Universal Code of Conduct

As you might have heard, the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees has recognized the need for a standard set of behavioural guidelines for the movement as a whole. The Trust & Safety team is working with communities to start building those set of guidelines that will foster ethical behaviour, goodwill, and a good working atmosphere in the movement.

The project highly depends on ideas and feedback from the community. We, thus, request you to share your thoughts, ideas, and inputs about having a Universal Code of Conduct.

Here are some questions to get you started - What do you want to see emphasized in the COC, or what don’t you want to see in a Code of Conduct? How do we solve challenges around enforcement? Have you had a bad experience with a Code of Conduct elsewhere? Why was it a negative experience?


I’m not an expert in these matters, but I feel that a lot of negative experiences around Codes of Conduct comes from the enforcement side of things. For example, people complain that they didn’t receive a fair hearing, that there is no recourse, or that enforcement matters are kept confidential. I would suggest to make these issues part of the project right from the start.


Context about this Universal Code of Conduct, in case it helps: https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Universal_Code_of_Conduct

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I think advice and help is more important than guidelines and laws.

Still, I totally support @Gnom as T&S global ban procedures are far from perfect and needed to be though with more consideration for every parties involved, the victim for sure, but also the community(-ies) and the persecutor, as (s)he is still a human being. Recently, a global banned person came back to post phrases from the Human rights declaration, in the course of the thematic activity, to protest against his ban. And it was though to revoke him.

In general, I think it is really hard to set up a fair hearing and some guidelines on how to do that should be useful. More than hoping to delete people by banning an account and every puppets that appears after that.

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Yes, enforcement is key. The Ada initiative recognizes this:

In fact, a code of conduct that isn’t (or can’t be) enforced is worse than no code of conduct at all: it sends the message that the values in the code of conduct aren’t actually important or respected in your community.

Perhaps some inspiration can be drawn from the Django Code of Conduct - Enforcement Manual?

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I certainly agree with all of your inputs. Covering all basic behaviour guidelines that respect most (if not all) kinds of cultural sensitivities and enforcement are indeed the biggest challenges. We are still putting in thoughts into these. More ideas on countering such challenges are very welcome.

@Ainali Thank you for the links to Ada initiative and Django CoC manual. They’re helpful!


I learned a lot during the long process that led to the establishment of the code of conduct for Wikimedia technical spaces. It is important to clarify in the CoC itself what are the motivations to have a CoC in the first place. Most people associate a CoC with the need to deal with bad behavior. This is of course a main motivation but I would argue that a connected motivation just as important is the need to be welcoming and friendly to newcomers and to a wide diversity of participants.

Just like in most human communities, newcomers and other “minorities” (some are quite big!) are more likely to become victims of bad behavior, discrimination, marginalization… sometimes conscious and personal, sometimes unconscious and systemic. These are also the people less likely to participate in the design of a CoC or other types of guidelines, and less likely to even know that such things exist. Wikimedia is no exception.

The Wikimedia 2030 strategic direction is all about growth, diversity and support to the underserved:

we will focus our efforts on the knowledge and communities that have been left out by structures of power and privilege. We will welcome people from every background to build strong and diverse communities.

Ideally the discussion about the Universal Code of Conduct should driven by the needs and the experiences of potential and actual victims of harassment, and also by those who potentially or actually are doing something to prevent problems and handle crisis. In practice this is hard, and often the discussion is dominated by people who (like me) haven’t been direct victims of harassment. It is also symptomatic when the discussion focuses more on the rights and comfort of potential harassers than on the rights and pain of potential victims. (I’m not referring to this conversation here! I’m commenting on frequent patterns.)


Could you please link to the WMF Board’s formally documented position on this issue? It may be a statement or something from the minutes of a meeting, but without any links or context, it is not possible to give any reasonable response here.

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I saw several people have questions/worries about the enforcement of the Universal Code of Conduct. This is indeed one area where we need good community input to develop a working plan.

What we are thinking at the moment:

  • The Universal Code of Conduct should not be something separate from local rules, but be reflected in them and should in most parts be enforced through normal community governance.
  • Some communities may face problems with the enforcement of some parts of the Universal Code of Conduct for cultural, legal or other reasons. E.g. enforcing fair treatment of LGBT+ people in countries where there are strict laws against supporting homosexuality. These communities might need and in some cases even appreciate outside help.
  • Community will want help dealing with some severe cases, and just like now, the Foundation is willing to step in in those cases (e.g. child protection cases, severe cross wiki harassment).

We would love to hear your opinions on how community and WMF together could deal with those cases that a community should/could be able to handle, but does not. At Wikimania 2019 there was talk about a community group similar to the stewards, but dedicated to deal with harassment issues. Could this be a solution? Could the Foundation help communities deal with cases by offering trainings to administrators and other functionaries? What other ideas do you have?

Or should paid staff actually do more in the area of enforcement?


What I tried to say is that the Code of Conduct itself should explain in a clear fashion how it will be enforced. In other words, the Code of Conduct should contain procedural rules: May the enforcing entity take any steps without hearing the alleged violator first? If yes, under which circumstances? Does the violator have any recourse against the decision of the enforcing entity? Does the community have a right to be informed about the circumstances of an enforcement decision? etc.


Hey Risker,

It looks like Board meeting minutes need to be updated. The Board approved the Annual Plan for FY2019-20, including the Universal Code of Conduct, in June of 2019, as well as the updated plan in Stockholm in August, where the UCoC project was highlighted. Hopefully we can see the summary notes soon.

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**Hello, Risker, et al. I wanted to comment on some of the questions/points raised by you and others. :) This is, I think, my first Wikimedia Space post, and I’m hoping it’s all formatted correctly but pessimistically assuming it won’t be. :/

The consultation we’re doing on the Universal Code of Conduct project is a result of the preliminary recommendation of the Strategy Community Health Working Group. Their top recommendation in their September 2019 draft is “A joint set of rules we all agree to live by (a.k.a. Code of Conduct)”. Trust & Safety was asked to begin exploratory work on this in the full knowledge that any final Universal Code of Conduct will need to be ratified by the Board of Trustees, but with the recognition that waiting to begin this consultation until after the movement strategy is complete could result in considerable delays in such a draft being created for their review if the proposal is accepted. As such its goal is to begin exploring a baseline of appropriate behaviors in consultation with community. (See also the tuning sessions slides), generating discussion and reflection within communities around best cultural practices for the movement. The Board is aware of this goal and the conversations we plan to have around this and are looking forward to considering inputs after the Movement Strategy recommendations are finalized, if the Universal Code of Conduct is adopted with the strategy recommendations.**


Hier gab es einen wunderbaren Vorschlag für ToU für die WMF gegenüber ihren Vorgesetzten, den Communities.

Bevor die WMF weiter versucht sich irgendwelche ihr nicht mal ansatzweise zustehenden Rechte zuzuschustern, sollte sie zunächst aus ihren massiven Fehlern (VE, MV, Superprotect. FLOW, Framban…) lernen, und sich deutlich zurücknehmen. Die großen Zewürfnisse in den letzten Jahren gingen immer von aggressiven Aktionen der WMF gegen die Communities aus, bei denen sie ihre rein technische Macht illegitimerweise gegen die Communities eingesetzt hat, um diese zu beherrschen.
Die WMF ist nicht, in gar keinem Fall, Chef im Wikiversum. Die WMF ist die oberste Serviceorganisation, die von den ganzen AutorInnen des Wikiversums lebt und allein diesen zuzuarbeiten hat.