Deletion of articles on Wikipedia

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The mop symbolizes the work done by administrators – they have the technical ability to delete articles

Volunteer editors of Wikipedia delete articles in the online encyclopedia on a regular basis, following processes that have been formulated by the site's community over time. The most common route is outright deletion of articles that are clearly in violation of rules of the website (speedy deletion). Other mechanisms include an intermediate collaborative process that bypasses a full discussion (proposed deletion or PROD), and full discussion at the dedicated forum called Articles for deletion (AfD). As a technical action, deletion can only be carried out by a subset of editors who have been assigned particular technical privileges by the community, called administrators. A deletion that has been carried out can be contested by appeal to the deleting administrator, or on another discussion board called Deletion review (DRV).

Unless an administrator deletes an article on sight, the deletion process involves the addition of a template to the article by an editor, indicating to readers and other editors which kind of deletion process is sought for that article. The removal of a template proposing speedy deletion or proposed deletion often precipitates a formal nomination for deletion through AfD, whereas the removal of an AfD template is not permitted until the discussion has concluded. When an article is deleted, the article's talk page is generally also deleted, as are links that redirect to the deleted article. Deletion discussions are carried out on separate pages dedicated to that purpose and are not deleted. Wikipedia administrators have the ability to see content that has been deleted, but other editors and visitors to the site do not.[note 1] Processes exist for editors to request access to deleted content to use for other purposes.

Occasionally, instances of deletion attract public attention, causing controversy, or criticism of Wikipedia or other entities. Conventions and practices of deletion have caused a long-lasting controversy within the Wikipedia community itself, with two schools of thought forming, one generally favoring deletion as a conventional and quite routine practice (deletionism), and the other proposing broader retention (inclusionism).

Purpose[edit]

In the English version of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, notability is a criterion to determine whether a topic merits a separate Wikipedia article. It is described in the guideline "Wikipedia:Notability". In general, notability is an attempt to assess whether the topic has "gained sufficiently significant attention by the world at large and over a period of time[3] as evidenced by significant coverage in reliable secondary sources that are independent of the topic".[4] The notability guideline was introduced in 2006 and has since been subject to various controversies.

In accordance with community conventions, deletion is used to ensure that the subject of each Wikipedia article is worthy of encyclopedic coverage, i.e. that it is notable.[5]: 218  Deletion is also used to remove from the encyclopedia content that violates intellectual property rights, particularly copyright, and content that is purely intended to advertise a product.[5]: 218 

Deletionism and inclusionism[edit]

All articles submitted to AfD from 2005 to 2020, analyzed with Oracle
All AfD outcomes over time, stacked as percentage
Deletionism and inclusionism are opposing philosophies that largely developed within the site's community. The terms reflect differing opinions on the appropriate scope of the encyclopedia and corresponding tendencies either to delete or to include a given encyclopedia article.[6]

"Deletionists" are proponents of selective coverage and removal of articles seen as poorly defended. Deletionist viewpoints are commonly motivated by a desire that Wikipedia be focused on and cover significant topics – along with the desire to place a firm cap upon proliferation of promotional use (seen as abuse of the website), trivia, and articles which are, in their opinion, of no general interest, lack suitable source material for high-quality coverage, or are too short or otherwise unacceptably poor in quality.[7][8][9]

"Inclusionists" are proponents of broad retention, including retention of "harmless" articles and articles otherwise deemed substandard to allow for future improvement. Inclusionist viewpoints are commonly motivated by a desire to keep Wikipedia broad in coverage with a much lower entry barrier for topics covered – along with the belief that it is impossible to tell what knowledge might be "useful" or productive, that content often starts poor and is improved if time is allowed, that there is effectively no incremental cost of coverage, that arbitrary lines in the sand are unhelpful and may prove divisive, and that goodwill requires avoiding arbitrary deletion of others' work. Some extend this to include allowing a wider range of sources such as notable blogs and other websites.[8][10]

To the extent that an official stance existed as of 2010, it was that "There is no practical limit to the number of topics it can cover" but "there is an important distinction between what can be done, and what should be done",[11] the latter being the subject of the policy "What Wikipedia is not".[11] The policy concludes "Consequently, this policy is not a free pass for inclusion".[11]

Overview of processes[edit]

Speedy deletion[edit]

Certain articles on Wikipedia may be deleted by administrators without community input.[12] However, "according to Wikipedia policy, editors should only nominate an article for speedy deletion under limited circumstances, such as pure vandalism, and not mark legitimate pages without good faith discussion".[13]

