Request for your input: biographies of living people

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Request for your input: biographies of living people

Sue Gardner-2
Hi folks,

I've been increasingly concerned lately about Wikimedia's coverage of living
people, both within biographies of living people (BLPs) on Wikipedia, and in
coverage of living people in non-BLP text.  I've asked the board to put this
issue on the agenda for the April meeting in Berlin, and I'm hoping there to
figure out some concrete next steps to support quality in this area.  In
advance of that, I want to ask for input from you.

First, I'm going to lay out the scope of the problem as I see it. (If you're
already up to speed, you might want to skip that bit.)  Then I'll lay out a
little of my thinking on how we could aim to improve.  I would very much
appreciate any feedback from you -ideally here on this list- before the
April meeting :- )

(Please note that for convenience I'm going to use the phrase "BLP" as
shorthand for the whole issue of coverage of living people throughout all
Wikimedia projects. BLP's probably constitute the majority of that coverage,
but not all of it.)

Scope of the problem:

I am sure that BLP subjects have been complaining about their portrayals
since Wikipedia's very early days.  And I am sure that BLPs have always
suffered from the same problems and errors that occur in all articles:
malicious vandalism, biased editing, lack of citations, and so on. However,
I am particularly worried about BLPs, for two reasons:

1. BLPs are, by definition, about living people.  A mistake in an article
about the War of 1812 is too bad. A mistake in an article about a living
person could cause that person real-world harm. We don't want to do that.

2.  I believe the risk of hurting people is greater than it used to be,
because Wikipedia is growing increasingly unignorable. People are using the
internet to check out job applicants, colleagues, dates - and we are the
first search result for many names.

As Wikipedia generally becomes bigger and smarter and more in-depth, its
credibility increases - and so the gap between what we aim to do and what we
actually achieve on many BLPs, becomes ever more visible and disappointing.
This hurts our mission:

* We want to be taken seriously. Having a large number of influential,
accomplished people (the people who are typically subjects of BLPs)
distrusting or disliking us, damages our credibility.

* We aspire to be neutral and accurate. We know that not all BLP
complainants share that goal - some simply want their BLP whitewashed. The
existence of unfounded complaints, though, doesn't undercut the seriousness
of the real problem: many BLPs are inaccurate, unfair and paint a distorted
picture of their subject. They are not up to Wikipedia's standards.

* And -as I said earlier- these are real people's lives. Neutrally-written,
sourced information that is unflattering to the subject of an article is
appropriate to an encyclopedia, but lies, nonsense, insinuations and
unbalanced portrayals are not.

So what can we do? Here are the things I am thinking about. I would love
your input:

* Do we think the current complaints resolution systems are working?  Is it
easy enough for article subjects to report problems?  Are we courteous and
serious in our handling of complaints?  Do the people handling complaints
need training/support/resources to help them resolve the problem (if there
is one)?  Are there intractable problems, and if so, what can we do to solve
them?  Some Wikimedia chapters have pioneered more systematic training of
volunteers to handle OTRS responses; should we try to scale up those or
similar practices?

* Are there technical tools we could implement, that would support greater
quality in BLPs?  For example – easy problem reporting systems,
particular configurations of Flagged Revs, etc.

* Wikimedians have developed lots of tools for preventing/fixing vandalism
and errors of fact. Where less progress has been made, I think, is on the
question of disproportionate criticism. It seems to me that the solution may
include the development of systems designed to expose particularly biased
articles to a greater number of people who can help fix them. But this is a
pretty tough problem and I would welcome people's suggestions for resolving
it

* The editors I've spoken with about BLPs are pretty serious about them –
they are generally conservative, restrained, privacy-conscious, etc. But I
wonder if that general attitude is widely-shared. If Wikipedia believes (as
is said in -for example- the English BLP policy) that it has a
responsibility to take great care with BLPs, should there be a
Wikipedia-wide BLP policy, or a projects-wide statement of some kind?

BLPs and our general effect on living people have been a tough problem for a
long time, and I think we need now to bring together the appropriate people
and resources, and hash through how to best make some progress on the
problem. I'd like to start that discussion here, now. I'd appreciate any
feedback from you all, before April.  Please note I am deliberately not
asking questions about who should be responsible for what: chapters,
individual volunteers, the Wikimedia board or staff.  We can figure that
part out later. Right now I'm mostly interested in what we should be doing.

