Wikipedia:Blocking policy/Personal attacks (old)

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Voting on this policy closed some time ago.


Although Wikipedia:No personal attacks is a good policy, it meets its limit in the form of enforcement. Currently, it can only be enforced by the arbitration committee, and thus long-standing and excessively vicious edit wars are often allowed to fester for longer than they should, or pages need to be chronically protected far more than they should. This policy is an attempt to give the personal attacks policy some teeth without dramatically increasing the powers of sysops. Long-term blocks for personal attacks must still be made by the arbitration committee or by Jimbo. However, this policy allows short term blocks to enforce cool-down periods and to forcibly dissuade users from taking potshots at each other that they might otherwise get away with due to the difficulty and time involved in an arbitration request.

Proposed policy[edit]

Personal attacks are not allowed on Wikipedia. At their discretion, and only after warning the user, sysops may use temporary blocks to enforce a “cooling down” period for users who repeatedly make personal attacks. Blocks made under this policy should be short term – one to three days normally, and a week at most. Although blocks may be reapplied if personal attacks continue, repeated violations should be referred to the Arbitration committee. Sysops blocking under this policy may not block users for making personal attacks in the course of disputes that the sysop is involved in, and especially not for personal attacks made against them, unless the personal attacks also constitute clear and unambiguous vandalism (i.e. replacing their userpage with “U SUCK!!1!1!!”).


Please do not add new polling options.


  1. Snowspinner 04:02, Aug 22, 2004 (UTC)
  2. blankfaze | (беседа!) 04:07, 22 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  3. Skyler 22:41, Aug 22, 2004 (UTC)
  4. Neutralitytalk 22:44, 22 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  5. Gregb 05:57, 23 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  6. Trilobite (Talk) 17:35, 23 Aug 2004 (UTC) With reservations, as I can see this being abused.
  7. Cyrius| -- Personal attacks poison the well for other contributors, and are far more harmful than the simple vandalism we allow sysops to block people for. If we don't trust sysops to use their judgement, why have they been given the power to block?
  8. Of course. Wikipedia controls over trolls and vandals are too lenient. This is a step in the right directioin. RickK 18:25, Aug 23, 2004 (UTC)
  9. Angela. There's no point having a no personal attacks policy if it is not enforceable.
  10. 24-hour blocks for continued attacks after a warning are presently working quite well against the egregious - David Gerard 21:06, 23 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  11. Jallan 21:22, 23 Aug 2004 (UTC) The current policy as applied is to not make too many personal attacks against the wrong people in the wrong places. Either change the written policy to fit what is actually happening or enforce it. The same goes for other unenforced mock policies.
  12. I suppose sysops only can ban users when they do a personal attack listed under "Specific examples of personal attack include:" in Wikipedia:No personal attacks. --Conti| 23:17, Aug 23, 2004 (UTC)
  13. Fred Bauder 01:02, Aug 24, 2004 (UTC)
  14. Ambi 01:40, 24 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  15. Asiananimal 04:33, Aug 24, 2004 We can't tollerate personal attacks, there is potential for slander suits agenst Wikipedia
  16. JamesMLane 01:56, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC) Although I understand the concerns expressed by those voting against, I favor going ahead with the proposal to see what actually happens. After a few months, the policy could be abandoned, tweaked, or retained, in light of experience with it.
  17. Sean Curtin 04:40, Aug 25, 2004 (UTC) For the time being, at least.
  18. [[User:Brettz9|Brettz9 (talk)]] 05:24, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC) Everything depends on basic courtesy.
  19. Andris 07:31, Aug 25, 2004 (UTC)
  20. Jimbo Wales 15:09, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC) I agree with JamesMLane regarding the notion that we should try this temporarily. The problem of potential sysop abuse should be handled separately and should not hold up the adoption of policies that we desperately need today. Indeed, if this policy change leads to more cases of sysop abuse, then this will presumably be effective in driving the development of formal sysop-discipline policies as a counterbalance. I vote here as an ordinary user, this is not a decree.
  21. BCorr|Брайен 20:33, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC) Yes -- let's give this a try and evaluate its effectiveness and consequences in about three months.
  22. Jordan Langelier 22:23, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  23. And let those who abuse this policy be dealt with. - Fennec (はさばくのきつね)
  24. Danny 01:24, 26 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  25. sannse (talk) 11:30, 26 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  26. Michael Snow 20:37, 26 Aug 2004 (UTC) Support a trial run, with emphasis on authorizing blocks only after repeated personal attacks, and only by an admin with no personal involvement. For future consideration, would prefer limiting all such blocks to 24 hours at a time.
  27. olderwiser 20:51, 26 Aug 2004 (UTC)Support, cautiously. The potential for sysop abuse is a concern, but I think uncivil behavior is a bigger problem for a project like Wikipedia that relies on a community of volunteer editors working cooperatatively in good faith.
  28. Twinxor 02:35, 27 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  29. — Matt 03:14, 27 Aug 2004 (UTC); reasoning similar to, e.g., Bkonrad's comment above.
  30. Nunh-huh 00:29, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC); no policy is perfect but this one seems likely to improve Wikipedia's editing environment.
  31. Antandrus 23:10, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC) --After much thought. It's not perfect but it would probably help. How about implementing it for a month, and then putting it up for review to see if it worked for everyone?
  32. Solver 00:10, 29 Aug 2004 (UTC) - Support, sysops are there because they're trusted, and will do more good this way. Personal attacks can scare people away from wikipedia, and uncivil behaviour in general will probably be limited more that way. If a sysop wants to abuse the system, he can always do so anyway.
  33. Kevin Baas | talk 17:42, 2004 Aug 29 (UTC) - Enforcement of policy on wikipedia is currently way too lax. When assanine, stubborn, and just plain crass behavior is given a place in debate against reasoned argument, there's a serious problem.
  34. LegCircus
  35. uc 23:40, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  36. cherry_scented 11:28, Sep 4, 2004 (UTC) - I'm new here, but definitely in support of this idea.


