Wikipedia talk:No legal threats

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Chilling effect, another example[edit]

At WP:ANI the following question has arisen:

Does this comment amount to a legal threat against WP? --Nigelj (talk) 23:22, 22 January 2013 (UTC)

While a first discussion was archived with the outcome that it did not appear to be a legal threat, the follow-up discussion may be continued over here. De728631 (talk) 17:24, 25 January 2013 (UTC)

Sorry, but you've got it wrong. NLT is not about specific wording, it's about an attempt to intimidate via quasi-legalistic language, which is exactly what the IP was doing. He's now redacted the legal threat, so that's that (for now). But you need to understand what NLT is actually about. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 16:48, 23 January 2013 (UTC)
Yes, I agree with Bugs. There is really no difference in chilling effect between "I am going to sue you" and "I am going to get criminal action brought against you." Nor is this a question about someone's ability to report a crime. If the IP really thinks that there's criminality on that article, then he or she can certainly go to the authorities to report it. What they cannot do is threaten to go to the authorities in order to get something done here. There is a neutral, non-threatening way to point out potential criminal liability, and a threatening, NLT way to do it, and this was decidedly the latter. In my opinion, the closing of this thread and dismissal of the complaint was a mistake in judgment. Beyond My Ken (talk) 20:03, 23 January 2013 (UTC)
I agree with both of the above. There is a clear threat here to take a legal action. People are, of course, allowed to contact the cops if they see a crime. What they may not do is to us the threat of contacting the cops to intimidate others. This is a clear letter-and-spirit violation of NLT if I ever saw one. --Jayron32 20:45, 23 January 2013 (UTC)
If anyone cares, I gave the user a pseudo final warning, saying I'd re-report him here if he continued what he was doing. He's still at it by the way, except now he's using ad-hominems of sorts and other methods to produce a chilling effect to get us to do what he wants. I also directed him to Commons (sorry all there), as that's where the images are hosted, where he may have more luck. If an administrator can please take some sort of action to prevent this chilling effect from going further, it'd be appreciated. Thanks, gwickwiretalkedits 22:31, 23 January 2013 (UTC)
This is simply not true. I have been discussing the issue WITHOUT using a legal threat at all. I have not been using ad-hominems at all. I would like to see some sort of proof of that considering that I can't see it. This is nothing but a complete lie. I have also been responding to a personal and ad hominem attack that Baseball Bugs has put upon me which he refuses to retract although he, as his history has shown, is not slow to report any and everyone who he thinks violates Wikipedia policy in order silence them.
proof. Which has been provided multiple times before and always gets a "I didn't say that" response from you, when the diff shows that you said it. - The Bushranger One ping only 23:01, 23 January 2013 (UTC)
Even though the IP claims to not have said it, they did partially redact the threat themselves shortly after it was brought up at ANI. If they had been more upfront and admitted to the threat, this issue could have been resolved without the escalation drama. Although, due to their cleanup of the threat wording, I question the block reason. Granted, they were approaching a block for trolling (if not already exceeded it), but I suspect a NLT block may not be supportable given the attempt at redaction. --- Barek (talkcontribs) - 23:23, 23 January 2013 (UTC)
  • This is clearly a legal threat; I've blocked (only for a week, given the nature of IPs, but poke me if he reappears after that and acts in a recidivistic manner) Ironholds (talk) 23:07, 23 January 2013 (UTC)
Note: a head's up that in this reply to the block, the user's statement "Thank God for dynamic IP addresses" suggests the page needs to be monitored for block evasion now. --- Barek (talkcontribs) - 00:15, 24 January 2013 (UTC)

From WP:NLT: "Rather than threatening to employ litigation, you should always first attempt to resolve disputes using Wikipedia's dispute resolution procedures."

Based on the definition of "litigation", the user did not breach the letter of NLT, but he certainly violated its spirit. Perhaps NLT should be amended to include criminal prosecution. As far as I know, there isn't any policy regarding criminal lawsuits, and I believe that WP policies are set up in such a way so as to prohibit actions by users that would violate United States or Florida law (though I'm not sure about that), but these things do come up every so often. Would anybody be interested in an RFC on NLT to include criminal lawsuits in the definition of legal threats and explain how concerns of criminal violations should be reported and addressed? —Rutebega (talk) 01:01, 24 January 2013 (UTC)