Thanks,
Sue
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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

Thomas Dalton
2009/3/2 Sue Gardner <[hidden email]>:

> So what can we do? Here are the things I am thinking about. I would love
> your input:
>
> * Do we think the current complaints resolution systems are working?  Is it
> easy enough for article subjects to report problems?  Are we courteous and
> serious in our handling of complaints?  Do the people handling complaints
> need training/support/resources to help them resolve the problem (if there
> is one)?  Are there intractable problems, and if so, what can we do to solve
> them?  Some Wikimedia chapters have pioneered more systematic training of
> volunteers to handle OTRS responses; should we try to scale up those or
> similar practices?

From what I can tell, a lot of subjects of BLPs that have problems
with their articles don't complain at all. The accounts I've heard
(or, at least, my interpretation thereof) of Wikimedians being
approached at events by people with bad articles have all been along
the lines of "my article is rubbish, how do I get it fixed?" not "my
article is rubbish and I've been trying to get it fixed but nobody is
listening to me". That suggests that those subjects that don't happen
to meet a Wikipedian never actually complain. There are two possible
explanations for that that I can see: 1) They don't really care all
that much and the complaints we get are just opportunistic moaning or
2) they have no idea where to even start with complaining. While there
may be some cases of (1), I'm sure (2) is a significant factor.

I've just looked at a BLP and nowhere can I see an guidance on how to
complain. I suggest a "Report a problem with this article" link to
added to the sidebar of all articles as a mailto link to the
appropriate OTRS address.

> * Are there technical tools we could implement, that would support greater
> quality in BLPs?  For example – easy problem reporting systems,
> particular configurations of Flagged Revs, etc.

Flagged Revs is an excellent way of dealing with vandalism to BLPs,
technical solutions to more subtle problems are a little trickier.
Flagged Revs could be used with addition levels - a "free of
vandalism" level and a "well balanced, fact-checked and free of
anything remotely libellous" level. Two separate levels are necessary
since the 2nd takes far too long to be a practical vandal fighting
tool - I'm not sure which level would be shown by default to whom,
that needs to be worked out.

> * Wikimedians have developed lots of tools for preventing/fixing vandalism
> and errors of fact. Where less progress has been made, I think, is on the
> question of disproportionate criticism. It seems to me that the solution may
> include the development of systems designed to expose particularly biased
> articles to a greater number of people who can help fix them. But this is a
> pretty tough problem and I would welcome people's suggestions for resolving
> it

Tagging with templates is our usual method, but it isn't particularly
effective. Perhaps we need to be a little more demanding about getting
things fixed. An addition to the multiple flags suggestion above could
work here - introduce a new deletion procedure by which any BLP (but,
in theory, BLPs with problems) can be tagged for deletion in 1 month
if a recent version of it hasn't been flagged as fact checked, etc. by
that time. (The "No article is better than a bad article" theory.) I
suspect we may end up with every BLP being so tagged so it would
basically be a policy of never having a backlog of much more than 1
month on fact checking - a nice idea, but I'm not sure if we could
keep up with it without deleting most of our BLPs.

> * The editors I've spoken with about BLPs are pretty serious about them –
> they are generally conservative, restrained, privacy-conscious, etc. But I
> wonder if that general attitude is widely-shared. If Wikipedia believes (as
> is said in -for example- the English BLP policy) that it has a
> responsibility to take great care with BLPs, should there be a
> Wikipedia-wide BLP policy, or a projects-wide statement of some kind?

There isn't really any such thing as "Wikipedia-wide", that's why
wikipedia-l is pretty much dead. Decisions of the entire Wikimedia
community are pretty difficult to achieve. They have to be done by
vote, nothing else is practical, and discussion to put together a
proposal to vote on is tricky because only people that speak English
can really be involved. I think, if we want any kind of statement like
that, it has to come from the WMF.

