Wikipedia talk:Protecting children's privacy/Archive 3

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For whatever it is worth, I have completely rewritten this policy to address some of the objections that were stated during the recent effort to gague community opinion, and elsewhere on this talk page. References to COPPA have been virtually eliminated. If I do say so myself, it is also better written, clearer, more coherent and eliminates some repetition and Wikipedia jargon. It also addresses the issue of "content" on Wikipedia, that has been discussed extensively on this page. For now I have kept this rewrite in my user space, here. I know that people who disagree with the concept will still disagree, but I would be interested in seeing the reaction of people who agree with the concept. It probably would be better to post the reaction here, although I suppose people could also write on the talk page where the proposed policy is (in my user space.) 6SJ7 17:31, 17 October 2006 (UTC)

I fail to see any major differences compared to the original policy. What of the objections have you adressed? Sorry, but I can't support this version either. And saying "please, if you don't like the concept, don't comment" is counter-productive as you block out a major part of the community that discusses this thing. CharonX/talk 10:20, 19 October 2006 (UTC)
Obviously there is nothing that I can change that is going to satisfy people who object to the concept of the policy in the first place. I did not say "don't comment." I acknowledged that "people who disagree with the concept will still disagree" (that would include you, and obviously I was correct in your case), but that I am interested in seeing the comments of others. I probably could have worded that more diplomatically, but the fact is that I already know your comment, which is that we don't need this policy or anything that looks like this policy. I have that information. I am looking for information that I don't have, which is, if anyone was generally supportive of the concept, does this version make you more or less likely to support an actual policy, and what can still be improved about this version. The main objection that I have addressed in my version is what several people (including me) saw as an over-emphasis on legal issues and COPPA in the previous version. 6SJ7 11:23, 19 October 2006 (UTC)
Sorry, it's still a pile of shit. -- Ned Scott 14:09, 19 October 2006 (UTC)
Well, obviously you are an eminent authority on what is appropriate behavior on Wikipedia. Anyway, as I said before, I really didn't write it for people who are opposed to the whole concept. 6SJ7 14:40, 19 October 2006 (UTC)
Sorry, but I just find it funny that trying to hide the COPPA connection is somehow an acceptable solution. -- Ned Scott 14:54, 19 October 2006 (UTC)
I, too, don't see how this is particularly different save for the fact that it makes fewer references to COPPA than the original proposal and (briefly) brings up the issue of Wikipedia's appropriateness for children. I do think that the addressing of WP:NOT censored for the protection of minors is something that should be brought to the attention of parents whose children want to edit Wikipedia, but I'm not sure if it merits inclusion in this proposal solely because of that; at least as it currently stands, WP:CHILD is really more concerned with keeping children from compromising their real-world identities than bringing issues parents should be aware of to said parents' notice. CameoAppearance orate 00:48, 20 October 2006 (UTC)

I still don't get why email and IM are personally identifiable

I keep seeing 'e-mail address or IM screen name' on the list of personally identifiable information, and I'm kinda scratching my head as to why. I do realise that both allow there to be further contact with a child, but an email address or IM screen name can't in itself reveal the real-world identity or location of its user (it is possible for grooming to take place there, but I'm not sure if we should be held responsible in a situation like that simply because this, a well-reputed and widely-used online encyclopedia, was the place where the predator found their victim's IM name or email), at least not unless I'm seriously behind on my knowledge of Internet security. "Because COPPA includes it there" isn't really a sufficient explanation; we're neither required to adopt it nor modelling the policy after COPPA. CameoAppearance orate 20:26, 18 October 2006 (UTC)

That's a reasonable point. I think we should be concerned about adults contacting young editors. It is not a question of WP being "held responsible" for anything. As I have said in my proposed rewrite of the policy (see above), this is not a legal issue and it does not necessarily have to be modeled after COPPA. What I think it has turned into is an effort to make it more difficult to use information obtained on Wikipedia to identify or contact someone under the age of 13. (By the way, to take this even further away from COPPA, I would be happy to make the cutoff age 16 or even 18, but I do not know whether that would make it more or less likely that this proposal ultimately achieves the necessary level of support to become policy.) That being the case, contact information should be included. Since the current draft (including my version) refers only to "personal identifying information", the term "or contact information" could be added everywhere (or almost everywhere; it may not "fit" every time) that the existing phrase appears. 6SJ7 20:47, 18 October 2006 (UTC)
However, in order to be effective editors, child Wikipedians (or any Wikipedians, really) are going to have to communicate with adults, and teenagers, and perhaps even another child on rare occasion, because discussion is something that's pretty much required for Wikipedia to function. The vast majority of this discussion can, does, and probably should take place on talk pages, but sometimes it's preferable for two editors to communicate via email or IMs. Prohibiting young editors from giving other Wikipedians an off-wiki way to communicate with them, as well as seeming unnecessarily harsh, could easily do far more harm than good.
In addition to this issue, most if not all of the rest of the proposal is focused on keeping children from compromising their offline identity - i.e. by revealing excessive personal information, which allows them to be stalked and serves no useful purpose to the encyclopedia or its community - rather than shielding them from any chance, no matter how slight, of contact by a predator. I don't think it's worth it to block off an avenue of useful contact just to prevent an already-improbable negative type of contact from occuring. CameoAppearance orate 07:28, 19 October 2006 (UTC)
I completely agree with CameoAppearance on this. Besides, the wiki e-mail feature already was created to hide e-mail addresses unless you respond to the e-mail. And the idea of raising the age cut off makes this proposal WROSE, not better. -- Ned Scott 08:18, 19 October 2006 (UTC)
Personally, I think that the potential risk involved in facilitating direct contact between adults and young children outweighs the drawbacks of only being able to communicate through talk pages. (I think this is a pretty minor drawback anyway.) However, I do not think the "contact" issue should be the focus of this debate. I notice from above discussions that you (Cameo) appear to support the concept of this policy otherwise, and that you (Ned) do not seem to support it anyway. Cameo, if enough other people feel as you do, and would support the policy only if the "contact" limitations are removed, I think this can be worked out. Maybe there should be a poll (I can see certain people snapping to red alert status from here) with different options (one of them being "no policy.") 6SJ7 11:03, 19 October 2006 (UTC)
And I think that banning any means of initiating off-wiki contact between a child Wikipedian and another editor (any other editor, of any age, not just people who present any kind ofactual or potential danger to them) is being unnecessarily draconian. A poll sounds like a good idea, but it'll take more than that before enough people come to a compromise on this for it to actually have a shot at being made policy. CameoAppearance orate 00:39, 20 October 2006 (UTC)
And more to the point, Cameo, what do you think of my new draft? (See section above.) I don't see much point in people continuing to edit what is on the policy page now because there are enough objections based on the over-emphasis on legal issues and COPPA to sink the whole thing. Maybe I should just "be bold" and substitute mine for the current one, and then maybe we can have a talk page poll on contact information vs. no contact information. However, I first wanted to see some comments on my draft, and specifically on whether this is an appropriate time to substitute it for the current version. 6SJ7 11:33, 19 October 2006 (UTC)
I'll comment on that in its own section. CameoAppearance orate 00:39, 20 October 2006 (UTC)


Noticed there wasn't a link in the discussion yet about the ArbCom case, Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Protecting children's privacy. -- Ned Scott 14:06, 19 October 2006 (UTC)

Let the lawyers who work for the corporation handle this.

