[WikiEN-l] Proposal: limited extension of semi-protection

Mark Gallagher m.g.gallagher at student.canberra.edu.au
Wed May 24 07:07:04 UTC 2006

Molu wrote:
[Still top-posting, I see]
> On Wed, 24 May 2006 13:40:28 +1000 Mark Gallagher wrote:
>> I submit that this is a good standard for Wikipedia to aim for 
>> (even if we don't need to). If something is not true *and* in the 
>> public interest to know, we should not be saying it about anyone, 
>> in particular living people. That's not a legal decision, it's an 
>> editorial (and, if you like, moral) one. We should be displaying 
>> more discretion than simply "oh, it's true, chuck it in". Wikipedia
>>  is not an indiscriminate collection of facts.
> I submit that this is a terrible standard for WIkipedia to aim for, 
> and the day Wikipedia starts doing that is the day Wikipedia as we 
> know it has died a horrible death. When the government of PRC censors
>  content critical of them, they say those content were banned because
>  they are "not in the public interest".

Our definition of "public interest" is not the same definition as the
PRC's.  While we're flinging about the "slippery slope" argument with
gay abandon, I could argue that you are in favour of us throwing away
all editorial standards.  We would no longer be able to argue that
such-and-such is irrelevant, because That's Censorship, And Censorship
Is Bad.  We would have to print everything we could get our hands on; we
could not decide not to include something of no import, because if it's
negative and we leave it out we'd be as bad as the Chinese government ...

> IMO, none of the two criterias you mention are good criterias for 
> inclusion in WIkipedia. Wikipedia does not report the Truth™, only 
> the NPOV. As for public interest, let the public decide what is in 
> their interest, wikipedia is not the appointed moral guardian of the 
> society (and in case Jimbo received that appointment letter I hope he
> has burned it).

Wikipedia does not and should not report lies as truth merely because
some filthy rag has published them.  Being truthful is an inherent
component of neutrality --- if we do not report the truth, we are
showing bias towards those who want to spread lies.  I use Lyndon
LaRouche a lot in my examples, because he's just so gosh-darn crazy that
he's a good candidate for this sort of thing.  So let's take Lyndon

Example A:
"Lyndon LaRouche is a popular and powerful American politician.  He has
become famous worldwide for his exposés of Dick Cheney's plan to flatten
Iran with nuclear weapons, the Queen of England's secret Satanic
connections, and the influence of Masonic Jewish Bankers in
international politics.  He earned critical acclaim in 2004 after
finally completing the construction of the Eurasian Land Bridge, and has
been hailed as a modern-day Marco Polo.  His critics, however, deny this."

Now, as far as I'm concerned a paragraph like Example A would be utterly
unacceptable, both because it's biased and because it's a pack of lies.
  Obviously we can't just say that all LaRouche's "achievements" are in
fact the fantasies of his diseased mind, but we can sure as hell point
out where the truth lies.

While we're talking examples, I'd be interested to hear how you and the
Chinese government view ...

Example B:
Lyndon LaRouche once had sex with a 15-year-old girl while he was 16 (or
17 while 18, or insert your own age of consent laws here).  So far the
authorities have refused to do anything about this accusation since it
surfaced in 2005, sixty years after the fact, but a small group of
dedicated Internet slander-mongers are working hard to bring this
troubling issue to light.

Even in the Land of the Brave, we can be sued for publishing defamatory 
statements about people, if those statements aren't true.  Therefore (if 
morality is not sufficient), we should be concerned about whether what 
we say is, in fact, true.  If Wikipedia were hosted in a country like 
Australia, we could also be sued for publishing defamatory statements 
about people, if we haven't taken reasonable steps to ensure those 
statements are true, or if what we have to say is something we have no 
business saying (like the LaRouche example above which, being something 
I just made up, really did the double here).

We have a moral obligation to treat the people we write about with some 
sensitivity, and not publish stuff just to scream "FUCK YOU" to these 
people, or anybody who would dare suggest we adopt a modicum of 
responsibility.  We also have some measure of editorial discretion. 
These two things go hand-in-hand.

Mark Gallagher
"What?  I can't hear you, I've got a banana on my head!"
- Danger Mouse

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