Wikipedia:Don't be a WikiBigot

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Bigots are people who have prejudice against people and treat them with hatred or intolerance on the basis of people's ethnicity, race or other characteristic (pictured is a skinhead).

WikiBigotry is an extreme form of bias towards a particular kind, type, or category of article, content, or user. Regardless of the intention (or lack thereof) or the justification, this concept manifests itself in one of several forms such as the selective application of Wikipedia policies, the stringency of the application (light for articles favored, heavy or by strict "letter of the law" for those not favored), or the veiled objection to an article or particular content based on personal bias.

The concept of WikiBigotry is based on bigotry, the state of mind of a bigot: someone who, as a result of their prejudices, treats or views other people with fear, distrust, hatred, contempt, or intolerance on the basis of a person's opinion, ethnicity, race, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, or other characteristics.

Often the bias is sincere with the user genuinely believing in their stance and thus feeling justified by their motive. This ultimately leads to content or entire articles that is/are biased and that give the desired viewpoint an unbalanced amount of attention.

The Wikipedia project strives for a neutral point of view in its coverage of subjects, but it is inhibited by systemic bias that discriminates against underrepresented cultures and topics, or, ignorance of or the lack of a basic factual understanding. The systemic bias is created by the shared social and cultural characteristics of most editors, and it results in an imbalanced coverage of subjects, or their systematic elimination on Wikipedia which is a form of censorship.

Be careful linking other editors to this essay as direct accusations of bigotry can be interpreted as hostile, even when justified. An unfounded or speculative accusation of WikiBigotry could be considered a WP:Personal attack.

Examples of WikiBigotry[edit]

User directed[edit]

IP editors[edit]

Observable via edit summaries, talk pages, and article reversions, there appears to be a bias against IP editors on Wikipedia. There are a number of legitimate, plausible, and/or good faith reasons as to why an editor does not have an account or is simply not signed in if they do, but edits, comments, and contributions made by IP editors do seem to be challenged or reverted more easily than by registered users.

  • Take a clinical (not judgmental or biased) or contextually factual look at the material in question. Regardless of how well written (or not) it is, make the effort to determine if it is well-sourced, accurate, and appropriate within the scope of the article. Is it a fair representation of the subject for the section and the overall article? If it is, ask yourself why are you changing it?
  • Rather than delete the content or harangue the editor, simply improve the material. Rewrite it, find better (or more) sources, and/or expand on it.


From a practical perspective, there is a clear bias against new editors because of their unfamiliarity with Wikipedia. The assumption being that because they are new to the site and community, therefore they are ignorant and inexperienced in the ways of Wikipedia and unfamiliar with some (or most) of the more commonly applied policies.

But given the growing popularity of Wikipedia and the increasing availability of Internet access around the globe, it's not only possible but likely that many new users will have access to or knowledge of high quality references as well as be inspired to edit based on those references. As such, this bias will ultimately harm Wikipedia, lower the quality of article content, and drive away potentially valuable editors.

  • First, remember to not bite the newcomers.
  • Second, actually look at their contributions page and see how long they been editing and get a feel for what they have been editing.
  • Third, if no one else has, welcome them via their talk page. Use one of the Welcome templates.
  • Fourth, talk to them, engage them in conversation and find out what they are trying to accomplish. You may discover someone who shares your interests and/or affinity for a particular subject.

Gender based[edit]

Whether based on perception or confirmation by the subject, many real world biases are present in the Wikipedia community. According to various reports and studies, the WP community is as much as eighty percent (80%) male with the balance being female or transgender.

Some of the areas where this is especially problematic are in articles about female subjects (BLP or otherwise) as well as subjects that are feminine or feminist in nature.

  • First and foremost, be aware of the Fourth Pillar of the WP community guidelines that states, "Editors should treat each other with respect and civility." How or why anyone would believe consciously or subconsciously that gender should factor into this concept should not be a matter for debate.
  • If you find yourself either so biased or so impassioned, in any way, because of the gender of a person that is editing an article, quite simply you should "step away" and cease to edit the article until you can gain perspective on the overall purpose of this project.
  • That said, if someone is genuinely disrupting the article or the editing of others regardless of their gender, there is a means of recourse. The Administrators Noticeboards specifically serve this purpose. Furthermore, upon analysis, it may come to light that any gender bias is ancillary or tangential to the disruptive behavior.

The Noticeboards that will likely be involved are those for: Reliable sources, Biographies of living persons, Edit warring, and/or Neutral point of view. In more extreme cases it may involve Dispute resolution or General sanctions which include, but are not limited to Article ban or page bans, Topic bans, Interactive bans (between users), or Site bans. The latter are in increasing order of severity. It is HIGHLY recommended that a user utilize a method that is appropriate to the kind and level of infraction committed.

If in doubt, ask the community!

Article directed[edit]


Subject-based WikiBigotry is nearly impossible to prove without a direct admission by a user, but it can be observed or demonstrated through the review of contribution history for a suspected user. Some users will openly admit to their bias on talk pages while others will endlessly debate or fight over a topic that they have a personal bias towards, but attempt to hide it through a variety of means.

Common subject areas where WikiBigotry may be observed usually relate to political, religious, or human sexuality topics where beliefs are based on morals and societal norms. Instead of a clinical reporting of facts or data from reliable sources, personal beliefs invariably enter into the editing of the article and often create edit warring or intense unending and often circular debate of the subject versus simply talking about the subject.