I agree, but I don't think that our point is getting through. I posted the following in a discussion with an admin who dropped by to comment on NLT at my page, and it holds true here.
"I have to disagree from several standpoints. First, it is not morally or ethically correct to discourage someone from reporting what he believes to be a criminal offense to law enforcement authorities. Second, it may very well be a criminal violation in and of itself to discourage someone from reporting an offense. Third, it would be terrible press for the project to have that splattered over the news that Wikipedia wanted to prevent the reporting of a possible crime, especially in this case, where the crime allegedly involves minors and sexual matters. Finally, taking it in context, nowhere in the policy does it speak about criminal actions, it speaks of litigation. It is a question of balance. Which is more important, the editing of articles, or crime? That is not to say that I agreed with the way he went about it, but I don't think that we should, nor do I think the WP:NLT policy requires, us to take action to prevent someone from reporting what they believe to be a crime to authorities. As a hypothetical, what if a female editor is raped by a male editor at Wikimania or another WP sponsored event. Are we saying that she can't pursue criminal charges because it inhibits editing? That's not morally nor ethically sound."
As a further note, it speaks of litigation and civil lawsuits, but not once mentions criminal actions. Like I noted above, I don't think that the individual went about this the right way, but speaking from twenty years of personal experience in the field, in any of my cases, anything that could be construed as obstruction got a very close look. I just don't think that it is good for the project to use that policy in criminal matters. Regards, GregJackP Boomer! 04:02, 24 January 2013 (UTC)
Again, the difference is not in reporting Wikipedia to criminal authorities, it is in using the threat of doing so as a means to get his way. No one has said he can't walk into his local FBI office and ask to have someone investigated. What people have said here is that he can't threaten to do so on Wikipedia as a means to force others to his will. --Jayron32 04:32, 24 January 2013 (UTC)
I don't disagree with what we are trying to do, as far as getting his conduct back to civility. All I'm saying is if I were contacted on a criminal investigation and presented with the facts that we have here, one of the things that I would have done when I was an officer is look at whether any obstruction occurred, or tampering with either a complaining witness or evidence. Second, this type of thing tends to attract press coverage if the cops are incensed about it. Either one of those things is not good for the project.
I could have missed it, but I didn't see anyone tell him that if he thought there was a crime, to report it to the authorities, but don't discuss it here. What I saw was what appeared to be an attempt to shut him down and get a retraction from him by threatening to block him. There are better ways to do this on criminal matters. Regards, GregJackP Boomer! 05:20, 24 January 2013 (UTC)
(I'm no longer talking about the specific case above anymore, sorry) My thought was that we should include criminal matters in NLT, but to categorize it slightly differently than threats of civil litigation. Obviously, telling another user that you're going to call the cops on them is unacceptable, but I feel that NLT should emphasize that legal concerns of a criminal nature should not be discussed on talk pages, but reported to AN/I perhaps, or in an email to WMF or whatever consensus deems appropriate, and if the issue cannot be resolved internally, then the user should not be discouraged from reporting the issue to law enforcement agencies, but should understand that their account will be blocked until the matter is resolved for the same reason NLT currently cites.
Anyway, this isn't really the place for such discussion; my comment was only intended to gauge interest in an RFC on the topic. It seems like there's a potential for discussion, but to verify, does anybody else think it would be a good idea? —Rutebega (talk) 04:02, 25 January 2013 (UTC)
Absolutely not, as far as blocking them for NLT. If they are disruptive, handle it, but don't take action that would appear that we are trying to cover something up or otherwise obstruct justice. GregJackP Boomer! 17:47, 25 January 2013 (UTC)
That wasn't my idea at all, but if someone is genuinely concerned about this type of legal issue, then they shouldn't be harping on the talk page about it. It should probably be reported to sysops, and if nothing is done about the issue on wikipedia and the user isn't satisfied by the explanation, then they should be allowed (encouraged even) to report the issue to law enforcement agencies, though they may still be blocked from editing for practical reasons. All of this I outlined above, and I'd leave it up to consensus of course, I only thought that this discussion should take place. —Rutebega (talk) 20:01, 25 January 2013 (UTC)
Actually, I think this is an important discussion to have. Can we move the lower part of this discussion regarding the general notions of NLT and chilling effects and threats to notify the cops and things like that to the NLT talk page perhaps? This is probably something that needs to be resolved and clarified, lest we run down this road again... --Jayron32 06:20, 25 January 2013 (UTC)
I have wanted to write up an essay over Chilling Effects (like this kindof was) at Wikipedia, or a proposal to add it, but haven't had time. I'll see what I can write up. gwickwiretalkedits 01:18, 24 January 2013 (UTC)
Maybe what needs to be emphasized is the approach. The right way to say it is, "I'm concerned that this might put Wikipedia in trouble with legal or civil law." The wrong way to say it is, "I'm gonna call da cops / I'm gonna sue ya!" ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 12:42, 25 January 2013 (UTC)

The purpose of NLT is to keep legal disputes off-wiki and prevent editors being discouraged from editing by the threat of litigation. As in "remove those comments about Acme dogfood now, or my lawyer will be in touch." In this case, the user said he thought the pictures broke the law, and he would contact law enforcement if they were not removed. The correct response was not a block - it is very problematic to block somebody for pointing out that the law is apparently being violated (the vision of a Fox News headline "Wikipedia blocks editor for pointing out kiddie porn pictures" says it all). The best answer would be just to advise the guy that we don't think the law is being broken, but he is welcome to contact the authorities to confirm this with them. If he then persists in deleting whatever he is agin, then by all means block him for disruption. Elen of the Roads (talk) 02:16, 27 January 2013 (UTC)

Exactly. GregJackP Boomer! 07:01, 27 January 2013 (UTC)