Three reasons: 1) it's a legal minefield, and we risk screwing it up very badly. 2) that's what they're paid to do. 3) it is a legal issue that, if there is an issue, might affect the corporation that runs Wikipedia (and its officers, singly or collectively). --Badger151 06:48, 22 October 2006 (UTC)

  • Agreed. See also this section above. Crum375 14:01, 22 October 2006 (UTC)
  • Endorse John Reid 18:20, 30 October 2006 (UTC)
  • I can't beleive I endorse this Lawyers are scary, but when it comes to things that would have legal repurcussions on wikipedia, this seems like a likely canidate. i kan reed 20:10, 18 November 2006 (UTC)
  • Endorse Why aren't they handling it already? Anything we decide can just be overridden by them anyway. Why leave it to us to guess our way through it? Tragic romance 10:50, 18 December 2006 (UTC)

You guys have missed the boat on this one. Take a look at the discussion in and around Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Protecting children's privacy, especially it's /Workshop page. Note also that "the lawyers" is basically just Brad, and the response from the Wikimedia Foundation has been silence (they were asked to weigh in back in September or so). You can't vote the Foundation into acting. BigNate37(T) 13:51, 18 December 2006 (UTC)


This proposal is unworkable and may be counter productive, because critics might say that Wikipedia had acted but not taken the matter seriously. The alternative proposal, an advisory guideline, is sensible. Alan Pascoe 19:15, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

Agreed. And the alternative guideline should address online security in general, and be applicable to all ages, with possible emphasis on our younger contributors. Crum375 19:19, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

Herostratus' numbers

According to Herostratus there are either 12 or 11 editors opposed, but no indication as to who these 11 or 12 are (I count at least 15 myself). Am I one of the 11/12? I have no idea. If I'm not one of the 11/12 I would like to make sure I am added to that total. I am firmly opposed to this proposition for numerous reason, both legal and practical, most of which have already been covered by other editors. Kaldari 19:17, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

As one of the most vocal critics, I suspect I am in the 11 or 12, but I don't know for certain. I haven't counted. This is beside the point though as we should be discussing why people are objecting (explained in great detail many times above) and reworking/rephrasing/better explaining the policy to try and gain consensus. In the absence of this it is increasingly clear that there will never be a consensus to support. Thryduulf 21:01, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

An actual vote

As much as I hate votes, it seems there is enough contention about whether or not there is potential for consensus on this proposed policy that an organized vote would be useful (with a deadline). Perhaps then we can finally lay to rest whether or not there is consensus for this policy (and whether or not it should be tagged "rejected"). What are people's feelings about conducting a vote? Maybe someone would like to be bold and initiate one. Kaldari 20:04, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

There have been numerous votes, reorganisations, summarisations, discussions, straw polls, etc. and all have come out as no consensus. There is currently an ongoing arbitration case (Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Protecting children's privacy) about this, so a vote now will, imho, both be inapropriate and pointless. Thryduulf 20:55, 24 October 2006 (UTC)
I don't see evidence that an organized vote has ever been held on this policy. Kaldari 01:09, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

A fatherly consideration

Let me start by saying that, as a father of kids in the target age range, there is no way I would ever permit them to edit here, though I have had my son's help on a couple of fancruft-ish copyedits. The arena is too anarchic and the denial of in loco parentis forces me to assume that the community is irresponsible when it comes to minor participation.

It seems pretty clear that this proposal is going to fail as policy. And therefore, in its place we need a disclaimer to the effect that the community isn't going to do anything towards the protection of minors, so they edit at their own risk. Mangoe 13:06, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

No, we do not. If parents can't be bothered to check whether we are protecting minors, that's their problem. And we deny in loco parentis because children's privacy is simply not our concern. If Wikipedia forced you to provide personal information, you could make a good argument for that. But as it is, nobody is obligated to provide personal information, so nobody is obligated to protect minors from doing so. Parents have a responsibility to take care of their child. They can't expect that every site they visit will spell out what they need to do to protect their children. Sometimes they have to do it themselves. -Amarkov babble 13:49, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
Um, an object example of that irresponsibility? I mean, I obviously cannot force you to be responsible, but I personally hold you obligated to responsible behavior even though I'm not going to get it (the parents's lot in life, if there was one). Mangoe 14:37, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
It's not irresponsibility. There is no reason at all why it is our problem to protect your children. If Wikipedia required personal information, you could make a good argument for that. But it doesn't, and we aren't responsible for making your children not post it. It goes against the idea of a free exchange of information to prevent children from putting certain things that an adult could, even if it is "protecting" them. First off, that takes discretion away from parents who may think that it is okay, and second, it sets a bad precedent. Because if we are protecting children from giving out personal information, someone's going to think that we should protect them from obscene material, too. And really, if we are protecting them from one thing, why not the other? -Amarkov babble 14:45, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
And if we're protecting them from "obscene" material, we really ought to be protecting them against other "offensive" material. Who defines these terms? Are Evolution, Penis, Menstruation, Holocaust, Ku Klux Klan, Masturbation, AIDS, Homosexuality, Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy, Blasphemy, Democracy, Nestlé boycott, Eminem, Iraq War, Protests against the Iraq War, Communism, Armenian Genocide, Status of religious freedom in the United States, Slave trade, Birth control, Scientology, Freedom of speech, Abortion, etc, "offensive" or "obscene"? Thryduulf 01:31, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
What any of this has to do with anything I said, I have not the slightest idea. Mangoe 02:00, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
It means we don't protect them at all. Not from content, not from sharing information. -- Ned Scott 02:15, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
Correct. If you want to protect kids (or anyone) by censorship, it's a slippery slope. Crum375 02:17, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
The bottom line is that it is the parent's job to decide what, if anything, their child(ren) should be editing and/or reading on Wikipedia. The encyclopedia itself is not and should not be responsible for making that decision, no matter where the line is drawn. All this proposal does is prevent children from endangering themselves in a specific way that has no benefit to the encyclopedia or the child. CameoAppearance orate 07:05, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
This has degenerated further into a boilerplate discussion about censorship, having nothing at all to do with the proposal at hand. That degeneration pretty much proves my point about irresponsibility: that the community is largely tone-deaf to the problems of raising children.
Except for the fancruft, I tend to doubt the value of underage contribution anyway. I remember the term papers I wrote in 7th and 8th grade, and I wouldn't now consider them sufficiently good for public reference. And no offense to the hoi polloi, but I always got good grades in English.
I'm not that concerned about what my kids may read in the encyclopedia, assuming that it is accurate and encyclopedic. I'm not going to let them edit it, not necessarily for the reasons behind this proposal either. But I do consider the attitudes here to be enabling of predatory contact with with minor editors. Mangoe 11:19, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
Well, yes. One is rather forced to conclude that the reactions to your new proposal are being presented by minor editors. Certainly, based on this talk page, I'd say that no one should let their child edit Wikipedia, but I don't really think that this talk page is representative of the average child's experience editing the areas in which they are interested, and Wiki logs are permanent in a way that IM logs aren't. JonathanPenton 15:37, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
Yes, you are right there. Our attitutes towards censorship of minors no doubt do make predatory contact possible. So does not having a law against talking to children you don't know. Either way, protecting your children is entirely your responsibility. If you don't want your children to edit, that's fine. You don't have to let them. We can't tell EVERY child (including me, by the way) that they may not edit because some parents don't want them to, because then you're hurting the children whose parents are fine with them using this site. -Amarkov babble 14:18, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
And even if you only want to prevent kids from sharing personal information, you have a problem. Because now you've established a precedent that children may be restricted from things that are irrelevant to an encyclopedia. So what happens when someone comes along and says that children do not need to be able to view obscene articles, as they aren't legally allowed to know anything about obscene things? That's a perfectly valid argument. Then we have people looking at that, saying "Wikipedia is finally censored for minors, yay!", and then promptly try to block minors from anything THEY deem too adult. -Amarkov babble 14:23, 27 October 2006 (UTC)

Just as a note, I believe it's already accepted practice to remove potentially-harmful-and-useless-to-the-encyclopedia personal information (such as street addresses or phone numbers) on the rare occasions when self-identified children post it (I don't know if there's been an occasion when someone who either didn't give their age or claimed to be over 13 posted such potentially-dangerous information and someone else removed it). I don't have the time right now to go find specific incidents that prove this, though. CameoAppearance orate 15:28, 27 October 2006 (UTC)

