Talk:Terms of use

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Reasons for the 2011 Terms of Use[edit]

In 2011, the Foundation adopted a new Terms of Use. The Foundation's General Counsel gave two explanations of why we did this, which are included in this section.

Discussion of the 2014 disclosure amendment to the Terms of Use is below this section. —Luis Villa (WMF) (talk) 16:44, 16 June 2014 (UTC)


Hello all, I'm happy to announce that the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees has approved an amendment to Section 4 of the Terms of Use to require disclosure of paid editing. This follows the extensive discussion of the amendment on meta in February and March, which resulted in 320,000 words of discussion in various languages. At the Board's meeting in April, they reviewed issues raised in this discussion, and approved the proposed amendment. This amendment is added to the Terms of Use effective immediately.

For more information, please see the following links:

Thanks, Stephen LaPorte (WMF) (talk) 16:58, 16 June 2014 (UTC)


I see the Paid editing TOU amendment has landed on the wmfwiki. (this meta copy should be updated to be in sync) Is the required disclosure retrospective? It does sound forward looking, but isnt explicitly so. John Vandenberg (talk) 15:54, 16 June 2014 (UTC)

Hello John, the disclosure rules in the amendment to the Terms of Use apply from now on, but they are not retrospective. Thanks, Stephen LaPorte (WMF) (talk) 16:28, 16 June 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for the quick response. Even so, I think the WMF should force all users to receive a notice of this change that they must acknowledge receipt of before editing, as there are many people who edit topics they have a COI on and have edited for years happily, but today they must 'out' themselves if they edit those same pages. They need to know that to avoid the COI hounds they must discontinue editing those pages. John Vandenberg (talk) 17:39, 16 June 2014 (UTC)
We are notifying users through site banners and email list, as described in Section 16 (Modifications to these Terms of Use). These rules rules will work best when they are enforced sensibly and in good faith, consistent with guidelines on civility and other rules against harassment (and not through "COI hounding"). We cover enforcement in the FAQ: Users should first be warned and informed of the rules, and then take other action only when necessary. If you see any issues with enforcement, you can point to this in the FAQ. Thanks! Stephen LaPorte (WMF) (talk) 18:31, 16 June 2014 (UTC)
Im not here to talk about wiki ideals. Enforcement will be unevenly applied, etc. Reality is that this will be a brand new weapon used in wiki wars. The people who will be clobbered by this new weapon need to be notified in advance. Email lists are of course useless to notify the majority of people who focus on content. Site notices are great. Where is the proposed site notice text so we can review it? This site notice should not be for a limited time - it needs to be seen, so WMF needs to track which users have 'seen' it, but as 'seen' is a fuzzy concept what this really needs is 'every' existing contributor to acknowledge receipt. (where 'every' is defined broadly but sensibly - e.g. everyone who has edited since the new ToU and has more than 100 edits since day dot) And someone needs to reach out to the people who have disabled the sitenotice via various means (such as these people). John Vandenberg (talk) 19:01, 16 June 2014 (UTC)
You can see the banner being run right now with this forced link. At the moment it is being shown a max of 2 times. Jalexander--WMF 19:19, 16 June 2014 (UTC)
Thanks. Ensuring every user has seen it twice is nice, but the message isnt very descriptive. It needs to inform them why they should read it. IMO it needs to mention type of amendment so that, even if they ignore it, they know what type of changes have happened and cant latter say they didnt know there was a change related to the type of edit that they must stop immediately if they wish to avoid being dragged through the coals on a noticeboard. John Vandenberg (talk) 03:57, 17 June 2014 (UTC)

Since you geht blocked in the german wikipedia when you out a paid editor flying below radar, this new rule ain't worth the paper it's written on. Weissbier (talk) 16:29, 17 June 2014 (UTC)

@Weissbier: can you link to the relevant German Wikipedia policie(s) or explain this a little more? (I don't speak German but would be interested to at least read via machine translation.) -Pete F (talk) 01:47, 18 June 2014 (UTC)


