Wikipedia:Blocking policy

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Blocking is a technical means by which an account, IP address/range, or person is prevented from editing Wikipedia. For admins and bureaucrats, some of their additional privileges are also affected by blocking; see the effects of being blocked.

Blocks are most frequently used to deal with vandalism and to enforce bans, most often by the Arbitration Committee. There are other less common situations where blocks are appropriate, which are listed below. In all cases, blocks are preventative rather than punitive, and serve only to avoid damage to Wikipedia. Blocks normally last 24 hours unless specified otherwise below, and in most instances will be lifted if the editor agrees to stop the damaging behavior.

All users could post block requests at Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents or the other venues listed below. This can result in quick action where credible evidence of policy violations is provided. However, admins are never obligated to place a block.

When blocks may be used

Vandalism

Report at Administrator intervention against vandalism

Sysops may block IP addresses whose users vandalise Wikipedia. There are various rules of thumb by which sysops decide how far to extend the blocks of habitual vandals, none of which is formal policy. In general, casual vandals will be warned before being blocked, though warnings are not usually given for deliberate vandalism intended to discredit Wikipedia or serve an activist agenda.

Excessive reverts

Report at Administrators' noticeboard - 3RR

Sysops may block users who violate the three revert rule. Where multiple parties violate the rule, sysops will treat all sides equally.

Personal attacks which place users in danger

Blocks may be imposed in instances where threats have been made or actions performed (including actions outside the Wikipedia site) which expose other Wikipedia editors to political, religious or other persecution by government, their employer or any others. In such a case a block of any length of time, including indefinite, may be applied immediately by any sysop upon discovery.

Posting personal details

Users who post personal details about other users without their consent may be blocked for any length of time, including indefinitely, depending on the severity of the incident and whether the blocking admin feels the incident was isolated or is likely to be repeated. Nothing in this provision should be taken to apply to admins with check-user access, who may make certain information available within the terms of the check-user policy.

Disruption

Sysops may block IP addresses or usernames that disrupt the normal functioning of Wikipedia. Such disruption may include changing other users' signed comments, making deliberately misleading edits, harassment, and excessive personal attacks. Users will normally be warned before they are blocked.

Sysops may also block new user accounts that make lots of disruptive edits. Reincarnations of blocked disruptive users will be re-blocked if they continue being disruptive, or if they edit in a way which suggests they are likely to continue being disruptive.

Blocks under this provision may be controversial.

Copyright infringement and plagiarism

Inserting other people's work into Wikipedia without permission or attribution is unacceptable. Copyright infringement and plagiarism pose serious moral, legal, and reputation problems.

If there is a dispute in good faith over whether a work can be used, editors should err on the side of caution, and remove the disputed work from articles until the issue is settled. Editors who persistently insert disputed material, after having been warned, may be blocked to protect the project. In cases where an editor is acting in good faith, exercising caution with regard to the copyright issues, and there is no imminent legal threat, the editor should not be blocked.

Fair-use images on user pages are not allowed and may be removed where they are found, which can most often be achieved with a polite talk-page request. Repeated insertion of fair-use images on user pages may be grounds for blocking, subject to the provision above. Another option is to remove the image and protect the user page.

Jimbo has said the following:

We need to deal with such activities with absolute harshness, no mercy, because this kind of plagiarism is 100% at odds with all of our core principles. All admins are invited to block any and all similar users on sight. Be bold. If someone takes you to ArbCom over it, have no fear. We must not tolerate plagiarism in the least. Jimbo Wales 04:28, 28 December 2005 UTC)[1]

There is no need nor intention to be vindictive, but at the same time, we can not tolerate plagiarism. Let me say quite firmly that for me, the legal issues are important, but far far far more important are the moral issues. We want to be able, all of us, to point at Wikipedia and say: we made it ourselves, fair and square. Jimbo Wales 15:54, 28 December 2005 (UTC)[2]

Usernames

According to our username policy, inflammatory, deliberately confusing, and other inappropriate usernames are not allowed, and in certain circumstances, sysops may block accounts with such usernames. Usernames that are designed to impersonate legitimate users will be blocked immediately and indefinitely.

