Wikipedia:No personal attacks

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Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

Eleanor Roosevelt

People together.svg

Do not make personal attacks anywhere in Wikipedia. Comment on content, not on the contributor. Personal attacks do not help make a point; they only hurt the Wikipedia community and deter users from helping to create a good encyclopedia. Derogatory comments about other editors may be removed by anyone. Repeated or egregious personal attacks may lead to blocks.

Why personal attacks are harmful

Contributors often wish to have their viewpoints included in articles. Through reasoned debate, contributors can synthesize these views into a single article, and this creates a better, more neutral article for everyone. Every person who edits an article is part of the same larger community—we are all Wikipedians.

The prohibition against personal attacks applies equally to all Wikipedians. It is as unacceptable to attack a user with a history of foolish or boorish behavior, or one who has been blocked, banned, or otherwise sanctioned, as it is to attack any other user. Wikipedia encourages a civil community: people make mistakes, but they are encouraged to learn from them and change their ways. Personal attacks are contrary to this spirit and damaging to the work of building an encyclopedia.

Avoiding personal attacks

Policy shortcut:

As a matter of polite and effective discourse, comments should not be personalized. That is, they should be directed at content and actions rather than people.

In disputes, the word "you" should be avoided when possible. However, when there are disagreements about content, referring to other editors is not always a personal attack. A posting that says "Your statement about X is wrong because of information at Y", or "The paragraph you inserted into the article looks like original research", is not a personal attack, but "The statement..." and "The paragraph inserted..." is preferred, or instead—"The paragraph inserted here [DIFF] into the article looks like original research", which also is not a personal attack, and avoids referring to the other editor in the second person; providing the DIFF also cuts down confusion. Similarly, discussion of a user's conduct or history is not in itself a personal attack when done in the appropriate forum for such discussion (for example, the other editor's talk page, WP:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents or WP:Requests for comment/User conduct).

Editors should be civil and adhere to good wiki etiquette when describing disagreements. The appropriate response to an inflammatory statement is to address the issues of content rather than to accuse the other person of violating this policy. Accusing someone of making personal attacks without providing a justification for your accusation is also considered a form of personal attack. (See also: Incivility.)

What is considered to be a personal attack?

Shortcuts:

There is no rule that is objective and not open to interpretation on what constitutes a personal attack as opposed to constructive discussion, but some types of comments are never acceptable:

  • Racial, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ageist, religious, political, ethnic, national, sexual, or other epithets (such as against people with disabilities) directed against another contributor, or against a group of contributors. Disagreement over what constitutes a religion, race, sexual orientation, or ethnicity is not a legitimate excuse.
  • Using someone's affiliations as an ad hominem means of dismissing or discrediting their views—regardless of whether said affiliations are mainstream. An example could be "you're a train spotter so what would you know about fashion?" Note that it is not a personal attack to question an editor at their talk page about their possible conflict of interest on a specific article or topic. However, speculating on the real-life identity of another editor may constitute outing, which is a serious offense.
  • Linking to external attacks, harassment, or other material, for the purpose of attacking another editor.
  • Comparing editors to Nazis, dictators, or other infamous persons. (See also Godwin's law.)
  • Accusations about personal behavior that lack evidence. Serious accusations require serious evidence. Evidence often takes the form of diffs and links presented on wiki.
  • Threats, including, but not limited to:
    • Threats of legal action
    • Threats of violence or other off-wiki action (particularly death threats)
    • Threats of vandalism to userpages or talk pages.
    • Threats or actions which deliberately expose other Wikipedia editors to political, religious or other persecution by government, their employer or any others. Violations of this sort may result in a block for an extended period of time, which may be applied immediately by any administrator upon discovery. Admins applying such sanctions should confidentially notify the members of the Arbitration Committee of what they have done and why.
    • Threats to out (give out personal details about) an editor.

These examples are not exhaustive. Insulting or disparaging an editor is a personal attack regardless of the manner in which it is done. When in doubt, comment on the article's content without referring to its contributor at all.