  1. Blocking/banning for personal attacks is a power of the Arbitration Committee, no one has demonstrated that personal attacks are so common as to require immediate punishment by sysops, and granting this power to sysops significantly changes the reponsibilities of the sysop role: not all those I trust to block vandals necessarily exercise the calm deliberation required to play judge in cases of personal attack. In other words, this is a solution in search of a problem that can lead to abuses of power, and for those reasons, I oppose. -- orthogonal 12:02, 22 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  2. I don't believe this is the right method. Too much power for sysops, not enough fairness in enforcement, too many potential problems. [[User:Meelar|Meelar (talk)]] 16:22, 2004 Aug 23 (UTC)
  3. Agree with Meelar, the wording isn't right, to much power to the sysops. --Dittaeva 17:44, 23 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  4. Too vague, and so open to abuse. Some work required. James F. (talk) 18:56, 23 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  5. There is way to much subjective judgement in personal atacks for it delt with in this manner Geni 19:10, 23 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  6. If I have a disagreement with a sysop, what's there in preventing him from blocking me for any flimsy case? nichalp|Talk 19:47, Aug 23, 2004 (UTC)
  7. Repeated intemperate and inappropriate use of blocks so far persuades me that this is unwise until there's some prior review system for it in place. If it really meant "sysops" plural, instead of "a single sysop acting alone", that would be a different matter. Jamesday 20:41, 23 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  8. My problem is that we're immediately hit with the problem of interpretation. In the old days, sexual harassment juries used to listen on the side of the speaker. "When I told her she had great tits, I meant it as a compliment." Then we moved over to siding with the recipient. "When he said I looked nice, it made me think I was only valuable as a sexual object, and he should be fired." The same is true of insults. We have to determine intention, and that's impossible without community consensus. I.e. I do not agree that an Administrator should be able to make the call, whether it is the target of the personal attack or not. The only way we can determine intention is by relying upon community code, and that means a panel of deliberators. In other words, ArbCom. We may well have problems with ArbCom's speed and with the amount of work it takes to get an action heard, but that is a problem with the particular group of Wikipedians and not with the process design. I agree that personal attacks should be a grounds for a ban, but only on repetition, and only when determined by a group. We can't allow someone to say, "Well, whatever he said, I heard it as a personal attack" nor someone say, "When I called him a sh*thead, I meant it in fun," and the only way out is with a committee. Geogre 01:02, 24 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  9. Since cases are all different, and could be seen in different ways by different people, I don't think giving the power for sysops to act alone on issues like this would be appropriate, so I oppose this proposition as is. Darksun 17:16, 24 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  10. While strengthening of the enforcement is a good idea IMO, this proposal isn't a good one. For one thing, several recent personal attacks have been made by sysops. This particular measure will just make things worse IMO. Andrewa 17:45, 24 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  11. Proposal gives too much leeway to sysops in determining when to block for personal attacks. I've seen people point to the "no personal attacks" rule even in the slightest of cases. We don't want wikipedia to become a police state. Siroxo 20:41, Aug 24, 2004 (UTC)
  12. A general sysop accountability policy is needed first. Gzornenplatz 15:16, Aug 25, 2004 (UTC)
