Wikipedia talk:Don't overlook legal threats

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old talk[edit]

It should be pointed out that under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and particularly Barrett v. Rosenthal, re-posters of information have immunity from libel laws in the United States. It seems clear that restoring the information constitutes reposting. — Arthur Rubin | (talk) 03:15, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

There are several hundred jurisdictions in which wikipedians operate.--Docg 08:07, 28 November 2007 (UTC)
Oddly enough, s:Order of relief, Mrs M. B., Mr P. T., Mr F. D. vs. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. doesn't say that the individual poster is liable, either. It merely says that Wikimedia is not liable. (Aside from the article being an unsourced mechanical translation, which doesn't appear to meet Wikisource's requirements for an article.) — Arthur Rubin | (talk) 14:06, 28 November 2007 (UTC)
The English Wikisource policy on translations is that they may be translated using the collaborative wiki approach provided it is clearly marked as a wikisource translation. This ranges from a bible to modern documents (provided the original is free of copyright). John Vandenberg (talk) 21:59, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

I'm unclear as to the point of this essay -- although it would be useful for anyone wanting the Admin bit to read & ponder it. This is essay

  • Aimed at people who find their biography on Wikipedia? If so, is the message that they should not blank their biogrpahy, but stubbify it?
  • Aimed at Wikipedians who want to be/are Admins? If so, how do they make sure that the article is blanked by someone with a serious concern over the content? (One step is to avoid treating these encounters in a routine, formulaic manner.)
  • Or should we use it to argue, "Don't let your first step be a call to your lawyer"? (I figure that the percentage of notable people who can't afford a lawyer is the same as in the rest of the world. Unless there's a good reason to hire a lawyer over Wikipedia content, a person will have as much success removing it if she/he presents a reasonable argument to OTRS -- or the average Admin -- for free as if that person paid several thousand dollars to a lawyer, who then makes all sorts of threatening noises & files lots of threatening legal papers.)

If the essay could be rewritten to specifically address one -- or all -- of these considerations, I think it would be a much better effort. -- llywrch (talk) 23:46, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

It is aimed at Wikipedians who patrol for "vandalism" - my whole point is that people who get libelled by us don't read our essays or care about our rules - nor should they have to. When they scream for help, we should be ready to listen. The essay isn't supposed to do anything other than get Wikipedians to put themselves in the shoes of a non-wikipedian victim and be alert for that possibility. Sometimes we are so focused on the inhouse rules that we miss the really obvious. If an article is blanked - or an IP is furious - consider they may have good cause, and give the article a BLP check before jumping to any other conclusion.--Docg 23:52, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

I see your point, but remember: sometimes articles get blanked by anon IPs for the simple reason that they see that "Edit this Page" link -- & nothing more. Even the most veteran & sympathetic Admin is bound to be a DOLT, having no more information than that. -- llywrch (talk) 05:40, 29 November 2007 (UTC)
Unacceptable to revert a blanking, particularly of a BLP without at least skimming the contents to see if there's a possible good reason. WP:BITE and WP:AGF apply here. Better having a few blank articles for a minute or two, than libelling people.--Docg 09:20, 29 November 2007 (UTC)
If it's "unacceptable to revert a blanking", are you saying we should withdraw ClueBot's approval? —Random832 14:53, 29 November 2007 (UTC)
It should be modified not to automatically revert on BLPs.--Docg 22:03, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

Ask why?[edit]

At the risk of assuming too much good faith, you can only ask why? to a certain point. First of all it's not acceptable to focus this essay on the "wanting to do right by wikipedia" editor and equate their actions to that of a DOLT or warning them not to be one. Their actions were done in good faith and to liken them to being doltish, certainly isn't. The correct focal point should be the investigating admin who takes on the report at ANI, and making the admin aware of potential implications of the block should be this essays objective. If your example editor has

  • used correctly the tools at their disposal
  • left a good faith message to engage in dialogue
  • upped the ante, with progressively sterner warnings, which have all been ignored (until the legal threat was issued)
  • then correctly reported the issue to ANI (this is an essay, no legal threats is a policy)

then his actions are above reproach and has only done what we expect of any good editor with aspirations within the community. To note that it is Colin's actions that caused the problem, is patently false. With the good faith templates it is pretty clear about engaging in dialogue, and at the last, all block templates make it clear what to do if an editor feels the block is unjustified. I think the case study is erroneous, misses the target audience completely and should be re-written. Khukri 10:16, 29 February 2008 (UTC)