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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

Tomasz Ganicz
In reply to this post by Sue Gardner-2
2009/3/2 Sue Gardner <[hidden email]>:
> Hi folks,
>
> I've been increasingly concerned lately about Wikimedia's coverage of living
> people, both within biographies of living people (BLPs) on Wikipedia, and in
> coverage of living people in non-BLP text.  I've asked the board to put this
> issue on the agenda for the April meeting in Berlin, and I'm hoping there to
> figure out some concrete next steps to support quality in this area.  In
> advance of that, I want to ask for input from you.
>

I think that:
*There should be official Foundation's policy about handling legal
problems with biographies of living persons, which should have similar
status like privacy policy. It should be legal document saying what to
do if... not just a set of advices for editors. Moreover it should
clearly state whom to contact on Foundation level, who is responsible
for content etc. it should be written by lawyer.
*BLP policy on Wikipedia-en (and probably on many others) is rather
internal policy for editors describing not the legal issues but rather
editing rules - they might be different on different project, moreover
they use to change over the time.
*These two things of course overlap - but they are two different
issues in fact.
*It should be made clear that the offical Foundation policy regarding
legal issues with BLPs is more important than local BLP's policies and
always comes first.

In particular the legal BLP Foundation policy should give an answer for:
*what to do if a person want to remove enitre biography from Wikipedia
- especially in cases when a person is not formally a "public person"
but he/she is somehow famous
*what to do if a person claims that a given information hurts him/her
life but it is well proved by sources - and what sources are
acceptable and what not.
*what to do if a person says his/her biography is wrong but rejects to
provide proves or sources of their claims
*what kind of information should never be put on biography because it
is personal even if someone found public sources for them (like E-mail
and real address, phone number, illnesses,  etc.)

Two recent examples from Polish Wikipedia:
*A sportsmen had anitdoping case around 5 years ago, when he was 18.
There is good source of this information (his own interwiev in sport's
magazine in which he appologises for taking an illegal drug). Now the
guy is saing that it was all forgotten by mainstream media, he was
already punished for this (6 months break)  but he is now trying to
get new contract and Wikipedia entry on him may destroy the deal.
Therefore he ask for removing this info or his entire bio...
*A pop singer manager wants to remove the birthday of his starllet,
because she is (probably) around 30 but her current image show her as
"almost teenager". The birhtday is sourced by "Who is Who in Poland",
paper eddtion - but it was removed from electronic version, and they
also manged to remove it from all other web-pages.


--
Tomek "Polimerek" Ganicz
http://pl.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Polimerek
http://www.ganicz.pl/poli/
http://www.ptchem.lodz.pl/en/TomaszGanicz.html

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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

Lennart Guldbrandsson
In reply to this post by Thomas Dalton
>
> Thomas Dalton wrote
> I've just looked at a BLP and nowhere can I see an guidance on how to
> complain. I suggest a "Report a problem with this article" link to
> added to the sidebar of all articles as a mailto link to the
> appropriate OTRS address.
>

Another way to deal with this is to print small business cards "how to":s
and distribute them to people who have this problem. Something like this:

"So, your Wikipedia entry is wrong? Here's how to fix it in three easy
steps:

1) If the problem is vandalism, feel free to remove it directly by clicking
"edit", delete the text and click "save",
2) if not, click on the talk page, click on the plus sign and describe the
problem there (be polite),
3) if nothing happens in two days, click on the "contact Wikipedia" link to
your left and then click on "report an error".

But keep in mind that Wikipedia strives for verifiable facts, so any sources
that can back up your claims will help your matter to be handled more
promptly.

Best wishes!"

This seems to work for the companies I have lectured for anyway.

/Lennart

--
Lennart Guldbrandsson, chair of Wikimedia Sverige and press contact for
Swedish Wikipedia // ordförande för Wikimedia Sverige och presskontakt för
svenskspråkiga Wikipedia
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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

Thomas Dalton
2009/3/2 Lennart Guldbrandsson <[hidden email]>:

>>
>> Thomas Dalton wrote
>> I've just looked at a BLP and nowhere can I see an guidance on how to
>> complain. I suggest a "Report a problem with this article" link to
>> added to the sidebar of all articles as a mailto link to the
>> appropriate OTRS address.
>>
>
> Another way to deal with this is to print small business cards "how to":s
> and distribute them to people who have this problem. Something like this:
>
> "So, your Wikipedia entry is wrong? Here's how to fix it in three easy
> steps:
>
> 1) If the problem is vandalism, feel free to remove it directly by clicking
> "edit", delete the text and click "save",
> 2) if not, click on the talk page, click on the plus sign and describe the
> problem there (be polite),
> 3) if nothing happens in two days, click on the "contact Wikipedia" link to
> your left and then click on "report an error".
>
> But keep in mind that Wikipedia strives for verifiable facts, so any sources
> that can back up your claims will help your matter to be handled more
> promptly.
>
> Best wishes!"
>
> This seems to work for the companies I have lectured for anyway.

