Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Clarification and Amendment

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Requests for clarification and amendment

Clarification request: Discretionary sanctions

This discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

Initiated by Tryptofish at 20:47, 16 September 2018 (UTC)

Case or decision affected
Wikipedia:Arbitration Committee/Discretionary sanctions

List of any users involved or directly affected, and confirmation that all are aware of the request:

Statement by Tryptofish

I would like to ask the Committee how one should understand the following question:

When Discretionary Sanctions are in effect, are editors expected to be on "good behavior" to a greater degree than is expected in general?

I'm asking this question based on several recent experiences at WP:AE (it doesn't matter which ones). It appears to me that enforcing administrators have become reluctant to get involved in some complaints, when the complaint is not a clear-cut and obvious one. In particular, I have been seeing administrator comments along the lines of "we expect a certain amount of nastiness in topic areas that are highly disputed, so we should just let that go." I realize of course that this is always a case-by-case sort of thing. I suspect that some of this grows out of a concern about backlash against an administrative decision, some out of the fact that there aren't very many admins working at AE, some out of the difficulty of working through tl;dr statements, and some out of the good-faith and very reasonable desire not to sanction someone for simply getting a little hot under the collar.

But I've also long believed (perhaps mistakenly) that part of the idea behind DS is that the Committee has determined that the topic area has become such a problem that there is a need to decisively clamp down on disruptive behavior, and that editors who are properly "aware" are expected not to test the boundaries of acceptable conduct. But I think I've been hearing from some AE admins that they regard conduct that has been chronic and disruptive, way beyond the typical hot under the collar situation, but that is the kind of thing that leads to a wall-of-text at WP:ANI, as suboptimal but acceptable when DS are in effect. So how should admins at AE understand the intention of DS in that regard? --Tryptofish (talk) 20:47, 16 September 2018 (UTC)

Worm, thanks (I think!), but I'll leave that for another conversation. Face-smile.svg
Rob, to some degree, I think your answer (just keeping it real here) is a cop-out. OK, don't tell admins how to enforce it, but ArbCom can still say what DS means. How should enforcing admins understand it? Of course, my asking this is intended to put ArbCom on the record for whatever you collectively decide to say, even if you decide to say pretty much nothing. I actually do "patrol" (or, more accurately, watchlist) the topic areas that interest me (which would make me involved if I were an admin), and I do bring what I am sure are valid concerns to AE. If ArbCom just wants to say that it's entirely up to the enforcing admins, then so be it, but I don't think that's in the community's best interest. --Tryptofish (talk) 18:19, 17 September 2018 (UTC)
Mkdw, thanks, that's very helpful. As a follow-up, I'm particularly interested in where you say This says to me that general community norms are meant to be preserved as much as possible, but when an editor departs from these norms to any degree, there is far less leniency granted. I see that sentence as being at the heart of what I am asking. It sounds to me like, as far as what I called "good behavior" goes, the basic concept of what that is, is the same with or without DS, but when DS are present, it is expected that there will be "far less leniency" for deviations from proper conduct. Is that correct? --Tryptofish (talk) 20:27, 17 September 2018 (UTC)
Reading the new comments from Katie and Worm, I think it's a useful distinction that you both make: better-than-average is not required, but worse-than-average behavior is a problem. That makes sense to me, and also makes me see a way to make my original question more focused:
When Discretionary Sanctions are in effect, to what degree is worse-than-average conduct acceptable? Putting it another way, should AE admins expect aware editors in DS areas not to test the lower limits of what is regarded as acceptable conduct? Worse-than-average behavior is a problem – but does that mean that it is also sanctionable at AE, as opposed to being a problem that we just have to live with?
--Tryptofish (talk) 18:01, 18 September 2018 (UTC)
DGG, if I understand you correctly, you are saying that DS sanctions should only be applied for disruptive conduct that is worse than what leads to sanctions in the absence of DS. That does not sound to me like what the other Arbs have said, and it leaves me a bit confused. Do I misunderstand? --Tryptofish (talk) 00:47, 19 September 2018 (UTC)
Rick and Doug, I agree with both of you, and if I'm understanding you correctly, you are saying that DS come into play when aware editors in a difficult topic area engage in "below-average" incivility, and the goal is to get that up to something near "average" or mainstream community norms, but not necessarily "above-average" as in a genteel tea party. If that's the take-home message from this discussion, then that's what I've been looking for. In other words, aware editors in DS areas should be expected at AE to be staying above the mere lower limits of acceptable behavior, even though they don't have to be paragons. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:30, 20 September 2018 (UTC)
  • I've been giving thought to where Mkdw and Katie asked for pointers to where editors have expressed concern about whether AE is working well enough. I've been loath to use specific cases lest this become a relitigation of them. But I can point to a discussion at WT:AE that I started fairly recently, that is worth a look: [1]. It comes out of an AP2 case, but I suggest looking at it more broadly than that. You will see me and other editors expressing concerns that troublesome users are not getting sanctioned enough, and most interestingly AE admins talking about how difficult it is to work at AE: Acting decisively is one thing; going out on a limb and getting it cut from behind you is another. I think some reassurance that AE admins are supposed to get things up to "normal" – as opposed to just keeping them above rock-bottom – could be beneficial. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:47, 20 September 2018 (UTC)
Editors can find the definition etc. of Discretionary Sanctions at Wikipedia:Arbitration Committee/Discretionary sanctions. --Tryptofish (talk) 18:01, 21 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Pine

