Wikipedia talk:Offensive material

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See also Slang, m:Should Wikipedia Use Profanity


Old comments[edit]

I have no problem with profanity in articles where it makes sense to preserve original quotes, nor any problem with uncensored discussion on the talk pages. However, I do have a concern about putting profanity on the front page, as was recently done in a story about a best-selling book entitled Go the Fuck to Sleep, a book whose own publisher declined to print the uncensored title on the cover. The Wikipedia front page will be seen by lots of children, and will be seen before any warnings can be given about offensive content. There's no point in having offensive content warnings or discussions anywhere else on the site if profanity is permitted on the front page, where it is viewed before sensitive readers even have the opportunity to be warned. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 75.84.236.176 (talkcontribs)

Does Florida have any decency laws that may apply? If so, WP:DISC would be relevant.—RJH (talk) 18:25, 22 May 2011 (UTC)
So stop being a sensitive reader. Kids don't care if you don'.14:20, 13 May 2013 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by 24.189.46.33 (talk)

I have a similar concern to the OP's, which I aired when the day's featured article was Gropecunt Lane. The main page editors of that time seemed unable to grasp why this might be questionable main page content, and appeared to be indignant at being challenged; some of them hinted that they quite enjoyed picking articles that could offend (comments along the line of "just wait 'til you see tomorrow's FA")

The fundamental points about the main page, I think, are:

  • It is not an article. So the criteria for what should go into it are not the same as those governing what should go into an article.
  • It is a shop window for Wikipedia. So what should go into it is whatever most effectively promotes the whole site.

With countless high quality articles on the site, there is no need to put offensive content on the main page; and since there is no such need, the principle of civility should apply to the choice of main page content. 82.3.243.45 (talk) 22:21, 10 February 2014 (UTC)

Wikipedia's mission in the context of social health responsibility[edit]

“Including information about offensive material is part of Wikipedia's encyclopedic mission; being offensive is not.”

If the inclusion of offensive information is part of Wikipedia’s mission then being offensive is a given.

Here is my issue with the mission of this site: Wikipedia is putting an ideology concerning the importance of availability of information over any concern of social responsibility.

Information in and of itself can be harmful. A brain developing naturally can be harmed (i.e. affected in a manner that could be perceived as unhealthy) by exposure to dislocated images and content. The mission of Wikipedia is an amoral one if it is less concerned with the real world results of its influence than its lack of censorship. If this statement reflects a truth than Wikipedia cannot be perceived as a social benefit without ignoring certain human realities; where is the empirical evidence that information has no harmful influence?

To attempt to separate ethical principals and moral behavior is essential to intellectual understanding but can be harmful when utilized in the context of mass exposure to ideas generated by such a position. The issue itself is not a moral issue but one of public health. If there is evidence that exposure to certain content can be harmful to the mental health of certain individuals, and/or disruptive to the developmental processes of children, then what is the justification of producing and allowing such a system as Wikipedia to exist without any restrictions in society? Any justification must put public health below public knowledge in terms of societal importance.

If a mission has aspects that can result in unhealthy social reaction than said mission may actually be inherently antisocial. Is absolute free expression worth a possible risk of decrease in public health? Are the personal ideologies behind Wikipedia part of a philosophy of individualistic expression which challenges all ideas of social benefit, worth and health? If so, how could the mission of Wikipedia not be a socially destructive goal? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Motherengine (talkcontribs) 14:34, 2 October 2011 (UTC)

Isn't this reductio ad absurdum? Regards, RJH (talk) 21:58, 7 October 2011 (UTC)
This approach unfortunately overlooks the critical fact that what is harmful to one person might be healthful to the next. For example, consider this fact: If a woman has unprotected vaginal intercourse with an HIV+ man one time, her chance of catching HIV from him is about one in 500 to one in 1,000.
This fact might relieve crippling anxiety in the victim of rape by a stranger, but might make another woman decide that barrier protection is unnecessary because the risk is "so low" and she could do it "999 times" before catching HIV on the magic thousandth time (which isn't how it works).
Wikipedia isn't trying to help or hurt either of these hypothetical women. We are just trying to provide the facts. As with any information source, what you choose to do with these facts is entirely up to you. WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:37, 13 October 2011 (UTC)

