Wikipedia:Oversight

The Oversight logo

Suppression on Wikipedia (also known as oversight for historical reasons) is a form of enhanced deletion that, unlike normal deletion, expunges information from any form of usual access, even by administrators. It is used within strict limits to protect privacy, remove defamatory material, and sometimes to remove serious copyright violations, from any edit, revision, page, or log entry (including, if required, the list of users) on the English Wikipedia.

On the English Wikipedia, "oversight" (the power to suppress information) is entrusted to a restricted number of users, who can suppress material if it meets the strict requirements below. Use of these tools is monitored by other oversighters who patrol the log, and by the Arbitration Committee.

The permission is granted by Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee, after community consultation and vetting of the editor by the committee's members. Although Oversighters are not required to be administrators,[notes 1] nearly all Oversighters up to this point have been. Oversighters must also be 18 years of age or older and have signed the Wikimedia Foundation's confidentiality agreement for nonpublic information before being appointed. The use of the Oversight tool on the English Wikipedia is monitored and controlled by the Arbitration Committee, and Oversighters may have their permissions revoked by the Arbitration Committee for misuse or abuse of the Oversight permission.

This policy supplements the global oversight policy and applies only to the English Wikipedia.

Nomenclature

The original term "oversight" (for the function/tool) came from the Oversight extension, a revision removal function, whose log access was intended to allow oversight of its operation. The Oversight extension was intended to be a temporary measure; in 2009 the RevisionDelete system was enabled which fixed several problems with oversight (including causing misattribution of edits and its irreversibility) and added features not originally present (including account and log hiding). For historical reasons, the group of users with the ability to use the RevisionDelete and Oversight tools are still known as "oversighters" and suppression might still be referred to as "oversight." However, "oversight" might refer specifically to use of the Oversight extension, while suppression will not.

Page revisions removed with the old Oversight extension did not leave a placeholder in the page history and could not be restored, and revisions that were hidden using the old Oversight extension were logged at Special:Oversight; Oversight, however, has been superseded by RevisionDelete with the new version and deployment of the MediaWiki software. With the replacement of the old extension with the updates and changes to the MediaWiki software, revisions suppressed with RevisionDelete (the new suppression workflow) leave a visible placeholder in the page history and can be restored if the situation calls for it. All visibility changes that were made on Wikipedia using the old Oversight extension were migrated over to the updated workflow and hence are visible and reversible.

Policy

This feature is approved for use in these cases:

  1. Removal of non-public personal information, such as phone numbers, home addresses, workplaces or identities of pseudonymous or anonymous individuals who have not made their identity public. This includes hiding the IP data of editors who accidentally logged out and thus inadvertently revealed their own IP addresses, and hiding the IP data of editors without an account on request. Suppression is a tool of first resort in removing this information.

In the following cases, revision and/or log suppression may be used when justified by the circumstances. However, consideration should be given to whether administrative revision deletion is an adequate response:

  1. Removal of potentially libelous information, either: a) on the advice of Wikimedia Foundation counsel; or b) when the case is clear, and there is no editorial reason to keep the revision.
  2. Removal of copyright infringement, on the advice of Wikimedia Foundation counsel.
  3. Hiding of blatant attack names on automated lists and logs, where this does not disrupt edit histories. A blatant attack is one obviously intended to denigrate, threaten, libel, insult, or harass someone.[notes 2]
  4. Removal of vandalism. Suppression may be occasionally used to remove vandalism for which removal by normal administrative measures is insufficient. Such cases should be discussed in advance on the Oversight mailing list unless they are urgent or time-sensitive, in which case they should be discussed on the mailing list afterward.[notes 2]

The original meta:Oversight policy, containing only the first three criteria above, was adopted because the now-deprecated Oversight tool did not provide oversighters with the ability to restore oversighted revisions. The fourth criterion was adopted at meta:Oversight policy in November 2009. The fifth criterion was adopted after the implementation of RevisionDelete which allowed suppression actions to be easily reversed.