Stephen, could a summary of what was added be appended to Talk:Terms_of_use/Paid_contributions_amendment -- I only had that page on my watchlist from 18 months ago and was wondering what in the end was decided. With 6,000 edits there, there are probably others who didn't know to look here for the resolution (and further updates were promised). Thanks for all the hard work! Mscuthbert (talk) 14:44, 19 October 2015 (UTC)

Mscuthbert The Terms of Use were updated in June 2014 to include this. -Pete F (talk) 00:33, 20 October 2015 (UTC)
Thanks. I realized that when I came to this page; I just wasn't sure if a note should go on the discussion page since the last line there was "We will keep you informed on the process and the Board's deliberations." and I'm someone, perhaps not the only one, who was following that page but never had this page on my watchlist. But if you think that updating this page is sufficient, I won't press for it. Thanks! Mscuthbert (talk) 05:48, 28 October 2015 (UTC)

Paid, non-CoI edits[edit]

My reading of the new terms is that if I run a training session for, say, librarians, or university lecturers, who are attending in work time, then they must disclose that they have been paid, even if their edits are to a sandbox, or make simple changes such as fixing punctuation or adding references, or adding content unrelated to their employer, as:

any contribution for which you receive, or expect to receive, compensation

The FAQ reinforces this:

you are ... required to comply with the disclosure provision when you are compensated by your employer or by a client specifically for edits and uploads to a Wikimedia project

This is likely, in my view, to have a chilling effect on such training.

If I am paid to deliver that training, and make edits during it, such as posting welcome templates, or fixing formatting errors in trainees' edits to articles, I now have to declare that I've been employed to do so. I even have to declare if I'm simply provided with lunch ("an exchange of money, goods, or services"; no exceptions are listed.) Ditto an editathon participant who is given a copy of the GLAM's guidebook, or a free pass to an attraction for which there is usually a charge.

I further note that the FAQ (which appears to be informational, and not part of the terms of use) covers two GLAM/ University scenarios:

  • someone "encouraged" by their employer "to contribute generally without more specific instruction"
  • someone "specifically compensated to edit the article about" the place at which they are employed

It does not consider someone "specifically compensated" to edit an article where there is no CoI (such as, for example, a cancer charity employee paid to improve the article on radiotherapy). Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 18:32, 16 June 2014 (UTC)

