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Wikimedians of Mainland China were warned

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By 1233 and Deryck Chan

This month the Wikimedia Foundation took swift action in banning multiple editors to protect other editors on the Chinese Wikipedia,[1] The 2-step move was unprecedented. First the WMF protected editors' privacy by removing all data access which required non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in both Farsi and Chinese Wikipedias. This move affected a steward, some Volunteer Response Team (formerly OTRS) personnel, and oversighters on both language versions. Some editors criticized the foundation's action, but within two weeks of the WMF's removal of such "NDA only access", a more drastic step was taken. Seven users were globally locked, 12 users had their administrator rights removed, and another 12 were warned.[2] The scale of the bans and the unprecedented nature of the 2-step action makes it impossible to call this another Fram Case. When such action against the Wikipedians of Mainland China (WMC), an unrecognized user group, was executed, some members of the community supported the ban and even proposed more drastic measures, though at least one of them has already been denied through a community process.

After the foundation's actions, the WMC claimed the actions were a blatant attack by the foundation colluding with outside authorities. The WMC published a letter to encourage fellow Wikimedians to leave Wikipedia. They even addressed the public through a Chinese tabloid (Global Times), controlled by the communist party, against the "atrocious" act by the foundation.

Some WMC concerns will still need to be addressed. But, when the authors read the WMC's joint statement ("Open letter" posted on their website), it shows that they are still attempting to spread disinformation, still spreading false information against members of the community.

WMC protests mostly concern two aspects of the action – the "no notice" nature of their ban and the bitter fact that they were banned even though they were considered to be in good standing at the time of the ban. Thus, we address the questions: Were they warned, and were they in good standing?

The WMC knew of the possibility of quick bans during the Framgate incident. One of the now-banned users, Techyan, made a lengthy comment at the time.[3] It involved two foundation-bans against two individuals (守望者愛孟 and Galaxyharrylion), with a third person receiving a warning. Techyan omitted mentioning one more foundation action (that seemed to be directed at the WMC), an outright removal of CheckUser permissions from the Chinese Wikipedia in 2018.[4]

The two bans and the conduct warning were directed against individuals who were connected to WMC.

Techyan said that one of the users was in good standing, and received no warnings nor bans in the Chinese Wikipedia. But why? Because individuals connected to the Chinese User Group had been blocking any process to address their own issues from outsiders. In fact, previous deadlocks stemming from the removal of the CheckUser permission was done at a time when Techyan, a now-banned user, tried running for CheckUser position. However, within a month of his run, another desysop poll took place to address Techyan's own controversial acts that he had never explained until the vote. Even with voting, canvassing seems to have completely derailed any attempts of making Techyan accountable, as shown from this voter statistics table.[5]

Why are people afraid to stand up against these tactics?

User:1233, the main author of this article, tried to initiate discussions to bring administrators in check through a motion saying that Techyan had abused his administrator powers in blocking/unblocking users.[6] 1233 also tried placing a meta Request for Comment for the ongoing issues within the Chinese Wikipedia. What happened after that? WMC users started labeling 1233 as both “pro-Hong Kong independence” – making him an easy target for mainland editors – and saying that he “has malign intentions to hamper the development of the WIkimedia community in mainland China". Techyan never properly addressed the concerns in the two desysop attempts, evading all attempts to make him accountable for over 180 days.[7]

Even with a warning the foundation placed against the individual and the subsequent calls by local users to conform to civility, at least two users got banned in this round of foundation actions who had very uncivil user pages.

Walter Grassroot, who was introduced to readers of The Signpost through the 2019 protests and recent threats against Hong Kong users, had written, on their user page that people having different opinions from him were shabi (傻逼) – roughly, "backbiting idiots". Other similar terms on his page (白癡/弱智) refer to supposed mental deficiencies in an editor in good standing who did not agree with Walter Grassroot.[8]

Another user, 尤里的1994, had openly called himself a "fascist, nazi, and Nazbol Wikipedian" in The user page was nominated for deletion, but a snowball keep made the deletion attempt impossible. Have they been warned? Definitely, serious attempts were made on-wiki. Those who were merely desysopped or warned in the latest round of bans, had given them at least tacit support by disregarding these attempts to warn those who violate our rules on civility.[9]

Perhaps the foundation never warned them directly – we don't really know – but it was the banned, desysopped, and newly warned editors who disregarded local attempts to remind them of their civility violations. Their harsh rebuttals and name-calling made attempts to enforce civility rules impossible. After the foundation ban, we suspect that they have publicly doxxed and shamed a specific user through external media, calling them anti-Chinese and a supporter of Taiwan Independence who betrays China and the Chinese people as a whole (漢奸). Bitter replies against their ongoing calls for civility, are added to ultra-nationalist rhetoric, where outsiders call their efforts "Chi-nazi-fication".[10]

Attempts had been made both on-wiki and off-wiki to correct the problems of some mainland editors.[11] Other parties hope to take note of concerns from Hong Kong and Taiwanese communities. Did that work? No. It did not.[12] These malign actors had effectively paralyzed any attempts to resolve civility problems and place the whole community into gridlock.