That fits exactly with my suggestion, which is that we just put a disclaimer somewhere saying that we discourage the revelation of personal info on user pages, and that such info may be removed at the discretion of an admin. It's legal I think under the licensing agreement (since user pages are also released), and it covers us both ways; if we remove the info, and if we don't. Personally, I feel more comfortable trusting the discretion of administrators rather than putting my trust in a huge blanket policy. Anchoress 15:33, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
I can support this approach. Mangoe 15:57, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
It seems a little backwards; we are now asking experts to avoid revealing information about themselves and their education in order to make minors feel more equal in the editing of an encyclopedia. JonathanPenton 16:05, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
Some types of personal information are useful, others don't serve much purpose but are harmless, and some don't serve a purpose and can expose users (of any age) to danger; the last category includes things like addresses, phone numbers and the name of a child's school (I'm not sure if colleges/universities fit into that category or not). Only the last type should really have measures taken against its revelation. CameoAppearance orate 16:22, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
With a redefinition of what sorts of personal information are invoked, then, yes, it makes more sense. Instruction creep could be a factor; I would think you'd have to ban self-identifying user names outright, rather than leave them perpetually at admin discretion, which is fine for me, but it seems questionably wise for encyclopedia-building, even assuming Wikimedia personnel are exempt. I would say that asking a graduate student to keep a secret what University (s)he works for is very different from asking a minor to keep secret his/her school. I'm not sure how well this will work, globally. JonathanPenton 16:34, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
I'm perfectly fine with people being discouraged from posting information. The problem I have is making it a policy, which means that it must be followed. If this were a guideline proposal, I might agree with it, but as a policy, it would be too restrictive. And with a guideline, you don't have the problem of making exceptions, because nobody is obligated to follow it if they don't want to. -Amarkov babble 21:40, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
Reply to Jonathan - You're misunderstanding my suggestion. I'm not 'asking' 'experts' to avoid revealing personal info, that's not in any way a part of my proposal. The reason I worded it the way I did is because it's not going to be a policy to remove personal information. The reason why it's at the discretion of admins is so that personal info that does not threaten a user need not be removed. And my suggestion has nothing to do with self-identifying usernames, actually I feel strongly they should not be restricted. My proposal is extremely simple; we just let users know that personal info may be removed, not that it is forbidden, and not that it will be removed. The threat of individual pieces of information to individual editors will be evaluated on a case by case basis the way so many other things are (fairly successfully, I might add) already on WP. It won't mean extra work for admins, it won't be a huge policy that must be enforced, it will just mean that when someone comes across a piece of damning personal info, it can be removed, no fuss, no muss. And if the editor feels it's unfair, they can contact an admin and it can be reviewed. Which will probably never happen because admins will not take the trouble to remove the name of the university where a graduate student is studying, they will only remove the name of the middle school a where user who edits the Britney Spears articles is studying. Anchoress 01:30, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
But admins should not have the power to remove it in the first place, whether or not it can be reviewed. If you want to have a guideline against it, good. It should be discouraged, because many children do not understand the reasons why it is generally a bad idea to reveal personal information. But don't give admins the power to overrule our decisions on whether or not we should post personal information here. -Amarkov babble 01:39, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Well actually they already have the power. We wouldn't be giving them anything. All we'd be doing is preparing people by warning them that it might be removed. We don't own our userpages, the Wikimedia foundation does, and we release the contents under the Gnu license. Anchoress 01:46, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
What do you mean, they have the power? I hadn't heard that admins could remove personal information from user pages without consent. Could you link to the policy that lets them do that? -Amarkov babble 01:48, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
It's not policy per se, it's part of the foundation of Wikipedia. Anyone can remove or add anything to any page on Wikipedia if there is community consensus to do so. Userpages are no different. The reason why it's not widespread right now (but it does happen, if you read the Admin boards much) is because of community conventions, not policy. What I'm proposing would not change anyone's rights, powers or responsibilities, it would just foster a small shift in our perceptions of the purpose of our userpages, similar to the change v/v userboxes. A year ago, anyone could have pretty much any userbox on their pages, not because of a rule regarding it, but just because it was unregulated. Now, it's accepted that certain userboxes are discouraged and may be removed. Not because a new rule was implemented, but because the purpose of userpages was more clearly defined.
This is what I propose: Wikipedia reminds users that personal identifying information on userpages and talk pages is discouraged, particularly for underage editors. Furthermore, if information revealed by an editor is deemed to put that editor at risk, it may be subject to removal.
Admins will not be given any rights they don't already have. Anchoress 02:39, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Reply to Anchoress: You're right, I conflated your proposal with similar ones, sorry. Yours sounds like a potential compromise. JonathanPenton 02:27, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Cool, thanks Jonathan. Anchoress 02:39, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Very sorry, I misunderstood. The impression I got was that admins would be able to delete personal info whenever they pleased, and there would be a deletion review-style discussion (consensus needed to restore it). If that's not the case, then it could hardly hurt to spell out that it's possible instead of having people complain about it. -Amarkov babble 02:44, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Cheers, no harm no foul. Anchoress 03:20, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

I dropped in here because of the recent publicity. While I'm strongly opposed to the suggested policy (which seems like a Really Bad Idea), I would offer equally strong support to the excellent suggestion from Anchoress. In fact, it seems like such a good idea I'd like to know what would be the next step towards implementing it. Since it's not policy or even guideline, what process would be involved? --Doc Tropics Message in a bottle 04:29, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

As another parent of children in the target age range, I will also register my opposition to this proposed policy. This is a fundamentally unenforcable policy since it depends on a self-admission by the child. Unenforcable rules merely create a false sense of security for parents who aren't taking the time to do their jobs. Protecting my children's privacy is my responsibility, not Wikipedia's. Not only don't I need your help, I don't want it. Wikipedia is very clearly not censored for minors. That disclaimer is sufficient.

Let me further comment that COPPA is utterly irrelevant to this discussion and not merely because we are a non-commecial entity. The operant clause is in COPPA is about collecting information. Wikipedia does not solicit any information about the user other than a voluntary and fully-disclaimed option to provide a real email address. You don't have to provide any personal information to open an account or to use the encyclopedia. There are no standard templates which encourage users to volunteer any personal information (or if there are, they should be deleted). We are not collecting anything in the sense that COPPA was intended. Remember that COPPA was primarily written to protect minors from unscrupulous marketers. Wikipedia does not in any way resemble a marketer.

user:Anchoress's proposal makes some sense but in my opinion, that single line should be added to WP:USER. Keeping it as a separate page would encourage instruction creep. Rossami (talk) 22:21, 30 October 2006 (UTC)

Test case

Hey, if anybody actually thinks a child needs protecting, check out User:DJ BatWave, who has his name, screennames, phone numbers and a location included in his profile and states his age as 13. Night Gyr (talk/Oy) 03:10, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

Yeah, he seems to be looking for band members. There's a provision to remove some of that info based on WP:NOT. Anchoress 03:25, 29 October 2006 (UTC)
UPDATE: I deleted the contact info (not his age) per WP:NOT and posted it on AN/I. Ten seconds later the userpage had been deleted (to remove the edit history) and restored with the contact info gone. He still has his age there, which is a concern to some I know. Anchoress 03:37, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

This is still a proposal, therefore a 'test case' was premature. Alan Pascoe 21:24, 31 October 2006 (UTC)

The reaction of User:DJ BatWave and the reaction of others to this, demonstrates why this proposal is a bad idea. It would simply alienate and drive away young users, which would damage Wikipedia. Alan Pascoe 22:23, 2 November 2006 (UTC)

Speaking as a reader and not as a parent, I would rather not read articles by middle schoolers (or for that matter, the lower grades of high school). One would like to think that all the writing classes my tax dollars pay for are to some purpose. Kids as writers do not spring Athena-like from their parents' heads; they have to be taught, and the school system at least stands as evidence that teenagers as a rule need further instruction in this-- and never mind freshman composition in college. I remember the term papers I wrote in middle school, and I would hope that Wikipedia could reflect a much higher standard.
So I don't accept that discouraging "young" -- meaning early or pre-teen -- writers from editing Wikipedia is a bad idea. And while some or even many of them may object to this denegration of their (in their opinion) God-given rights, that is the way of their age, and I don't in the least feel that it trumps writing a good encyclopedia. Mangoe 14:50, 3 November 2006 (UTC)
Just because YOU weren't a good writer before you were through with freshman year does not mean the same applies to everybody. Perhaps you were an average child or just not very smart? There are some very precocious youths out there who can write better now than you probably ever will be able to, and there are some adults out there whose English writing skills are no better than those of the average 3rd grader. Your ideas reek of ageism. Perhaps we should prevent the elderly from editing Wikipedia because they must all be senile and they will only write mostly irrelevant unverifiable crap about how "gay [their] parties were" or "how much fun it used to be when [they] would all go down to the swimming hole" or about how "in [their] day, candy bars cost 5 cents"? Content is judged by its quality here, not by the age of whoever wrote it (although the banned troll Bonaparte frequently attacked me based on my age, try Googling "credibility kid" which seems to be the name of some sort of household cleaner, any of which he somehow knew I didn't own). If someone uses an average 8th grade term paper for a Wikipedia article (note the "average" -- if the particular student is an exceptionally advanced writer, it would clearly be a different situation) it would either be deleted or rewritten.
You also seem to forget that this is a Wiki. If you post a term paper written by a 7th grader which does not belong in an encyclopedia, but is nevertheless factually correct, if it is not simply deleted it will be fixed by people with better writing skills.
And finally, I think goodness that my mother has confidence in her children's abilities, unlike you. --Node 11:51, 12 March 2007 (UTC)
Well, we also have articles written by people who can barely speak English (see much of Turkish_war_of_independence for example). Should we ban foreigners from editing articles? -- Mwalcoff 01:04, 5 November 2006 (UTC)
I don't know where you get the idea that adults always write better than children do. I've been writing better than quite a few of the 20 year olds I see online since I was 12. -Amarkov babble 01:13, 5 November 2006 (UTC)

