Harassment is a pattern of repeated offensive behavior that appears to a reasonable observer to intentionally target a specific person or persons. Usually, the purpose is to make the target feel threatened or intimidated, and the outcome may be to make editing Wikipedia unpleasant for the target, to undermine, frighten, or discourage them from editing.
Wikipedia must never be misused to harass anyone, whether or not the subject of the harassment is an editor here. Edits constituting harassment will be reverted, deleted, or suppressed, as appropriate, and editors who engage in harassment are subject to blocking and banning.
Harassment can include actions calculated to be noticed by the target and clearly suggestive of targeting them, even when no direct communication takes place.
Harassment, including threats, intimidation, repeated annoying and unwanted contact or attention, and repeated personal attacks may reduce an editor's enjoyment of Wikipedia and thus cause disruption to the project. Harassment of an editor on the basis of race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religious or political beliefs, disability, ethnicity, nationality, etc. is not allowed.
The prohibition against harassment applies equally to all Wikipedians. It is as unacceptable to harass a user with a history of inept or disruptive behavior as it is to harass any other user. Wikipedia encourages a civil community: people make mistakes, but they are encouraged to learn from them and change their ways. Harassment is contrary to this spirit and damaging to the work of building an encyclopedia.
Hounding on Wikipedia (or "wikihounding") is the singling out of one or more editors, joining discussions on multiple pages or topics they may edit or multiple debates where they contribute, to repeatedly confront or inhibit their work. This is with an apparent aim of creating irritation, annoyance, or distress to the other editor. Hounding usually involves following the target from place to place on Wikipedia.
Many users track other users' edits, although usually for collegial or administrative purposes. This should always be done with care, and with good cause, to avoid raising the suspicion that an editor's contributions are being followed to cause them distress, or out of revenge for a perceived slight. Correct use of an editor's history includes (but is not limited to) fixing unambiguous errors or violations of Wikipedia policy, or correcting related problems on multiple articles. In fact, such practices are recommended both for Recent changes patrol and WikiProject Spam. The contribution logs can be used in the dispute resolution process to gather evidence to be presented in incidents and arbitration cases. Using dispute resolution can itself constitute hounding if it involves persistently making frivolous or meritless complaints about another editor.
The important component of hounding is disruption to another user's own enjoyment of editing, or disruption to the project generally, for no overridingly constructive reason. Even if the individual edits themselves are not disruptive per se, "following another user around", if done to cause distress, or if accompanied by tendentiousness, personal attacks, or other disruptive behavior, may become a very serious matter and could result in blocks and other editing restrictions.
Threatening another person is considered harassment. This includes any real-world threats, such as threats of harm, and threats to disrupt a person's work on Wikipedia. Statements of intent to properly use normal Wikipedia processes, such as dispute resolution, are not threats. Legal threats are a special case of threat, with their own settled policy. Users who make legal threats will typically be blocked from editing indefinitely.
Wikipedia has a policy of blocking users who post legal threats on Wikipedia against other editors. It is important not to post comments that others may reasonably interpret as a legal threat; words such as libelous or defamatory are best avoided for that reason. In handling apparent legal threats, users should seek to clarify the poster's intention, explain the policy, and ask them to remove the threat. That users are involved in a legal dispute with each other is not a reason to block, so long as no legal threats are posted on Wikipedia.
Posting another editor's personal information is harassment, unless that person has voluntarily posted their own information, or links to such information, on Wikipedia.[note 1] Personal information includes legal name, date of birth, identification numbers, home or workplace address, job title and work organisation, telephone number, email address, other contact information, or photograph, whether such information is accurate or not. Posting such information about another editor is an unjustifiable and uninvited invasion of privacy and may place that editor at risk of harm outside their activities on Wikipedia. Unless unintentional and non-malicious (for example, where Wikipedians know each other off-site and may inadvertently post personal information, such as using the other person's real name in discussions), attempted outing is sufficient grounds for an immediate block. This applies to the personal information of both editors and non-editors.
Any edit that "outs" someone must be reverted promptly, followed by a request for oversight to delete that edit from Wikipedia. Any administrator may redact it pending oversight, even when the administrator is involved. If an editor has previously posted their own personal information but later redacted it, it should not be repeated on Wikipedia, although references to still-existing, self-disclosed information are not considered outing. If the previously posted information has been removed by oversight, then repeating it on Wikipedia is considered outing.
