Reprimanding, Blocking, and Banning Users
Members of the OpenStreetMap Foundation (OSMF) Data Working Group (DWG) have a set of tools that they can apply in cases of vandalism, edit wars, or other conflicts between users. These include:
- publicly commenting on changeset discussions;
- Sending a normal user-to-user message to someone;
- sending a publicly visible "blocking" message to someone, which must be read before the user can make further edits;
- removing offensive notes or comments on changeset discussions
- blocking a user account;
Normal Messages and Blocking Messages
Members of DWG will usually make first contact through a changeset discussion comment or normal user-to-user message that makes it clear that the sender is writing in their capacity as a DWG member. A publicly visible "blocking" message will be used if there is reason to believe that a normal message will not reach the user before they make further edits - either because the user is in the process of making edits, or because earlier attempts at communicating through normal messages have failed.
It is important to note that such "blocking messages" (often described in the text of the message as "a message that you have to read before continuing to edit") do not constitute an assignment of guilt.
Each member of DWG can block a user from editing for short periods of time; such blocks are issued at the discretion of the acting DWG member and do not require prior discussion in DWG. Such blocks may be used as a warning against users who cannot be reasoned with, or simply to instate a cool-down period in an edit war that threatens to escalate, or a means to give DWG members time to investigate a conflict.
Each user block is accompanied by a public blocking message. All blocks are publically listed.
A DWG member can lift any existing block at any time, although usually only the person who created the block will consider lifting it, and lifting blocks is unusual since they expire rather quickly anyway.
Blocks until a particular action has been taken
If, in a dispute between mappers or between one mapper and the rest of the community, the mapper(s) fail to engage or to comply with a request made by DWG, then DWG may block an account to enforce compliance. The technical vehicle for this is a long-term block, however the block message will clearly state something like "this block is in place until [some action] has been performed; please contact the DWG by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to indicate that you [have performed or are ready to perform some action] so that this block can be revoked". DWG will then lift the block once the user has said they will comply with the request.
An attempt will be made to translate the text of this message into a language that the mapper is likely to understand (based on whatever information can be obtained from e.g. the locale in their changeset "created_by" tags).
The goal of these blocks is not punishment, but to ensure that an action is taken, and to bring the mapper into communication with the rest of the OpenStreetMap family.
A long-term block will only be considered in grave cases or for repeat offenders.
Before a user is blocked permanently, they will have received at least one warning, in their own language, telling them explicitly that an longer block will be considered if they continue with their offending behaviour.
A long-term block can only be placed after an internal DWG discussion and if there is consensus within DWG.
Permanent blocks can be lifted by a DWG decision, or upon successful appeal to the board of directors of the OSMF, or a person or body to whom the board delegated this duty.
If, while the mapper is blocked, other accounts are found to be controlled by the same person, the ban would apply to those accounts as well.
DWG will usually treat mappers with respect, give them time to respond, and issue blocks sparingly. No such respect is afforded to accounts though which clearly have been created with the sole purpose of vandalizing OSM (e.g. writing expletives all over the map); such accounts may be blocked or banned without further ado.
Additionally it does not apply to mappers who violate copyright, database rights, or other similar rights.
Changes since then:
- Addition of approval information
- Removal of DRAFT notice.
- Policy amended by board circular
- Clarification on procedures and length of bans by board circular
- New paragraph "Blocks until a particular action has been taken" added at the request of the board, October 2021.