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Community Wishlist Survey 2021/Admins and patrollers/Discourage External Spam that Exploits Wikipedia

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Discourage External Spam that Exploits Wikipedia

  • Problem: Many spamming scammers use Wikipedia references to add credibility to their scams (usually 419s).
  • Who would benefit: Wikipedia would have less spurious traffic reflecting the interests of scammers and potential victims would benefit by being warned against scams. Wikipedia's reputation would be enhanced by taking a clear position against criminal use of Wikipedia.
  • Proposed solution: A flag option to create a banner saying that This article is currently being referenced by scam email. The link to Wikipedia should not be taken as evidence of the truth or accuracy of email which is referencing this article. The basic implementation would allow someone to report the spam email to Wikipedia and select the kind of crime it represents. Most of the examples I have seen appear to be 419s, so in that case the warning message should include a link to the article about 419s, but others are phishing scams or various other crimes. The warning should persist for a while to allow for delays in people reading their email, but the basic idea is that spammers would stop abusing Wikipedia because their scams would be quickly negated at the Wikipedia end. The person reporting the spam email could trigger the warning, or it could go through a review process to confirm its spamminess.
  • More comments: This kind of abuse has been going on for many years and "Live and let spam" is obviously great for the scammers. If they weren't making money by exploiting Wikipedia's reputation then they would stop doing it.
  • Phabricator tickets:
  • Proposer: Shanen (talk) 04:06, 25 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]


  • @Shanen: This sounds like it could be a template that's placed on such articles (such as those used when articles are the subject of active news events etc.), and not something that requires anything technical or software development. Am I understanding it correctly? —Sam Wilson 06:07, 25 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
@Samwilson: [Is that the correct way to flag it to your attention?] Sorry, but even after many years of making minor contributions to Wikipedia, I do not understand Wikipedia well enough to be sure that I understand your terminology accurately enough to answer correctly. I feel the answer is "Sort of yes", but the "template" would need a couple of slots for filling in the blanks. As I would imagine a possible implementation, the person reporting the spam would submit the email, preferably with the headers, and the Wikipedia-side server would parse it for Wikipedia links or references. Then it would probably ask the person who is submitting the report for help regarding the category of crime, unless the report was passed to someone else, perhaps a member of the Wikipedia abuse team. After that, the warning notification would be added to the front of the article in question (for the appropriate period of time, perhaps two weeks in the case of an email-based scam). Not sure if this is the best way to reply to you. Maybe I should try to include a copy in your personal talk page? Shanen (talk) 16:31, 26 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
@Shanen: Yep, the {{re}} template is a great way to get people's attention; no need to separately mention on their talk page. :-) Thanks for clarifying. This sounds like there are some technical development tasks here, so I think it's fine to proceed to voting (the week after next). —Sam Wilson 02:43, 27 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
  • I feel that this is likely to cause individuals to distrust it to a fairly high degree, even though it's by no means the article's fault. It also needs someone to review the emails, which would drench OTRS (speaking as an agent, I at least wouldn't want this added), a standard process for timed removal, and so on. I would be against its addition. Nosebagbear (talk) 15:46, 2 December 2020 (UTC)[reply]
  • This is an encyclopedia. It might be similar to spoiler warnings, which have since been discontinued. Firestar464 (talk) 05:01, 9 December 2020 (UTC)[reply]