Bans

Users that have been banned are typically blocked from editing Wikipedia. Such bans may occur as the result of community consensus that the user should be banned, ruling by the Arbitration Committee, ruling by Jimbo Wales, or ruling by the Wikimedia Board of Trustees

When it becomes clear that a user account is a "reincarnation" of an existing banned user, the reincarnating account can likewise be blocked. See Wikipedia:Sock puppet for discussion.

Users who exhaust the community's patience

There have been situations where a user has exhausted the community's patience to the point where he or she finds themselves blocked. Administrators who block in these cases should be sure that there is community support for the block, and should note the block on WP:ANI as part of the review process. With such support, the user is considered banned and should be listed on Wikipedia:List of banned users (under "Community").

"Public" accounts

Wikipedia convention is that accounts with a specific name, but created for use by multiple people, are not to be used. These are seen as pretending to a reputation as an individual within the Wikipedia project, while masking anonymity. So-called "public" accounts are not considered necessary because anonymous users can edit freely, and anyone can quickly create a username without even an email address being required. Examples include any account where the owner posts the password for public use. These may be blocked on sight indefinitely.

Bots

Bots must have prior approval on Wikipedia talk:Bots, and must follow certain minimum standards. In any case, sysops may block on sight any bot that appears to be out of control.

Anonymous and open proxies

Administrators are permitted and encouraged to IP-block anonymous proxies indefinitely [3] [4] [5]. See the entire thread for discussions about the legitimacy of using an anonymous proxy to edit Wikipedia. Such blocks are routine though some consider them a bad idea: [6] [7] [8].

User:Proxy blocker was once used to automatically block open proxies, but was turned off as it "spooked" some people's ISPs.

The suggested block message is {{blocked proxy}}.

Effects of being blocked

Blocked users and IP addresses can still see all Wikipedia pages, but the "Edit this page" link brings up a "User is blocked" page which explains the reason behind the block and gives information on how to request unblocking. This page includes the "reason" message supplied by the administrator who placed the block. Links and template includes all work as normal in the "reason" section. Blocked users are also prevented from moving pages or uploading files.

The duration of the block depends on the expiration time that was entered at the time of the block, which may be "indefinite" or "infinite" (i.e., until explicitly unblocked).

When a blocked user attempts to edit, the IP from which he or she is editing is "autoblocked", so that the user may not make the same edit anonymously or under a different user name. There is an internal autoblock expiry time variable, which is set to 24 hours, meaning that when a username is blocked indefinitely, their IP will be automatically unblocked 24 hours after he or she last accessed a page.

For admins and bureaucrats, being blocked also restricts their ability to use rollback, to delete and undelete pages, and to protect and unprotect pages. They can still add and remove blocks, and bureaucrats can still make someone a sysop.

Accidental blocks

Occasionally, users with floating IPs will find that they have been blocked accidentally, because their present IP was previously used by a vandal or hard-banned user. These blocks will disappear if IP change can be forced. If that is not possible, the block should be reported to the nearest friendly sysop via email—see the list of administrators for some likely candidates.

Users who act so as to impersonate a previously banned user, to impersonate a known vandal, or to pretend to be engaging in vandalism, are also likely to be blocked. To avoid this problem, do not act in this way. It is good practice to edit so as to demonstrate your trustworthiness, not to put up a facade of untrustworthiness.

When blocking may not be used

Use of blocks to gain an advantage in a dispute is strictly prohibited. That is, sysops must not block editors with whom they are currently engaged in a content dispute. Generally, caution should be exercised before blocking users who may be acting in good faith.

Self-blocking to enforce a Wikiholiday or departure are specifically prohibited. Sysops also should not block themselves for testing unless they have an unshared static IP because the resultant "autoblock" may affect other users.

