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Harassment is a pattern of repeated offensive behavior that appears to a reasonable observer to intentionally target a specific person or persons. Usually (but not always), the purpose is to make the target feel threatened or intimidated, and the outcome may be to make editing Wikimedia Commons unpleasant for the target, to undermine, frighten, or discourage them from editing.
Wikimedia Commons must never be misused to harass anyone, whether or not the subject of the harassment is an editor here. Edits constituting harassment will be reverted, deleted, or suppressed, as appropriate, and editors who engage in harassment are subject to blocking.
Harassment can include actions calculated to be noticed by the target and clearly suggestive of targeting them, where no direct communication takes place.
Harassment and disruption
Harassment, including threats, intimidation, repeated annoying and unwanted contact or attention, and repeated personal attacks may reduce an editor's enjoyment of Wikimedia Commons and thus cause disruption to the project. Harassment of an editor on the basis of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age or disability is not allowed.
The prohibition against harassment applies equally to all editors. It is as unacceptable to harass a user with a history of inept or disruptive behavior as it is to harass any other user. Wikimedia Commons encourages a civil community: people make mistakes, but they are encouraged to learn from them and change their ways. Harassment is contrary to this spirit and damaging to the work of building a free media repository.
Hounding on Wikimedia Commons (or "wikihounding") is the act of singling out editors by joining discussions on multiple pages or topics they may edit or multiple debates where they contribute, to repeatedly confront or inhibit their work. This is with an apparent aim to irritate, annoy or cause distress to the other editor.
Many users track other users' edits, although usually for collegial or administrative purposes. This should always be done carefully, and with good cause, to avoid raising the suspicion that an editor's contributions are being followed to cause them distress, or out of revenge for a perceived slight. Correct use of an editor's history includes (but is not limited to) fixing unambiguous errors or violations of local policy. In fact, such practices are recommended both for users who patrol recent changes and/or combat spam. The contribution logs can be used in the dispute resolution process to gather evidence to be presented at the Administrators' noticeboard. Using dispute resolution can itself constitute hounding if it involves persistently making frivolous or meritless complaints about another editor.
The important component of hounding is disruption to another user's own enjoyment of editing, or disruption to the project generally, for no constructive reason. Even if the individual edits themselves are not disruptive per se, "following another user around", if done to cause distress, or if that following is accompanied by tendentiousness, personal attacks, or other disruptive behavior, it may become a very serious matter and could result in blocks and other editing restrictions.
Threatening another person is considered harassment. This includes any real-world threats, such as threats of harm, and threats to disrupt a person's work on Wikimedia Commons. Statements of intent to properly use normal Wikimedia Commons processes, such as dispute resolution, are not threats. Legal threats are a special case of threat, with their own settled policy. Users who make legal threats will typically be blocked from editing indefinitely.
Perceived legal threats
Wikimedia Commons has a policy of blocking users who post legal threats on Wikimedia Commons against other editors. It is important not to post comments that others may reasonably be interpreted as a legal threat. For that reason, avoid using words such as libelous or defamatory when communicating with editors. In handling apparent legal threats, users should seek to clarify the poster's intention, explain the policy, and ask them to remove the threat. Editors who are involved in a legal dispute with each other is not a reason to block, so long as no legal threats are posted on Wikimedia Commons.
Posting of personal information
Posting another editor's personal information is harassment, unless that person has voluntarily posted their own information, or links to such information, on Wikimedia Commons. Personal information includes legal name, date of birth, identification numbers, home or workplace address, job title and work organisation, telephone number, email address, other contact information, or photograph, whether such information is accurate or not. Posting such information about another editor is an unjustifiable and uninvited invasion of privacy and may place that editor at risk of harm outside their activities on Wikimedia Commons. Unless unintentional and non-malicious (for example, where editors know each other off-site and may inadvertently post personal information, such as using the other person's real name in discussions), attempted outing is sufficient grounds for an immediate block. This applies to the personal information of both editors and non-editors.
Any edit that "outs" someone must be reverted promptly, followed by a request for oversight to delete that edit from Wikimedia Commons permanently. Any administrator may redact it pending oversight, even when the administrator is involved. If an editor has previously posted their own personal information but later redacted it, it should not be repeated on Wikimedia Commons, although references to still-existing, self-disclosed information are not considered outing. If the previously posted information has been removed by oversight, then repeating it on Wikimedia Commons is considered outing.
