Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons/BLPWatch

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Quality control on biographical articles ("BLPs", short for "biographies of living persons") is a high priority for Wikipedia.

BLPWatch is a new BLP monitoring system whereby a user who feels a page is at risk from a BLP perspective (vandalism, smearing, improper negative or unsourced information being added, or "slanting"), or any untoward editing related to biographical material, may "tag" the page after correction, to automatically have its edits watched for an extended period of time on behalf of users and biography subjects.

It is effectively a controlled recent changes feed specifically for BLP-related pages that any user deems "at risk", together with protective code to address vandalistic removal of monitoring.

BLPWatch is most suitable for biographical articles that have been rectified following obvious problems or following consensus, but where concerns exist over repetition.

For manual patrol of biographies of living persons, see Wikipedia:Living People Patrol.

The need for monitoring of biographical material[edit]

As of March 2008, Wikipedia contains some 260,000 biographical articles on living people, and an unknown number of other pages which may contain biographical information or where biographical information may be added. It can also be edited by almost anyone.

Whilst some pages are watched by many people and have a high profile, inevitably most do not, and only come to attention when a problem arises. Sometimes this is noticed by the biography subject themselves. In such cases, once rectified, it can be difficult to ensure that the problem is not reinstated days, weeks, or a few months later.

In practice if a page were sporadically "targeted" by someone, then it may not be noticed that the problem was reinstated, even though the article subject believes it has been fixed and may have been told this. Clearly it is also utterly unfair and unreasonable to expect a biography subject, who may have no interest or desire to know about Wikipedia, to have to watch it themselves and be forced to do so hourly or daily.

Although this applies to all pages and all articles in principle, it is of especial priority when it refers to biographical material about living people.

Users are asked to help ensure the quality of BLPs by watching the output of BLPWatch when they are able.


Summary of process[edit]

BLPWatch is a monitoring system by which pages deemed "at risk" of BLP issues may be tagged by adding the {{Blpwatch|from=DATE|reason=REASON}} template (where 'from' is today's date in the format MM/YYYY). They will then automatically be watched and all edits reported to an IRC-based monitoring channel at #wikipedia-en-blpwatch. Such channels already exist for unblocking, technical assistance, and the like.

The bot that does this task is designed to help users track edits on any BLP related "at-risk" pages, easily. It also watches carefully for attempts to bypass the system. It is currently awaiting approval.

When is BLPWatch appropriate[edit]

If BLP related material or pages are felt to be at risk of mis-editing, then the page can quickly be tagged by anyone for watching. Example reasons:

  • The article has been vandalized in a way that suggests it may be again.
  • The subject of the article has complained and we wish to be sure that the article is being watched against further quality issues for an extended period.
  • The article is prone to disruptive editing.

Pages that have a high profile and many users already watching in the usual way, are unlikely to need BLPWatch. This process is designed for lower profile articles, where multiple eyeballs are less likely or where errors or further mis-editing may not otherwise be noticed and removed in seconds or minutes.

The ideal scenario is an article that would not otherwise be sure to have problem editing noticed promptly, or which has caused upset and additional care is required to ensure the maximum level of awareness, and where it is not certain that enough users are regularly watching the article in the normal way, to ensure this.

Comparison with other BLP processes[edit]

BLPWatch aims to provide a quick informal way that articles at risk related to BLP can be watched for an extended period without constant checking by editors or the biography subject.

A typical context is some less active biographical article that has had some vandalism or other problem editing, and having reverted we want to ensure the vandalism isn't put back 2 weeks later. So we monitor its edits for a few months "to play safe". If all's good then it automatically gets delisted at that point; if there is vandalism then the bot can be told to update the end-time of the monitoring for a further few months from that date. As such it's not the same as OTRS, because any user can tag, any user can help watch, and it is intended to be used on any page with a blp concern, not just the ones specifically brought to OTRS attention.

Operation guide[edit]

When to tag a page[edit]

pages should be tagged when there has been activity that suggests they may be more likely to be "hit" again by problem editing, or when there is some kind of other concern, such as a BLP subject with concerns. In general, "driveby" (once off) vandalism is less appropriate for tagging. Factors that make a page more appropriate include:

  • Multiple attempts to make problematic edits (now or in recent history)
  • Targeted problematic edits (someone singling out the specific article)
  • Subtle problematic edits that might not be noticed in future and need vigilance, or
  • A higher level of concern than usual for any reason.

In general, edits that would merit watchlisting the article as well as fixing, are likely to be edits one would tag for.

The other criterion is article activity and profile. An article that has significant activity already, or where bad edits are obviously being watched for and rapdily noticed anyway, is less likely to need watching this way as well.

As such, the typical BLPWatch article is a page that has been hit, and may or may not get hit again, but where it would possibly not be promptly noticed by editors, if it were hit again in a few weeks time, where a bad version might stand a while before being seen and identified by editors or readers. Therefore the article is set to be watched for an extended period by the fixing editor, in order to be sure that the problem is not recurrent, or is proactively being checked for.