Do we know of any research that shows what effects the Arbcom authorization of Discretionary Sanctions has, if any, both positive and negative? Research of this nature could shed some light on whether modifications or clarifications, such as Tryptofish mentions, would be good. The scope of my question is broader than Tryptofish's question, but there is some overlap. I'm not proposing modifications or clarifications, or opposing modifications or clarifications, but I think that a review of research would be beneficial before deciding what next steps to take. --Pine 19:54, 17 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Kingofaces43

This is a good clarification question being posed. I have a bit of a followup related to the interplay of DS and ArbCom. When behavior X is a major disruptive issue in the topic, arbs can pass motions as a finding of fact saying it has caused disruption while allowing general DS in the topic or even passing principles or DS specifically saying such behavior is not appropriate instead.

Now when it comes to AE, editors can present such behavior and say ArbCom has said this isn't appropriate. Admins are free to say what degree of sanctions are needed or not, etc. However, when admins say they expect that level of behavior in DS topics or even say they don't think that behavior is a problem, isn't that contradicting ArbCom to a degree? Admins obviously have discretion with discretionary sanctions, but can that discretion contradict ArbCom findings that specific behavior is problem when it comes to these behavior issues Tryptofish is talking about? Kingofaces43 (talk) 00:55, 18 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Minor4th

This might be a dumb question (sorry) but can someone point me to a clear definition of exactly what "discretionary sanctions" is or are? This is a very good clarification, Tryptofish. Thank you. Minor4th 00:32, 21 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Atsme

I still haven't figured out how/why ArbCom doesn't handle arbitration enforcement - I wonder if doing so would result in better remedies during arbitration. 😉 Gotta wonder why we have this venue for clarification. We elect administrators to use the mop to keep the peace and do necessary janitorial chores around the project, which means that with our admin shortage, they're already overworked and pressed for time. We elect ArbCom to resolve the complex issues that could not be remedied by the community or individual admins, so why is arb enforcement left to the discretion of a single admin? The words of Opabinia regalis still reverberate regarding an issue brought to this noticeboard because it was too complex for AE: ..."too complex for AE" means "too complex for self-selected volunteers who aren't actually obliged to do fuck all", whereas "too complex for ARCA" means "too complex for the people who specifically volunteered for and were elected to deal with complex problems and are as obliged to do things as anybody can be in an internet hobby". We can thank our lucky stars that we have a good share of excellent admins and arbitrators and that complex matters don't have to be judged by a single admin who serves as both our judge & jury. I think arb remedies/DS should always be handled by a minimum of three admins, and the three should rotate every quarter. My apologies for being so critical, but the entire process just doesn't seem to be very efficient, and we're losing good editors as a result. Atsme✍🏻📧 02:27, 21 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by {other-editor}

Other editors are free to make relevant comments on this request as necessary. Comments here should opine whether and how the Committee should clarify or amend the decision or provide additional information.

Discretionary sanctions: Clerk notes

This area is used for notes by the clerks (including clerk recusals).

