Wikipedia on Tuesday introduced a new global code of conduct to address the criticism around harassment and lack of diversity as well as pressure on internet platforms to curb misinformation. The 20-year old website, until now, largely relied on unpaid volunteers to handle issues around users’ behaviour. It has noted that it is going to revamp content rules and more strictly enforce them.
“There’s been a process of change throughout the communities,” Katherine Maher, the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation told Reuters. “It took time to build the support that was necessary to do the consultations for people to understand why this is a priority.” Wikimedia Foundation is a nonprofit that administers Wikipedia.
The new code of conduct bans harassment on and off the site, barring behaviours like hate speech, the use of slurs, stereotypes or attacks based on personal characteristics. It also bans threats of physical violence and hounding or following someone across different articles to critique their work. It is further aimed at restricting someone who deliberately introduces false or biased information into the content.
“Our new universal code of conduct was developed for the new Internet era, on the premise that we want our contributor communities to be positive, safe, and healthy environments for everyone involved,” said Katherine Maher, chief executive of the foundation. “This code will be a binding document for anyone that participates in our projects providing a consistent enforcement process for dealing with harassment, abuse of power, and deliberate attempts to manipulate facts.”
As per reports, over 1,500 Wikipedia volunteers from five continents and 30 languages participated in the creation of the new rules after the board of trustees voted in May last year to develop new binding standards. Maher said there would be training for communities and interested task-forces of users.
María Sefidari, the chair of the board of trustees for the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation said, “We need to be much more inclusive. We are missing a lot of voices, we’re missing women, we’re missing marginalised groups.” She further said that the code of conduct will be enforced after it has been figured out with various communities.
Wikipedia has over 2 lakh volunteer editors who work on crowdsourced articles and over 3000 administrators who take actions like blocking accounts or restricting edits on certain pages. Complaints are also decided on by panels of users elected by the communities. On January 15 this year, Wikipedia completed two decades and is among the world’s top 15 websites with an estimated 1.7 billion visitors per month.