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Assume good faith

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
(English) 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.

Assuming good faith (AGF) is an important behavioral guideline on Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikiquote, Wikimedia Commons and some Wikinews (see below), and an official policy on Wikiversity and Wikidata. Wikisource, Wikivoyage and Wikispecies do not have such a guideline. On Wikibooks, AGF is a draft policy. AGF has always been a core wiki guideline; see MeatBall:AssumeGoodFaith. The purpose of this essay, mainly, is to briefly describe and compare the ways that different projects view AGF.

On Wikipedia


On Wikipedia, AGF is used for two purposes. One of them is an everyday act. When you come across an edit or comment you deem unconstructive, you should not accuse them of acting in bad faith. Simple, huh? Not as simple as it sounds. When you come across an editor who vandalises a page, you first assume good faith by dropping them a friendly-looking message, such as w:Template:uw-vandalism1 and w:Template:uw-test1. However, they may start making personal attacks towards you, or vandalise your userspace. Now, you may get angry, right? See, AGF is not as easy as you thought.

Or consider spamming. A user puts up a giant number of external links to articles that are from the same site. Will you accuse him for spamming immediately? While removing those external links may be a real pain in the neck, they might actually be thinking that they are doing the right thing because the links might help readers. You should try to explain our policies to him, and not to bite the newbies.

Last but not least, consider dispute resolution. A newbie who is unfamiliar with the manual of style might start adding strange formatting to Wikipedia articles. (That newbie might even be from Wikibooks or Wikiversity, where the style guidelines are not quite as strict as WP's.) Say they keep adding honorifics to an article. You revert his edit once. He thinks it's a bug in the software, and tries to edit again. Again you revert. Revert, revert, revert. You guessed it: you're edit warring. You should tell him about our MoS. Ideally, don't even use the uw-mos template; point to a certain part of the MoS that he should read instead.

Another use of AGF on Wikipedia, which is strongly discouraged by Wikinews due to verifiability problems, is assuming that a foreign language source or offline source, or both, is accurate. This is mostly done in Did you know? (DYK) entries.

On other projects with AGF


On projects without AGF

Main article: b:WB:AGF

On Wikibooks, AGF is still a draft policy, and has been so for nearly nine years as of 12:30, 21 September 2014 (UTC). It is seldom cited in discussions. Wikibooks' project-wide discussions, unlike Wikipedia's, are all centralised. This is because the Wikibooks community is rather small, with much of activity partitioned into separate books which may have only one, or even no, active contributor at a given time. Collaboration on a book is often over time rather than several people working simultaneously. Wikibooks does have long discussions, and disagreements between Wikibookians may pop up repeatedly. Wikibookians usually assume good faith, and major disputes are seldom found (though there have been some). Therefore, the lack of AGF policy does not affect Wikibooks.



On English Wikinews, AGF is entirely supplanted by Never assume. Emphasis is on waiting for evidence, and then using it for tentative judgements subject to further evidence. News reportage is based on verifiability; uncertain claims, and opinions, cannot be reported as fact but can be verifiably reported as claims/opinions attributed in the article to the claimant. The difference between Never assume and AGF is less than may appear, as both encourage courtesy, and AGF doesn't ask for assumption in the face of evidence to the contrary. Pi zero noted, "AGF, if taken literally by its name, advocates assuming something, which contributors to an information provider should never be encouraged to do. If taken the way it seems to be meant (per WP:ZEN), it teaches people to say something different than what you mean, also not good. And, AGF can be, and is, used successfully by people of bad faith to avoid responsibility for their own behavior and get their victims in trouble."

However, due to the different interests, the Chinese Wikinews and Persian Wikinews approved their own AGF guidelines.



Some have argued that it might be better to just say, "Don't assume bad faith." David Gerard noted on 18 February 2014, "'assume good faith' makes more sense when you realise it's a nicer restatement of 'never assume malice when stupidity will suffice'. It certainly doesn't mean 'assume correctness'." Isarra suggested that AGF "was a way to avoid assumptions - another way of saying to give people the benefit of the doubt".

Dan Andreescu argued, "violence is a particularly efficient way of getting what you want. 'Assume good faith' is just a way to apologize in advance for employing violence. And honestly, I come from a culture where violence is a totally acceptable form of communication, and I'm a violent communicator."