[Foundation-l] Letter to the community on Controversial Content

David Levy lifeisunfair at gmail.com
Wed Oct 12 02:16:14 UTC 2011

Andreas Kolbe wrote:

> Neutrality applies to content. I don't think it applies in the same way to
> *display options* or other gadget infrastructure.

Category tags = content.

Setting aside the matter of category tags, I disagree with the premise
that the neutrality principle is inapplicable to display options.
When an on-wiki gadget is used to selectively suppress material deemed
"objectionable," that's a content issue (despite not affecting pages
by default).

> Neutrality is defined as following reliable sources, not following editors'
> opinions. NPOV "means representing fairly, proportionately, and as far as
> possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by
> reliable sources."
> Editors can (and sometimes do) argue in just the same way that reliable
> sources might be omitting certain theories they subscribe to, because of
> non-neutral value judgments (or at least value judgments they disagree
> with) – in short, arguing that reliable sources are all biased.
> I see this as no different. I really wonder where this idea entered that
> when it comes to text, reliable sources' judgment is sacrosanct, while when
> it comes to illustrations, reliable sources' judgment is suspect, and editors'
> judgment is better.

Again, you're conflating separate issues.

We consult reliable sources to obtain factual information and gauge
the manner in which topics receive coverage.  It's quite true that the
latter often reflects biases, but we seek to neutrally convey the
real-world balance (which _includes_ those biases).

Conversely, we don't take on subjective views — no matter how
widespread — as our own.  For example, if most mainstream media
outlets publish the opinion that x is bad, we simply relay the fact
that said information was published.  We don't adopt "x is bad" as
*our* position.

Likewise, if most publications decide that it would be bad to publish
illustrations alongside their coverage of a subject (on the basis that
such images are likely to offend), we might address this determination
via prose, but won't adopt it as *our* position.

> I agree the principle is laudable. Would you like to flesh it out in more
> detail on http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Controversial_content/Brainstorming ?
> It can then benefit from further discussion.

I intend to edit that page when I have more free time.  But note that
the idea isn't mine.

> Probably true, and I am beginning to wonder if the concern that censors
> could abuse any filter infrastructure isn't somewhat overstated.

I regard such concerns as valid, but other elements of the proposed
setup strike me as significantly more problematic.

David Levy

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