Operation

Actions

Oversighters can perform the following actions:

  1. Suppress and unsuppress elements of individual page revisions (revision text, username, or edit summary) using an extended option on the RevisionDelete function page.
  2. Suppress and unsuppress elements of log entries (action / target user or page, log summary, or the username / IP of the user that performed the action) using an extended option on the RevisionDelete function page.
  3. Suppress the target account user name from all edits and logs when applying a block using the block function page.[notes 3] [notes 4] [notes 5]
  4. Suppress all edits to a page when deleting it using the delete function page.[notes 6]
  5. Review the suppression log containing a list of actions taken by all other oversighters involving suppression, as well as the material that was suppressed by that other user.
  6. View all suppressed edits and log entries.

Logging

The RevisionDelete extension can be used by both oversighters and administrators. Oversighters have an extra option that, when ticked, indicates that the visibility change is a suppression action that prevents administrator access, or (if left unticked) as an administrator action that any administrator can see and modify; administrators do not have access to this extra option. The action will be logged in the suppression log or deletion log accordingly.

  1. Page revisions and logged events that have been suppressed by an oversighter by using the "also hide from administrators" checkbox are logged in the suppression log; no entry is added to the deletion log.[notes 7]
  2. Page revisions and logged events that have been revision-deleted by an oversighter without using the "also hide from administrators" checkbox, or by an administrator, are logged in the deletion log.[notes 8]
  3. Accounts which are blocked and with the "suppress user name from edits and lists" checkbox ticked are logged in the suppression log; no entry is added to the block log.[notes 9]
  4. Accounts which are blocked without the "suppress user name from edits and lists" checkbox ticked (a normal block without suppression) are logged in the block log.
  5. Pages which are deleted with the "suppress all edits" checkbox ticked are logged in the suppression log; no entry is added to the deletion log.
  6. Pages which are deleted without the "suppress all edits" checkbox ticked (a normal admin page deletion) are logged in the deletion log.

Each entry in the log will list the account who made the visibility change, a timestamp of when the change was saved, the page, edits, or logs that the changes were saved to, and the summary that the performing user entered when applying the change. Log entries regarding the visibility of an edit include a diff link to compare the previous live revision to the modified one.

Assignment and revocation

On the English language Wikipedia, access to the suppress function of the RevisionDelete tool is controlled by the Arbitration Committee. Permission is generally automatically granted to members of the Arbitration Committee and retained by them when they leave the committee. Non-Arbitrators may be granted the oversight user rights at the discretion of the Arbitration Committee, and are selected for trustworthiness and availability to handle requests. However, only a very few appointments are typically made per year. See the above page for further information or for requesting oversighter status.

Beginning in 2009, the Arbitration Committee held periodic elections that allowed the community to have a voice in choosing oversighters. Candidates were vetted by Arbcom, and a list of pre-approved candidates is presented to the community for a vote. The previous election was August 2009. The May 2010 election resulted in no new oversighters, and thereafter appointments were made directly by the Committee with community consultation.

Oversighter status may be revoked by the Arbitration Committee at any time. Generally, permission is revoked only "for cause", such as abuse of suppression to remove items that do not qualify under the stated policy, or for unauthorized release of suppressed information. The Arbitration Committee has also ruled that permission will be revoked from oversighters who do not meet the minimum activity level.

As on all Wikimedia Foundation wikis, the technical assignment of the permission to the user account is made by a steward, acting on instructions from the Arbitration Committee as posted at requests for permission on Meta-wiki. Emergency requests based upon clear evidence may also be made in exceptional circumstances, the same way. In an exceptional case, and for good cause, a steward may temporarily remove the permission, pending a decision by the Committee. The steward should check the matter is well founded, and make clear immediately that it is a temporary response only, since such an action could lead to controversy.

Complaints

Complaints or inquiries about potential misuse of the oversighter flag should be referred to the Arbitration Committee.

