Using Wikidata to check votes of the Wikimedia Foundation board election

Seats of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees are regularly partially renewed by the community. In 2022, two seats are at stake, in a complex procedure, including a community vote that took place from August 23 to September 6. The list of voters is public, with many details: date of vote, username of the voter, if the vote has been cancelled (because the same account voted a second time, or because the vote has been manually struck).

I wrote a set of scripts to gather data and to compute statistics about this election. The first goal was to automatically check some rules of the voter eligibility guidelines, like that a bot account did not vote (there was at least one, and their vote has been struck after it was reported to the elections committee). Let’s see how we can use Wikidata to perform some basic checks.

On Wikidata, the property Wikimedia username (P4174) links an item to a Wikimedia account. After retrieving the list of voters, it’s easy to check some rules with the related data on Wikidata.

A first idea was to check if a vote was linked to someone supposed to be dead (they are about one hundred wikimedians with a date of death on Wikidata). None was found.

Another idea was to check if someone used several accounts to vote. People can have several Wikimedia accounts for legitimate reasons: a separate bot account, a separate account for each employer when their work is related to Wikimedia, for privacy concerns, and so on (example). With the list of voters, it was checked if several usernames belong to the same item on Wikidata (and so to the same person).

With this method, two voting accounts were found to belong to the same person (Q78170633 is the related item on Wikidata): Masssly (their personal account, voted on 5 September 2022) and Mohammed Sadat (WMDE) (their account as an employee of Wikimedia Deutschland, voted on 26 August 2022). On the one hand, this is surprising because they are a member of the elections committee, supposed to enforce the voter eligibility guidelines, on the other hand, it’s not the first time they cause concerns during an election (fortunately smoothly solved by the community in that case). The issue has been publicly reported on September 7. To my knowledge, it was not followed by any action nor comment; in the meantime, several votes were struck on similar cases.

While these methods allowed to find some fraud, it is very limited: a lot of wikimedians don’t have a Wikidata item, and a lot more don’t have all their usernames on their Wikidata item.

Don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss or to suggest improvements to the project.