The hypothetical aspects of this discussion have been about the presence of certain material on Wikipedia being a crime in and of itself, and how an editor should report that, and how policy shouldn't chill an editor from reporting it to the authorities if internal complaints were ineffective. A different problem might be plausible information that is posted on Wikipedia indicating that an off-Wiki crime occurred, and the victim and jurisdiction are potentially identifiable. An appropriate course of action for an editor who sees such information might be to not make any mention of it in any public or private area of Wikipedia and just notify the authorities in the jurisdiction concerned. Indeed, if the possible victim falls into a protected class, like a child or elderly person, and if the editor lives or works in the jurisdiction and has a position that requires him to protect members of the protected class, such as a doctor, teacher, or emergency medical technician, the editor might be legally obliged to report the information to the authorities specified by law. Jc3s5h (talk) 05:17, 3 February 2013 (UTC)

Chilling effect example[edit]

Here's another one from ANI[1]:

"You can be liable to law prosecution by Rexhepi himself for spreading false information on his account and missusing his name."[2]

The text "false information" is a report of a legal problem, but the statement goes well beyond that. If it read, "You can be liable to law prosecution by me for spreading false information," the answer would be obvious. However, the comment maker is not the one threatening law prosecution. Given that the difference between the two are only a few words, others may reasonably understand the above as a legal threat or not. I think more information should be added to Wikipedia:No legal threats taking into account all the threads above. -- Jreferee (talk) 04:32, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

Proposed clarifications of scope[edit]

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section. A summary of the conclusions reached follows.
The result of this discussion was that the proposed clarifications of scope were rejected with 16 editors opposing and 1 editor (the proponent) supporting. --Guy Macon (talk) 22:47, 12 August 2013 (UTC)


I'd like to suggest a few tweaks to clarify the scope of the NLT policy. In particular, it's implicit in the policy that legal threats made off-wiki about a Wikipedia dispute will be treated the same way as threats made on-wiki. I believe this needs to be made explicit, as it leaves a possible loophole by which the policy could be evaded. I'd therefore propose to make the following changes:

1. In the first line, amend to read (all new additions in bold type):

  • Rather than threatening to employ litigation over a dispute involving Wikipedia, you should always first attempt to resolve disputes using Wikipedia's dispute resolution procedures.

This would clarify that the policy applies specifically to disputes about matters involving Wikipedia (e.g. content editing, things that editors had posted etc).

2. Add a new second line, to read:

  • If your dispute does not involve Wikipedia, please do not use Wikipedia to pursue unrelated legal disputes.

This would clarify that Wikipedia is not a venue for pursuing legal disputes that relate to matters that are outside Wikipedia (e.g. if two editors were importing a real-world feud separate from their editing on Wikipedia).

3. Add a new paragraph under "Perceived legal threats", to read:

  • Legal threats made by editors concerning matters involving Wikipedia will be treated the same way whether they are posted on Wikipedia or on external websites. If it comes to the attention of administrators on Wikipedia that an editor has made a legal threat about a matter concerning a Wikipedia dispute, the author of the threat may be blocked from editing irrespective of where that threat has been posted.

This would clarify that the venue of the legal threat is unimportant (as it should be; the rationale of the policy would still stand wherever the threat had been made, as it would still have a chilling effect on editing, cause bad feelings and a lack of trust, etc). It makes explicit what is currently implicit and would close a potential loophole where (for instance) an editor could make a legal threat on their blog and claim to still be compliant with NLT because they had not actually posted the threat on Wikipedia, even if people here were aware of it.

I'd be grateful for comments and feedback about these proposed changes. Prioryman (talk) 19:48, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

One thing I've been thinking about for a while now - would it be feasible to have a legal threat noticeboard? GiantSnowman 20:01, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
Instead of reporting them to WP:AN, you mean? I don't think they are common enough to justify having a separate noticeboard. Prioryman (talk) 20:03, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

I have not the foggiest idea how well your proposed expansion to include non-Wikipedia sites would work in practice at all. If it requires "connecting dots" between a WP account name and a non-WP account name, I think it would be exceedingly difficult to justify, and might, in essence, require "outing" of the outside identity. Would you exclude such "outing" from the WP:OUTING policy? Collect (talk) 20:07, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

That's an interesting question. I think it would have to depend on there being an undisputed link between the editor's account and their off-wiki identity. It's likely that such a link would have been established by the person making the threat - if they are threatening to sue over a dispute that is happening on-wiki, it's very likely and probably inevitable that they will identify themselves as one of the disputants. If an editor voluntarily discloses their own identity in such circumstances then it wouldn't be outing for others to make that link. Prioryman (talk) 20:17, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
Here is the problem with that:
Scenario One: I make an account at Blogs "R" Us and impersonate you, then make a legal threat. You deny being the same person.
Scenario Two: You make an account at Blogs "R" Us and "impersonate" yourself, then make a legal threat. You then deny being the same person.
How do I tell the two scenarios apart? Someone who want to frame you for making legal threats will look exactly like you making legal threats in such a way as to retain plausible deniability. --Guy Macon (talk) 04:33, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
(Sound of Crickets...) --Guy Macon (talk) 20:25, 12 August 2013 (UTC)