Responding to personal attacks

First offenses and isolated incidents

Often the best way to respond to an isolated personal attack is to simply ignore it. Sometimes personal attacks are not meant as attacks at all, and during heated and stressful debates editors tend to overreact. Additionally, because Wikipedia discussions are in a text-only medium, nuances and emotions are conveyed poorly which can easily lead to misunderstanding. While personal attacks are not excused because of these factors, editors are encouraged to disregard angry and ill-mannered postings of others when it is reasonable to do so, and to continue to focus their efforts on improving and developing the encyclopedia.

If you feel that a response is necessary and desirable, you can leave a polite message on the other user's talk page. Avoid responding on a talk page of an article, as this tends to escalate matters. Likewise, it is important to avoid becoming hostile and confrontational yourself, even in the face of abuse. Although templates have been used at times for this purpose, a customized message relating to the specific situation is often better received. When possible, try to find compromise or common ground regarding the underlying issues of content, rather than argue about behavior.

Attacks that are particularly offensive or disruptive (such as physical threats, legal threats, or blatantly racist or sexist insults) should not be ignored. Extraordinary situations that require immediate intervention are rare, but may be reported on the administrators' noticeboard.

Discussion of behavior in an appropriate forum, (e.g. user's talk page or Wikipedia noticeboard) does not in itself constitute a personal attack.

Recurring attacks

Recurring, non-disruptive personal attacks that do not stop after reasoned requests to cease can be resolved through informal mediation and third-party opinions. In most circumstances, problems with personal attacks can be resolved if editors work together and focus on content, and immediate administrator action is not required.

Removal of text

Policy shortcut:

There is no official policy regarding when or whether most personal attacks should be removed, although it has been a topic of substantial debate. Removing unquestionable personal attacks from your own user talk page is rarely a matter of concern. On other talk pages, especially where such text is directed against you, removal should typically be limited to clear-cut cases where it is obvious the text is a true personal attack. The {{RPA}} template can be used for this purpose.

Nevertheless, unusual circumstances do exist. The most serious types of personal attacks, such as efforts to reveal nonpublic personal information about Wikipedia editors (outing), go beyond the level of mere invective, and so can and should be excised for the benefit of the community and the project whether or not they are directed at you. In certain cases involving sensitive information, a request for oversight may also be appropriate.

Off-wiki attacks

Wikipedia cannot regulate behavior in media not under the control of the Wikimedia Foundation, but personal attacks made elsewhere create doubt about the good faith of an editor's on-wiki actions. Posting personal attacks or defamation off-Wikipedia is harmful to the community and to an editor's relationship with it, especially when such attacks take the form of violating an editor's privacy. Such attacks can be regarded as aggravating factors by administrators and are admissible evidence in the dispute-resolution process, including Arbitration cases.

External links

For policies related to attacks against living persons in general, whether or not they edit Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons.

Linking to off-site harassment, attacks, or privacy violations against persons who edit Wikipedia for the purpose of attacking another person who edits Wikipedia is never acceptable. Attacking, harassing, or violating the privacy of any person who edits Wikipedia through the posting of external links is not permitted. Harassment in this context may include but is not limited to linking to offsite personal attacks, privacy violations, and/or threats of physical violence. This is not to be confused with legitimate critique. Inclusion of links in articles is a matter for sound editorial judgment.

The interpretation of this rule is complex. See Wikipedia:Linking to external harassment for guidance on interpretation.

Consequences of personal attacks

Although editors are encouraged to ignore or respond politely to isolated personal attacks, that should not imply that they are acceptable. A pattern of hostility reduces the likelihood of the community assuming good faith, and can be considered disruptive editing. Users who insist on a confrontational style marked by personal attacks are likely to become involved in the dispute resolution process, and may face serious consequences through arbitration.

In extreme cases, even isolated personal attacks may lead to a block for disruption. Death threats and issues of similar severity may result in a block without warning. Lesser personal attacks often result in a warning, and a request to refactor. If a pattern of lesser personal attacks continues despite the warning, escalating blocks may follow. However, administrators are cautioned that other resolutions are preferable to blocking for less-severe situations when it is unclear if the "conduct severely disrupts the project". Recurring attacks are proportionally more likely to be considered "disruption". Blocking for personal attacks should only be done for prevention, not punishment. A block may be warranted if it seems likely that the user will continue using personal attacks.

See also

Wikipedia policies

Wikipedia essays

Related articles