Wikipedia’s high court, an arbitration committee of impartial site editors, is expected to ban editors on opposing sides of the GamerGate debate for making changes to the controversy’s article page.
To resolve an editing tug-of-war over the “GamerGate” article, the Wikipedia’s high court decided to sanction several editors from contributing to GamerGate or other gender-themed articles as part of a preliminary decision.
“Our preliminary decision found that many contributors were in violation of English Wikipedia policies on user conduct,” Wikipedia wrote in a statement Tuesday. “These sanctions are intended to allow the restoration of normal editing processes to the topic area and facilitate constructive contributions.”
The online encyclopedia is democratically run, known for letting anyone edit unlocked pages and a small group of editors operating the site behind the scenes. The arbitration committee, a volunteer-run panel of editors elected to settle disruptive editing and user disputes, determined in its preliminary decision that editors violated the site’s policy by making corrections to the GamerGate article to include the controversial movement’s well-known anti-woman themes, the Guardian reported.
According to Wikipedia’s statement, editors are being punished based on their documented conduct on the site, and has nothing to do with the editor’s beliefs or backgrounds.
So far, the committee has agreed to ban affected editors from 11 different topics, including gender-related disputes. The committee’s proposal also imposes at least 40 sanctions because of combative behavior from users on different sides of the GamerGate issue. However, the decision could be revised or voted on before its finalized, Wikipedia said.
But according to writer and Wikipedia editor Mark Bernstein, the editors on the other side of the debate who believe the movement centers on “ethics in gaming journalism,” weren’t sanctioned as harshly.
“No sanctions at all were proposed against any of GamerGate’s warriors, save for a few disposable accounts created specifically for the purpose of being sanctioned,” Bernstein wrote on his blog. “By my informal count, every feminist active in the area is to be sanctioned.”
Bernstein continues, saying the committee’s decision would allow GamerGaters to rewrite not only the main page, but also make changes to some of the most prominent victims of the controversy. That includes media critic and feminist Anita Sarkeesian, who was driven from her home after receiving death and rape threats for her video criticizing female tropes in video games.
GamerGate is made up of small subset of the gaming community that have harassed female media critics, developers and bloggers with violent and graphic death and rape threats. Supporters often characterize it as a movement for improving ethics in gaming journalism after game developer Zoe Quinn’s former boyfriend publicly accused her of cheating on him with a gaming writer. Quinn was also driven from her home because of persistent violent threats.
The movement garnered media attention in 2014 after supporters forced gaming site Gamasutra’s advertisers, such as Intel, to pull its ads. Actress and gaming enthusiast Felicia Day blogged about how she was “terrified” after receiving a deluge of hateful tweets and messages because she sent a reply message to one to the main GamerGate victims.
Much like the tech industry overall, gaming culture has been often condemned for largely excluding women and minorities. The gaming industry tends to be heavily male-dominated, which translates into the game products: Female game characters are scarce and are frequently overly sexualized with disproportionate body dimensions or subject to domestic violence or sexual assault even when they are put in lead roles.
Despite women making up a large chunk of gamers, some game developers are reluctant to make more diverse characters. Ubisoft, the game developer, caught flack from the gaming community after decided not to add a female character to its Assassin’s Creed Unity game because it was too much work.
Moreover, the lax online harassment policies that have permeated tech and gaming often exacerbate that sentiment. To combat that, Quinn and fellow game developer Alex Lifschitz launched anti-harassment site Crash Override. The site offers free support to harassment victims including threat monitoring, legal help, and counseling.
The task force will also help law enforcement involved in harassment cases and lend information security services to protect victims against doxxing, the releasing of a person’s personal location, or swatting, when a SWAT team is sent to a victim’s home based on a false reports of criminal activity.
This post has been updated to reflect quotes from Wikipedia’s official statement, clarify language describing the arbitration committee’s role, and give more details on how the case is being addressed.