Instructions to admins

How to block

Sysops may go to Special pages and select the "Block a user/IP address" link. This takes them to Special:Blockip, which has further instructions. Special:Blockip is also accessible via the [block] link that appears next to each non-logged in user on recent changes.

The "reason" that the administrator fills in will be displayed to the blocked user when he attempts to edit, as well as appearing in the block log and the block list.

If it is not for an obvious reason, or if more than one line is needed to explain the block, the administrator may record the block at Wikipedia:policy enforcement.

Users should be notified of blocks on their talk pages. That way, other editors will be aware that the user is blocked, and will not expect responses to talk page comments.

In some cases, an IP may be shared by administrators who request they be notified before blocks are placed on them (so that they may finish any administrative work they are doing). For this reason, it is advisable to check the user talk page of the IP where any such request will be listed.

Expiry times and application

Expiry times are entered in the GNU standard format, which is described in the tar manual. Alternatively, a block may be "indefinite" or "infinite", meaning the block is permanent, until a sysop explicitly unblocks the account.

If no expiry time is entered, an error message will be displayed.

A user may be blocked by more than one administrator at a time. In this case, the user will be blocked until his/her shortest block has expired. For instance, if an administrator blocks a user for one day, and another administrator blocks the same user for two days, then the user will remain blocked for one day, assuming that the blocks were given at the same time.

  • Vandalism — For dynamic IPs, such blocks should last up to 24 hours. For static IPs, such blocks should initially last 24 hours, but repeat violators may be blocked for a maximum of one month. Logged-in users that repeatedly vandalise may also be blocked for the same time periods. Blocks should not be used against isolated incidents of vandalism.
  • Excessive reverting — It is helpful to leave a notice of the block, with links to the differences that demonstrate the violation, on the user's talk page. Sysops blocked under this provision must not unblock themselves.
  • Disruption — For dynamic IPs, such blocks should last 24 hours. For static IPs and user names, such blocks should initially last 24 hours, but repeat violators may be blocked for increasing lengths of time. New accounts may be blocked for any length of time or permanently, and Sockpuppets that were created to violate Wikipedia policy should be blocked permanently. However, indefinite blocks should not be used against isolated incidents of disruption from IP addresses nor against user accounts that make a mixture of disruptive and useful edits.
  • Usernames — The IP address of these users should be left autoblocked. Accounts and IP addresses that illegitimately use another account's name in the signature should be warned first, and then can be blocked. Please be sure that the account is a malicious impersonator before blocking it; someone might choose a name similar to that of another user without any ill intent. If they are making legitimate edits, they should be told of the possible confusion and encouraged to change usernames. Sysops can force a name change by blocking the username with an expiry time of infinite. The blocking sysop should include Template:UsernameBlock in the block message (by writing {{UsernameBlock}} in the "reason" field), along with a link to the RfC or user talk page where the matter was discussed. If a user page has already been created, any user may add an explanation of why the user was blocked and a link to the RfC page on the blocked user's userpage. It is not advisable to create user pages or talk pages for users with offensive usernames. Care should be taken to unblock the user's IP address. To unblock the IP but not the username, wait until the user next tries to edit a page, and something like #1234 was blocked because they share an IP with OldUserName will appear at Special:Ipblocklist. Click "unblock" next to that number. Then the user can log in under their new name. If an account has been blocked both for vandalism and for having an inappropriate username, the IP should be left auto-blocked. Accounts and IP addresses that illegitimately use another account's name in the signature should be warned first, and then can be blocked.
  • Public accounts — These should be blocked with a block message pointing out that public accounts are not needed. As an alternative, when confirming that the password is public, it is quite simple and often creates less fuss to just go into Special:Preferences and change the password. This makes the password no longer public, and can also be done by anyone, not just an administrator.
  • Bots — Initial blocks should last 24 hours, which should be sufficient time to allow the operator of the bot to respond.
  • Personal attacks which place users in danger — Sysops applying such sanctions should confidentially notify the members of the Arbitration Committee and Jimbo Wales of what they have done and why.

