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Wikipedia Sucks! - View topic - Gender bias in blocking too?
View unanswered posts | View active topics It is currently Mon Nov 18, 2019 6:42 pm




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Gender bias in blocking too? 
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A tale of two users

I was intrigued to learn through my network of spies about the treatment by Wikipedia of two of its editors, a Ms. Elisa Rolle and one Mr. Cassianto. These may or may not be their real names, and for the purposes of this piece, it matters not. But unless they are not quite right in the head, and being willing long term editors of Wikipedia that is never off the table, we can assume that the genders they identify themselves with on Wikipedia, are their true genders.

It is informative to compare her block log to his......

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?ti ... lisa.rolle

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?ti ... ACassianto

Why should we do such a thing, I hear you ask. Well, by all accounts, including said logs, both are horrendously disruptive users in the eyes of the WikiLaw. But they are the sort of disruptor who Wikipedia traditionally struggles to handle. The sort of editors who are passionate believers in the encyclopedia project and who do good works for it, their passion and commitment being the ultimate cause of their issues with the Sheriffs, as it spills over into hostility and ownership.

Now consider this. Elise is indefinitely blocked (see below for what indefinite means in this context). Cassianto is no longer an editor either, but that is entirely his choice, having taken voluntary retirement. Both are clearly absolutely crushed their years long Wikipedia experiences soured, and yet only one is being actively prevented from returning. Cassianto is free to return at any time, assuming he isn't currently editing with an attempted fresh start account. This is ironically one freedom he isn't allowed, due to the existence of an active remedy against him, a sanction placed as a lesser act than an indefinite block.

If we are to believe the idea Wikipedia justice is gender blind, well, there should be no difference between the two tales of woe that are their block logs, should there? But there is......

Differential treatment

Examining the logs shows a remarkable difference in how each user has been treated by the Wikipedia Administration, the name for the hundred for so volunteer editors who do the rules enforcement and behavioural correction side of things in the pit of despair that is the Wikipedia coal face.

For a start, Eliza has been blocked just five times before seemingly reaching the end of the road. Every single time, from start to finish, was an indefinite block. Cassianto by contrast, has been blocked a whole bunch more times, but never indefinitely. It would be a difficult task, looking at the nature of their infractions, which all come under the broad umbrella of disruption, to come up with a satisfactory explanation for that difference.

Some might think there is something more serious about copyright violations given their potential legal ramifications, but this idea is undercut by the fact harassment is too. Also by the fact Wikipedia has no rule that says copyright blocks shall always be indefinite. And blocks for copyright infractions form only two fifths of her block record, half if we consider the latest one looks decidedly suspect. That was placed ostensible for a single edit which she is supposed to have known was illegitimate.

It is hard to judge since the history has been scrubbed, but a reasonable assumption might be that even someone with past blocks for copyright, might still assume that there's no harm in copying and pasting stuff to your own talk page and then rewriting it, as something to do while currently blocked for other reasons. It is a common mistake, users believing copyright only applies to article space, or only applies to finished forms. We may never know, since Elisa is so obviously crushed by this fifth indefinite block, placed just after she had got through negotiating the lifting of her fourth, that she has absolutely no intention of offering a defence or even a mea culpa. Not that the blocking Administrator even indicated he was willing to hear one.

Blocking for copyright is not remotely taken as seriously as Elisa's treatment here suggests. Numerous editors past and represent who had long histories of copyright infringement, were allowed to return even from indefinite blocks after giving a simple undertaking not to repeat the errors. They are generously not even expected to help in the clean up efforts, which sometimes runs to examining thousands of articles. Elisa herself seems to have benefited from this, it being the reason her first copyright block was lifted, her second ever block.

The Administrator who blocked her for copyright for this final time, Fram, was recently officially rebuked for being overly aggressive in that specialism of his, and IIRC had promised to ease back. That is not evident here. Why not? As well as that known faulty approach, he also directly cited the existence of two prior indefinite blocks for copyright in his thinking.

Whatever the explanation for the differences in treatment, aside from this one problematic Administrator, it has to be systemic to Wikipedia's idea of good governance, since both users have been blocked by numerous different Administrators, with countless others looking on from the sidelines, giving their views. As is the hopeful norm for users with a known difficulty in colouring within the lines.

Time limited versus indefinite

As shocking as it is to see Elisa's first block was indefinite, which is really not the norm for Wikipedia even in the case of outright malicious vandalism, it is not half as shocking to realise the strategy of only ever applying time limited blocks to Cassianto continued well after it had become clear his chosen strategy was to never appeal or otherwise seek clemency, no matter how unfair or simply incorrect he thought the block. Which was pretty much all of them. Instead, he would just wait it out, after a bit of foot stomping and venting. Which is something that he found pretty easy to do, given his longest ever block (that wasn't overturned) has only been for one month, that being an outlier to the more normal week or two.

