User:Privatemusings/EthicsSandbox/casestudy

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An aspect of the 'Privatemusings' case - 'Privileged' information and competing priorities[edit]

This area could include discussions of checkuser information, cross-wiki identity issues, and the use of email

Privatemusings' Alternate accounts[edit]

As the author, and protagonist in this situation, it's possible that unintended biases are unavoidable. As such, I would appreciate vigorous editing of the below to present everything as neutrally as possible. I'd be happy to remove this 'disclaimer' should a strong consensus to do so evolve. Equally, do let me know if you feel this is inappropriate or wrong for any reason. Feel free to remove the whole lot, and we can talk about it, if you'd prefer. Here's some background too.

w:User:Privatemusings was, in late 2007, a self declared 'sockpuppet' account at Wikipedia, meaning that the human behind the account also edited Wikipedia using other usernames. Editing by this account in a contentious area of policy debate was considered disruptive, and some administrators requested information concerning the identity of alternate accounts. This was provided via email, which you can review here.

The information contained in this email was shared amongst various senior wiki administrators, apparently including arbitrators and Jimbo. Privatemusings asserted, and continues to assert, that this was unethical behaviour. When this matter was before the English Wikipedia's Arbitration committee, no comment was made.

Question
Was it ethical, in these circumstances, to share private emails without the author's consent?

Same story, another perspective[edit]

w:User:Privatemusings was, in late 2007 an abusive sockpuppeteer, meaning he broke site policies by creating 8 separate identities. This behaviour can cause severe disruption, and in particular, sock puppet accounts have always been prohibited from working in policy space. This was later confirmed by the Arbitration Committee, the body empowered by the foundation to consider such matters, which also handed down a 3 month ban and an indefinite restriction on Privatemusings working on biographies, where his editing was also extremely problematic.

As problems began to develop, administrators active in the area asked Privatemusings to identify his alternative accounts, and despite him doing so, he continued to cause disruption, as evidenced by several heated discussions on the administrators noticeboards.

The central task of a wiki administrator is to maintain the smooth running of the site, in order to build the best encyclopedia possible, a task which may involving blocking or banning disruptive users. An administrator who had received note of Privatemusings' alternative accounts felt that he was using them in a way clearly contrary to policy, and clearly not in the best interest of the project. It was important to clearly assess the needs of the project at this point, which included asking for advice from several arbcom members, and the co-founder of Wikipedia. Every recipient of this information felt that this was disruptive behaviour, clearly disallowed under policy, Again this was quickly confirmed by the arbcom in the case which followed shortly thereafter.

Question
Was it ethical, in these circumstances, to share information concerning the multiple accounts used, in order to minimise disruption, and maintain policy compliance?