How to tag a page[edit]

Add the tag: {{Blpwatch|from=DATE|reason=REASON}} to the actual page/s affected that need watching. It's that simple. The bot will pick this up and begin to monitor it when it next restarts. Since this could be some time, to force the bot to monitor it immediately, say !add <article> or !reset in the IRC channel.

The recommended location for the tag is the bottom of the page.

Date and reason[edit]

  • The date is the date at which watching starts or was restarted from (usually today's date), in the format MM/YYYY.
  • The reason is a brief hint what sort of issue to watch for. In some cases the issue may not be obvious unless users are told. Example reasons - "obvious vandalism", "insertion of POV related to X", "claims about Y".
(Note that BLPWatch can also be used to protect articles against other less common forms of risk, for example removal of appropriate content, or "massaging" of text to a favorable non-neutral viewpoint. It is effectively able to be used for any BLP related risk, which requires attention to all edits.)

Please be careful not to tag articles unnecessarily, since tagged articles must have each edit reviewed. Deliberate inappropriate misuse or removal of the tag will be treated seriously.


If an edit summary contains the word "blpwatch" in any form (blpwatch, !blpwatch, {{blpwatch}}, turn blpwatch off, etc) then the bot will check and update itself for that article. This is the fastest and easiest way to ensure a newly watched article will be noticed, and also makes the edit history easy to follow. The !tag command (when approved) is the other quick way, and both tags the article and updates the bot to watch it.

If the edit summary does not contain "blpwatch", or if the bot is off at the time of tagging or does not for any other reason become aware, it will become recognized at the sooner of bot restart, and use of !add <article> or !reset, provided the tag has not been removed in the meantime.

Effect of tagging[edit]

Once an article is tagged, BLPWatchBot will track all edits to tracked articles, and all newly tracked articles, that are added to the bot by resetting it (say !reset or !add <articlename> in IRC). The relevant category is at Category:BLP watched articles.

Various methods are used to protect against abuse or bypassing. Note that the bot cannot watch articles and additions when switched off. It will notice newly tagged articles on start-up, and report them so their recent edits may be reviewed. It will also notice articles that have been manually detagged, and which may therefore need checking for improper removal of watched status.

All articles being watched will have their edits passed to the IRC channel #wikipedia-en-blpwatch where any user may stay and watch for BLP edits needing checking. A typical report will list the entire edit summary, a diff, and the details of the BLP problem being watched and the editor making the edit. There is also a category, so an on-wiki "watchlist format" page is available at Special:Recentchangeslinked/Category:BLP watched articles, but this cannot detect removal of the tag.

Watching lasts for several months, and may be extended at any time the problem is seen to require it. Monitoring ends automatically after several months, if no user has seen the need to update the date tag to signify a further period is needed.

Bot commands[edit]

The bot responds to the following commands from any user:

!add <article> - tells the bot that an article has been added, without needing to recheck the category via !reset
!tag <article> {{Blpwatch|from=DATE|reason=REASON}} - quickly tags an article
!redate <article or id> - "restarts the clock" on monitoring. Use this if an article has had continuing problems, to renew the monitoring period "from today". Only use when an edit makes it likely there may be ongoing problems.
!info <optional article or id> (!help is an alias)
  • With an article it provides information on the monitoring status of an article, and the date monitoring was last started or reset and the user (if known) and reason.
  • Without an article it provides information on BLPWatch itself, the bot, and its watchlist.
!dump - saves a list of the current watchlist to the bot's wiki page
!reset - reload category (ie, checking its own list of monitored articles against the actual list of pages tagged on the wiki and synchronizing the two). Also reports any discrepancies found, ie items that appear to have been newly tagged, or manually detagged, without bot awareness.

The following three commands are being trialled for approval. If approved they will be restricted to approved users only, and the user that uses them will be named in the edit summary:

!untag <article or id> - allows trusted users to quickly detag articles
!reason <article or id> reason=<newreason> - updates the reason
!revert <id> - allows trusted users to "quick revert" based upon edit summary

If you are heavily involved in #wikipedia-en-blpwatch or have another good reason (eg OTRS), you can gain access to these commands by contacting ST47.

All edits are given an item id by the bot, which can be used as a shortcut to refer to that page or edit in bot commands for a short time afterwards.

Additionally a log is kept, readable by anyone with a web browser, that lists all events. Events listed include: bot start/stop, page tag/detag, and pages that were found to be newly tagged/detagged on startup. The link is at <TBA> or can be found via !info.


!info George Bush
!revert 3
!untag 76
!tag Michael Jackson 03/2008 porn images/links
!reason Michael Jackson slurs and general vandalism
!redate Michael Jackson
!redate 17

See also[edit]

Policies, guidelines and project pages
BLPWatch and BLPWatchBot related