Wikipedia:Conflict of interest/draft

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Further discussion should be directed to WT:COI
The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

For clearer advice for editors who might have a conflict of interest, see Wikipedia:Plain and simple conflict of interest guide.

{{subcat guideline|behavioral guideline|Conflict of interest|WP:COI|WP:CONFLICT}}

A conflict of interest (COI) exists on Wikipedia when an editor has an outside relationship (personal or financial) that could affect their primary role of furthering the interests of Wikipedia. Whether an editor has a conflict of interest is judged in terms of his or her external relationships. If you love the colour blue, you are encouraged to write about it on Wikipedia, but if you are being paid to promote the colour blue, you are not.[1] Conflict of interest editing occurs when advancing outside interests is more important to an editor than advancing the aims of Wikipedia. Editing in areas where you have a conflict of interest strongly discouraged.

COI editing includes contributing to Wikipedia to advance your own interests or those of other individuals, organizations, or groups in which you have a vested interest. When editors disrupt the encyclopedia through violation of policies such as neutral point of view and what Wikipedia is not their accounts may be blocked. Inappropriate conflict of interest editing also risks causing public embarrassment for the individuals and groups being promoted. Editing in the interests of public relations is particularly frowned upon. This includes, edits made by public relations departments of corporations, governments; for-profit and not-for-profit organizations; and by editors paid to edit with the intent of improving that organization's image. Wikipedia is a very public forum, and news of what occurs here is frequently reported in the media. "Anything you say here and anything you do here can have real world consequences." See: Wikipedia is in the real world

Editors should disclose their conflict of interest if they edit articles in related areas. Editors who edit in areas where they have a conflict of interest are subject to increased scrutiny, but the existence of a conflict of interest does not in itself imply that the editor in question has already violated our policies. When investigating cases of conflict of interest editing, Wikipedians must be careful not to reveal the identity of other editors. Wikipedia's policy against harassment takes precedence over this conflict of interest guideline. The editors' behavior and trust-related tools can be used to evidence conflict of interest or other editorial abuse which avoids the need to formally identify the user. An editor's conflict of interest is often revealed when that editor discloses a relationship to the subject of the article to which the editor is contributing. Editors with a conflict of interest that edit in a way to promote their outside interest may be blocked.

Advice for editors with a conflict of interest[edit]

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a vanity press nor a forum for advertising and promoting yourself or your ideas.

Editing in areas where you have a conflict of interest strongly discouraged. If you wish to edit responsibly you are strongly encouraged to follow Wikipedia policies and best practices scrupulously. You are also encouraged to disclose your interest on your user pages and also on the talk page of the related articles you are editing, and to request others' views, particularly if those edits may be contested. Most Wikipedians will appreciate your honesty.

Wikipedia is "the encyclopedia that anyone can edit," but if you have a conflict of interest, we have some advice for minimizing problems:

  1. Avoid editing or exercise great caution when editing articles related to you, your organization, or its competitors, as well as projects and products they are involved with
    Why we recommend this: When people are very close to a subject, their view of it might be distorted, despite the best will in the world. Their closeness might cause them to see the subject in a more (or less) flattering light than the independent, reliable sources do. Wikipedia wants to reflect the sources' views, not the personal views of individual editors.
  2. Avoid advocating deletion of articles related to your competitors at deletion discussions
    Why we recommend this: Everyone is encouraged to identify independent, reliable sources that might be useful for building an article, even for your own company or competitors. People close to a subject often know more about the available sources for the subject than anyone else. However, advocating against the articles about your competitors might be seen as unfair, especially if you do it "secretly" (without disclosing that you are connected to the subject).
  3. Avoid linking to the Wikipedia article, your own user subspace, or a website of your organization from other articles (see Wikipedia:Spam)
    Why we recommend this: Wikipedia benefits when people build the web between articles and provide links to external resources. However, Wikipedia also needs to prevent inappropriate promotional behaviors and spam masquerading as citations. People who are close to a subject may consider these links more important than they actually are.
  4. Avoid breaching relevant policies and guidelines, especially neutral point of view, verifiability, and autobiography.
    Why we recommend this: Compliance with the content policies is mandatory for everyone, not just users with a connection to the subject. However, people who are close to a subject are more likely to accidentally breach these policies. Therefore, the community encourages them to be particularly careful.

Any changes that might be seen as controversial or not strictly neutral should be first suggested on the relevant talk page or noticeboard. Before committing time or undertaking an agreement to write, you may also wish to seek advice before starting any new article in order to confirm it is suitable. It is also advisable to take similar care on subjects where you do not have a conflict of interest but do hold strong views or have a significant involvement.