Name change?[edit]

I think it might help us craft a more neutral guideline if we moved this page to wp:controversial material, mostly because it's a less emotive term. up for consideration, anyway… --Ludwigs2 19:48, 8 November 2011 (UTC)

I'm not sure that it would be helpful. I believe that it began life as WP:Profanity, and as you would expect from such a page title, the focus is on material that is controversial because it offends readers. It does not include anything about non-offensive controversial material, which is a substantial list: links to Wikileaks, what name to use for certain cities, whether someone is called a "terrorist" or a "freedom fighter", what tone to use when describing various conspiracy theories, the efficacy of alternative medicine, etc. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:09, 11 November 2011 (UTC)

Animal mating footage debate[edit]

FYI: This is a pointer to a relevant discussion on another talk page.

The alleged issue of whether is can be encyclopedic to include a video (or even a still image) of animal mating behavior has been raised at Talk:Cat#Mating behavior video vs. still photo. — SMcCandlish Talk⇒ ʕ(Õلō Contribs. 18:37, 18 December 2011 (UTC)

Not a useful page?[edit]

About this: What exactly do you mean that Help:Options to not see an image is "not a useful page"? AFAICT, it's the only page in the project that provides practical advice to a person who is so offended by a given image that he doesn't want to see it ever again. WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:28, 19 December 2011 (UTC)

