Wikipedia talk:Avoiding harm

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This proposed guideline is intended to be complementary to Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons, and to provide a general framework for applying BLP to specific cases. In the light of recent controversy, I think there's some value to having a framework of guidelines on biography-writing which have the widespread support of the community. Please modify the proposal as needed, or discuss here. Waltontalk 11:35, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

Question about "the Jenna Bush test"[edit]

These three points are listed and a conclusion drawn:

"1. Is the information already widely known? If so, and if it has appeared in numerous mainstream news sources, then it is probably suitable to be included in the article. If the information has only appeared in a few tabloid sources, local newspapers, or websites of dubious quality, then it is not appropriate to include it.

"2. Is the information definitive and factual? Wikipedia is not in the business of speculation, or publishing dubious allegations, unless such allegations are notable in themselves. In particular, possibly false allegations that would harm an individual's life significantly should be avoided.

"3. Is the information essential to the subject's notability? Although Ms. Bush is notable as the daughter of a serving head of state, much of the media coverage surrounding her as an individual focuses on the underage drinking incident. As such, the information can be seen as essential to the article.

"If all of these apply, then it is reasonable for the information to be included. If none of them apply, then it should be removed, or included only in general terms."

But, this isn't clear: If all three apply, then the information should be included; if none, then it should be removed. First, "included only in general terms" is in itself not a clear guideline, but what about a case in which -- forget about the second item in the list -- either the first or the third apply but not both? This guideline doesn't help for such cases which seem at least as likely to come up as those in which either all three apply or none of the three.

Regarding the second, I suggest that if lack of either of the other two does not serve as sufficient cause to omit or delete something potentially harmful, then it should be separated from the other two and made a criterion in itself. Everything in the encyclopedia should ideally be "definitive and factual" even if it's hard to ascertain. The other two criteria notwithstanding, if something is potentially harmful to the reputation of a living individual it seems doubly important that this criterion be as absolute as possible.

I believe this guideline needs to be tightened up. Eugeneccampbell 15:12, 1 July 2007 (UTC)

It's not yet a guideline, so you can edit it if you feel it needs changes. In response to your other comments, in general all three criteria should apply. The only possible exception to the second criterion is where someone is notable primarily for allegations that have been made against them, e.g. as a suspect in a crime; in such cases, it needs to be sourced to the mainstream media and clearly marked as allegations, not facts. An example might be Steven Gerald James Wright, known for being a suspect in the ongoing Ipswich murder investigations (although in such cases we need to carefully avoid writing pseudo-biographies or coatrack articles, but that's a separate issue). But you're right, I need to clear up the wording to make it less ambiguous. (Bear in mind, this essay has only existed for less than 2 days and isn't honed to perfection yet.) Waltontalk 18:21, 1 July 2007 (UTC)
I've rewritten that section to clarify what was meant. Feel free to edit it if you feel it still doesn't make sense. Waltontalk 18:27, 1 July 2007 (UTC)

information about an individual's criminal record should not be included in their Wikipedia article[edit]

Why? This is sourcable factual information and we are an encyclopedia not a PR company. This info will often inform about the character of the individual. (Hypnosadist) 18:25, 29 June 2007 (UTC)

Sorry, you're right - I didn't clarify what I meant. I've rewritten that portion of the essay to clarify. [1] Waltontalk 18:31, 29 June 2007 (UTC)

The notability issue is exactly what i'm against. Because what is notable is just some-ones POV. We are an encyclopedia and our job is to provide information, what crimes someone has committed is important info about that person. I agree that only SOURCES of the HIGHEST QUALITY should be used to say these covictions exist, but i think if these sources exist this information should Always be in wikipedia. (Hypnosadist) 18:45, 29 June 2007 (UTC)

No, the term "notable" isn't necessarily a POV; we have guidelines about what is notable and what isn't, namely WP:N and (for biographies) WP:BIO. Certainly, notability can be a matter of POV in borderline cases, but it's agreed that because Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, there have to be standards for what kind of information can be included. Waltontalk 19:18, 29 June 2007 (UTC)

Yes but placing that there means in all cases when information on convictions is added, the supporters of whoever will claim its not notable, thus long revert war starts. If you can find it in a high quality source then it is notable enough. This just seems a way of white washing wikipedia of information. (Hypnosadist) 19:43, 29 June 2007 (UTC)

Name of test a violation of BLP?[edit]

I think this is an excellent essay and could be very useful, but if I were Jenna Bush I wouldn't want this test named after me. To do so could publicize further her teenager goof, should this become a widely used essay or test, or should it receive mainstream news coverage. Would it be possible to rename the test and still use her situation as an example? -Jmh123 22:38, 29 June 2007 (UTC)

I think you're kind of missing the point... -- Ned Scott 06:05, 30 June 2007 (UTC)
I agree that the test is a good one (if, as I noted in my query, the criteria are clarified), that Jenna Bush could be an ideal example. However, I think Ned misses the point Jmh makes about how it is titled. A less pointed name might be appropriate; the subject is, after all, about avoiding harm. How about, instead of "the Jenna Bush test" it could be renamed to "the Inclusion Test" and trust that its position in the article would make the meaning obvious. Another name might be better, just it also seems obvious that anyone who has a personal grudge against the Bushes might be delighted to see Jenna's name mentioned, again, more prominently than necessary in the context of her "teenager goof." Eugeneccampbell 15:12, 1 July 2007 (UTC)
Both the name of the test and the rationale in the essay, not to mention the new WP:HARM#TEST (inappropriate shortcut name fixed. Carcharoth 01:50, 9 July 2007 (UTC)), reduce Jenna's notability to a single event and place undue emphasis on that event, thereby potentially causing her an essay and potential guideline that seeks to clarify "avoiding harm"! -Jmh123 15:29, 1 July 2007 (UTC)
That's absurd. This isn't an article, it's just an example. The entire emphasis is on this one issue, because that is the relevant example. It is not a matter of undue weigh, because people are not coming to his page to learn about Jenna Bush. It's obvious that this is just one event in a person's life, and not in any way a summary of their life. Stop making a big deal out of nothing. -- Ned Scott 19:19, 2 July 2007 (UTC)
I am taking about the proposed use as a guideline or policy, not the existence of the proposal on this page. -Jmh123 19:42, 2 July 2007 (UTC)
And it still would be absurd, and everything I just said would still apply. -- Ned Scott 05:37, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
Actually, Jmh123 has a point, even though I doubt this will be a very high-traffic page. MessedRocker (talk) 11:59, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

I think this is a very important point to consider. The test actually violates point three of the test in my mind. I think the test is sound, however the test should be based on a fictional situation. Even if the fictional situation used mimics a factual situation to some degree, or a combination of factual situations, this would only draw attention to the subjects if the person reading the test already knew, therefore not bring further undue weight. If you were reading it and knew nothing about the factual situation used to create the fictional situation, you would be none the wiser. Nicko (TalkContribs)Review my progress! 03:29, 21 July 2007 (UTC)

Good proposal[edit]

Though I'll make a few minor copyedits here, I think this is an excellent proposal and pretty closely captures a standard which I believe will be acceptable to those on both sides of the issue. Seraphimblade Talk to me 08:41, 30 June 2007 (UTC)

Also added a section on pseudo-biographies and some suggestions for handling them, I think that's been the main core of the problem. Seraphimblade Talk to me 08:58, 30 June 2007 (UTC)
I agree, and I've moved your section further up the page and expanded it somewhat. Waltontalk 11:29, 30 June 2007 (UTC)

As expected[edit]

Yes now we are removing sourced info, of course using the magic incantation of BLP. WHY are we removing sourced info from an encyclopedia, our job is to PROVIDE information. (Hypnosadist) 12:48, 30 June 2007 (UTC)

True...but not. Our job is to present historically significant and notable information. I can tell you that I had baked salmon for dinner last night. That's information, but it's not appropriate information for an encyclopedia, and we certainly shouldn't go write What Seraphimblade had for dinner the night of June 29, 2007, even if there were some source that could confirm it. And since we (quite correctly, in my view) are forbidden to make original interpretations or crystal ball predictions, the way we determine if something is notable is how widely, for how long a period of time, and by how reliable of sources it has been noted. If the NYT, USA Today, and several scholars have written about something, it's very likely notable. If it takes you digging through primary records to find it, it's not notable, because it hasn't been noted! Of course, you're welcome to submit your findings to media outlets in that case. If they do subsequently note it, it may then (but only then) become notable enough to include in Wikipedia. Seraphimblade Talk to me 13:08, 30 June 2007 (UTC)
"If the NYT, USA Today, and several scholars have written about something, it's very likely notable." I would have thought so too. --Maxamegalon2000 19:40, 1 July 2007 (UTC)

"historically significant and notable information" then you will be deleting the articles on individual pokemon and all those historically significant bands, pull the other one. This whole wannabe policy is a POV warriors delight. It is based around the idea that you remove information, not a good way to build an encyclopedia. Why does "historically significant and notable information" only apply to stuff that should be in the encyclopedia, the shit always remains. (Hypnosadist) 14:26, 30 June 2007 (UTC)

