Wikipedia talk:Biographies of living persons

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Application of BLP to Article Talk pages[edit]

Respected Wikipedians,

I am concerned that there appears to be a fundamental misunderstanding & misapplication of the WP:BLP policy as an accepted practice; and that this is detrimental to the Wikipedia Project.

I have noticed a number of instances of removal, reversion, and revdeletion of links to sources containing contentious material from article talk pages, citing WP:BLP (and occasionally WP:BANEX). My reading & understanding of WP:BLP is that inclusion of links for discussion on article talk pages, but no actual repetition of the contentious material, is the method explicitly approved under WP:BLPTALK.

While WP:BLP applies everywhere, its application is dependent on the situation & location of the edits; links to sources that we might not use to support contentious material in article space are explicitly permitted in article talk space.

WP:BLPTALK explicitly states that inclusion of links (without repetition of any contentious material itself) is the appropriate method for editors to reference such material for discussion. The material could then be reviewed and a consensus formed as to whether inclusion in the article itself is appropriate w.r.t WP:BLP and other core policies.

WP:BLPEL relates only to "Further reading", "External links", and "See also" sections of article pages, and is therefore not relevant to edits to article talk pages. WP:ELNO, a guideline, is similarly explicitly only for article pages, not article talk pages.

Without any inclusion of actual contentious material, I'm having trouble seeing that any other sections of WP:BLP might apply; but welcome input & alternative opinions.

Removal, reversion & revdeletion of links to contentious material in article talk pages would seem to prevent policy based discussion & consensus building, and be inherently contrary to the goals of the Wikipedia Project. It is essentially a supervote to quash discussion & override consensus, and IMHO should be discouraged.

I would welcome your thoughts on this application of WP:BLP, and suggestions as to what, if any, action should be undertaken. - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 16:52, 11 February 2015 (UTC)