It's not a useful page because there is not a good way to not see offensive images. Pretending that there is is not useful or helpful, because it isn't true. And since it's not true, we shouldn't imply that it is.
The page is actually both risible and insulting in places, in that it first mentions "creating a fork" (gee, I'll do that right after lunch) or "simply staying away" as your first options, then moving on to suggest that one "enter discussions within Wikipedia policy to have the image changed, removed or deleted by building consensus" (to its credit, it does not suggest "remove your eyeballs with an oyster fork" which would be more efficacious and certainly more pleasant).
Moving on, further helpful tips include configuring one's browser to "display no images at all" (again, though, at least it doesn't say "perhaps people like you shouldn't be using the internet at all", so that's something) or writing Javascript code including the file names of all the images you don't want to see (you do know the file names of all the images you don't want to see, don't you? Er, you can write Javascript, right? No? Then why are we even talking to you?)
If the page were to be rewritten, then then perhaps we could discuss this. If, for starters, the page was honest and began with something to the effect "There isn't really a good way to prevent seeing offensive images. There are various things you can do, though. Some will degrade your overall viewing experience, some are difficult to implement, some will only partially work, and none are completely satisfactory. This page discusses these things." But the page doesn't say that now, so it's not a good link. Herostratus (talk) 04:16, 20 December 2011 (UTC)
I had thought you had gone a little rouge by removing a helpful link, but on reading the above I am a convert. I haven't looked at the help page for a while, but I remember seeing all that verbage and having a somewhat similar reaction. The "there is not" in the first para is missing an "is". Johnuniq (talk) 06:22, 20 December 2011 (UTC) got it, thanks Herostratus (talk) 06:34, 20 December 2011 (UTC)
Ok, I've gone purple and straight to Wikipedia:Miscellany for deletion/Help:Options to not see an image it goes. ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 18:37, 20 December 2011 (UTC)
I doubt that the MFD will be successful.
Herostratus, I agree that it's not a well-written page, but it's the best that we have. Why don't you boldly improve it? I'd be happy to see it begin with text similar to what you propose above ("There isn't really a good way...") WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:55, 20 December 2011 (UTC)
I don't wanna. If I was saying "somebody fix this!" then I'd be whining, but I'm not saying that, I'm saying "let's not link to it here", and anyway any fixes aren't going to change my opinion about that, probably, since they can't really change the underlying dynamic that you can't (satisfactorally) prevent (just) offensive images from appearing, so it'll probably never be a good link. Herostratus (talk) 05:19, 21 December 2011 (UTC)
This page was very helpful to me. Please see this post on VPT. I thought I'd seen this page before but couldn't find it, and it being hard to find is the only reason it is not useful. It is extremely useful to me to have information about blocking images with CSS. I don't care about a JavaScript block, since there is still the possibility of seeing the image anyway. The Specific pages, Specific images, and Adblock sections are very useful and we should have them. JavaScript image blocks are pretty much a hack and might be better placed at WikiProject User scripts. I wouldn't object at all to the page being trimmed down, even significantly, or rewritten, but the CSS and Adblock info should stay (perhaps just rewritten). —danhash (talk) 14:26, 21 December 2011 (UTC)
The page does indeed need improving but there are good ways to hide an image. Privoxy or AdBlock (or some other net-nanny software or proxy or ad blocker or Opera built-in, etc.) and add to your filter a list of words that would likely be the names of offensive pics ie. Muhammad, Mohammad, dick, etc. If you think the page needs improvement then do so. The page is about to get more usage from other articles. --Alatari (talk) 23:27, 21 December 2011 (UTC)
The question of improving the page is secondary. The main problem, which is just highlighted by the above comments, is this: 1) you have to pretty darn computer savvy to use any of the suggestions (assuming you're not willing to, say, block all images from appearing in your browser) and 2) even then it doesn't work too well. The page is fine for what it is. It should exist. It's possibly useful for people who can obtain, install, and program the various tools suggested. Even then, look at the example above where the editor talked about putting "dick" on there bad list. This will block images of Dick Nixon I suppose. Similarly a person might not want to block the medical images in the Penis article but might not want to see File:Estim penis.jpg. And what about File:Humbler.JPG? How is a person supposed to know to put the term "humbler" on their bad list? And there are many other problems of this type. The page is not worthless, but the procedures described just plain do not work very well even for the subset of people who are savyy enough to even use them. To link to the page in any context that implies "Well, if readers don't want to see offensive images, they can use THIS" is just wrong. And since it's wrong, we shouldn't do it. I'm not sure what is meant by "The page is about to get more usage from other articles", but if it's an avowal of some action, that's probably not a very collegial way to approach these objections. Herostratus (talk) 03:55, 22 December 2011 (UTC)
Wait, you are saying that Net Nanny software, Adblock and other filtering software is too much for the typical Indonesian 20-something to understand how to use? And this: but if it's an avowal of some action, that's probably not a very collegial way to approach these objections. I'm not sure where you are even coming from with this statement. I'm about to link another Page Edit warning to this page and was surprised to see an attempt to delete it. Where is the non-collegial intent? Well, it's a mute point since the MfD has a snowball's chance in hell to pass. --Alatari (talk) 05:47, 22 December 2011 (UTC)
Our readership includes a wide range of people. NetNanny is one thing, editing one's .css file another. And NetNanny, if I understand aright, can be used to either block the entire Wikipedia site or not. "Blocking the entire site" is not a way of interacting with the Wikipedia that is useful to readers. The MfD was to make some kind of point -- nobody thinks that page should be deleted, including me and the person making the MfD. (Sandra Dee shouldn't be linked to from Parliamentary Elections Act 1770, but that doesn't mean that Sandra Dee shouldn't exist; the editor initiating the MfD seems to not grasp this distinction, or be pretending not to.) Linking to Help:Options to not see an image from even more pages would not something I would generally support (depending on the page) so I don't want you to do that. Herostratus (talk) 13:11, 22 December 2011 (UTC)
Think of it like this. If a person is unemployed, one piece of advice is "get yourself a masters degree in software engineering, they're hiring those". That's useful advice for some individuals. It's not something that should be taken off the table or never mentioned. The problem is, it doesn't really address the general problem for most people, and pointing people to the application site for Stanford University School of Engineering and pretending you've addressed the problem of unemployment is not helpful. To some people for whom this is not a viable option it would be actually kind of insulting. Herostratus (talk) 13:44, 22 December 2011 (UTC)