@Prioryman. I'm curious as to how you arrived at "it's implicit in the policy that legal threats made off-wiki about a Wikipedia dispute will be treated the same way as threats made on-wiki" ? From my initial reading of that claim, I presumed that WP:NLT already considered off-wiki legal threats actionable, and that you were just looking to shore up the wording. However, in reading through NLT now I see no reference to off-wiki activity. Am I missing something? Tarc (talk) 20:13, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

I think that's always been implicit in the policy. Currently NLT doesn't say anything explicitly about the venue of a legal threat, which is logical enough - it will have the same negative effects wherever it is posted. But I think it's worth saying explicitly that the venue is irrelevant and that posting threats will be treated the same way whether on- or off-wiki. I don't think we would want to create a loophole where someone can evade the policy by posting a threat off-wiki in the knowledge that it will have an effect on-wiki. Prioryman (talk) 20:17, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
Oppose Change to flat oppose per below arguments. The first and third proposed changes should be amended to read:
  • Rather than threatening to employ litigation over a dispute only involving Wikipedia, you should always first attempt to resolve disputes using Wikipedia's dispute resolution procedures.
If a real-life dispute that tangentially involves Wikipedia, but is primarily dealing with issues not involving Wikipedia, we do not need to be involved. As proposed, the guideline is too broad. Note that if there is a lawsuit involving two or more Wikipedia editors, but it is not discussed or addressed on Wikipedia, we don't need to be involved. Further, if there is a legal dispute and we try to mediate the dispute, are we opening up Wikipedia to discovery requests and document production? I'm not aware of an exception that would prevent a party from seeking either.
  • The second change is fine as written.
  • Legal threats made by editors concerning matters involving only Wikipedia will be treated the same way whether they are posted on Wikipedia or on external websites. If it comes to the attention of administrators on Wikipedia that an editor has made a legal threat about a matter concerning a Wikipedia dispute that only involves Wikipedia, the author of the threat may be blocked from editing irrespective of where that threat has been posted. Threats that involve other issues which do not involve Wikipedia will be considered a violation of the No Legal Threats policy only if they are posted on Wikipedia. Administrators who become aware of threats off-site that do not involve Wikipedia shall not take any action based on the off-site activity. When the issue involves matters that concern both Wikipedia and other, non-Wikipedia issues, administrators may take action if the dispute affects Wikipedia.
Again, the proposed language is too broad. We shouldn't be intervening in matters that don't involve the project. GregJackP Boomer! 20:24, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
I totally agree with the principle you stated in your last line. I'm trying to address three principles here, actually:
  • If your dispute involves Wikipedia, you should follow dispute resolution first.
  • If your dispute doesn't involve Wikipedia, don't use Wikipedia to further your cause.
  • If you make a legal threat involving Wikipedia off-wiki, it will be treated the same way as if you had made it on-wiki.
The aim of the last principle is simply to avoid the loophole of people using off-wiki means to evade NLT. A threat is a threat, wherever it's made. We shouldn't create an artificial distinction between on-wiki threats and off-wiki ones, as that will just encourage people to make threats off-wiki instead. Can you think of an alternative form of words that would address that principle? Prioryman (talk) 21:15, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

(ec x many) The change in #1 is reasonable. In #2, remove the "please", which makes it sound more like a matter of courtesy than urgently blockable behavior. With regard to #3, there are several concerns though none are, to me, insurmountable at present. They are:

  • Is it enforceable only against editors who have acknowledged on-wiki their identity as the author of the externally posted threat? If not, how do you propose to address issues of doxing/outing and joe jobs?
  • Necessarily, yes. Here's the scenario I envisage: an editor posts a legal threat against another editor off-wiki. It comes to the attention of people on Wikipedia (perhaps the target makes a complaint). The editor making the threat is asked (1) to confirm that they have posted it and (2) to disavow the threat and pursue dispute resolution instead. If they confirm (1) and refuse (2) then they should face the usual NLT block. Prioryman (talk) 21:10, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
  • It mentions only threats posted on external websites. What about threats made in other media (a newspaper interview, a print advertisement, a leaflet, etc.) or made without the expectation of becoming public (leaked from a third party, drunken rant caught on video, legal complaint made public by court procedure, etc.)?
  • Realistically a threat is most likely to be published on an external website, like a personal blog or a forum where the threat's author is complaining about how awful the target is. If the other scenarios were to occur then they'd need to be tackled, but I very much doubt that would need to be addressed specifically. Prioryman (talk) 21:10, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
  • What about threats that have already been made—would their authors become immediately sanctionable if these changes became policy, or would it only apply to external threats made after the policy changed?
  • Policy changes can't be effected retrospectively, so retrospective sanctions wouldn't be possible. Prioryman (talk) 21:10, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
  • If the change becomes policy, and an editor doesn't discover the existence of a certain legal threat until long after it was published (say years) and no actual legal action appears to have been taken, is it still enforceable, or is there effectively a statute of limitations for apparently idle threats? alanyst 20:26, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
  • Good question, but the same would apply to threats made on-wiki. If someone posted a threat on an obscure talk page and nobody noticed until years afterwards, would we take action under the present policy? Prioryman (talk) 21:10, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose - Just an example, within the last year there was an imposter of blocked user Offtoriorob/YouReallyCan stirring up trouble on Wikipediocracy. There was histrionics on-wiki over these off-wiki shenanigans, which melted away when the Joe Job was exposed. The ill-considered idea of making off-wiki legal threats by purported wikipedians punishable on-wiki would open the door for imposters, trolling, and dezinformatsiia. There is absolutely no way to connect reliably Wikipedian A with purported Wikipedian A appearing on external websites B, C, and D. Carrite (talk) 21:20, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
  • As I recall, that alter ego was never disavowed by the editor concerned. He was asked directly (I asked him myself, as I recall) whether it was him but refused to reply. If someone was being joe-jobbed, why would they not say so? In such a scenario, if an editor suspected of posting a threat off-wiki declined to confirm that they had posted it and refused to disavow it, that should be treated as an implicit admission of responsibility. Prioryman (talk) 21:34, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
  • I asked him too and some people ran cover for him on his talk page here claiming it was improper to ask. I'm pretty sure that it was him and if I had noticed the unban thread on ANI quickly enough, I would have opposed his unban "per Prioryman". However, I think that there is a difference between wanting to clarify if the person passing themselves off as a Wikipedia user and making homophobic and anti-Semitic comments about other Wikipedia users really is the same person and some potential threats. It would be helpful to see some examples of some cases where you feel that the proposed changes would be helpful rather than just generate drama.--Peter cohen (talk) 22:25, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
  • If it was him and he lied and said it wasn't, then what? If it wasn't him, do you think it is a sound principle to require one to prove one's innocence when this, that, or the other thing happens on far corners of the internet? The fact is that there was a contradiction in American v. European spelling; it was a joe job and kudos to Rob for not throwing himself on the mercy of the court for something he clearly didn't do... Carrite (talk) 21:47, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
  • Quoting Greg Kohs on this matter: "Who's ready to create the "Chris (Prioryman) O[...]" account at MyWikiBiz or Facebook or Twitter, then have it bark vociferously about how he intends to sue anyone on Wikipedia who opposes the Gibraltarpedia project? Should be a quick way to get him indefinitely blocked on Wikipedia." Carrite (talk) 21:25, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
  • Kohs evidently lacks reading comprehension skills (along with much else) as I've already addressed that in my reply to Alanyst above. I proposed a two-prong test: the editor making the threat is asked (1) to confirm that they have posted it and (2) to disavow the threat and pursue dispute resolution instead. If someone was stupid enough to try to joe-job me, I would deny that I had posted it and I would disavow the threat. A threat that is denied and disavowed is no threat at all. Prioryman (talk) 21:34, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose. We have no jurisdiction off-wiki, nor any easy way to determine even if the purported off-wiki remarks are the same person as someone editing on-wiki. If an editor says "I would like to direct everyone to comments that I made at such and such place", that is already block-able if those comments were a legal threat, even if the threat itself was not duplicated on-wiki. If someone says "I would like to direct everyone to comments that someone else made at such and such place", that is something we can watch, but are not actionable unless they are either duplicated on-wiki, or an editor specifically on-wiki takes claim to them. Anything else is just supposition. And yes, disavowing robbing a bank works every time. Apteva (talk) 21:36, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose The title of this section is misleading. These are not 'Proposed clarifications of scope' but instead significantly expand the scope of enforcement to external organizations and could impact Wikipedia negatively by increasing the number of legal threats brought into discussion on-wiki. StaniStani  21:45, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
  • I called it a "clarification" because it would indeed clarify whether off-wiki threats are within the scope of the policy. Let's at least be explicit about what venues are covered here. Prioryman (talk) 21:49, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