Discretionary sanctions: Arbitrator views and discussion

  • I see discretionary sanctions as providing more tools to administrators, but I don't think the Committee intended to comment on how those tools should be deployed simply by making them available. It's ultimately up to enforcing administrators to decide how to use the tools we've given them to enforce policy. It's worth noting that any administrator can sanction an editor under discretionary sanctions, and it can only be overturned by consensus. If you think something has gone unenforced routinely at AE despite being a violation of policy, as long as that view isn't too outlandish, you're welcome to patrol the area yourself and enforce our community norms of behavior. ~ Rob13Talk 03:46, 17 September 2018 (UTC)
    Except that Tryptofish doesn't actually hold the admin bit. Something he could always email me about ;) WormTT(talk) 10:13, 17 September 2018 (UTC)
  • My interpretation is that the answer is no with an obvious caveat. In looking back at the history of discretionary sanctions, the wording on expectations and the role of administrators has changed very little:
"To this end, administrators are expected to use their experience and judgment to balance the need to assume good faith, to avoid biting genuine newcomers and to allow responsible contributors maximum editing freedom with the need to keep edit-warring, battleground conduct, and disruptive behaviour to a minimum."
This says to me that general community norms are meant to be preserved as much as possible, but when an editor depart from these norms to any degree, there is far less leniency granted. Standard discretionary sanctions rely on the judgement of administrators because they are expected to evaluate a situation and determine when an editor is engaging in battleground conduct and disruptive behaviour. Intent and impact are crucial determining factors when assessing if an editor's actions have inflamed a contentious area. I cannot say I envy the job administrators that regularly patrol these areas, but AE and community consensus are both a support resource, and a check and balance to the process. Arbitration being the last resort. The Committee then has to make further decisions as to whether appropriate civility restrictions are required, or whether broad civility probation conditions should be introduced. I would be curious to hear from others at AE and the community if they feel there should be more strict expectations on behaviour in topic areas covered by standard discretionary sanctions. Mkdw talk 20:16, 17 September 2018 (UTC)
I think there is a set tolerance for "bad" behaviour that defines community norms. Anything below those norms, or as you put it "worse than normal", the use of authorized discretionary sanctions should be considered to stabilize contentious topic areas. Mkdw talk 19:35, 18 September 2018 (UTC)
@Kingofaces43: On principle, our conduct policies are supposed to be universally applied across the entire project. There is a much stronger policy-based argument on that point than there is on the argument claiming editors working in contentious areas are entitled to an easement of these policies. We have serious problems on Wikipedia about consistency as evidently seen by the treatment of newcomers versus experienced editors. Following 'best practice' would be to not perpetuate these systemic problems further into contentious areas that would conversely more likely benefit from structure and clear expectations. Mkdw talk 20:34, 18 September 2018 (UTC)
  • I don't think topic areas with discretionary sanctions necessarily require better than average behavior, if you will; it's more that worse than average behavior has been observed in those areas on a consistent basis in the past. Like Mkdw, I'd like to hear from others about the need and desire for higher behavioral expectations in these topic areas. Katietalk 11:21, 18 September 2018 (UTC)
  • In my mind, Discretionary Sanctions are an additional set of tools in an admins belt, to make things easier for the community, They're applied in contentious and evocative areas, where the norms of community behaviour can become forgotten - and rather than have escalating complaints over and over, a single uninvolved admin can use their judgement to do things that the community would normally have to do as a whole. Now, this is a very powerful set of tools, and shouldn't used without due consideration, so I understand that it may feel that behaviours get overlooked. So, no, I don't expect a higher standard in DS areas, but as Katie points out, there has been lower standards in the area in the past and so the area may need to be brought in line with the rest of the encyclopedia. WormTT(talk) 11:48, 18 September 2018 (UTC)
  • The difference between DS and ordinary sanction sis the DSs require special procedures for their removal. To the extent that they require explicit consensus for removal, I think admins should be very cautious about using them. I suggest it would be counterproductive to apply them more freely than usual. I think this is essentially the same view my colleagues have given here DGG ( talk ) 00:42, 19 September 2018 (UTC)
  • I would be in agreement with my colleagues here. DS are put in place to bring behavior in certain contentious areas to the norm of Wikipedia. Areas that have a DS have those to ensure that standard is even across the project. RickinBaltimore (talk) 12:07, 20 September 2018 (UTC)
  • We place these in areas where, among other things, we think that uncivil behavior might be more of a problem than in other areas without sanctions. It's also my experience that in some of these areas we get new editors who come in very aggressively. We want to stop that - not of course turn them into polite tea parties, that's too much to expect, but at least to reach normal (for Wikipedia) levels of civility. These can and do help. Doug Weller talk 15:39, 20 September 2018 (UTC)
  • Mkdw and Doug put it very well, in my opinion. Areas under DS areas have been observed to suffer from worse editor conduct than usual, so DS are introduced to provide tools to empower admins to stabilize them to get them to the same level of stability that the rest of the project has. ♠PMC(talk) 19:42, 20 September 2018 (UTC)

Clarification request: Wikipedia:Casting aspersions

This discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

Initiated by Obsidi at 12:00, 20 September 2018 (UTC)

Case or decision affected
Multiple, including [2], [3], [4], [5], [6]

List of any users involved or directly affected, and confirmation that all are aware of the request:

Confirmation that all parties are aware of the request

  • [7]

Statement by Obsidi

I have a question concerning the principles ArbCom has established concerning WP:Casting aspersions. As this isn't a policy or guideline, this seemed the best place to clarify such decisions. My question is, does this only apply when a specific editor is named or implied? Obviously given the context in which the words are stated, it may be clear who they are WP:Casting aspersions on, and in such a case that cannot be allowed. But the problem I see with not allowing people to discuss such misbehavior more generically is that it stifles discussion concerning generalized problems with Wikipedia's processes in general.

For instance, if I say "there are a lot of bullies on the noticeboards." Saying a specific person is being a bully repeatedly without bringing them to a noticeboard and providing evidence of that would be WP:Casting aspersions. But at the same time, there may in fact be a lot of bullies on the noticeboards and yet it may not rise to the level of seriousness where sanctions are justified (and so bringing them before an appropriate noticeboard and accusing them of that would be futile).

Additionally I may wish to discuss such a problem so we can devise a solution to "there being a lot of bullies on the noticeboards." But how can I do this if I cannot even discuss the very problems that I wish to fix?