Wikipedia is not a social-networking site

This is certainly a complex and important issue. However, I am of the belief that we do not need a specific policy on this. As previously stated, Wikipedia is not a business and therefore is not subject to COPPA. It's also important to note that Wikipedia, unlike social-networking sites, is not designed to make connections between people. MySpace is all about personal contact between users, and so it has to worry about the protection of children. But Wikipedia does not particularly encourage personal contact. I've never communicated with the users I've "met" on Wikipedia anywhere else on the Internet, and certainly not in real life. I believe my experience is common, although there have been Wikipedia meet-ups and conventions.

It's true that a child could put his real name or e-mail address on his userpage, and some pervert could scour Wikipedia for children to communicate with. But the kid could also put information on a personal web page, a Usenet post, a chat-room discussion, etc. The only way to eliminate any prospect of communication between perverts and children under 13 would be to ban the kids from the Internet entirely.

Adults may be tempted to say that potential contributors under age 13 are few, so we might as well play it safe and ban them all. But I feel for a 11- or 12-year-old kid who is trying to do something constructive and mature. That's the kind of thing we should be encouraging in kids. -- Mwalcoff 03:08, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

My experience mirrors your own and I agree completely. Also, as others have said, if this is an issue, it's an issue for the Foundation to handle, not a group of (well-intentioned) amateurs like us. --Doc Tropics Message in a bottle 03:49, 1 November 2006 (UTC)
Well said. I would also have to say that I've had such experiences. -- Ned Scott 05:20, 1 November 2006 (UTC)
  • I just want to register my thoughts that this is not an issue that can be settled in such a manner. This is an issue for the foundation to cover, it is not the community's problem. Hiding Talk 13:17, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

Protect, not punish


I noticed a mention of "banning" being used if the child posts too much information too many times. This is punishment, not protection, and it's too much -- this might prevent them from ever becoming a good contributor, you kick them off WP for good and you destroy any hope they might have had. Blocking and reverting the edits is enough. Due to the damage that posting such information unwisely may cause, I see yet more reason to make it possible to delete/modify/falsify the history of pages as a stalker could dig it up there. 08:50, 2 November 2006 (UTC)

This is very close to what's currently done with children who post these types of personal information, in fact. I'd definitely support a move to change it to this. CameoAppearance orate 00:54, 5 November 2006 (UTC)
That might easily get the consensus this thing needs to become a guideline. I second that. -Amarkov babble 01:02, 5 November 2006 (UTC)

{{User current age}}

I must say that I also believe the onus is on the Foundation to sort this out, and I'm quite surprised they still haven't.

That said, the template {{User current age}} needs to be looked at. It allows users to enter their birthdate and year, which is fine, but it then creates categories for the year of birth. This has resulted in categories for births as recently as 1996 (I've speedy deleted any more recent than, and including, 1993). I believe the template should be modified to not work or at least not create categories for child users born in a year which includes 13 year olds and younger. --kingboyk 13:01, 4 November 2006 (UTC)

That would be easy to do, but why should it be done? Nobody thinks that it is revealing your age which is bad. This doesn't prohibit that, it just prohibits sharing personal information AND an under 13 age? -Amarkov babble 14:37, 4 November 2006 (UTC)
Nobody? I do for a start, and so did the person who nominated one of the categories for deletion. --kingboyk 14:42, 4 November 2006 (UTC)
Okay, so nobody is the wrong term. But how is it POSSIBLY a problem that someone knows a 10 year old has an account on Wikipedia? -Amarkov babble 14:49, 4 November 2006 (UTC)
That was how this all started!
Anyway, if we don't know editors ages there's no problem. How much info they reveal doesn't matter if we don't know the age. Also, there's the (possibly overstated) safety issue for kids online.
I really don't want to debate this; if you folks aren't interested in the existence of that template so be it. --kingboyk 15:06, 4 November 2006 (UTC)


Year born categories above 1993 are listed. I really think deletion review should be made for this, but it isn't, so I used the recreate+procedural nom method. -Amarkov babble 22:34, 4 November 2006 (UTC)

They were deleted at CFD back in September so it would be a bit late for a deletion review. A new CFD is fine I think. --kingboyk 12:45, 5 November 2006 (UTC)
Deletion review is only supposed to be for reviewing procedure, anyway, which was fine. -Amarkov babble 15:24, 5 November 2006 (UTC)

Age as meaning nothing

Consider for instance you didn't know my age. If I identifed myself as being under thirteen then I would be subject to these rules, if I identified myself as forty-three, then I would not. This proposed guideline is based on the honor system, that a child under the age of thirteen would actively give away their "rights" on Wikipedia. If you know what I mean, I don't think this policy is very workable. It's kind of like if a girl says she's 18, when she's actually 17, it doesn't matter what she said, it matters what she is. If you only have the information that she is 18, it's perfectly fine at the moment until somebody finds out something that would not benefit you. There is no ID required to buy the evil liquor of Wikipedia that would inevitably be put into use by irresponsible hands. Comments? X [Mac Davis] (DESK|How's my driving?) 23:12, 7 November 2006 (UTC)

The goal of this proposal is not to persecute children or keep them from editing Wikipedia. The goal is to make them less of a potential target. Thus, if people believe that the hypothetical you is forty-three, there is no reason that this rule should apply to you, since you are not a potential target for child predators. It's designed to hinge on voluntarily-disclosed information. JonathanPenton 03:06, 8 November 2006 (UTC)
Ultimatly, even if a policy to protect children is implemented, it will simply be ignored. Any child can simply list themselves as being older than they are. MySpace has this exact same problem, and they are unable to effectively deal with it and they have a fully trained staff. Therefore, I don't believe that we should waste our time attempting to "protect" minors who don't wish to be protected. --Redlock 03:21, 8 November 2006 (UTC)
That's what parenthood is. I'm sorry if I took up any of your time with it. JonathanPenton 04:37, 8 November 2006 (UTC)
Good. The parents can go do it, then, not tell us that we have to. -Amarkov babble 04:39, 8 November 2006 (UTC)
Regardless of what the GOAL is, what matters is the actual effect is. And the effect is that you are censoring children, including those who are perfectly capable of protecting themselves and simply want to be referred to by their real name. -Amarkov babble 03:42, 8 November 2006 (UTC)

Some of this is kind of ludicrous.

Entire name
Telephone number
Home address
Identifiable photographs
Date of birth
School name 

While home address and school name, as well as telephone number are definitely not OK (I doubt even an adult would have reason to post their home address on their user page!), I don't see how the other three (DoB, entire name, and identifiable photographs) have any reason to be "personal identifying information", as long as you're not using all three of them at once or, like said in the section above it, taking "personal photos that include other identifying information (such as a street or school name in the background)". I myself had quite a bit of resentment toward COPPA when I was younger, and I feel that name, photograph, and DoB are not even close to "personal identifying information". --Wooty  Woot? | contribs 20:22, 8 November 2006 (UTC)

Because using name and DoB one could track a child. And identifiable photos create situations where preditors can identify specific attributes they prefer and focus their efforts on those particular children. --Trödel 22:51, 8 November 2006 (UTC)
Then we should obviously ban even GIVING an under 13 age, since predators will focus on that. And remember, we're banning the children who don't accept our protection for violating policy. -Amarkov babble 22:54, 8 November 2006 (UTC)
Oh really? You can track a child using only their first and last name and date of birth, without even having a city (most people, although not all, seem to give their country) to focus on? If that's true, I'd assume you can do the same thing with adults - and sexual predation isn't limited to children in the first place. CameoAppearance orate 08:38, 9 November 2006 (UTC)
Sidebar comment: Not to distract from your main point but yes you could track someone if the person has a reasonably unique name. You probably retain anonymity if you have a common name but the spelling of my family's surname was made up at Ellis Island. I've done searches and I really do know everyone with my surname - and there is exactly one other person worldwide with my combination of surname and given name. Rossami (talk) 18:18, 11 November 2006 (UTC)