A general rule on Wikipedia is that blocks only exist as a means to prevent rule breaking, not as punishment. Hence why the repeated application of time limited blocks to people who are so clearly not intent on changing their ways, is not considered best practice. Best practice, if a few short blocks are having no effect, is indeed to begin applying indefinite blocks, which can last forever, but hopefully not, in the event of an active discussion with the user to a satisfactory resolution, typically an admission of guilt and promise not to repeat the behaviour.

Despite the fact Cassianto has never once been put in the situation of having to argue his case to have an indefinite block lifted, he also still frequently benefited from assorted Administrators lifting his blocks, either off their own back or as a result of community anger/sadness. Bizarrely, many were lifted not because they were not deserved, but as "time served", which seems to contradict the whole purpose of setting a time limit. Troublingly, many were lifted by Administrators who openly admire Cassianto.

He did once get blocked for three months, but that lasted all of 2 hours 22 minutes, Cassianto having not said anything in that time until ten minutes before it lifted. Even then it was just a bile filled attack on the blocking Administrator. What had he been blocked for? A bile filled attack on an Administrator. Why was he unlocked? Because Cassianto's attack was seen as justified because it was merely Cassianto reacting in his characteristic way to that Administrator attacking someone else. Cassianto's character being attested to by the fact the Administrator presumably chose three months because at that point, Cassianto had previously been blocked no less than EIGHT times for personal attacks alone, notwithstanding his additional blocks for other offences.

Escape and evasion

With no hint of irony, Cassianto's second longest ever block, at two months long, was self-requested, a transparent attempt to avoid the likely eventuality of an involuntary three month block. It evidently did not alter his mindset, not that there was any reason to think that was its purpose, since not long after his return, he had to ask for another one, this time his longest ever block, at three months. This time its purpose was crystal clear, to prevent his mouth getting him into even more trouble than he already was, being before the highest court, the Arbitration Committee, as a named party in a wide ranging dispute. Unsurprisingly, he escaped even that without a block, much less an indefinite one. The make-up of that Committee was three women and twelve men, the proceedings being simple majority voting on tabled items.

Conclusion

It may be unfair to draw conclusions from a single pair, so I hope others will come forward with their own examples. But I at least am satisfied that gender discrimination is as good an explanation as any for the difference in treatment by the Wikipedia community and their Administrator servants, of these two users.

I won't bother explaining the psychology behind it, except to say it deals with how men perceive men and women differently when it comes to acts of defiance, and the expectations of sound judgement, conformity, decorum and indeed good sense. Since Wikipedia is so overwhelmingly male in its demographics, women will inevitably be subject to these male biases on matters of the ultimate sanctions.

Post-script

I can already see you thinking, wait what about..... Hold your horses. While there are indeed two woman Administrators who have dealt with these users, Bishonen and Dianna, it is reasonable to assume neither is a particular advocate of keeping the potential for gender discrimination in mind. I say that both for their general record of service and areas of interest, which steer well clear of the current efforts to deal with Wikipedia 's gender problem. Their service long predates the time Wikipedia even knew of its gender problem.

I said specifically too, because Bishonen has shown extraordinary generosity to Cassianto, and Dianna took the decision that an indefinite block for Elisa's first offence of copyright infraction was appropriate. Maybe she does that to everyone, man or woman. Then again maybe she doesn't. Bishonen most assuredly does not act so generously to just anyone.

It is also worth noting that the Administrator who vainly tried to apply a block of significant length to Cassianto, may well be a woman. They do not specify. It is terrifying enough to be seen as the Administrator prepared to enforce the rules on a vicious person like Cassianto, without allowing him the opportunity to dismiss at as the product of a febrile female mind. Not that he necessarily would. Then again, what is there about his past record that tells you he wouldn't?


Sun Aug 26, 2018 8:18 am
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Genuinely fascinating.

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Sun Aug 26, 2018 10:50 am
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Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:24 am
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I said it many times before Crow. The wikipedia system is far to primitieve to handle a complex theme as gender. The many system system errors makes that just impossible. It is now a system of fighting poison with poison, what never, never will work.

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Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:44 am
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Fri Apr 26, 2019 3:19 pm
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Seeing an opportunity to burnish his feminist credentials, Drmies has just unilaterally upped the block to indefinite, citing only the use of the B word. He's done that and immediately gone offline, leaving others to deal with the inevitable appeals, and settle the issue of whether their entire behaviour warrants a long holiday (too much work for Drmies).

Says it all really. One of the biggest disrespecters of women on Wikipedia (to the point of even pretending to be one now and again as some kind of laugh or point making), one of the biggest proponents of the philosophies that let editors like LegacyPac be all they can be, just swoops in and takes the credit, like we're supposed to believe that is who he is.

Not for the first time we see Drmies blocking someone and then expressing surprise it had come to that because he thought they were a decent human being. So he either isn't paying attention to what these established editors he claims familiarity with actually do (because plenty of people are admitting this was not unusual for LegacyPac), or he is adjusting his perceptions of what is decent on the fly, as he takes his cues from the few people on Wikipedia who are prepared to speak up when a block is manifestly lenient, and the perennial problem of Vested Contributors is getting ridiculous even by the current standards.


Sat Apr 27, 2019 3:06 am
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Wed May 01, 2019 10:35 am
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