit warring results in a block when it reaches a certain level of disruption. Our administrators are usually quite good at handling that alone. In this particular instance, though, the editor might also have used an ethnic slur.

The discussion accordingly went askew, with the distinction between non-pejorative 'Pak' and pejorative 'Paki' debated at length, while the actual edit warring got ignored. One experienced administrator even argued that there was no rationale for a block.

User:Yousaf465 on an Anti-India Propoganda

Yousaf465 (talk · contribs · deleted contribs · page moves · block user · block log) has been on an Anti-India propoganda for sometime now.He began with complaining of too much India bias for FAs on Mainpage at time when there was 59 Indian FAs and 1 Pakistani FA. He is now on a spree to get all images that decipts Pak as terrorist hub like [1]. His new interest is to push Anti India POV on State-sponsored terrorism (history) article. With this edit he removed everything related to Pakistan and replacing with India and Israel. His edits were repeatedly revereted by many users including YellowMonkey. YM blocked him for edit waring and POV push on the article. User:Seicer who is soft on Yousaf , unblocked him ( saying that YM didnt respond back in time) and blocked User: who had been also reverting Yousuf's POV additions. A new user Maijinsan (talk contribs count) came up from no-where an adding sock tag to many usernames including the above IP editor... It is evident that he himself is a sock. Seicer semi-protected the article and allowed Yousuf to continue to add Anti-India POV statements referenced to Pak dailies which cannot be considered as reliable . I dont want to "edit war" with him and request for third opinions here. -- Tinu Cherian - 05:24, 19 February 2009 (UTC)

First, I suggest that you take the effort to add "istan(i)" to the (likely insulting) diminutive "Pak" if you wish to be taken seriously as desiring a neutral consideration of this problem. I would further suggest that you take this complaint to Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Geopolitical ethnic and religious conflicts for review by sysops who are better able to disregard the nationalistic rhetoric of the differing parties. I trust you will update your notices to the above mentioned editors to reflect the new venue. LessHeard vanU (talk) 11:49, 19 February 2009 (UTC)
"Pak" is a common abbreviation for Pakistan used in English language publications both in India and Pakistan; it is no in way shape or form pejorative or insulting. E.g. "Pak-Afghan border situation needs urgent attention: US" The Daily Times, "Pak serious about fighting extremism: NATO chief" The News International (both Pakistani publications), "With Pak alleging links between the Samjhauta..." The Times of India. (talk) 17:16, 19 February 2009 (UTC)
Fair enough, but I would note that the diminitive "Paki" is considered an extremely pejorative insult in British society and, this being the English language Wikipedia, similar terms may strike the readership as antagonistic. Cultural sensitivities should work both ways. LessHeard vanU (talk) 17:57, 19 February 2009 (UTC)
Pak is short term for Pakistan,but "Paki" is not acceptable.User:Yousaf465
If I see no rationale given for the block, and his contribution history looks fairly legit, and the unblocking administrator makes no comments regarding the block in a reasonable matter (I did notify the blocking administrator), then I will unblock in most instances. Case closed for YM's old block.
It should be noted that I am not "soft" on anti-Indian propogandists. I frequently get asked to block or review the contributions of specific editors (check my user talk page), and I have done sweeping blocks on this in the past. Perhaps you didn't bother to do a little check of my contribution history??? seicer | talk | contribs 12:13, 19 February 2009 (UTC)
If someone thanking you is evidence of "being soft" then we are all soft, and that's the way I like it. Theresa Knott | token threats 12:39, 19 February 2009 (UTC)
Apparently, I'm just confused. seicer | talk | contribs 14:17, 19 February 2009 (UTC)
will replx in detail.User:Yousaf465
I havent used the term 'Paki' anytime above ,instead used only "Pak/Pakistani" terms which are generally considered acceptable. Secier, you have unblocked a good faith block by YM and allowed Yousuf to continue with his disruptive edits like [2][3] [4] while you blocked an IP editor who has been reverting yousuf's POV push. -- Tinu Cherian - 04:20, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
1) Personal commentary in edits/synthesis/OR/POV 2) Engages in IND/PAK battlefield mentality per the main page gripe, also assumes everyone else is campaigning/soapboxing, per his complaint ages ago that DYK people were promoting homosexuality 3) nominating pictures for deletion on bogus criteria (images were US govt -> PD, the other was already marked as FU as a magazine display of Pakistani terrorists but he keeps on saying it isn't needed and replaces it with a another magazine display that doesn't show related at all 4) per battlefield/sectarian mentality, has an Israeli flag on his talk page, with the Star of David replaced with a swastika.... 5) Also BLP violations and personal cynical commentaries inserted on this page along with another Pakistani Strider11 with battlefield mentality which Seicer reinserted; although it is a banned Hkelkar IP, the Pakitani edit needs to be excised because of a BLP violation implying a terrorist conspiracy on the part of the subject "it is worth noticeable..." YellowMonkey (click here to vote for world cycling's #1 model!) 05:43, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
At this point it became necessary to point out the other factor.
One dynamic to watch out for in admin discussions with multiple issues is that one hot button point dominates the discussion, and if that gets resolved as a nonissue the other outstanding issues may get overlooked. This discussion has determined that 'Pak' does not carry the derogatory connotations of 'Paki'. What it has not resolved is whether this person is edit warring. And it may be arguable that block-worthy edit warring has been going on within the last few hours. Please examine all issues at hand before declaring a determination. DurovaCharge! 05:30, 20 February 2009 (UTC)

