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

Andreas Kolbe jayen466 at yahoo.com
Wed Oct 12 11:26:09 UTC 2011

> From:David Levy <lifeisunfair at gmail.com>

> 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).

Again, I think you are being too philosophical, and lack pragmatism. 

We already have bad image lists like 


If you remain wedded to an abstract philosophical approach, such lists
are not neutral. But they answer a real need.

> > 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.

I would invite you to think some more about this, and view it from a 
different angle. You said earlier, 

> > > A reputable publication might include textual documentation of a
> > > subject, omitting useful illustrations to avoid upsetting its readers.
> > > That's non-neutral.

You assume here that there is any kind of neutrality in Wikipedia that
is not defined by reliable sources.

There isn't. The very definition of neutrality in our projects is tied to 
the editorial judgment of reliable sources.

If I go along with your statement that reliable sources avoid upsetting 
their readers, why would we be more "neutral" by deciding to depart from 
reliable sources' judgment, and consciously upsetting our readers in a way
reliable sources do not? 

It seems to me we do not become more neutral by doing so, but are
implementing a clear bias – a departure from, as you put it, the "real-
world balance". And I think this is a fact. Wikipedia departs from 
reliable sources in its approach to illustration, and has a clear bias in
favour of showing offensive content that sets its editorial policy apart
from real-world publishing standards.

> 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.

That exact same argument could be made about text as well: 

"Likewise, if most publications decide that it would be bad to publish
that X is a scoundrel (on the basis that it would be likely to offend), we 
might address this determination via prose, but won't adopt it as *our* 

So then we would have articles saying, "No newspaper has reported
that X is a scoundrel, but he is, because –."

And then you can throw in NOTCENSORED for good measure as
a riposte to anyone wishing to delete such original research.

Seen from this perspective, your judgment that illustrations which 
reliable sources have not found "useful" for their readers should be 
"useful" for readers of Wikipedia is directly analogous to this kind of
original research.

In my view, our articles should show what a reliable educational 
source would show, no more and no less. Anything beyond that
should be left to a prominent Commons link.

That would be neutral.

> > 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.

I regard them as valid too, and if it can be avoided I am all for it,
but the fact is that bad image lists and categories exist already, and those 
who would censor us do so already. We don't forbid cars because some
people drive drunk.


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