A bit on Harassment at Wikipedia

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The Devil's Advocate
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A bit on Harassment at Wikipedia

Post by The Devil's Advocate » Wed Aug 15, 2018 4:35 am

I published this recently on Medium and, while it mostly concerns matters unrelated to Wikipedia, I did get a bit into all the different kinds of harassment that occurs on the site. Nothing terribly significant, though people may still find it interesting. Here are the relevant paragraphs:
Having been active at Wikipedia for nearly eight years off and on, I saw and experienced plenty of harassment in my time on the site. Once I was dealing with a vandal adding defamatory smears to the article for the lead singer of Paramore and the vandal responded by randomly undoing other edits I made and vandalized one of my comments by adding a sexual reference.

Far worse happens to editors active on topics such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, who are routinely subjected to a deluge of rape and death threats both on Wikipedia and via e-mail. There have also been cases where editors have been stalked off-line by other Wikipedia editors. On one particularly tragic occasion, harassment of a Wikipedia editor apparently led to the editor’s suicide.

While the above all resulted in the perpetrators being banned, I and others have also been harassed by other established editors and seen those editors flipping the script to get the victims sanctioned instead. One case involving a feminist editing project on the site ended with a feminist editor sanctioned primarily for uncivil remarks towards an editor who was harassing her. The harasser had posted embarrassing information about her, which he intended to put in a scurrilous Wikipedia article. He did this in response to another editor following her around the site being sanctioned for his stalkerish behavior.
The general point of the piece regarding harassment is how there is nothing particularly unique about it anywhere. However, I would state my personal opinion is that harassment on Wikipedia can be a much bigger impairment then it is on pretty much any other site. Unlike social media, it often isn't possible to ignore harassment as it tends to directly interfere with your activity on the site. Most of the cases I mention above at some point or another involved editors forcing interactions by confronting their targets. On Twitter or Facebook one does not quite have the same ability to force engagement and refusing to engage doesn't put one at risk of sanctions. News stories go up constantly about such and such person getting "forced off" social media by harassment due to a willful choice to leave in response, yet Wikipedia is one of the few major sites where it is truly possible for harassers to drive people off the platform against their will. Somehow, though, it gets a lot less attention in the press.

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