Proposal controversial edits first
Those who feel the need to make controversial edits, in spite of a real or perceived conflict of interest, are strongly encouraged to not edit articles directly, and to instead submit proposed edits for review on the article's talk page along with a {{Request edit}} tag to attract users to review the edit, or to file a request for comment.

To request a new article, you can present your idea on the talk page of a relevant article or WikiProject. If you do write an article on an area in which you are personally involved, be sure to write in a neutral tone and cite reliable, third-party, independent published sources, and beware of unintentional bias. Neutral point of view is one of Wikipedia's five pillars.

If other editors suggest that your editing violates Wikipedia's standards, take that advice seriously and consider stepping back, reassessing your edits, and discussing your intentions with the community. In particular, consider whether you are editing tendentiously.

Protecting yourself from defamation[edit]

Because Wikipedia has a strong policy to protect living people, unsupported defamatory material appearing in articles may be removed at once. Anyone may do this, and should do this, and this applies widely to any unsourced or poorly sourced, potentially libelous posting. An entire article that presents as an attack piece or hostile journalism can be nominated for speedy deletion and will be removed promptly from the site.

This does not extend to the removal of well-sourced negative information regarding a person or organization that is supported by citations and otherwise compliant with our policies.

Declaring an interest[edit]

Editors with a conflict of interest are strongly encouraged—but not actually required—to declare their interests, both on their user pages and on the talk page of the related article they are editing, particularly if their edits may be contested. Editors who disguise their conflict of interests are often exposed, creating a perception that they, and perhaps their employer, are trying to distort Wikipedia. When someone voluntarily discloses a conflict of interest, other editors should always assume the editor is trying to do the right thing. Do not use a voluntarily disclosed conflict of interest as a weapon against the editor.

Reasons to declare an interest[edit]

  • You will benefit from the assumption of good faith. Most editors will appreciate your honesty and try to help you edit in a way that is compatible with our content policies.
  • You lay the basis for requesting help from others to post material for you, or to review material you wish to post yourself.
  • Professional public relations firms may be required to abide by code of ethics, such as the GA code of ethics or PRSA code of ethics.

Disadvantages of undeclared conflict of interest editing[edit]

  • If your conflict of interest is discovered, all of your contributions will be subject to intense scrutiny. If your edits are found to violate our content policies, they will be reverted.
  • Although other editors are not allowed to reveal your identity, they may come to understand who you are, and may realize that you are gaming the system.
  • People outside Wikipedia, such as reporters, may uncover your conflict of interest editing, and may generate negative publicity for you or your company. Wikipedia cannot prevent outsiders from discovering and revealing your identity.

Reasons NOT to declare an interest[edit]

  • Do not publicly declare an interest if this could put you at harm in the real world, e.g., from stalkers.
  • Please read WP:REALNAME. Some conflict of interest declarations have the effect of announcing your real name (e.g., the sole author of a book cannot simultaneously identify himself as the author and prevent editors from knowing his real name).

If you have an undisclosed conflict of interest, then any changes that might be seen as controversial or not strictly neutral should be first suggested on the relevant talk page or noticeboard.

Example of a disclosure[edit]

  • This disclosure note shows how a user who wishes to edit on behalf of a topic to which they are closely connected can request help from other editors.

Consequences of ignoring this guideline[edit]

Wikipedia's Law of Unintended Consequences

If you write in Wikipedia about yourself, your group, your company, or your pet idea, once the article is created, you have no rights to control its content, and no right to delete it outside our normal channels. Content is irrevocably added with every edit, and once added will not be deleted just because the author doesn't like it anymore. Any editor has the right to add or remove material to the article within the terms of our content policies. If there is anything publicly available on a topic that you would not want included in an article, it will probably find its way there eventually. More than one user has created an article only to find themselves presented in a poor light long-term by other editors. If you breach our editing policies or "edit war" in an attempt to obtain a version of your liking you are likely to have your editing access removed.

In addition, if your article is found to not be worthy of inclusion in the first place, it will be deleted, as per our deletion policies. Therefore, do not create promotional or other articles lightly, especially on subjects you care about.