That works for dealing with people that come up to you at events to
complain. They don't work for people that don't otherwise complain,
which are the people I was talking about.

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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

David Gerard-2
In reply to this post by Tomasz Ganicz
2009/3/2 Tomasz Ganicz <[hidden email]>:


> Two recent examples from Polish Wikipedia:
> *A sportsmen had anitdoping case around 5 years ago, when he was 18.
> There is good source of this information (his own interwiev in sport's
> magazine in which he appologises for taking an illegal drug). Now the
> guy is saing that it was all forgotten by mainstream media, he was
> already punished for this (6 months break)  but he is now trying to
> get new contract and Wikipedia entry on him may destroy the deal.
> Therefore he ask for removing this info or his entire bio...
> *A pop singer manager wants to remove the birthday of his starllet,
> because she is (probably) around 30 but her current image show her as
> "almost teenager". The birhtday is sourced by "Who is Who in Poland",
> paper eddtion - but it was removed from electronic version, and they
> also manged to remove it from all other web-pages.


If those were answered any way other than "no, go away" (however
politely phrased), then that's just wrong.


- d.

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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

David Gerard-2
In reply to this post by Thomas Dalton
2009/3/2 Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]>:

> From what I can tell, a lot of subjects of BLPs that have problems
> with their articles don't complain at all. The accounts I've heard
> (or, at least, my interpretation thereof) of Wikimedians being
> approached at events by people with bad articles have all been along
> the lines of "my article is rubbish, how do I get it fixed?" not "my
> article is rubbish and I've been trying to get it fixed but nobody is
> listening to me". That suggests that those subjects that don't happen
> to meet a Wikipedian never actually complain. There are two possible
> explanations for that that I can see: 1) They don't really care all
> that much and the complaints we get are just opportunistic moaning or
> 2) they have no idea where to even start with complaining. While there
> may be some cases of (1), I'm sure (2) is a significant factor.


I would guess it's mostly (2), in my experience. People have no idea
who to contact. The "Contact Wikipedia" link on en:wp's sidebar
doesn't seem to catch their eye - though it gets you to the right
answer in three further clicks. Perhaps it should be on the page you
hit immediately.

(My usual answer: "Email info at wikimedia dot org, that's wikimedia
with an M. It'll get funneled to the right place. All other ways of
contacting us end up there anyway." This seems to work a bit.)


- d.

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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

Thomas Dalton
2009/3/2 David Gerard <[hidden email]>:
> I would guess it's mostly (2), in my experience. People have no idea
> who to contact. The "Contact Wikipedia" link on en:wp's sidebar
> doesn't seem to catch their eye - though it gets you to the right
> answer in three further clicks. Perhaps it should be on the page you
> hit immediately.

It certainly didn't catch my eye when I was looking for such a link. I
think an explicit "report a problem" link is required. It would go
straight to the info-en queue (or equivalent). If possible, it should
include the critical information (article title and revision id, at
least) in the email automatically, although I'm not sure mailto links
can do that...

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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

David Gerard-2
2009/3/2 Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]>:
> 2009/3/2 David Gerard <[hidden email]>:

>> I would guess it's mostly (2), in my experience. People have no idea
>> who to contact. The "Contact Wikipedia" link on en:wp's sidebar
>> doesn't seem to catch their eye - though it gets you to the right
>> answer in three further clicks. Perhaps it should be on the page you
>> hit immediately.

> It certainly didn't catch my eye when I was looking for such a link. I
> think an explicit "report a problem" link is required. It would go
> straight to the info-en queue (or equivalent). If possible, it should
> include the critical information (article title and revision id, at
> least) in the email automatically, although I'm not sure mailto links
> can do that...


Yeah, an express "Report a problem with this article" link would be a
useful start. For the article title and revision ID, that may require
an extension or similar that does some magic. A simple matter of
programming, I'm sure.


- d.

