Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Clarification and Amendment

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Requests for clarification and amendment[edit]

Clarification request: Race and intelligence[edit]

Initiated by Ferahgo the Assassin at 21:14, 12 April 2018 (UTC)

Case or decision affected
Race and intelligence arbitration case (t) (ev / t) (w / t) (pd / t)

List of any users involved or directly affected, and confirmation that all are aware of the request:


Confirmation that all parties are aware of the request


Statement by Ferahgo the Assassin[edit]

Note: I am making this request as per the recommendation I received from the Arbitration Committee Mailing List, after having contacted the list with this question. I will repost the relevant bits of the question I emailed them below, with personally identifying information redacted.

I was recently included as a party on a Clarification Request that was declined and closed without my participation. The clarification request concerned the scope of the Race and Intelligence topic ban, which also applies to me. (The current version of my editing restrictions can be found here) My understanding of my topic ban is that I am prohibited from editing articles related to "the race and intelligence topic, broadly construed".

What is covered under "broadly construed"? I am concerned about whether editing pages related to the "heritability of psychological traits” is considered to be a violation, or even the “psychometrics of intelligence” on its own. My understanding since my restrictions were given was that I was only prohibited from editing topics concerning both “race” and “intelligence”.

I should mention that my real-life circumstances have changed considerably since my restrictions were given. I'm now in my second year of the Ph.D program in behavior genetics at a prestigious university. My research specifically involves the heritability of intelligence, which so far has been very well received by my peers. (I sent the mailing list a link to an award I’ve received for my research.) The vast majority of research in my field has nothing to do with race, and most researchers do not want to touch the topic with a ten-foot pole.

It seems arbitrary to prohibit me from editing anything that has to do with the heritability of psychological traits, particularly when doing so would close off major potential improvements that I could bring to the encyclopedia to topics in my area of expertise. I am also currently finishing up a research project on mental chronometry that I plan to present at an upcoming conference, and was hoping that I could finally get around to making major improvements to the mental chronometry article with what I've learned over the course of this research and its background.

Can you please clarify the extent to which my topic ban covers the area in which I am developing professional expertise, and the rationale for which topics are covered?

@ Brad:
I did not think it was worth including & notifying anyone else, since this was intended just to be a request for clarification of what my own topic ban was intended to cover. But here is a brief history of my situation, if it’s helpful:
1. Original topic ban from R&I in October 2010, for violation of WP:SHARE policy, documented here.
2. This was followed by a 1-year site ban, in May 2012, for violation of WP:SHARE, documented here.
3. Suspension of this ban in March 2014 is documented further down, here. My request for appealing the site ban occurred via email, originally sent to the committee on March 6, 2014. In this appeal, I mention that Occam and I no longer share an IP address—and haven’t since (and still don’t).
4. My ban was lifted under the condition that in addition to the topic ban, I was restricted only to articles about “paleontology of birds and dinosaurs” and associated talk and process pages. I appealed this specific restriction in September 2016, and this was rescinded as documented here. Which leaves me under the original topic ban and the two-way interaction ban, as documented in the most recent link.
@ Euryalus:
Appealing my topic ban wasn't my intention in submitting this request, but if Arbcom thinks lifting the ban is the best solution, then I'm happy to have that considered. -Ferahgo the Assassin (talk) 01:52, 13 April 2018 (UTC)
Well, if Arbcom decides that my topic ban applies to articles about the heritability of intelligence in general, then I'd like to request for my topic ban to be lifted. I know there are plenty of other articles to work on, but I have a unique ability to improve articles about the topic that I'm getting my Ph.D in. -Ferahgo the Assassin (talk) 02:30, 13 April 2018 (UTC)
@Capitals00:
With all due respect, if people want to scrutinize my edits that are 8 years old, it might be good to look at the whole discussion in context before drawing a conclusion. That being said, I think it’s fair to say that my explanation for these edits is simply that they were 8 years ago. My current hope is only that I be permitted to improve articles like Polygenic score and Gene-environment correlation, which are directly related to my research. If you want to see how I can contribute to topics outside this subject, I invite you to look at Specimens of Archaeopteryx and (longer ago) The Origin of Birds (a GA). Grad school has (quite predictably and, I hope, understandably) limited my time and energy for reading on topics outside of my field.
As for the comments about short leash, six month trial period, etc, I have no problem with these suggestions. -Ferahgo the Assassin (talk) 16:18, 14 April 2018 (UTC)
I have no current plans to edit anything about Richard Lynn, his books or his research. Anything I do edit will be fully compliant with both the letter and the spirit of Wikipedia policy, regardless of whether my topic ban is lifted or not. -Ferahgo the Assassin (talk) 20:40, 14 April 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Beyond My Ken[edit]