Anything you say and do on Wikipedia can have real world consequences. conflict of interest editing is routinely exposed and can be reported adversely in the media. All edits are on the public record and remain so indefinitely. You do not control articles and others may delete them, keep them, or add information that would have remained little-known. While Wikipedians generally avoid naming editors and their employers, other media routinely do. This has led at times to extreme media embarrassment for the company or organization, dismissal (firing) of those at fault, and at times even court actions or charges, if done in a work or professional context. Editing in the interests of public relations (other than obvious corrections) is particularly frowned upon. This includes, but is not limited to, professionals paid to create or edit Wikipedia articles. Wikipedia is a very public forum, and news of attempts to improperly influence Wikipedia are frequently reported in the media.

Contributions where conflict of interest is less of a concern[edit]

Editors who may have a conflict of interest may add material that accords with the Photographs and media files or Subject and culture sector professionals and other sections below, and are allowed to make certain kinds of non-controversial edits, such as:

  1. Deleting defamatory or other content that violates Wikipedia's biography of living persons policy.
  2. Removing spam and reverting vandalism.
  3. Fixing spelling and grammar errors.
  4. Reverting or removing their own conflict of interest edits. Cleaning up your own mess is allowed and encouraged.
  5. Making edits that have been agreed to on the talk page.
  6. Adding citations, especially when another editor has requested them.

If another editor objects for any reason, then it's a controversial edit. Such edits should be discussed on the article's talk page.

Photographs and media files[edit]

Wikimedia Commons encourages parties with potential conflicts of interest to upload digital media files, such as photographs, illustrations, audio files, and video clips, so long as the media is of good quality, is in a format we use, and the copyright holder is willing to do so under one of the free licenses we accept.

While Commons prefers full resolution media, reduced resolution images are acceptable when the copyright owner is unwilling to freely license a full quality image. See Commons:Welcome for detailed requirements.

Once media files are uploaded to Commons, they can then be incorporated into Wikipedia articles where appropriate. The best approach is to mention the availability of the image or media files on the article's talk page. But it is usually acceptable to edit the article directly to add one or two images that illustrate the existing article content, e.g. adding a publicity mug shot to the biography of a performing artist (but only if it's available under a free license).

Subject and culture sector professionals[edit]

Museum curators, librarians, archivists, art historians, heritage interpreters, conservators, documentation managers, subject specialists, and managers of a special collection (or similar profession) are encouraged to use their knowledge to help improve Wikipedia, or to share their information with Wikipedia in the form of links to their resources.

Wikipedia prefers the addition of content using reliable sources. If a link cannot be used to expand an article, the link may be placed under further reading or external links providing the link complies with the external links guideline and is not covered by any of the points under links to avoid. Keep in mind that Wikipedia is not a mirror or a repository of links, images, or media files.

Don't create a shared organizational account and don't use the name of the organization in the account name: the account is yours, not your employer's. It is recommended, but not required, that such editors to declare their affiliation on their user pages.

When in doubt, first suggest the addition of the link on the talk page of the article, or discuss the addition with an appropriate WikiProject. For more information, see Advice for the cultural sector.

Short user page autobiographies[edit]

Established contributors may use their user subspace to publish short autobiographies within the bounds of good taste and compatible with the purpose of working on the encyclopedia. If you wish to write about yourself without working on the encyclopedia, consider starting a website or a blog instead. Wikipedia is not a free webhost.

Citing oneself[edit]

Editing in an area in which you have professional or academic expertise is not, in itself, a conflict of interest. Using material you yourself have written or published is allowed within reason, but only if it is relevant and conforms to the content policies, particularly WP:SELFPUB. Excessive self-citation is strongly discouraged. When in doubt, defer to the community's opinion. In any case, citations should be in the third person and should not place undue emphasis on your work, giving proper due to the work of others as in a review article.

Detecting problematic conflicts of interest[edit]

There are no firm criteria to determine whether an editor is engaging in inappropriate editing as a result of a conflict of interest, but there are warning signs. Adding material that appears to promote the interests or visibility of an article's author, its author's family members, employer, associates, or their business or personal interests, is a sign that an editor is motivated by a conflict of interest. When editors write to promote their own interests, their contributions often show a characteristic lack of connection to anything the general reader might want to consult as a reference. Frequently, problems resulting from conflicts of interest are more clearly exhibited by single purposes accounts, as well-established editors are more likely to be familiar with our content policies.

Dealing with edits apparently motivated by a conflict of interest[edit]

Suspected conflict of interest incidents may be reported on the conflict of interest noticeboard (WP:COIN) for additional scrutiny, and new users may be warned with the {{uw-coi}} user warning template. Warning templates should not be used to warn well-established editors.

