Wikipedia:Information suppression

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

A proposed policy page specifically on POV suppression and source misrepresentation, which consensus to date indicates needs to have its own page. This has been discussed significantly on Talk:NPOV. This is an identifiable and significant issue within the neutral point of view, in the same way that Wikipedia:No personal attacks is a sub-issue within WP:CIVILITY. It clarifies and expands upon what exactly POV suppression means.

Information suppression

In Wikipedia, one of the most common forms of violating the NPOV policy is to selectively cite some information that supports one view whilst deleting or trivializing other information that opposes it. In this manner, one can completely misrepresent or conceal the full range of views on a subject whilst still complying with Wikipedia:Verifiability.

Some examples of how editors can accidentally or deliberately misrepresent a subject:

  • Biased or selective representation of sources, eg:
    • Explaining why evidence supports one view, but under-representing (even deleting) opposing views in order to make an opinion appear more accepted/rejected than it really is.
    • Making one's own opinion look superior by omitting points against it, comparing it instead with low quality arguments for other POV's (strawman tactics), or not presenting the other as best it can be.
    • Finding fault with some opposing evidence (usually the easiest to attack, and often not a neutral assessment), and using that (again as a strawman) to dismiss or ignore other (often stronger) evidence.
    • Selectively citing a source or ignoring important caveats and limitations, in order to make a source appear to support a view or conclusion that is more extreme than the plain reading of the source implies. (Ie, trying to make a source say more than it actually says)
  • Variable or double standards, eg:
    • Citing lower quality evidence for one side but rejecting credible opposing evidence as inadequate.
    • Minimizing, trivializing or ignoring other citations that call one's opinion into question or that support alternative views.
  • Editing as if one given opinion is "right" and therefore other opinions either have no substance, or nothing to defend themselves with, and using this as a reason to under-represent it:
    • Generalizing an opinion held by "some" or "many" as if it is held by "all" (or "all credible") sources, while treating an opposing view as not being held by anyone credible.
    • Ignoring an opposing view, question or discussion point on the basis that those upholding it are claimed to be misinformed.
    • Not allowing one view to "speak for itself", or refactoring its "world-view" into the words of its detractors.
    • Ignoring or deleting views, research or information from sources which would usually be considered credible and verifiable in Wikipedia terms. (This may be done on spurious grounds such as not being "valid enough")
    • Concealing or misrepresenting (or non-neutrally representing) relevant information about sources or sources' credentials that is needed to judge their value.

Science and objective, verifiable sources often conflict with subjective and unverifiable claims derived from religion and pseudoscience. It is to be expected that Wikipedia articles will give extra space in articles to POVs based on verifiable science while limiting the amount of space devoted to unverifiable POVs that are based on subjective belief systems.

In summary, credible sources often cover many points of view, and even recognized credible sources can be cited in a non-neutral way. So verifiability and proper citation are necessary but not sufficient to ensure NPOV. It is important that the various views and the subject as a whole are presented in a balanced manner and that each is summarized as if by its proponents to its best ability. This is because neutrality requires much more than simply citing verifiable sources or proving a point -- it requires using credible sources to accurately represent a broad range of views and a balanced overview.