Wikipedia:Offensive material

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This page is about the use of potentially offensive words and images in articles. For the use of such material on talk pages and project pages, see Wikipedia:Civility. For the policy which prohibits offensive words in usernames, see Wikipedia:Offensive usernames.

Wikipedia's encyclopedic mission encompasses the inclusion of material that may offend. Wikipedia is not censored. However, words and images that can be considered offensive should not be included unless they are treated in an encyclopedic manner. Material that would be considered vulgar or obscene by typical Wikipedia readers[nb 1] should be used if and only if its omission would cause the article to be less informative, relevant, or accurate, and no equally suitable alternative is available.

How to treat offensive material in articles

In original Wikipedia content, a vulgarity or obscenity should either appear in its full form or not at all; words should never be bowdlerized by replacing letters with dashes, asterisks, or other symbols. However, when quoting relevant material, rendering a quotation as it appears in the source cited trumps our style guidelines. Where it is necessary to indicate that an alteration is carried over from a quoted source, " [sic]" or "[thus in the original]" or a similar phrase, within single brackets, may be used.

Discussions about whether to include a vulgar or explicit image or verbal expression are often heated. As in all discussions on Wikipedia, it is vital that all parties practice civility and assume good faith. Labeling content with such terms as "pornography" or responses to content with such terms as "censorship" tends to inflame the discussion and should be avoided. Objective terminology is more helpful than subjective terminology.

Disclaimers should not be used in articles that contain potentially or patently offensive material. All articles are covered by the five official disclaimer pages.

"Not censored" does not give special favor to offensive content

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A cornerstone of Wikipedia policy is that the project is not censored. Wikipedia editors should not remove material solely because it may be offensive, unpleasant, or unsuitable for some readers. However, this does not mean that Wikipedia should include material simply because it is offensive, nor does it mean that offensive content is exempted from regular inclusion guidelines. Material that could be considered vulgar, obscene or offensive should not be included unless it is treated in an encyclopedic manner. Offensive material should be used only if its omission would cause the article to be less informative, relevant, or accurate, and no equally suitable alternative is available.

Especially with respect to images, editors frequently need to choose between alternatives with varying degrees of potential offensiveness. When multiple options are equally effective at portraying a concept, the most offensive options should not be used merely to "show off" possibly offensive materials. Images containing offensive material that is extraneous, unnecessary, irrelevant, or gratuitous are not preferred over non-offensive ones in the name of opposing censorship. Rather, they should be judged based solely on other policies for content inclusion.

Controversial images should follow the principle of 'least astonishment': we should choose images that respect the conventional expectations of readers for a given topic as much as is possible without sacrificing the quality of the article. For example, editors selecting images for articles like Human body have thousands of images of naked bodies and body parts available to them, but they normally choose images that portray the human body in an unemotional, non-sexual standard anatomical position over more sexual images due to greater relevance to the subject―the more sexual one is not given special favor simply because it is more offensive. Similarly, editors at articles like Automobile do not include images of vehicles with naked women posing near them, even though such images exist and "Wikipedia is not censored", due to concerns with relevance. Wikipedia is not censored, but Wikipedia also does not favor offensive images over non-offensive images.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Here a "typical Wikipedia reader" is defined by the cultural beliefs of the majority of the website readers (not active editors) that are literate in an article's language. Clarifying this viewpoint may require a broad spectrum of input and discussion, as cultural views can differ widely.