If you see an editor post personal information about another person, do not confirm or deny the accuracy of the information. Doing so would give the person posting the information, and anyone else who saw the page, feedback on the accuracy of the material. For the same reason, do not treat incorrect attempts at outing any differently from correct attempts. When reporting an attempted outing take care not to comment on the accuracy of the information. Outing should usually be described as "an attempted outing" or similar, to make it clear that the information may or may not be true, and it should be made clear to the users blocked for outing that the block log and notice does not confirm the information.
The fact that an editor has posted personal information or edits under their own name, making them easily identifiable through online searches, is not an excuse to post the results of "opposition research". Dredging up their off-site opinions to repeatedly challenge their edits can be a form of harassment, just as doing so regarding their past edits on other Wikipedia articles may be. Threats to out an editor will be treated as a personal attack and are prohibited.
Nothing in this policy prohibits the emailing of personal information about editors to individual administrators, functionaries, or arbitrators, or to the Wikimedia Foundation, when doing so is necessary to report violations of confidentiality-sensitive policies (such as conflict of interest or paid editing, harassment, or violations of the child-protection policy). Only the minimum information necessary should be conveyed and the minimum number of people contacted. Editors are warned, however, that the community has rejected the idea that editors should "investigate" each other. Posting such information on Wikipedia violates this policy.
Issues involving private personal information (of anyone) could also be referred by email to a member of the functionaries team. While in the limited circumstances outlined above, links to external websites containing solicitations to edit Wikipedia may be posted on Wikipedia to demonstrate that there may be conflict of interest editing, links to personal profiles on external sites should not be connected to any specific Wikipedia editor unless that editor discloses it themselves.
If you have accidentally posted anything that might lead to your being outed (including but not limited to inadvertently editing while logged out, which reveals your IP address, and thus, your approximate location), it is important that you act promptly to have the edit(s) oversighted. Do not otherwise draw attention to the information. Referring to still-existing, self-disclosed posted information is not considered outing, and so the failure of an editor to have the information redacted in a timely manner may remove it from protection by this policy. Further information about protecting private information is at Personal security practices, On privacy, and How to not get outed on Wikipedia.
There is no community consensus regarding the posting of private off-wiki correspondence. The Wikipedia Arbitration Committee once stated as an editing principle that "In the absence of permission from the author (including of any included prior correspondence) or their lapse into public domain, the contents of private correspondence, including e-mails, should not be posted on-wiki" and in a second principle that "Any uninvolved administrator may remove private correspondence that has been posted without the consent of any of the creators. Such material should instead be sent directly to the Committee." See related rejected proposals Wikipedia:Private correspondence, Wikipedia:Correspondence off-wiki and Wikipedia:Confidential evidence.
A common problem is harassment in userspace. Examples include placing numerous false or questionable "warnings" on a user's talk page, restoring such comments after a user has removed them, placing "suspected sockpuppet" and similar tags on the user page of active contributors, and otherwise trying to display material the user may find annoying or embarrassing in their user space.
User pages are provided so that editors can provide some general information about themselves and user talk pages are to facilitate communication. Neither is intended as a 'wall of shame' and should not be used to display supposed problems with the user unless the account has been blocked as a result of those issues. Any sort of content which truly needs to be displayed, or removed, should be immediately brought to the attention of admins rather than edit warring to enforce your views on the content of someone else's user space.
Inappropriate or unwanted public or private communication, following, or any form of stalking, when directed at another editor, violates the harassment policy. Off-wiki harassment, including through the use of external links, will be regarded as an aggravating factor by administrators and is admissible evidence in the dispute-resolution process, including Arbitration cases. In some cases, evidence should be submitted by private email. As is the case with on-wiki harassment, off-wiki harassment can be grounds for blocking, and in extreme cases, banning.
Editors who welcome private communication typically post their preferred contact information on Wikipedia, sometimes enabling email through the Wikipedia interface. Contacting an editor using any other contact information, without first obtaining explicit permission, should be assumed to be uninvited and, depending on the context, may be harassment. Never contact another editor in this way as part of a dispute, or when the editor has asked not to be contacted that way. Unexpected contact using personal information as described above in Posting of personal information may be perceived as a threat to the safety and well-being of the person being contacted. Users who experience inappropriate off-wiki contact should report occurrences privately to the Arbitration Committee or to the emergency response team.