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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

Tomasz Ganicz
In reply to this post by David Gerard-2
2009/3/2 David Gerard <[hidden email]>:

> 2009/3/2 Tomasz Ganicz <[hidden email]>:
>
>
>> Two recent examples from Polish Wikipedia:
>> *A sportsmen had anitdoping case around 5 years ago, when he was 18.
>> There is good source of this information (his own interwiev in sport's
>> magazine in which he appologises for taking an illegal drug). Now the
>> guy is saing that it was all forgotten by mainstream media, he was
>> already punished for this (6 months break)  but he is now trying to
>> get new contract and Wikipedia entry on him may destroy the deal.
>> Therefore he ask for removing this info or his entire bio...
>> *A pop singer manager wants to remove the birthday of his starllet,
>> because she is (probably) around 30 but her current image show her as
>> "almost teenager". The birhtday is sourced by "Who is Who in Poland",
>> paper eddtion - but it was removed from electronic version, and they
>> also manged to remove it from all other web-pages.
>
>
> If those were answered any way other than "no, go away" (however
> politely phrased), then that's just wrong.
>

Yes. They were answered in such a way. Bu it does not solve the
problem from legal POV, and when you make such an answer you are - at
least in Poland at some legal risk. In Poland there is a law that a
person can always ask for removing his/her personal data from any
electronic database (except govermental ones). In the second case the
info about drugs is not "personal data" but in the first one is
(birthday). In the first case we have just recieived a formal request
from the starllet's solicitor to remove her birthday based on the
"personal data" law. Although Wikipedia servers are fortunetally not
in Poland, the "database operator" which in this case may mean the
editor who added this birthday should remove this birthday or he/she
is commiting a kind of minor crime. This is just a practical example
how legal POV might be in some cases different than general BLP policy
writen and voted by local project's communities.


--
Tomek "Polimerek" Ganicz
http://pl.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Polimerek
http://www.ganicz.pl/poli/
http://www.ptchem.lodz.pl/en/TomaszGanicz.html

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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

Nathan Awrich
This is the most prominent problem facing the English Wikipedia today in my
view. BLPs are easy to write and easy to get wrong, and there are always
newly famous people to write about - so this issue is only going to become
more important and more visible with time. Sue's point about the type of
people who are subjects of BLPs is important from a public relations
perspective; if we tick off people with megaphones, everyone is going to
hear about it.

A "report a problem" link (prominently displayed on BLPs in particular) was
my first thought as well, and seems like a straightforward way to improve
handling of complaints. I agree with Thomas that the article and revision
being reported should be included if possible in the e-mail automatically,
and I think we should have an OTRS queue specifically for BLPs to handle
these reports. I would also like to see the pool of OTRS respondents
expanded - some advertising on the need for queue minders, and maybe an
expansion of the potential pool (for instance, not being an administrator on
any project I wouldn't be eligible).

I would like to see Mike's opinion, though, on how deeply the Foundation can
be involved in establishing Wikimedia-wide policies on content like BLPs. It
would seem to challenge the notion that the Foundation itself hosts but does
not control project content. Tomasz' suggestion would be an especially
serious departure from past practice.

Nathan
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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

David Gerard-2
2009/3/2 Nathan <[hidden email]>:

> I would like to see Mike's opinion, though, on how deeply the Foundation can
> be involved in establishing Wikimedia-wide policies on content like BLPs. It
> would seem to challenge the notion that the Foundation itself hosts but does
> not control project content. Tomasz' suggestion would be an especially
> serious departure from past practice.


The BLP policy on en:wp basically says: the article needs to be NPOV,
verifiable and no original research, and it needs to be good enough
and not-wrong *at all times*. That is, the basic content rules, but
applied very hard indeed. Furthermore, any given statement needs to be
not merely referenced, but actually noteworthy in itself.

This is an ideal, but it's a reasonably simple and clear one.

(This has been misinterpreted, with varying degrees of wilfulness, as
"do no harm", take out anything possibly negative, etc. Nevertheless,
solid references that are evidence of notability of each claim
generally mean stuff stays in. The Polish examples above would be told
"er, no, go away.")

How do other projects interpret or implement their own BLP policies?
Are they more or less like the en:wp one? What differences exist?


- d.

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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

Gerard Meijssen-3
In reply to this post by Nathan Awrich
Hoi
For the English Wikipedia there is an awareness and there are procedures in
place to deal with BLP problems.These procedures may get an update with an
implementation of Flagged Revisions. In her question, Sue did not limit BLP
issues to English Wikipedia only.