For these reasons, I am of the opinion that WP:Casting aspersions was properly limited to named or where it could reasonably be inferred who the person was talking about. But in the context of a recent block, another editor disagreed [8]. This isn't about that specific block (or whether the block is appropriate, or the conditions for unblock). But just a question of what the rules are. In re-reading WP:Casting aspersions, I noticed that it was somewhat ambiguous on this topic and so I could hardly blame the other editor for coming to this conclusion. So I am asking for clarification.

@Beyond My Ken: I explicitly excluded Michael Hardy and questions concerning his block or unblock from the scope of the question presented for clarification. A few reasons for this, (1) I am aware that he has in the past explicitly named the editors he is talking about, and so his past behavior wouldn't entirely qualify for this exception, and (2) I'm sure that it will be handled appropriately by the unblocking admins. This is why he is not a party, although if he wished to provide comments to arbcom, I would seek to get those comments added. -Obsidi (talk) 04:49, 21 September 2018 (UTC)
Responding to the members of ArbCom who have made comments so far. I agree. If someone were to say "based on incident X, people at the noticeboard are bullies." That would imply that the accusation of bulling behavior is by those involved in that incident. That could potentially be WP:Casting aspersions (depending on the exact context). I just wanted to clarify that either named editors or some other way to identify which editors they are talking about is required (in the example case, it would be the editors who were involved in that incident). -Obsidi (talk) 00:20, 22 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Beyond My Ken

It may be that my connecting Michael Hardy's non-specific broadly generalized charges about "corruption", "bullies", "cliques" and "dishonesty" on the Noticeboards to WP:Casting aspersions will be a step too far for some, but I continue to think that it's close enough to the spirit of CA to justify the connection. It hardly matters, though, since the Fourth Pillar specifies that "Wikipedia's editors should treat each other with respect and civility," and it can hardly be said that Hardy making such wild accusations about unspecified parties is either civil or collegial. If there is corruption, bullying, cliquishness, and dishonesty, it needs to be dealt with, but the only way that can happen is by the presentation of specific evidence about specific editors. Hardy's steadfast refusal to do so seems to me to be in direct opposition to what the Fourth Pillar stands for, besides being disruptive and not at all the kind of behavior that I, at least, expect from an admin. Beyond My Ken (talk) 02:20, 21 September 2018 (UTC)

I did not know until after I had posted the above, that in addition to making broad unsupported allegations of malfeasance, as described above, Michael Hardy also cast a few aspersions at specific people, including myself. [9]. Of course here, once again, he offered no evidence, no diffs, nothing but a bald statement that the "six dishonest cowardly bullies" were bad people of whom "[n]ot one of them is civil to anyone about anything." Hardy claims "That is not name calling. It is an accusation." and indeed it is, but one without supporting evidence, and for which he was indefinitely blocked. (This thread, diff is unavailable)
While the inquiry here was made on a general basis, I do not think it can be easily separated from the circumstances of Hardy's behavior which generated it. Here we see MH clearly casting aspersions to individuals, which, I think, only gives more weight to my suggestion that making broad allegations about the misbehavior of unspecified editors should fall under the same rubric. Beyond My Ken (talk) 04:19, 21 September 2018 (UTC)
And, finally, just to point out the obvious, that calling AN/I and AN "the dramah boards" or similar run-of-the-mill complaints about the nature of the discussions there (which, to my mind, are vastly overstated) is a far cry from saying "a few clique leaders dominate certain things and sanctimoniously demand compliance with rules that they flout". That's incendiary language, and if not disallowed under CA, needs to be dealt with in some other manner. Beyond My Ken (talk) 04:26, 21 September 2018 (UTC)
Actually, one more thing, Michael Hardy is at the very center of this issue -- why is he not a party here? Beyond My Ken (talk) 04:27, 21 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Mandruss

It would be unwise to apply CA to general statements about the Wikipedia editing population or some segment thereof, or even more generally about human nature and its effects on Wikipedia editing. Those discussions are important and meaningful, even occasionally useful. And I've never seen anybody apply CA to that type of comments, including quite a few I've made myself.

I think the essential difference is whether the comments arise from the whole of one's Wikipedia experience or from a specific situation. My exposure to the MH saga was limited, but my impression is that his remarks were more of the latter type, and CA applies. As for what BMK meant in the comment linked by the OP, BMK can (and, I expect, will) speak for himself. ―Mandruss  12:29, 20 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Atsme

