Wednesday, July 18, 2007

CharlotteWebb arbitration closed

A particular checkuser happens to run across a user while checking for Tor nodes. Not a problem. Checkuser reveals this private information on the wiki while user is running for adminship, user reacts poorly, candidacy is effectively torpedoed. Problem.

A lot of discussion followed in a lot of places. Personally, I do agree that there was no strict breach of the Wikimedia Foundation's privacy policy, nor the letter of the checkuser policy... but I'm also quite concerned that Jayjg seems to have refused to acknowledge that a large group of people have basis to be concerned or disappointed in his disclosure. A highly trusted user, recently involved a number of arguments regarding Tor blocking, revealed priviledged information at a very sensitive time, in a very sensitive place, and proceeded, essentially, to mock those who even suggested there might be a problem with this.

The lengthiest replies from Jayjg, at least at first, seemed to be on the wikien-l thread: "Jayjg: Abusing checkuser for political ends?" Apparently ignoring or rebuffing the users concerned by this, SlimVirgin and Jayjg preferred to respond with vagueness:
"What's to stop people from creating undetectable sockpuppet accounts using various proxies and anonymizers?" --Jayjg (wikien-l)

"We have issues with users running more than one admin account, and one of the ways they're allegedly doing this is by using open proxies. Being able to log an admin's real IP address is the only tiny bit of accountability the Foundation has regarding admins." --SlimVirgin (wikien-l)
Note the lack of any specific scenarios of that nature, or any direct response to the question, "Was it okay to reveal this information?" It seems they're assuming it was okay, and ignoring anyone who might think otherwise. Not that I can't sympathize with some of these concerns, or the desire to make decisions with the most information possible, but at the same time, I have to wonder if someone with such a cavalier attitude to releasing private, sensitive information should continue to have that sort of access.

Even on top of that, the association of "anonymizing proxies == suspicious and bad" has been questioned, and repeatedly, including this example:
"I think it would be fair to be particularly suspicious, not to give the benefit of the doubt, if the account smelled funny and it was also using anonymous proxies to edit. But using them in itself isn't an indication that someone wants to do harm, nor is someone intending to do harm much limited by the restriction." --Mindspillage (wikien-l)
As the Arbitration Committee became aware of the controversy, the eventually voted 7 to 0 to accept an arbitration case. I can only hope I'm not the only community member who hoped this might bring some resolution to the issues at hand. There's a huge number of statements from prominent Wikipedians, I'm not going to cover them in-depth at this time, but I do recommend taking a look at the comments from Geogre, JzG, John254, Chacor, Navou, ChrisO, and Rory096.

Arbitrator Paul August said, at the opening of the case, "There are many important issues here which might profit from an examination by this committee."

Nearly a full month later, the results are in. Looks like nothing is going to be done, after all -- at least not in the public eye. Let's have a look at the two remedies, both of which passed 7 to 0:
1) The Committee notes that CharlotteWebb remains a user in good standing, and is welcome to return to editing at any time.
Not even so much as a pat on the back. "Yep, you got screwed. You can come back, y'know, if you feel like it. But we don't really care, either way. Not our problem." I don't know if it's fair to expect a flowery message from something written by a committee, but I personally think we owe a little more than that, for a user who was recently forced out of the project when an unknown checkuser systematically blocked all of their IP addresses, proxy and non-proxy alike. Interesting this other checkuser isn't even mentioned in the results.

Even if I do feel this is a bit inadequate, I'm pleased they made sure to include something to this effect. The rest will have to be filled in by the community, I suppose.

On to the second remedy:
2) Jayjg is reminded to avoid generating drama by making public proclamations of misbehavior before attempting private discussion and resolution of the issue.
I guess that... sort of hints that he might have sorta kinda maybe done something just a little questionable and in bad taste. But there's nothing actionable here, nothing about what may happen the next time this comes up, and it's not even all that firmly worded. It's hard to even call this a slap on the wrist.

That all assumes there isn't a more serious exchange behind closed doors, and I could be mistaken on that count. I certainly hope I am.

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