  • Thank you for the prompt response. It certainly clarifies your intent. Chasing external websites would be sending Wikipedia editors and Arbitrators on a fool's errand. Changing from 'Comment' to 'Oppose.' StaniStani  22:03, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose If ArbCom can't even decide if wiki rules extend to IRC channels that are specifically linked from en-wiki, how does this even make sense? And the tone of the disavow example given above seems a bit too much like "are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist party" for my liking. Sorry...we seem to have enough issues dealing with conduct on wiki now to even consider something this sweeping. Intothatdarkness 21:53, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose The point of this policy is to confine conflicts in-Wiki by preventing people from using such threats in conflicts here. So, if someone makes something that could be construed as a legal threat off-wiki, whose fault is it when that threat is brought to bear in a discussion here? This simply gives people here a weapon against anyone who is so foolish as to (a) talk about their Wikipedia problems off-site, and (b) leaves too open a trail. It doesn't contain the conflict; it imports it here. Besides, it's commonly the case that people are unable to retract their off-site words, and therefore could be permanently blocked on that basis. And there's the Joe job issue others have brought up. Sorry, but the actual result of this extension is simply to given dispute warriors here another tool against their enemies. Mangoe (talk) 22:07, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment It sounds like Prioryman's interpretation of the policy is accurate. To quote policy, "If you must take legal action, we cannot prevent you from doing so. However, it is required 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 should instead contact the person or people involved directly, by email or through any other contact methods the user provides." Note that it is the fact of the legal action, beginning with a contact by e-mail or other means, which makes the editor be requested not to edit. This is not a policy strictly about what is posted to a page. If the policy is not interpreted this way, it would seem like any editor can circumvent the NLT policy as easily as by using Wikipedia e-mail to deliver a stream of threats rather than posting to the page, or if that is ruled out, by investigating to get another e-mail address or offsite contact location. Because I take Prioryman's initial interpretation to be accurate it isn't immediately obvious that the policy needs to be changed, but we should have clarity on this. Wnt (talk) 22:40, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
    • Legal action and legal threats are millions of miles apart from each other. No lawyer is going to allow their client to edit Wikipedia while they are pursuing action against Wikipedia. On-wiki we have a zero tolerance of legal threats. Off wiki we have no control. Since we already say that no one taking legal action can edit, nothing else needs to be added. Apteva (talk) 07:09, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose - The premise of "If you make a legal threat involving Wikipedia off-wiki, it will be treated the same way as if you had made it on-wiki" is unenforceable, and is really just another branch of the long dead WP:BADSITES tree. If things that editors say in IRC, or what editors blog about at the Wikipediocracy, are untouchable, then this is equally so. Tarc (talk) 23:51, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
    • Under the policy, this seems like a nonissue: "Rather than blocking immediately, administrators should seek to clarify the user's meaning". That means that if someone tells an admin, "Joe just threatened to sue me!", the admin would, under policy, ask Joe if he had anything to do with that. If he says yes, he can still clarify/retract, leaving the editor no longer "on notice" of a "cease and desist"; if he says no, of course, then the editor has reason to dismiss the communication as not genuine. (There is some imprecision here in that an editor should not be required to out himself in the course of confirming or officially retracting a legal threat, which is why I say "had anything to do with" rather than "did" here - of course, to repudiate it, he need make no statement at all about his relationship with the offsite identity. Wnt (talk) 16:07, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Neutral I think this is only an issue if its something where an off-wiki legal threat is made and then is brought on-wiki by trying to be used as blackmail or other form of intimidation. The existence of an external legal case is only relevant if it impacts on-wiki editing and interactions. If an off-wiki legal case is going on between two editors who otherwise don't interact on-wiki, then there wouldn't be a need to block either of them, presumably. Though, in most cases, it will end up on-wiki eventually and we can deal with it then. SilverserenC 02:39, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment - I think too many people are jumping to conclusions, both on the proposal, and about what they think NLT says. It seems pretty clear to me, as it does to Wnt, that NLT right now does not care what venue the threat occurs in. Whether that's on wiki, in a letter, on another site, or through the arrival of a summons on your door. Imagine a NLT policy that allowed people to be engaged in active litigation, so long as they didn't mention it on wiki. That seems to defeat the entire purpose of NLT. That isn't to say we shouldn't be sensitive to worries about imposters, etc., but don't misunderstand what's been longstanding policy; the venue does not matter in and of itself. My gut says this proposal adds more confusion than clarity, but that's a separate issue. Shadowjams (talk) 05:33, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose I can imagine a case of a cast iron connection between a Wikipedia account and an off-wiki legal threat (such as when the off-wiki source and the Wikipedia account both acknowledge their identity) but finding the words to define all cast iron cases, while excluding the gaming and errors described above would be difficult. I think enough can be implied from the existing policy but even if it can't, in a cast iron case we could exercise common sense and IAR. --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 07:37, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose. We have no control over what goes on off-Wikipedia. We have no reliable means to identify people off-Wikipedia. If it doesn't interfere with what goes on on-Wikipedia, it is none of our business. If it does interfere, we can use common sense, per Anthonyhcole above. Incidentally, I have a suspicion (I'm no lawyer etc...) that courts in some jurisdictions might take a dim view of uninvolved parties (i.e. Wikipedia) imposing sanctions on individuals involved in court cases for no good reason. AndyTheGrump (talk) 14:43, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment. What about the following scenario. Person Y was convicted of stalking person X, a judge has imposed a ruling barring Y from following X, contacting him via socal media etc. Wikipedia also falls under this ruling. So, Y is not allowed to follow X on Wikipedia and post on his talk page. Then if Y does do that, X can invoke the court ruling. But then it seems to me that Y could use that against X to get him banned even if X were to invoke the court order via his lawyer. Count Iblis (talk) 18:45, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
This is a very interesting hypothetical, one I suspect might have or will occur. I'm tempted to adopt GregJackP's reasoning that enforcing a judgement is different than initiating some other action, but that's not a fully satisfying answer either. And legal issues have lots of stages of "resolution", up to statute of repose or final appeal. However, Count Iblis' specific hypothetical doesn't have much consequence because X isn't "invoking" the court order in any technical sense, aside from perhaps filing a motion or a police report, depending on the circumstances. It's the court doing the enforcement of the court's order. I'm fine with that technical distinction removing this scenario from NLT.
What's unmentioned though is how many of what we'd consider very reasonable actions in some strict technical sense involve legal action. What about reporting obvious criminal activity? Our NLT policy is not very useful in these circumstances. I'm concerned with the certainty some editors have about NLT in the comments here when there seem to be some serious gray area. Shadowjams (talk) 23:29, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment. @Count Iblis, I don't see that as a legal threat - X is enforcing a previously issued judgment of a court. The legal threat would have been valid for the initial complaint (until the judgment was issued) if it had involved Wiki, but your hypo is different from that. I see it as similar to enforcing an Arbcom decision. GregJackP Boomer! 18:50, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment - I bring up the case of the organization who I believe had the acronym AAMF, where they sued Wikimedia, never really posted it onwiki from all their accounts, but they were still blocked. At most, they linked to the suit onwiki. I know the acronym is wrong because I can't find it for the life of me, so don't hate me.