I agree that clarity is needed to help eliminate the inconsistencies in admin actions that may range from no action at all to indef t-bans or blocks, and everything else in between - all of which depends on who the admin and subject editor happen to be at the time. An occasional *sigh* at the end of a sentence may be misconstrued as belittling which is an aspersion whereas profanity shouted in anger may be excused. Is telling someone their comment is full of bologna an aspersion? Do insults count as aspersions - could a joke be thought of as an aspersion? Why are aspersions actionable and not outbursts of profanity? Perhaps examples should be provided as a gage to determine what is considered (1) intolerable aspersions that are blockable, (2) borderline aspersions that require a warning, and (3) not an aspersion. Having clarity and a gage to judge by may help to eliminate potential unwarranted actions or incidents where no action was taken because of uncertainty. It is clear that casting aspersions must be accompanied by diffs but more emphasis needs to be placed on the fact that the provided diffs must clearly support the claim, and it should apply to all editors & admins who participate at AE, AN, AN/I and wherever else aspersions may be an actionable behavioral issue. If the diffs are found to not support the allegations, then a boomerang is in order, and the latter really needs to be included in the clarification. I think it will help eliminate some of the cases we're seeing now that are based on casting aspersions. Atsme✍🏻📧 17:51, 20 September 2018 (UTC)

  • Worm, you said below that "there's got to be some judgement involved in where the line is drawn." Yes, that is what this discussion is about. Keep in mind that the reason an issue elevated to arbitration in the first place was that individual admins and the community were unable to resolve the issue via other means of DR. By leaving the execution of vague and confusing arb remedies to the judgment of individual admins, in lieu of our panel of elected arbitrators, is problematic for multiple reasons. It was ArbCom who decided those cases and established those remedies; however, if the execution of such remedies reverts back to judgment calls by individual admins, why do we have ArbCom, and what purpose do these so-called remedies actually serve? Nothing was remedied, and we're losing admins and editors as a result. Perhaps someone would be kind enough to provide those stats? Atsme✍🏻📧 16:39, 21 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Tryptofish

Like Atsme, I feel that there is a lot of undefined territory here. As I see it, a lot of the difficulty comes out of the community's lack of broad consensus as to what constitutes incivility (and of course there is a limit to how far ArbCom should get ahead of the community). It looks to me like the community has low tolerance for new or unregistered editors saying incivil stuff, but is willing to make way too many (in my opinion) excuses when an established and net-positive user says something incivil. I feel like I'm seeing much more anger in discussions than I would like to see. As for aspersions specifically, I would suggest that ArbCom look at it in terms of where a particular conduct does or does not disrupt editing.

As I see it, saying that other editors are taking a position because they hold a particular belief should not be considered an aspersion. If I say "I think you feel strongly about X, and that's why you want to edit the page that way", although it's true that I am commenting on another editor's motivations, that's not something that we should disallow. It can be a necessary part of some discussions.

But if I say "I think you are incompetent, and that's why you made that edit", that is an aspersion and a personal attack. The difference is I'm not talking about the other editor's point of view, but about their personal characteristics.

And saying without clear evidence "I think you are editing that way because you are acting on behalf of X" is also an aspersion, and one with a history. The last case linked by the OP here was the GMO case: [10]. And this is a history that needs to be understood. Prior to the case, it had become common for editors to say things like "Editors are trying to sanitize this page because Wikipedia is full of shills acting on behalf of Monsanto". It became such a problem that it led to significant findings in that case. After the case, editors who were not already topic banned realized that they had better not say "shill" anymore, so they started dancing around it by saying things like "Editors are acting together to keep all criticism of Monsanto off this page". And here is the reason why that is still an aspersion, in a way that "Editors want to have more negative content about GMOs" is not. It goes beyond asserting that other editors have a particular POV, to where there is the implication, without evidence, of conduct that violates policy. We have policies against undeclared paid editing, and the aspersion is that some editors are violating those policies, above and beyond just having a POV. And it doesn't matter if the aspersion is framed in general instead of identifying a particular editor by name. It's still something that should be considered an aspersion, and it is something that can be highly disruptive. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:14, 20 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Minor4th

It does seem as though aspersions are in the eye of the beholder. As such, there is wild inconsistency in enforcement, which leads to the problem of editors not really having proper notice of where there boundaries are. I think that most policies and guidelines on Wiki are interpreted and applied this way, however.Minor4th 00:42, 21 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Alanscottwalker

@Newyorkbrad: In your example, it seems you only dealt with part of the analysis (perhaps because that is the direct issue). I'm sure you are aware, but 'no aspersions' is only part of the fuzzy 'code of conduct', if you will, see eg, WP:AGF. So, leaping to 'paid' should be avoided, especially when nothing even suggests paid is involved, and we are dealing with multiple people from multiple places/life experiences, who are bound to say things differently. Seems a better way if you want to explore it, would be to ask honest good faith questions (eg. non-accusatory), before assuming anything. Especially so, since 'you said others were paid', could itself fall into 'aspersion' territory. -- Alanscottwalker (talk) 17:40, 21 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by {other-editor}

Other editors are free to make relevant comments on this request as necessary. Comments here should opine whether and how the Committee should clarify or amend the decision or provide additional information.

Wikipedia:Casting aspersions: Clerk notes

This area is used for notes by the clerks (including clerk recusals).