You are making the mistake in believing that if someone follows all our processes then all is well, and the onus is on the "outsider" to follow the rules to. The point of the essay is to indicate that this is not so. People need to use their brains and not just follow process, and there is no reason why some non-wikipedian with a genuine reason to be upset should have to learn our "rules". Wikipedia has real-world effects, and one should always consider the real person who lies behind the account; why are they doing this? how can you help them? If you don't do that, you are indeed a dolt, and a dangerous one. If your incompetence and myopia hurts people, then "good faith" isn't too much of a defence.--Docg 10:32, 29 February 2008 (UTC)
Sorry but you have completely misread the entire point of my post, calling a good faith editor who has done everything correctly by wikipedia policies a dolt, and now incompetent & myopic as well, is blatantly wrong. He has not applied a block, the investigating admin has. I know you know it well but in the third sentence of WP:NLT is However, we require that you do not edit Wikipedia until the legal matter has been resolved to ensure that all legal processes happen via proper legal channels. you cannot honestly expect a non-admin to take it on him/herself to ignore this policy, not to report to ANI a legal threat or take it on themselves to investigate the reasoning behind it. And to have complied with this line it would only be an admin who could implement it i.e. a block. I fully agree that editors must be aware there is a real person behind an article, but once a legal threat has been issued, his only recourse is to report the issue. The focus of this essay should be on the investigating admin not to go in with the banhammer but try to understand the reasoning behind it. If an editor, who lets face it has found this essay knows full well about NLT, takes it upon himself to resolve the issue, there is a far greater risk of exposing the project to litigation, than them reporting it through the correct channels. Why would you have the premise of this essay being about the wielding of a banhammer, and then have a nice fluffy case study about a normal editor, who can't wield it anyway? It's the admin's job. Khukri 12:36, 29 February 2008 (UTC)
This isn't just about blocking, it is about reverting a blanking without thought, and it is about mindless templating. "once a legal threat has been issued, his only recourse is to report the issue" - not so. If there's obvious reason for the legal threat, and you can remove that reason, then you should do so. The moral of this story is "stop and think", if you stop and think, and still get it wrong, then at least you did the right thing. If you mindlessly followed the rules then you didn't. Anyway, this is an essay, you can disagree with it and write your own.--Docg 12:49, 29 February 2008 (UTC)
OK then we need to change the essay premise, away from use of the banhammer, to some thing along the lines of Do not simply revert blanking to WP:BLP articles as there may be a reason behind it, so stop and think.
In response to your point above, the case study does not have an obvious reason, the editor has nothing to go on, and hence should report it to ANI. Alot of editors don't distinguish between policies and essays, and once an essay has has been around long enough or has the support of respectable editors, it get cast into stone, good example being WP:DTR. Now essays and guidelines are here to help editors not send them mixed messages, so me creating another essay would do exactly that. Again I fully understand the morale of the story, but lets not insult editors who read this, but point them in the right direction and tell them how they should treat BLP articles. Khukri 13:14, 29 February 2008 (UTC)
Also give options, don't just say stop and think, give the editor options, what options does he have available to him, give him the tools, and your experience to do the job, don't just say watch out you could screw up but we're not going to give you a dcase study how to resolve a situation. Khukri 13:14, 29 February 2008 (UTC)
I think it's fine, and others seem to agree. This isn't a comprehensive set of instructions, it is an illustrative essay designed to make people stop and think about how wikiprocess can hit real people. The point isn't "do this, not that", it is "think" and where thought tells you otherwise, ignore all the rules. Wikipedia isn't a set of instructions, it is real people who think and take responsibility for their actions. Bots run on rules, and we have enough of them. As for banhammer- it isn't just about blocking, it is about automatically assuming the bad faith of someone upset about a BLP and hitting them with bans, blocks, templates and shouts of vandal. One should stop and think, there may be an alternative explanation which you can understand and help with.--Docg 15:47, 29 February 2008 (UTC)

As a relatively new admin, another editor suggested that I read this essay after I blocked a new editor for legal threats after it was reported to AN/I. While the essay gave me a better perspective of "the other side," I cannot say that I found its admonishment "to think" particularly helpful. If an article is up to BLP standards and is properly sourced and cited, what is there to think about? Our policy on Verifiability practically shouts "verifiability, not truth!" so of course I am going to revert the deletions of cited material by someone making legal threats. To me, the statement "Never unblank biographies without asking why" sounded almost like BEANS-style how-to guide for people pissed off about their own Wikipedia article.