May I just point something out

I got an email recently from a person who is being harrassed - and I mean ruin-your-life, fear-for-your-safety harrassed - by a probably quite dangerously demented person whom I have also had contact with on Wikipedia. And my dealings with this person where NOT about contentious issues and articles, but about random, seemingly uncontroversial subjects. You can never tell what will set off the insane, point being that you can't necessarily protect yourself by sticking to non-controversial topics and being nice. Look, sooner or later we're going to have our first WikiMurder; I consider that a given. My personal opinion is that anyone who posts identifying information on Wikipedia, is playing with fire. Anyway, point being, its hard enough dealing with stuff like this if you're an adult. A young person getting into a situation like this would likely be seriously traumatized. Yes of course in theory you can ask your parents for help - but young people can be dissuaded from doing that by threats. So. Herostratus 17:47, 9 November 2006 (UTC)

I agree with your starting premise fully. There can be a wiki related real life assault or worse (not everyone likes the truth exposed, even if perfectly sourced) and exposing one's private info on WP is clearly dangerous, even if you think you are an angel and have no enemies - there are lots of kooks out there. But the solution should be for all editors to refrain from posting personal info, not any subset of the users. If you shoot for a subset, you are then discriminating, and that's unacceptable. I myself would gladly support a hard rule that no personal info about any editor, oneself included, may be posted to WP, and if it is posted anyone can remove it and admins may delete it from the history. Anything else is either inviting disaster (if we do nothing), or unworkable (if we insist on a subset), IMO. Crum375 17:59, 9 November 2006 (UTC)
So we should ban Jimbo and he can just recreate an account which doesn't make him trackable in real life? I suspect, and sincerely hope, that any policy that prohibits everyone from volunteering information that could be self identifying gets shot down in flames. Please, let's not revisit the make-this-apply-to-all-ages idea. BigNate37(T) 22:39, 9 November 2006 (UTC)
I read somewhere a 'rumor' that Jimbo actually does a have a 'legal' sock account that he uses to do his 'real' editing. That may make sense (whether true or not for Jimbo) for all Foundation members or other people whose names are public because of their position at WP. WP deals with a lot of touchy subjects and steps on many sensitive toes. Exposing all the facts, even if well sourced, may not be popular in all corners of the world, and some may not be as 'civil' as we would like in their reaction to it. You may consider it a joke or overreaction; I would consider it reasonable care and prudent policy. Crum375 04:37, 10 November 2006 (UTC)
It may be reasonable care to not give out personal information. That does not mean you have the right to tell ANYONE, much less adults, what they are OBLIGATED to do for their own protection. -Amarkov babble 04:39, 10 November 2006 (UTC)
I don't have the right to dicate anything to anyone. But if someone did get hurt due to their WP activities, it would affect all of us and WP itself, so even if other people wish to be careless it's still everyone's problem. In any case, the issues are wider than just children's safety. Crum375 13:55, 10 November 2006 (UTC)
But this proposal doesn't just tell people "Hey, it's probably not a good idea to post information. It tells people they are not ALLOWED to, no matter how safe they are, and allows BANNING for continuing to post it in violation of the policy. That's bad enough only applied to children, let alone everyone. -Amarkov babble 14:16, 10 November 2006 (UTC)
My own opinion is that we should have a blanket policy of no personal info posting by anyone, as it could endanger the entire project one way or another, with minimal if any benefits. I think restricting the policy to a self-admitted age group is unworkable and discriminatory. Crum375 14:23, 10 November 2006 (UTC)
I understand what your position is. I'm saying that the proposal is bad when applied to ANYBODY, not just when it is applied selectively. -Amarkov babble 14:26, 10 November 2006 (UTC)
I understand your position also. It sounds like we both agree that the issue of 'personal info censorship' should be discussed in a wider scope, not restricted to any specific user group. Crum375 14:47, 10 November 2006 (UTC)
Yes. -Amarkov babble 14:53, 10 November 2006 (UTC)
Herostratus, if there's a dangerously demented person making threats and being stalkerly on Wikipedia, I hope someone is alerting the proper someone elses? wikipediatrix 04:26, 10 November 2006 (UTC)
Yes, the Foundation is aware of it. The person who is being harassed is not a Wikipedian, though. He is being harassed by someone who has ALSO made trouble on Wikipedia. Herostratus 09:40, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
I think this idea of banning all personal info of editors, even if they choose to reveal it themselves, is a silly, unworkable policy that I hope crashes and burns. Do you mean that usernames can't have any resemblance to the editor's real name, and that they can't even reveal what city or country they live in? That anybody who's famous or notorious in the real world can't reveal who they are when they edit on Wikipedia? Completely preposterous. *Dan T.* 00:12, 11 November 2006 (UTC)

Shouldn't minors be banned from WP?

They cannot legally consent to the GFDL or any other contract, can they? So their contributions are not under the GFDL and those who use them may be committing copyright infringment. Best to not let minors complicate the already murky licensing arrangement. Carlossuarez46 21:39, 9 November 2006 (UTC)