  13. I agree with General Patton's neutral vote. In theory, this is a very nice policy. In addition, I have faith in our administrators. However, I think that the policy is rather vaguely worded. At the worst, an administrator with a vendetta against a user or one simply angered by what he or she views as personal attacks and/or disruption of the Wikipedia can block a user and justify this action under an interpretation of the policy. The main problem is that, unlike vandalism, personal attacks are very subjective. Hypothetically, someone could make a joking reference to Godwin's law on a user's Talk page, and the user, whose grandparents were killed in the Holocaust, may take this as a personal attack and ask for a ban, when in reality there was no malicious intent on the part of the first user. I would support a rewritten version of this policy with specific limits upon bans and other measures, and a requirement for some sort of consensus that a user's comments constitute a personal attack before action is taken. I also think that the threshold for taking a case to the ArbCom should be established. After how many attacks/bans should a user be taken to ArbCom for a longer ban and/or other measures? Can a user remain banned under this policy for continuing to engage in personal attacks while ArbCom is considering his or her case? --Slowking Man 05:28, Aug 26, 2004 (UTC)
  14. Blocking is a harsh measure and should be used sparingly and not without arbitration, but for the most blatant cases. Also, provision must be made against paranoia: an admin who is trigger-happy must be held accountable as well. Mikkalai 00:26, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  15. I do not believe a user should, or can be, blocked from the entire Wikipedia because of an arguement or contest with a single user or groups of users. --Oldak Quill 03:06, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  16. There is absolutely no reason to have a block for more than 24 hours imposed by a single person. anthony (see warning) 03:09, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  17. The Blocking policy states: "Specific examples of personal attack include: Negative personal comments". This can be interpreted to include almost any comment on another user's behaviour, even if justified. Thus this policy could potentially open the door wide-open to admin abuse, especially if a single admin is free to make this decision (although I am convinced that the large majority of admins would of course not do this). We need an effective way of making admins accountable to Wikipedians first. Other than that, I think this is a good and important policy. I will vote in favour of this policy once a simple and effective way to hold admins to account is in place (such as Wikipedia:Administrators/Administrator_Accountability_Policy) - pir 09:37, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  18. Taku 13:25, Aug 28, 2004 (UTC)
  19. Perhaps if the Sysops are comprised only of thoughtful, self-disciplined, emotionally self-contolled persons and the blocks were imposed in 1,2 or three day units only... Other than that, I'd say probbaly not. Rex071404 15:07, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  20. Our current policy is good enough for me.--Plato 22:59, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  21. Too risky. --Nanshu 06:45, 29 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  22. Blocking should be used only for vandalism. Personality-related issues should be negotiated or sent to ArbCom. Zocky 23:26, 29 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  23. The passionate writing and discussion I have found on Wikipedia will be stifled by sysops running around banning talk that gets too heated. The idea of banning users is something I would expect if a school was running this site, but the optimist in me says that we're all grownups around here, and the realist in me says that this ain't no church social. Please leave this forum as open and inviting as I found it. One man's passion is another's offense. --DV 12:53, 30 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  24. This sounds like a strikingly bad idea. RSpeer 17:33, Aug 30, 2004 (UTC)
  25. I fall in with the Nays on this one. Sounds like too much power to the sysops, for a project of this size and scope. I feel strongly that we have to accept some degree of abuse in a project aimed at recording all human knowledge, lest it be less than human. MasterDirk 23:19, 31 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  26. We need to be more concerned about users who "attack" articles as opposed to users whose language can be curmudgeonly from time to time. 172 02:59, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)