I am going to go out on a limb and guess this might be gamergate related? Chillum 17:03, 11 February 2015 (UTC)
Links to poorly sourced contentious material definitely don't belong anywhere on the project. I'm guessing that "Questionable claims already discussed can be removed with a reference to the previous discussion." might be the relevant sentence here, either that or the the requirement to use reliable sources. My suggestion would be to have a look at Wikipedia:Identifying_reliable_sources and double check that the source you wanted to use is sufficiently reliable for use in BLPs, and if the issue is a dispute over whether a source is reliable then a query to the reliable sources noticeboard might be in order. That way you can avoid linking directly to the controversial page by starting the query "is x a sufficiently reliable source for contentious BLP info". ϢereSpielChequers 22:07, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
"Links to poorly sourced contentious material definitely don't belong anywhere on the project" -- while I respect your opinion, I believe the editor was seeking a policy-based explanation. WP:RS speaks to the suitability of sources in article space. WP:BLPTALK provides a specific exception for talk pages (i.e. your closing quote.) As I see it there two fundamental questions which prompted this post:
  1. Is posting links to non-RS, BLP-violating content on talk pages a violation of any rule or guideline, even when the intent is to use the source for a policy-compliant purpose? (e.g. background reading, links to other RS content)
  2. Is a WP:SPS with BLP-violating content suitable in article-space as a source for it's non-BLP content, assuming no other sources for that content exist? (e.g. Could a source page with "My name is Bob. I am 43 and I'm certain George Bush is a alien" be used in article-space, to cite Bob's age as 43?)
EncyclopediaBob (talk) 22:36, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
"Never use self-published sources as third-party sources about living people" seems pretty clear to me. If the editor concerned doesn't know what we mean by a reliable source then I repeat my advice to read Wikipedia:Identifying_reliable_sources. Otherwise we can't always know someone's intent, we have to judge people by their edits. If someone's edits have had to be revision deleted then I would suggest they be more cautious in their sourcing rather than try to test the boundaries of what we can accept. ϢereSpielChequers 23:01, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
The policy regarding third-party sources is clear, and we're in complete agreement. My question (and the example) concern first-party sources. —EncyclopediaBob (talk) 23:09, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
WereSpielChequers, many thanks for your response. I would also like to clarify the original post: I am not seeing instances of reversion, removal and revdeletion of Talk page links to sources which are being attempted to be used for material about living people. I am seeing links reverted, removed & revdeleted for any use of the sources; even for simple discussion of whether they are reliable. I do not believe that this aligns with policy.
The reference to Questionable claims already discussed can be removed with a reference to the previous discussion would not seem to apply, as the text being removed does not contain any actual "claims", only links.
Thanks also for the direction to WP:RS, it is greatly appreciated. This excellent guideline suggests that a "source" is a triplet consisting of (a piece of work; the creator of the work; the publisher of the work); which raises the question of confirming the reliability of the first of these without being able to identify it. In short, how do we obtain a consensus that a piece of work is a reliable source without being able to discuss that source?
Finally, I respectfully suggest that "If someone's edits have had to be revision deleted... is in many ways a circular argument. I am suggesting that edits are being suppressed where they do not need to be. - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 08:01, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
One clue might be that the editor who posted the links mentioned with such reverence in the OP is now indefinitely topic banned, and admins are removing attacks coordinated off-wiki from the talk page of the BANEX user who removed the offensive links. If this were WP:VPR I would propose that anyone who continues to import off-wiki coordinated attacks on the encyclopedia should be indeffed. Johnuniq (talk) 22:42, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
Links proposed in good faith (and the assumption is that they are) are fine. There is no BLP violation for a link on a talk page. That doesn't mean allegarions in the link are okay, just that the link itself is not a violation. ArbCom proceedings would need constant oversight and revdel if this were not the case. The only exception is outing which we don't link to. Basically if Oversighters won't remove it from tal pages , it's not a BLP violation. Banned editors have a BLP exemption but like all BLP edits, it is not a shield against bad edits. They are in clear violation of BLPTALK if they are removing links from discussion space edpecially if they same editor used the same offsite links to show how he was being harassed. --DHeyward (talk) 02:30, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
A broad consensus of Wikipedians obviously disagree with your conceptualization of the policy. BLPTALK is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for posting links to anonymous attack pages, hit pieces, personal blogs and e-mail dumps that make unsupported and unacceptable claims and allegations about living people in any context whatsoever. BLPTALK may permit the initial posting of such links in good faith, but does not prohibit the removal of such links if and when they are determined to be violations of policy. Links which are clearly inappropriate and unusable as encyclopedic sources and which contain unacceptable claims and allegations about living people violate both the spirit and letter of our policies which are intended to prevent the encyclopedia from being used as a troll's soapbox. NorthBySouthBaranof (talk) 02:54, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
It's funny because you made a false and trolling accusation here with a completely illegitimate source [1] and yet you repeated the link and accusation multiple times as if it were okay. But the real question is whether it's worth discussing the links. One editor is not in a position to make that call and certainly a TBanned editor should not be editing. The should not be making any calls regarding sources for article topics for which they are banned. BANEX isn't a get out of jail free card to ignore topic bans. There is no reading of BANEX that justifies the removal of links by banned editors. The reason you are tbanned is exactly the kind of trolling you did with that 8chan link while denouncing 8chan. You were correct to denounce them. Not so correct to smear other editors with false allegations from 8chan. -DHeyward (talk) 03:08, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
Discuss the topic, not your personal feud. EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 05:31, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
That is the topic. editors are picking and choosing when to weaponize policy. Sorry, but that's a non-starter to apply policy in a way to support POV and attack living people with lies. The key is that it wasn't sanctionable. --DHeyward (talk) 14:28, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
