Wikipedia:Current Events Editing

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Introduction[edit]

It comes up sometimes. Breaking News, live TV interrupts, text alerts flashing for attention! Something extremely gloomy has happened in our world, and for better or worse, modern media is going to cram serious situations down our throats and overload us with all sorts of information that may or may not be vetted and verified. Heck, the situation might be so dramatic that things that were true a moment ago are no longer! Because of their high public exposure, articles on people involved in special current events often get a flood of traffic. Flood of web traffic is usually accompanied by a flood of editors logging in to edit to keep articles as up-to-date as possible.

Because of the wide different in reliability between different sources on live TV and the internet, the result is almost always edit warring as an article. Even if nothing is being specifically reverted, changes can happen quickly enough that information can move in and out of an article many times. Considering the strong stand we try to take on biographies or living people, it is almost certain that non-factual things will be inserted into his/her article along the way. This is against long-time standing policy and is simply unacceptable under any and all circumstances.

Some things to keep in mind when these situations arise:

  • Wikipedia is not a news source.
  • Wikipedia has no time limit on additions or changes in content.
  • Articles in the realm of WP:BLP are of the highest importance to keep completely factual at all times.

Theory[edit]

It is in the better interest of Wikipedia that editors not edit articles of persons involved in current events, or other situations that are fluid and incidentally encourage a high number of edits over shorter periods of time. The only "real" way to assure this is through full protection of an article, which limits editing to Administrators and above. Semi-protection is also available, which will limit edits to only registered users (though this is sometimes made somewhat more complicated by flagged revisions), but in the most severely powerful and compelling current events, this may not stem the tide. At the very least, the tag {{current|date=X}} should be placed on these articles to try to avoid outside reader confusion, though this is little more than a cosmetic fix.

Users will be immediately and directly held responsible for edits not discussed, sourced, or reached via consensus. The majority of "violations" would fall under pre-existing policies of reprimand.

If an article is fully protected, only edits that assure basic facts are not mistaken should be changes. This would include things like alive/dead status, person of interest/suspect, alleged criminal, etc.

Options should be explored for guidelines for cases where full protection is insufficient. Even administrators love current events, though they should not be making any substantive edits under any circumstances whatsoever.

Implementation and Enforcement[edit]

Though we may have no time limit there also no reason to hold back on an article indefinitely. Of course the time frame is subjective, but generally within 12 to 24 hours of a significant incident there are significant sources of factual information that be made to improve the article. Possible additions should be discussed on the article's talk page. If an article for a given exceptional event has been created, additions and discussions are better discussed there during the protection period and talk can take place on the safe implementation of BLP components.

Requests for page protection can be added here.

Repeated vandalism and deliberately disruptive editing can be reported here.

Administrators editing through full protection may be reported here.

Any concerns regarding the short-term validity of a BLP article can be reported here.

Administrators and other users evaluate each case, which may result in short or long-term blocks based on user history. Holding administrators fully responsible for assuring their equal editing status has no resolution at this time, though via a post at the shortcut above the situation can be discussed at length.

Examples of full article protection that avoided BLP concerns[edit]

  • Fort Hood Shooting, where full page protection was requested for the person arrested as the alleged shooter while it was only a redirect, to avoid a BLP nightmare that would ensue as more information was revealed. It received a 72hr full protect, at which point the "current events rush" had calmed down and a reasonable, sourced section on the suspect had formed on the Fort Hood Shooting page itself. This was then easily moved over and linked. Though frustrating to some (as evidenced by user comments at talk pages) to be unable to edit, it was the best course of action to uphold our BLP policy and not confuse any viewers that Wikipedia was a news source and be misinformed.

Examples where full protection may not have been enough[edit]

  • 2011 Tucson shooting, where administrators continued to edit even during full protection, and the protection status of the article was changed a number of times over just a few hours. Various incident reports were added in several places. This gave the feeling to some "regular" editors that administrator status gives special rights to edit articles if they are considered important enough and they are "better" in some way. Administrators, from the point of view of just editing articles, are equals along with all others at Wikipedia. It is worth noting, however, that through really hard work (and unknown numbers of edit conflicts) the article was in extremely good form within about 12 hours and had more sources per paragraph than any "normal" article would ever require. The role protection may or may not have played here is unknown, but it is a good example of collaboration leading to good articles.

See Also[edit]