Hmmm. I am trying to think of an argument against your first sentence, and am not coming up with anything good, at least not yet. I suppose you could argue that a child is using a computer with at least the implied consent of their parents (even if only by neglect) and therefore the parent is implicitly agreeing to the GDFL. That doesn't sound like a winning argument to me, though. So maybe you are correct. 6SJ7 21:49, 9 November 2006 (UTC)
Just to make it murkier, wouldn't the legal age of consent (e.g. to enter into a contract) vary from country to country? And while we're at it, virtually all of Open Source software has contributions from numerous unknown contributors, many of whom are under 18 (the legal age in many countries). Wouldn't most of Open Source be 'tainted' in this manner, including the software driving WP itself? Crum375 21:59, 9 November 2006 (UTC)
If we are going to do forced-age checks, then that will probably encourage more lying that probably what is going on here, so I do not think it is a good idea. User:Zscout370 (Return Fire) 22:14, 9 November 2006 (UTC)
I'm diving into legal grounds I don't know very well, here, but I believe lack of consent only becomes an issue when suing for enforcement of the contract, which minors can't do, either. Besides, legal issues are not our responsibility, they're the responsibility of Wikipedia's lawyer. -Amarkov babble 00:18, 10 November 2006 (UTC)
Minors can sue when they enter majority and disavow their acts in minority; also minors' rights can be sued upon when their parents or guardians sue on their behalf (think of injuries done to minors or wrongful death when the survivors are minors). Many websites use some form of age checking software (nearly all x-rated ones in the US have to). And, lastly, legal issues are editor's responsibility: copyright infringement, threats, child predation, libel, and nearly anything that may offend the laws of some jurisdiction on WP tend to be treated as an editor issue due to the Communications Decency Act's grant of immunity to bulletin boards (and WP) but not the posters (or editors, here). Other jurisdiction's laws may differ, but I gather that WP is located in the US and lawsuits against them in other jurisdictions probably will not result in any harm coming to WP; editors in other countries probably need only be concerned with the laws of their own country and any country they'd care to visit. Americans with our 1st Amendment may be shocked to learn that insulting religion, racial slurs, promoting fascism, denying the holocaust, insulting the monarch, and the like are crimes in such "Western" countries as France, Germany, Italy, and likely others. Carlossuarez46 06:07, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
Much of this is true, but I am not sure what it has to do with the interesting intellectual property question that you raised at the top of this section. 6SJ7 06:27, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
Copyright infringement is another law that the host is not liable for, but the poster is. Hence, if the minor cannot consent to license his/her works, the repetition and reproduction of the works is infringement. Which is an editor's problem not WP's per se. Carlossuarez46 00:33, 15 November 2006 (UTC)
This is an interesting question but now we are really into deep legal technicalities. That question has to be passed on to the Foundation's legal counsel. That is not a question that we should attempt to answer through consensus discussion. Has anyone asked Counsel to come here and comment? Rossami (talk) 18:09, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
I think you are right. I also think that minors can disavow a contract and sue later, so the intellectual property issue is valid. --Blue Tie 18:19, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
This may just be naivete here, but I'm pretty sure that the lawyer they employ knows more about this than we do, and would have had something done were it a problem. -Amarkov babble 18:55, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
If they had thought of it. --Blue Tie 19:03, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
I think this is a non-issue. Firstly because I think the likelihood of anyone actually making a case of it is miniscule. But if it ever did actually get to the point of a lawsuit, I think the crux would be that parents are responsible for making themselves aware of what their children are doing online, and so if a child surrendered content to the GFDL and later regretted it, it would ultimately be their parents' responsibility, not the Wikimedia Foundation's. Anchoress 19:12, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
Based upon what you have posted, I would argue that you do not understand the law on this matter. It is not an issue of "responsibility". It is an issue of intellectual rights, the license that things are entered under here and the ABSOLUTE RIGHT of minors to repudiate contracts. This is not a matter of culpability or responsibility. For example, if a minor were to somehow convince a car dealership to sell them a car, they could later repudiate the contract and the dealership would have absolutely no recourse in the matter -- not even to "hold the parents responsible". It would be all over without even going to court.
As to the likelihood of the event... I cannot say. But I am pretty sure the legality is a problem. --Blue Tie 19:40, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
Perhaps I don't. But I'm just following the conversation to its logical conclusion, which I guess is a courtroom, and I'm trying to picture in what way the Wikimedia Foundation could be hurt by this, and I don't see it. How do you imagine this to be an actual problem in the actual real world? I'm not being sarcastic, I'm genuinely trying to picture this playing out. What do you think would actually happen? Would the WMF be sued for damages? To have the child editor's contributions be expunged from the articles they contributed to? Or would a judge look at a suit (whatever was being sued for) and say, 'There's no cheese down this hole.' Anchoress 19:57, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
How about this: As a minor I contributed to wikipedia. When I became an adult I learned the value of my contributions. I should have been paid for my time and contributions. I hereby revoke the previous license and now request compensation for my efforts or the rights to all of the content which I created and any content derived from my creations (and so wikipedia's "free license" becomes destroyed.)
That is just one scenario that I thought of in less than 5 seconds. There could be many more. --Blue Tie 20:10, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
Yeah, but I'm not just asking for examples, I'm asking us to collectively envision how this would play out in the real world. Do you reall think a judge would even hear a case like that? I don't. Do you not think the WMF would not just remove the contributions of the editor in question? I do. And as for payment for services, if the child didn't give informed consent to contributing the work for free, the WMF definitely didn't consent to pay for it. Anchoress 20:13, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
When a minor contracts with an adult, the adult is bound to perform but the minor is not. That is the contract law regarding minors. I doubt that this would ever make it to a judge because it is such settled law, it would settle out of court. --Blue Tie 20:39, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
I would think (not being a lawyer or judge) that in such a case, Wikipedia/Wikimedia might well be put under court order to remove all the contributed material from a minor who has revoked his/her contract; this could be a big pain in the butt for Wikipedia, but wouldn't involve actual monetary damages unless they failed to comply within a reasonable time with the order. Forcing some retroactive payment for past use prior to the contract revocation would seem to be a great stretch. *Dan T.* 20:50, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
I tend to agree with you, particularly the way things work now. But wikipedia has various secret projects and collaborations in the works (I think) as well as sharing agreements with other organizations under that license. Things start to unravel and unzipper when the license gets broken. If wikipedia warrants the license in an agreement with some other entity that could be trouble as well. I am arguing that it should not be quickly dismissed as others have said here. A lawyer should review the issue.--Blue Tie 20:55, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
Concur with Dan. JonathanPenton 00:17, 12 November 2006 (UTC)
And see also my point above about Open Souce software in general, which drives much of the Internet today, including WP itself. Lots of anonymous programmers have contributed software, and by your arguments, like the voided car contract, the entire Internet can hypothetically grind to a halt if courts agreed that all the GPL licenses by anonymous minors are now null and void. Crum375 20:02, 11 November 2006 (UTC)

Do you seriously believe that wikipedia should rest its legal defense against a legal tradition that goes back generations upon the notion that following the law would be inconvenient? Do you remember Napster? I would not dismiss this lightly. I think wikipedia legal counsel should consider the issue. --Blue Tie 20:10, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
I agree with you fully that WP's counsel should opine on this matter - that was my very first posting on this page. Had we had this opinion early on, we could have saved a lot of time and energy. But having said that, I think the issue remains that the principle of anonymous contribution into a community project by the contributors being 'automatically' bound to a contract, applies to Open Source as well as Open Content and is much broader than WP itself. It's not a matter of convenience - it's an issue of practicality and workability. Napster could be shut down because it was a single enterprise, but if you shut down Open Source, the entire Internet as we know it would grind to a halt, and much of Intranet and industry as well. The issue you raise is valid, but I see no easy recourse for any court in this matter. As always, getting a real legal opinion about this would be great. Crum375 20:19, 11 November 2006 (UTC)

I agree that a legal opinion would be good. But you should understand: we are not anonymous here. We definitely enter into a contract. Both of these are not true in Open Source. But ignoring that, what you are saying is that you believe a very strong and confirmed law would be overturned this once because the consequences would be "troubling". That is a bit naive. Courts care about the trouble they cause, but they congenitally believe (and with pretty good cause) that MORE trouble is caused by reversing Stare decisis. And the longer the rule has been in existence the less likely it will be reversed. The minor rule is VERY old. But even when the consequences are very troubling, they do not mind making a ruling. So relying on that as a defensive strategy is simply a bad idea. In fact, I would say that making such a decision would demonstrate to the court an intent to ignore the issue and thus a reason to rule against you. --Blue Tie 20:39, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
I am not suggesting we 'ignore the law', I am only saying that interpreting the law in its strict sense, is not practical, workable or logical in this case, and if the solution is to 'cease and desist', all of industry and the Internet would grind to a halt. Hence this interpretation cannot be valid - a law that is effectively impossible to abide by is either not a valid law, or else our interpretation of it is invalid. Crum375 20:57, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
I think your analysis is fundamentally flawed in four ways:
  1. The internet is not mostly open source or open content
  2. The parts that are, are not mostly contributed to by minors
  3. Those parts that are contributed by minors are not under contract
  4. The legal profession will almost certainly not respect your concern for "troubles" that you imagine it would cause.
Again, to imagine a defense based upon what you imagine is "impractical" or "expensive" is naive. It would not be right to say the courts do not care at all... but they do not care about that very much. They are much more concerned with logic and precident. If their rulings cause trouble... well that's too bad.. people should have respected the law all along. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. --Blue Tie 21:56, 11 November 2006 (UTC)

--Blue Tie 21:56, 11 November 2006 (UTC)

(outdent) Responding to your points:

  1. I didn't say the Internet is 'mostly' Open Source - but much of it is driven by Open Source - enough to cause it to grind to a halt if all Open Source servers were to cease operating
  2. Open Source has contributions from many users - many of whom were underage (minors) when they contributed - of course not all, or even most, but enough to seriously 'taint' the code base, if that ever became an issue
  3. Every contribution by anyone to GPL software is considered 'bound' by the GPL contract - the critical issue is: can minors be so bound, given that they are legally unable to enter into a contract
  4. The 'legal profession' are not our rulers: in democracies we rules ourselves, via elected officials, courts and juries. It is their interpretation of the laws that will prevail. My point is that a strict interpretation in this case, that minors can't enter into a contract and hence all their agreements under the GPL are null and void, would be impractical and unworkable given the facts on the ground - e.g. the Open Source on the Internet and industry today. Thus the juries and courts would not accept this strict interpretation.