  1. I consider this proposal too vague, thus open for all kinds of abuse. I agree on all the points, but I’d add an abuse safeguard policy that the block can only be enforced for more than 24 hours if four or more admins agree, as well that the block can’t be enforced for more than 24 hours if four or more admins disagree. Also, the maximum duration of the block should be defined and certainly no more than one week. For everything longer the Arbcom should be used. GeneralPatton 00:11, 23 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  2. Personal attacks are bad. I would support this policy if:
    1. the maximum blocking time was reduced to a maximum of 1 day for first time offenders and only upto a week for repeat offenders and
    2. No block should be enforced without a warning and an attempt to calm the discussion first. Erich 06:08, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC)
    • I agree with Erich, in that I would support this policy if the maximum block was reduced to 24 hours. anthony (see warning) 13:28, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  3. Prior to a "block" being imposed, a "pre-block dialog" page for the potential offendee should be set-up as a safe place to air comments. Perhaps if the concerns of the upset person were heard, the "attacks" would cease Rex071404 15:10, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC
    1. Excellent point. Better to find a compromise and heal strife than punish and increase bitterness. -- orthogonal 20:37, 28 Aug 2 (UTC)
    2. As phrased, that just sounds like appeasement and encouragement - David Gerard 16:19, 29 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  4. Wikipedia:No personal attacks needs teeth that don't take a month to act, yes, so some mechanism of swift enforcement would be beneficial. However I agree with Siroxo's comment above; this policy has too much room for abuse. The unavoidable unpleasantness of cliques and alliances makes the restriction on using one's powers in one's own disputes effectively hollow, though with checks like those GeneralPatton suggests, this would not be such a problem—questionable blocks could easily be undone. I am also concerned with unjustified threats being used as tools of intimidation, as recently happened in a flap over Wikipedia:Administrators/Administrator Accountability Policy. The user threatened there was a veteran sysop and knew he could safely ignore the threat, but a new user who was unfamiliar with policy might not be so lucky. That kind of abuse could have a real chilling effect, and since it is not logged as publicly as blocking and deletion, the only way to correct it would be to have another, savvier user notice it and point out its emptiness. —No-One Jones 19:36, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC)
    1. One notes a further irony: the sysops making the threats (in order to, in the words of one of the threateners, to "scare" another user from editing a page) are the number 1 and number 2 signers in support of this blocking policy. The worry that this policy night be abused seems less far-fetch in light of this. -- orthogonal 20:43, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  5. I am afraid that this policy will not be used in the same manner for all. It would be nice if there would be a public poll so everyone could decide if the attack was ban-worth instead of one person blocking users however it wishes. It sounds like it starts to lean to stallinist methods in some future policies. Altough I was attacked several times and been called an idiot and cunt I would like to see no "drveni advokat" syndrom. The third party shouldn`t join and block if it was not invited to do it. Only if affected user complains, blocks should be used.[[User:Avala|Avala|]] 09:05, 30 Aug 2004 (UTC)
    Excellent point. Heated debates often include intemperate remarks from all participants, and politicized selective prosecution (where sysops block only the users with whom they disagree) could easily be a problem under this policy. —No-One Jones 01:15, 31 Aug 2004 (UTC)
    That's a ridiculously stupid argument, Avala. The third party shouldn`t join and block if it was not invited to do it. That's like saying if a policeman comes across two people preparing to duel with guns, that he shouldn't stop it because no-one asked him to. We have a policy here. A law, if you will. Personal attacks are NOT tolerated. Period. blankfaze | (беседа!) 23:11, 31 Aug 2004 (UTC)
    I would like this policy to be tried on blanfaze because he wrote "That's a ridiculously stupid argument, Avala." which offeneded me and I think it is personal attacks if someone calls my thoughts "ridiculously stupid" [[User:Avala|Avala|]] 20:10, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)