It seems to me that BLP issues in languages other then English are in a way
more problematic  because of a lack of understanding of the language and of
the cultural and legal issues for the jurisdictions where a language is
spoken. Given that from a traffic point of view the other half is in
languages other then English, I would appreciate to learn more how BLP
issues are dealt with in other languages. I can imagine that English
Wikipedia is effectively more then half of the cases that are dealt with at
the office.
Thanks,
       GerardM

2009/3/2 Nathan <[hidden email]>

> This is the most prominent problem facing the English Wikipedia today in my
> view. BLPs are easy to write and easy to get wrong, and there are always
> newly famous people to write about - so this issue is only going to become
> more important and more visible with time. Sue's point about the type of
> people who are subjects of BLPs is important from a public relations
> perspective; if we tick off people with megaphones, everyone is going to
> hear about it.
>
> A "report a problem" link (prominently displayed on BLPs in particular) was
> my first thought as well, and seems like a straightforward way to improve
> handling of complaints. I agree with Thomas that the article and revision
> being reported should be included if possible in the e-mail automatically,
> and I think we should have an OTRS queue specifically for BLPs to handle
> these reports. I would also like to see the pool of OTRS respondents
> expanded - some advertising on the need for queue minders, and maybe an
> expansion of the potential pool (for instance, not being an administrator
> on
> any project I wouldn't be eligible).
>
> I would like to see Mike's opinion, though, on how deeply the Foundation
> can
> be involved in establishing Wikimedia-wide policies on content like BLPs.
> It
> would seem to challenge the notion that the Foundation itself hosts but
> does
> not control project content. Tomasz' suggestion would be an especially
> serious departure from past practice.
>
> Nathan
> _______________________________________________
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>
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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

jayjg
In reply to this post by Thomas Dalton
On Mon, Mar 2, 2009 at 6:38 AM, Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]>wrote:

> 2009/3/2 Sue Gardner <[hidden email]>:
>
> > * Are there technical tools we could implement, that would support
> greater
> > quality in BLPs?  For example – easy problem reporting systems,
> > particular configurations of Flagged Revs, etc.
>
> Flagged Revs is an excellent way of dealing with vandalism to BLPs,
> technical solutions to more subtle problems are a little trickier.
> Flagged Revs could be used with addition levels - a "free of
> vandalism" level and a "well balanced, fact-checked and free of
> anything remotely libellous" level. Two separate levels are necessary
> since the 2nd takes far too long to be a practical vandal fighting
> tool - I'm not sure which level would be shown by default to whom,
> that needs to be worked out.


That might help for actual biographies, but it doesn't help much when
BLP-violations happen in other places, particularly article Talk: pages. In
my experience that's all to common.
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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

Mike Godwin-2
In reply to this post by Sue Gardner-2
Nathan writes:


> I would like to see Mike's opinion, though, on how deeply the Foundation
> can
> be involved in establishing Wikimedia-wide policies on content like BLPs.
> It
> would seem to challenge the notion that the Foundation itself hosts but
> does
> not control project content.


My strong belief is that the Foundation can make *suggestions* to the
community about what content policy should be, but that *it must remain up
to the community whether to adopt such policies and how to enforce them*.
The available cases (mostly US cases, but some foreign ones) suggest that
any top-down initiative from the Foundation to control the development or
maintenance of content (including BLPs) runs the risk of being interpreted
by courts and/or legislatures as general editorial control, which would
undercut the legal principles we rely on to protect the Foundation.

In order for the Foundation to function with the least possible risk of
legal action that might threaten the projects' operation (or even
existence), we have to lower the expectation that the Foundation plays any
editorial role beyond the minimum one required by law (such as DMCA
takedowns). The Foundation is best situated when it's perceived as something
like a phone company -- a platform for other people to produce content on.


--Mike
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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

Anthony-73
In reply to this post by Thomas Dalton
On Mon, Mar 2, 2009 at 6:38 AM, Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]>wrote:

> I've just looked at a BLP and nowhere can I see an guidance on how to
> complain. I suggest a "Report a problem with this article" link to
> added to the sidebar of all articles as a mailto link to the
> appropriate OTRS address.
>

Sounds good, but how good is OTRS at handling these issues?  Are there any
statistics available as to what percentage of OTRS complainers are satisfied
with the resolution?  Does OTRS provide any escalation for people who aren't
satisfied with their initial results?

