This page is an essay on civility.
Wikipedia, and specifically the dispute resolution process, has a difficult time dealing with civil POV pushers. The Arbitration Committee (ArbCom) has a mixed record in dealing with such problem users. The arbitration committee has chosen to avoid focusing on content, because admittedly they are not subject experts, and often these issues are complicated enough that knowledge of the topic is necessary to identify pseudoscience, crankery, conspiracy theories, marginal nationalist or historic viewpoints, and the like. (One important reason for this is that oftentimes there is a great deal of misinformation surrounding these topics.) Rather than focusing on content the arbitration committee has focused on behavior. The problem is compounded because it often takes the form of long-term behavior that cannot accurately be summarized in a few diffs. As such, the committee has difficulty dealing with "civil" POV pushers—editors who repeatedly disregard or manipulate Wikipedia's content policies but are superficially civil, or not-quite-uncivil-enough to merit sanctions.
As a result of the arbitration committee's failure to deal with these issues, the committee has effectively abdicated the responsibility for ensuring neutrality, verifiability, and other content standards to a few users (mostly, but not entirely admins) who patrol these articles and attempt to keep them free of disruption. These users are generally very knowledgeable about the subject and committed to Wikipedia's policies on proper sourcing and appropriate weight. Unfortunately, they tend to burn out. Usually they burn out in one of two ways:
- The impatient ones tend to become angry as a result of the seemingly never-ending problems these articles cause, become uncivil, and get sanctioned by ArbCom for incivility.
- The patient ones tend to go more quietly. They become disillusioned by the never-ending problems and the lack of support from the Wikipedia community, and stop editing on these topics or quit the site entirely.
This is an untenable situation.
On occasion the Arbitration Committee acknowledges the existence of this problem. In response to suggestions that ArbCom use a related arbitration case to set down some "far-reaching, well-written, solid, effective principles for dealing with POV pushers who are civil" it was suggested to formulate a list of principles and remedies. The original impetus for this page was to provide such a list, though in the end ArbCom declined to address the issue.
These are editors who are superficially polite while exhibiting some or all of the following behaviors:
- They often edit primarily or entirely on one topic or theme.
- They attempt to water down language, unreasonably exclude, marginalize or push views beyond the requirements of WP:NPOV, or give undue weight to fringe theories – pseudoscience, crankery, conspiracy theories, marginal nationalist or historic viewpoints, and the like.
- They frivolously request citations for obvious or well known information.
- They argue endlessly about the neutral-point-of-view policy and particularly try to undermine the undue weight clause. They try to add information that is (at best) peripherally relevant on the grounds that "it is verifiable, so it should be in".
- When they are unable to refute discussion on the talk page against their point of view, they will say the discussion is original research.
- They repeatedly use the talk page for soapboxing, and/or to re-raise the same issues that have already been discussed numerous times.
- They hang around forever, wearing down more serious editors and become an expert in an odd kind of way on their niche POV. They outlast their competitors because they're more invested in their point of view.
- They often make a series of frivolous and time-wasting requests for comment, mediation or arbitration, again in an attempt to wear down other editors.
- They will often misrepresent others or other discussions in an attempt to incriminate or belittle others' opinions.
- They will attempt to label others or otherwise discredit their opinion based on that person's associations rather than the core of their argument. See ad hominem.
- They argue for the inclusion of material of dubious reliability; for example, using commentary from partisan think tanks rather than from the scientific literature.
- They argue that reliable sources are biased while their own preferred sources are neutral.
- They ignore their burden to demonstrate verifiability, insisting attempts be made to find reliable sources for dubious claims before removing them from an article.
- When pressed for reliable sources, in lieu of honoring the request they:
- use a source to verify claims outside its author's expertise. For example, a foreword to an electrician's handbook is used to verify a statement of historical fact;
- engage in cherrypicking; and
- cite non-English language sources most people can't read, or obscure books that most people can't find.