    Bottom line, if I sue the WMF, then I should be blocked from editing. That's for good reason, mainly to eliminate chilling effects, etc. ~Charmlet -talk- 15:32, 3 August 2013 (UTC)

  • Oppose as per Carrite, as it could encourage off-wiki forgeries (known in Internet jargon as joe-jobs) to pursue vendettas against Wikipedia editors. Robert McClenon (talk) 22:50, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
  • The nuances of these hopefully rare situations need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis. There are situations in which an off-site legal threat should result in an immediate and indefinite block. There are other situations in which an off-wiki legal threat might be understandable. There are even (extremely rare) situations where an off-wiki legal threat or even the filing of an actual lawsuit against a bad-faith editor might be the right thing to do. No "one size fits all" policy language can anticipate all potential situations. Newyorkbrad (talk) 23:02, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
  • I'm always hesitant with anything involving external sites, as I know there are people who use my username on external sites who are not me. (For that matter, there are a few hundred people just in North America who share my real name.) Especially for those with popular usernames, I doubt they want to constantly deal with "No, that 4chan account that just threatened to $INSERT_TERRIBLE_THING_HERE isn't mine." (On the other hand, if the offsite content is used for on-wiki harassment, that's a very different story.) Seraphimblade Talk to me 04:14, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose; having a policy for such a rare set of circumstances is merely bringing more bureaucracy. Stifle (talk) 17:27, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose - way too easy to create a hoax and get someone blocked. Lukeno94 (tell Luke off here) 12:28, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Strong oppose - Wikipedia's juristiction covers only what happens on Wikipedia and what's sent through Wikipedia's e-mail system. Even if someone uses their SUL to make legal threats against an other Wikipedian for activity on English Wikipedia, or to threaten such activity against Wikipedia itself, we have noright to take any steps about it. עוד מישהו Od Mishehu 07:19, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose Mainly per Newyorkbrad. Such situations should be dealt with case-by-case. There is no one approach that works in all circumstances and this is not common enough to warrant expanding the policy. Beeblebrox (talk) 15:53, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose Whilst I am sympathetic toward the situation that is intended to be addressed here, the most serious cases will often be in breach of the law and the criminal law at that - threat of violence including sexual violence, revealing the identity of the victims of sexual assault in many jurisdictions, some defamation. The WP policy has to be that the WMF cannot be held responsible for policing these situations and that if the law is being broken by editors then that is a matter for the legal authorities in their country. It is important when a row blows up (as it did over a weekend for Twitter recently) that there are clear visible and unambiguous policies in place that serve to distance the WMF from the indefensible and do not appear designed to protect the perpetrator. If the policy is to be amended here it must be associated with a clear statement on that. After all, in practice action can and will be taken eventually, to protect the page if necessary, the problem is in the delay in doing so. --AJHingston (talk) 16:59, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
  • I oppose the changes proposed, but I think that some of the opposition fails to realize that some off-wiki threats are already actionable here. It depends on the intention and nature of the legal threat. There is nothing in the current policy that requires the legal threat to be posted on Wikipedia. Gigs (talk) 15:16, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose. While I appreciate the desire to bring clarification to ambiguous policies, I think that off-wiki threats need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis. It is not our role to police the Internet in order to hopefully determine if an off-wiki adversary making legal threats against Wikimedia projects or their volunteers is a volunteer of the project itself. Note that while I may oppose this change, your work is sincerely appreciated. Best regards, Cindy(talk) 21:25, 12 August 2013 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.


Am I making a legal threat?[edit]

I recently re-did my user page which now includes the following:

I encourage editors to report unlawful, covert marketing participation to the attorney generals most active in astroturfing:

I have a PR background and am a regular COI contributor. I recently talked to an expert on astroturfing regulations and he suggested these were the most appropriate places to file a complaint against those that are clearly breaking the law. The suggestion is intended to be for overt bad-faith cases, not those that just didn't know any better.