Notice how the discussion changed direction afterward: a swift and uncontroversial 48 hour block for edit warring.

I have blocked Yousaf for 48h as he continued disruption after his previous unblock. If the block would not help, I think a longer block is warranted Alex Bakharev (talk) 06:15, 20 February 2009 (UTC) here is my reply

the main page controversy is baseless.I wasn't trying to be natinalist or any such thing.My only point was that it should be diversified.2)If you see the file history it can be seen,that,this file at first had dead links.I tagged it that way.Another editor provided the links to it.I asked him to check with the mentioned lab. whether they provide it for wikipedia.The herald has also been questioned by other non-concerned editors[5] ,[6],[7],so there is no point in blaming me for that.4)Be sensible and Read carefully a)Image description b)Tag description c) talk pages[8].Before accusing anyone of racial bias.5)I didn't revert this any further because a valid reason was given.I can't see any reinsertion by User:Seicer at this [9] User:Yellowmonkey is going out of his mind.He and other involved editor didn't even took pain to discuss these articles and file on the talk page.Instead have constantly removing content while hiding behind ips as it mentioned here.[10].Taquiyya is actually Taqiyya. I myself removed content which was questionable but Instead of making on it they just kept on reverting edits.User:Yousaf465

I don't know about the other issues, but this tagging (repeated 3 times) is simply disruptive behavior in Yousaf's part. Despite being reminded that the image is work of a US Federal agency, Yousaf retagged the image again with a meaningless comment. He also tagged a fair-use magazine cover as "possibly unfree image", despite the presence of a fair use rationale. These actions are all correlated, and not isolated events. --Ragib (talk) 06:17, 20 February 2009 (UTC)

While PUI is not quite the right venue, the fair use rationale on the Herald image is complete bogus. This is an understandable error. I'll put it up for WP:NFCR.--Stephan Schulz (talk) 12:19, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
So the introduction of a second issue hampers Wikipedia's ability to address policy violations that are obviously block-worthy. Notice what occurs in a more recent discussion where three issues are at play:

Commons:Deletion requests/File:Allys a rubbin (1421413596).jpg

The subjects of this photo have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The Burning Man festival is a private event, see . There is no indication that the subjects have given their consent to have this image used in Wikipedia; without consent this kind of picture can do real-life damage. As an alternative to deletion, pixellating the faces would address most of my concerns. --Clayoquot (talk) 16:23, 15 March 2009 (UTC)