Topics affected by this problem include:
- Evolution/creationism and intelligent design
- Alternative medicine
- Global warming
- Nationalist issues
- The September 11 attacks
- Racial topics
- Religion-related topics
- Gender-related topics
- Marginal or idiosyncratic scientific speculation
- New religious movements
- The free software movement
- The Shakespeare authorship question
- Tea Party Movement
- Gun control
- Mass killings under Communist regimes
- Civility is not limited to superficial politeness but includes the overall behavior of the user. Superficially polite behaviors still may be uncivil. Some examples are politely phrased baiting, frivolous or vexatious use of process, ill-considered but politely phrased accusations, unrelenting pestering, and abuse of talk pages as a platform to expound upon personal opinions unrelated to specific content issues.
- Just as WP:NPOV, WP:V, and WP:NOR cannot be applied in isolation, WP:CIVIL should not be interpreted or enforced without reference to other guidelines and policies. Civility is important, but it does not trump other core behavioral and content policies.
- Using Wikipedia as a vehicle for advocacy, or to advance a specific agenda, damages the encyclopedia and disrupts the process of collaborative editing. Wikipedia is not here to right great wrongs. Even when such behavior is superficially civil it is just as harmful to the project, if not more so, than incivility.
- The requirement to assume good faith is not an excuse for uncooperative behavior. There is a limit to how long good faith can be extended to editors who are continually shown to be acting in a manner that is detrimental to the growth and improvement of the encyclopedia. Nor is AGF defined as doublespeak for urging all editors to agree with a particular viewpoint and accept any changes that are advocated.
- Civility does not mean that editors cannot disagree. Academe is well known for spirited debates and disagreements and these often point the way to progress. The key principle is "stay on topic"; that is, arguments should be on the merits and not personalities. Editors should bear in mind that a disagreement with their point is not an attack on their honor.
- Accounts which use Wikipedia for the sole or primary purpose of advocating a specific agenda at the expense of core policies and consensus-based editing should be warned, restricted, or ultimately blocked by any uninvolved administrator. Care should be taken to distinguish new accounts from those with an established pattern of disruptive single-purpose advocacy. Likewise, this remedy is not meant to apply to editors who work within a narrow range of topics but adhere to Wikipedia's core policies.
- Where consensus cannot be attained through normal wiki processes, the arbitration committee could designate "lead" editors who have considerable expertise on that article or topic. Lead editors would be empowered to direct discussion, determine consensus and designate discussions as closed. However, the arbitration committee has done this only very rarely, and there is considerable opposition to it doing it at all: the commitee is expected to deal with behavior , not content.
- If an editor insists on continuing to bring up an issue which has been discussed and decided, especially if they have no new information that can add to the issue, they should be pointed to the previous discussion, warned, restricted and ultimately blocked by any uninvolved administrator. An "involved administrator" (for the purposes of allowing uninvolved administrators to impose sanctions on problem users) is one who has a current, direct, personal conflict with a problem user on the specific issue at hand. Previous interactions on other articles or topics does not make one involved; previously editing the same article (but a different matter) does not make one involved. Broad definitions of "involved" that exclude administrators who have any prior experience with the article or editors in question are counterproductive. They result in overemphasis on superficial civility at the expense of more complex and long-term behavior. See WP:UNINVOLVED.
More on civil POV pushing
Other relevant pages
- WP:Be neutral in form
- WP:Criticisms of society may be consistent with NPOV and reliability
- WP:Disruptive editing
- WP:Don't be a fanatic
- WP:Don't teach the controversy (the phrase doesn't mean what you think it does)
- WP:Expert retention
- WP:Gaming the system
- WP:New admin school/Dealing with disputes
- WP:No holy wars
- WP:Please be a giant dick, so we can ban you
- WP:POV and OR from editors, sources, and fields
- WP:POV Railroad
- WP:Tendentious editing
- WP:Town sheriff
- WP:Why Wikipedia cannot claim the Earth is not flat – advice on coping with civil POV pushers
Related arbitration cases
- Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Pseudoscience (2006)
- Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Cold fusion (2008)
- Sea lioning, from the original Wondermark comic