This page is succinct addresses the point that the user should go create their own Wikipedia account and gives the link on how to filter specific words so that a Muslim reader can freely use Wikipedia and not be offended. Some of this text from FAQ Q3 can be added into the template under MfD. --Alatari (talk) 06:07, 22 December 2011 (UTC)

I for one have found Help:Options to not see an image useful in the past, and have actually used its proposals to disable certain images. The page is helpful, and should be linked here. Yes, its advice is mainly of use to people with user accounts, but that it's only of limited use does not mean it's of no use at all. This is information that people want to know; there's no sense in hiding it from our readers. Robofish (talk) 17:28, 23 December 2011 (UTC)
There seems no value in hiding this information from our users. While the CSS hack is pretty advanced, and not a good general use option it is useful to be able to point people at if/when people are making large numbers of comments about a set of images - its better than nothing at all. That all said we should provide better options and I do see Herostratus' point. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 22:37, 23 December 2011 (UTC)
I don't see Herostratus' point, which appears to be "the options are so complicated that we shouldn't let even the people who can use it find the page easily".
It is not "kind of insulting" to those of us who are less technically adept, and for whom these limited options are therefore not especially viable, to be told that Wikipedia is currently offering only limited and complicated hacks instead of a proper solution.
I don't see linking to it as "pretending we've addressed the problem": I actually see it as something closer to admitting that we have a real problem with our user interface on this point. Perhaps if more people were aware of how limited our "solution" is—say, because they actually found and read and groaned over this page—then more people would be aware that we have room for improvement in this area.
I think we should link to this page, and I don't think that we should give Herostratus "veto rights" over where and whether this page can be linked. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:17, 24 December 2011 (UTC)
His point is that even for technically aware users its not a particularly good solution. The current solution is only acceptable for 1% of the audience anyway - really we need to do something better. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 18:25, 24 December 2011 (UTC)
Herostratus is now removing links to the Board's resolution about offensive material and various pages about efforts being undertaken by the Foundation pursuant to that. It wouldn't have occurred to me to add those, but I think it wholly inappropriate for him to be removing them, especially on the flimsy grounds that a discussion is going on. We are not required to exclude things that are being discussed, and I'm not seeing him make any significant effort to discuss the four new pages that he's removed anyway. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:36, 24 December 2011 (UTC)
He removed them once before, not just now. And it's the friggin bottom-of-the-page "see also" section where even user essays are usually okay to link. ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 00:47, 24 December 2011 (UTC)
There's only one person that wants to remove the link and that doesn't make a consensus. --Alatari (talk) 16:13, 24 December 2011 (UTC)
I'll also support keeping the link. Hopefully Herostratus is not going to be disruptive about this. Regards, RJH (talk) 17:45, 24 December 2011 (UTC)

Jimbo has spoken[edit]

I've done my best to incorporate the WMF resolution on controversial material after Jimbo has declared it part of Wikipedia policy. [1] This page seemed the most appropriate place for that. ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 13:39, 29 December 2011 (UTC)