I agree with Andy's comments. The letter from the Board states "The amendment is not intended to impact participants in GLAM projects, or professors, when they are writing about topics of general interest on their own, rather than writing about their own institutions while being compensated directly quid pro quo, for example." This seems to preclude the possibility of GLAM professionals writing about topics of general interest while being compensated (not "on their own"), and perpetuating the insinuation that all paid editing is for advocacy. There is now a presumption that experts who edit Wikipedia to increase knowledge about a subject area as part of their work are introducing bias and must be regulated. We already struggle with the perception that academics and cultural professionals are not allowed to edit Wikipedia at all due to conflict of interest; this certainly will reinforce that idea. Dominic (talk) 18:52, 16 June 2014 (UTC)
Commons is already opting out. For those operating on English projects, I think the solution is to propose an opt out on those with a swifter decision making process (like Wiktionary, Wikiquote, Wikisource and Wikibooks) and then conduct trainings preferably on the sister projects. --Nemo 20:20, 16 June 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for your comments, User:Pigsonthewing and User:Dominic. I appreciate the engagement. Let me try to answer by taking a step back and looking at the big picture.
The focus of this change is, as the language says, about clarifying and strengthening the existing rules about deceptive editing. Or, as the FAQ puts it, about edits where there is a relationship between the payments and the content. If someone pays you in a training to show them how to fix typos or use Wikitext, that is different from making positive content edits about their company or organization during a training (“let me show you how to edit by deleting this fact you don’t like”). If you are employed as an expert, and your employer encourages you to make edits on your general area of expertise, that is different from being paid to make edits about your employer. In the first case, you are not required to disclose your employer (even though you may be "on the clock" while editing); in the second case, you should disclose.
With regards to specific questions about detailed line-drawing: the purpose of the terms is not to catch users who make occasional good-faith mistakes; we think most users, most of the time, will do the right thing. At the same time, since this is a general terms of use, we can’t lay out every potential case ahead of time. Given this, it may be useful, when trying to figure out your own actions, to ask yourself the question: am I being transparent about my affiliations and motivations? Is there a reason for me not to be transparent? If for some reason you’re particularly strongly concerned that you should not provide information, consider discussing it on the relevant talk page before making the edit. That's probably more useful as background than any specific hypotheticals about whether sandwiches are payments or not. —Luis Villa (WMF) (talk) 20:30, 16 June 2014 (UTC)
I am a little confused where the nuance you are expressing here is coming from. I've read the actual amendment, which states simply "you must disclose your employer, client, and affiliation any contribution for which you receive, or expect to receive, compensation". It does not say, as you are suggesting, that if you are being paid to edit on your area of expertise that this requirement does not apply you. Just to be clear, do you realize that it is possible for an academic or cultural professional to make edits on Wikipedia, as part of their job (i.e., directed by their employer, not "encouraged" or "on their own") that are not about their institution or self-promotional, but about their are of expertise? This is the specific, non-hypothetical situation for which I'm expressing concern. Dominic (talk) 20:46, 16 June 2014 (UTC)
Firstly, I'm rather concerned by your apparent - and hopefully unintentional - insinuation that I wasn't "looking at the big picture". I second Dominic's responses to you. Furthermore, the change does not "strengthen" existing rules, it changes them; not least in the manner I describe. And I dispute that the difference you describe does exist in the new terms of use. You appear to be describing an intent, which is not what is written. And the new terms as written will be applied by admins and arbcom members who - potentially - may be looking for a stick to wield. Your first paragraph ignores the "third case" which I described. In your second, you dismissively refer to "hypothetical sandwiches"; However, I refer to real cases, such as the three-course cooked meals with wine, as kindly served to volunteers by the European Parliament earlier this year. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 21:41, 16 June 2014 (UTC)
I apologize that my point about expertise was stated unclearly. The point is not that experts don’t have to disclose; what matters is why the expert is editing - are they doing it because they are being paid to edit or not? If they are directed to edit by their institution as part of their job, they must disclose. —Luis Villa (WMF) (talk) 00:32, 17 June 2014 (UTC)
Indeed; that's one of the points Dominic and I were making. We then raised some problems that that is likely (certain, I'd say) to cause. The new requirement is under the umbrella of preventing "deceptive activities" - so much for "assume good faith". Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 12:23, 17 June 2014 (UTC)
@Pigsonthewing:, "So much for AGF" was the original title for my blog post on this amendment. I do think the opt-out mechanism does go a fair way toward addressing my secondary concern (about how this impacts non-enwp projects), but it doesn't change the fact that this amendment singles out specific kinds of (potentially) COI edits and identifies them as TOU violations. It will produce both false-positives and false-negatives, because at its core, it attempts to take a complex issue, and address it with a simple, broad-brush approach. -Pete F (talk) 23:08, 17 June 2014 (UTC)
I meant to spell that out:
  • By "false positives" I mean the ones you and Dominic are discussing above: subject matter experts working innocuously in their field of expertise, who should not have to worry about jumping through specific hoops (though I think we all agree it's an important and good practice to disclose anyway);
  • By "false negatives" I mean actual, agenda-pushing paid advocates, who gain confidence through their compliance with this amendment, incorrectly concluding that the extremely low level of disclosure now required is somehow sufficient for ethical engagement. -Pete F (talk) 01:37, 18 June 2014 (UTC)

I see we also have problems with religious orders even on Was the Vatican informed of the new Terms of use? (FYI has some very active editors who are priests.) --Nemo 11:14, 25 June 2014 (UTC)

So let me see if I understand this. I disclose. And all the articles I have written since 2009 are put up for deletion by some hateful witch hunter, perhaps still in high school?-- 17:03, 25 June 2014 (UTC)