Wikipedia:Casting aspersions: Arbitrator views and discussion

  • I view the "casting aspersions" principle as a subset of "no personal attacks." It is a personal attack to accuse another editor of misbehavior, although we permit it as part of dispute resolution where (1) making the accusation will benefit the encyclopedia and the community because doing so is needed to solve a problem, and (2) there's reasonable evidence to support the accusation. If someone says "Editor X has done a bad thing" that is clearly directed at Editor X. If someone says "the editors in this discussion have done a bad thing" and only Editors X, Y, and Z participated in the discussion, then that is clearly directed at Editors X, Y, and Z. On the other hand, if someone says "everyone who contributes to ABC noticeboard has done a bad thing," that would seem to be more of a criticism of a wiki-process or an aspect of wiki-culture, rather than of specific editors. So there is a distinction to be drawn there, although it's not always clear where the line falls. (For those who appreciate off-line parallels in these discussions, this exact problem arises frequently in the context of defamation law, in which a statement must be "of and concerning the plaintiff" in order to be actionable.) If I may go a bit beyond the specific question, I would add that moderate language and the avoidance of excessive rhetoric will help make such criticism more palatable and useful. To choose an example not entirely at random, if one says that the Administrators' Noticeboard and its participants are "corrupt," that could mean anything from "many editors are taking bribes" (interpreting "corrupt" as in "a corrupt politician") to "this noticeboard often doesn't work properly" (interpreting "corrupt" as in "a corrupted file"). Since one of these two statements is a calumny and the other is a truism, such ambiguities should be avoided. Newyorkbrad (talk) 14:38, 20 September 2018 (UTC)
Although I’ve offered a couple of general comments that I think are common sense, let’s not go further in discussing a specific editor unless a matter relating to that editor is brought here. Newyorkbrad (talk) 06:12, 21 September 2018 (UTC)
  • I think NYB is pretty much on the money, casting aspersions is a subset of no personal attacks. If it clear who the attack is aimed at, then it becomes a personal attack. So, if you say "it's clear this place is ruled by thugs" it's general. If you change that to "based on this incident, it's clear that this place is ruled by thugs", it becomes linked to those in the incident, and depending what happened in the incident it can be construed as a personal attack on those involved. I don't think there's anything to prescribe here, there's got to be some judgement involved in where the line is drawn. WormTT(talk) 10:18, 21 September 2018 (UTC)
  • I agree with NYB and when it comes to things that are almost entirely dependent on the context of case-by-case situation, in the future, a clarification should be based on a specific incident, or framed around the circumstances of an incident in question. Mkdw talk 16:58, 21 September 2018 (UTC)
  • I agree with those above that "casting aspersions" relates to WP:NPA. Clarification of existing policy is a matter for the community, not the Committee, so I won't comment on that further with the arb hat on. ~ Rob13Talk 05:47, 22 September 2018 (UTC)
  • I'm with my colleagues. This is about our NPA policy and we would only get directly involved if a particular incident were brought to us. Doug Weller talk 12:20, 22 September 2018 (UTC)
  • NYB said it better than I could. This is definitely related to our policy on personal attacks, and that is something that should be examined as a whole by the community, not just ArbCom. RickinBaltimore (talk) 13:06, 22 September 2018 (UTC)

Amendment request: Michael Hardy

Initiated by Beeblebrox at 20:48, 25 September 2018 (UTC)

Case or decision affected
Michael Hardy arbitration case (t) (ev / t) (w / t) (pd / t)
Clauses to which an amendment is requested
  1. Michael Hardy reminded


List of any users involved or directly affected, and confirmation that all are aware of the request
Confirmation that all parties are aware of the request
  • diff of notification Michael Hardy
  • diff of notification SarekOfVulcan
  • diff of notification JzG
  • diff of notification Ritchie333
Information about amendment request
  • Michael Hardy reminded
  • The committee should consider whether this warning had the desired effect and whether Michael Hardy should continue to be an administrator on this project.


Statement by Beeblebrox

The 2016 committee decided a “reminder” was a sufficient remedy in this case. That reminder has clearly failed to have the desired effect as disruption in this area has continued and taken much time and resources from the community. The remedy reminds Michael Hardy that “Administrators are expected to set an example with their behavior, including refraining from incivility and responding patiently to good-faith concerns about their conduct, even when those concerns are expressed suboptimally.” and the finding of fact upon wich this remedy was based, [11] reads, in part, that “(Michael Hardy) has perpetuated the dispute with his own actions. Hardy has assumed bad faith of the editors criticizing his behavior and failed to drop the stick.” If he was failing to drop the stick two years ago, and is still causing disruption in this exact same area even after a full arbitration case by now it must at least be failure to drop a limb or a tree trunk. Here is the recent AN thread [12] a village pump thread [13] and a recent thread at Jimbotalk [14]. Hardy’s talk page and block log also contain relevant material showing that this is part of the same issue as the previous full case.

