Wikipedia:Silence and consensus

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Qui tacet consentire videtur, ubi loqui debuit ac potuit (He who is silent, when he ought to have spoken and was able to, is taken to agree).

— Latin proverb
Is there consensus?
  • Nobody ever complained about my idea →
    You can assume there is consensus until you hear otherwise.
  • Someone complained about my idea →
    You can no longer assume consensus exists because you have seen evidence of disagreement.

Consensus can be presumed until disagreement becomes evident (typically through reverting, editing, or stating disagreement on a relevant talk page). You find out whether your edit has consensus when it sticks, is built upon by others, and most importantly when it is used or referred to by others.

Most of the time, you will find that it's fine to assume consensus, even if just for now, as it's more important to keep editing and cooperating smoothly in good faith as much as possible.

A corollary is that if you disagree, the onus is on you to say so.


In wiki-editing, it is difficult to get positive affirmation for your edits (disapproval comes with a further edit, a statement of disapproval on the page's talk page or your talk page, or at times a revert). No matter how many people on a talk page say they support an edit, sometimes it is only when your changes are reverted or substantially changed that you learn that you did not, in fact, have full consensus.

Of course, it is impractical to wait forever for affirmation: in the meantime then, sometimes it is best to assume that silence implies consensus. Lacking any objections on talk pages, you can continue to hold that assumption (hopefully safely) until someone comes along and changes the page by editing or reverting. The more visible the statement, and the longer it stands unchallenged, the stronger the implication of consensus is.

What does not constitute silence[edit]

The maxim is "Qui tacet consentit": the maxim of the law is "Silence gives consent". If therefore you wish to construe what my silence betokened, you must construe that I consented.

When two editors reach an impasse, one or both may think that repeating and reiterating the same arguments is the only alternative to consent by silence. This is not the case. Either editor may withdraw from the discussion by stating that (a) the discussion has reached an impasse, (b) they will not continue it, and (c) the other editor is free to pursue the options offered at WP:Dispute resolution requests. If an editor withdraws without comment the other editor should, before assuming consent, {{ping}} the silent editor and alert them that their silence will be construed as agreement.

That said, in the face of vandals and trolls a good faith editor may employ silence without first seeking consensus. See WP:Deny recognition.

Silence is the weakest form of consensus[edit]

The problem with no response is that there are five possible interpretations:

  1. The post is correct, well-written information that needs no follow-up commentary. There's nothing more to say except "Yeah, what they said."
  2. The post is complete and utter nonsense, and no one wants to waste the energy or bandwidth to even point this out.
  3. No one read the post, for whatever reason.
  4. No one understood the post, but won't ask for clarification, for whatever reason.
  5. No one cares about the post, for whatever reason.

Bryan C. Warnock. Re: RFCs: two proposals for change -- Original description of the dilemma

Consensus arising from silence evaporates when an editor changes existing content or objects to it.

This so because, as illustrated by Warnock's dilemma, a lack of response to an edit does not necessarily imply community consent. Wikipedia is huge and our editors' time is limited. At any given time, there are many open discussions on many different topics across the project. We encourage our editors to be bold and it is highly likely that you will eventually find yourself affected by the outcome of some decision that you didn't know about, or didn't have the chance to join. Where a decision is based mostly on silence, it is especially important to remember that consensus can change.

Scope of application[edit]

Apply the rule of silence and consensus only when a weak consensus would suffice. Silence and consensus does not apply when a mandatory discussion is required. When real people are affected by a decision, such as blocking users, or using material covered by the biographies of living persons policy, positive confirmation is preferred. Even in these cases, however, dissent might show up later, and it is then no longer appropriate to assume consensus.

See also[edit]

Essays on silence

Related policies

Related guidelines

Related essays



  1. ^ "A Man For All Seasons". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-05-31.

External links[edit]