Wikipedia:Borderline biographies

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General deletion policy[edit]

Wikipedia has always been deliberately inclusionist and eventualist in its attitude to articles. If a subject is theoretically capable of being written about in a verifiable, neutral manner, no matter how poor or biased the article currently is, or may be in the future, we retain it in the hope that it will eventually be improved: a bad article is a "work in progress". This is represented by demanding a positive consensus that an article requires deletion before removing it.

Biographies of living people[edit]

Wikipedia has for some time accepted that biographies of living people require special treatment. In these cases an important rule of thumb is "do no harm". Whereas unsourced material in other articles may simply be tagged as requiring verification, unsourced material which may cause harm is to be ruthlessly removed. Wikipedia has a duty to treat biographies of living people with special care to avoid harm to the subject.

We now also require a positive consensus at deletion review before undeleting any article deleted under the BLP policy.

Low notability biographies present Wikipedia with a particular problem.

a) Whereas other articles may at times exist in a biased state or include false claims, and "eventually" be fixed. Problematic biographical articles can be doing real and immediate harm to the subject. It isn't acceptable to think in terms of eventualism.

b) Wikipedia's theory is that articles reach and maintain neutrality and accuracy through a process where a wide number of editors work on them. (If someone edits Scientology in a biased way, there are plenty of people ready to revert or improve – and they won't all despise Scientology). Knowledgeable people will look at articles, and even non-apparent falsehoods will be spotted.

However, the less notable the article is, the more prone it is to fewer people being interested, and the more chance there is that the few interested parties will be motivated by bias. Further, if the bias is not immediately obvious, there is less chance with a less notable subject of anyone knowledgeable spotting it.
Biographies of low-notability subjects, are thus particularly vulnerable to motivated biased editing. Further, if biased edits are apparently sourced, it is more unlikely that they will be identified as problematic on a low-notability biography. At the same time, low-notability biographies are often the most damaging, as they may be the only accessible on-line source of information on the subject, and thus opinion-forming in a way that Wikipedia's entry on George W. Bush is unlikely to be.
The less notable the subject:
  1. The less alternative information online. Thus the greater impact of the bad wiki-bio to reputations.
  2. The less eyes (watchlists) on the article and the greater chance of bad stuff remaining unspotted.
  3. The less chance of Wikipedians knowing enough about the subject to spot less obvious bias or untruths.
  4. The more chance that a POV pusher will be left unchecked.
  5. Once problems are identified, the less chance of anyone caring enough to monitor the article.

Closing deletion debates[edit]

Whilst many Wikipedians do not believe that we should automatically delete an article out of consideration to the views or interests of the subject, administrators may consider that it is irresponsible to simply default to keep in the case of low-notability biographies.

In cases where there is a reasonable belief that the article may cause distress to the subject or, due to a lack of interest, there may well be problems in maintaining the article in a fair and accurate state, administrators may wish to require a positive consensus that Wikipedia requires to retain the article. In short, in the absence of consensus to retain, Wikipedia may be best served by defaulting to delete the article (or relist where participation has been low).

Deletion debates which might show precedents[edit]

See also[edit]