[Foundation-l] Request for your input: biographies of living people

P. Birken pbirken at gmail.com
Mon Mar 2 21:52:45 UTC 2009

I applaude that the foundation wants to do something about problems
with BLP. In several countries, the success of wikipedia is so great,
that it has become the number one source for information. This in turn
means that we as the wikimedia movement have a huge responsibility and
stepping up to that has become a question of ethical behavior: Not
doing so would just be wrong. Meaning that we need better ways of
dealing with problematic biographies and we need more ways of making
these problems not happen. Oh, and editors are also living people by
the way. Don't forget about striving to make the wikimedia projects a
pleasant place to work in and not the documentation place for
beerhousebrawl-style discussions it too often is.

More specific answers to Sues questions:

2009/3/2 Sue Gardner <sgardner at wikimedia.org>:
> So what can we do? Here are the things I am thinking about. I would love
> your input:
> * Do we think the current complaints resolution systems are working?  Is it
> easy enough for article subjects to report problems?  Are we courteous and
> serious in our handling of complaints?  Do the people handling complaints
> need training/support/resources to help them resolve the problem (if there
> is one)?  Are there intractable problems, and if so, what can we do to solve
> them?  Some Wikimedia chapters have pioneered more systematic training of
> volunteers to handle OTRS responses; should we try to scale up those or
> similar practices?

My experiences are mostly on de-WP. Problems with BLP are coming in
frequently now, roughly once a week even people with lawyers.We have a
highly motivated Support-Team that is able to handle the cases coming
in via OTRS at an acceptable speed and with good success. The support
team works tight with WM-DE and our lawyers. People strive to become
better, there have been several RL-meetings of the team, which have
now become recurrent events, financially supported by WM-DE and also
by our lawyers. Reason for this is that these meetings have been
useful to the volunteers attending and that, as I said, the team is
highly motivated. So: yes, strive to have this for every Wikipedia.

Availability is a problem: Although the page with the email is listed
on any de-WP-page, people frequently complain that it was difficult to
find us. As for en-WP, finding a contact adress is hard even for me.

> * Are there technical tools we could implement, that would support greater
> quality in BLPs?  For example – easy problem reporting systems,
> particular configurations of Flagged Revs, etc.

One of my reasons to develop Flagged Revs was an incident with blatant
vandalism in an article about a well known german politician that
persisted for several months until we got an email from his office.
That is plain unacceptable. Flagged revisions work very well in these
cases. However, flagged revisions are not the complete solution, in
particular they do not help persistently against clever POV pushing or
against making articles more unbiased. But: I really like the test
proposal on en-WP to try flagged revs out on BLP articles. Turn it on
for those as soon as possible.

> * Wikimedians have developed lots of tools for preventing/fixing vandalism
> and errors of fact. Where less progress has been made, I think, is on the
> question of disproportionate criticism. It seems to me that the solution may
> include the development of systems designed to expose particularly biased
> articles to a greater number of people who can help fix them. But this is a
> pretty tough problem and I would welcome people's suggestions for resolving
> it

What is so special about Wikipedia as far as the BLPs go is the Wiki.
It means that anybody can do anything and that means that the
principle of a lot of people checking an article is important to
success. Flagged Revs makes at least a four-eye-principle mandatory
for edits of not yet trusted editors. That's good, but it doesn't mean
that the people actually know what they are writing/flagging about.
What I'm saying is: Notability is an important criteria for BLP to
make sure that there are actually people around who can check what is
written. When in doubt about notability, delete BLPs. Do not make low
notability criterias for living persons.

> * The editors I've spoken with about BLPs are pretty serious about them –
> they are generally conservative, restrained, privacy-conscious, etc. But I
> wonder if that general attitude is widely-shared. If Wikipedia believes (as
> is said in -for example- the English BLP policy) that it has a
> responsibility to take great care with BLPs, should there be a
> Wikipedia-wide BLP policy, or a projects-wide statement of some kind?

Yes. There already are project wide policies, like the neutral point
of view and for example a privacy policy could be useful. I have the
impression that privacy is cherished in any culture, west, east, you
name it, so this might fit.

I also severely disagree that the foremost goal of the foundation
regarding legal issues should be, to make the foundation a legally
untargetable fortress, at the cost of no control whatsoever about the
projects it hosts. There is a middle ground and that should be taken,
for the benefit of the content and the editors.



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