I sure wouldn't mind seeing the Pokecruft gone either (and indeed, a lot of it is being merged, an action which I applaud and wholeheartedly support), but I don't see that as an issue towards "avoiding harm" per se, though I do see it as an issue with having decent inclusion/exclusion standards. However, there is not much risk that we will harm a Pokemon. When we're dealing with the biography of a living person, however, we must embrace immediatism, and demand that we get it right as of right now or not try to do it at all. Seraphimblade Talk to me 14:48, 30 June 2007 (UTC)

"not try to do it at all" is going to have to be the answer as any page edited under this suggestion would violate a real policy WP:NPOV. You can just delete info because its not nice about someone or they might get pissed that the truth is being told about them, that clearly violates npov. (Hypnosadist) 14:55, 30 June 2007 (UTC)

The exact opposite it often true. For non-public people that are only notable for a single event, we are not able to write comprehensive biographies about them. Including only information about this single aspect of their life gives undue weight to that event so violates WP:NPOV. FloNight 18:35, 30 June 2007 (UTC)
I agree with FloNight here (though I don't on the whole issue). For example, let's say some political intern is caught up in a political embezzlement scandal, but that's all we really know about them. If the scandal is notable and they're a key part of the incident, we should certainly mention them in the event article, but we shouldn't present an article under their name, in which the only sourced information we can put is "John Doe was accused of involvement in the Big Bad 2008 Embezzlement Scandal." That's not a biography, and we would be violating NPOV's requirement of due weight by presenting that one incident as the sum total of that person's life. On the other hand, when a person is notable, we certainly can include negative information regarding them provided that it is already public knowledge and reliably sourced. Ted Kennedy is notable, so we include information about Chappaquiddick in his biography. Bill Clinton is notable, so we include information about the Lewinsky scandal in his biography. But those articles really are biographies, and cover far more aspects of those people's lives than involvement in one negative incident. That's the difference here. Seraphimblade Talk to me 23:01, 30 June 2007 (UTC)
Exactly! Very good examples. :-) My main concern for BLP is non-public people. Public people have so much written about them that we can almost always do a fair job of discussing the good and the bad. FloNight 11:18, 1 July 2007 (UTC)
I think there's general consensus on that point; the difficulty is determining what constitutes a "public" vs a "non-public" individual, and it seems that the existing guidelines at WP:BIO are not always clear enough for BLP purposes. One of my main intentions with this essay (especially with WP:HARM#TEST (inappropriate shortcut name fixed. Carcharoth 01:51, 9 July 2007 (UTC))) was to clarify this. Waltontalk 13:59, 1 July 2007 (UTC)

Some thoughts[edit]

Some thoughts on the essay. First off, there might be some disagreement over what is "numerous" sources. Some may think that this goes beyond the requirement of "multiple" sources for normal material. I would change that to read in the same way that WP:V reads, so that we don't seem like we have two levels of verifiability. We should have one uniform level of verifiability for all facts. Making a new level just weakens the first.

Second, the recent fighting going on was not against the application of BLP, but the vagueness over the reasons. Saying (deleting temporarily per WP:BLP, will discuss) does not indicate why the material was removed. Either the reason for the deletion of the material or the article is stated in the edit summary, or should be discuss somewhere. The resent spree of "Deleted due to BLP" had neither, thus the outrage. It should be allowable to immediately restore material deleted due to BLP without a reason given in the edit summary or the talk page, otherwise vandals and POV pushers will try to game the system. --Rayc 18:42, 30 June 2007 (UTC)

Sometimes the precise reason cannot be discussed openly. It isn't okay to undo a BLP deletion without consensus--that's a ticket to arbitration and (in especially egregious cases) desysopping. It is grossly inappropriate to refer to Wikipedia administrators as "vandals" and "POV pushers". --Tony Sidaway 11:42, 1 July 2007 (UTC)
Rayc, although in principle I agree, I was trying (in writing this essay) to establish a fair compromise that would be acceptable to the ArbCom and to both sides in this dispute. Ideally, we would not give administrators the power to delete things off-the-cuff with vague reasons such as "per BLP". But, as the ArbCom has tacitly endorsed such actions as appropriate, I felt it was best to have a guideline to clarify exactly when this is allowable. And I strongly agree that the reason for the deletion of the material should be discussed somewhere - that's why I advocated the "two-admin rule", so that it isn't just one admin's arbitrary decision. I will rewrite parts of the essay to strengthen this. Waltontalk 13:53, 1 July 2007 (UTC)

Coming back to Rayc's first point, if I may. I agree that the current essay doesn't clarify potential disagreements over sources. I see potential problems with #3 ("essential to her notability") and #1. A lot of the BLP debates on "talk pages" are over media coverage--how much coverage does it take, which media are considered to be reliable, and so forth. The statement, "...much of the media coverage surrounding her as an individual focuses on the underage drinking incident" overlooks the tendency of some forms of media to sensationalize, especially about public figures (or their daughters). Should Wikipedia reflect that media tendency or not? Seems to me that this is a pivotal issue in the current debates over BLP. I don't think the essay provides an adequate resolution for this. #1 is also ambiguously stated. "Widely known" is a fuzzy criterion, with no objective measure. The text following attempts to clarify, but could be improved.

I don't want to edit this for fear of changing your intended meaning, but these sentences badly need a stylistic fix:

However, nonetheless, the Jenna Bush article does contain such information. As such, the Jenna Bush test can be applied to other parallel situations.

I think the Bush entry is well-chosen because it does handle BLP issues well. The simple fact of her underage drinking incident shouldn't become a coat-rack for a bio of her anymore than a bio should become a coat-rack for someone who had a video on YouTube that got a lot of hits. The Jenna Bush entry is not a coat-rack entry, and it does make a good example because it is neutrally written and does not sensationalize the incident, but the stated rationale for this still needs work. -Jmh123 16:02, 1 July 2007 (UTC)

Feel free to edit it for writing style - I freely admit that I tend to be unnecessarily verbose. :-) As to your other point, yes, you're right that criterion 1 is ambiguous. Ordinarily I dislike using subjective terms such as "widely-known", but what I was trying to get across here is that we shouldn't publicise a piece of personal information that's only appeared in one tabloid or local newspaper; on the other hand, if something's been widely reported across mainstream media outlets, we can justify including it.
With regard to the "tendency of some forms of media to sensationalize", that is indeed an important aspect of the disputes over BLP - and that's exactly why this test is needed. Our policy is, where possible, to do no harm, but also to create a factual and balanced encyclopedia. As such, if information about someone's private life has already been reported in lurid detail by the media across several countries, it's the media who have done the "harm"; in that situation, our obligation to keep entries neutral and balanced compels us to include the information. On the other hand, if we pick up something that was reported by one cheap tabloid on a slow news day and splash it around the Internet, then we are actively doing harm. The aim of the Jenna Bush test is to differentiate between those two situations; it's subjective to some extent because this is a fairly subjective field of policy, and editors have to exercise some judgment. Waltontalk 17:04, 1 July 2007 (UTC)
[2] I made these changes in an effort to clarify, but they've been reverted. The edit comment makes no sense to me. Reliable news media always give their sources for notable or potentially controversial statements. The more reliable the media, the more likely that information they provide is sourced. I think some reminder that sources must be reliable, independent, and verifiable is needed, if "we won't always know what sources NBC or CBS uses" is a serious response to the suggestion that even "widely known" information must be sourced. I also included a time period in order to eliminate the kind of recentist "event of the week" kind of coverage that is so popular these days as "entertainment" in news broadcasts. I don't think an event that is covered for a week and then forgotten should necessarily qualify. Just explaining those changes here, since they're now gone. -Jmh123 04:05, 2 July 2007 (UTC)
I've inserted compromise wording on that point: [3]. I agree that sources need to be from reliable mainstream media sources that meet WP:RS. As to recentism (sorry I referred to "immediatism" in the summary, I got my terms mixed up), I've inserted wording to guard against it [4] here. Waltontalk 09:24, 2 July 2007 (UTC)
Thanks--good job working those points in. The words independent or third party or verifiable are also important, because sometimes mainstream sources will simply quote another source, passing the harm buck, so to speak. I think Wikipedia should have a higher standard. Thanks. -Jmh123 14:54, 2 July 2007 (UTC)


On the topic of pseudo-biographies and WP:HARM, I think I've found a perfect example - Lisa Michelle Lambert, an article with a current AfD. The article's not really about her, it was about a murder she was involved in - a real case of WP:COATRACK. Just the kind of thing that this essay is meant to discourage. (I was about to close that AfD as Delete, since it's expired, but having mentioned it here, I should probably leave it for someone else.) Waltontalk 14:51, 2 July 2007 (UTC)

Jenna Bush[edit]

I don't think Jenna Bush is a good example. Point 3 of the proposed test is "Is the information essential to the subject's notability?" and the information cited here is her under-aged drinking. While I think this information should be included in the article, I don't think it should be included as essential to her notability, because it isn't. We'd have an article about her anyway. Perhaps the test itself is flawed, either by setting the bar too high or some other reason. In general once we decide a person should have a biography, we should include all relevant public verifiable information about the person, giving each fact due weight. --Tony Sidaway 16:35, 2 July 2007 (UTC)

