|This essay contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. Essays may represent widespread norms or minority viewpoints. Consider these views with discretion. Essays are not Wikipedia policies or guidelines.|
|This page in a nutshell: POV railroading is a pattern of unacceptable behavioral that utilizes bully tactics, civil POV pushing, and gaming of the dispute resolution processes to create or maintain ownership on an article or topic area.|
POV (point of view) railroading refers to a set of bully tactics used to eliminate an editor from an editorial dispute. The process of POV railroading includes (1) isolating the opponent, (2) intimidating and confusing the opponent, (3) frustrating and baiting the opponent, and (4) creating a narrative that the opponent is violating policy, (5) regardless of actual behavior.
The behavioral process
The bullying behavior of POV railroading may include any or all of the following:
- Isolating the victim
- Using a condescending or threatening tone.
- Inserting hidden text that attempts to restrict editing without consensus.
- Reverting edits without due consideration, explanation or discussion on the article talk page.
- Giving cryptic responses to their opponent's attempts to discuss the reverted edits.
- Dropping talk page policy "bombs" that cite an alphabet soup of policies and guidelines without citing applicable sections of the policy or guideline.
- Misuse of policies and guidelines (for example: disallowing the addition of sourced content by citing WP:BURDEN which only applies to un-sourced content).
- Baiting and goading their opponent to incite incivility or edit warring.
- Making unsubstantiated accusations of advocacy, conflict of interest, and pushing a point of view.
- Making accusations of disruptive behavior without providing diffs in violation of WP:NPA
- Locating a sympathetic administrator who finds the 'bad editor' narrative convincing, and takes action, despite little or no evidence.
- Canvassing like-minded editors to join the talk page and "gang up" on the opposing editor.
- Forming a 'lynch mob' at a dispute resolution venue such as the administrator's noticeboard.
This process may destroy the opponent's reputation on Wikipedia so that they are branded as a disruptive editor. This results in progressively more prejudice and unfair treatment until the abused editor either is banned or quits out of frustration. Once the editor representing the opposing POV is blocked or banned, they may be made into a scapegoat for other problems found in the article. If additional editors show up with an opposing point of view then the POV railroader may accuse the new editors of being sockpuppets or meatpuppets of the first opponent. If that doesn't work, then the bully may reenact the POV railroading behavior outlined above.
Prevention and resolution
- WikiLove: Welcome new editors, move slowly with them, and assist them in their development and knowledge of Wikipedia's policies and sub-culture. Take a compassionate and patient attitude towards inexperienced editors. Drop a note on their talk page and offer assistance, guidance, and mentorship.
- Equality: Keep in mind that on Wikipedia, all editors have fair and equal rights to edit articles. While some may have more knowledge or familiarity with a topic than others, this does not mean those with less knowledge or experience are at a lower level and are not entitled to their point of view. If we see an editor behaving in a condescending manner, we should gently remind them that we are all equal here, regardless of our Wikipedia experience or potential real life expertise.
- Hidden text: Never use hidden text that gives the impression you are exerting ownership or telling others how to edit an article.
- Edit warring: If an editor reverts an edit, especially if he/she reverts sourced content, they would do well to put an explanation on the article talk page. No one likes to be reverted, so a polite note on the user’s talk page will also go a long way towards establishing a sense of mutual respect and collaboration.
- Avoid policy "bombs": Cite and elaborate on specific sections or aspects of policy on talk pages rather than dropping an alphabet soup of policy references without citing specifics. Encourage others on talk page to do the same. If an editor makes a mistake or violates a policy, take the time to educate him/her through discussion rather than criticism or threats. Explain the policy they violated and offer alternative suggestions; Wikipedia can be a confusing environment and we all make mistakes. Also keep in mind that policies and guidelines are subject to interpretation, and another editor's interpretation and application of a policy or guideline is a valid topic for discussion on the talk page.
- Talk page: If you see an editor has been isolated on a talk page and is becoming agitated, feel free to enter the discussion and exert a calming influence. This will often break the battleground dynamic and reduce tension so issues can be resolved without edit warring or false narratives about behavior. Bullies like to isolate their victims. Their behavior almost always improves when other, more neutral parties are present.
- Careful assessment: If you are an administrator or editor active in dispute resolution and come across a conflict, keep an open mind on every case. Take time to examine the diffs carefully and look at the talk page to see the context of those diffs. Is the alleged offender being bullied or goaded or taunted? Be aware that bullying is an aberrant behavior that exists both in real life and on Wikipedia.
- Getting help: If you are the victim of POV railroading or other forms of bullying on Wikipedia, you may want to consult with an experienced, reliable editor or administrator whom you respect and feel is a neutral party. You may also ask for advice at the Teahouse where helpful and supportive editors are known to congregate. You may request a mentor or seek help at one of the various dispute resolution forums.
- Gaming the system (guideline)
- WikiBullying (essay)
- Civil POV pushing (essay)
- How To Ban A POV You Dislike (essay written in a sarcastic tone)
- Bullying (article)