NBSB, Many thanks for your response, it is greatly appreciated. I am encouraged that we appear to have an agreement that WP:BLPTALK permits the posting of links on Talk pages, even where they link to sites containing contentious material. I would be interested to understand more on your suggestion that Links ... which contain unacceptable claims and allegations about living people violate ... the letter of our policies; would you be able to provide a reference to the sections of the policies that you have in mind?
W.r.t prohibiting the removal of links from Talk pages; while WP:BLPTALK does not prohibit this, behavioural guideline WP:TPG at WP:TPO says The basic rule—with some specific exceptions outlined below—is that you should not edit or delete the comments of other editors without their permission. While there is an exception for Removing prohibited material such as libel, personal details, or violations of copyright, living persons, banning, or anti-promotional policies, as WP:BLPTALK permits links (without inclusion of actual contentious material), these cannot be understood to be included in this exception. See also: WP:ONLYREVERT.
Apologies if that all sounds terribly legalistic.
In short: per WP:BLPTALK links are permitted; per WP:TPG they should not be unilaterally removed. I would be interested in your thoughts on these; and any other policy based suggestions that you might have.
It's also important to note that invoking BLP is very different from other policies. If I revert, redact or otherwise remove content from your Talk page edits, invoking WP:BLP (rightly or wrongly), this places the burden on you to obtain a consensus for inclusion. The burden of evidence rests with the editor who adds or restores material. You risk sanction if you simply re-add the material. I am not certain how a consensus about inclusion of a link (but no actual contentious material) could be obtained if the link is not available to be mentioned. By invoking WP:BLP, I have effectively suppressed discussion of the suitability of the sourced information & overridden the consensus process. See also: WP:CRYBLP.
Finally, with respect, my conceptualization closely aligns to that suggested by DHeyward, above. Based on other responses here, I believe a number of other Wikipedians are of a similar mind. I would suggest that we might use this discussion to establish a consensus as to interpretation of WP:BLP, so that we might all go forward with certainty. - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 09:02, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
  • BLPTALK needs tweaking. The link that prompted this on GG was not just "contentious", it was libel. BLPTALK should reflect that discussion of RS or at least something that approaches RS (which is also key as the link from GG was not RS) is fine. If, for example, HuffPo has an article with some claims about a politician committing fraud, then the talk page is the right venue to discuss that article. However, not all links are covered by BLPTALK, or shouldn't be. Links to Stormfront would never be acceptable. Links that contain libel or highly disparaging content should never be allowed. Folks seem to be misunderstanding "contentious material" and misrepresenting the example in BLP. Let's clarify it so that if (1) matches the rest of the BLP policy's intent and (2) matches how BLP is being enforced. EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 05:31, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Posting a link, no matter how much you dislike it, is not libel. Stop making up law. Step one is ratcheting down the rhetoric. --DHeyward (talk) 14:28, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
  • That is not only a misreading of WP:BLPTALK as I see it but a misunderstanding of the WP:BLP policy in general. Let's be specific and consider "sources" rather than "links" as whether the source is virtual or physical isn't particularly relevant. If we applied your interpretation across the project we couldn't source Resilience in Elizabeth Edaward's article because it contains numerous, uncorroborated allegations against John Edwards, or link to (as we do) Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape in Jenna Miscavige Hill's article, or No Regrets in Ace Frehley's article -- the list goes on.
What WP:BLP policy instead suggests is that we mustn't use these sources, uncorroborated, to repeat BLP claims -- not that we can't use them whatsoever. And that's our standard for articles; WP:BLPTALK suggests the standard for talk pages is even less strict. —EncyclopediaBob (talk) 20:23, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
Yes, that is the policy in a nutshell. --DHeyward (talk) 21:44, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
  • I feel the significance of EvergreenFir's (and others') interpretation of WP:BLP is minimized by focusing solely on the consequences of its application to Gamergate. My concern is that such an interpretation consistently applied would have significant and negative consequences for the encyclopedia as a whole. I strongly urge the input of editors and policy experts uninvolved in the Gamergate space. —EncyclopediaBob (talk) 22:05, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
I thank EncyclopediaBob for stating this concern (which I share) explicitly in the context of wider Wikipedia. I am concerned by the impact of the apparent policy interpretation not in the limited space of a single contentious issue (however heated), but for what it means for collaboration across Wikipedia going forward. I firmly believe that this application of WP:BLP prevents policy based discussion & consensus building and is inherently contrary to the goals of the Wikipedia Project. I agree that we are best served if the discussion would focus on policy & impact generally, not within a limited topic space. - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 09:23, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
  • I think some editorial judgement is warranted when dealing with external links on BLP talk pages (and elsewhere). Of course there is no way to have a discussion about the suitability of a link without knowing what the link is, and the appropriate place to do that is on a talk page. That doesn't mean that all external links have carte blanche: a user who is clearly posting external links with intent to defame a living person, or attempting to game the BLP policy, should be dealt with swiftly and harshly, up to and including banning the user and/or revdeleting the link. I don't think any of this requires a change to the policy.
On the question of whether WP:BANEX allows a banned user to remove a contentious external link, the answer is no. The relevant text is in the banning policy itself, under WP:BMB: If there is any doubt whether a limited ban prohibits any specific edit, the banned editor should assume that it does, unless whoever imposed the ban expressly clarifies that it does not. I suggest that if a banned user has a concern about a link, they ought to promptly alert an active administrator or email oversight@. Ivanvector (talk) 00:01, 14 February 2015 (UTC)
  • My summary of ARBCOM comments on BLPTALK - It seems clear from the comments on the ARBCOM request for clarification I filed that not all links are allowed on talk pages, but there is wider latitude in what is allowed compared to on articles. The arbs agreed with the removal of the link relating to Gamergate that spurred this talk section. BLPTALK is not license to put links containing outright defamatory info on talk pages. But discussion of possible useful sources that contain questionable material seems to be fair game. If it's later determined that the link contains egregious material, it can be removed later. EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 18:03, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Alternate summary of ARBCOM comments on BLPTALK - It seems clear from the comments on the ARBCOM request for clarification that Article Talk places are the appropriate place for discussion of sources & material with WP:BLP implications. There appears strong support for the application of the BLP policy being less strict on Article Talk pages and the WP:BLPN noticeboard than it is in actual Wikipedia Articles.