Nor would it be at all accurate to describe Jenna Bush as a private individual. With her sister, she has made public appearances at Republican conventions, toured swing states during the 2004 Presidential campaign, and even appeared in Vogue with her father. There's more, but that should make my point. The proposed test is not well thought out. --Tony Sidaway 16:43, 2 July 2007 (UTC)
Many people would argue that it is relevant to her notability, but I do see your point. Another example might also be good to just to avoid arguments that are driven by people's personal political views. -- Ned Scott 19:23, 2 July 2007 (UTC)
He didn't say it wasn't relevant to her notability; he said it was not essential. Two very different meanings. Please refrain from imputing openly stated rationale with hidden political meanings. Just for the record, as I am one who has opposed the naming of the example the "Jenna Bush test," I've never voted Republican in my life, and I have extreme negative feelings towards both Presidents Bush. -Jmh123 19:36, 2 July 2007 (UTC)
What the heck?... I wasn't talking about you or anyone else on this talk page. Obviously the arguments about the test's name are not politically driven, and I certainly have not thought they were. -- Ned Scott 05:36, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
Sorry if I misunderstood your comment about avoiding arguments that are driven by people's personal political views. -Jmh123 17:19, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
Jmh123 correctly states that there is a distinction between an event being relevant to a person's notability and being essential to it. For instance the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart is essential to her notability because nobody would have heard of her if she hadn't been kidnapped.
Ms Bush's underaged drinking incident is of small significance but I think it should be included because we wouldn't want to airbrush significant incidents out of a person's biography. The Argentina visit, where the twins were asked to leave the country by their own embassy, is of greater importance because it involved the US Diplomatic Corps and the Secret Service, and possibly the Argentine authorities, in a very embarrassing situation. --Tony Sidaway 13:35, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
In essence, then, the main point you disagree with is the third Jenna criterion - "Is the information essential to the subject's notability?". I see your point here; we probably would still have an article on Jenna if it weren't for the underage drinking incident, as we do on Leo Blair and others. I will try and re-word this statement to make my meaning clearer. Waltontalk 14:41, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
OK, how's this? [5] Waltontalk 14:53, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
It's a good start. However you still describe Jenna Bush as a private individual. This is stretching the meaning of the term "private individual" to include a person who has given interviews and photshoots in Vogue, has gone on the campaign trail as a star attraction, and has appeared in nationally screen promotionals for her father's Presidential campaigns. I don't think that's at all accurate. Jenna Bush is about as far from a private individual as it is possible for a person to be outside Hollywood. --Tony Sidaway 16:29, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
Fixed. [6] Waltontalk 12:49, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

Shortcut renamed[edit]

I've renamed the short cut to the "test" section as WP:HARM#TEST, as I agree with the concerns of others above. We shouldn't be naming our internal redirect shortcuts after people, so 'WP:JENNA' (redirect is here) should be deleted to avoid her name being forever associated with this "test" in the minds of many Wikipedians. I'm going to ask the creator to nominate it for deletion. Please use WP:HARM#TEST instead. I've also inserted an anchor tag so that this redirect will work regardless of what the section is eventually called. Carcharoth 02:09, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

OK, your compromise seems reasonable. Waltontalk 10:02, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
Later note: "WP:JENNA" has been deleted.[7] Cheers, CWC 12:50, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

Proposed guideline[edit]

If no one objects, I will tag this as a proposed guideline, and list it at the Community bulletin board and WP:CENT to invite further discussion. Although the wording may need tweaking, I think we've more or less reached consensus on most of the points here. Waltontalk 11:04, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

Wider exposure will be good, and further changes may be needed, but no objection from me. Carcharoth 11:07, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
This guideline is much needed. I give my full support. Kaldari 17:56, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

My comments[edit]

If BLP is about preventing libel and legal problems, it is easy to tell whether an article or section violates BLP. But if BLP is about preventing harm, then it is not so easy to tell whether an article or section violates BLP. This idea is good, so people know what is harm and what is not. If someone deleted info or an article because of BLP concerns, and you think the info or article does not violate BLP, what can you do? Where can you discuss? Maybe you could add a section about that. --Kaypoh 12:08, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

That's really what the section on "Suggested procedure" is about - it basically says that if someone removes info from a BLP article, or an admin deletes such an article citing BLP concerns, they should discuss it, but (unlike in non-BLP cases) it is not appropriate to immediately revert them. Feel free to edit this to make it clearer - I know the guideline is somewhat verbose and unclear at present. Waltontalk 13:12, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

The whole idea of "harm" should be removed from the proposed policy[edit]

Despite its title, the proposal talks mostly about verifiability and notability. Those are valid concerns. If those concerns are met, however, there's no reason for us to suppress information of encyclopedic quality just because someone will be upset at its inclusion or will claim to have been harmed in some way. If Thomas Ravenel asserts that the publication of his indictment harmed him, he's probably correct, but that's just too bad. He was an elected State Treasurer and the information is verifiable. The reference to "harm" doesn't add anything useful to the other criteria and is potentially confusing. JamesMLane t c 12:10, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

The idea of "harm" comes from the BLP policy. --Kaypoh 12:13, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
In principle I tend to agree with JamesMLane's comments above. However, it was clearly established by the ArbCom in the recent badlydrawnjeff arbitration case that the idea of "do no harm" will be actively enforced as a part of the BLP policy. As such, I felt that a clear guideline was needed for application of BLP, to ensure that this situation does not lead to wholesale deletion of content and revert wars, and to strike a balance between transparency and privacy. In the case of Thomas Ravenel, the information about his indictment would pass the inclusion test in WP:HARM; he's a prominent public figure, the information was widely publicised in the mainstream media and is verifiable, and it's a major part of his notability. Basically, I agree that "do no harm" is confusing; that's why this guideline attempts to clarify what it means. Waltontalk 13:25, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
I strongly support making some variant of "first do no harm" part of our rules. I've seen a few cases of BLP articles where criticism by political opponents is blown up into grossly exaggerated negative statements by opponents of the articles' subjects, with the precise aim of damaging the subjects' reputation, without violating policies like NPOV, RS, etc. (The smearers do have to violate the WP:UNDUE part of NOR, but that section necessarily has enough leeway that they can get away with it.) If we're going to be an encyclopedia that deserves any respect, then we need an additional rule along these lines.
I suggest the aim is to "do no additional harm". If someone's arrest has been reported in nation-wide news media, we can report that arrest without doing any additional damage to that person. OTOH, if we report something embarrassing from a regional newspaper or specialist website, we're greatly amplifying the effect of that report ... and such reports are often misleading. "With great power high Google rank comes great responsibility". Cheers, CWC 13:28, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Walton monarchist89 writes, "In the case of Thomas Ravenel, the information about his indictment would pass the inclusion test in WP:HARM; he's a prominent public figure, the information was widely publicised in the mainstream media and is verifiable, and it's a major part of his notability." I agree with that comment. My question is about the flip side: In the case of [Bio subject name], the information about [his indictment/her adultery/whatever] would pass the other tests, such as notability, NPOV, and RS, but would nevertheless fail the inclusion test of the proposed WP:HARM. If there is no such case, then the test is pointless. If there is such a case, can someone give me an example of it?
Let's consider CWC's hypothetical example of an arrest reported only in a regional newspaper. Suppose that the person is notable but that, for whatever reason, the mainstream media have largely missed the story. Say, for example, that it was the Ravenel indictment, but that it received much more limited media attention than it actually did. It's in the nature of Wikipedia that our editors often look intensively at a particular subject, and find information from obscure sources that an ordinary reader would find only after spending hours on Google or after traveling to a major research library to consult a printed source. That's precisely what makes Wikipedia valuable to many readers. I can't see this situation as one for excluding the information. If a notable person, clearly meriting a bio (such as a statewide elected official), has been arrested on cocaine charges, and the arrest can be properly documented, that's legitimate encyclopedic content. Yes, including it in our article may well cause the notable person to be even more upset than s/he was when the only coverage was less widely available. So what? Our primary obligation is to our readers, not to people who might prefer the suppression of significant, verified information about themselves. JamesMLane t c 15:25, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

The mythical "uninvolved" admin, two admin rule, and general discussion[edit]

I replaced the word "uninvolved" with "other" in the Two admin rule. It is difficult to describe an admin as "involved" prior to an unannounced deletion, but it's my feeling that any admin who agrees to such a deletion will by virtue of that agreement be described as involved. Best to remove it all together. The important point, I thought, was that the decision to delete be shared.

However I then notice that the two admin rule counsels discussion with at least one admin after deletion. This seems wrong. Of course the deleting admin should discuss the deletion with anybody afterwards, to the full extent that such discussion is compatible with the reason for deletion. Email discussion should be preferred for sensitive deletions.

I think discussion with other admins should also occur before deletion (and in my experience this has always happened with such deletions). This is always good as a sanity check.