The issue is not whether this 'would cause trouble' - it is whether it is practical and workable. A law, or interpretation thereof, that cannot be reasonably implemented, is by definition invalid. Crum375 22:15, 11 November 2006 (UTC)

There are a lot of problems with your points but I only want to address your last point. The law does not worry about whether it is practical or workable. It only worries about whether it is the law. --Blue Tie 01:41, 12 November 2006 (UTC)

It may help to recall from Thatcher131's 22 September 2006 comment on this talk page that Brad, the Wikimedia lawyer, has been contacted. I suspect it was regarding this proposal and/or its legal implications. BigNate37(T) 22:28, 11 November 2006 (UTC)

Actually I think this is a new issue to bring to his attention. --Blue Tie 22:34, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
Then do so? -Amarkov babble 22:36, 11 November 2006 (UTC)
I do not know how. --Blue Tie 01:41, 12 November 2006 (UTC)
I doubt the implications of this proposal are different know than they were then. As far as the GPL/GFDL stuff, that's not really a part of this "protecting children" proposal (unless you want to go about changing the proposal). Anyways, BradPatrick is registered, contact him if you feel it is necessary. BigNate37(T) 19:23, 12 November 2006 (UTC)

I think the lack of available information on this speaks for itself. (Try doing some Google searches.) Remember that the United States, which is where the Wikimedia servers are located, has a common law system. (The exception is Louisiana, but the Wikimedia servers are in Florida.) In other words, precedence matter more that the actual law itself. There doesn't seem to be any precedence. Armedblowfish (talk|mail) 14:28, 12 November 2006 (UTC)


I would like to offer the opinion that those of us who would like to see an enforcement of child privacy on Wikipedia should give up on this particular method. Newcomers seem to dislike the proposal, and moreover, the existence of this talk page (where people have fought about everything from censorship to [however ironically] cannibalism) is simply sowing confusion as to what the proposal actually is and would do. We have two compromises being discussed; to rephrase this policy proposal as a guideline proposal, or to form a disclaimer leaving it at admin discretion. I think by leaving the proposal as it stands, we're hurting the chances of one of these comprimises being agreed upon. JonathanPenton 00:27, 12 November 2006 (UTC)

  • You are of course free to edit this proposal. Compromises are generally a good idea. (Radiant) 13:53, 14 November 2006 (UTC)
Would editing the current proposal help? It seems like the necessary changes would have to be so radical as to constitute a new proposal. JonathanPenton 03:38, 16 November 2006 (UTC)
Possibly, but it seems clear that this proposal isn't going anywhere at the moment, so I'd say a fresh new angle would be good. (Radiant) 14:17, 17 November 2006 (UTC)
I do appreciate the suggestion, Radiant. I don't think I have the experience necessary to try to build a proposal from scratch. Since it looks to me like the arbitration case is going to close on the recommendation that someone do this, I think I'm going to hope that someone more experienced than I take it on. JonathanPenton 23:53, 27 November 2006 (UTC)
Where's the arbitration case? Anchoress 23:58, 27 November 2006 (UTC)
[1] JonathanPenton 00:03, 28 November 2006 (UTC)

The Insanity of This Law

I believe kids/game makers should not have to comply with this seriously detracting rule. This robs the kids their freedom of play, and also robs the game makers their right to make money off of the game, because the kid's parents will get tired of the paper work to give their kids full access of the game, and therefore the game is limited, so therefore the game makers will not make any money. Being a former Neopets player, I experienced that. My parents won't give me the "parental consent" needed to give me full access of the game.

The law makes you wonder: Are the kids really stupid? Are they really that dumb?Are the kids really stupid? Are they really that dumb? Of course not. Well, not for me at least. I posess an high IQ, higher than or equal to 130, I guess. So that means I won't go on blabbering where I live, what is my full name, or telling what I look like. Now thanks to those advocates, and this COPPA law, the game I am developing will seriously be harmed. Wish me luck on advocating to get RID of the law that is as ridiculous as how some schools now ban playing tag.-Dr. Eamon Lauzenhyer, P.h.d -This was written on Sunday November 12 2006.

Um... how is this relevant, at ALL? And how can you be both a Ph.D and under 13? You would have to enter college at like age 2 for that to be possible. -Amarkov blahedits 15:46, 12 November 2006 (UTC)
While a Ph.D is somewhat difficult to get at 13 (though I'm in a similar situation ;) ), I agree with the sentiments of the poster and I think they're getting at something. I too had problems with COPPA and was extremely frustrated I could not give to a private corporation my e-mail or real name. I'm in favor of part of this proposal, but some of it, and the very alarming paragraph above about "blocking minors from (editing) WP" seems more geared toward preventing little kids from editing so that the big kids won't have to clean it all up. I don't think anyone here has looked at this from the perspective of a minor. --Wooty  Woot? | contribs 18:57, 12 November 2006 (UTC)
I wholeheartedly agree.--FNORD 21:41, 12 November 2006 (UTC)
As do I. However, I think Amarkov has a point about the relevancy of the initial post. CameoAppearance orate 21:55, 12 November 2006 (UTC)
I was a minor a year ago, so I'm relatively sure I've looked at it from the standpoint of a minor. -Amarkov blahedits 03:38, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
Being a minor carries with it a restriction of rights and extra protections. For example, minors can not (in general) enter into binding contracts, crimes against minors have increased penalties, minors are entitled to financial support from their parents, etc. Additionally, using an exception (extremely high IQ) as an argument that there shouldn't be laws that specifically apply to minors for their protection is specious at best. And to me, it shows that the poster, although claiming a high IQ, still doesn't have the maturity to be called adult - since their argument is basically - "THATS NOT FAIR (read with whining voice)". (BTW lots of adults don't have that maturity either).
Finally, a smart, mature minor will easily figure out that the best course of action is to either 1) not declare their age or 2) create a psuedonym that is older than they are - and they won't use wikipedia as a social site. --Trödel 15:53, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
That's still forcing minors between a rock and a hard place. If we're talking about COPPA, it is an unnecessary government regulation that restricts minors from participating fully in online communities. If we're talking about WP, "it" (being the subject of this talk page) is an unnecessary proposal that, like I said before, seems to have somewhat of an intention of "preventing little kids from editing so that the big kids won't have to clean it all up.". Saying someone is whining doesn't make their argument invalid. --Wooty  Woot? | contribs 19:52, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
What rock and hard place? The argument, "That's not Fair" is not legitimate no matter what tone of voice it is in, and most mature individuals understand that many things are not fair. There is a rational basis for doing this; and the benefits are great. Thus it shoud be done. --Trödel 15:19, 14 November 2006 (UTC)
I just want to point out that it is not about preventing little kids from editing so the "big kids" (by which I assume you mean adults) won't have to clean it all up. Some people might view the reduction of vandalism, etc. as a likely byproduct of this policy. I do not. First of all, this particular policy does not prevent anyone from editing, it just seeks to discourage those who identify themselves as being under 13 from posting identifying information. (There are other discussions going on about the role of minors on Wikipedia, but that is not what this policy is about.) Second of all, adults cause enough damage on Wikipedia all by themselves that other adults have to clean up, so a little extra damage caused by some children is not the issue. While some children are part of the problem on Wikipedia, other children do make positive contributions. This is about protecting them, and if this policy does not provide a great deal of actual protection, logic suggests that it will at least reduce the likelihood of Wikipedia being used as the starting-place for the types of adult-child interactions that we would all (or almost all) like to avoid. If there is any restriction of freedom here, it is the freedom to fully identify yourself as an adult would, until you turn 13. That doesn't seem like a very big restriction to me, when compared to the potential danger in not doing anything. 6SJ7 21:38, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
But any restriction is too big for us to put in place. If it is dangerous for minors to put personal information, then let the parents deal with that. Don't start using Wikipedia policy to enforce what you think is necessary for safety. If some minor wishes to disclose their school, and is intelligent enough to not be put in danger because of that, then why do we, sitting in our chairs (or whatever else you're sitting in) hundreds of miles away, get to tell them "No, you may not do that, because those other minors aren't careful enough"? Some adults put themselves in the way of online predators, too. Yet nobody would even THINK of instituting a policy that nobody is allowed to reveal personal information. -Amarkov blahedits 22:38, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
So you would want Wikipedian's to judge the intelligence level of contributors, "and is intelligent enough to not be put in danger because of that." So what do we do with those tha aren't intelligent enough. Is it worth it to destroy even one child's life who thought they were intelligent enough to not be in danger? If they are that intelligent then they can easily create a psuedonym, claim to be 40 and teach at that school or some other roll play. --Trödel 15:19, 14 November 2006 (UTC)
I haven't been in the discussion lately, but I just wanted to say that I completely agree with what Amarkov just said. -- Ned Scott 23:11, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
Agreed. WP is not the internet police. --Wooty  Woot? | contribs 23:12, 13 November 2006 (UTC)

The correct way to handle this entire issue, IMO, is for WP to clearly discourage the revealing of personal information, explaining the potential safety hazards it can pose (possibly in WP:USER). This should be applied across the board to all contributors of all ages, genders, nationalities, colors, sexual orientations, creeds, etc. Any dwelling on one sub-group perceived as 'extra vulnerable' by some, is discriminatory. Crum375 14:07, 14 November 2006 (UTC)

I agree with this; the perils of revealing personal information should be explained to all users.
Additionally, when it comes to users that identify themselves as children, we should be a responsible community and use policy to enforce those that do not fully understand the risks. Personally, children can make great contributions to Wikipedia, my own son makes contributions to articles on WWII and he is 11 - he loves WWII and habitually tivo's the History channel. And I agree that the primary repsonsibility should rest on parents. However, all that does not change that Wikipedia should make make it extremely clear that children should not reveal personal information, and if you do you can be indefinately blocked. I would hazard that Admins would use discretion, delete the revelation of personal information from the history and give the youth a chance to make amends - but nothing says please don't do that better than, "If you do, you will be blocked from participating." --Trödel 15:14, 14 November 2006 (UTC)

What about...

