Wikipedia:Disruptive editing

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Disruptive editing is a pattern of editing that may extend over a long time or many articles, and disrupts progress towards improving an article or building the encyclopedia. Disruptive editing is not usually considered vandalism, though vandalism is disruptive. Each case should be treated independently, taking into consideration whether the actions violate Wikipedia policies and guidelines. (If an editor treats situations that are not clearly vandalism as such, that editor may harm the encyclopedia by alienating or driving away potential editors.)

Disruptive editing is not always intentional. Editors may be accidentally disruptive because they don't understand how to correctly edit, or because they lack the social skills or competence necessary to work collaboratively. The fact that the disruption occurs in good faith does not change the fact that it is harmful to Wikipedia.


Wikipedia owes much of its success to its openness. However, that very openness sometimes attracts people who seek to exploit the site as a platform for pushing a single point of view, original research, advocacy or self-promotion. While notable minority opinions are welcome when verifiable through reliable sources, and constructive editors occasionally make mistakes, sometimes a Wikipedia editor creates long-term problems by persistently editing a page or set of pages with information which is not verifiable through reliable sources or insisting on giving undue weight to a minority view.

Collectively, disruptive editors harm Wikipedia by degrading its reliability as a reference source and by exhausting the patience of productive editors who may quit the project in frustration when a disruptive editor continues with impunity.

It is essential to recognize patterns of disruptive editing. Our edit warring policy already acknowledges that one act, by itself, may not violate policy, but when part of a series of acts that constitute a pattern does violate policy. Disruptive edits may not occur all in the course of one 24 hour period, and may not consist of the repetition of the same act. Nevertheless, a series of edits over time may form a pattern that seriously disrupts the project.

Disruptive editors may seek to disguise their behavior as productive editing, yet distinctive traits separate them from productive editors. When discussion fails to resolve the problem and when an impartial consensus of editors from outside a disputed page agree (through requests for comment or similar means), further disruption is grounds for blocking, and may lead to more serious disciplinary action through the dispute resolution process. In extreme cases this could include a site ban, either through the Arbitration Committee or by a consensus.

The three revert rule, if observed by disruptive editors, shall not be construed as a defense against action taken to enforce this policy against disruptive editors. As stated in that policy, "The rule is not an entitlement to revert a page a specific number of times". Likewise, editors should note that the three revert rule should not be broken even by editors attempting to revert disruptive edits. Disruptive editing is not vandalism and it is better for productive editors to follow the process suggested below than to break the 3RR.

Attempts to evade detection

Disruptive editors sometimes attempt to evade disciplinary action by using several practices when disrupting articles:

  • Their edits occur over a long period of time; in this case, no single edit may be clearly disruptive, but the overall pattern is disruptive.
  • Their edits are largely confined to talk-pages, such disruption may not directly harm an article, but it often prevents other editors from reaching consensus on how to improve an article.
  • Their edits often avoid gross breaches of civility, by refraining from personal attacks, while still interfering with civil and collaborative editing meant to improve the article.
  • Their edits remain limited to a small number of pages that very few people watch.
  • Conversely, their edits may be distributed over a wide range of articles to make less probable that some user watches a sufficient number of affected articles.

Nonetheless, such disruptive editing violates site policy.

Examples of disruptive editing


See also Wikipedia:Editing policy

This guideline concerns gross, obvious and repeated violations of fundamental policies, not subtle questions about which reasonable people may disagree.

A disruptive editor is an editor who exhibits tendencies such as the following:

  1. Is tendentious: continues editing an article or group of articles in pursuit of a certain point for an extended time despite opposition from other editors. Tendentious editing does not consist only of adding material; some tendentious editors engage in disruptive deletions as well. An example is repeated deletion of reliable sources posted by other editors.
  2. Cannot satisfy Wikipedia:Verifiability; fails to cite sources, cites unencyclopedic sources, misrepresents reliable sources, or manufactures original research.
  3. Engages in "disruptive cite-tagging"; adds unjustified {{citation needed}} tags to an article when the content tagged is already sourced, uses such tags to suggest that properly sourced article content is questionable.
  4. Does not engage in consensus building:
    a. repeatedly disregards other editors' questions or requests for explanations concerning edits or objections to edits;
    b. repeatedly disregards other editors' explanations for their edits.
  5. Rejects or ignores community input: resists moderation and/or requests for comment, continuing to edit in pursuit of a certain point despite an opposing consensus from impartial editors.

In addition, such editors might:

6. Campaign to drive away productive contributors: act counter to policies and guidelines such as Wikipedia:Civility, Wikipedia:No personal attacks, Wikipedia:Ownership of articles, engage in sockpuppetry/meatpuppetry, etc. on a low level that might not exhaust the general community's patience, but that operates toward an end of exhausting the patience of productive rule-abiding editors on certain articles.

Failure or refusal to "get the point"


In some cases, editors have perpetuated disputes by sticking to an allegation or viewpoint long after the consensus of the community has decided that moving on to other topics would be more productive. Such behavior is disruptive to Wikipedia. Believing that you have a valid point does not confer upon you the right to act as though your point must be accepted by the community when you have been told that it is not accepted.

Do not confuse "hearing" with "agreeing with": The community's rejection of your idea is not proof that they have failed to hear you. Stop writing, listen, and consider what the other editors are telling you. Make a strong effort to see their side of the debate, and work on finding points of agreement.