Oversighters

An automatic list is available at Special:Listusers/oversight. There are currently 35 users with the Oversight permission on the English Wikipedia. As of 20 August 2019, the following editors comprise the Oversight team on the English Wikipedia:

Appointed community oversighters[1] 
Amorymeltzer, Daniel Case, Dweller, Julia W, Keegan, Lofty abyss, Oshwah, Ponyo, Primefac, Richwales, Someguy1221, TonyBallioni, Vanamonde93
Current arbitrators 
AGK, GorillaWarfare[2], Joe Roe, KrakatoaKatie[2], Mkdw, Opabinia regalis, Premeditated Chaos, SilkTork, Worm That Turned
Former arbitrators 
Beeblebrox[2], DeltaQuad, DGG, Doug Weller, Drmies, Mailer diablo[2], PhilKnight, Risker, Salvio giuliano[2], Timotheus Canens, Thryduulf, Yunshui
Others[3] 
Jimbo Wales, some Wikimedia staff members
  1. ^ On this project, oversighters are appointed by ArbCom.
  2. ^ a b c d e Held prior to appointment to Arbitration Committee.
  3. ^ "Others" includes users who require access for WMF reasons, and WMF officers.

The list above is served from Template:Functionaries.

Notes

  1. ^ The current appointment process satisfies the WMF requirement, see here
  2. ^ a b Criteria #4 and #5 were implemented as an interim solution to certain serious vandalism and grossly disruptive abuses that administrators would expect to address, but could not with their tools (due to previous software limitations). Since tools have since been developed so that administrators can apply deletion norms to all public logs and data fields on the wiki, these criteria might be considered for removal.
  3. ^ This option is only available when applying an indefinite block to a Wikipedia user account.
  4. ^ Setting a block with the suppress option ticked triggers a script that executes and performs the suppression of all affected edits and logs automatically. These actions are not logged in the suppression log as individual changes to each edit or log entry; instead, the block event itself is logged in the suppression log noting that it was applied with the suppression option ticked.
  5. ^ The automatic changes to edits and log entries are not undone automatically by unticking the suppress option and updating the block; doing this will do nothing other than to update the block to a normal block (which does nothing functionally). This is stored as a block event in the public block log, not the suppression log. To undo the actions and visibility changes that were automatically performed from blocking an account with the suppression option ticked, you must modify the visibility settings on each affected edit and log entry manually.
  6. ^ This action can only be reversed by modifying the visibility settings on all affected edits.
  7. ^ This includes any visibility changes that untick the suppression option and change the edit or log entry to no longer be a suppression; these changes are recorded in the suppression log, not the public deletion log. Any subsequent visibility changes made afterwards that do not re-enable suppression are logged in the public deletion log.
  8. ^ RevisionDelete is configured to allow administrators to restrict the visibility of revisions and logs by regular editors only. Oversighters are given an extra option to restrict the visibility of revisions and logs from regular users and designate the visibility to also be restricted from administrator view as well. Only when an oversighter designates the visibility of material as also being restricted from access by administrators is the action referred to as "suppression"; all other visibility actions performed that are not restricted from access by administrators are referred to as "revision deletion" or "RevDel". Admin revision deletions are logged in the deletion log and are viewable and reversible by other admins, while revisions and logs that are suppressed from administrator view by oversighters are logged in the suppression log.
  9. ^ Unticking the suppress option and updating the block will do nothing. All it does is update the block with the "suppress" option unticked (which does nothing functionally). That block event is added to the public block log, not the suppression log.

See also

Background

Suppression requests

  • Wikipedia:Requests for oversight: For requesting that a revision, log entry, or account be suppressed. Requests should be made by email, not on that page. Please read the instructions there.

Frequently-asked questions

Oversighter status

  • m:Requests for permission: The permissions requests page ("RFP") on metawiki, where the Arbitration Committee will direct user rights changes, including oversighter appointments.
  • m:User rights log: Shows oversighter assignments and removals. Enter User:[email protected] in the "Title" box.
  • mail:oversight-l: Mailing list administration
  • Email address for suppression requests: oversight-en-wp@wikipedia.org

Statistics

Technical