I would suggest that this sort of behavior is unbecoming of an administrator, and for failing to heed this warning, Michael Hardy be removed as an administrator. I would stress that I am not alleging tool misuse but rather a clear, prolonged unwillingness or inability to abide by expected standards of admin behavior, as outlined in the committee’s previous decision. I believe the community has failed itself by not bringing this forward sooner, allowing the committee to sit on it’s hands and do nothing while all this disruption has gone on in project space.

(To be clear, I am automatically listed as a party due to filing this request but I have had no involvement whatsoever in the current dispute and cycle of blocking and unblocking. I am including those admins as parties here as I’m sure they will each have their own opinions to proffer)

To those who seem to think I wish to re-litigate the recent AN thread and the assosciated blocks: I do not. Whether he shoud have been blocked for his behavior was addressed by the community, and it seems, finally, to have made up its mind. What I am looking to do is assess whether Hardy should still be an admin, which is the exclusive purview of the committee and it has already ruled once on his behavior in this specific topic area and how it reflects on his continued membership in the admin corps. I might have done this sooner but I was camping for the last week and when I came back and saw the drama had continued but it still hadn’t been brought here as it should’ve been. Arbcom doesn’t go looking for cases and requests even if it is well aware of the issues, somebody has to bring it to them, and nobody else seemed like they were going to do it.

I may be pressing the word limit now, but in answers to “why now” I would again suggest that this is what should’ve been done to begin with, as there was already a full case on this exact issue. I was unavailable at the time the AN thread was closed and the unblocking occured and looking at the closde thread I was surprised to find that seemingly it hadn’t occured to anyone that this was already Arbcom’s problem since they issued a ruling on this editor’s behavior in this specific topic area previously, and also the issue of conduct unbecoming an admin is not an issue the community is equipped to deal with, only the committee is. His fitness as an editor is not the topic here, only how his behavior reflects on his staus as an admin, which he was explicitly warned about by this committee.

Statement by Michael Hardy

Statement by SarekOfVulcan

Statement by JzG

Is this a "live case or controversy"? I thought it had finally died down? Guy (Help!) 21:35, 25 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Ritchie333

My thoughts are as follows:

  • Michael is a prolific and long-standing writer in the field of Mathematics and contributes hugely to the encyclopedia. A block on Michael prevents this work happening.
  • Michael has had difficulty expressing his viewpoint in conflicts in a manner that other people understand easily. This has led to multiple noticeboard threads.
  • Michael generally does not use the administrator tools.
  • A substantial amount of conflict has arisen, not least the original arbitration case, because of Michael's perceived "status" as an admin, and demonstrating hostility and incivility towards editors that would not be tolerated in any candidate running for RfA today. Therefore the community considers Michael's adminship to be unfair.
  • I believe the original blocks on Michael were within the bounds of administrator discretion. While blocking for civility should be a last resort, in this case I believe it could be considered appropriate to force an editing holiday on Michael in order that everybody else can stop talking about it and get back to working, and give us a net reduction in disruption.
  • I unblocked Michael because I saw consensus to do so from multiple administrators and wanted disruption to decrease and for people to stop watching his talk page for evidence of it.
  • A significant amount of disruption and drama would go away if people just left Michael alone.

I don't have any strong opinions on what to happen next, but this is simply the current state of affairs as I see it. Ritchie333 (talk) (cont) 21:21, 25 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Swarm

Michael Hardy was indefinitely blocked for, essentially, repeatedly complaining about a group of editors who responded to a complaint he made here, and refusing to drop the stick about it. For reasons I explained in my assessment here and here, the treatment MH received was very unfair and problematic, so much so that I apologized to him on behalf of AN. Myself and a group of other admins eventually negotiated an unblock in which Michael agreed to not bring it up anymore. We let him have the last word, and he appears to have moved on since then, with no further issues. I have no idea why someone would try to rehash this all now, days after the situation had been reasonably resolved. There was no significant offense here, just some very human righteous indignation.

  • Just want to re-emphasize a point that Ritchie made above, which is absolutely true: A significant amount of disruption and drama would go away if people just left Michael alone. (Swarmtalk) 23:07, 25 September 2018 (UTC)
  • As for whether any of this is desysop-level misconduct in general, I think such sentiments are foolish. MH brought something to AN that nobody but he cared about. That was the big offense. For some reason, a bunch of people were unduly rude and dismissive about it, and while he should have just moved on and let it go like he was told to, we need to recognize the fact that he wasn't in the wrong for feeling mistreated or bullied. That's not a behavioral issue on his part. That was a situation that was provoked in the original AN thread. (Swarmtalk) 23:31, 25 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by SchroCat

Beeblebrox, I’m only passing through, having seen the link elsewhere, so I can’t comment on the situation here, but I think I’m right in saying that little will happen without diffs to show the behaviour you outline. Cheers - SchroCat (talk) 21:14, 25 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Floq

This seems like picking at a fresh scab, Beeb. I'd have waited to see what happens now that the recent troubles appear to have died down. --Floquenbeam (talk) 21:18, 25 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Paul August