Yes. But that can happen to anyone any time. The articles would not be deleted if they meet the policies, this would be a wider community discussion. By the way, being in high school is not a bad thing, neither is having a doctorate. I really enjoyed your edit comment here: "Furthermore, I have a Ph.D. and know more about research than most contributors"; very amusing. -- (talk) 11:52, 26 June 2014 (UTC)
Heavy-handed edit summaries aside (hopefully it wasn't meant that way; in fairness, a PhD is about having personally done top-level research),
I do tend to agree that trolls are prime beneficiaries of this policy change. Wikipedia (in particular amongst the sisters) is already suffering from the accumulated effects of years of troll-friendly social infrastructure, and this looks like more fuel on the fire. --Pi zero (talk) 19:12, 26 June 2014 (UTC)

Global user pages[edit]

For compliance with the new terms of use, I currently feel compelled to add my disclaimer to about 281 more wikis. It's ugly enough to make my user pages so cluttered when I managed to keep them clean for almost ten years now, but it will be a pain to update hundreds of wikis following the opt outs from the new restriction etc.
In other words, I assume the WMF will now work on global user pages to make the terms of use actionable? Alternatively, I'd also be ok with the new requirement being restricted to, as I already made my edit there. :) --Nemo 20:08, 16 June 2014 (UTC)

As a volunteer photographer (albeit sometimes compensated by chapters, with hotel room, travel costs and a stipend for food) and as a paid Wikipedian in Residence, I've edited Wikipedias in languages which I cannot speak (some using alphabets which I cannot read), to add my own images, and high-resolution scans of artworks donated by GLAMS. I am incapable of making the newly-required declaration on such Wikipedias, in their local languages. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 22:13, 16 June 2014 (UTC)
The amendment does not require that you write the disclosure in the language of the project you are editing. It probably should, but that is a separate problem to your problem. Lucky for you, your native language is the worlds most understood language. You already use the English language in your edit summaries on projects you dont understand, and there are less than 10 non-English projects which you have more than 10 edits other than your userpage.
While I agree with Nemo bis's point about practicality, there is a bot that automatically syncronises user pages - it was operated by user:Pathoschild, and this perhaps should be mentioned in the FAQ to assist people who need to roll out a COI notice to hundreds of user pages where they frequently edit and using edit summaries every edit are not practical. John Vandenberg (talk) 05:19, 17 June 2014 (UTC)
While I occasionally use English on such Wikipedias (usually to apologise for not speaking the local language, and/ or to request translation), I would not rely on it to prevent me (nor anyone else) from getting blocked over an issue such as that discussed here; any more then I would expect a Japanese-language disclosure (for example) to be accepted on the English Wikipedia. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 12:31, 17 June 2014 (UTC)

Impact for WMF employees and contractors[edit]

As all WMF employees, contractors and potentially supplier organizations, directly benefit from the Wikimedia projects (being the primary "product" of the WMF), so improvement to project content and even more relevantly, discussions and policies that result in functional changes or changes to community policy are directly related to the reason that the employee or contractor is being paid. One can presume that edits from "Joe Blog (WMF)" are automatically read as having an interest, however if the same person is editing under an anonymous or pseudonymous account of "Joe90", then most readers will be unable to see that there is an underpinning interest, particularly during community discussion. As far as I am aware, there are no constraints on employee and contractor use of anonymous or pseudonymous accounts on Wikimedia projects.

What are the expectations for employees and contractors for the way they must declare their interest under the revised TOU? Thanks -- (talk) 09:39, 17 June 2014 (UTC)

