BLP Task Force/Workshop

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Challenges for BLPs[edit]

Legal issues[edit]

  • Libel law
  • Lèse majesté laws
  • Personality rights
  • Wide range of contempt of court issues
  • Mr Justice Eady

Issues with the subjects of BLPs (and their PR people)[edit]

  • subjects of BLPs being upset by false info
  • subjects of BLPs being upset by true info
  • subjects of BLPs not telling us about false info
  • people trying to use Wikipedia to promote themselves
  • subjects of BLPs being upset by the idea of people writing about them
  • subject's right to privacy
  • Subject rights - vague transition from BLP

On wiki issues that directly relate to individual articles[edit]

  • People wanting to use Wikipedia as a weapon
  • People wanting to use Wikipedia to spread The Truth(TM)
  • Widely reported but false info
  • False claims by the subject of the BLP
  • Dealing with true but hard to cite information
  • Subjects of BLPs with who are only partially covered in public records.
  • Highly unflattering/Flattering images.
  • Inclusion of trivial but well-cited information within BLPs
  • Tabloid editing
  • Notability guidelines
  • Dispute // Review // Deletion processes.

More general on-wiki issues[edit]

  • Largely number of only mildly notable people in complete sets
  • Members of the community overreacting to the BLP problem in ways that would damage the wiki
  • Difficultly in getting passing readers to jump in and correct things.
  • The ease with which BLP policy can be used as a weapon in conflicts
  • Poor communication when dealing with the subjects of BLPs
  • Ensuring that all information concerning a living person is properly scrutinised by other editors.

Potential solutions[edit]

Default to delete at deletion debates[edit]

When debating the deletion of biographies of living people, the default action shall be to delete unless there is a clear consensus to keep, and that the article passes all of the relevant local policies.Secondly, we need to make adding references less complex. For a very minimalist form of refs, the prompt could include a box that asks people to add URLs or book names etc. where support for the article can be found.

Sourcing of biographies[edit]

All material about living persons, whether within a standalone biography or within other articles, must be rigorously sourced. The onus is upon the contributor of material to provide the sources for their material. Allowances must be made to guide newcomers through this policy in a positive fashion.

The bottom up approach[edit]

The bottom up approach has the advantage that we can address the problem closer to its source and get a wider range and resources into play. To start with I will address how I think we should manage the various groups around the issue.

The regular editors[edit]

Strange as it may seem, these are in some respects the least useful. Most of them will already be fairly close to the limit in terms of what they can contribute to Wikipedia, and have historically proven fairly resistant to attempts to get them to deal with subjects they don’t choose for themselves.

The occasional editors who create articles[edit]

This is where a fair bit of the unsourced BLP issue comes from. I feel that our best chance of addressing the problem is software based. Firstly, we need a tool that prompts people if they create an unreferenced article. Secondly, we need to make adding references less complex. For a very minimalist form of refs, the prompt could include a box that asks people to add URLs or book names etc. where support for the article can be found.

The occasional editors who don’t create articles/edit aside from creating articles[edit]

Mostly we would be limited to encouraging them to correct errors as they see them. Ideally through positive reinforcement (praising them wherever they remove problematical material) although finding a way to do this that wouldn’t be rather resource intensive would be problematical.


Need to encourage them to remove mistakes when they see them. Probably going to require interface improvements giving greater profile to the ability to edit and a media campaign the yes this is something you can do with subtle suggestion that it is something you should do if you see an error.

Drive-by vandals[edit]

Not much we can do that we are not already doing.

Determined and malicious individuals[edit]

Trying to make them accountable or at least feel accountable for their actions. If anyone ever brings a lawsuit over such attacks and keeps it going long enough to get a judgment it would probably be useful to advertise the judgment. Recent UK ruling around that suspected blackmail issue may be of use here.

Subjects of BLPs[edit]

Make them understand that drive by vandalism is simply people saying “you suck” on the internet. For more malicious cases make it clear we will not be obstructive towards legal moves beyond no legal threats on-wiki. Also contact various associations such as sports and say writers with instructions on how to report problems. A “so you have an article about you on Wikipedia this is what you should know” leaflet would be going a bit far but a digital version of that may well by useful.

Top down approach[edit]

Drive by vandals[edit]

Semi-protection offers a degree of resistance against vandalism. It also allows the blocking of persistent accounts causing problems to an article, rather than resorting to an IP address or rangeblock, which has on occasion resulted in preventing large areas from editing. The issue then is, does this contrast with the 'anyone can edit' principle. One school of thought says no, as all one as to do to edit such articles is to create an account and start editing.