Perhaps I am missing something blindingly obvious and screwed up the {{uw-lblock}} I issued over legal threats on the Irene Craigmile Bolam article. However if that is the case, I pretty much have to agree with Khukri that this essay could use some refinement to help people like me figure out how exactly it applies to our situations. --Kralizec! (talk) 14:50, 1 March 2008 (UTC)

If you have stopped to consider the article, and it is up to BLP standards, then you have done the right thing. No problem with that. Unfortunately, not everyone does that, and someonetimes quite obvious libels get unblanked - that's the point.--Docg 17:24, 1 March 2008 (UTC)
The entire essay is built upon a fictitious strawman argument. That the original author of this essay went to such lengths as to construct for its title an acronym that doubles as an insult is particularly telling.
And you're damn right that I'm still angry that Doc misconstrued my actions and twisted a particular situation into this needless and insulting essay. --ElKevbo (talk) 15:22, 1 March 2008 (UTC)
How many emails have you handled from individuals with issues on Wikipedia articles about them? I have handled a fair number, and many of them follow exactly the path Doc outlines. The problem is easily understood and easily avoided, and this is not at all inconsistent with WP:NLT. If you don't feel qualified to handle such situations, fair enough - it's not for everybody - but please leave it to others, because some of us have seen these situations cause genuine distress to quite innocent parties. A bit of tact goes a long way. Guy (Help!) 23:14, 8 January 2010 (UTC)

Never unblank biographies?[edit]

If I log out and blank the biography of George W. Bush from an IP address, and the editors of that article leave me a polite note why I did it to which I respond the following day...this essay would advise that the Wikipedia article (and top Google hit) on the President of the United States should remain blank for 24 hours? And if different individuals do this every day, in perpetuity? Reductio ad absurdum. Skomorokh 20:38, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

The problem with ad absurdums is that they are usually absurd, and work on the basis that a principle needs to be idiot proof. Well, not so, idiots will always be idiots. Read in full "Never unblank biographies without asking why the IP might be blanking it"--Docg 16:07, 12 April 2008 (UTC)
Or if the edit summary decently explains it, or if the removal is self explanatory ("Politician X sodomizes children!") --harej 06:01, 17 August 2008 (UTC)

My Amendments[edit]

I've restored a link to the ruling cited and added a paragraph from the ruling clarifying the immunity granted. It's fully cited and only a relevant repost of a small part of the ruling itself, without which the comment on the preceding reference is misleading. I hope that this action is not contentious. Amicaveritas (talk) 12:08, 22 April 2009 (UTC)

Anti-legal-threat policy itself is illegal[edit]

