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Recommendation to modify the appeals process

39
Summary by Ladsgroup

This amendment is implemented.

Qgil-WMF (talkcontribs)

task T199086

Hi, the Technical Collaboration’s Community Health group wants to share some thoughts about the appeal process that we are currently handling. The text describing the appeal process itself is fine. The problematic part is to have an appeals team other than the CoC Committee itself without defining the relationship and governance between both teams.

The core of the problem is that it is not defined who has the ultimate decision on the resolution of an appeal. This is fine when both teams agree on a resolution, but what if they don’t? The options are

  • They have to keep discussing until there is consensus. This would put both teams on equal foot, which is fine but needs to be documented.
  • The Committee has the last word. This means that the Appeals team has an advisory function, which is fine but needs to be documented.
  • The Appeals team has the last word. This might even be the default expectation (?), but it is actually the most problematic one because it means that the Appeals team has more power than the Committee itself.

If we want to go for the third option anyway, then that Appeals body cannot be a team like we have now, formed by Wikimedia Foundation members by design. There were good reasons to make this choice (leaving tough situations to paid professionals, saving some trouble to volunteers), but having a team of WMF employees having more power than the Committee is a setup that we don’t want to have.

Strainu (talkcontribs)

The current text states: "These [appeals] will be considered by the Committee, which may alter the outcome." This suggests to me that the Committee has the last word. I believe this makes perfect sense, since the foundation should only override community-elected structures for legal reasons (in which case the Community Health group doesn't sound like the right group to make a decision anyway).

Bluerasberry (talkcontribs)

Can you link to the pages for each of these two committees or teams? I want to see a page for each, listing who the members are, and stating how anyone comes to be on these teams.

Based on what you say here and my browsing around I cannot quickly come to understand the differences in the nature of these two teams.

Huji (talkcontribs)

Can the auxiliary members of the CoC be the Appeals team? In which case I think option 1 above makes the most sense.

ArielGlenn (talkcontribs)

I'm not excited by having the auxiliary members be the Appeals team. Said as a former auxiliary member, I'd prefer to keep the function strictly as fallback in case of conflict of interest of active CoC committee members.

Qgil-WMF (talkcontribs)

An additional factor to be considered. The Technical Collaboration team doesn't exist as such anymore. The people who form the Community Health group are all active, so if we receive a new appeal we can still handle it. However, we would welcome a decision on our proposal.

Tracked: task T199086

MarcoAurelio (talkcontribs)

I think the Appeals team should have the final word on cases submitted to their consideration. Thank you.

Duesentrieb (talkcontribs)

Giving a non-elected (wmf appointed) team power to veto and repeal decisions my a community committee seems contrary to being a community driven organization. WMF staff should not have "benevolent dictator" powers in social processes.

Qgil-WMF (talkcontribs)

In order to help the discussion, I think two aspects should be considered:

  • Should the Appeals team be nominated by the Wikimedia Foundation or not? (and if not, how is this team nominated)
  • Who should have the last word, the Committee or the Appeals team?

The combination of these points offer four scenarios. A fifth would be that there is no Appeals team.

Ladsgroup (talkcontribs)

So far there are two things that can be seen here:

  • Slight majority believe a WMF-based team should not have power to overrule CoCC remedies. If there is no strong objections towards this by the next 7 days, I will make it clear in the CoC.
  • We don't have a "Community Health group" at WMF anymore. The functionality needs to be given to another body. I don't know WMF internal structure to suggest an alternative body in these cases. I reach out to people for suggestions.
MarcoAurelio (talkcontribs)

I still think that an appeals body should exist and be able to overturn a decision submitted to their consideration. Otherwise, what'd be the point on having one? It'd be bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy and a false appearance on the existance of an appeal process. If the problem is that we don't want to grant such power to a WMF Team for whatever reason, then I suggest that the appeals body be formed by community members instead in the same way the COCC is elected. Thank you.

Ladsgroup (talkcontribs)

I don't have any better proposal but making a committee just to check appeals seems too much overhead to me. There are several committees/group/teams we can delegate this responsibility.