But this brings me to the final point: I don't think this kind of event is likely to occur often, and when it does I think we can rely on the deleting administrator to be sensible. It's more important to ensure that other administrators don't abuse their tools. We should probably focus on this latter problem, if only because it was the main problem identified in the recent arbitration case. --Tony Sidaway 15:00, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

The reason I wrote "uninvolved" admin was to ensure that two administrators who think alike on BLP (and hold views which are outside the general consensus) don't simply co-operate and decide what should be done, without consulting anyone else. I'm going to have to give examples here, and I apologise in advance if I misrepresent anyone's viewpoint. But, as demonstrated by the arbitration case, Doc glasgow and JzG (both admins) have been active on one side of these disputes, and Violetriga and myself (again, both admins) on the other. Clearly, it would be pointless having a "two-admin rule" if the deleting admin could just fire off an email to someone who consistently shares their own stance on BLP, and then say "we've had adequate discussion". I was thinking that one of the many hundreds of admins who were not involved in the bdj case, and who have not been active in the development of the BLP policy, would be a better choice as the "second admin". I won't revert your edits for now, but we'll see how things develop. Waltontalk 15:36, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
The idea I think, would be not to actually have these two admins discussing things on a talk page, but for admin 1 to leave a message on admin 2's talk page, saying "I deleted this - <insert redlink here> - can you please give it a sanity check?" The reply would either be "that deletion lookd fine", or "not sure about that, can we discuss further by e-mail?" If both admins agree, then they should both be prepared to defend the deletion against anyone questioning it. If the second admin raises a concern, then the original admin may learn something. Basically a small step before a full-blown DRV, and an increase in communication (which can only be good). What we want to avoid, is inexperienced admins deleting stuff and then posting the action at WP:ANI or WP:AN to get it reviewed, as that might start a unnecessary forest fire. Carcharoth 18:11, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
I don't think it would be wise to have the discussion take place after deletion. Why not before? It's the way we've handled this in the past.
Your example of JzG and Doc confirms my worst fears: you singled out two administrators with similar views and falsely described them as "involved". This is why we must not use that term. Indeed we should probably avoid the very concept because if it can be abused in that way it is tainted. --Tony Sidaway 10:02, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

Do no harm ... to whom?[edit]

First, kudos to Walton and everyone else who worked on making this page more than a subjective moral code of conduct. However, I wish to raise a general question regarding the "do no harm" principle. Do no harm ... to whom?

It may be in the spirit of "do no harm" to remove information about a criminal conviction from the biography of a rapist, but such an action indirectly causes harm to the victims. It may be in the spirit of the principle to remove information about a suspected fraud perpetrated by a person (assuming it's supported by reliable sources) from their biography, but that removal harms those who have or might fall victim to the scam. Removing a negative bit of information from the biography of politicians harms the politicians' opponents.

So, when forced to choose, whom do we spare from harm and to whom do we cause it? -- Black Falcon (Talk) 15:45, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

I don't forsee a circumstance in which removing a criminal conviction from the biography of a rapist would occur, as it would pass the inclusion test; however, publishing the name of the victim would directly cause harm, and would not be included unless it was a much-publicized case which freely published the victim's name, or the victim him/herself talked freely about it to the media. Again, in the case of the politician, the test would be applied. I can think of few politicians who don't face enormous media scrutiny, so I imagine a suspected fraud would be well-publicized, and it would thus pass the inclusion test. I find that having specific criteria to clarify the concept of harm much more helpful than asking people to make or accept subjective judgments. -Jmh123 16:04, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
Point taken. I agree that it's better to have a consensus-supported guideline for a subjective concept like "harm" and suppose my real problem is with the phrasing of "do no harm". In many cases, it is impossible to do absolutely no harm. Although the guideline does not insist on "no harm", I'd prefer to see any mention of "do no harm" removed or replaced with a formulation that doesn't require (even implicitly) the impossible. -- Black Falcon (Talk) 16:22, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
Good point from you as well. The proposed guideline is called "avoiding harm," which is a good choice of words. I agree that the "do no harm" phrasing could be problematic. -Jmh123 16:25, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
I've suggested "do no additional harm" above. Cheers, CWC 13:30, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

Guideline should not be written as policy[edit]

I like the work so far, but I would argue against including "rules" such as the "two-admin rule", etc. That is better left for policy pages and will require substantial discussion. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 16:10, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

I won't contest your removals - you're right that it's important for a guideline not to read like a binding policy - but I think we may need to work the two-admin thing into it somewhere, even if not as a "rule". I'll try to come up with some compromise wording. Waltontalk 17:16, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
How about this? Waltontalk 17:55, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
That works. WP:AN is always better than a ruling on two admins. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 18:13, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
Administrators' noticeboard? No thanks. Every troll who ever bore malice to Wikipedia watches it. Requiring an entry there for sensitive deletions would be very, very stupid. In most cases a review by a few admins should be enough. We trust administrators to perform speedies, surely we can trust groups of admins to discuss a sensitive deletion. If any more discussion is required, and appropriate, it can take place at deletion review. The suggestion that use of email should be avoided is completely unacceptable. We should encourage use of email wherever possible in the case of the BLP. Review is important, but using a wiki to review cases sensitive enough for deletion is nearly always inappropriate when email is easily available.
One thing that also strikes me as a strange is the suggestion of a "non-aggressive" edit summary. What does that mean? --Tony Sidaway 09:51, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
An example is given of an appropriately non-aggressive edit summary. An aggressive one would be (aargh, kill this non-BLP-compliant crap!!!), or words to that effect. Rather, an edit summary should emphasise the fact that the information is being provisionally removed per WP:BLP and this guideline. As to the point about discussion at WP:AN, the current wording was introduced yesterday by Jossi [8], but we need to try and find a compromise on this. Waltontalk 12:01, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
Why do you see deletion as necessarily provisional? We're not about to make a habit of restorng harmful material. --Tony Sidaway 15:32, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Still, one can use a non-aggressive deletion summary, even if it says nothing about provisional. "Deleted article due to BLP concerns" is non-aggressive but clear. "NO", "We don't need this garbage", and the like are aggressive, confrontational, and unnecessary—and in relation to BLP concerns, I've seen a lot more like the second then the first. Seraphimblade Talk to me 03:51, 12 July 2007
I think adding "temporary"/"provisional" etc. to the edit/deletion summary is often useful, even when the deleting editor/admin believes the material/article cannot be restored in any shape or form. This is still a wiki and bold-revert-discuss-consensus still applies. The main difference with non-BLP material being that excellent sources and a consensus to include are required. Avb 12:14, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

Presumption in favour of privacy[edit]

The policy states that when someone's name has been removed for privacy reasons, there is a presumption in favor of privacy for semi-notable individuals. This is not a policy I believe should be used. Why should editors err on the side of censorship? If the author can provide reliable public sources that identify an individual, as required by the inclusion test, isn't it already public knowledge? I would argue the inclusion test alone is sufficient for Wikipedia's purposes, without a bias for privacy. Ender85 23:55, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

A name recorded in some public source somewhere isn't the same breach of privacy as a name recorded on a top ten website. In the case of a private individual, the corresponding intrusion is not justified if we don't need to use the name. --Tony Sidaway 09:56, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
The presumption of privacy has been established by ArbCom as a principle. I don't particularly like it, but there's not much that can be done to change it. The aim of this guideline is to quantify exactly when it should apply, and what should be done, so that the whole thing dosen't get out of hand. Waltontalk 12:04, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

circumvention of process[edit]

The guideline for admins to delete the article and then note they did so on the administrator's noticeboard is, in my opinion, an inappropriate circumvention of the standard deletion process. It would completely exclude regular users from participating in the discussion by resting "do no harm" deletions solely in the hands of admins. I suggest changing the guideline to advise a temporary blanking of the article if its content violates the BLP, and then bring it up as a regular AFD with a link to a sandbox version of the article viewable by all (or some other mechanism for being able to view the content without a possible violation being in mainspace). VanTucky (talk) 03:52, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

In principle I agree, blanking would be preferable. However, the ArbCom seems to have rejected this idea, and mandated that administrators are permitted to delete articles on sight when they perceive an issue with BLP. The aim of this guideline is to quantify and limit that practice. Waltontalk 12:02, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
Yes, but just because admins are admonished to delete the articles in violation doesn't mean that the discussion should take place on the admin's noticeboard. Suggesting that deletion discussions per the BLP are solely the purview of admins is incorrect. Once a deletion to prevent possibly libelous material from being viewed in mainspace is carried out, there is no reason to discourage regular users from participating. VanTucky (talk) 15:43, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
You still haven't satisfied me as to what strong reason there is for wresting the entire deletion process from the hands of the collective body of editors and placing it solely in the hands of admins. I will continue to oppose this proposed policy entirely unless there is some reason that all of the discussion of "do no harm" deletions should be handled by admins. Even with this new page, the definition of what exactly falls under "do no harm" is extremely vague, if you doubt my word, just take a look at some of the recent AFD's proposed under it. VanTucky (talk) 15:39, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Like I said, I actually completely agree with you - controversial BLP deletions should, IMO, be discussed by the whole community at an AfD. However, the ArbCom (in the recent badlydrawnjeff arbitration case) declared completely the opposite. They endorsed out-of-process deletions of articles that were perceived by an admin to be non-BLP-compliant, and sanctioned those who restored such articles. As such, it's not this guideline that's wresting the process of deletion away from the community; the ArbCom's already done that. We're trying to develop a coherent process for such cases. WaltonOne 17:25, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
But as I remember the ArbCom decision, it was only the actual deletion that administrators were strongly advised to perform, not the entirety of the discussion/decision-making process. That's what I'm saying is unprecendented. VanTucky (talk) 17:44, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Fair enough - please edit the "suggested procedure" section to reflect what you think is most consistent with the ArbCom decision and reasonable practice. The problem is that, if the material has been deleted and has to stay deleted, non-admins simply can't view it - I can't see any way around that. WaltonOne 18:05, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

