[Wikimedia-l] COI versus OUTING

Fred Bauder fredbaud at fairpoint.net
Mon Jan 21 13:30:39 UTC 2013

> A not really hypothetical question:
> Let say one is the director of marketing at a 16 billion dollar company
> and
> decides to come to Wikipedia in an attempt to alter its coverage of one
> of
> your companies key products (which has been hit fairly hard lately by the
> evidence). One also invites 50 of your best friends (most of which are on
> your pay role to join you in this effort).
> Let say you are trying to do it anonymously but both you and your
> associates send out a whole bunch of intimidating emails to a long
> standing
> editor. Than this long standing editor without any real difficulty
> figures
> out who you are (as you sort of did email him). You than "vanish" from
> Wikipedia.
> What if this long standing editor decided to either hand the story over
> to
> the press or write something up for publication in a peer review journal
> as
> said editor does not stand for intimidation easily? And this long
> standing
> editor believes that the world / patients might be better off if
> this behavior become more widely known. How would the Wikimedia community
> apply the above two policies / guidelines (WP:COI and WP:OUTING)?
> --
> James Heilman
> MD, CCFP-EM, Wikipedian

Our prohibitions against "outing" of the personal information of other
editors refers to on-wiki accusations and guesses. You can use that
information freely with respect to private communications with
administrators or the arbitration committee regarding socking and
conflict of interest issues. On-wiki communications regarding conflict of
interest editing is OK but should omit such personal information.

If Wikipedia processes are ineffective in dealing with the problem,
publication off-wiki, particularly in a peer-reviewed journal, is
acceptable in my view as assuming power over an issue and information
concerning it implies a responsibility to deal with it adequately.
However, I hope you will attempt to use our processes before you do
something that may be damaging to our public image. Please give us a
chance. For one thing, if there are grounds, our checkuser crew can often
ferret out sock puppets and where they originate; you would have to
promptly, probably before any legal controversy is ripe or before a
court, obtain a court order to get that information on your own if
editing was done using an account name.

A note regarding evidence that you might need in defending a possible
libel action: edits containing personal identifying information may be
deleted or suppressed under our policies and can be retrieved later only
under the terms of a court order, so, obviously, get them before they are

Fred Bauder

More information about the Wikimedia-l mailing list