  • First and foremost, as passionate as you may be about a particular subject, you should contemplate just how knowledgeable or informed you are on the subject. Having an opinion and being in possession of facts and/or information that support that opinion is a far cry from being truly informed about an overall subject. If you fall into the former category, you should think twice (or more) about any edit you make to an article, even more so if it's about controversial or highly contentious material.
  • Expand your personal knowledge base; read all of the available material about a subject, not just what you agree with or do not find fault with.

Sources or references[edit]

Wikipedia policy does an excellent job of defining what a reliable source is or is not. But when it comes to the application of those policies, there is often either great debate or mass confusion regarding specific sources, their reporting of facts and data versus opinion or editorial material, and/or the efficacy of their fact checking or information sources.

This template can be very helpful. Just fill in the topic and place it on a talk page or similar space:

{{Find sources|insert subject here}}

It results in this...

Find sources: "insert subject here" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · highbeam · JSTOR · free images · wikipedia library

  • LEARN to tell the difference between opinion or speculative statements versus actual research and quality reporting of facts. In some instances this might require a basic understanding of statistics, polling, and/or background knowledge of the source in question. When in doubt, ASK for HELP! Someone has likely asked a similar or the identical question previously.
  • DO YOUR RESEARCH and then do some more! As powerful a search engine as Google is, it's not perfect, nor is it without its limitations and biases. Read the Wikpedia How-To page on how to properly use search engines.
  • Based on the above, be skeptical of sources. If something that a source states seems "too good to be true", then dig deeper. Look up the author, the publisher, and check their sources if they are available. If the writer and/or publisher is known to be biased, state this along with the content you are sourcing from them.
  • DO NOT use Wikipedia's voice to state editorial as fact. This is a misuse of the source and potentially a violation of WP:UNDUE and WP:POV.
  • Read Wikipedia:You don't need to cite that the sky is blue.

Why it matters[edit]

Balance and accuracy[edit]

Many editors contribute to Wikipedia because they see Wikipedia as progressing to (though perhaps never reaching) the ideal of a repository of human knowledge. More pragmatic editors may see Wikipedia as a vast discussion on what is true and what is not from a "neutral point of view" or "God's Eye View". Thus, the idea of systemic bias is more troubling than intentional vandalism; vandalism is readily identified and corrected. The existence of systemic bias means that not only are large segments of the world not participating in the discussion at hand but that there is a deep-rooted problem in the relationship of Wikipedia and its contributors with the world at large.

The systemic bias of the English Wikipedia is very likely permanent. As long as the demographic of English-speaking Wikipedians is not identical to the world's demographic composition, the version of the world presented in the English Wikipedia will always be the Anglophone Wikipedian's version of the world. Thus, the only way systemic bias would disappear entirely is if all of the world's population spoke English with the same fluency and had equal access and inclination to edit the English Wikipedia. However, the effects of systemic bias can be mitigated with conscious effort. This is the goal of the Countering Systemic Bias Project.

"Silver lining"[edit]

In an instance where an editor is strictly or sternly applying Wikipedia policies towards an article or particular content, the resulting activity (including conversation on the respective talk page) usually garners attention from other users. This additional scrutiny can result in more editors working on the content or article, finding additional or better references, and/or the content or article being balanced and more complete.

What you can do[edit]

Quite simply, be more open-minded.

  • Be respectful of others even if they are not to you. This does not mean you have to agree with their stance or viewpoint, but working together to find common ground and consensus should not be difficult or stressful.
  • Read about the perspectives and issues of concern to others. Attempt to represent these in your editing.
  • Invite others to edit especially on articles where you have made major or significant contributions.
  • Be aware of policies like WP:SYNTH and Point of View (POV) and don't be susceptible.
  • Read the essay WP:OTHERSTUFF and take what you can from it. It's not policy, but it is widely quoted and there is some excellent advice contained in it.
  • Work to understand your own biases and avoid reflecting them in your editing.
  • Avoid topics or discussions where you expect that you are biased or where you don't wish to make the effort to overcome those biases.
  • Scrutinize your citation sources. Make sure what you are paraphrasing is correct in context, tense, and grammar.
  • Always ask yourself, "Should this be in the article?" Just because the information exists, or, that you have a reliable source does not mean it belongs in the article.

Learn to understand what you don't know

This is as difficult of a concept to explain as it is to apply, but it is critical (if not vital) to reducing Systemic Bias.

  • For example, "brain surgery" is something that many people are aware exists, but few understand what it can accomplish and even fewer can perform it. In this instance, those that are aware of it, but do not know what it can accomplish or how to do it understand that that information is "something they do not know".
  • Another example, William Shakespeare was a famous 16th and 17th century writer and poet that a great many people are aware of, but fewer are familiar with his works, even fewer have read them, and fewer still can quote from them from memory. Where any particular person falls on this continuum determines the extent of what they do not know, but this can change with research, investigation, and exploration.
  • Yet another, few people are aware of the existence of theoretical substance known as "dark matter", fewer know what it is, and a very limited number of scientists and mathematicians can perform the calculations (let alone understand them) to hypothesize about its existence. In this instance, there may be an upper limit to the knowledge that a person can acquire or attain, but that should not stop anyone from learning about the subject.

The list can go on and on, but hopefully this is sufficient to convey the idea. The objective of this concept is to minimize bias and perhaps even unintended vandalism of an article because an Editor does not understand what they do not know.

This is a large project, so work where you can best serve the central content and behavioral expectations, particularly those related to Wikipedia's policy relating to neutral point of view.

See also[edit]