|This page documents a Wikipedia policy with legal considerations.|
|This page in a nutshell: If you post a legal threat on Wikipedia, you are likely to be blocked. A polite report of a legal problem, such as defamation or copyright infringement, is not a threat and will be acted on quickly.|
Do not make legal threats on Wikipedia. A legal threat, in this context, is a threat to engage in an external (real life) legal or other governmental process that would target other editors. It does not refer to any dispute-resolution process within Wikipedia. Legal threats should be reported to Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents or elsewhere to an administrator. Users who make legal threats are typically blocked from editing while the threats are outstanding.
Rather than immediately blocking users who post apparent threats, administrators should first seek to clarify the user's intention if there is doubt. Blocking for legal threats is generally not such an urgent need that it must be done before determining whether an ambiguous statement was genuinely a threat of legal action.
Instead of posting a legal threat, you should try to resolve disputes using Wikipedia's dispute-resolution procedures. If your issue involves Wikipedia itself, you should contact the Wikimedia Foundation.
That a legal dispute exists between users, whether as a result of incidents on Wikipedia or elsewhere, is not a valid reason to block, so long as no legal threats are posted on Wikipedia. Editors involved in a legal dispute should not edit articles about parties to the dispute, given the potential conflict of interest.
What is not a legal threat
A complaint in cases of copyright infringement is not a legal threat. If you are the owner of copyrighted material that has been inappropriately added to Wikipedia, a clear statement about whether it is licensed for such use is welcome. You may contact the information team or the Wikimedia Foundation's designated agent, or use the procedures at Wikipedia:Copyright problems.
A discussion as to whether material is libelous is not a legal threat. Wikipedia's policy on defamation is to delete libelous material as soon as it is identified. If you believe that you are the subject of a libelous statement on Wikipedia, please contact the information team at info-en-qwikipedia.org.
Conflict of interest
Perceived legal threats
It is important to refrain from making comments that others may reasonably understand as a legal threat. For example, if you repeatedly assert that another editor's comments are "defamatory" or "libelous", that editor might interpret this as a threat to sue, even if that is not your intention. To avoid misunderstandings, use less charged wording, such as "that statement about me is false and damaging, and I ask that it be corrected." Rather than immediately blocking users who post apparent threats, administrators should first seek to clarify the user's intention, if there is any doubt.
Rationale for the policy
While you may sue in a court of law, Wikipedia is not the place for legal disputes. Making legal threats on Wikipedia is uncivil and causes a number of serious problems:
- It severely inhibits free editing of pages, a concept that is absolutely necessary to ensure that Wikipedia remains neutral. Without this freedom, we risk one side of a dispute intimidating the other, thus causing a systemic bias in our articles.
- It creates bad feelings and a lack of trust within the community, damaging our ability to proceed quickly and efficiently with an assumption of mutual good faith.
- We have had bad experiences with users who have made legal threats in the past. By making legal threats, you may damage your reputation on Wikipedia.
Attempting to resolve disputes using the dispute resolution procedures will often lead to a solution without resorting to the law. If the dispute resolution procedures do not resolve your problem, and you then choose to take legal action, you do so in the knowledge that you took all reasonable steps to resolve the situation amicably.
Conclusion of legal threat
The Wikipedia community has a long-standing general principle that (almost) anyone is capable of reform. Accordingly, statements made in anger or misjudgment should not be held against people once genuinely and credibly withdrawn.
To prevent damage to the project, this policy temporarily removes from participation in the community editors who make legal threats on Wikipedia. The editor is not blocked just because "it's a legal threat", but because the block:
- reduces scope for escalation of a bad situation,
- reduces stress and administrative burden on the wiki,
- reduces disruption to articles and the editorial environment,
- prevents a situation in which someone is seeking to be a collaborative partner while setting themselves up as a legal adversary.
The aim is to prevent legal threats being posted on Wikipedia, not to keep bad content from being fixed. Admins should encourage an aggrieved user to identify factual errors in the article at issue; a link to Wikipedia:Contact us/Article problem/Factual error (from subject) may be appropriate.
Repeats of legal threats on the user's talk page have limited scope for disruption or chilling effect. The user should not be prevented from using their talk page until reasonable attempts have been made to open a civil discussion. We assume good faith while containing disruption, but the assumption of good faith is not a suicide pact; persistent or vexatious complaints may indeed lead to the user being banned and prevented from editing their talk page, but this is a last resort.