If you see an editor post personal information about another person, do not confirm or deny the accuracy of the information. Doing so would give the person posting the information, and anyone else who saw the page, feedback on the accuracy of the material. For the same reason, do not treat incorrect attempts at outing any differently from correct attempts. When reporting an attempted outing take care not to comment on the accuracy of the information. Outing should usually be described as "an attempted outing" or similar, to make it clear that the information may or may not be true, and it should be made clear to the users blocked for outing that the block log and notice does not confirm the information.
The fact that an editor has posted personal information or edits under their own name, making them easily identifiable through online searches, is not an excuse to post the results of "en:opposition research". Dredging up their off-site opinions to repeatedly challenge their edits can be a form of harassment, just as doing so regarding their past edits on other Wikipedia articles may be. Threats to out an editor will be treated as a personal attack and are prohibited.
Nothing in this policy prohibits the emailing of personal information about editors to individual administrators, or to the Wikimedia Foundation, when doing so is necessary to report violations of confidentiality-sensitive policies (such as or paid editing, harassment, or violations of the child-protection policy). Only the minimum information necessary should be conveyed and the minimum number of people contacted. Editors are warned, however, that the community has rejected the idea that editors should "investigate" each other. Posting such information on Wikimedia Commons violates this policy.
Posting links to other accounts on other websites is allowable in specific situations (but see also en:Wikipedia:Linking to external harassment). There are job posting sites where employers publicly post advertisements to recruit paid Wikimedia Commons editors. Linking to such an ad in a forum is not a violation of this policy. Also, if individuals have identified themselves without redacting or having it oversighted, such information can be used for discussions of conflict of interest (COI) in appropriate forums. If redacted or oversighted personally identifying material is important to the COI discussion, then it should be emailed privately to an administrator—but not repeated on Wikimedia Commons: it will be sufficient to say that the editor in question has a COI and the information has been emailed to the appropriate administrative authority. Issues involving private personal information (of anyone) could also be referred by email to a member of the functionaries team. To combat impersonation (an editor claiming falsely to be a particular person), it is permissible to post or link to disavowals from that person, provided that the person has explicitly and in good faith given their consent, and provided that there is a high degree of confidence in the authenticity of the source.
If you have accidentally posted anything that might lead to your being outed (including but not limited to inadvertently editing while logged out, which reveals your IP address, and thus, your approximate location), it is important that you act promptly to have the edit(s) oversighted. Do not otherwise draw attention to the information. Referring to still-existing, self-disclosed posted information is not considered outing, and so the failure of an editor to have the information redacted in a timely manner may remove it from protection by this policy.
User space harassment
A common problem is harassment in userspace. Examples include placing numerous false or questionable "warnings" on a user's talk page, restoring such comments after a user has removed them, placing "suspected sockpuppet" and similar tags on the user page of active contributors, and otherwise trying to display material the user may find annoying or embarrassing in their user space.
User pages are provided so that editors can provide some general information about themselves and user talk pages are to facilitate communication. Neither is intended as a 'wall of shame' and should not be used to display supposed problems with the user unless the account has been blocked as a result of those issues. Any sort of content which truly needs to be displayed, or removed, should be immediately brought to the attention of admins rather than edit warring to enforce your views on the content of someone else's user space.
Inappropriate or unwanted public or private communication, following, or any form of stalking, when directed at another editor, violates the harassment policy. Off-wiki harassment, including through the use of external links, will be regarded as an aggravating factor by administrators and is admissible evidence in the dispute-resolution process. In some cases, evidence should be submitted by private email. As is the case with on-wiki harassment, off-wiki harassment can be grounds for blocking, and in extreme cases, banning.
Editors who welcome private communication typically post their preferred contact information on Wikimedia Commons, sometimes enabling email through the Wikimedia Commons interface. Contacting an editor using any other contact information, without first obtaining explicit permission, should be assumed to be uninvited and, depending on the context, may be harassment. Never contact another editor in this way as part of a dispute, or when the editor has asked not to be contacted that way. Unexpected contact using personal information as described above in Posting of personal information may be perceived as a threat to the safety and well-being of the person being contacted. Users who experience inappropriate off-wiki contact should report occurrences privately to any administrator.
Harassing those outside of the editing community
In alignment with the protection of editors from harassment described throughout the rest of this policy, edits that harass any living or recently deceased people, even if they are not members of the Wikimedia Commons community, are also prohibited. Per the oversight policy, such content will be deleted or suppressed and editors who post such material may be indefinitely blocked.