Per Salvio_giuliano: Removal of material without discussion from talk pages or from the relevant noticeboard should be reserved for cases of egregious and uncontroversial BLP violations.
Per Thryduulf: It is perfectly legitimate, in almost all cases, to discuss on a talk page whether source X is a BLP violation or not.
This would suggest that good faith links to, and discussion of, sources & material should not be unilaterally removed from Talk pages & noticeboards on the basis of WP:BLP. This does not mean that Talk pages are to be used for gross or egregious and uncontroversial BLP violations, but that for normal (albeit controversial) discussions with BLP implications, removal should occur after the discussion is over, if it's determined that the material was indeed a violation.
Please note that this alternative summary does not suggest that there is anything inherently wrong or improper with the previous summary. I again thank EvergreenFir for their efforts in advancing this question to a resolution. - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 14:35, 22 February 2015 (UTC)
  • It is fact dependent, sometimes removal will occur before and sometimes after. The take away is, in BLP's learn what quality sourcing is ASAP, guided by the "conservative" treatment of BLP's. (there is nothing wrong with for example asking, 'can we add a personal blog that accuses this living person of a crime or moral depravity?' Sure, sometimes linking will occur but if if you are to err tread very lightly, always knowing that you are responsible). Alanscottwalker (talk) 15:54, 22 February 2015 (UTC)
  • What's still entirely unclear to me is whether noncompliant sources can be used to source non-BLP information. None of the policy pages or discussions I've read suggest they can't be but administrators in the Gamergate space (and seemingly only in the Gamergate space) have vigorously enforced their prohibition. —EncyclopediaBob (talk) 18:19, 22 February 2015 (UTC)
I thank EncyclopediaBob for raising this question; it speaks to what I believe is a fundamental misunderstanding of the WP:BLP policy; highlighted by the use of the construct "noncompliant sources".
I would suggest that, as the "general provisions" of the WP:BLP policy deal solely with adding information about living persons to any Wikipedia page, sources are neither inherently compliant nor inherently non-compliant with WP:BLP. That is, compliance refers to, and only takes affect with, the inclusion of contentious material about living persons on Wikipedia.
This becomes more obviously true when one considers that sources exist independent of their use to support Wikipedia articles - it is a nonsense to suggest that an external source, as an inherent property of itself, violates a Wikipedia policy if that source is not used to support any material on Wikipedia.
Similarly, links to sources are neither inherently compliant nor non-compliant with WP:BLP policy; except for the "special provisions" at WP:BLPEL which relate to "Further reading, External links, and See also" sections of Articles only.
Of course, it would be ridiculous to suggest that we would add random links to WP:mainspace articles; if a source is not reliable, verifiable and the information based on that source is not due, then it has no place in the article. But if the source is reliable, and the information included is due, then I do not find within WP:BLP policy a reason to exclude either that information or that source (regardless of any other information included in the source, but not within the article).
In the normal course of building a Wikipedia article, one would hope that sufficient reliable sources which do not contain contentious material about living persons would be available to support other information which might be duly included. This may, however, not always be possible.
Finally, I reiterate the position that WP:BLP serves to protect the Wikipedia Project, by ensuring that any contentious material about living persons is reliably sourced; it does not serve to, and should not be used to, prevent outright the inclusion of such material in the Encyclopedia, where such material meets WP:NPOV, WP:V/WP:RS and WP:NOR.
I hope this helps to address your question. As always, I welcome policy based, alternative opinions. - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 12:41, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
The fact is the pedia does not begin to write everything into policies and guidelines, it is considered a fools errand to do so. The pedia relies on good judgement, and there is no rule that can mandate good judgement. Poor sources will be seen as poor, and will likly face the ax (noncompliant sources can't be used on wikipedia, so discussing them is of poor return), the less the source resembles what WP:Identyfying Reliabale sources says we really want as sources - the worse off you will be. (If someone has done reasonably well in High School, and written research papers, then they should know what a useful source is.) This is an encyclopedia, it is not blog or tabloid fodder. Alanscottwalker (talk) 19:26, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
That seems like a very reasonable general principle but I'm still struggling to apply it to the following case: when a source is good for X and "poor" for Y, can it be used as a source for X where Y violates BLP policy and no better source for X exists? —EncyclopediaBob (talk)
Such an issue is much too fact based for this talk page, among other things it might depend on what is the proposal for its use, and the need to include such information from such a source. We have WP:BLPN to try to get opinions on such specific things. Alanscottwalker (talk) 23:34, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
Hi EncyclopediaBob, it is an interesting question, and I thank you for having raised it. Looking through WP:BLP, I do not find any sections which would prohibit such inclusion of reliably sourced non-contentious material, even where that source also contains contentious material about living persons. Of course, it is not difficult to image that a source would be reliable for some material and not for other information - and the example you have previously provided of a self-published source being used for information about the author/publisher, but not for information about other living persons is one such instance.
I reiterate my comments elsewhere, that there is nothing in WP:BLP which suggests that sources are inherently violations. The policy for covers the adding information about living persons to any Wikipedia page, and requires any material challenged or likely to be challenged must be explicitly attributed to a reliable, published source. If we are not adding contentious material to Wikipedia there is no violation. The sole exception is in the WP:BLPEL section, which places limitations on what can be included in the "Further reading, External links, and See also" sections of WP:Mainspace articles.
We would, of course, hope for alternative sources which did not include any contentious material, but such is not always possible. I hope this helps to address your question; and, as always, welcome alternate, policy based opinions of other Wikipedians - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 07:13, 1 March 2015 (UTC)