Search for compromise over discussion of deletions[edit]

So far, the main area of contention seems to concern the section on out-of-process deletions of BLP articles. Some argue that such discussions should be discussed privately by e-mail, others prefer them to be discussed transparently on-wiki or at WP:AN. The idea of blanking/soft deletion has also been proposed. Suggestions for a compromise would be helpful. Waltontalk 12:24, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

I note that private or non-persistent communications, in any fora (IRC, email, telephone, face to face, etc...), are inherently private. They can't create consensus among anyone not a party to those conversations, and can't demonstrate consensus. If only one individual has concerns, such communications can settle that individual's concern. But if several private communications with different individuals start happening, it is time to seek community discussion in a transparent and persistent media and really evaluate consensus. GRBerry 19:48, 18 July 2007 (UTC)

POV fork[edit]

Where is the rationale that this is needed in the slightest, given that BLP exists? This is simply going to create a potential diversion and area of contradiction with the policy. Marskell 16:59, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

It doesn't contradict the policy. And it's needed because the "do no harm" provision in BLP is so broad and so subjective. The ArbCom has decreed that administrators can delete articles out-of-process, and keep them deleted, if they perceive any BLP concerns. This guideline is intended to make that process less about a subjective view of ethics, and to provide a clear outline of when this should be done and what procedures should be followed. And WP:POVFORK only applies to the article namespace, AFAIK. WaltonOne 07:34, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

A Relevant Debate[edit]

I have nominated both Al Gore III and Noelle Bush to be redirected to their more prominent relatives due to issues related to this essay. If anyone here would like to weigh in, pro or con, please do so: Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Al_Gore_III_and_Noelle_Bush Kaldari 17:03, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

Another relevant AfD that I've just opened: Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/James Dale. A coatrack if ever I saw one. WaltonOne 14:06, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

inclusion test[edit]

I'm concerned about the phrase "appeared in reliable publications over a period of months" People tend to take the exact wording fo policy quite literally when using it in AFD debates, so I don't want this article to start an accidental precedent for the length of significant coverage. Perhaps it should just say something along the lines of "appeared in significant coverage by multiple reliable publications"? VanTucky (talk) 15:43, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

How about "extended period of time"? I think that encapsulates the intent of the guideline - you're right that we can't be too specific, as each case is individual. WaltonOne 17:20, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Done. [9] WaltonOne 17:22, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

attempt at getting closer[edit]

Section 5.1, Removal of sourced material if the person is non-notable is unnecessary--the place to deal with that is AfD. The result otherwise is simply the practice of removing what content there is from a borderline article, and then deleting it., This is something to be discourage--nay, rejected, and treated as vandalism. There is a justification for removing irrelevant content when used to simply bulk up an irrelevant article--to talk about someone's pets at length, for example. But this part of the guideline should be firmly rejected. DGG (talk) 01:57, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

That's one of the things that was under debate - for example, with the Bus uncle crisis. The proposal was intended to serve as a compromise. WaltonOne 12:28, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

instruction creep[edit]

This proposed guideline is too long and too prescriptive. The text alternates between being blindingly obvious on the one hand (saying things that really ought to be covered under the rubric of WP:SENSE), and making dubious policy on the other. Unfortunately, many separate policy issues are interwoven in this document in such a way that makes it difficult to discuss their individual ramifications with proper scrutiny. Deranged bulbasaur 02:24, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

Problem with "Remove first, discuss later"[edit]

A problem with this proposed guideline is that different editors have different opinions to what is considered harmful, especially when it comes to sourced materials. If preemptive removals are allowed, there can be many disputes coming up due to disagreements. I think that discussion should always come first, before removal of sourced content. The discussion should also focus on whether the sources are authoritative enough (e.g. Whether they are tabloids etc), since some good-selling papers and magazines often blow things out of proportion.--Kylohk 14:15, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

I agree. One thing people seem to gloss over is if something needs to be removed right away. A lot of articles, while somewhat negative or borderline whatever, have been up for a long time, and it realistically doesn't hurt to keep it up for a discussion about the article. -- Ned Scott 05:00, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
Yup. I think policies should be written to minimize the probability of conflicts in carrying them out. Had things been discussed thoroughly before any action is taken, there could be better harmony in the community.--Kylohk 10:43, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
I disagree. Discussion can take place before or after editing, and it is possible to link to before and after versions in the page history to illustrate any points that need to be made. If there is the possibility of harm, assume good faith on the part of the editor who removed it, engage them in discussion, attempt to improve the content, and then, after the discussion, judge whether you can justify restoring the content. This works the other way around as well. If someone restores content that you have removed, point out to them that you said in the edit summary that you feel the material does harm, explain why, revert them, and initiate discussion. Make clear that you will discuss it with them, or explain that discussion is not appropriate. Of course, this does not apply to deletion of articles, which is why I've always favoured page blanking, discussion, then (if needed) deletion. Carcharoth 15:07, 14 July 2007 (UTC)
However, if an action is contraversial, suspicions may often be raised and it would be very difficult to assume the good faith. Being bold does not equate to being reckless, WP:BOLD even says so.--Kylohk 03:10, 15 July 2007 (UTC)

Images of living persons[edit]

I recommend that images of living persons, who have stated that they do not want their image placed on wikipedia, and where good reason exists that the image may defame them, should be removed from wikipedia servers.

For instance, in the article Primal Scream (Harvard), a continuous discussion involving the inclusion of photographs which show naked women whom have voiced their opposition to having the images removed should not have even been eligible for the lengthly discussion and long delay it took to get them removed, since it is a clearly extension of "Do no harm." To make this unambiguous, and to qualify them for speedy deletion I feel as though this policy should be made official. Jgassens 14:49, 14 July 2007 (UTC)

Pseudo-biographies are sometimes encyclopedic[edit]

Regarding An article under the title of a person's name should substantially be a full and balanced biography of that person's life: When writing biographies, it is important to focus on what the subject is known for. When I read about George Washington I expect the bulk of the article to be about his military and political life, not his hobbies, family life, or religion. For less famous people, such as lesser-known Fortune 500 CEOs, these do not even need to be in the article.

For living persons, sometimes a limited whitewash is in order. An article on George Bush does not need to mention every one of his youthful indiscretions, even if every one of them can be sourced.

For certain "must have" categories, such as CEOs of very large companies, former US Congressmen, etc., the initial article may be a stub using information taken from the company's web site. Such woefully incomplete and potentially unbalanced articles should not be deleted as long as the person holds an office that makes him notable. Instead, interested editors should expand these articles. davidwr/(talk)/(contribs)/(e-mail) 00:45, 18 July 2007 (UTC)

Absolutely. Incompleteness alone is never enough. Other considerations include whether it can be demonstrated that completeness is either not desirable (due weight, of little interest to the reader), not possible (obscure sources, missing sources, privacy), or simply not yet achieved (no-one has expanded the article yet). What is crucial is the reason for incompleteness. Bear in mind though that if all you need to say about a CEO is a few sentences about when he was born, and what company he is in charge of, then you could just as well say that at the article about the company, and use a redirect instead. As the information expands (eg. CEO of one company and then another company, both of which should have articles themselves), then the case for a separate article becomes more convincing. The information could still be contained in short paragraphs at Company 1 and Company 2, but combining them makes more sense. Carcharoth 00:56, 18 July 2007 (UTC)
I'm not sure about that: a short article invited expansion in a way that a paragraph in a larger article does not. DGG (talk) 04:29, 21 July 2007 (UTC)
I'm not sure the reverse isn't true. Quite often, the short paragraph in the larger article will draw more eyeballs, whereas the permastub will sit forgotten. If and when the amount of source material increases over time (as, for a CEO, it generally will), it can always be split back out once it can reach the length of a real article. Until then, though, "X is the CEO of Y" is better suited to the company article—"The current CEO of the company is X", with X as a redirect to Y. Seraphimblade Talk to me 06:34, 28 July 2007 (UTC)

"Do no harm" is a two-edged sword[edit]