I may have missed something in that discussion, but I don't think he _did_ declare it policy. I'm intending to remove it, subject to our normal guidelines about forming policy WP:POLICY#Life cycle, unless someone can explain how this is part of our governance rules. A) I'm not sure the WMF board can set policy at this level and B) I'm pretty sure what they did pass isn't what this is. And C) I don't think jimbo told us we had to. In addition, I think it only applied to the commons. Hobit (talk) 03:46, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
The WMF Board doesn't "set policy at this level". With rare exceptions, they set policy at the level above each project's community. Projects are required (as in "absolutely mandatory, without exception, no matter what you or I think about it, because WP:You don't own Wikipedia—and the Board technically does own Wikipedia") to comply with relevant Board policies. So if by policy you mean "any accurate description of what we actually do and/or should be doing" (and Jimbo usually does), rather than "words on a page that have undergone some sort of formal documentation-of-consensus process, especially one overseen by the Right™ kind of editors" (a more bureaucratic concept), then the concepts in the Board resolution became True™ policy for all projects (including, but not limited to the English Wikipedia) on the day the Board passed the resolution.
Fortunately for us, their project-related resolutions are not only few and far between, but also very broadly worded, which gives each community substantial flexibility in how to implement them. So we should (by way of not having secret rules that only "special" editors know about) find ways to describe the concepts in the Board resolution, since compliance is mandatory (and IMO not any different from what the English Wikipedia has already been doing in all of its best articles for a couple of years now). Working the terms "principle of least astonishment" and "educational value" into a couple of image-related or offensiveness-related advice pages is IMO a reasonable way to describe these Board-imposed requirements to less experienced editors, and IMO far preferable to creating a new, separate Official Policy Page on the subject. WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:42, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
First of all, linking to an essay on the topic isn't ideal. I believe the WMF could step in and insist on a policy change. I don't believe they have done so. I believe the policy changes only directly applied to the commons. Further, I believe they need to be really careful (and in fact have been) to avoid doing things that hurt Wikipedia. So they speak in broad terms. If we get told that we must add a policy/guideline to this effect, we will. I don't think either the board or Jimbo have made that claim at this time. Nor, AFAIK, is there anything in our own policies/guidelines that tell us how to handle such a directive. So before this guideline gets modified we should A) get clarification from the board on what they mean and then B) we should figure out exactly what we as a community think is the best way to document/describe that. At the moment it's not even clear if the board intended this to apply to anything other than the commons. Hobit (talk) 06:00, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
The board resolution applies to all projects. [2]. --Anthonyhcole (talk) 06:12, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
There was a footnote linking to that email in the section that Hobit removed, by the way. So, that much should have been clear. ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 06:30, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
Some parts of the resolution address Commons specifically, but the bit about paying particular attention to real educational use and least astonishment when curating controversial content (religious, sexual, violent) applies to all projects. Jimbo and Ting Chen are unequivocal about that. --Anthonyhcole (talk) 06:12, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
I did miss the footnote. I do still question if "urge" is the same as "must". I really don't think it is. If the board wants to force policy, let them do so clearly. If not, let the community form the policy in the way it normally does, taking this urging into account. I think we'll end up in a similar place, but hopefully with a more clear and thought-out policy then if we treat this as policy-by-fiat. Hobit (talk) 06:41, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
This isn't a WP:Policy it's a WP:Content guideline. Youreallycan (talk) 13:17, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
Yep, that is true. I would note however that WP:POLICY#Life cycle applies to both. Hobit (talk) 16:51, 30 December 2011 (UTC)

@WhatamIdoing: the statement on "curating all kinds of potentially controversial content, including determining whether it has a realistic educational use and applying the principle of least astonishment in categorization and placement" in the Resolution is not limited to images. Their definition of controversial content is not limited to images either. So the curation urge also applies to controversial text about sex, violence, religion, and just about anything else that might offend some reader. Which is why this guideline seemed the best place to add the info on the resolution. ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 06:46, 30 December 2011 (UTC)

Without commenting on the specifics, I believe that this guideline needs to discuss the POLA. Okay, one specific: we should be clear that this is guidance, and is very open to interpretation.
Alternatively, now may not be the time--perhaps we want to wait for the current Arbcom on the Muhammad images to finish up, and see if they impute any sort of force to the POLA principle. Qwyrxian (talk) 15:16, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
I'd favor waiting a bit. And unless ARBCOM forces something here, I'd prefer to use standard processes to work out wording and the like even then. Hobit (talk) 16:51, 30 December 2011 (UTC)

Actually, someone copied the material to a separate page and started a RfC on it: Wikipedia talk:Follow the principle of least astonishment. ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 05:15, 31 December 2011 (UTC)

