Wikipedia:An interest is not a conflict of interest

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Conflict of interest is a cause not a crime.

Conflict of interest is one of Wikipedia's least understood and yet most cited behavioral guidelines. In a nutshell it strongly discourages promoting interests an editor is related to unless it is certain that the interests of Wikipedia remain paramount.

Conflicted editors can be an extremely valuable and largely untapped resource as they are often the most equipped and motivated to report on a given subject. Policy permits conflicted editors to edit articles provided they comply with other policies. Unfortunately some such editors fail to write from a neutral point of view, introduce original research or unverifiable claims, link to third-party websites or breach other policies and guidelines such as those dealing with autobiographies.

Remember[edit]

  • When citing conflict of interest in a discussion be sure to also cite the relevant policies and guidelines that you believe have been broken (e.g. WP:NPOV), ideally with specific examples.
  • A conflict of interest is not a reason to delete an article or revert edits although other problems with the article arising from a conflict of interest may be valid criteria for deletion or reversion.
  • Use the {{COI}} template as a temporary cleanup template to highlight articles that may need attention, not a permanent brand for disparaging articles and their authors. Discuss specific issues on article talk pages.
  • Unjustified use of the {{COI}} template contravenes the no personal attacks policy which requires us to comment on content, not on the contributor. If there is any doubt as to whether the conflict has created a problem consider using the {{COI-check}} tag instead.

Interest[edit]

The word interest has two distinct meanings in this context which can be a source of great confusion:

  • A great attention and concern from someone or something.
He has a lot of interest in vintage cars.
  • A business or amorous link or involvement.
I have business interests in South Africa.

While both meanings usually apply at the same time (for example an editor writing about their own company or family member), this need not always be the case. Just because an editor has an interest in a topic (regardless how strong) does not imply that they have a conflict of interest. Conversely an editor may have a conflict of interest with no interest at all (for example an editor writing about an ex-employer or competitor).

Where there is no obvious off-wiki financial, professional, or marketing benefit to the editor or someone close to them (examples) it is usually better to avoid introducing conflict of interest and focus instead on the actual violations of policy (indeed this can be good advice even when there is a conflict of interest). Many editors consider such accusations to be a personal attack and may respond aggressively where they may have otherwise remained calm.

Advice[edit]

Conflicted editors who do choose to contribute should declare their interests, both on their user pages and on the talk page of any article they edit, be sure to write in a neutral tone, cite reliable, third-party published sources, and beware of unintentional bias. If challenged on your conflict of interest, remain cool, and be willing to edit collaboratively. Using the {{request edit}} tag on the talk page or asking for input at the conflict of interest noticeboard can resolve disputes.

See also[edit]