I'd be happy to take it down if it's a problem. I see how it could be sort of iffy. CorporateM (Talk) 17:42, 13 October 2013 (UTC)

Just my opinion, but I would say that if I could look at your posting history and figure out that you think user X is astroturfing, that shouldn't be on your page, but as long as it is not individual-specific, it would be like me saying "if you have a legitimate suspicion that someone on Wikipedia is harming children, report that person to his local police" (and I am saying that you should do that). You might want to add some wording to the effect that if they do file a report concerning astroturfing, you should not mention it on Wikipedia. Besides violating our policy on legal threats, no prosecutor wants the bad guys to know what he is and is not investigating. --Guy Macon (talk) 18:56, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done that seems sensible. CorporateM (Talk) 20:00, 13 October 2013 (UTC)

Is this legal?[edit]

Is it legal to intimidate users against exercising their legal rights? Has Wikipedia failed as "the encyclopedia that anyone can edit"? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 75.164.232.68 (talk) 22:19, 24 December 2013 (UTC)

To your first question: ask a lawyer. To your second question: no. Axl ¤ [Talk] 12:22, 8 January 2014 (UTC)

Is this a legal threat?[edit]

Does the edit summary to this edit amount to a legal threat that would be covered by NLT? - htonl (talk) 21:23, 27 February 2014 (UTC)

Yes, that edit summary is a problem. I have not looked at the issue in any detail, but there is some chance that the "controversy" section (that the IP mentioning legal issues wants removed) is junk. Every organization has had an eruption at some stage, and it can be very WP:UNDUE for the article to be permanently marked with a section commemorating the issues, particularly when it is often someone who does not like the organization that wants to add and pad-out the section. I can't see a wikiproject to appeal to for help. Johnuniq (talk) 22:16, 27 February 2014 (UTC)

Externally hosted legal threats[edit]

Is it acceptable to link to link to an off-wikipedia page where an article subject is making comments about identifiable Wikipedia editors, which would clearly violate NLT if they were made on a Wikipedia page? This strikes me as an easy way to avoid WP:NLT while attempting to chill discussion/editing. The Big Bad Wolfowitz (aka Hullaballoo) (talk) 19:46, 10 September 2014 (UTC)

No way. Posting links to a page that contains outing or chilling threats is the same as outing or chilling on wiki. Johnuniq (talk) 01:27, 11 September 2014 (UTC)

Handle legal threats on talk page[edit]

Hi, it's Allen. I want to handle threats on Wikipedia, like on talk pages: I remove them by removing the source from a page or using this code <!-- Text right here to remove threat --> hide them. This should work on fighting against threats. --Allen talk 03:00, 25 September 2014 (UTC)

Please do not get involved in other people's disputes, and definitely do not hide problems. Johnuniq (talk) 03:34, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
He's referring to discussion on his talk page, specifically this. Kirin13 (talk) 03:36, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
The user who did reverted my edit on my talk page: response to me that I don't have a full option to edit/remove users' comments (but removing messages is the full option for me), it says that I was warned not to harass them on Wikia then I'm fine editing here. --Allen talk 03:42, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
Yikes, what a mess. @Allen: If you do not want a particular comment on your talk page you are free to remove it (see WP:TPO). However, you have to delete all of it, not just hide or remove parts you do not like. Regarding the hidden post: it's probably not a good idea to link to external sites, but I can see why that was thought desirable, and it does not appear to be revealing any personal information (which would be strictly prohibited per WP:OUTING). People who are unable to write clear English should not claim that English is their first language, and should consider whether en.wikipedia is the best place for them to contribute. Johnuniq (talk) 04:57, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
@Johnuniq: Thank you, and also I did removed part of a section that's completely threatening or compromising me on Wikipedia, and not attempt to harass them on Wikia anymore. Specifically, I edit/work on Wikipedia on my own with rollback and reviewer rights! --Allen talk 20:58, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
Allen, you don't have rollback nor reviewer rights. Also, if you don't want users from Wikia to contact you, then you should stop contacting them (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). If you want to be left alone, then leave them alone. Furthermore, writing "I'm good/perfect native speaking of English" (diff) only shows the opposite. Kirin13 (talk) 21:32, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
@Kirin13: Thanks for your advice. I would have to leave Wikia users alone at this point, then I'll be fine. It says "Wikia have less strict policies from Wikipedia, but this isn't Wikia (probably it's an encyclopedia only)". It's Lucas Thoms, he did try to help me on Wikipedia trying to make the encyclopedia better. Also I'd better help out more on Wikipedia. --Allen talk 21:45, 25 September 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Also I did removed Cod4's message from my talk page, as I agree with him to stop harassing others from Wikia then I probably working here on Wikipedia safely. Even that helps a lot, an admin/bureaucrat considers me without any problems of these legal threats that to keep their drama on Wikia only. --Allen (talk to me! / ctrb / E-mail me) 00:54, 30 September 2014 (UTC)