Conflicts of interest often raise questions as to whether material should be included in the encyclopedia or not. A conflict of interest is not a reason to delete an article, though other problems with the article arising from a conflict of interest may be valid criteria for deletion.

All text created in the Wikipedia main namespace is subject to rules covering criteria for articles (what Wikipedia is not); encyclopedic quality (verifiability and original research); editorial approach (neutral point of view); as well as the Wikipedia copyright policy. All editors are expected to stick closely to these policies when creating and evaluating material, and to respect the good faith actions of others who edit content to ensure it complies with these policies.

Who has written the material should be irrelevant so long as these policies are closely adhered to. The imputation of conflict of interest is not by itself a good reason to remove sound material from articles. However, an apparent conflict of interest is a good reason for close review by the community to identify any subtle bias. Where an article is about something obviously notable, but was written in a very biased way, it is often possible to reduce the article to basic identifying information, and then neutral editors can help improve the article.

Underlying conflicts of interest may aggravate editorial disagreements regarding content policies. In this scenario, it may be easy to make claims about an editor's conflict of interest. Claims of a conflict of interest should not be used in an attempt to discredit editors in a content dispute. When conflicts exist, invite the conflicted editor to contribute to the article talk page, and give their views fair consideration.

During debates at articles for deletion, disparaging comments may fly about the subject of the article/author and the author's motives. These may border on forbidden personal attacks, and may discourage the article's creator from making future valuable contributions. Avoid using the word "vanity" or similar judgmental terms—this is accusatory and discouraging. It is not helpful, nor a good reason to delete an article. Assuming good faith, start from the idea that the contributor was genuinely trying to help increase Wikipedia's coverage.


Dealing with suspected conflicted editors[edit]

The first approach should be direct discussion of the issue with the editor, referring to this guideline. If persuasion fails, consider whether you are involved in a content dispute. If so, an early recourse to dispute resolution may help. Another option is to initiate discussion at WP:COIN, where experienced editors may be able to help you resolve the matter without recourse to publishing assertions and accusations on Wikipedia. Using conflict of interest allegations to harass an editor or to gain the upper hand in a content dispute is prohibited, and can result in a block or ban.

Wikipedia places importance on both the neutrality of articles and the ability of editors to edit pseudonymously. Do not out an editor's real life identity in order to prove a conflict of interest. Wikipedia's policy against harassment prohibits this. Conflict of interest situations are usually revealed when the editor themself discloses a relationship to the subject that they are editing. In case the editor does not identify themself or their affiliation, reference to the neutral point of view policy may help counteract biased editing.

If a problematic conflict of interest is confirmed, relevant article talk pages may be tagged with {{Connected contributor}}, the article page may be tagged with {{COI}}, and/or the user may be warned via {{Uw-coi}}.

Blocks[edit]

Accounts that appear, based on their editing history, to be single-purpose accounts that exist for the sole or primary purpose of promoting an outside interest, should be warned and made aware of this guideline. If the same pattern of editing continues after the warning, the account may be blocked.

How not to handle problematic conflict of interests[edit]

There is a little drama that is enacted more often than it should be.

  • Act One: Someone writes a hatchet job about a company with a less-than-stellar reputation.
  • Act Two: The company arrives, and is (justifiably) horrified and angered by the hatchet job. It responds without experience, clumsily, by trying to whitewash the article.
  • Act Three: Self-righteous Wikipedian responds in anger against the attempt to "censor" or "whitewash" by yelling at the company, and forcing the article back to hatchet job status.
  • Act Four: Company complains to the volunteer response team and the office.
  • Act Five: In the happy version of the ending, OTRS/the office comes in and reminds everyone to act with love and neutrality to write a good article which is acceptable to both reasonable critics and reasonable supporters of the company ... reliance on solid sources, neutral language, etc., carries the day.

In reality, Act Five often ends up cycling back through Acts One through Four. This is a Bad Thing.

Remember: an editor with a self-evident interest in the matter turning up on the talk page is an indication that they are playing it straight. Even if the changes they advocate are hopelessly biased, treat them with respect and courtesy, refer to policy and sources, and be fair.

Common conflicts of interest[edit]

Financial[edit]

If you fit either of these descriptions:

  1. you are receiving monetary or other benefits or considerations to edit Wikipedia as a representative of an organization (whether directly as an employee or contractor of that organization, or indirectly as an employee or contractor of a firm hired by that organization for public relations purposes); or
  2. you expect to derive monetary or other benefits or considerations from editing Wikipedia; for example, by being an owner, officer, or other stakeholder of a company or other organization about which you are writing;

then you are very strongly discouraged from editing Wikipedia in areas where there is a conflict of interest that may make your edits non-neutral (biased). Wikipedia's neutral point of view policy states that all articles must represent views fairly and without bias, and conflicts of interest may significantly and negatively affect Wikipedia's ability to fulfill this requirement. If your financially motivated edits would be non-neutral, do not post them.