A child (under 13), revealing personal information about his parents/guardians? Would that fall under this, unreasonable disclosure of information, both, neither? 22:54, 17 November 2006 (UTC)

It falls under unreasonable disclosure of information. Considering that is MORE stringent, it doesn't really matter if it falls under this. -Amarkov blahedits 01:49, 18 November 2006 (UTC)

Suggestion: Don't mention COPPA

COPPA does not apply to Wikipedia in any way, shape, or form. It also has precious little relevance to Wikipedians who are not in the United States. Mentioning it, or using its cutoff age of 13, is a bad idea. It confuses the issue; it suggests that it's OK for 14-year-olds to post all their personal information here; and it suggests that American law forms some kind of moral standard which should be obeyed even when the law itself does not apply.

It confuses the issue. The issue here is not one of compliance with the law. It is one of goodwill towards Wikipedians and towards the project. Some of us are aware that there exist harassers and sexually violent people and stalkers and other badness out there. We want to make these predators fail -- we want them to be unable to find targets, or at least not use our project to do it. It doesn't matter what the law says; we want this regardless. If COPPA were repealed, we would still want this.

The cutoff age is useless. There are cases where if a 40-year-old posted their personal information, it would be appropriate to remove it. For instance, Wikipedia is not a personals site; if someone posted their phone number and asked h0t ch1xx or kewt b01z to call them, that would probably be a good thing to remove. Worse, the cutoff age of 13 suggests that we are in some way acting in loco parentis or acting specially to protect children. We aren't. WP:NOT your mom, and WP:NOT your daycare or your schoolteacher.

American law isn't sacred. In various contexts, people take a rule so seriously that they avoid doing anything that even resembles a violation of it, even if it isn't technically a violation of it. (There's a Hebrew word for this but I forget what it is.) It is not reasonable to treat American law that way -- especially for non-American contributors. It is not even reasonable to suggest that American law be treated that way: see chilling effect.

We can get the result we want without mentioning this (questionable, problematic, parochial, and inapplicable) law. Mentioning it causes problems and suggests things which are not the case. So it shouldn't be mentioned. --FOo 03:31, 18 November 2006 (UTC)

I absolutely agree. I said in a (now archived) thread that I'm dead against fetishising coppa. Irrespective of how applicable it is, either legally or morally, it's an unnecessary and distracting fixation. Anchoress 03:45, 18 November 2006 (UTC)
Absolutely. This page would be improved by striking the references to U.S. law. If we need a policy based on law, the Board or Brad Patrick will inform us (e.g. WP:BLP). (Radiant) 10:48, 18 November 2006 (UTC)
I think it depends on whether or not we do have a cutoff age. If we have a cutoff age and don't mention COPPA, we are saying that we morally agree with making Wikipedia ageist, and offending our younger editors. If we have a cutoff age and do mention COPPA, at least we can say, "Don't blame us. We didn't make the law, we're just trying to follow it."
Also, if there's no age limit and no COPPA, removing personal info might make sense in some situations, but there's a difference between names addresses and phone numbers, and email addresses and IMs. Furthermore, blocking if there's no age limit and no COPPA doesn't make sense either. If we are going to have a purely moral, non-legal guideline/policy, this alternative makes more sense.
As far as harrassers and sexually dangerous people go, I'm going to repeat something I've already said. "Stranger danger" is considered by many to be a myth, and statistics on sexual crimes seems to back this up. According to the "2005 National Crime Victimization Survey" of the US, which included both minor and non-minor victims, 28% of perpetrators had an "intimate" relationship with the victim, 6% or 7% were otherwise related, and 38% were a friend or aquaintance. (So a total of 73% were non-strangers.) Only 26% were strangers. (The remaining 2% were classified as "unknown".)[2] According to a Canadian survey focusing on sexual abuse and exploitation of minors, "About half (51%) of sexual assaults against children and youth reported to a sub-set of police departments in 2002 involved friends or acquaintances, while a quarter of these assaults (25%) involved family members. About 18% involved assaults by strangers. [...] According to the CIS, most alleged perpetrators of sexual abuse were either "other" (non-parental) relatives (44% of cases) or non-relatives (29%), and only very few (2%) of substantiated cases of sexual abuse involved a stranger." (empashis added) [3]
Armedblowfish (talk|mail) 14:59, 18 November 2006 (UTC)
You can SAY "Don't blame us, we're just following the law. But it would be a lie, because COPPA doesn't apply to non-commercial organizations, or organizations that do not solicit information. -Amarkov blahedits 16:18, 18 November 2006 (UTC)


Wouldn't someone saying that they're under 13 be personal information?-Monkey 13!!! 17:57, 25 November 2006 (UTC)

No. Age isn't personal information, and I don't believe anyone claims it is. The proposal says it isn't, anyway. -Amarkov blahedits 05:33, 26 November 2006 (UTC)

Would render template impossible to use

This would render the template Template:sharedIPedu impossible to use if any of the members of the school were under 13, as it would reveal both their age and school.--Grand Slam 7 22:22, 26 November 2006 (UTC)

It would indeed. -Amarkov blahedits 23:52, 26 November 2006 (UTC)
...shouldn't we do something about that? CameoAppearance orate 01:16, 27 November 2006 (UTC)
Is this proposal ever going to get consensus anyway? -Amarkov blahedits 01:41, 27 November 2006 (UTC)
I really, really doubt it. CameoAppearance orate 07:48, 27 November 2006 (UTC)
Unless a user self-identifies as under 13 and is the user who discloses identifying information (via the template {{sharedIPedu}} or otherwise), this would-be policy has nothing to do with them. An anon IP isn't even a single user, let alone is it self-disclosure when this template is used for an address. The only thing I can see making this relevant is if we could see the IP address used by logged-in users. BigNate37(T) 07:58, 27 November 2006 (UTC)
So, wait. To protect children's privacy, we only need to keep them from disclosing personal information when THEY are the ones who disclosed their age? And when someone else discloses their age, it's okay for them to post personal information? -Amarkov blahedits 15:41, 27 November 2006 (UTC)
Yes, because any other disclosure is removable with Wikipedia:Oversight already provided it's not a repetition of material the user self-disclosed. BigNate37(T) 16:42, 27 November 2006 (UTC)

I don't get it. I'm looking at the template, and I don't see anything that reveals the age of any given user, nor the name of his school. If it does, it should be removed from use at once. If there was a template hanging around that revealed my age and the company I work for, I would be very unhappy if it was applied to me. I have interacted with a fairly dangerous character here on Wikipedia, and I hold my personal information very closely. Revealing my company (and my age) would be of considerable assitance on for my enemy in finding my identity. And trust me, this person is ruthless and relentless (and has seriously harassed people in real life). If we are exposing anyone to this, regardless of age, that is unacceptable. Can someone explain to me how this template reveals the information, please? Herostratus 18:13, 27 November 2006 (UTC)

It provides the name of the school on the IP address' talk page for which it is used. It reveals nothing that a WHOIS wouldn't, in most cases. BigNate37(T) 18:27, 27 November 2006 (UTC)

This template shows nothing about anything on the policy page.

  1. Many school IPs are shared between different schools. This IP, for example, is shared between every public schhol in the state of South Australia, including high schools. Also, don't forget the staff.
  2. You don't know who it is that is editing. Plus, why would a pedophile want to watch some little kid vandalise when he could just go to the local school?
  3. Most school IPs are blocked most of the time, and if somebody logs in under a soft block, there are about ten people with the access to checkuser.  Jorcogα  09:58, 28 November 2006 (UTC)