Considering the importance of this vote and the fact that so far only about 50 users have voted, a number that even some RfA’s surpass, and this policy is orders of magnitude more important, I suggest that the voting be extended until 00:00 UTC September 1st. GeneralPatton 03:49, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC)

  • I concur. blankfaze | (беседа!) 05:25, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  • I have no objection to this, but I do not feel it would be appropriate for me to extend it myself. Snowspinner 05:37, Aug 28, 2004 (UTC)
  • As there is not going to be a consensus shown in this particular poll, I don't see the point of extending the vote. Fix the policy to address the dissent, and try again. anthony (see warning) 13:31, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC)
    • I feel this issue is too important to be decided by just 55 votes. GeneralPatton 23:03, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC)
      • Well, whatever, I don't object to extending the poll. I just think it's pointless. anthony (see warning) 15:24, 29 Aug 2004 (UTC)
  • I concr that the vote should be extended. Kevin Baas | talk 18:30, 2004 Aug 29 (UTC)
  • Considering that I just learned about this poll about 15 minutes ago, it might be useful to extend it a couple of days. Or advertise it better: I've been depending on a notice at Special:Recentchanges, which has only listed a trivial poll for the last few weeks. (Some of us don't poke down every possible path in Wikipedia every day, & as the structure changes/evolves, we find that the places we to look to for news quietly go silent & are unaware when new ones are created.) -- llywrch 20:27, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
    • Very good point, llywrch. What sort of extension and advertising do you suggest? (I hope if we extend we also advertise, because it's becoming clear that extending without advertising isn't working.) -- orthogonal 23:45, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)