One thing this page doesn't address is cases when "do no harm" is a two-edged sword. For con artists removal of an article can harm the potential future victims of the con artist (scammer, crook, etc...). Indeed, harm to the con artist from having an article is the direct consequence of harm prevented for potential victims by having that article - and my ethical system makes it clear which it is ethical to care more about. On the positive side, a barely notable person doing good (in whatever ethical system you want to assume; perhaps charitable works, religion, political advocacy, etc...) there is harm by making those good works less prominent when the article is removed. So far as I can tell, the community has not seriously considered this two-edged nature of "do no harm", but in some situations I have seen, "do no harm" was a better reason for having content than for removing it. GRBerry 19:55, 18 July 2007 (UTC)

perhaps we should have stuck with NPOV, V, and RS. DGG (talk) 03:42, 19 July 2007 (UTC)
The expression "do no harm" comes from the medical profession. Doctors do not make a judgement on their patients' beneficial or harmful contributions to society. Steve Dufour 16:40, 22 July 2007 (UTC)
Doctors pursue the interests of their patients; it would constitute a serious violation of NPOV if we were to do the same. Black Falcon (Talk) 17:18, 22 July 2007 (UTC)
You're completely misunderstanding Steve. Primum non nocere is one of the basic elements of medical ethics. Circeus 00:03, 28 July 2007 (UTC)
I think the point is: Having some content not on Wikipedia is unlikely to do serious harm, since no one can reasonably rely on Wikipedia being complete. Our task is not to "warn" anyody of "bad guys" - that's a task we could not reliably fulfill anyway. Having objectionable content on Wikipedia however, even if for a short time, can cause serious harm, since the visibility and influence of Wikipedia has reached an enourmous level. So we need some means of removing questionable content quickly. --B. Wolterding 15:34, 27 July 2007 (UTC)
There's absolutely nothing in this proposed guideline, or the biographies of living persons policy, that would prevent people putting whatever information they want about a con artist in newspapers, on noticeboards, in television and radio programs, in books, periodicals, letters, forum websites, blogs, Usenet, Fax messages, telephone calls, telex, pigeon post, telegraph, semaphore, heliograph, sky writing or smoke signal. Not having a Wikipedia article about a con man, even if it were supported by the BLP (and I am dubious about the reasoning that it would be) would not stop his foul deeds being widely publicised. --Tony Sidaway 03:53, 28 July 2007 (UTC)
Once again, we are an ENCYCLOPEDIA! Our job is to provide sourced and verifable information! It is not possible to delete our way to that end. As i say this is obviously just a front for WP:Whitewash in which Geogre Bush never used coke and hitler was an artist. (Hypnosadist) 06:11, 28 July 2007 (UTC)
Us not including somebody's name would not stop that name being widely publicised. violet/riga (t) 08:35, 28 July 2007 (UTC)
You've got it. In writing the encyclopedia we should not take it upon ourselves to consider whether omitting information for entirely encyclopedic reasons could possibly reduce the exposure of that name. Our purpose is to produce an encyclopedia, not a newspaper. Our standards are different, and we should never be ashamed that we do not cover every single detail mentioned in every newspaper.
Pace GRBerry, I highly doubt that we'd remove relevant well founded information about a convicted fraud. Removing unencyclopedic information is another matter. We might for instance omit his family details, because of the obvious harm it could do to his children. --Tony Sidaway 13:26, 28 July 2007 (UTC)

Might add:[edit]

"If they're notable only in connection with a single event, redirect their name to the page on that event. If the page on the event was deleted or would likely be deleted, they DEFINITELY don't need a biography"

A suggestion... 01:24, 19 July 2007 (UTC)

Putting aside the issue of the validity of such an approach, such cases are better handled on a case-by-case basis. A general policy prescription is undesirable as it could not possible account for the varying circumstances of individual cases. Black Falcon (Talk) 17:20, 22 July 2007 (UTC)

This proposal seems like a form of self-censorship[edit]

Honestly, this seems like the first step in moving towards becoming Conservapedia. One of the great things about Wikipedia is that we can include information if it is sourced reliably, and this is an advantage we have over other forms of media. Wikipedia is not a tabloid, but Wikipedia is also not censored, and we shouldn't cover up grisly details if they are relevant and sourced properly just so that the Wikimedia Foundation doesn't face a lawsuit. In fact, this is almost contradictory with the original aims of building an encyclopedia from a neutral point of view.--h i s s p a c e r e s e a r c h 12:11, 11 August 2007 (UTC)

Bingo! (Hypnosadist) 16:01, 11 August 2007 (UTC)
Wow, I come back to see how Wikipedia is doing after my break and find that it's in the process of destroying itself. Tremendous. Cynical 10:48, 13 August 2007 (UTC)


There should be limits to this practice. Specifically, there must be safeguards against the arbitrary removal of information on the personal whim of the article subject. I recall an instance where a writer, who is known under their real name but commonly uses initials in the style of "T. S. Eliot" etc., made a request to remove what the initials stand for, apparently because they simply disliked their given name. Now, I'm sure this article subject was just innocently making a request of the type that is commonly made to magazines—that they prefer their name written in such a form—but in the context of an encyclopedia this is not a request that should I think be granted.

It should be pointed out that the given name was printed in reliable sources and that the article subject had even been interviewed in a magazine about it, explaining that they simply disliked the name. Such a situation could not involve "harm" in any meaningful way, and I don't see why we should ever go with simple personal whims like this.--Pharos 01:20, 12 August 2007 (UTC)

I fully agree. -- Ned Scott 06:27, 12 August 2007 (UTC)


I do not support this as a policy, although I agree with most of it. Weird? Read on...

This uses as "good" examples a couple of, in my opinion, rather poor ones. Damilola Taylor is «a Nigerian schoolboy who died in the UK». Is *that* a reason to write an article about someone?? Certainly not. And then the article is all about court cases about his death, proving so. This is good example of a pseudo-biography, precisely something this proposal aims against. Likewise with Madeleine McCann, since there is no biography about her other then a short section in the article about her disappearance. Again this is a good example of "write about the event, not the person", not of a notable biography.

Could better examples be found? Probably. But to me that is not the real issue.

The issue, in my opinion, is: should we care about "doing no harm"? No! We should care about writing good *encyclopedia* articles. That should take care of excluding most "harmful" content.

We should not write news. News should go to Wikinews, not WP. Sure many prefer to write them here, for greater visibility, but if those went and wrote good news articles there both would improve. Wikinews would inherit some of the rather good news reports, and news writers we have at WP; and WP will be more of an encyclopedia. That is, what is needed is to really use an existent policy, "WP is not the news", not to make a new one.

We should not keep news archives. Just pasting several news articles side by side does not make it a encyclopedia article. An encyclopedia article should provide analysis of the subject not simply list reported facts. Sometimes this will fit the "no original research" policy, so we don't need a new one.

I suppose many "potentially harmful" content comes from news sources. I guess all of you have eared / read conflicting reports in the news ('there were seven dead as a consequence of this incident', says one, 'five dead, one wounded', says another, etc....). That is, news reports are not reliable sources - note: analyses published in (reliable) media are. And we have a policy for "reliable sources", we don't need a new one.

Yes, I know this proposal points to those policies and more (BLP,NPOV,...). But do we need a new policy saying to respect other policies? Or do we simply need to respect (or add to, or change) the exist ones? I go for respect established policies, there's no need for a new one.

The only novelty here looks like "when in doubt of notoriety (etc.) then 'do no harm'". Agreed. But that's not much more than a paragraph to BLP and/or Notoriety (Biographies) - Nabla 15:59, 15 August 2007 (UTC)

John Smeaton (baggage handler)[edit]

This man has received widespread media attention for a month, but is now finally back to his day job. The article as it stands fails WP:BLP1E, WP:PSEUDO and WP:COATRACK. I'd like other opinions as to what we should do with this page. Also see my comments on the article's talk page.--h i s s p a c e r e s e a r c h 13:30, 18 August 2007 (UTC)

Now you try and foist this rubish off as a policy, stop it! most editors outside of the extremist deletionists don't want this essay. Remember "YOU CAN'T DELETE AN ENCYCLOPEDIA INTO EXISTENCE"(Hypnosadist) 15:27, 18 August 2007 (UTC)
people do try and will continue to try, and calm patient defense of the individual articles is the only way to deal with it. But what BLP or Avoid Harm has to do with this particular article, I dont know. Everything is a/ sourced and b/ laudatory. DGG (talk) 09:34, 19 August 2007 (UTC)
According to the article Smeaton himself said, less than two weeks after the events: «Would you stop it with all this hero worship?». Harm comes from turning a short burst of public exposure by the media into a permenent one in here. Although the main point against it is that WP is not the news, and this is good news but not an encyclopedia article. - Nabla 13:02, 19 August 2007 (UTC)
What harm is caused and how Nabla? (Hypnosadist) 13:33, 19 August 2007 (UTC)
As I said, the harm issue is secondary here. This is (was) news, WP is not the news, nor a news archive IMO. As to the harm, can't you see any dangers in picking up commom people and making a permenent and public file, with very little control, about his life?! More likely than not someone will sooner or later "improve" the article by adding other details. That would be an invasion of privacy. Not to mention that false statements persisted, in at least a well know case, for months in a relatively high profile biography. How long will a false claim last on something like this? - Nabla 17:03, 19 August 2007 (UTC)
1)The whole of history is a news archive. 2)Why should someone have less rights and protections on wikipedia just because they are deemed Notable. 3)Perminent and public is the point of wikipedia 4)He has as much control as he needs; he can edit the article himself if needed or complain on the talk page or at the BLP notice board. 5)Its not an invasion of privacy if it is sourced to reputable sources. 6)Its not my fault one of kennedy's best mates was accused of killing him and no-one bothered to check that fact, we have much stronger BLP rules now. (Hypnosadist) 17:30, 19 August 2007 (UTC)
1)Pick an history book on a subject of your liking and compare. You'll see the obvious difference. 2)He doesn't. The point is that articles about "notable" people have facts to fill it up. These don't, except for one event, increasing largely the temptation to "fill it up". 3) and 4) So he should spend the rest of his live checking WP? Odds that someone else will are neglegible, buried in the over 200,000 "cat:living peaple" articles. 5) Quote me a good book, not a news report, about someone's life, and I'll accept it as a quotable source without blinking. 6) Yes it is your fault, did *you* bothered to check? And it's my fault to. - Nabla 01:47, 20 August 2007 (UTC)
"5) Quote me a good book, not a news report, about someone's life, and I'll accept it as a quotable source without blinking." Thats not WP policy on sources and of course removes one of the main advantages of having an online encyclopedia its ability to be up to the minute. 3and4 but notable (in your opinion only) people have the time to do that? (Hypnosadist) 02:42, 20 August 2007 (UTC)
5) Information, from the news, that, e.g. there was a fire damaging the Cutty Sark is fine, and a bonus for a online encyclopedia, off course, given it is quite notable already and it's very unlikely the info to be false. That person X is reported to claim s/he is the girl/boyfriend of person Y is a quite different matter. 3,4)Off course not, but there is a greater chance that someone else (fans, followers,...) do that. - Nabla 17:14, 21 August 2007 (UTC)

