Wikipedia:Dispute resolution/Draft

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This policy explains how to resolve disputes on Wikipedia. There are two types of dispute:

  1. Content disputes: Disagreements over the content of a Wikipedia article or page;
  2. Conduct grievances: Complaints about the actions of another editor (also called "conduct disputes").

For a summary of how to use the various processes related to dispute resolution, see Wikipedia:Dispute resolution requests.

Content disputes[edit]

Dispute resolution for content disputes should be considered in the context of Wikipedia:Consensus, which holds that decisions on Wikipedia are made by consensus-building discussion (of which disagreements are a critical component).

Avoiding disputes[edit]

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Before using formal processes or third-party intervention, disagreements over article content should be discussed in good faith with the editor or editors whose changes you object to. Decisions about the content of Wikipedia articles are made through consensus-building discussion, and so this is a critical stage of resolving disputes and of making decisions.

Focus on content[edit]

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Further information: Wikipedia:Editing policy

Focus on the content of Wikipedia articles, not on the editor making a given change. Wikipedia is built upon the principle of collaboration, and so it must be assumed by every contributor that all edits are made in good faith.

To help other editors understand the reasoning behind your changes, always explain your edit in the edit summary. If an edit is potentially questionable, explain why you made the change and how it improves the article. If your reasoning is complex, add a section to the talk page of the article to explain your change, and refer to that section in the edit summary. If your edit gets reverted, you should discuss the reversion with other editors on the talk page: see also Wikipedia:Bold, revert, discuss.

In summary: Don't take others' actions personally. Explain to them what you're doing, and always be prepared to change your mind.

Biased or inaccurate content[edit]

You should try to improve articles that are biased, but it is often wrong to simply delete questionable content. Rather, you should balance biased content by introducing coverage of the other significant viewpoints on the article, in order to achieve a neutral point of view. Unreferenced text, however, may be tagged as such or removed per Verifiability. The ultimate aim of collaborative editing is to amalgamate all meritorious content in order to produce a balanced, verifiable final version. If you discard questionable content, rather than trying to improve it, then you are more likely to cause a dispute over your changes.

Stay cool[edit]

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Most situations are not urgent. Please give both yourself and the other party some time. Often it helps to just take a deep breath and sleep on it. Don't worry! You can always fix the problem later. (You can go back to the page history of an article at any time, to find the version of the article that you last worked on, and compare that to the current version to see whether there are still things that you'd like put in or taken out.)

Take a long term view. In due course you will probably be able to return and carry on editing it, when the previous problems no longer exist and the editor you were in dispute with might themselves move on. In the meantime the disputed article will evolve, other editors may become interested and they will have different perspectives if the issue comes up again.

This is particularly helpful when disputing with new users as it gives them a chance to familiarize themselves with Wikipedia's policy and culture. Focus your contributions on another article where you can make constructive progress.

Discuss with the other party[edit]

Stay in the top three sections of this pyramid.
Further information: Wikipedia:Negotiation

When discussing an issue, remember to stay cool. If you encounter rude or inappropriate behavior, don't respond likewise. Take the other editor's perspective into account. Assume that an editor is acting in good faith until it's absolutely clear that they're not. It's at that point where you should consider dispute resolution processes that involve third parties.

Talking to other parties is not a formality; it's an imperative to the smooth running of any community. Not discussing will make people less sympathetic to your position and may prevent you from effectively using later stages in dispute resolution. In contrast, sustained discussion and serious negotiation between the parties, even if not immediately (or even remotely) successful, shows that you are trying to find a solution.

Also consider negotiating a truce or compromise. This is also important if you intend to solicit outside opinions because it allows others to consider the issue fairly without the confusion of constant ongoing edits.

Resolving content disputes[edit]

If the previous steps fail to resolve the dispute, try one of the following methods. Which ones you choose and in what order depends on the nature of the dispute and the preferences of people involved.

Editor assistance[edit]

Editor assistance helps editors find someone experienced to provide you one-on-one advice and feedback. While not a required part of dispute resolution, it is designed to help you understand how to clearly and civilly express your views and work toward consensus. You may request an assistant's help at any time, whether you're involved in dispute resolution or not. Assistants can also help you find the best way to resolve your dispute or issue.

Ask for a third opinion[edit]

If you need neutral outside opinions in a dispute involving only two editors, turn to Wikipedia:Third opinion.

Ask about the subject[edit]

Ask at a subject-specific Wikipedia:WikiProject talk page. Usually, such projects are listed on top of the article talk page.

Ask about a policy[edit]

Ask at a policy talk page relevant to the issue.

Ask for help at a relevant noticeboard[edit]

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If your dispute is related to one of the following topics, you may wish to post about it in one of these locations, to get the opinions of other editors familiar with similar disputes:

Informal mediation[edit]

If things are getting a bit tricky, it might be useful to ask some cool heads to look in and help out. Sometimes editors who provide third opinions or respond to requests for comments may be willing to help mediate a dispute, if it is requested. The Mediation Cabal also assists in settling disputes without turning to formal mediation, and is a good place to learn dispute resolution techniques.