Comment The stipulations in the url given are probably not legally valid. /Pieter Kuiper (talk) 20:04, 15 March 2009 (UTC)
I agree that it's questionable whether the festival could legally enforce the rules given in the URL. I'm not primarily concerned with the rights of the festival. What I'm primarily concerned about is the rights of the subjects, and the URL gives evidence that subjects would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Clayoquot (talk) 03:05, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
Comment the festival is a private event... that doesn't mean that it takes place in a private place! And place is the issue linked to privacy not events. For instance, the Tour de France is a private event but one may not be able to forbid pictures of its public audience next to the roads because those roads are public places! --TwoWings * to talk or not to talk... 03:11, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
There is no distinction at this particular festival between the event and the place. The question we have to address is basically whether it is both legal and ethical to keep this photo on Wikimedia Commons, in its current state in which the subjects are identifiable. Think about it: You go to a festival, thinking you can be a bit more relaxed about things like nudity because it's a private event and photography is restricted, and you take off your clothes for a massage. Then one day you or someone in your family realizes that there is a naked picture of yourself on Wikipedia. Not nice. Let's not have that happen. Clayoquot (talk) 04:50, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
Well I'm sorry but it seems that the law deals with private places so even in the case of a private event held in a public place, I'm not sure it can be considered a problem with the law. I understand your argument but we have to understand the law too! --TwoWings * to talk or not to talk... 17:01, 19 March 2009 (UTC)
  • Comment There are three separate issues here: the event's photography policy, the participants' privacy rights, and Commons custom. Dealing with these one at a time:
  1. The event photography policy is a contract stipulation between the event and the photographer. If the photographer violates that contract, it has no effect on downstream users such as Wikimedia Commons. So, for example, we do host public domain artwork that was photographed in museums that restrict photography. That's the photographer's risk, not ours.
  2. Privacy rights are a gray area here. On the one hand, the event occurs in the open area on public land. On the other hand, access to the event is rather tightly controlled with checkpoints, barricades, law enforcement, etc. So one could argue this either way and I'm no confident which way that would go. On the one hand, this is outdoors in a public location. On the other hand, do these participants have a reasonable expectation that their likeness will not be taken and misused? I'd lean toward the former by hunch more than experience, and would defer to individuals who know specific instances where this has come up before (in some twenty years of festival history it probably has).
  3. Commons custom has sometimes been more considerate than strict readings of privacy rights. We have, on occasion, deleted instances of 'wardrobe malfunction' that occurred in public places. This isn't quite the same situation as plumber's trousers, since the nudity is intentional. Yet the intention here appears to be massage rather than pure exhibitionism. It's a regular massage table. So primarily on the basis of this third consideration I'd lean toward deletion. Durova (talk) 03:49, 20 March 2009 (UTC)
Thanks Durova. I should mention for transparency that I asked Durova on her enwiki talk page if she could comment here. Clayoquot (talk) 03:56, 20 March 2009 (UTC)
  • Delete I have to say that my first comments (see above) were an overall statement about the event (on the base of the difference between "public event" and "public place") but that I may lean toward deletion for that specific picture (but not for other pictures of the same event) because I follow the same remarks as Durova (3rd point above). Actually we also have to consider that this picture seems to have been taken in a tent so it may be considered as private for that reason (even if the tent was in a public place!) --TwoWings * to talk or not to talk... 09:18, 20 March 2009 (UTC)
In both instances, all that I did was identify the multiple factors that were confusing the discussion, and attempt to rate them. What's curious is that no one else had tried that approach. Many of our site discussions that degenerate into 'drama' are actually multipoint issues, and could conclude rationally if someone steps in at an early stage to identify those points and articulate them as separate issues.

A portion of our site's disruptive editors intuit that weakness and create confusion in order to avoid remedies for their behavior. On rare occasions one of them even confesses that this is deliberate strategy. This occurred in the Gundagai Editors arbitration of late 2006:

Failure to sign posts

The anon editor has consistently failed to sign posts. This is a deliberate strategy on her part.[68]: In response to an explanation by Golden Wattle: "Navigation on talk pages is normally by linking using signatures by the way. If somebody wanted to follow the conversation, and you had signed - they would come here very easily - they can't when you don't sign - have I mentioned signing before? Maybe you might if you could see the benefits." She responded on 6 July "Maybe I wont too. Do you think I dont know about how to make a maze? Its pretty amazing. If you lose the thred though your lost. Have fun"

Arbitration occurs when other site processes have failed. Deliberate smoke-blowing increases the chances that other site processes will fail, so there is a high probability in arbitration that at least one party is a smoke-blowing disruptor. There may even be multiple parties using this tactic, some of whom have formed strategic alliances. A critical mass of disruptive smoke-blowers, acting in tandem, can thwart nearly any Wikipedian process. If they are skilled enough they may even draw in the allegiance of confused but well-meaning editors who are not disruptive themselves, but who fail to see through the disruptive tactics and lend their own reputations in innocent advocacy for the disruptors.

A central responsibility of Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee is to identify individual disruptive smoke-blowers and remove them from the conversation. If the Committee fails to do that when they enact discretionary sanctions on a case, then those same disruptive smoke-blowers proceed to arbitration enforcement and employ the same tactic there. Usually those disruptive editors succeed in their efforts to stymie arbitration enforcement because noticeboard format is less formal, and therefore easier to misdirect than arbitration formats. In these situations, implementing sensible structure is not 'bureaucracy' but a defense against trolling.

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