Paul raises an interesting point about the placement of T&S that I hadn't
considered, although I am thinking about this from a different angle.

After the departure of Michelle Paulson, I've found WMF Legal to be
considerably less responsive to emails that I've sent to legal@, and it
would be disappointing if T&S adopted the apparent mentality in WMF Legal
that ignoring messages is okay. Once in awhile something will slip through
the cracks (I'm aware of my seemingly endless Wikimedia email backlog), but
given the number of lawyers on WMF"s staff and how much more responsive the
department was to my communications when Michelle Paulson was in charge, I
think that some changes should be considered for that department if they
haven't already been implemented by the new General Counsel.

Returning focus to T&S, I agree that legalistic minimalism would be
disappointing, but I hope that T&S has decided after a wasteful,
unnecessary, and high profile conflict earlier this year
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Community_response_to_the_Wikimedia_Foundation%27s_ban_of_Fram>
that overreach is a bad idea. There is room for a middle ground of T&S
supporting research into ways that community administrators can be more
effective and skillful, and collaborating with the community to design
features that promote collaboration, while avoiding both legal minimalism
or arrogant overreach. I think that the placement of T&S in Legal is a
manageable risk, but I hope that WMF will think carefully about how to
manage the cultures and priorities for the merged department.

Paul, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Pine
( https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Pine )


On Sat, Nov 16, 2019 at 6:29 AM Paul J. Weiss <pjwe...@uw.edu> wrote:

> I find the disbanding of the Community Engagement department at WMF to be
> quite concerning. I will go so far as to say that I view it as a mistake
> that will have negative impacts well into the future.
>
> For one thing, the structure of an organization is in some sense a
> statement of priorities. I believe this move does indeed say to employees,
> the community, allied organization, and the rest of the world that the WMF
> is now placing less value on engaging the community. Given that many in the
> community have been feeling this already, this is not an opportune time to
> make this transition, even if it were a good idea for other reasons.
>
> Another issue is the specific placement of individual teams. For example,
> you say that returning the Trust & Safety team to the Legal department is
> intuitive. It certainly is not to me, and that move in particular is
> concerning. The team's homepage on Meta states that it "identifies, builds
> and – as appropriate – staffs processes which keep our users safe; design,
> develop, and execute on a strategy that integrates legal, product,
> research, and learning & evaluation to proactively mitigate risk as well as
> manage the overall safety of our online and offline communities when
> incidents happen." The legal aspect is only one of many in the team's
> purview, and hopefully not a large one.
>
> In my experience, units within legal departments take a very legalistic
> view of their work. As one example, many colleges and universities have an
> office for students with disabilities. In the US, those that are in legal
> or policy departments tend to focus very much on doing the minimum they
> have to do under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), rather than
> being student-centered. (This is the case here at the University of
> Washington.) Compare this to the focus of units for women, students of
> color, etc., often hierarchically under student services, who are much more
> proactive and supportive.
>
> I definitely do not want Trust & Safety to narrow its focus to ensuring
> enforcement & reducing liability. As you know, legal but negative behavior
> is a significant threat to the future of Wikipedia and sister projects. The
> team needs to be organizationally placed to maximize, not minimize, its
> access to resources, the community, and other staff as well as its impact.
> Placing it in Legal could, for example, decrease significantly contact and
> trust from our community members whose experience with laws is that they
> are used as weapons and tools to oppress rather than engendering fairness
> and cooperation.
>
> Please, please carefully consider the all ramifications of this
> reorganization before it is implemented.
>
> Thank you,
> Paul Weiss
> Libcub on en.wp
>
>
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