Wikipedia "maintains an extensive list" of criteria for speedy deletion,[5]: 220 [14] and the majority of deleted pages fall under one of these criteria for speedy deletion (spam, vandalism, test pages and so on) and are deleted by any administrator as soon as they see them,[15]: 201  either because they have been tagged for deletion by an editor who reviewed a newly created page, or because the administrator has directly reviewed such a page. Speedy deletion is also widely used to address copyright violations, and in some cases has been applied to the mass-deletion of articles created by identified sock puppet accounts of editors who were paid to create articles in violation of Wikipedia's terms of use.[16]

A non-administrator seeking the speedy deletion of an article typically adds a speedy deletion template to the top of the article, which in turn adds the article to a list checked by administrators for this purpose.[5]: 220 

Proposed deletion[edit]

Proposed deletion, or PROD, is an intermediate process that was developed for articles that do not meet the criteria for speedy deletion, but for which a full discussion is likely unnecessary. As with speedy deletion, a template is added to the page indicating that deletion is sought, and if no editor contests or removes the tag within a seven-day period, the article will then be deleted.[5]: 221 

Due to concerns regarding defamation and other personality rights, Wikipedia policies direct special attention to biographies of living persons, which may be deleted for lacking citations. Schneider et al. identify proposed deletions of such biographies (BLP-PROD) as a separate path to deletion.[12]: 2, 8 

Articles for deletion[edit]

A typical AfD notice[note 2]

For articles that do not meet the criteria for speedy deletion, and for which proposed deletion is not attempted, or a PROD tag is removed, editors can nominate the article for deletion through community discussion.[17] Discussions typically last seven days, after which a deciding editor determines whether a consensus has been reached.[15] Deletion discussions are carried out on separate pages in Wikipedia's project space dedicated to that purpose, and are not deleted. Any editor may participate in the discussion, and certain Wikipedia editors are particularly frequent participants in AfD discussions.[5] Discussions can be cut short under a Wikipedia policy called the "Snowball Clause" (or "WP:SNOW"),[2]: 158  where an overwhelming consensus for a particular outcome quickly develops, and conversely can be extended several times, on rare occasions lasting a month or more. Wikipedia policy encourages editors to use deletion as a "last resort" following attempts to improve an article, for instance by conducting additional research.[18] Separate discussion boards exist for the deletion of other kinds of content, including "Categories for discussion" (CfD), "Images for discussion" (IfD), "Templates for discussion" (TfD), and "Miscellany for deletion" (MfD). The last one encompasses proposals to delete project-space pages, portals, and user-space pages.[5]: 224 

Discussions are initiated with a proposal to delete, but they may resolve in a number of different possible outcomes.[12] Other common possibilities are that the article is kept, whether by consensus to keep, or the absence of consensus for another outcome; that it is merged into another article; or that the title is redirected to another article, the latter of which may or may not entail deletion of the edit history of the deleted page. Wikipedia policy supports finding "alternatives to deletion" (ATD), which may include any of these alternatives.[19] Another possibility is that the article may be moved to draft space for further development. However, pages in draft space that are not edited for a period of six months are deleted as abandoned. Moving an article to draft space may therefore be considered a soft form of deletion, if it is unlikely that further edits will be made to the article once it has been moved.

Deletion review and undeletion[edit]

The outcomes of deletion discussions can be appealed to another discussion board called Deletion review, which may result in "undeletion" of previously deleted content.[15][5]: 226 

In some instances, an article is repeatedly recreated after being deleted, to the point where an administrator locks the page so that an article can no longer be created at that title, which is referred to as "salting", in reference to the ancient tradition of salting the earth.[5]: 226 [2]: 217 

Out-of-process deletions[edit]

Rarely, a Wikipedia article might be deleted for reasons unrelated to administrator action or community discussion. In theory, the legitimate case of this is when the Wikimedia Foundation deletes an article, perhaps due to a legal concern such as a court order external to Wikipedia, but this is extremely rare.[20] A highly unusual case of attempted censorship of Wikipedia was the Pierre-sur-Haute military radio station article. French military officials coerced a French Wikipedia administrator to delete the article. This proved ineffective as the article was restored a short time later by a Swiss administrator.[21][22] Finally, a Wikipedia vandal can soft-delete a page by making an edit that blanks the page,[2]: 204  although this will almost always be quickly detected and undone by other editors. For example, the content of Donald Trump's Wikipedia article was briefly deleted in 2015 before being promptly restored.[23] In rare cases, however, an administrator may blank the page of a contentious discussion, while preserving the edit history of the page.[5]: 224 

Deletions attracting public attention[edit]

As an early notable example, the 2007 deletion of Mzoli's was given substantial coverage in the media due to a dispute over an editor deleting what was almost the initial version only 22 minutes after being created by Jimbo Wales, one of Wikipedia's founders.[24][25]