Tgr (WMF) (talkcontribs)

The WMF operates most technical spaces, sponsors most development etc. so ultimately it is the WMF's responsibility to ensure technical spaces have a healthy culture. Having it as the decisionmaker of last resort makes sense.

OTOH if most decisions get appealed and some WMF team has to secondguess the CoC committee all the time, that seems like a bad situation. Rather than setting up another committee, I think it might be better to restrict appeals to situations where the committee made some objectively identifiable mistake (and then the WMF team's involvement would be limited to verifying that the mistake indeed happened).

Ladsgroup (talkcontribs)

We have cases review committee in WMF now which is reviewing T&S cases, would that work? I need to ask legal if that's okay with them. The team is also temporary and will be replaced by another team but something will replace it so we won't lose it. The problem that should it have the authority to override or not still stands. @Tgr: I disagree, I think delegating low-level cases to them would cause issues. There are cases that WMF needs to handle like T&S cases but they are on another league compared to cases we have with CoCC.

Ladsgroup (talkcontribs)

I quite like the compromise of these two bodies being peers (the first bullet point). What do you think?

Bawolff (talkcontribs)

what is the point of having an appeals body that is not allowed to hear appeals?

Martin Urbanec (talkcontribs)

It is allowed to hear them, it's however not allowed to overrule them. It's like senate's role in some countries - it is allowed to veto a law, but the lower chamber can overrule it - and force a law it wishes.

Ladsgroup (talkcontribs)

Or a similar case is FDC, they don't have the authority, they can recommand the board on fund distribution but they don't have the authority.

MarcoAurelio (talkcontribs)

I think the term appeal implies the existence of a superior entity with powers to review and confirm or overturn or vacate a previous decision, or remand the case back from where it came from asking them to re-examine. Reading Code_of_Conduct/Cases#Appealing_a_resolution I concurr with Quim that it looks like this might've been the original expectation although limited to the most serious of cases. If this is not what actually happens, I personally find the word "appeal" confusing and problematic because it won't be a real appeal but an advisory council to the CoCC. If the technical community feels the appeals body or process should be only advisory in nature, and not a real appeals body as IRL, I'd suggest to move away from the term "appeal" to remove the impresion that whichever groups fullfils that role can actually change the outcome of a decision by the CoCC, and clearly document that the CoCC has the last word. Thanks.

Martin Urbanec (talkcontribs)

Well, if those two bodies would be peers, then no one would have last word - both would be able to veto each other's decision.

Bawolff (talkcontribs)

And veto each other's vetos!

Ladsgroup (talkcontribs)

In paper yes, in reality I expect both bodies be reasonable enough to handle a disagreement.

MarcoAurelio (talkcontribs)

I feel terminology is important, that's all. If the two bodies are peers or expected to be peers (I am not saying this is good or bad), then no appeals process exist and the process should not be called as such IMHO. We could change it to 'review', 'advisor', 'dialogue' or any other word that more accurately describes the actual process.

> both would be able to veto each other's decision

That reminds me of the old it:Intercessio, but doesn't look like it's happening? I mean, if the CoCC has the last word, as the participants above seems to agree to (not arguing this is good or bad either), where exactly the so-called appeals body have veto powers? They could recommend but the ultimate decision would be yours so that's hardly an appeal, and hardly a veto either.

Regards.

Tgr (WMF) (talkcontribs)

The Universal Code of Conduct (expected to be out this year) will have its own enforcement and appeals mechanism. It's not clear to me what the status of the technical CoC is supposed to be at that point. Will it be replaced by the UCoC wholesale? Will they exist in parallel, with occasionally overlapping authority? Will they share appeal infrastructure?

I imagine these cannot really be answered before the UCoC gets finalized, so this might not be the best time for this amendment.

