WordPress.org removes Russian Pro-War plugin from directory – WP Tavern
After considerable pushback from the plugin review team, WordPress.org removed a plugin called Zamircreated by a Russian developer to display the Z symbol in support of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
The plugin caught the eye after Gravity Forms Founder and CEO Carl Hancock noticed it featured in the “New” list of plugins for WordPress.com customers.
Hancock contacted the WordPress plugin team to request its removal, but was met with a defense for its inclusion based on what the representative considered a lack of violation of the guidelines. The rep told Hancock via email that “it’s allowed as long as it doesn’t devolve into hate speech or encouraging violence.”
Outrage over the plugin being hosted on WordPress.org sparked heated conversations on Twitter, Post Status Slack, and in the WordPress #pluginreview Slack channel where project contributors work outdoors.
Mika Epstein replied to the #pluginreview channel thread to confirm that the plugin was allowed to be in the directory:
It’s a boring thing, but acceptable, right now. We have no restrictions on plugins intended for “support”, as long as they prevent hate speech, encourage violence and raise funds for military organizations (regardless of side). We have a number of plugins that people find personally objectionable. After all, someone might hate a “show support for LGBTQ” plugin. In this case, the plug-in is a “Russian display medium” and does not violate the guidelines. Just like the porn embed plugin that a lot of people hate, you don’t have to use it. Hosting plugins here has not, and never have been to my knowledge, conferred any sort of endorsement besides being secure and not violating any guidelines at the time of submission.
Meanwhile, the plugin had started racking up negative reviews, and Hancock had managed to convince WordPress project management to take a second look. The plugin has been temporarily suspended while management reviews the issue.
The symbol “Z” was used by the Russian government as pro-war symbol and propaganda tool, and is frequently seen painted on Russian military tanks and trucks that invaded Ukraine. It is widely considered a symbol of war and violence. the Zamir plugin header image includes a black and orange ribbon, the Ribbon of St. George, which is also a symbol of the Russian army. The symbol was banned by Ukrainian lawmakers in 2017 as a symbol of “Russia’s war and the occupation of Ukraine”.
A few participants in the #pluginreview channel discussion seemed blissfully oblivious to the symbol and flippant in response to concerns, while others who were more immediately affected by Russia’s aggression tried to explain what it symbolizes. .
“Here’s some background on what this plugin is actually supporting, of a person sitting in a city bombarded by cruise missiles,” said Ukrainian WordPress contributor Andrey Savchenko.
“To be perfectly clear, this is ‘morally offensive’ and ‘abuse directed at any other member of the WordPress community’ under Section 9 of the WordPress Plugin Guidelines.
“For anyone unfamiliar with the context – Z and V, which began as markings on Russian military vehicles invading Ukraine, were adopted by the Russian state as symbols of joyful support for war, denying that this is a war, denying that they are killing civilians, etc.”
Many are in disbelief that the plugin was even approved in the first place.
“I am completely appalled that such a thing is even being considered for inclusion,” Bas Schuiling said in the #pluginreview channel discussion. “I am a refugee and fled Ukraine, and this exact symbol is used to applaud and encourage the killing of my country, my friends and my family.”
“We are witnessing the birth of a real-time hate symbol,” Hancock argued. “You’d have to live under a rock not to see that.”
After a long discussion, WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden Chomphosy decided to have the plugin permanently removed from the directory, reversing the decision of the plugin team. She followed up later with a post declarationexplaining why it was removed:
The plugin’s description, “Displays the Z symbol in support of Russia”, escaped the plugin’s initial checks. While it’s true that there is no current plugin guideline prohibiting plugins that “support” political leanings, this icon symbolizes something more complicated than that. The contributors were right to point this out, and with their help and the help of members of the WordPress community, the plugin was removed from the directory.
In a separate article on Create WordPress plugins blog post, Haden Chomphosy said that since Z is an emerging symbol of hate, “it was considered a gray area during initial checks and upon further review it was removed.”
“As a reminder, WordPress guidelines call on all members of the community, including extenders and plugin authors alike, to ‘be kind, helpful, and respectful,'” she said. ongoing and to a humanitarian crisis is none of that.”
Many of those initially outraged by WordPress.org hosting this plugin are happy with the outcome, but it highlighted a disconnect between WordPress values and the current processes in place to deal with hate symbols in plugins.
“I’m glad the plugin was removed from the repository,” Hancock said. “It was absolutely the right call. But I wish it didn’t take rattling cages for that to happen. I think the comparisons that have been made between this situation and others that may offend people (like a porn embed plugin) were completely wrong.
“I hope the WordPress Plugin Repository is not a place for plugins used to facilitate the spread of propaganda and hate symbols that support war crimes and genocide in Ukraine. And that’s exactly what the Z symbol has become.
Haden Chomphosy’s statement indicated that the project may revisit its plugin review policies in the future.
“I’m aware that this issue leads to natural questions about clarifying our plugin policies in the future,” she said. “I will work with the community to explore our guidelines and create a clearer framework for how plugins can be evaluated in the context of current events.”