Wikipedia:Advocacy ducks

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If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck...is it a duck? (Are these ducks or geese?)
Undue weight is a common sign of advocacy ducks at work.
Do not mistake a nesting coot for a nesting advocacy duck, although both may show POV and OWN behavior
Advocacy ducks may show signs of puffery
If it's raining ducks, know when to get out of the rain.

This essay is about advocacy ducks and was created to help editors identify and properly respond to aggressive or overzealous editors who advocate for certain causes, and display certain behavioral characteristics that disrupt productive editing. The duck metaphor is a good analogy because not all disruption is hatched from a paid or unpaid advocacy. Paid advocacies or conflicts of interest are subject to the policies set forth for paid editing as well as Wikipedia's Terms of Use. There are associated behaviors that are recognizable so if it acts, looks and sounds like an advocacy duck, it could be one; therefore, editors need to know how best to respond.

It is easy to spot disruptive editing, but somewhat difficult to ascertain whether it was caused by advocacy (paid or unpaid) or a new editor with a strong opinion who is simply not yet familiar with Wikipedia's policies and guidelines. There are basic procedures that editors should follow when seeking dispute resolution (DR) for disruptive editing, beginning with polite discussion on the article's talk page (TP). If discussions fail to resolve a content dispute it may prove beneficial to request a third opinion or seek a wider range of input to achieve community consensus by initiating a request for comments (RfC). If disruption continues after a consensus has been reached and it escalates into disruptive behavior, it may be necessary to file a case at the dispute resolution noticeboard (DRN). If after all of the earliest attempts at DR have failed and the disruptive conduct continues, it is probably time to invite an uninvolved administrator to review the disruption or you can open a case at the administrator's noticeboard/incidents (ANI) where administrators provide input and will take necessary action to stop the disruption, especially if the article is subject to discretionary sanctions. Incidents involving disruptive behavior are usually resolved at ANI, and rarely elevate to Wikipedia:Arbitration which is a long arduous process at the highest level of conduct DR.

Certain articles in Wikipedia are more likely than others to attract disruptive advocates which can leave editors with the impression that one or more advocates have assumed ownership control of an article. Such behavior may also be associated with and reinforced by tag team behavior as a way to avoid 3RRV or gain advantage over community consensus. The best advice when first encountering a perceived advocacy is to assume good faith because things aren't always what they seem. Unwarranted accusations are considered a personal attack and may result in a block in much the same way as it does for edit warring. However, if the disruption prevents article improvement, you will need to collect evidence to establish whether your suspicions are correct, and if they are, to make your case.

Signs of advocacy[edit]

Advocacy tips the scales of balance either for or against something. Learning to recognize advocacy ducks is not an easy task because they may nest in a broad range of topics and articles. You might see them in a controversial article, or on any article whose subject has a following. Advocates often have a bias they cannot set aside which prevents them from editing in compliance with neutral point of view (NPOV). They often engage in long-term tendentious editing by attempting to impose and maintain their point of view in an article or related articles that serve to further their cause.

  • Pro-cause advocates may add puffery and various peacock terms to whitewash an article creating undue weight. They may revert edits they deem negative about the subject which is typically when disruptive editing comes into play.
  • Anti-cause advocates may add defamatory language, contentious labels, or give undue weight to negative aspects of the subject in breach of NPOV. While criticism may very well be warranted in an article, it must be reliably sourced (RS) and in compliance with policies and guidelines (PAG) so the article doesn't become a coatrack or attack page. Negative information should be included in articles, but positives or mitigating factors from the same source should not be excluded.
  • Both pro- and anti- advocates have been known to misapply PAG to further their specific POV. All editors should read and understand the policies and guidelines relative to the discussion. For example, if the reason for a revert is that the source is questionable, the editor who added the information should be able to explain why the cited source is reliable per WP:RS. If the reason for the revert is that the added statement is puffery, the editor who added the information should be able to explain why it is not puffery per NPOV. Know the PAGs relative to the challenge and subsequent discussion. By doing so, newer editors will gain a better understanding of how Wikipedia operates, and it will also serve as a self-reminder.
  • Advocacy ducks frequently display ownership, tendentious editing, and may resort to bullying. Other disruptive behaviors can include tag team editing, sock or meatpuppetry. Advocacy ducks may also deploy the tag team revert tactic to avoid a 3RR violation that could otherwise result in a block. More aggressive advocacy ducks may attempt to bait editors into edit warring or violating civility.
  • Some operate as single purpose accounts (SPAs), who should not be confused with well-intentioned editors who have a niche interest. The disruption occurs when edits are made for the purposes of promotion or showcasing a particular POV which is not allowed.

Don't mistake a coot for a duck[edit]

At first glance, coots look like ducks but upon closer observation they don't have webbed feet and they don't quack. Coots live on the water, and they are birds but not ducks. What you might think is advocacy editing could be a case of stewardship, not ownership. Remember, AGF. Stewardship is commonly seen in the stable waters of WP:Good articles and WP:Featured articles to help protect those articles against vandalism, POV pushing and/or advocacy ducks. If you see a GA symbol Symbol support vote.svg or FA symbol (Cscr-featured.svg) in the top right margin of an article, it's good etiquette to propose major changes on the article talk page first. Medical and health articles require a special degree of sourcing.