Formal mediation[edit]

Request formal mediation of the dispute from the Mediation Committee. Mediation is a voluntary process in which a neutral person works with the parties to a dispute. The mediator helps guide the parties into reaching an agreement that can be acceptable to everyone. When requesting formal mediation, be prepared to show that you tried to resolve the dispute using the steps listed above, and that all parties to the dispute are in agreement to mediate. Mediation cannot take place if all parties are not willing to take part. Mediation is only for disputes about Article Content, not for complaints about user conduct.

See Wikipedia:Requests for mediation#File and Wikipedia:Requests for mediation/Guide for guidance in filing a request.

User-conduct grievances[edit]

User conduct grievances concern the actions of another editor. This includes: editors with a combative or obstructive approach to editing; editors whose edits are unbalanced to the point of flagrantly violating Wikipedia:Neutral point of view; editors who repeatedly introduce material that other contributors have objected to, or who edit war to retain their preferred version of content in an article; and administrators and other functionaries whose actions (such as blocks, deletions, protections, and suppressions) are detrimental or are contrary to policy.

Grievances do not include objections to the merits of an editor's edits, which is an article-content matter; the context of grievances is strictly the actions or approach to editing of a Wikipedia contributor.

Resolving grievances over user conduct[edit]

Complaints concerning the actions of another can be raised in one of the following forums. The validity of any edits to an article, however, is usually a content matter.

Incivility[edit]

Turn to Wikipedia:Wikiquette alerts for problems with uncivil editors. First, however, consider ignoring it – you can often get much more accomplished by rising above uncivil comments, and staying focused on the task at hand.

Request for comments[edit]

Turn to Wikipedia:Requests for comment, the main avenue for disputes about user conduct. While Request for Comment can be used for disputes about user conduct, you can also request comments on articles, templates, categories, policies and guidelines. Requests for Comment about user conduct require that at least two users have tried but failed to resolve the problem by contacting the user on the user's Talk page.

Request administrator intervention[edit]

Where an editor's conduct is obviously damaging, you can request the attention of an uninvolved administrator by submitting evidence of the msiconduct and a request for action at Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents. Except in serious cases, you should usually first take your grievance up with the editor on his or her talk page.

Arbitration enforcement[edit]

If an editor is violating Wikipedia's rules on editor conduct in the course of their edits to topic areas which are subject to discretionary sanctions imposed by the Arbitration Committee, you can submit a complaint concerning that editor to Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Enforcement.

Sensitive issues and functionary actions[edit]

A small number of disputes involve sensitive or non-public information. These include issues where an Arbitrator, Checkuser or Oversighter has stated a privacy issue exists in the case, and disputes where there is a concern of a sensitive or private nature. Examples:

  • Non-public details - Issues where details and evidence are not accessible to all participants or to the community as a whole. This can also happen due to copyright or privacy reasons, BLP, or when the material is on an unsuitable external link;
  • "Outing" concerns - When discussion may in effect mean "outing", for example if there is a concern that a user is editing with a secret conflict of interest and the evidence would tend to identify them;
  • Serious matters - The issue involves legal concerns, harassment, or allegations that are very serious or perhaps defamatory;
  • Advice on divisive and sensitive issues - The issue may potentially be very divisive and advice is needed on how best to handle it. (sock-puppetry by an administrator is one example)

Disputes or issues of this kind should usually be referred to the functionaries mailing list or Arbitration Committee. In some cases it may be possible to seek advice from an uninvolved trusted administrator by IRC, email or other private means.

Where an action is made under the guise of (ie. marked as) CheckUser, Oversight, OTRS or Arbitration Committee, you should not be reverted without careful checking beforehand. The presumption is that they have a good reason, and those aware of the reason may need time to recheck, consult, and respond. Sometimes the relevant talk page or other wiki pages will have more details and these are always a good first place to check. Such actions, if disputed, should initially be raised (by email if necessary) with the functionary concerned. If after taking your grienvace up with the functionary you remain unsatisfied, then after a reasonable time you can refer the matter for review to the Arbcom or the functionaries mailing list (for CheckUser and Oversighter actions) or to the OTRS administrators (for OTRS actions).

Ultimately, all English Wikipedia-based actions are open to the scrutiny of the Arbitration Committee (as the body ultimately responsible for non-public information and privacy related issues on the wiki).

For urgent assistance

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The above noticeboards are not the place to raise disputes over content: administrators are not referees, and have limited authority to deal with abusive editors.

Other[edit]

Last resort: Arbitration[edit]

If you have taken all other reasonable steps to resolve the dispute, and the dispute is not over the content of an article, you can request Arbitration. Be prepared to show that you tried to resolve the dispute by other means. Arbitration differs from Mediation in that the Arbitration Committee will consider the case and issue a decision, instead of merely assisting the parties in reaching an agreement. If the issue is decided by Arbitration, you will be expected to abide by the result. If the case involves serious user misconduct, Arbitration may result in a number of serious consequences up to totally banning someone from editing, as laid out in the Arbitration policy. Note that Arbitration is normally for disputes about user conduct, while Mediation is normally for disputes about article content.

Words of caution[edit]

Dispute resolution is sometimes used by editors to try to game the system. This generally backfires badly. Remember that dispute resolution mechanisms are ultimately there to enable editors to collaboratively write an encyclopedia – not to win personal or political battles.

See also[edit]