In (American) law, there is a strong presumption that people are entitled to have access to the court system to resolve disputes. Courts look down on attempts to keep people away from court. Comments are occasionally made that amount to 'WP is private!', apparently meaning that 'we can do whatever we want! Nyah! Nyah! Nyah!'. Sorry, but law doesn't work that way. WP can, and does, contain libel, and that libel is accessible to the public, and until the libel laws are changed, the public (persons offended) by the libel have a right to object, and once they object, all people with the power to do something about the libel (i.e. remove it) are obliged to do so. Some people here have thrown out their interpretations of legal decisions, or what their brother-in-law's friend's father's lawyer once said...they think. Problem was, that lawyer might have never done a libel suit (very few lawyers ever do them in their entire careers). And, to really understand a legal decision, you have to read it, know what factual circumstances apply, and what the limits of that decision are. One problem is that WP's 'dispute resolution' system is a silly joke. The 'rules' are stilted in favor of of WP (and in favor of malicious Administrators): Many Administrators openly act as 'meat puppets' for their buddy editors, or for each other. The mechanism they use for this formalized meat-puppetry is called 'flagging an article', which amounts to, "Hey buddies, I need some meat-puppet assistance on article [fill in the blank]!) Flag, and a few minutes later, help arrives, as if on cue. Because there was, indeed, a cue'. Such phony 'dispute resolution' amounts to deliberate time-wasting for most persons objecting to libel. WP:BLP policy is also a joke, although at least there has been some posturing recently to improve that sorry situation. One major problem is that people simply don't actually follow the rules: If a person reverts a deletion, and certainly if that revertor is aware of the objection to that material on libel grounds, that revertor is liable for the material he reverts. That's not merely a statement of law, it actually mirrors WP:BLP policy. Generally, very limited (temporary) 'immunity' given for sites (like WP) over postings of third parties is based on the idea that WP can't instantly revert all libelous material, or even promptly determine that material was libelous. So far, so good. But when a person informs WP (or another site) that the material in question is libelous, the site becomes obliged to correct the libel promptly. The law, presumably, doesn't hold the site liable for the material prior to the objection, if the material is promptly removed. But that may well be the only immunity the law confers. But after a few re-tellings, (think of the child's game, 'telephone'), it has transmogrified into "go ahead and do whatever you want: We are immune!". You'll change your tune when the process-server has done his job, and you're sued. (and by the time the judge declares you immune, if he ever does, you're out $50,000.) Another extraordinarily biased, and indeed laughable, part of this policy is the idea that if a lawsuit is initiated, the suitor (the guy doing the lawsuit) is somehow banned from editing. In your dreams! A judge would look at that policy and first laugh, and then double the award for malicious behavior by the site. Why? The lawsuit would, primarily, be covering past libel, or perhaps continuing libel, perhaps in just one article. But future libel, and on other articles, would be up in the air. An editor has a right (the same right as any other editor) to continuously monitor libel added in the future, and in other articles, and to attempt to correct that new libel. But by trying to keep a person from editing (and thus being able to remove new libelous material posted in the future, perhaps in an entirely different article), WP looks like (and is!) attempting to obstruct a person from correcting future libels: This amounts to a penalty (a punishment) for exercising one's first-amendment constitutional right to 'petition the government for redress of grievances'. Does that sound unreasonable? Suppose you disputed your gas bill, or oil bill, and the company said, "Okay, you can sue us over that $100, but we'll instantly turn off the heat, and you'll freeze! The lawsuit may take a year to end, and it's only October!" If there's something that courts really hate to see, it's one party to a dispute using its greater power to crush the other party, by threat of unilateral action. Look up a case called "Long v. Shorebank Development", 1999, in the 7th Circuit Court of appeals, if you doubt what happens to big companies who abuse vulnerable individuals. (Renter was evicted over a very small bill, a few dollars, and it turned out that the renter was actually ahead on her payments!) It's quite simple: If WP prevents a person who sues it from continuing to edit, the immunity that some of these laws seem to confer could be instantly declared inapplicable by the judge, on the grounds that WP was not acting 'reasonably' (fairly) After all, if an editor is being deterred from suing due to one incident of libel, for fear of being obstructed from editing, most people would agree 'that's not fair'. In that case, the website is actually aware that future libel is not being effectively deterred. (talk) 11:18, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

WP doesn't have any contracts with users, nor is editing Wikipedia an essential service. Wikipedia can deny service to anyone at any time, and no one has any more legal right to edit Wikipedia then they did the Encyclopedia Britannica.--Prosfilaes (talk) 22:15, 12 December 2010 (UTC)
I strongly support this summary. There is a dangerous catch-22 here. In order for you to invoke certain claims you ARE REQUIRED IN LAW to use the words "libel" "slander", ect. and issue a cease-and-desist request. In order to be able to continue defending yourself on Wikipedia you are forbidden from the same as it could be construed as a legal threat. So you have a choice, either you attempt to exert your legal rights and get banned, or you attempt to defend yourself in consensus discussions and forgo your legal rights to do so. HominidMachinae (talk) 21:22, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

cooler heads[edit]

This essay currently says: "I'll just pop to the administrators' noticeboard and issue an all-points bulletin to get an immediate block done." Checking off one more good judgement to cite at his RFA, he heads off, feeling good."

OK, the newbie jonesing for an administratorship wasn't showing the best judgment, in this particular case, but, it their note on ANI triggers a block of Bob Jones, the primary responsibility for that block would lie with the administrator who imposed the block without doing their own research.

What I would hope would happen at ANI is that cooler heads would look into Headhunter's report, read the situation more clearly and (1) urge Headhunter show more caution; (2) offer Bob Jones advice as to how to use our existing channels to address their concerns. Geo Swan (talk) 16:01, 22 March 2012 (UTC)

Relation to RBI[edit]

Could an even shorter nutshell be written as...?

"Revert, block, ignore" is not usually appropriate for legal threats.

Of course, I mean mainly that the "ignore" part is inappropriate; I understand why legal threats are blockable offenses regardless of their merit. The word "usually" is meant to allow exceptions such as disruption by banned users known to make frivolous legal threats as part of their modus operandi, but you may remove it if desired. --SoledadKabocha (talk) 05:40, 10 June 2014 (UTC)

Or perhaps "Revert, block, ignore" is not entirely appropriate for legal threats. ? --SoledadKabocha (talk) 06:19, 11 June 2014 (UTC)