@Newyorkbrad:

I believe that covers everything to date. Links to original discussions are in each section. Beyond My Ken (talk) 00:03, 13 April 2018 (UTC)

  • On the clarification request, since Ferahgo the Assassin claims to now have some professional expertise on the subject of the "heritability of psychological traits", I personally see no problem with her editing in that subject area, very narrowly construed, as long as she doesn't touch on anything whatsoever regarding race, and assuming that her editing is based on citing suitable neutral reliable sources, and not on her own personal knowledge, which cannot be verified, or opinions, which are disallowed as WP:OR. Beyond My Ken (talk) 00:03, 13 April 2018 (UTC)
  • On lifting the ban, I think that would be OK, as long as FtA was made aware that she was on a very short leash, and that the topic ban would be restored at the first sign of a problem in her editing. I think the question that would need to be answered is: in that circumstance (i.e. topic ban lifted, problematic editing, topic ban restored) would FtA's site ban be restored as well, considering the conditions under which the site ban was lifted? [1] Beyond My Ken (talk) 01:00, 14 April 2018 (UTC)

Statement by Capitals00[edit]

I am not supporting that topic ban should be lifted because Ferahgo the Assassin has made just 400 edits on main articles since 2014 and I maintain that it doesn't matter how long ago the topic ban was imposed because I would like to see how FTA can really contribute in topics outside this subject.

I have removed a lot of WP:UNDUE content from Nations and intelligence dedicated to theories of Richard Lynn that are controversial and pseudoscientific. FTA's edits[2][3] related to Richard Lynn show that she probably thinks otherwise. I would like to hear some explanation of these edits and also how she will represent Richard Lynn or his researches whenever she will edit these articles. Capitals00 (talk) 12:19, 14 April 2018 (UTC)

@Ferahgo the Assassin: You still haven't answered my question. I asked how you "will represent Richard Lynn or his researches whenever" you will edit any articles that are related to him. I am waiting for your reply. What is your firm opinion about Lynn and his researches? Tell me which articles you would prefer to edit that are related to race and intelligence once your topic ban has been removed and how do you think you will improve those articles. Capitals00 (talk) 16:32, 14 April 2018 (UTC)
@Ferahgo the Assassin: Your answer to the question regarding Richard Lynn and his researches seems satisfactory. I had also asked that "which articles you would prefer to edit that are related to race and intelligence once your topic ban has been removed and how do you think you will improve those articles". Waiting for your reply. Capitals00 (talk) 14:40, 15 April 2018 (UTC)

Statement by JzG[edit]

I wrote Wikipedia:Broadly construed on April 6. Seems timely. Perhaps we can fix this by fleshing that out a bit? Guy (Help!) 17:12, 18 April 2018 (UTC)

Statement by MastCell[edit]

Ordinarily, I'm of the opinion that an editor's real-life academic qualifications (or lack thereof) are irrelevant here. But since Ferahgo presents hers as a central component of her request, I think they're worth discussing.