Would like to see discussion and policy about those put in the public eye without their consent[edit]

Sometimes, a person becomes notable solely because inadvertent on their part, and without their consent, information they considered private was released into the public and widely enough reported to become notable. I would like to see discussion and policy about how Wikipedia should handle identifying such individuals especially if they are minors, and whether Wikipedia should honor their requests for privacy. VisitorTalk 16:03, 26 August 2007 (UTC)

Have you already read Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons#Presumption in favor of privacy? - Nabla 22:01, 26 August 2007 (UTC)

Widely known[edit]

This essay is a good one, though I personally would prefer to keep it an essay. The only thing I dislike concerns the first point of the inclusion test. Right now, it is confusing and contradictory, and will need to be rephrased whether my argument below is agreed upon or not. Before I put forward my argument against the clause in general, I will briefly dissect the paragraph, to show in what way it does not make sense.

If: <appeared in many mainstream reliable sources over an extended period of time> then: <ok>

If: <appeared in a few unreliable sources> then: <not ok>

The main issue with the schematic argument above is that it does not support the title of the clause, which leads the reader to believe that the information should be widely known. This is unlike the second sentence, which is an argument against unreliable sources. Tabloids and websites of dubious quality are often well read, and only appearing in these sources is no reasons to keep out information because it would not be well known. Keep in mind that if this inclusion test becomes something of a standard biography information is checked against, it will be heavily used in a lot of discussions.

While the paragraph itself is confusing, the intention is clear: information that is not widely known should not be included in articles about living persons. I disagree with this intention, because it is defeats Wikipedia's aims. Before continuing, please note that the argument below has nothing to do with reliability. It only applies to those specific cases where information has been published in an reliable (per the usual standards) source, yet it is not widely known. Consider the case of an article on a (notable) biologist in Neurology (journal) - most of those who are familiar with the biologist will not know the information in that article, detailing his experience with genetics, which as not appeared anywhere else.

Information from tabloids and dubious websites is unreliable, and should be excluded on those grounds. Wikipedia is here to provide information, and one of the good things about Wikipedia is that it provides little known information - provided that it is reliable and relevant. There are two criteria for that in this essay.

Finally, I would suggest splitting up the second clause into two, one about information that is not definitive, yet appears in reliable sources (speculation on sports in reliable sports newspapers happens often) and one about unreliable sources (tabloids and the like). This would keep the trifecta there, and strengthens the argument. User:Krator (t c) 23:26, 2 September 2007 (UTC)

scholarly sources are missing. Andries (talk) 07:08, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

Question about a subject's year of birth[edit]

I have a question. Writer/producer Jeph Loeb has asked me to remove the year of his birth from his article, on advice from his legal counsel, due to identity theft issues he and his family suffered. The month and date of birth has already removed, and wanted to know if it's considered okay to remove the year too if the subject requests it. Any thoughts? Nightscream (talk) 06:17, 22 April 2008 (UTC)

If the birthday is already available in reliable sources then releasing it here would not be a privacy issue. If it is not in a reliable source then we need to remove it because it is a) original research, and b) a potential invasion of privacy. So it all depends on the quality of the source that has the age.
From a strictly technical point of view, I think that the year of birth alone will be a very little use to someone trying to steal an identity. (1 == 2)Until 14:14, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
If the birthday is easily available elsewhere (and likely that's a matter of judgment, but so be it), then removing it here does no good to the subject and hurts the article. It seems to me that it needs to be demonstrated that a year of birth alone would be of any value in identity theft. Legal counsel can -- and usually will -- say anything, but what should matter is anything that can be pointed to that would show some lack of security if a year of birth were more widely known. I wouldn't remove a year of birth without strong evidence or a very cogent argument or, preferably, both. If you get either, it would be worth sharing with other editors, perhaps here, because then a change in policy should be considered. Noroton (talk) 14:53, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
Further thoughts: If you want to, you can remove unsourced material or material not sourced to a reliable source. I see no source for his birth year (although there's usually a reliable source for that to be found somewhere). I also see quite a few footnotes refering to, which I think may be considered an unreliable source. Birth year is usually considered something to be kept, even in the face of identity-theft concerns. See Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons#Presumption in favor of privacy, "Privacy of personal information" subsection (When in doubt about the notability of the subject, or if the subject complains about the publication of his or her date of birth, err on the side of caution and simply list the year of birth.). You can get more information at the BLP noticeboard. Noroton (talk) 15:14, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
IMDB is accepted for noncontroversial biographical facts (remembering that he birth of some people there may be controversial) and it gives the FULL date of his birth. We have no basis in policy for removing year of birth at the request of the subject--the BLP policy is quite specific that we in fact solve privacy problems by providing only the year. DGG (talk) 15:18, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
If someone tells Wikipedia that having their birth year in an article is putting them at risk, why are we second guessing them and their lawyer? Take it out. Having the article without this information is a very minor matter, isn't it?
If the information is in IMDB, that is between them and IMDB. If IMDB keeps the info because it is in Wikipedia, and Wikipedia keeps the info because it is in IMDB, that puts the subject into a stalemate. Wanderer57 (talk) 15:46, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
Indeed, IMDB does not properly confirm its content. Now if a reliable source can be found that is another story. Oh and Wanderer, we do need to second guess the subject of the article and their lawyer, NPOV requires it. (1 == 2)Until 15:54, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
Thank you. I can understand that if subject Abc tells us a "fact" about themselves, including it without checking might bias the article to their POV. But in this case, it's not a matter of including possibly biased information. The request is to leave out birth year. This does not introduce bias. It just causes a very slight lack of information.
Does not the subject's safety concern trump the issue of missing information? Wanderer57 (talk) 16:30, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
Sure, but knowing the year of birth for an adult-- especially when it is available from the most obvious source on the internet, even more obvious for this person than Wikipedia, detracts nothing from safety. All it usually detracts from vanity. If a person claimed that his safety requires the concealment of where he went to college, would we honor that? What if he claimed it required the concealment of one of the positions in his career? The basic rule of Wikipedia is common sense. It is just such claims as this that make me concerned about any special provisions for living people beyond V and NPOV. DGG (talk) 17:36, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
Thank you. I agree there is room for skepticism about the risk caused by publicizing a birth year. But I don't know the person's circumstances and I assume you don't either. Maybe there is a significant reason for concern. Maybe it is an irrational phobia. We don't know.
We are looking at a tradeoff between a) Wikipedia lacking a few bytes of information and b) the (perhaps small) risk that we are doing serious harm by including the information.
Here and in a similar discussion last month, it seems that I'm out of step with everyone else. Editors seem to opt for a position of: "analyse and discount the subject's concerns. we can publish what we want". Whether you and other editors would accept that characterization I don't know. That is how it comes across. I find it very worrying, and contrary to the main thrust of the BLP policy. Wanderer57 (talk) 18:56, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
P.S. "If a person claimed that his safety requires the concealment of where he went to college, would we honor that?" The concern might be very real. WOULD we honour the request? Wanderer57 (talk) 19:08, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
The things that are obviously relevant we remove immediately without discussion: dates of birth, names of children, address, phone number, email, exact location of workplace, and the like. We remove even birthyear and age of children on request, because of obvious risk factors. (Though of course for some people, all this is widespread public knowledge & even part of their PR.) Can you explain a hypothetical case for the above? DGG (talk) 19:41, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
I can think of cases where the college that someone went to is sensitive information. I'll put them in below.
The real point is, if someone requests that we not publish their alma mater (or their birth year, or if they wear a hearing aid, etc.) because of safety concerns, we as Wikipedia editors do not have the background information to judge whether there is a "real" issue or whether the request is due to whim, vanity, or other.
Moreover, even with my limited experience, I know that SOME Wikipedia editors and administrators do not approach such requests with the concerns and wellbeing of the subject foremost in their mind. They approach with the POV that Wikipedia can and will publish information unless there is a clear legal or policy reason not to.
From my point of view, I don't think it is relevant whether you or I can think of a reason why the college a subject went to might be sensitive. Normally of course, college is not sensitive information, so a circumstance in which it is "sensitive" is going to be uncommon. So please do not dismiss my examples by saying they are unlikely situations. The point is, they are possible situations.
  • Subject A has an area of notability. A is also a law officer or government agent working undercover. A's notability is not associated with their undercover work. Person X whom they are investigating went to the same college or university. If X makes the connection "Wait a minute, I went to Old Ivy with you back in 1973", the investigation may be compromised.
  • Subject B is in witness protection. ANY information about their previous place of residence, family, college, place of work, etc. is sensitive.
In either of these cases, the reason the subject wants information kept private is sensitive enough that they don't want to disclose it, or it would be illegal to do so. Wanderer57 (talk) 21:17, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

