Photo by David Peters/Lane Hartwell/Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Photo by Lane Hartwell/Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Over the past couple of years the Wikimedia Foundation has taken a focused look at community health—particularly in regards to harassment. The Foundation’s Board has been monitoring and discussing this issue over the past year with great interest. We have prepared a statement, copied below, offering our thoughts on this topic, and providing a clear mandate for the Foundation’s leadership to fully engage on this issue.

Since the Foundation was established, we have been invested in building a positive community culture. As part of these efforts, we have monitored the projects for instances of harassment, escalating our capacity to respond in recent years. Thanks to the work of the Foundation’s Support and Safety Team, we now have data in the form of the 2015 Harassment Survey about the nature of the issue. This has enabled us to identify key areas of concern, and step up our response appropriately. This research shows that harassment has a negative impact on participation in our projects. This has implications for our ability to collect, share, and disseminate free knowledge in support of the Wikimedia vision. Our statement speaks to the Board’s duty to help the Foundation fulfill its mission.

The Board is committed to making our communities safer and will not accept harassment and toxic behavior on Wikimedia projects. We believe this matter deserves the Foundation’s attention and resources, and have confirmed this responsibility at our latest Board meeting on November 13. The questions that lay before us all now are how to best address this threat, rather than if we should attempt to do so.

The Board especially appreciates and applauds the work being done to address this important issue by many community leaders across the movement and teams within the Foundation. We look forward to seeing this cooperative work not only continue, but expand. Finally, we encourage everyone who is interested in helping the Foundation address this threat to our vision and mission to engage in the upcoming discussions around this issue.

On behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees,

Christophe Henner, Board Chair
María Sefidari, Board Vice Chair


Full statement

At our Board meeting on November 13, and in Board meetings in September and June, we spent considerable time discussing the issues of harassment and hostility on the internet generally, and more specifically on the Wikimedia projects.

This is an important issue. Approximately 40% of internet users and as many as 70% of younger users have personally experienced harassment, with regional studies showing rates as high as 76% for young women. Of people who have reported experiencing harassment on Wikimedia projects, more than 50% reported decreasing their participation in our community. Based on this and other research, we conclude that harassment and toxic behavior on the Wikimedia projects negatively impacts the ability of the Wikimedia projects to collect, share, and disseminate free knowledge. This behavior is contrary to our vision and mission.

Our communities deserve safe spaces in which they can contribute productively and debate constructively. It is our belief that the Wikimedia Foundation should be proactively engaged in eliminating harassment, promoting inclusivity, ensuring a healthier culture of discourse, and improving the safety of Wikimedia spaces. We request management to dedicate appropriate resources to this end.

We urge every member of the Wikimedia communities to collaborate in a way that models the Wikimedia values of openness and diversity, step forward to do their part to stop hostile and toxic behavior, support people who have been targeted by such behavior, and help set clear expectations for all contributors.

Editor’s note: The post was edited to reflect an amendment to the official Board statement.