User:CorporateM/How WP:COI would read if I wrote it

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When advancing outside interests is more important to an editor than advancing the aims of Wikipedia, that editor stands in a conflict of interest (COI). An editor may also have a potential COI, or the appearance of a COI, even if they have attempted to put Wikipedia's interests first. Editing Wikipedia to promote your own interests can create real-world consequences, be disruptive to Wikipedia and/or result in being blocked from the site. Non-neutral edits made to Wikipedia by an editor with a non-disclosed financial connection, such as being a marketing professional, may violate relevant astroturfing and covert advertising laws, as well as Wikipedia's Terms of Use. However, some editors with a conflict of interest may be useful to the project by bringing factual errors to the community's attention, donating images and providing other useful contributions. Editors should avoid using COI accusations to win an argument or making baseless COI accusations where there is no compelling reason to suspect it.

Cultural-sector professionals[edit]

Policy shortcut:

Museum curators, librarians, archivists, and similar professionals are encouraged to help improve Wikipedia. If a link cannot be used as a reliable source, it may be placed under further reading or external links if it complies with the external links guideline. Bear in mind that Wikipedia is not a mirror or a repository of links, images, or media files. For more information, see Wikipedia:Advice for the cultural sector.

Self-citation[edit]

Policy shortcuts:

Journalists, academics and others that produce reliable sources that conform to Wikipedia's verification policies are encouraged to contribute material from those sources to relevant Wikipedia articles. Editors with this form of conflict of interest should take care to avoid excessive self-citation, undue emphasis on their work, or promotion of the work itself in the article. When in doubt, defer to the community's opinion.

Personal views[edit]

Many editors may have a personal bias on a topic. While this is technically not a conflict of interest, it may have a similar effect on the editor's contributions. Editors are generally allowed to edit articles where they have strong personal views, but should make a conscious effort to be neutral and accept input from others. Editors that come to Wikipedia for the explicit purpose of promoting their religious, political or other personal views do have a conflict of interest and must follow the Bright Line instructions if they contribute.

Real-life disputes[edit]

Some editors come to Wikipedia because they have had bad experiences with a company, dislike a specific individual, are engaged in a legal dispute with the article-subject or were recently laid off from an organization and want to use Wikipedia to enact revenge. These editors should avoid editing articles where they have had a real-life dispute with the article-subject. However, if for example the legal dispute in which you are involved has been covered extensively by credible sources, it may be added or other improvements may be made following the the Bright Line instructions.

Marketing[edit]

Editors acting on behalf of an organization or individual that has a potential conflict of interest, such as a marketing agency, a Wikipedia consultancy, a corporate communications department, or a volunteer representing a church or non-profit, have routinely experienced legal disputes or been exposed in the media as a result of acting inappropriately on Wikipedia.

Many countries have laws requiring that those with a financial connection to a company provide clear and conspicuous disclosures of their financial connection and avoid acting as though they are a member of the crowd on crowd-sourced websites. Additionally, the Wikimedia Foundation has pursued legal action against a company that allegedly violated the site's terms of use by mis-representing its identity in order to hide its financial connection. Marketing professionals that create the appearance of using Wikipedia for advertising, censorship or spin, expose their employer or client to significant risks and will typically have their contributions removed, when they violate Wikipedia's policies.

Please follow the Bright Line instructions.

Bright Line instructions[edit]

Marketing editors, those involved in a real-life dispute with the article-subject and those that want to avoid accidentally using Wikipedia to promote their personal views - if they contribute - should follow the "Bright Line" rule of not directly editing the article, except to fix grammar, correct citation templates, or for other common sense exceptions. When in doubt, defer to the Wikipedia community.

In most cases, this subset of editors cannot be neutral on topics where they are conflicted, and are therefore discouraged from becoming involved in related articles. They may be blocked if they persistently make non-neutral edits, especially if they have ignored warnings and instructions. However, they are encouraged to point out errors that are both genuine and important, to donate images under a free license, to provide expertise and support disinterested editors who take an interest in their page.

  • Request a correction by adding {{request edit}} above a new discussion string on the Talk page of the article. Explain the error clearly and provide credible sources where the correct information can be verified.
  • Donate images by following the instructions at Wikipedia:Donating copyrighted materials
  • Get engaged on the Talk page by watching the discussion, disclosing your conflict of interest when you participate, and offering sources or clarifications where your expertise may be helpful

Bright Line participants are discouraged from authoring entire articles or writing substantial content contributions, unless:

  • They demonstrate a strong ability to provide neutral content despite their conflict of interest on a page that has not attracted enough attention from neutral editors
  • The article is currently unfair in a substantive way and writing additional content is the most practical way to balance it

New articles can be submitted for consideration at Articles for Creation and major content contributions can be submitted using Talk, Request Edit, the Conflict of Interest Noticeboard and by advertising the request at relevant WikiProjects.

Editors that have a conflict of interest should avoid feeling entitled to help by the volunteer community, when attempting to write their own article, because they are discouraged from doing so at all. However, volunteers are encouraged to be responsive to conflicted editors that are useful, especially if the subject of the article is treated unfairly or there are factual errors. If an issue is unresolved or urgent, consider escalating to the Conflict of Interest Noticeboard or following the instructions at Wikipedia:Contact us - Subjects.

Dealing with someone else's COI[edit]

If you believe an editor may have a non-disclosed COI, consider politely asking them if they do. Special care should always be taken to ask politely and avoid outing. Use the {{User:CorporateM/COIuser}} template on their Talk page to provide instructions on how to comply with WP:COI.

If the editor ignores the instructions and continues to make overt COI edits, ask an admin to block the editor. You may also revert all their edits except those that are clearly acceptable. This avoids edit-warring becoming a successful strategy for POV pushing. These tactics should only be used when a COI is confirmed or obvious, not speculated. Special care should be taken to avoid making COI accusations to win an argument.

Editors are encouraged to ensure that Wikipedia is fair and accurate by deleting unsourced contentious material, considering factual corrections and providing reasonable assistance when the article has overt bias. Editors are encouraged to fix these problems even if the COI participant is not very helpful in addressing them. If you prefer not to help the editor, consider advertising the issue on the Conflict of Interest Noticeboard so another editor can help.

See also[edit]