Content that complies with the photographs of identifiable people guidelines does not violate this policy; neither do discussions about sources and authors of sources, unless comments about persons are gratuitous to determining source quality.
Dealing with harassment
If you feel you are being harassed, first and foremost, act calmly (even if difficult). It is hard to over-emphasize this.
If the harassment includes threats of harm to you or others, follow the procedures on dealing with threats of harm.
In serious cases or where privacy and off-wiki aspects are an issue (e.g., where private personal information is a part of the issue, or on-wiki issues spread to email and 'real world' harassment, or similar), you can contact any administrator. To have personal information removed from page histories contact the oversight team.
For simpler, on-wiki matters, such as a user with whom you have arguments, see dispute resolution as the usual first step. It makes it easier to identify the problem you are having if there are some specific diffs. For more serious cases where you are willing to address it on-wiki, you may request administrative assistance. (Do not open a discussion about outing on behalf of a third party without the victim's permission, unless the relevant page revisions have already been oversighted. It is important not to make violations of privacy more severe.)
Note: If other editors have concerns over your editing, then you will quite likely gain attention from administrators and other concerned users as a result. Any civil and appropriate comments addressed by them to you would not be considered harassment.
Accusing others of harassment
Making accusations of harassment can be inflammatory and hence these accusations may not be helpful in a dispute. It can be seen as a personal attack if harassment is alleged without clear evidence that the others' action is actually harassment, and unfounded accusations may constitute harassment themselves if done repeatedly. The result is often accusations of harassment on your part, which tends to create a nasty cycle. At the same time, claims of harassment should be taken seriously and not be summarily dismissed unless it becomes clear the accusations are not well-founded.
Assistance for administrators being harassed
The actions of administrators' can bring them into direct conflict with some users and at times they too are harassed. This typically happens when an administrator decides to intervene in a dispute with a view to warning or blocking disruptive parties or preventing their continual troublesome behaviour.
Like any other users, administrators are volunteer editors and they are not obligated any more than any other user to take any specific action beyond expected good conduct and responsiveness, and they are not required or expected to place themselves in an uncomfortable situation, to undertake actions which will diminish their enjoyment of working on Wikimedia Commons or place themselves at risk in any way. Administrators who feel that they may have such a situation are advised to seek advice, discuss privately with other administrators, or pass the matter to another administrator willing to make difficult blocks.
Reactions to harassment
Some people may find it hard to remain calm and to react constructively in the face of real or perceived harassment. It is important that any allegations of misconduct about someone who is being harassed be considered in this context. Suffering real or perceived harassment does not justify an editor's misconduct, but a more cautious approach to sanctions in such situations is preferred.
Consequences of harassment
Although editors are encouraged to ignore or respond politely to isolated incidents, that should not imply that they are acceptable or without consequences. A pattern of hostility reduces the likelihood of the community assuming good faith, and can be considered as disruptive editing. Users who insist on a confrontational style marked by harassment and/or personal attacks are likely to become involved in the dispute resolution process, and may face serious consequences such as blocks, or being subjected to a community ban. Harassment negatively affects editor retention.
Blocking for harassment
- In extreme cases, such as legal threats, threats of violence, or outing, protective blocks may be employed without prior warnings.
- Incidents of wikihounding generally receive a warning. If wikihounding persists after a warning, escalating blocks are often used, beginning with 24 hours.
What harassment is not
This policy is aimed to protect victims of genuine harassment which is meant to cause distress to the user, such as repeated and unwanted correspondence or postings. Like the word stalk, harass carries real-life connotations – from simple unseemly behaviour to criminal conduct – and must be used judiciously and with respect to these connotations.
However, there is an endemic problem on Wikimedia Commons of giving "harassment" a much broader and inaccurate meaning which encompasses, in some cases, merely editing the same page as another user. Therefore, it must be emphasized that one editor warning another for disruption or incivility is not harassment if the claims are presented civilly, made in good faith, and in an attempt to resolve a dispute instead of escalating one.
Neither is tracking a user's contributions for policy violations (see above); the contribution logs exist for editorial and behavioral oversight. Editors do not own their edits, or any other article content, and any other editor has a right to track their editing patterns, and, if necessary, to revert their edits. Unwarranted resistance to such efforts may be a sign of ownership behaviour and lead to sanctions.
Unfounded accusations of harassment may be considered a serious personal attack and will be dealt with accordingly.