Range blocks

Range blocks are sometimes used when a vandal or disruptive user has been IP blocked on several occasions but responds by using a different IP address. In most cases, range blocks will affect at least some legitimate users. Therefore, range blocks should only be used when the disruptive behavior is frequent and severe enough to make other methods ineffective. This is a matter of judgement, and the likely number of legitimate users that might be affected should be considered.

When used, range blocks should be as brief as possible.

The range block feature is difficult to use correctly because it requires an understanding of binary arithmetic. It has certain limitations inherent in its implementation, requiring the starting and ending addresses to be an exact multiple of the distance between them, which must be a power of two. For details, see Range blocks.

Unblocking

Special:Ipblocklist contains a list of all currently blocked users and IPs. Sysops will see a link to (unblock) next to each user. After clicking this, you should type in the reason that you are unblocking the user and then click the Unblock this address button.

Sysops are technically able to unblock themselves by following this procedure but should absolutely not do so, except if they were autoblocked as a result of a block on some other user (or bot) that they share an IP with. Otherwise, if an admin feels they were not blocked for a valid reason, they should contact the blocking admin, another admin, or the mailing list and ask to be unblocked.

If you disagree with a block

If you disagree with a block placed by another admin, please contact that admin to discuss the matter. Some reasons you might want to unblock would be:

  • The user was blocked in violation of this policy
  • The reason for the block no longer applies

Bear in mind that blocked users commonly e-mail several admins claiming to be the victims of persecution by a biased admin. Because it is not always obvious from the blocked user's edit history what the problem was, it is a matter of courtesy and common sense to consult the blocking admin, rather than performing the unblock yourself.

Exceptions to this would be where an unambiguous error has been made (not a judgment call) and the blocking admin is not online: for example, if a user was blocked for 3RR, but there were clearly only three reverts. If you feel that such an error has been made, and the blocking admin is not available, you must notify the blocking admin on his or her talk page and the rest of the administrator community at Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents that you are unblocking a blocked user, before doing so.

Admins should be careful not to unblock themselves in order to circumvent a block (unless it is an IP block to prevent vandalism), as a temporary revocation of administrator access ("de-sysopping") is the only way to ensure that this does not continue.

Controversial blocks

While blocking IP addresses responsible for anonymous, clear-cut vandalism is routine, many other uses of IP and username blocks are contentious. Where consensus proves elusive, such blocks are damaging to the community.

Blocks that may be controversial are:

  • blocks of suspected "sock puppets" or "reincarnations" of banned users
  • blocks of logged-in users with a substantial history of valid contributions, regardless of the reasoning for the block
  • blocks made under the disruption provision of the blocking policy.
  • blocks that, while possibly wise, lack policy basis.

Once you are convinced that a block is warranted, the recommended procedure for controversial blocks is:

  1. Check the facts with care.
  2. Reread appropriate parts of Wikipedia:Blocking policy.
  3. If possible, contact other administrators informally to be sure there are others who agree with your reasoning. The administrators' noticeboard, IRC and email are effective tools for this.
  4. Place the block, exercising due care in the wording of the "reason" message, and include a link to the user page of the user being blocked.
  5. Place a notice of the block on the talk page of the affected user, with additional rationale, outlining the facts and the part of the blocking policy you feel applies.
  6. Be willing to discuss the block with other Wikipedians.

Block wars, in which a user is repeatedly blocked and unblocked, are extremely harmful. They are a source of frustration and disappointment to many seasoned Wikipedians and tend to encourage further bad behavior on the part of the blocked user. Avoid them. If you disagree with a block, discuss the matter with the blocking admin and others, and try to reach a consensus, rather than unblocking. Bear in mind that the blocking admin is likely to know more about the background to the situation than you do.

See also