(cross-posted from 

Hi folks, I'm DannyH from the Wikimedia Foundation. I manage the product teams 
that build Contributor Tools -- Community Tech, Campaigns, CheckUser 
improvements and sockpuppet detection, moderator tools on mobile web, and the 
new incident reporting system.

I've been reading all of these conversations, and I'm concerned about the 
people on both sides of the issue -- the admins working to keep the projects 
safe from bad-faith people, and the good-faith people who are being blocked 
because of someone else's rangeblock, or because they're using default network 
proxy features that they're not aware of.

This problem is getting attention within the WMF. Foundation folks are really 
concerned about what we're hearing on Wikimedia-L and in this discussion, 
especially because there seem to be systemic issues that are specifically 
making things harder for new users in Africa. I've got the opportunity right 
now to assign people to make software changes to help solve this problem, which 
is great. But now I'm trying to figure out what those software changes could 
be, and I don't have a clear answer yet for what that should be.

So if you don't mind, I'd like to run through what I think the main points are, 
and a list of possible directions that a solution could take, and then I would 
love it if you could help me figure this out.

Here's what I understand about the problem:

* Open proxies are a vector for harassment and vandalism. Bad-faith long term 
abusers use them to disguise their IP and evade detection. The projects 
automatically block open proxies that they know about, to discourage the 
bad-faith vandals.

* There's been a big increase in proxy blocks since July 2021 on English 
Wikipedia (and Oct 2021 on Spanish WP), because ST47ProxyBot has been getting 
trustworthy outside data to help identify open proxies.

* The use of open proxies on the internet is rising, partly because people are 
becoming more concerned about their privacy. Apple has introduced iCloud 
Private Relay, which is disguising people's IP — this is currently in beta, but 
will probably become the default. Google is working on a similar project. Our 
system of using IPs to identify block vandals is gradually breaking down, and 
there will probably be a point when IPs just won't be useful anymore.

* There are a lot of good-faith users, including first-time contributors, who 
are getting caught in these blocks. For some people, that's an annoying 
inconvenience; for many others, especially brand new people, it drives them 
away completely.

* There appears to be a systemic issue with how some African ISPs deal with IP 
addresses, which is creating a lot of collateral damage in places where 
campaign organizers are trying to introduce new users to wiki contribution. I 
saw one person mention that the problem was especially bad in Ghana and Benin.

* The messages that people get when they're blocked are confusing, especially 
for new people. They only get the message after they've made an edit and are 
trying to publish, which is very frustrating.

* The solution for individuals is to request an IP Block Exemption, which can 
be either local or global, depending on whether the block is local or global. 
The local/global distinction is very confusing for people who are trying to 
make the request, and the whole process is difficult.

* Each request has to be processed by hand, and the system gets backed up. It's 
possible to get unblocked quickly if you know the right person to email, but a 
lot of people just fill out the request, and then wait for who knows how long.

* It's possible for admins/stewards to get overwhelmed by the number of unblock 

That's a cluster of many different problems, so now I'm trying to figure out 
which problems we could actually make progress on.

Possibilities include:

* Mitigate the harm coming from open proxies, so we don't need to automatically 
block them

* Understand the difference between a "dangerous" open proxy (which bad-faith 
people are actually using) and a more "innocent" proxy (which is just blocked 
because we know it's a proxy), and then treat them differently. (If it's 
possible to make that distinction.)

* Make the messages to good-faith people more helpful and less frustrating

* Make the unblock request process easier/faster/more friendly for the people 
making requests

* Make the unblock request process easier for the people responding, so they 
can process them faster (or involve more people who can help)

* Make it easier for good-faith people to get some kind of automatic exemption

* Make it easier for campaign and editathon organizers to whitelist their 

* Adapt the system better to the reality of African ISPs — figure out what the 
problem is, and treat those ISPs differently

That's a lot, and it's not clear to me what the path forward should be. Can 
folks help me out? What did I get wrong here, or what did I miss? Thanks in 
advance for your help. 

DannyH (WMF)
aka Danny Horn, Director of Product Management, Contributor Tools
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