In alignment with the protection of editors from harassment described throughout the rest of this policy, edits that harass living or recently deceased people who are not members of the Wikipedia community are also prohibited. Per the oversight policy, harassing content will be deleted or suppressed. Editors who post such material in any namespace may be indefinitely blocked.
Content and sourcing that comply with the biographies of living persons policy do not violate this policy; neither do discussions about sources and authors of sources, unless comments about persons are gratuitous to determining source quality. See also WP:BLPPRIVACY and WP:BLPCOI, and the associated discretionary sanctions.
If you feel you are being harassed, first and foremost, act calmly (even if difficult). It is hard to over-emphasize this.
If the harassment includes threats of physical harm to you or others, follow the procedures on dealing with threats of harm.
In serious cases or where privacy and off-wiki aspects are an issue (e.g., where private personal information is a part of the issue, or on-wiki issues spread to email and 'real world' harassment, or similar), you can contact the Arbitration Committee. To have personal information removed from page histories contact the oversight team.
For simpler, on-wiki matters, such as a user with whom you have arguments, see dispute resolution as the usual first step. It makes it easier to identify the problem you are having if there are some specific diffs. For more serious cases where you are willing to address it on-wiki, you may request administrative assistance. (Do not open a discussion about outing on behalf of a third party without the victim's permission, unless the relevant page revisions have already been oversighted. It is important not to make violations of privacy more severe.)
Note: If other editors have concerns over your editing, then you will quite likely gain attention from administrators and other concerned users as a result. Any civil and appropriate comments addressed by them to you would not be considered harassment.
Making accusations of harassment can be inflammatory and hence these accusations may not be helpful in a dispute. It can be seen as a personal attack if harassment is alleged without clear evidence that the others' action is actually harassment, and unfounded accusations may constitute harassment themselves if done repeatedly. The result is often accusations of harassment on your part, which tends to create a nasty cycle. At the same time, claims of harassment should be taken seriously and not be summarily dismissed unless it becomes clear the accusations are not well-founded.
Wikipedia administrators' actions can bring them into direct conflict with difficult users and at times they too are harassed. Typically this happens when an administrator decides to intervene in a dispute with a view to warning or blocking disruptive parties or preventing their continual troublesome behavior.
Administrators are volunteer editors like any other user. They are not obligated any more than any other user to take any specific action beyond expected good conduct and responsiveness, and they are not required or expected to place themselves in an uncomfortable situation, to undertake actions which will diminish their enjoyment of working on Wikipedia or place themselves at risk in any way. Administrators who feel that they may have such a situation are advised to seek advice, discuss privately with other administrators, or pass the matter to another administrator willing to make difficult blocks.
In case of problems administrators have exactly the same right as any other user to decline or withdraw from a situation that is escalating or uncomfortable, without giving a reason, or to contact the Arbitration Committee if needed.
Some people may find it hard to remain calm and to react constructively in the face of real or perceived harassment. It is important that any allegations of misconduct about someone who is being harassed be considered in this context. Suffering real or perceived harassment does not justify an editor's misconduct, but a more cautious approach to sanctions in such situations is preferred.
Although editors are encouraged to ignore or respond politely to isolated incidents, that should not imply that they are acceptable or without consequences. A pattern of hostility reduces the likelihood of the community assuming good faith, and can be considered disruptive editing. Users who insist on a confrontational style marked by harassment and/or personal attacks are likely to become involved in the dispute resolution process, and may face serious consequences such as blocks, arbitration, or being subjected to a community ban. Harassment negatively affects editor retention.[note 2]
This policy is aimed to protect victims of genuine harassment which is meant to cause distress to the user, such as repeated and unwanted correspondence or postings. Like the word stalk, harass carries real-life connotations – from simple unseemly behavior to criminal conduct – and must be used judiciously and with respect to these connotations.
However, there is an endemic problem on Wikipedia of giving "harassment" a much broader and inaccurate meaning which encompasses, in some cases, merely editing the same page as another user. Therefore, it must be emphasized that one editor warning another for disruption or incivility is not harassment if the claims are presented civilly, made in good faith, and in an attempt to resolve a dispute instead of escalating one.
Neither is tracking a user's contributions for policy violations (see above); the contribution logs exist for editorial and behavioral oversight. Editors do not own their edits, or any other article content, and any other editor has a right to track their editing patterns, and, if necessary, to revert their edits. Unwarranted resistance to such efforts may be a sign of ownership behavior and lead to sanctions.
Unfounded accusations of harassment may be considered a serious personal attack and dealt with accordingly.