After the office actions there was an overwhelming majority of users on voting to remove any links to websites controlled by the WMC user group. This is proof that the WMC user group hijacked the community at large, and demonstrates the idea of "community capture", used in the foundation's open letter explaining the office actions.

So, the question is: were they really in good standing according to Wikipedia standards? The answer is no. Were they warned, or at least, reminded of their actions? The answer is yes.

This explains why the foundation calls this a "community capture". It is not the community being controlled by someone or captured by a party purely based on political means, but it is the outright disregard of civility by a small group of users that placed the Chinese Wikipedia in a deadlock, which rendered local attempts to resolve disputes impossible.

Are they really that innocent? Even after the WMF bans, WMC public statements sought not to address the harassment that led to WMF action, but rather had the audacity to critique that the WMF "never considered whether the appellants had conflicts of interest and whether they held radical pro-Hong Kong independence, pro-Taiwan independence, or anti-communist views",[13] and that WMF "acted like a propaganda organ of Washington".[13] It is clear those in charge of WMC are not here to build a global knowledge movement but to impose the Chinese Communist Party's ideology of information warfare onto Wikimedia. This runs counter to WMF's Terms of Use, the Friendly Space Policy, the Universal Code of Conduct, and just about every policy that the Wikimedia movement has to regulate participant's behaviour and the WMF is absolutely right to ban any editor propagating such intolerance.

For too long, Wikimedians have turned a blind eye to the misdeeds of ultra-nationalist editors in the hope for widened participation from behind the Great Firewall of China. This has unfortunately been turned into complicity with authoritarian abuse. Wikimedia Foundation's recent actions are a step in the right direction: a red line must be drawn, open knowledge must be a two-way conversation, and we will need continued vigilance from the global Wikimedia community to ensure all editors can participate safely regardless of creed, ethnicity, or nationality.


  1. ^ Office Actions September 2021
  2. ^
  3. ^ Wikipedia:Community response to the Wikimedia Foundation's ban of Fram/Archive 2#Two similar bans & one "conduct warning" on Chinese Wikipedia
  4. ^ Notification of Wikimedia Foundation actions regarding local CheckUser
  5. ^ w:zh:User:AT/Techyan罷免案統計 (table); OA2021 WMC response
  6. ^ First serious attempt to remove Techyan’s Administrator Tag
  7. ^ w:zh:Wikipedia:管理員解任投票/Techyan/第3次
  8. ^ The last version of WG's user page before the ban: w:zh:Special:Permalink/63696705
  9. ^ Last version of 1994's user page before the ban: w:zh:Special:Permalink/67304211
  10. ^ The content of this doxxing is in the Weibo Public Accounts. It consists of content that would violate the Terms of Use if placed on Wikipedia with regards to doxxing.
  11. ^ m:Requests_for_comment/Ongoing_issues_at_Chinese_Wikipedia
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b w:zh:Wikipedia:2021年基金會針對中文維基百科的行動/中國大陸維基人用戶組聲明#丢掉幻想,准备斗争——一评基金会全域锁定中文维基人及玛吉·丹尼斯的“声明” (The WMC struggle). The English version of this article is cached in an online website run by one user who is banned by the WMF.
    [a] 基金會絲毫不考慮在背後舉報和遞交所謂證據的人跟WMC是否存在利益衝突,他們的政治思想是否極端「港獨」「台獨」「反共」,以至於存在需要打壓在政策上政治中立,但編者隊伍實際偏向支持北京的WMC的動機。
    [a] 基金会丝毫不考虑在背后举报和递交所谓证据的人跟WMC是否存在利益冲突,他们的政治思想是否极端「港独」「台独」「反共」,以至于存在需要打压在政策上政治中立,但编者队伍实际偏向支持北京的WMC的动机。

    [b] 在我們看來,「維基媒體基金會」在這件事上,倒更像是聽從華盛頓當局的政治喉舌。我們不得不懷疑:未來涉及美國、歐洲、港台及世界其他地方的一些華盛頓當局不喜歡的條目、內容及觀點會不會漸漸消失,不附會其利益,而被「維基媒體基金會」和美國政府視為眼中釘肉中刺的編者會不會逐漸被排擠打壓——那不如還是改名叫「美國國務院百科」甚至「美國大百科全書」、「反華百科全書」比較好。
    [b] 在我们看来,「维基媒体基金会」在这件事上,倒更像是听从华盛顿当局的政治喉舌。我们不得不怀疑:未来涉及美国、欧洲、港台及世界其他地方的一些华盛顿当局不喜欢的条目、内容及观点会不会渐渐消失,不附会其利益,而被「维基媒体基金会」和美国政府视为眼中钉肉中刺的编者会不会逐渐被排挤打压——那不如还是改名叫「美国国务院百科」甚至「美国大百科全书」、「反华百科全书」比较好。
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