Revising history

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Crystal wordprocessing.png This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.

The page histories and logs kept by MediaWiki are sacred. They are a record of what has occurred, when, and who performed the action.

Background[edit]

For the most part, page histories and logs have been unalterable except by those who have been entrusted with special software tools or direct database access.

Logs[edit]

Prior to the creation of the logging table, manual logs were kept of deletions and other actions. Following the creation of the logging table in 2004,[1] only system administrators were able to alter log entries.

Page histories[edit]

Page histories were also unalterable by anyone other than system administrators until May 2006[2][3] when the Oversight extension was created as a "temporary" hack while the revision deletion core feature was being developed. Oversight moves revisions to a parallel database table that is entirely inaccessible from the wiki software. A log is kept of oversights for transparency. Originally the log was open to the public, however in July 2006, it was made private.[4] Only system administrators are able to reverse the oversight of an edit.

Selective deletion and restoration is a hack used by some administrators to hide revisions from page histories. By deleting an entire page and only restoring certain revisions, it is possible to alter page histories. The deleted revisions are only able to be seen by other administrators, though any administrator can restore the revisions should it be warranted.

Ethics of historical revisionism[edit]

For our purposes, historical revisionism will be defined as the deliberate act to alter page histories or logs in a manner that is undetectable and fundamentally alters the presentation of what occurred.

Looking forward[edit]

With the implementation and eventual activation of RevisionDelete, it will be possible for administrators and oversighters (possibly named "suppressors" in the future) to hide revisions or log entries. This represents a dramatic shift in a number of ways. Both admins and oversighters will no longer be using poorly-conceived hacks to alter history. There will be more transparency as the entries will still be visible, albeit obscured to those without sufficient access.

References[edit]

  1. mw:Special:Code/MediaWiki/4919
  2. mw:Extension:Oversight as of 24 May 2006
  3. mw:Special:Code/MediaWiki/14359
  4. mw:Special:Code/MediaWiki/14746