[WikiEN-l] Libel chill

Jimmy Wales jwales at wikia.com
Fri Apr 21 21:11:33 UTC 2006

Tim Starling wrote:
> The basic problem with {{office}} is that I don't trust Brad Patrick and Danny to decide between
> them what's right and wrong. I'm not making a slight on their character. I'm just saying that there
> needs to be oversight, when something so important as the neutrality of the encyclopedia is at
> stake. In some cases, we may need to make a tradeoff between NPOV and risk of being sued, and I fear
> that due to their background, a lawyer may be inclined to automatically choose minimisation of risk
> over neutrality, even when the risk of a successful lawsuit is very small.
> I would like to see review of these "office actions" by a diverse committee, such as the juriwiki-l
> mailing list.

I think this significantly misapprehends the nature of WP:OFFICE.

The most important counter I would give to this is that WP:OFFICE is
always temporary, an emergency action, an action of goodwill, thus far
used exclusively (or almost exclusively) for biographies of living
persons.  The issue is NOT "a tradeoff between NPOV and risk of being sued".

Let me repeat that, the issue is NOT "a tradeoff between NPOV and risk
of being used".  The issue is responding quickly and effectively to
cases where we have a very strong indication from someone that an
article is egregiously in violation of NPOV.

If the topic is [[Carbon Tetracholoride]] and we receive a strong
complaint that the article is biased, then {{sofixit}} can be a fine
response.  If the topic is a real live human being about whom someone
has written something egregiously false or mean spirited, and the person
calls up in hysterics, then the right answer is: stub and rebuild with
strong verification.  The right answer is: temporary protection of a
safe version while good editors take the time to figure out what the
heck is going on.

It is very deeply confused to view WP:OFFICE as some kind of rollback of
the neutrality policy.  It is a means of working towards neutrality.  It
is the morally right thing to do when we are faced with a serious issue.

Since WP:OFFICE is done publicly and under intense scrutiny from the
community and the external world, I hardly see any need for a special
narrow committee to be specifically tasked with overseeing it.

What should people do when they see a WP:OFFICE action?  Treat it as a
call for attention from the absolute best within ourselves, the absolute
best within our community.  Here we have an article which has gone
horribly wrong in some way, and sometimes it can be a mystery as to what
exactly the problem is.  Why is someone upset?  Which claim in the
article is false or overstated or biased or hostile?  I think dozens of
people should swoop in and start working really hard on a temp version
(usualy protected or semi-protected, depending on the exact nature of
the situation), with extreme hardcore attention paid to sourcing, to
neutral phrasing, etc.

In this way, WP:OFFICE articles can become models of good behavior by
Wikipedia, can show the world how seriously we take our mission, our


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