Ferahgo writes: My research specifically involves the heritability of intelligence... The vast majority of research in my field has nothing to do with race, and most researchers do not want to touch the topic with a ten-foot pole. The realist cynic in me can't help noticing that this formulation leaves out a key detail: Ferahgo, does your research touch on race as it intersects with intelligence? MastCell Talk 23:30, 21 April 2018 (UTC)

Statement by {other-editor}[edit]

Other editors are free to make relevant comments on this request as necessary. Comments here should opine whether and how the Committee should clarify or amend the decision or provide additional information.

Race and intelligence: Clerk notes[edit]

This area is used for notes by the clerks (including clerk recusals).

Race and intelligence: Arbitrator views and discussion[edit]

  • Awaiting statements or other input (although it's not clear just who should be notified of this request). Could Feragho the Assassin or someone else please provide more specific links to the prior discussions that led to the topic-ban and site-ban, to the extent they are visible on-wiki, and any other on-wiki material we should review? Newyorkbrad (talk) 22:00, 12 April 2018 (UTC)
  • Also awaiting any further input, and thought it worth clarifying if this is ultimately a request for amendment as well as clarification? If clarification only, then standard advice: topic bans can never be prescriptively defined, so if in doubt about whether an article is on the border of a ban, assume it is and find something else to edit. The examples referred to above are on the border of the ban; if you edit them I'd say there's a sanctions risk. However your request also has elements of an actual appeal against the ban, including for example your mention of the passage of time and your academic work. There's always a generic case for very old sanctions to be reconsidered, so it'd be worth clarifying if that's a part of this ARCA to make sure we consider all parts of the request. -- Euryalus (talk) 00:53, 13 April 2018 (UTC)
  • @Ferahgo; thanks for the reply - not sure if it's the best solution, just checking on whether its part of what's proposed (in which case it deserves consideration along with the clarification request). If this was just about clarification then I'd say construe the ban pretty broadly and stay away from those borderline topic areas - there's five million articles to work on, and plenty to do in other spaces. -- Euryalus (talk) 02:05, 13 April 2018 (UTC)
  • Noting the comments in this section and by Beyond My Ken, what do people think about suspending the topic ban for (say) six months, with authority for reinstatement by any uninvolved admin if problems arise, but otherwise expiring completely by October if no problems occur? Views particularly welcome from other editors in the "race and intelligence" space, with whom Ferahgo the Assassin would presumably then work alongside. -- Euryalus (talk) 09:13, 14 April 2018 (UTC)
  • I think this request and the previous one basically boil down to a clarification on whether this individual is topic banned from articles about "race and intelligence" (e.g. articles that have to do with both at the same time) or articles about "race or intelligence" (e.g. articles that have to do with race and also, separately, articles that have to do with intelligence). If the former, then editing articles about intelligence as the filing editor describes would generally not be an issue, so long as nothing in the article had anything to do whatsoever with race. Looking back on the case, I think the former was clearly the intent. It's worth noting that the former was the bounds of the topic area originally given for discretionary sanctions, and this topic ban was initially implemented as a discretionary sanction, so I actually don't see how the latter could be correct from a procedural perspective. ~ Rob13Talk 13:41, 13 April 2018 (UTC)
  • My thoughts mirror Euryalus' genrally - from a clarification point of view, the edits described would be on the edge of the ban and depending on the content and context might well lead to a sanction. That said, looking back at the history, I would support lifting the topic ban which has been in place for 4 years, but I would be interested in hearing community views on that matter. WormTT(talk) 19:42, 13 April 2018 (UTC)
  • My opinion on the clarification aspect of this mirrors those above - I think the topics you indicate in your request are on the border of the topic ban. Whether they'd violate it would depend on the specific material, but it's risky considering that the general view on topic bans is that they should encourage an editor to work on something completely unrelated, not on something very close. On the appeal aspect - well, I realize that I'm hardly one to be looking down my nose at low activity given my own sluggish editing rate lately, but I do notice that the low number of edits since the 2016 appeal makes it a bit difficult to judge the success of that decision. Still, I'd be willing to consider a suspension given the age of the sanctions. Opabinia regalis (talk) 05:06, 16 April 2018 (UTC)