No. Michael Hardy validly complained about AN/ANI, refused to stop complaining about AN/ANI, and was blocked by AN/ANI. Perhaps instead AN/ANI ought to be "reminded". Paul August 22:04, 25 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Dave

I absolutely agree Micheal should be desysopped for their behaviour but the drama's died down and they've finally dropped the stick so in my eyes the best course of action would be to leave them be and if they start again then Arb is (or should be) the first port of call. I just don't see the point in rehashing it all out again. –Davey2010Talk 22:13, 25 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Alanscottwalker

This is a model of poor AN behavior, and it is so because of the ad hominem of which Michael Hardy was the victim, in the form of 'Because it is you, Michael Hardy . . .'. So, it is AN that is in need of reminding that WP:CIV explicitly seeks to prevent bringing up the past in such a manner ("it is as unacceptable to attack a user who has a history of foolish or boorish behaviour, or even one who has been subject to disciplinary action by the Arbitration Committee, as it is to attack any other user"). Alanscottwalker (talk) 22:27, 25 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Black Kite

Yes, Michael should have been desysopped during the period of chaos that resulted from his persistent personal attacks on other editors (his actions were clearly not in keeping with anyone who holds advanced permissions), but this seems like a strange time to be bringing a case now, when everything has died down and Michael has promised not to repeat his actions. Obviously, if such editing were to reoccur, a desysopping would be a slam dunk, but I'd like to think that we'd give someone a chance to show they can carry on with their (obviously positive) editing without such an issue happening again. Black Kite (talk) 23:13, 25 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Alex Shih

Out of the blue, Michael Hardy blanked the AfD ([15]) that hasn't been edited since 2016 (the one that initiated the arbitration case in 2016), and re-litigated their argument from two years ago at M. A. Bruhn's talk page ([16]) who hasn't edited since December 2016, and also left a similar message to Orangemike ([17]), who started the AfD in question two years ago. The behaviours of some editors at the noticeboard was certainly hostile and troubling, but to completely ignore how the thread originated, the conduct of Michael Hardy, and the context of this entire situation is also not correct I think. In conclusion, the point that the issue would have gone away if people simply left Michael Hardy alone is not entirely correct when considering the subsequent development.

While the AfD question has been resolved, what I think the points Beeblebrox are raising is that 1) The original remedies has proven to be inadequate, and should be updated with motion 2) Similar to the Andrevan case request, the fact there weren't misuse of tools is irrelevant as that is not the only aspect of adminship covered by the requirements of accountability. The fact that a case wasn't brought forward should not be a justification that there were no merits for a case, rather the lack of editors who are capable of bringing such a case, involving many bizarre and unusual aspects, correctly. While the timing has indeed passed and nothing can really be done anymore, the fact that ADMINACCT and some arbitration remedies are so inconsistently or selectively enforced (like in this case), and avoiding to tackle the core of a problem that would more than likely to re-surface, are not some of the principles that should be upheld. While regular editors should walk away from the timesink, this is the kind of job that Arbcom needs to do. Alex Shih (talk) 01:28, 26 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Johnuniq

Since the fuss, MH has edited 38 articles and one DYK and has made no mention of the excitement that I can see. Picking at the scab is most undesirable. There has been no suggestion that admin tools have been misused so removing them would be pointless. Johnuniq (talk) 03:31, 26 September 2018 (UTC)

Statement by {other-editor}

Michael Hardy: Clerk notes

This area is used for notes by the clerks (including clerk recusals).

Michael Hardy: Arbitrator views and discussion

  • There have obviously been issues but like several of those commenting, I’m not sure why we are seeing this request at this moment. Excessive rhetoric and unnecessary drama were belatedly deescalated: why stir them again now? Newyorkbrad (talk) 23:36, 25 September 2018 (UTC)
  • I don’t get it either. Michael has resumed normal activities for him and relative peace, AFAICT, once again reigns throughout his corner of the encyclopedia. He hasn’t edited in a couple of days. Why the need to bring a case action at this particular moment? Katietalk 00:12, 26 September 2018 (UTC)
  • I'm inclined to decline at this time. As Brad and Katie have pointed out, the storm has subsided and the drama has ended for the time being. If it starts again, sure, but since it hasn't since the unblock, what's the point of this? ♠PMC(talk) 00:41, 26 September 2018 (UTC)
  • I'm conflicted on this request. On one hand, I don't think anything has changed in the past week regarding whether Michael's conduct was compatible with adminship (without comment on whether it was or not). I don't want to set precedent that a case must be filed immediately or else administrative misconduct goes stale. On the other hand, why kick off drama again when it's just been quelled? Either way, ARCA is not the place to handle this. We would need a full case if we are seriously considering desysopping as a potential remedy (and we would have to be to justify a case at this late hour). Decline to take action at ARCA without prejudice against a case request. ~ Rob13Talk 03:11, 26 September 2018 (UTC)

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