The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) Community Health Legal Defense Program helps community members find and/or pay for legal counsel in rare cases where their work with the Wikimedia movement has led to prolonged or severe harassment.
Although harassment of this severity is uncommon, this program aims to discourage it further by ensuring that those subject to it have assistance in selecting qualified counsel and in paying for the costs of a legal action to protect themselves from the harasser, even if such costs would normally be beyond their means. Because the funds for this program are limited, we do have to reserve it for the most severe cases.
In order to qualify for the program, community members must meet the following conditions:
- Be engaged in supporting Wikimedia projects. This support can be demonstrated through a variety of methods, including, but not limited to: being in an administrative role, participating in the Wikimedia Foundation grant process, or being an editor on the projects.
- Be the target of severe or persistent harassment, doxxing, cyber attacks, or activity of similar severity as a result of their work with the Wikimedia movement.
At its sole discretion, WMF will make the final determination of eligibility and may consider any other relevant facts or circumstances, including the availability and effectiveness of legal courses of action. A decision that we are not able to help is not meant to suggest that your experience is not distressing, but only to assess our ability and resources to assist within the context of greatest need. Even if you are not eligible for WMF support through this program, you may be eligible for assistance from other organizations that support people with legal fees.
How to request assistance
If you are a community member who has faced prolonged or severe harassment that may qualify you for this program, please feel free to contact legalwikimedia.org. Because it can be difficult to preserve evidence, you should act quickly if you are the target of such harassment.
After WMF has all the relevant information, the WMF legal team will consider, on a case-by-case basis, whether WMF can assist and what form that assistance might take. Assistance may include, at WMF’s sole discretion, helping to find a lawyer particularly knowledgeable about Wikimedia projects or relevant, country-specific laws; providing funds for some or all of the legal fees and costs; or both. You should know, however, that WMF cannot act as your lawyer for reasons of legal ethics (as explained below).
This assistance will not include payment of fines or damages (including any award of attorney's fees), and WMF will have discretion over whether the program pays for a particular lawyer.
Please note that this program may be supplementary to other Wikimedia approaches to harassment, but does not replace them. To explore options to prevent harassment from other users, including blocks and bans, you will need to work with local administrators or engage with policy projects or reach out to the Wikimedia Foundation’s Trust & Safety team, cawikimedia.org.
Things to know about the program
- Global and all projects and languages. The Community Health Legal Defense Program is intended to help community members in any country or jurisdiction and includes covered actions taken on any Wikimedia project, in any language. Local laws and regulations may play a role in the administration of any assistance.
- Funding is limited. This program will start with a set amount of earmarked funds, and, if those funds are ever exhausted, a decision will be made by WMF whether to renew the program.
- The program is subject to WMF discretion. At its sole discretion, WMF will decide on a case-by-case basis whether to provide assistance. No one should rely on the receipt of assistance or take any action with the expectation of receiving such assistance.
- No WMF attorney-client relationship. For legal and ethical reasons, WMF cannot create an attorney-client relationship with community members, and funds provided through this program do not establish any attorney-client or other confidential relationship. On the other hand, if the Community Health Legal Defense Program provides funds for a lawyer, that lawyer may enjoy an attorney-client or otherwise confidential relationship with the community member as may be recognized or allowed under local laws.
- We don’t control your actions. Assistance from this program does not give WMF any right or ability to control the activities of any community member. Assistance does not create any agency, employee, contractor, or other legal relationship with WMF. In providing assistance, WMF does not necessarily endorse any activity undertaken by a community member in a movement role or otherwise before or after receipt of assistance.
- We may change the Community Health Legal Defense Program. As we monitor the effectiveness of the program and ensure flexibility in its administration, we may need, from time to time, and at our sole discretion, to make changes to the Community Health Legal Defense Program, including possible termination of the program if necessary. Depending on program needs, we retain the right to make these changes at any time, for any reason, without notice.
The hard work and dedication of Wikimedia community members is what keeps the Wikimedia projects running. Every community member should feel safe while working on Wikimedia projects. Although we hope never to have to use this program, the Foundation believes that harassment and intimidation of community members is not acceptable behavior and the Foundation will do its best to collaborate with our communities in fighting back.
Note: This document was originally written in English. While we hope that translations of this document are accurate, in the event of any differences in meaning between the original English version and a translation, the original English version takes precedence.