On February 14, 2009, Nathaniel Stern and Scott Kildall created a Wikipedia article called "Wikipedia Art" that was simultaneously a self-referential performance art piece called Wikipedia Art. Although the creators encouraged editors to strictly follow Wikipedia guidelines in editing the page,[26] Wikipedia editors determined its intent was nonetheless in violation of site rules, and it was deleted within 15 hours of its initial posting. The resulting controversy received national coverage, including an article in The Wall Street Journal.[27] The Wikimedia Foundation later claimed Stern and Kildall had infringed on the Wikipedia trademark with their own website, wikipediaart.org. The artists publicly released a letter they received in March 2009 from a law firm requesting that they turn over their domain name to Wikipedia.[28] Mike Godwin, then the foundation's legal council, later stated that they would not pursue any further legal action.[29] Mary Louise Schumacher of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel compared the incident to the "outrage inspired by Marcel Duchamp's urinal or Andy Warhol's Brillo Boxes."[30]
In September 2018, British physicist Jessica Wade created an article on the English Wikipedia about Clarice Phelps,[31] but this was deleted on February 11, 2019.[32] On April 12, The Washington Post published an op-ed[33] about, in part, the English-language Wikipedia's lack of coverage given to Phelps' contribution to the discovery of element 117. The column, co-written by Wade, decried discussions among volunteer editors at the site that resulted in deletion of the article on Phelps.[32][34][35] According to an article in the July 2019 Chemistry World,[34]

In Phelps' case, her name didn’t appear in the articles announcing tennessine's discovery. She wasn't profiled by mainstream media. Most mentions of her work are on her employer's website – a source that's not classed as independent by Wikipedia standards and therefore not admissible when it comes to establishing notability. The [Wikipedia] community consensus was that her biography had to go.

The deletion was contested multiple times. By January 2020, there was a consensus to restore it, as by then new sources had become available.[36]

In November 2021, the English Wikipedia's entry for "Mass killings under communist regimes" was nominated for deletion, with some editors arguing that it has "a biased 'anti-Communist' point of view", that "it should not resort to 'simplistic presuppositions that events are driven by any specific ideology'", and that "by combining different elements of research to create a 'synthesis', this constitutes original research and therefore breaches Wikipedia rules."[37] This was criticized by historian Robert Tombs, who called it "morally indefensible, at least as bad as Holocaust denial, because 'linking ideology and killing' is the very core of why these things are important. I have read the Wikipedia page, and it seems to me careful and balanced. Therefore attempts to remove it can only be ideologically motivated – to whitewash Communism."[37] Other Wikipedia editors and users on social media opposed the deletion of the article.[38]

See also[edit]

  • Deletionpedia, a project unrelated to Wikimedia that collects certain articles deleted from Wikipedia

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ An additional means of hiding specific content within Wikipedia articles is revision deletion, or RevDel, by which an administrator can perform sanitization/redaction of specific revisions of an article, thereby hiding certain information from the view of non-administrators.[1][2]: 216 
  2. ^ Appearance is variable: the notice will change shape based on the width of the screen on which it is viewed.

References[edit]

