Due to my revelation in this post
that Charles Ainsworth, an employee of the US Military (aka Chelsea Manning's jailers) has been editing Wikipedia under the username Cla68 to argue that transgender people are too biased to edit the article on Chelsea Manning, the Arbitration Committee of the English language Wikipedia has removed my administrator privileges and banned me indefinitely, forbidding any appeal of the ban for a year.
As discussed in the post, Ainsworth has, prior to this, been open about his participation on Wikipedia, freely giving quotes to the media and engaging in discussion on Wikipedia about those quotes. It's only now that he's begin editing with an obvious conflict of interest that he has suddenly developed a desire to keep his identity a secret. My "revelation," in other words, is nothing of the sort. Indeed, it's difficult to see how this decision comports with Wikpiedia policy, which declares that "Posting another editor's personal information is harassment, unless that person had voluntarily posted his or her own information, or links to such information, on Wikipedia." Which, again, Ainsworth has done. Since my post, in fact, Ainsworth has posted on Wikipediocracy, a Wikipedia criticism site on which he's a forum moderator, confirming his employer. Furthermore, I've made no mention of Ainsworth's identity on Wikipedia, nor have I linked to that blog post from there. I revealed Ainsworth's identity in my capacity as a z-list blogger, not as a Wikipedia editor.
My reasoning for outing Ainsworth was and is simple: it's in the public interest. The sixth largest website in the world is sanctioning trans allies and Chelsea Manning supporters for being "too involved" to work on the Chelsea Manning article, but is giving a pass to members of the US Military, who apparently have no conflict of interest. This is straightforwardly something that deserves to be talked about.
This shockingly harsh sanction - the harshest the committee ever hands down - takes on an unnerving tone when one considers that the bulk of that blog post consisted of criticism of the Arbitration Committee's decision to punish editors complaining about transphobic behavior on Wikipedia more harshly than they punish transphobic behavior itself. It is difficult, if not impossible, to see this move as anything other than petty retaliation.
Particularly entertaining is that I've been banned for attempting to disinfect with sunlight with regards to Chelsea Manning. Not only does this sanction look petty, it looks particularly ridiculous when applied on the topic of someone who is in jail for her commitment to transparency. I'm actually taken aback by the comedy of it. The Arbitration Committee censures its critics for leaking things in the public interest. Over the Chelsea Manning article.
It is not the ban in particular that bothers me. I rarely edit Wikipedia anyway, have not used administrator powers in ages (though they were quite nice for finding well-written articles on fiction that got spuriously deleted on "notability" grounds). I knew there was a risk in criticizing the Arbitration Committee, and I took it because the consequence - banning - wasn't one that personally mattered to me much at all.
Nevertheless, the underlying issues are real. The Arbitration Committee has sanctioned people for complaining about transphobia while leaving transphobic commentary unsanctioned. It has further declared transgender topics to be subject to "discretionary sanctions," which mean that any editor who, in the judgment of an administrator, "fails to adhere to the purpose of Wikipedia, any expected standards of behavior, or any normal editorial process" can be banned after a single warning. The result of this is a clear precedent that complaining about transphobia can result in being banned. And now they have moved on to trumping up reasons to ban people who call them out on that.
I have, for what it's worth, appealed the ban to Jimmy Wales. I'm not particularly optimistic, but it's not out of the question that he will overturn it. Even if this happens, however, the fact that the Arbitration Committee has engaged in such astonishing behavior needs to be called out and condemned.
At present, the English language Wikipedia has, on basic matters of governance, committed itself to being an environment where transphobia is tolerated while criticism, whether of transphobia or the site's governance, is not.
The Arbitration Committee wants a culture of silence. One where bigots go unchallenged, hypocrisy goes unexposed, and criticism goes unvoiced.
We cannot let them have it.
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