If you have a financial interest in a topic (either as an employee, owner or other stakeholder), you are advised to provide full disclosure of your connection, and to use the article talk pages to suggest changes (using the {{Request edit}} template to request edits), rather than editing articles directly. Requested edits will be subject to the same editorial standards by neutral editors (which means they are not guaranteed to be carried out) and will help avoid situations of advocacy and related problems.

Generally speaking, the Reward Board is an exception to the above cautions. There, you may derive monetary gain from editing Wikipedia, as these are usually rewards for featured or good article status which should not introduce bias. However, be wary of editors asking you to make specific edits that challenge your sense of neutral perspective, or to clean up a "hatchet job", as you may unwarily become their meatpuppet.

Autobiography[edit]

It is not recommended that you write an article about yourself. If you are notable, someone else will notice you and write the article. In some cases, Wikipedia users write articles about themselves when the more appropriate action would be to create a user page. In these cases, the article is normally moved into the user namespace rather than deleted. If you believe you may be notable enough, make your case on the appropriate talk pages, and seek consensus first, both regarding notability and any proposed autobiography.

Self-promotion[edit]

Conflict of interest often presents itself in the form of self-promotion, including advertising links, personal website links, personal or semi-personal photos, or other material that appears to promote the private or commercial interests of the editor, or their associates.

Examples of these types of material include:

  1. Links that appear to promote products by pointing to obscure or not particularly relevant commercial sites (commercial links).
  2. Links that appear to promote otherwise obscure individuals by pointing to their personal pages.
  3. Biographical material that does not significantly add to the clarity or quality of the article.

Close relationships[edit]

Friedrich Engels might have had difficulty editing the Karl Marx article neutrally, because he was a close friend, follower, and collaborator of Marx.[2] Any situation in which strong relationships can develop may trigger a conflict of interest. Conflict of interest can be personal, religious, political, academic, financial, and legal. It is not determined by area, but is created by relationships that involve a high level of personal commitment to, involvement with, or dependence upon a person, subject, idea, tradition, or organization.

Closeness to a subject does not mean you're incapable of being neutral, but it may incline you towards some bias. Be guided by the advice of other editors. If editors on a talk page suggest in good faith that you may have a conflict of interest, try to identify and minimize your biases, and consider withdrawing from editing the article. As a rule of thumb, the more involvement you have with a topic in real life, the more careful you should be with our core content policies—Wikipedia:Neutral point of view, Wikipedia:No original research, and Wikipedia:Verifiability—when editing in that area.

The definition of "too close" in this context is governed by common sense. An article about a little-known band should preferably not be written by the band's manager or a band member's spouse, and a biography should preferably not be written by the subject's spouse, parent, or offspring. However, an expert on a given subject is welcome to contribute to articles on that subject, even if that editor is deeply committed to the subject.

Campaigning[edit]

Activities regarded by insiders as simply "getting the word out" may appear promotional or propagandistic to the outside world. If you edit articles while involved with organizational or political campaigns that engage in advocacy in that area, you may have a conflict of interest.

Legal antagonists[edit]

If you are involved in a court case, or close to one of the litigants, you would find it very hard to demonstrate that what you wrote about a party or a law firm associated with the case, or a related area of law, was entirely objective. Even a minor slip-up in neutrality in a court-case article on Wikipedia for an active case-in-progress could potentially be noticed by the courts or their parties, and this could potentially cause real-world harm, not just harm to Wikipedia. Because of this, we strongly discourage editing when this type of conflict exists.

Related Projects[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ For a discussion of the importance of relationships in judging when a conflict of interest exists, see Michael Davis and Andrew Stark (eds.). Conflict of Interest in the Professions. Oxford University Press, 2001.
  2. ^ Isaiah Berlin:
    In his own lifetime Engels desired no better fate than to live in the light of Marx's teaching, perceiving in him a spring of original genius which gave life and scope to his own peculiar gifts; with him he identified himself and his work, to be rewarded by sharing in his master's immortality.
    From Berlin's Karl Marx, 4th edition, p. 75. This description covers several aspects of what it might be to stand too close to a subject.

Further reading[edit]


Conflict of interest/draft


The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.