Hobit (and others), I'm guessing that you haven't been following the development of the new Terms of Use. The absolutely mandatory nature of the relationship, requiring all users to comply with all (relevant) Board resolutions, e.g., POLA, is about to be formally enshrined into a binding legal agreement. The Board really is "forcing policy" when they say that all content on all projects should comply with the principle of least astonishment. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:23, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
Then they are actually going to have to police content themselves, which will be interesting on number of levels from a legal perspective, including their ability to disclaim responsibility for contents in copyright violations, libel and so forth. I hope their lawyers know what they're doing... Or at least WMF officials are going to have to ban all those that have explicitly rejected their poorly worded resolution in the discussion I linked above, perhaps for ToU violation: m:Terms of use#11. Resolutions and Project Policies. Oh, the 400 or so German wikipedians who opposed the image filter. It's a brave new world. ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 07:20, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
They have that option, but the fact is that we're (generally; there's always some vandal or POV pusher about) already complying with this, so I doubt that anybody here is going to get in trouble for violating it.
IMO what we need at the English Wikipedia is an explanation of (for example) why naming or describing sexual positions in the List of sexual positions has educational value and is not a violation of the POLA principle—because IMO that page is perfectly consistent with the Board resolution. I don't see anything in the Board resolution that requires a change to our existing best practices. It's already the case that we don't choose snapshots from nudist resorts to illustrate completely unrelated concepts like Automobile or Tree (which would violate it). We already scoff when people claim to be "shocked, shocked, to discover" that there are pictures of male genitals at Penis (which does not violate it). We need to define this concept locally to reduce the risk of abuse and censorship and confusion. WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:06, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

Concerning "'Not censored' is not an excuse for gratuitous offensiveness"[edit]

I think that the issue in a previous RfC was the conflating of two separate issues: first, whether or not "not censored" ought to apply to "trivial" or "gratuitous" material, and second, whether or not "not censored" exempts offensive material from relevant inclusion guidelines. The answers, if I am interpreting policy correctly, are: yes to the first, no to the second.

I have thus altered the wording of this section to reflect this.--New questions? 05:40, 9 April 2012 (UTC)

Freedom of speech = New WikiProject[edit]

Hi there, I'm notifying this essay talk page due to its relevance to Freedom of speech. I've recently gone ahead and created WP:WikiProject Freedom of speech. If you're interested, here are some easy things you can do:

  1. List yourself as a participant in the WikiProject, by adding your username here: Wikipedia:WikiProject_Freedom_of_speech#Participants.
  2. Add userbox {{User Freedom of speech}} to your userpage, which lists you as a member of the WikiProject.
  3. Tag relevant talk pages of articles and other relevant pages using {{WikiProject Freedom of speech}}.
  4. Join in discussion at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Freedom of speech.
  5. Notify others you think might be interested in Freedom of speech to join the WikiProject.

Thank you for your interest in Freedom of speech, — Cirt (talk) 03:20, 26 October 2012 (UTC)

I agree. I value free speech very highly, and oppose censorship in nearly all circumstances. Thank you. See Wikipedia is not censored. Nonetheless, profanity (except in direct quotes or articles or passages discussing profanity) should be discouraged because it is usually irrelevant and unconstructive and goes against NPOV.--Solomonfromfinland (talk) 06:04, 19 November 2013 (UTC)

Brutally graphic[edit]

I found one image that is so graphic — in my opinion, the most graphic image I have ever found on Wikipedia — that one could argue that it is offensive and should be replaced by a milder image. Here it is: 1. Any opinions?--Solomonfromfinland (talk) 05:55, 19 November 2013 (UTC)

@Solomonfromfinland: We should continue this discussion at Mediawiki talk:Bad image list. Jarble (talk) 18:30, 1 May 2014 (UTC)
I changed my mind. The image is appropriate; it is informative.--Solomonfromfinland (talk) 01:40, 21 May 2014 (UTC)