ARBCOM Clarification Request on above issue[edit]

I have started a Clarification Request regarding the above discussion and the GG edits and Enforcement Request that preceded it. The request can be found at Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Clarification_and_Amendment#Clarification_request:_Editing_of_Biographies_of_Living_Persons. Thank you. EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 02:15, 14 February 2015 (UTC)

ARBCOM did not take up the clarification request, but final archived version with comments can be found at Wikipedia_talk:Requests_for_arbitration/Editing_of_Biographies_of_Living_Persons#Clarification_request:_Editing_of_Biographies_of_Living_Persons_.28February_2015.29. EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 17:56, 17 February 2015 (UTC)

"Criminal" categories[edit]

WP:BLPCAT currently states:

For example, Category:Criminals and its subcategories should only be added for an incident that is relevant to the person's notability; the incident was published by reliable third-party sources; the subject was convicted; and the conviction was not overturned on appeal.

At Nick Griffin, a person was given a suspended sentence for distribution of hateful literature. At WP:BLP/N the statement was made that any crime at all makes a person a "criminal" for purposes of categorization.

The sources given as reliable third party sources are [2] which I can not verify, and "- Brinks, Timms & Rock 2006, p. 94, - Ware & Back 2002, p. 55, and Atkins 2004, p. 112. " The first only states with regard to the claim that he was convicted of "publishing an anti-Semitic magazine The Rune on page 73-4, and on page 84 that he was "convicted of inciting racial hatred". Ware & Beck page 55 is a personal anecdote which is not suited as a claim of fact, alas. Atkins is an "Encyclopedia of Extremists" and on page 112 states "Griffin ran into trouble with the law over giving out racist literature." None of the sources that I can read categorize him as a "criminal" as his defining characteristic.

Griffin is undoubtedly not a nice person by any means - but where the sources given do not use the term "criminal" or categorize him as a "criminal", ought we so categorize him in Wikipedia's voice?


Nor is this the only such case found on Wikipedia - just the most current one.

I would suggest that we add "Wikipedia does not support categorizing any living person by any term not used in third-party sources" to avoid any such confusion in future, rather than simply "relevant to the person's notability." Collect (talk) 16:00, 1 March 2015 (UTC) .