Hello , WMF staff should provide proper disclosure when using an account for work. This would be satisfied by the "WMF" flag in most staff usernames, or by a note on their user page. There is no general rule against using anonymous or pseudonymous accounts outside of work, however. Thanks, Stephen LaPorte (WMF) (talk) 01:22, 18 June 2014 (UTC)
Thanks. This means that the changes in TOU have no impact on current practices. This also means that when people are paid by their institution to edit Wikipedia or other Wikimedia projects, they should be free to contribute using the same WMF employee working practices; in that they should feel under no obligation to declare their interest when using "private" accounts in their spare time, even when this includes taking part in community discussion that is not directly part of their paid editing, yet may benefit their paid editing work indirectly. -- (talk) 07:22, 18 June 2014 (UTC)
No, it doesn't mean any of those things, Fae. Please let me know if I'm mistaken, Stephen LaPorte (WMF). The changes in TOU do impact current practices. When people are paid by their institution to edit Wikipedia or other Wikimedia projects, they are obliged to declare their interest when using "private" accounts in their spare time, even when this includes taking part in community discussion that is not directly part of their paid editing, yet may benefit their paid editing work indirectly.--Elvey (talk) 22:37, 29 March 2015 (UTC)
"There is no general rule against using anonymous or pseudonymous accounts outside of work". -- (talk) 22:17, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
Elvey, it is indeed a good summary of the implied position taken by the Wikimedia Foundation in passing this amendment, which is the core reason I opposed the amendment. The WMF's amendment singles out one specific kind of behavior as a TOU violation; by not commenting on the many related kinds of behavior that can be equally problematic, it gives the incorrect impression that "anything goes" when money is not changing hands. This is a substantial problem.
To Slaporte (WMF)'s point, the question of whether or not something is "outside of work" is itself often murky; treating the issue as though there is a clear determination of whether something is "part of one's paid work" or "outside work" does not reflect the day-to-day reality of people routinely interpreting their own actions through a favorable lens.
You may be interested in the op-ed column I wrote for the English Wikipedia Signpost last year; also, take note of the comment from Risker under the heading "We are all paid editors". -Pete F (talk) 19:35, 31 March 2015 (UTC)

Remove the edit button[edit]

People should not be allowed to edit. Because there are companies using wiki as a sales platform posting lies about their products, I am a medical student, my professor always discourages us to use wiki because of that reason. Please cancel the editing option it's not okay since any bored person can just write anything. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Ntsakomacdonald (talk) 20:51, 17 June 2014‎

Excuse me if my English is approximate, I'm french. I believe that you didn't really understand the fundamental principle of Wikipedia. This encyclopedia is, like its said, a "wiki". Read the definition of a 'wiki' in the dictionary. You have every right to dislike this kind of encyclopedia, but so don't come to say here. Thank you for your understanding -- 15:17, 20 June 2014 (UTC)

Definition of Compensation[edit]

Hi, I put a question regarding the definition of compensation at Wikimedia Forum#Definition: Compensated Editing?. Is someone around, who dares answering it? I acknowledge the good intentions of all parties involved, but the result of this TOU-amendmend is a mess, and you will have to clean it up. --h-stt !? 10:45, 30 June 2014 (UTC)

Hello h-stt, thanks for your questions. I will take a look, and we will get back to you shortly. Thanks! Stephen LaPorte (WMF) (talk) 16:46, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
ping! Is 48 hours too short for such a question? --h-stt !? 13:35, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
Thanks again for your patience -- I posted in the other thread. Stephen LaPorte (WMF) (talk) 19:32, 2 July 2014 (UTC)

Terms of use on the WMF site[edit]

Could someone please explain me what's the difference between this "Terms of use" and the other one available on the Wikimedia Foundation site? Which of the two is official? The new TOU update 2014 sometimes points to this TOU, sometimes to the other. I also find it strange that we have a pt version here, but not pt-br, while on WMF it's the other way around. There should be a pt version there, too. Capmo (talk) 18:15, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