Qgil-WMF (talkcontribs)

Hi, nobody knows today how these pieces will play together, but a basic principle is that the UCoC exists to provide a baseline. Then specific projects can use / build their own structures on top of this baseline. This means that if the TCoC is compatible with the UCoC and it defines its own appeal process, then whatever UCoC structures won't interfere.

We have a very tangible problem with the TCoC appeal process, as I reported two years ago. On top of this, the Technical Collaboration doesn't exist as such since July 2019, and it is just a coincidence that the five original members of the former Community Health group are still working at the Foundation. The UCoC is in a very early stage, and there haven't been any discussions or decisions about enforcement and appeals yet. For these reasons, I would really welcome an amendment of this Appeals section in the TCoC, at least to reflect the current reality.

Tgr (WMF) (talkcontribs)

I would really welcome an amendment of this Appeals section in the TCoC, at least to reflect the current reality.

That's a fair point. So maybe go with that and state there is no appeals process? In your experience as part of the appeals team, was there ever a need for it? (As in, was there any appeal where the appeals team disagreed or found problems with the original committee's decisionmaking process?)

Qgil-WMF (talkcontribs)

In all this time we have received only two appeal requests. In the first one we disagreed with the appeal request and we agreed with the Committee. The second one is being processed right now.

The lack of appeals (a good sign) has been a reason for me to almost forget about this proposal during this time.

Martin Urbanec (talkcontribs)

I guess we (TCoC) would have the same position & authority as local arbitration committees - it is something T&S definitely needs to count with :).

Bawolff (talkcontribs)

But what is the point of this "appeals ls" process? Its hard to evaluate what to do here if we don't even agree on what role this process is supposed to play.

I strongly agree with Marco that the terminology is very problematic here. In my view it undermines the legitamacy of the CoC as an appeal is a well understood concept and outside of show-trials this is very much not what is meant by the word appeal.

Martin Urbanec (talkcontribs)

The intention is to allow for a review, since the decision is ultimate & binding for everybody (bypassing a CoCC decision is even violation of CoC per se). On the other hand, Arbitration Committees (which is the comparable body on [some] content projects) have no appeal body, and their decision can be only appealed to themselves (which is not really an appeal, right). So, we can also remove the appeals thing for good too?

Ladsgroup (talkcontribs)

If you think this is on par with local ArbComs, You can use their policy here too, for example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Arbitration/Policy#Appeal_of_decisions

> Any editor may ask the Committee to reconsider or amend a ruling, which the Committee may accept or decline at its discretion. The Committee may require a minimum time to have elapsed since the enactment of the ruling, or since any prior request for reconsideration, before reviewing it. Remedies may be appealed to, and amended by, Jimbo Wales, unless the case involves Jimbo Wales' own actions.

Ladsgroup (talkcontribs)

Okay, I'd say let's rewrite the appeal section to make it like English Wikipedia's ArbCom:

Replacing:

After being notified of the outcome, the reporter or any people sanctioned may raise objections to the resolution. These will be considered by the Committee, which may alter the outcome. If the outcome is altered, the new outcome will be logged. When the Committee begins enforcing a decision, that is also logged.

Only resolutions (such as bans) that last more than one week may be appealed by people who were sanctioned. Reported victims can always appeal. To appeal a decision of the Committee, the reported offender or reported victim may contact the Technical Collaboration team's Community Health group at techconductappealswikimedia.org and they will review the case. Until an appeal is resolved, the prior resolution remains fully in effect.

To:

After being notified of the outcome, the reporter or any people sanctioned may raise objections to the resolution. These will be considered by the Committee, which may alter the outcome. If the outcome is altered, the new outcome will be logged. When the Committee begins enforcing a decision, that is also logged.

(Simply, removing the second paragraph). Does this sound good?

Tgr (WMF) (talkcontribs)
AKlapper (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Sounds good to me too.

Ladsgroup (talkcontribs)

Okay, it seems there is an agreement here, I will change it if there's no objection by the next seven days.

Nemo bis (talkcontribs)

Removing that paragraph sounds fine.

Ladsgroup (talkcontribs)

Done. Hereby this amendment is implemented.