CheckUser granted to five ArbCom members

This week, five Wikipedians were granted Check User rights. The five were selected from the Arbitration Committee and were chosen after discussions within the ArbCom. Chosen were Raul654, Fred Bauder, Kelly Martin, The Epopt, and Jayjg. The chosen Arbitrators were granted the access after the Wikimedia Board approved a change in policy earlier this year, allowing each language's arbitration committee to grant the privilege (locally) to users of a particular language. Thus, the english Arbitration Committee can now grant administrators checkuser permissions to the English-wikipedia logs.

For its initial request, the Arbitration Committee limited its selection to current arbitrators with the necessary technical expertise. Prior to the request, David Gerard was one of only two widely-available Wikipedians on the English Wikipedia with CheckUser rights, with the other being developer Tim Starling. David Gerard had previously stated that tending to checkuser requests has become so time-consuming for him that "en: could easily do with another five checkers."

The move came with much controversy, as several users objected to the granting of the rights. After steward Danny posted on the meta requests for permission page seeking input, several users expressed their concerns. "Two... have only temporary positions (as they were appointed by Jimbo Wales), out of process with how the other arbitrators were chosen," said Talrias. In actuality, four of the five users were appointed by Jimbo Wales; however, Kelly Martin drew the most controversy because she was only appointed last month. Even after Martin agreed to withdraw if it would "accelerate the process of getting someone to help David Gerard deal with the huge tide of work to be done on en", more users expressed their opinions, with some seeing the move as a threat to privacy. Afterwards, steward Datrio decided to move the discussion back to the English Wikipedia: "Please link to the local announcement of the Arbitration Committee on en.Wikipedia... [that they] should be granted this status. Please move all the relevant discussion to the local village pump."

However, Datrio's statement also drew criticism because policy dictates that the local ArbCom can choose several members to be granted CheckUser access. Policy states, "On a wiki with a (Wikimedia-approved) arbitration committee only editors approved by arbitrators may have CheckUser status. They should be at least two so that they can mutually control their activity. After agreement, simply list the candidate on Requests for permissions." Thus, the five users were ultimately granted CheckUser privileges.

Discussion continues on the mailing list, with some Wikipedians dissenting and others supporting the decision. Some asked whether activity on CheckUser would be logged and visible to the public, so as to make the monitoring transparent, but this was rejected due to the same privacy concerns that require limiting access to a small group. Instead, those who have CheckUser access will be able to consult with and monitor each other's use of the tool.

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Important thing to note: we went through considerable bureaucratic processes to get as far as nominating those five. Then the stewards decided they wanted to restart the entire bureaucratic discussion from top to bottom yet again. Thankfully, Datrio short-circuited this.

Many people are calling on CheckUser to be voted for. This is a good example of why m:voting is evil (and avoidably stupid). It gives someone the ability to look at the IP address a user is editing from, which is confidential information under the Wikimedia privacy policy. It's a system administrator (or "developer" in Wikimedia jargon) level function. You don't vote access to the confidential database any more than you'd vote root or lead MediaWiki developer.

I've used CheckUser for the last several months and have a good idea of its powers and limitations. Tim Starling is setting up a closed mailing list for those with CheckUser so we can bounce ideas off each other and teach new users of it how to get the most out of it.

Those interested in what it does can read m:Help:CheckUser, which is the manual page (in development). - David Gerard 09:48, 14 November 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I am already seeing problems with the use of CheckUser. Where before, you were extremely reluctant to use it for anything other than official ArbComm business, now it seems to be used on any IP that you guys have suspicions on. I can see sooner or later there are going to a number of problems pop up with using the CheckUser capabilities. 1) One of the people with CheckUser capability will issue a false positive report for sockpuppets because they haven't done the proper checks for proxies and open relays. Technical skills are going to become more important as the Wikipedia starts getting more hard-core link spammers who are very adept at hiding their origins. 2) Someone, sooner or later, will accidentally let loose some juicy detail that they have discovered while doing checks (e.g. it looks like User:XYZ works for Microsoft). 3) Doing CheckUser checks will become so routine that you will be using for reasons beyond ArbComm purposes and sockpuppet checks.
The big problem that I see is that checks and balances just don't seem to be there. You are basically asking us to trust you with a blank check. BlankVerse 17:39, 15 November 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That's increasingly the direction Wikipedia is going. Users are even being banned from criticising these developments - Xed 17:43, 17 November 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]


This article doesn't define what CheckUser rights are (and are not).... — Catherine\talk 01:30, 16 November 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There's a link to m:help:CheckUser - David Gerard 15:10, 16 November 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Another important note : imho, fair journalism should use all relevant sources of information, not only partial ones. This article is unfortunately missing a good deal of important discussions to be fair and fully informative. Anthere 10:02, 22 November 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]


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