I think that all Wikipedia pages should contain somewhere (say, at the
bottom) a link to a page where people could complain about the content
of the articles. (I'm talking here of complaints about breach of
privacy, copyright violation, libel etc.)
Currently, people have nowhere clear to go to. We get messages on the
Village Pump or equivalent, by private email to participants (often
unrelated to the articles), by emails to the Foundation board, by email
to public mailing lists.
This, to me, is deeply unsatisfactory:
* By providing no obvious way for people to complain about articles, we
give the impression of some unreliable, irresponsible group.
* While people look for a way to contact us, they become frustrated. As
a result, their complaint may become unnecessarily accusatory and angry.
* We also incite people to make legal threats to get some attention.
* When people write to public lists, they attract undue attention to
issues that should be better dealt with in the calm - some inflammatory
email with legal threats will result in some angry answers, and all can
* If people have a really legitimate problem, they have little recourse.
You will say, hey, they can simply edit the wiki. This simply does not
work. Many people don't understand the editing process and simply can't
do it. Furthermore, some well-meaning contributors may see their awkward
efforts as "vandalism" and revert them. This gives people the impression
that their edits are refused or that some "censorship" is implemented.
This is not imaginary. I'll spare you the details, but within one week
the French association mailing-list received legal threats from two
sources, both alleging bad treatment from Wikipedia. In both cases, the
legal claims are dubious; but they can be an annoyance and would be
better dealt with in a friendly agreement than if lawyers get involved.
Somebody remarked to me that we could, as many professional sites have,
have a complaint page. The user would first have to answer some
multiple-choice questions, meant for weeding out "non urgent" complaints
(i.e. things such as "the birth date of XXX is incorrect"); or, these
complaints could be sent to the talk page. Finally, if the reason seems
to fit a legitimate "sensitive" category, they would have a form open
for typing their message or would obtain some link to a complaint email
I think that as we become one of the foremost Internet sites, we will
have more of the sort. We should have means so that simple problems
don't escalate into full blown confrontations. Remember that even if we
win, that's still a lot of frustration and lost time.