Relevant to this discussion, an anonymous editor credibly claiming to be the subject of a BLP article has removed his year of birth and said he will delete the article if the information is re-added. [10] The article subject has on past occasions enlisted his students to be surrogate editors for him on this point. Seeing as it has come down to an edit war in an area that seems to be somewhat ill-defined, and for which not large numbers of other editors have expressed firm opinions, I'll keep out of it and trust that the article (and the general rule) will eventually evolve in the right direction, whatever that may be. Robert K S (talk) 15:56, 3 September 2008 (UTC)

"essential to the article"[edit]

Not that I necessarily think we need this statement at all, but at any rate the wording should be "relevant to the article",--otherwise it will typically exclude everything except the particular incidents that accounts for most of the notability--and articles are challenged because they include nothing else of significance. The background of person is usually of considerable significance to the article, though not literally "essential". DGG (talk) 19:41, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

unnecessary policy[edit]

As I noted over at this policy is unnecessary. If there is truly no conflict with WP:NPOV, WP:RS, and WP:NOTABLE, then any problem articles should be covered off by reference to those policies. This policy only has a raison d'etre if a NPOV, reliably sourced, notable article cannot be left alone. Why can't it be left alone? Because it "harms" someone? So in a conflict with NPOV, NPOV must be compromised?? Sources become "unreliable" simply because someone believes there is "harm"? Notable material becomes un-notable simply because someone believes there is "harm"? What's really striking is that NPOV, reliably sourced, notable edits can be reverted by citing WP:HARM, WP:BLP, or related policies and these violations of NPOV are exempt from 3RR!Bdell555 (talk) 01:28, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

Hi Bdel555: You write in a very "telegraphic" style which I find difficult to follow. I don't know if anyone else has that problem. Maybe it is just me.
However, insofar as I grasp your argument, you seem to downplay the importance of the policies wp:harm and wp:blp. Do you really consider them unimportant? Wanderer57 (talk) 05:30, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

Privacy of birth year[edit]

A living biographical article subject is opposed to his year of birth appearing in his Wikipedia article and has multiple times instructed persons who work for him to remove the information. The year of birth is well-sourced and appears in library catalogs alongside the subject's name in records of books authored by the subject. The subject cites privacy concerns and WP:HARM as the basis of removal of this information. I brought the matter up some time ago on BLP and the response there was that a well-sourced birth year was fundamental biographical information and was not subject to removal for privacy concerns. Thoughts? Robert K S (talk) 16:14, 11 June 2008 (UTC)

we got it right the first time. Frankly, a relatively incomprehensible request, which well explains why I think the general defefence paid to the wishes of the subject is inappropriate. This is more usual in the case of performing artists of various sorts, where at least it has some actual connection to their career--if people can keep it hidden, we of course dont start OR to unearth the data, and we do not report exact day unless it is very widely known since it can be used to actually breech privacy of records, and of course not the year for children, also unless very widely known. Adults with non-sensitive careers and obvious sources is a little absurd.DGG (talk) 04:02, 13 June 2008 (UTC)
See update to this, three talk sections above. Robert K S (talk) 15:58, 3 September 2008 (UTC)

Not a proposal[edit]

Sebwite, I'd like to strongly recommend against suggesting this page as a proposal. For one thing, it died as a proposal a couple of years ago, and since then, our official policy on the subject of BLPs has moved further and further away from the advice given here.

Second, we shouldn't have two pages that govern BLP content, so if there's any part of it you feel should be an actual rule, I recommend you pitch the specifics over at WT:BLP.

Simply slapping a {{proposed}} tag on this is much more of a hornet's nest than I think you're aware of.--Father Goose (talk) 22:11, 18 January 2010 (UTC)

Deletion policy and this page[edit]

Currently, this page suggests that administrators who find coatrack articles (and such) should delete first and ask questions later, maybe even asking those questions solely of other admins. This directly contradicts the deletion policy which says to use the deletion process. Since the policy is presumed to have widespread consensus, that puts this essay afoul of WP:ESSAYS, which states that essays should not contradict widespread consensus, lest they be moved to userspace. I suggest removing the offending section. --NYKevin @859, i.e. 19:37, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

As far as I can interpret it, it's only in exceptional circumstances where privacy has been breached. As such, I don't see how this differs from IAR, although I suppose technically it should be bounced up to the oversighters for their input as well as discussed between sysops. Brammers (talk/c) 20:24, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
I don't think you get to use IAR unless it's really obviously a Good Idea to delete the page in question. As in, WP:G6 sorts of things (housekeeping and such). And a closed deletion discussion is fundamentally un-wiki (OTOH, so are office actions, but they are extremely rare and exist primarily for legal considerations. Moreover, they tend to produce a lot of grumbling when they happen.). If something really desperately needs to be done right now, the office will do it for us. And the rest of the time, we can calmly discuss the issue in a standard AfD (or for simple matters, a PROD would suffice; WP:G10 and WP:A7 are also available). --NYKevin @160, i.e. 02:49, 12 January 2012 (UTC)

Links here[edit]

Wikipedia:Notability_(people)#Invalid_criteria is a guideline and has a link to PSEUDO. Is it okay for a guideline to refer to an essay as though the essay is equally official?

Maybe this should be made a guideline as well? Ken Arromdee (talk) 06:01, 3 March 2014 (UTC)

Oversight Team Suppression based on Avoiding Harm[edit]

Wikipedia has an enforced and undocumented policy/non-disclosed guideline based on a Do No Harm concept despite it's documented rejection here. Information is suppressed to the point where nobody can see it was removed or contested. Suppression can and does take place on article pages about the person/event, and also if related articles reference the material/topic/subject/name as well. If the person's name is used in article titles from reliable news sources, even those references will be removed.

An older example of a documented situation is referenced below```

Role of Wikipedia Wikipedia also participated in the media blackout. Prior to any references to the kidnapping being added to Rohde's article in Wikipedia, a Times reporter, Michael Moss, made changes to the article to emphasize the work that Rohde had done, in such a way that Rohde would be seen by his captors as being sympathetic to Muslims. Subsequently, reports of the kidnapping, which began on the following day, were removed by Michael Moss and some Wikipedia administrators. The Times also approached Wikipedia's co-founder Jimmy Wales for assistance in enforcing the media blackout. Wales turned to "trusted" Wikipedia administrators to repeatedly edit the article to remove all references to the kidnapping, and prevent already published information from being further disseminated.[16]

In response to criticism over the actions taken, Wales stated that no Wikipedia policies were broken, and that relevant processes were followed.[17] Peter Sussman of the Society of Professional Journalists' ethics committee likened the description of Wales involvement to that of a newspaper editor, and cautioned that an editorial role in censorship requires a degree of disclosure.[18]

One rationale cited by Wales, in complying with the Times's request, was the fact that the media blackout of the story, among major western/English-language news services at least, was relatively effective: "We were really helped by the fact that it hadn't appeared in a place we would regard as a reliable source. I would have had a really hard time with it if it had."[19] He praised the assistance provided by Wikipedia editors: "I'm really proud of the Wikipedians who made this happen, maybe saved his life."[20]

Current Situation

Wikipedia would currently like to pretend somebody doesn't exist, their existence can't be mentioned in related articles, and an article page may not be made regarding the person/event/situation. Oversight will also scrub their reference in related articles. In the interest of fair disclosure of their conduct and undocumented policy of suppression/censorship based on this rejected do no harm policy please visit the village pump's discussion here: (talk) 11:20, 8 September 2014 (UTC)

Input request[edit]

Hi, if anyone's watching this talk page, we could use some input on a BLP harm question at: Talk:Julio_A._Cabral-Corrada#Campaign_finance_issue. The main issue is whether to include a US Congressional campaign finance issue in a BLP for which we have only very limited sourcing on the rest of the subject's bio (we have four reliable secondary sources on the campaign finance issue, and only six on all the rest of the subject's life, three of which come from the same outlet.) The campaign finance issue was not in the original entry, but came up in the search for more sources at AfD, which closed as no consensus (full disclosure, I was a delete voter). Now another editor has added in the campaign finance thing. Entry's creator deleted that in its entirety. More input would be very much appreciated! Innisfree987 (talk) 15:25, 25 September 2016 (UTC)