The version on the WMF site is the original approved in English; here we create informative translations, and the WMF site may host a few of them (if they have been approved by a local chapter), but the version on Meta reflects the current state of translations.
That's why all translated versions include a link to the last approved version. Sometimes there will be some fixes made here, but as long as they are not approved by the Board, the unmodifiable version on the WMF site will prevail.
Consider versions on Meta as drafts. Given the current state of translations, there may still be ambiguities revealed by translators, but the spirit of the conditions is now stable and there will be only minor fixes. If some changes are needed, they will be discussed here on Meta, and some fixes will be made here, translations will need to be updated (sometimes, if there were errors of interpretation of the English text or unexpected change of scope in a translations due to missing precision in the English source). Some minor changes will include fixing punctuations and targets of links for pages that have been moved or reorganized, or some fixes for the page layout (notably for some scripts), requiring the addition of a few formating templates or code, without changing the readable English text.
Then some localized projects will import one of the translated versions. and will stabilize it on their wiki (possibly changing some links or adding a few more references, where these changes are authorized on a specific project, but not globally for all wikis using that same language; on Meta-Wiki we should see only translated versions appropriate for all wikis and not tuned specifically for a given localized wiki project such as Portuguese Wikipedia).
Be careful: most "pt-br" translations are full of errors (most of them have been produced by someone using an automatic Bing translator, and that user did not stop, and did not understand any word of English, that Brasilian user has been banned from Meta-Wiki after refusing to change anything in her methods). In most case, the "pt" version should be better (there's little need to make difference Iberic Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese for this policy page that should be readable by all lusophones). verdy_p (talk) 20:46, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
Thank you for the detailed explanations, now it's all very clear. Regarding the pt-br translations, I guess I know who you're talking about; I've come across a discussion on ptwiki regarding this subject. Thanks for the warning.
In fact I think that keeping two Portuguese versions of all these documents, banners, etc. is an enormous waste of time, especially now that the w:Portuguese Language Orthographic Agreement of 1990 is in effect in both Portugal and Brazil, and spelling differences have reduced dramatically. I strongly believe that these versions should be merged everywhere with the exception of the user interface. Regards, Capmo (talk) 03:09, 5 July 2014 (UTC)
Could someone edit the talk page of the TOU on the WMF site to direct people to this section of this talk page? E.g. Under the heading "Editable version of these Terms", say There is an editable version of these terms at [link].--Elvey (talk) 20:42, 23 July 2015 (UTC)
Elvey: Done -- thanks, good catch. -Pete F (talk) 15:11, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
And thank you. What a coincidence crossing paths so soon after w:User_talk:Elvey#PD-ORGov.--Elvey (talk) 23:55, 25 July 2015 (UTC)
I'd still like someone edit the talk page of the TOU on the WMF site to direct people to this section of this talk page more in this manner: Under the heading "Editable version of these Terms", say There is an editable version of these terms at [link]. Or at least something that informs people that there's an editable version of these terms here. Also, it would be useful if there were more anchors: I'd like to be able to link to the section on Paid Editing, but I can only link to the larger section containing it.--Elvey (talk) 07:42, 13 October 2015 (UTC)

Terms of use[edit]

Why are non-administrators able to edit the Terms of use page that this talk page is associated with? I feel someone should should protect it as soon as possible.


DLindsley (talk) 21:48, 13 July 2014 (UTC)

These pages are monitored, spammers or posters of junks are very rapidely reverted. And anyway the original approved is archived on the WMF wiki. People may still edit typos or could still propose minor changes when they are discussed here.
Some minor changed are sometimes needed to fix translation problems in other pages (e.g. missing stable anchors)
Finally n ote that the English source is also monitored by translation admins! the changes in the original has no effect on translations before they are marked for being changed as well in translations. The translations themselves are also monitored
Meta-Wiki contains a reworkable version of these pages nad discussions are never ended. There are enough protections in my opinion and enough backups so it is easy to revert malicious changes (just like I just did in the French version with someone posting random junk). verdy_p (talk) 10:23, 14 July 2014 (UTC)

Need some input[edit]

I need to point out that I have a question here, but I just don't know where to put it. I'd appreciate it if this is not the spot for this question to either tell me where to post it or move it for me and telling me where to go.

My Question: I was on the Talk page for Julian Lennon and one of the posts there had a, let's say, savory word. I feel that this is an encyclopedia that's widely used, especially by children. I realize that kids today know all about the so called 7 words you can't say on television, but I still feel that such language has NO PLACE on Wikipedia. I'm all for freedom of speech, but with the freedom comes responsibility. Any thoughts?Rricci428 (talk) 19:01, 10 August 2014 (UTC)

See W:WP:NOTCENSORED.--Elvey (talk) 20:39, 23 July 2015 (UTC)