Sometimes, even when editors act in good faith, their contributions may continue to be disruptive and time wasting, because they don't understand what the problem is. Although editors should be encouraged to be bold and just do things if they think they're right, sometimes a lack of competence can get in the way. If the community spends more time cleaning up editors' mistakes and educating them about policies and guidelines than it considers necessary, sanctions may have to be imposed.


When one becomes frustrated with the way a policy or guideline is being applied, it may be tempting to try to discredit the rule or interpretation thereof by, in one's view, applying it consistently. Sometimes, this is done simply to prove a point in a local dispute. In other cases, one might try to enforce a rule in a generally unpopular way, with the aim of getting it changed.

Such tactics are highly disruptive to the project. If you feel that a policy is problematic, the policy's talk page is the proper place to raise your concerns. If you simply disagree with someone's actions in an article, discuss it on the article talk page or related pages.

Note that someone can legitimately make a point, without disrupting Wikipedia to illustrate it.

Distinguished from productive editing

Editors often post minority views to articles. This fits within Wikipedia's mission so long as the contributions are verifiable, do not give undue weight, and where appropriate, comply with WP:FRINGE. The burden of evidence rests with the editor who initially provides the information or wishes the information to remain.

From Wikipedia:Neutral point of view:

Neutrality requires that each article or other page in the mainspace fairly represents all significant viewpoints that have been published by reliable sources, in proportion to the prominence of each viewpoint. Giving due weight and avoiding giving undue weight means that articles should not give minority views as much of or as detailed a description as more widely held views.

Verifiable and noteworthy viewpoints include protoscience when this is published in reputable peer-reviewed journals. Editors may reasonably present active public disputes or controversies which are documented by reliable sources. For example, citing a viewpoint stated in a mainstream scholarly journal, textbook, or monograph is not per se disruptive editing. This exemption does not apply to settled disputes; for example, insertion of claims that the Sun revolves around the Earth would not be appropriate today, even though this issue was active controversy in the time of Galileo. Mentioning such disputes in the article may however be appropriate if the controversy itself was notable (such as in this example).

Sometimes well-meaning editors may be misled by fringe publications or make honest mistakes when representing a citation. Such people may reasonably defend their positions for a short time, then concede the issue when they encounter better evidence or impartial feedback.

Dealing with disruptive editors


Following is a model for remedies, though these steps do not necessarily have to be done in this sequence. In some extreme circumstances a rapid report to Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents may be the best first step; in others, a fast track to a community ban may be in order. But in general, most situations can benefit from a gradual escalation, with hope that each step may help resolve the problem, such that further steps are not needed:

  • First unencyclopedic entry by what appears to be a disruptive editor.
  • Assume good faith. Do not attack the author who you suspect is disruptive. However, revert uncited or unencyclopedic material. Use an edit summary which describes the problem in non-inflammatory terms. Stay very civil. Post to talk page asking for discussion and/or sources. Consult Do not bite the newcomers, and be aware that you may be dealing with someone who is new and confused, rather than a problem editor.
  • If editor unreverts:
  • If sourced information appears this time around, do nothing; if not, revert again if they haven't responded at the talkpage. Ensure that a clear explanation for the difference in opinion is posted by you at the article talkpage. Refer to this thread in your edit summary. If possible, suggest compromises at the talkpage.
  • If the reverting continues, and they are inserting unsourced information:
  • Revert, and request an administrator via Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents (ANI). Provide diffs of the multiple reverts by the tendentious editor. Keep your post short (no more than 250–500 words), well-diffed (multiple diffs showing evidence), and focus on user conduct issues (the tendentious editor is not engaging in discussion / is inserting unsourced information / is ignoring talkpage consensus). Try to avoid going into detailed article content issues at ANI, as it may reduce the likelihood that an admin will understand the complaint. Note: To be most successful at ANI, your own history must be clean. At all times, stay civil, and avoid engaging in multiple reverts yourself.
  • If the tendentious editor is using sources, but if the sources are poor or misinterpreted:
  • Suggest Mediation.
  • If mediation is rejected, unsuccessful, and/or the problems continue:
  • Notify the editor you find disruptive, on their user talkpage.
    Include diffs of the problematic behavior. Use a section name and/or edit summary to clearly indicate that you view their behavior as disruptive, but avoid being unnecessarily provocative. Remember, you're still trying to de-escalate the situation. If other editors are involved, they should post their own comments too, to make it clear that the community disapproves of the tendentious behavior.
  • Tendentious editor continues reverting.
  • Assuming that it's one editor against many at this point, continue reverting the tendentious editor. If s/he exceeds three reverts in a 24-hour period, file a report at Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Edit warring (but be careful you don't do excessive reverts yourself!). However, one tendentious editor cannot maintain problematic content in the face of multiple other editors reverting his/her edits.
  • If the tendentious editor is not violating the three-revert rule (3RR), or there aren't enough editors involved to enforce Wikipedia policies:
  • File another ANI report.
  • If for some reason administrators do not respond:
  • File a Wikipedia:Requests for comment/User conduct, but only if you have multiple diffs to show that you have tried to address the problem via other means, and you have at least one other editor who has attempted to resolve the problem, and will help certify the RfC.
  • Editor continues to ignore consensus of the Request for Comment (RfC).
  • If blocks fail to solve the problem, or you are still unable to obtain attention via ANI, and all other avenues have been tried:

Blocking and sanctions

See also

Further reading