Wikipedia:Best practices for editors with close associations

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The short version:

  1. Learn Wikipedia's rules before you break them.
  2. Be up-front about your associations with the subject.
  3. Avoid creating new articles about yourself or your organization.
  4. Avoid making controversial edits to articles related to your associations.
  5. Don't push people to change their minds about issues relating to your associations.
  6. Ask for help appropriately.

If you follow these rules diligently and honestly and don't try to Wikilawyer your way around them, it will go a long way towards avoiding a conflict of interest.

More formal guidance is at Wikipedia:Conflict of interest.

Learn Wikipedia's rules[edit]

Wikipedia welcomes newcomers and tries to make things easier on them by asking everyone not to treat them harshly. However, when you intend to edit with a conflict of interest, you may be given much less slack than others. To avoid this, take the time to read and understand Wikipedia policies; also, acquaint yourselves with the typical Wikipedia acronyms people use to refer to policy. Editors with close associations to the topic or subject may be in conflict of interest if they contribute to an article in any manner that removes relevant, well sourced information, adds un-sourced contentious claims or attempts to push a single point of view in a less than neutral manner. A starting point:

  1. Wikipedia's Terms of Use, specifically the section that forbids "paid contributions without disclosure"
  2. WP:COI (Conflicts of interest)
  3. WP:NOT (What Wikipedia is not)
  4. WP:V (Verifiability)
  5. WP:NPOV (Neutral Point of View)
  6. WP:CIV (Civility)
  7. WP:NPA (No Personal Attacks)
  8. WP:N (Notability), and specifically WP:CORP (Notability for companies)
  9. WP:AGF (Assume Good Faith)
  10. WP:BLP (Biographies of living persons)
  11. WP:EW (Edit warring) and WP:3RR/WP:TRR (3-revert rule)

Finally, you may also come across WP:IAR (Ignore all rules), which encourages Wikipedians to ignore the rules if it would not be sensible to follow them in a particular context or would impede the goal of improving Wikipedia. This doesn't apply to you if you're editing with a close association with the subject, as ignoring rules could be seen as not exercising great caution, and it is likely that you are not improving Wikipedia. In other words, if you interpret ignore all rules as a license to do whatever you please without keeping Wikipedia's improvement as your focus, don't be surprised if this leads to your being blocked.

Be up-front about your close associations[edit]

If you are going to engage in substantial editing on a subject you have a close association to, you should declare such up-front: place a note on your user page disclosing your associations, and mention it to editors you work with in any depth. However, you must disclose "your employer, client, and affiliation with respect to any contribution for which you receive, or expect to receive, compensation" under Wikipedia's Terms of Use.

Avoid declaring your associations by using your employer's name as your username, as this suggests that multiple people might use the account and may be seen as promotional. However, many users have included their employer's names or initials as part of their username, such as User:Mark at Alcoa.

Don't create new articles[edit]

Avoid creating any new articles (or recreate any deleted articles) on any subject related to your associations. Similarly, avoid creating articles that discuss a company, product, or group you are affiliated with. If no article exists and you believe one should, you can make a request for someone else to post one at Wikipedia:Requested articles. You may make a draft in your userspace (e.g. a page like User:yourname/yourcompany) to mention in your request, but be aware that material that looks like it belongs on a company's web page, or advertising, will be deleted even in user space. As an alternative to this, consider compiling a list of usable reliable sources for others to use, instead of a draft.

Don't edit articles[edit]

Don't make potentially controversial edits to articles related to your area of close association. Policy makes exceptions for reverting vandalism and enforcing biography of living persons policy. Similarly, don't add links, citations, or mentions to other articles that highlight a company or group you may be affiliated with. Instead, make suggestions on article talk pages and let others decide whether to implement them. (You may find it useful to add {{Request edit}} to your note on the talk page to help it draw timely attention.) A few exceptions can be made to this rule: making totally uncontroversial updates like removing typos, correcting or updating simple data, and removing blatant vandalism is fine; for anything else, seek input.

Another circumstance where you may edit an article about yourself is if the article contains unsourced negative information about you. In this situation, you may remove or correct the information, as encouraged by WP:BLP. However, you are advised to explain your actions on the talk page, otherwise other users may interpret this as vandalism.

Don't push[edit]

The whole point of WP:COI is: "When advancing outside interests is more important to an editor than advancing the aims of Wikipedia, that editor stands in a conflict of interest". So, when involved in any kind of discussion relating to articles in your area of association, you should bear in mind, foremost, that it may be best practice to leave the actual decisions up to others.

In particular, attempts to persuade people to change their minds, beyond presenting an argument and clarifying it in response to questions could be perceived as POV pushing. You should always attempt to be as civil as possible with language and use wording that is truly neutral to avoid making others feel pushed.

Another facet of this is that other Wikipedia editors may not always agree with each other. A common situation that can arise is one in which an editor suggests a change to an article which is implemented by a second editor but reverted by a third. The second editor's decision to implement the suggestion is not binding on everyone else. It probably doesn't represent a consensus, but even if there was a consensus, consensus can change. If this happens to you, it should not be a conflict that involves you: hopefully the editors will eventually work out their differences.

Learn how to ask for help[edit]

At times, you may find working under these restrictions difficult or impossible because of a lack of a cross-section of the Wikipedia community that is involved. The best solution to such a problem is to seek the input of more editors. Wikipedia's dispute resolution policy describes a number of ways in which you can expose your problem to the eyes of many Wikipedia editors in the hopes of getting input representative of the whole of Wikipedia. However, be mindful that you don't engage in "forum shopping", in which you ask for more input after having already received plenty, in the hope that the result would be different; this is a kind of pushing.

If your concern is with an article about a living person, or with mention of one, there is advice at Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons/Help and you can ask for assistance at the Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons/Noticeboard.

See also[edit]