  1. ^ West, Andrew Granville; Lee, Insup (October 2011). "What Wikipedia Deletes: Characterizing Dangerous Collaborative Content". doi:10.1145/2038558.2038563. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ a b c d Jemielniak, Dariusz (2014). Common Knowledge?: An Ethnography of Wikipedia. Stanford University Press.
  3. ^ Stephens-Davidowitz, Seth (March 22, 2014). "The Geography of Fame". New York Times. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
  4. ^ Tabb, Kathryn. "Authority and Authorship in a 21st-Century Encyclopaedia and a 'Very Mysterious Foundation'" (PDF). ESharp (12: Technology and Humanity). ISSN 1742-4542.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Ayers, Phoebe; Matthews, Charles; Yates, Ben (2008). How Wikipedia Works: And How You Can Be a Part of It. No Starch Press. pp. 218-25. ISBN 978-1-59327-176-3.
  6. ^ David E. Gumpert (2007-09-05). "A Case Study in Online Promotion". BusinessWeek. Archived from the original on 2008-03-12. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
  7. ^ Stvilia, Besiki; Twidale, Michael B.; Smith, Linda C.; Gasser, Les (2007). "Information Quality Work Organization in Wikipedia" (PDF). Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 59 (6): 983–1001. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.163.5109. doi:10.1002/asi.20813. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-08-20. Retrieved 2008-01-24.
  8. ^ a b Douglas, Ian (2007-10-11). "Wikipedia: an online encyclopedia torn apart". The Telegraph. London: Telegraph Media Group. Archived from the original on 2012-11-12. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
  9. ^ "Marked for Deletion". Weekend America. National Public Radio. 2007-01-20. Archived from the original on 2014-03-10. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
  10. ^ Nick Farrell (2007-02-26). "Hack got death threats from Wikipidiots". The Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2012-05-27. Retrieved 2008-01-23.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  11. ^ a b c "Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not". Wikipedia. July 20, 2010. Archived from the original on March 14, 2017. Retrieved October 21, 2021.
  12. ^ a b c Schneider, Jodi; Passant, Alexandre; Decker, Stefan (August 2012). "Deletion Discussions in Wikipedia: Decision Factors and Outcomes" (PDF). WikiSym '12: Proceedings of the Eighth Annual International Symposium on Wikis and Open Collaboration. p. 2. doi:10.1145/2462932.
  13. ^ Harrison, Stephen (January 15, 2021). "Wikipedia Is Basically a Massive RPG" – via www.wired.com.
  14. ^ Revision as of 31 October 2021 of Wikipedia:Criteria for speedy deletion retrieved 1 November 2021
  15. ^ a b c Klobas, Jane (2006). Wikis: Tools for information Work and Collaboration. Chandos Publishing.
  16. ^ Kravets, David (September 1, 2015). "Wikipedia blocks hundreds of linked accounts for suspect editing". Ars Technica.
  17. ^ Lakhani, Karim R.; McAfee, Andrew P. (2007). "Debates and Controversies in Wikipedia". Harvard Business School. Archived from the original on 2007-02-02. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
  18. ^ McDowell, Zachary J.; Vetter, Matthew A. (2021-08-24). "What Counts as Knowledge". Wikipedia and the Representation of Reality. Routledge. p. 57. doi:10.4324/9781003094081. ISBN 978-1-003-09408-1.
  19. ^ Broughton, John (2008). Wikipedia – The Missing Manual. O'Reilly Media. p. 361.
  20. ^ "Office actions". Wikimedia Meta-Wiki. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved October 20, 2021.
  21. ^ Whittaker, Zack (April 6, 2013). "French spy agency tries to pull 'classified' Wikipedia entry, only draws more attention to it". ZDNet. Retrieved October 20, 2021.
  22. ^ "La DCRI accusée d'avoir illégalement forcé la suppression d'un article de Wikipédia". Le Monde (in French). 6 April 2013. Archived from the original on 21 June 2019.
  23. ^ Peterson, Andrea (July 22, 2015). "Donald Trump's Wikipedia page was deleted today. Twice". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 20, 2021.
  24. ^ Sarno, David (September 30, 2007). "Wikipedia wars erupt". Los Angeles Times.
  25. ^ Douglas, Ian (October 11, 2007). "Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia torn apart". Telegraph.
  26. ^ "Wikipedia Art | a collaborative performance and public intervention". February 12, 2009. Retrieved October 23, 2021.
  27. ^ Mijuk, Goran The Internet as Art, The Wall Street Journal
  28. ^ Giga Law Firm Giga Law Firm letter, wikipediaart.org
  29. ^ Owens, Simon Wikipedia Art: Vandalism or Performance Art?, PBS: Media-Shift
  30. ^ Schumacher, Mary Deconstructing Wikipedia, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  31. ^ "A deleted Wikipedia page speaks volumes about its biggest problem". Fast Company. Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  32. ^ a b Jarvis, Claire (April 25, 2019). "Opinion: What a Deleted Profile Tells Us About Wikipedia's Diversity Problem". Undark Magazine. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
  33. ^ Zaringhalam, Maryam; Wade, Jess (April 12, 2019). "It matters who we champion in science". The Washington Post.
  34. ^ a b Krämer, Katrina (July 3, 2019). "Female scientists' pages keep disappearing from Wikipedia – what's going on?". Chemistry World. Retrieved July 6, 2019.
  35. ^ Southworth, Phoebe (December 7, 2019). "Physicist accuses Wikipedia editors of sexism after female scientists she wrote profiles for tagged 'not notable enough'". The Daily Telegraph.
  36. ^ "Wikipedia:Deletion review/Log/2020 January 31". Wikipedia. February 8, 2020. Retrieved April 1, 2020.
  37. ^ a b Simpson, Craig (27 November 2021). "Wikipedia may delete entry on 'mass killings' under Communism due to claims of bias". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 28 November 2021. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  38. ^ Chasmar, Jessica (2021-11-29). "Wikipedia page on 'Mass killings under communist regimes' considered for deletion, prompting bias accusations". Fox News. Retrieved 2021-12-01.

External links[edit]