  • Hypothetical question for the proponents of this policy: would calling another user "an asshole" constitute a personal attack, and if the proposed blocking policy passes, would you block a user for it? If so, for how long would you block him? -- orthogonal 20:35, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC)
    • Yes, it would (and does at current) constitute a personal attack
    • Not on the first offence... I'd warn the offender, just as I would in a case of vandalism, then if the user made another personal attack, I would block him/her for 24 hours. Users need to understand that personal attacks are not tolerated on Wikipedia. Unfortunately, the system we have now (slap on the wrist, or RfC/Arbcom after about 1000 personal attacks) just isn't working. blankfaze | (беседа!) 07:23, 29 Aug 2004 (UTC)
      • First, thank you for your intellectually honest answer (blankfaze knew I was making reference to his having referred to another user an "asshole", and to his credit blankfaze didn't let himself off the hook). Second, how long does the warning last? I assume you wouldn't immediately block a user you'd first warned a month ago for a second attack a month latter? But what about a user warned a week ago? Yesterday? And, I apologize if I'm making you too much of an example, but what about blocking sysops, such as yourself, who can unblock themselves? -- orthogonal 01:33, 31 Aug 2004 (UTC)
        • Heh. Yeah. I regret making that attack. I was pissed off but that is no excuse and I shouldn't have erred in judgement so. Me, personally, warnings should last about 24 hours, no more. Certaintly not a month! As far as sysops go, blocking is ineffective, as they can unblock yourself. If an admin is making personal attacks, there's not much that can be done at present. However, if Wikipedia:Administrators/Administrator Accountability Policy passes, then such actions have consequences... blankfaze | (беседа!) 02:05, 31 Aug 2004 (UTC)
          • Huh. I'd been assuming that a sysop who unblocked himself would be somehow punished. But you're right, this policy (in the absence of additional policies) only realistically applies to non-sysops. Wow. -- orthogonal 02:08, 31 Aug 2004 (UTC)
            • That's an overstatement. A sysop who's blocked under this policy, then self-unblocks, is not in anything like the same situation as someone who's never been blocked. The whole incident would be available as part of a pattern of conduct by the sysop. (I agree that a sysop who slipped once, got blocked, and self-unblocked, but was otherwise not a creator of problems, would effectively suffer no consequences, but that's a minor defect I can live with.) JamesMLane 19:05, 31 Aug 2004 (UTC)
              • Slipped once? But I thought we weren't blocking until after a warning is given? So that's what, attack, warning, attack, block, self-unblock for a sysop, and attack, warning, attack, 24 to 168 hour block for a non-sysop. And, there's the possibility that out of some form of "professional courtesy" a sysop would be more reluctant to block or more likely to cut a break for, a fellow sysop. I mean, how many cops get traffic tickets? The problem with this is even if it's mere perception that sysops get a better break, that will increase tensions between the sysop class and the "plebs", leading to more accusations about cliques and cabals. I'm not trying to be difficult, I'm trying to argue that this policy is so vague and so open to both abuse and loopholes, and to subjective interpretation, as to be unworkable. Even if it works flawlessly, people are going to wonder if it's fairly applied. Any sense that it's not -- as sysops being able to self-unblock -- will add to the enmity, the enmity which this policy is meant to decrease. -- orthogonal 19:18, 31 Aug 2004 (UTC)
    • I hear marketing and sales folks calling each other "asshole" all the time, and it just slides right off. The answer for offensive speech is always more speech. I am inspired by the great efforts of the folks who clean up vandalism around here. But this notion of name calling being a "personal attack" is political correctness run amuck. If someone attacks me for no good reason, they just make themselves look bad to everyone else. But if I did something stupid or wrong, and someone is angry about it, I'll take my lumps while they call me a few choice words, and then I'll move on. I have strong beliefs about this because I've seen the corrosive effects of restraint of speech too many times, and it would be a shame if the open and inviting environment Wikipedia offers to authors were to be lost. --DV 13:02, 30 Aug 2004 (UTC)
      I more than understand your concerns about free speech. The idea is to provide a policy that will protect against excessive badmouthing. Some people really dislike being called names. Normally it should suffice to ask an offender to take his words back, and in vast majority of cases people come to their senses. The idea would be to provide a policy against people who persist in offense, after being asked not to do so. Here comes the clash between the freedom of speech and the right to be left alone. There is a good deal of grey zone here. Therefore a significant grey zone must be left in the policy, not to overstrike in any direction.
      There are two diametral ways to deal with a rude person: to immediately slam him down or to politely explain you don't like the attitude. I have reasons to believe that at least in the environment of wikipedia the latter way ultimately increases the number of polite people. Really obnoxious people are seldom good contributors. And real trolls have been identified so far without much effort. Mikkalai 20:33, 31 Aug 2004 (UTC)
      • Thanks for your reply Mikkalai. I think there is a third way to deal with a rude person. Roll your eyes, ignore him or her, and move on. This notion of a "personal attack" is a "I know it when I see it" kind of thing, leading to endless arguments over whether a criticism is legitimate or not. Rather than creating a black hole, that sucks in all available time that folks could be using to edit and create new articles, I encourage those folks who find each other offensive to simply ignore the other, and move on.
        It's startling to see some of the strange bedfellows as I look through the user pages of some of the folks who are voting for and against this policy, so there will be no easy detente. Nevertheless, the answer for offensive speech is always more speech, or it is all too easy for the powerful to suppress the weak. Thanks for your thoughts, Mikkalai. --DV 05:35, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)