Examine your edits[edit]

If your edits were reverted or challenged by other editors, you should examine your edits more closely and listen to editors who disagree with you.

  1. Did your edit(s) improve the article?
  2. Were your edits overly critical, biased, or did they introduce puffery?
  3. Did you cite your passage to a reliable source that is verifiable but not false? Articles relating to medicine or health require close attention to MEDRS guidelines.
  4. Is the article a biography or the biography of a living person (BLP)? BLPs require strict adherence to policy, country-specific laws and compliance with NPOV, Verifiability, and NOR.
  5. Did you initiate a discussion on the article's talk page and request input from the community? Consider the common ground on which editors have agreement, and focus on compromising whenever possible to build consensus. If the dispute continues, it may be time to bring in more voices and initiate an RfC.
  6. Were you polite throughout the discussions? Calm discussions focused on content not editors are the most productive means to reach a compromise.
  7. Did you make any attempt to seek help from uninvolved editors? There are several ways to acquire help on WP. For example, you can include the {{help me}} template on your user talk page, or ask a question at the help desk or teahouse. The village pump is another forum for general discussions, advice and for seeking technical help, and a third party can provide assistance. Oftentimes an uninvolved editor can provide valuable input.
  8. Are your arguments substantive, based on policies and guidelines, and avoid repetition? If not, then you are the one engaging in tendentious editing and it's likely that you are the advocacy duck.
  9. Are you the only editor arguing your position? If so, it is possible that you are editing outside consensus and the problematic editor could be you.
  10. Did you determine your behavior and edits may have been the problem? Apologize and walk away from the topic for a while. If you continue on a tendentious editing path you could be blocked or banned from editing anything related to that topic.

If, however, you are certain that the problem is not you, then you may be at a fork in the road. If you suspect you've encountered a conflict of interest , which is a special type of advocacy, it is best to follow the road to the COIN. On the other hand, if you are certain you encountered POV warriors or advocacy ducks, take the road to resolution.

Avoid confrontation[edit]

If your edits were reverted or challenged, do not automatically assume it was the result of advocacy. Even if other editors appear to be working together as a tag team, keep in mind that they may be working together to prevent advocacy ducks from pushing their POV. Unsubstantiated allegations of tendentious editing or advocacy may be considered violations of the WP:Civility policy and can result in you being blocked, so the utmost care should be taken to properly identify such behavior. Remember, he who quacks loudest may be you.

If you followed all the above suggestions and still think you have come across an advocacy duck, stay calm, AGF and remember:

  • When confronted by advocacy ducks, it is all the more important for you to remain focused on article content and follow PAG.
  • Veteran advocacy ducks are skilled at gaming the system so if you behave inappropriately you may find yourself waving goodbye from the back of a little red caboose after being railroaded into an unexpected block or topic ban.
  • Disputes with advocates can escalate quickly which is why it is best to avoid confrontation. Take a nap in the duck blind, even if you feel your integrity and/or ability as an editor has been challenged.
  • Maintain a sense of professionalism and level-headedness. Sit quietly and learn by observation.
  • Wikipedia has no deadlines, so do not exhaust your editing by attacking the issue with a sense of urgency.
  • If you have questions, seek a third opinion from an experienced editor, or if you are a relatively new editor, consider WP:Mentorship.

Road to resolution[edit]

Consensus Flowchart.svg

So you've found an advocacy duck; now what?[edit]

Now you follow the dispute resolution process. The idiom "keep your ducks in a row" applies here with regards to putting forth a substantive argument. Assertions must be framed properly using diffs wrong, discussion there could turn to your behavior and you could be warned, blocked or sanctioned.

  • If edit warring has ramped up and the three-revert rule was violated, initiate a report at AN3.
  • If feathers are flying over content issues, you can either seek a 3rd opinion or initiate a request for comments RfC to achieve consensus. Avoid canvassing and forum shopping. You can also post on the relevant noticeboard for assistance in determining reliable sources, neutrality, original research, external links, BLPs, or fringe topics. Read the instructions associated with noticeboards so you don't end up in the wrong place. State your case succinctly with diffs to support your assertions. Other options include mediation or DRN.
  • If your edits are consistently being challenged by an overzealous individual or flock of advocacy ducks that keep flapping their wings and ruffling your feathers in displays of poor conduct, the next option is administrator action at one of the noticeboards. If the article is under discretionary sanctions, you can request AE; and if that fails, the final option is ArbCom.

Don't be a vigilante; bring problems to the community at noticeboards.

Other noticeboards to seek advice[edit]

  • DRN  – to help resolve article content disputes
  • NPOVN – for discussion and alerts regarding the neutrality of an article
  • RSN – for discussion about the reliability of a source to support specific content
  • NORN – for discussion and alerts about material that might be original research or source synthesis
  • BLPN – for discussion and alerts about violations of living persons; violations may apply to any page in Wikipedia
  • FTN – to report fringe theories that are given undue weight in articles
  • ELN – for discussion and alerts about external links

Final steps[edit]

  • AN - administrators' noticeboard (for seeking reversal of or a close of an RfC, or other actions needing an administrator)
  • ANI - administrators' noticeboard/incidents. For dealing with behavior issues, not content. State your case concisely, with diffs. Beware the WP:Boomerang.
  • ARBCOM - WP's "supreme court" which can be a long and arduous journey. Example of an arbcom motion.

Related essays, policies, and guidelines[edit]