Flagged Revs is an excellent way of dealing with vandalism to BLPs,
>  technical solutions to more subtle problems are a little trickier.
> Flagged Revs could be used with addition levels - a "free of
> vandalism" level and a "well balanced, fact-checked and free of
> anything remotely libellous" level. Two separate levels are necessary
> since the 2nd takes far too long to be a practical vandal fighting
> tool - I'm not sure which level would be shown by default to whom,
> that needs to be worked out.
>

Another good idea, but how would an article be accepted as "well balanced"?
You just can't write about a topic which has any level of controversy and
come up with an article which everyone will agree is "well balanced".  No
matter what you write, someone is going to have a problem with it, so
marking an article as "well balanced" is more likely to increase the
complaints rather than reduce them.  I think Citizendium's "approved
articles" is about the best you can do in this type of situation, and their
articles certainly aren't "well balanced".
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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

Lars Aronsson
In reply to this post by Tomasz Ganicz
Tomasz Ganicz wrote:

> least in Poland at some legal risk. In Poland there is a law
> that a person can always ask for removing his/her personal data
> from any electronic database (except govermental ones).

There is a similar law in Sweden (Personuppgiftslagen, PUL), but
it has an exception for the freedom of the press and similar
journalistic purposes ("det journalistiska undantaget"), and this
exception is always referred to for websites similar to Wikipedia.

The Norwegian law apparently has a similar exception, that also
covers opinion pieces (opinionsdannende). The Danish law
apparently refers directly to article 10 (freedom of expression)
of the European Convention on Human Rights.

What you could do is to ask Polish journalists how they operate
newspaper websites under this law, and how they (as guardians of
the freedom of the press) would react if the Polish Wikipedia was
censored in this way.  Perhaps they should write a newspaper
article about how this musical artist tries to hide her real age.

This doesn't necessarily bring an answer to the question, but
establishing a good link with journalists is always useful.


--
  Lars Aronsson ([hidden email])
  Aronsson Datateknik - http://aronsson.se

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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

Geoffrey Plourde
In reply to this post by Sue Gardner-2
I think that the implementation of Flagged Revisions will clean up a lot of the BLP problems. Another possibility that I doubt anyone will support is appointing a BLP Committee or group of administrators to oversee all BLP matters.




________________________________
From: Sue Gardner <[hidden email]>
To: [hidden email]
Sent: Sunday, March 1, 2009 11:20:53 PM
Subject: [Foundation-l] Request for your input: biographies of living people

Hi folks,

I've been increasingly concerned lately about Wikimedia's coverage of living
people, both within biographies of living people (BLPs) on Wikipedia, and in
coverage of living people in non-BLP text.  I've asked the board to put this
issue on the agenda for the April meeting in Berlin, and I'm hoping there to
figure out some concrete next steps to support quality in this area.  In
advance of that, I want to ask for input from you.

First, I'm going to lay out the scope of the problem as I see it. (If you're
already up to speed, you might want to skip that bit.)  Then I'll lay out a
little of my thinking on how we could aim to improve.  I would very much
appreciate any feedback from you -ideally here on this list- before the
April meeting :- )

(Please note that for convenience I'm going to use the phrase "BLP" as
shorthand for the whole issue of coverage of living people throughout all
Wikimedia projects. BLP's probably constitute the majority of that coverage,
but not all of it.)

Scope of the problem:

I am sure that BLP subjects have been complaining about their portrayals
since Wikipedia's very early days.  And I am sure that BLPs have always
suffered from the same problems and errors that occur in all articles:
malicious vandalism, biased editing, lack of citations, and so on. However,
I am particularly worried about BLPs, for two reasons:

1. BLPs are, by definition, about living people.  A mistake in an article
about the War of 1812 is too bad. A mistake in an article about a living
person could cause that person real-world harm. We don't want to do that.

2.  I believe the risk of hurting people is greater than it used to be,
because Wikipedia is growing increasingly unignorable. People are using the
internet to check out job applicants, colleagues, dates - and we are the
first search result for many names.

As Wikipedia generally becomes bigger and smarter and more in-depth, its
credibility increases - and so the gap between what we aim to do and what we
actually achieve on many BLPs, becomes ever more visible and disappointing.
This hurts our mission:

* We want to be taken seriously. Having a large number of influential,
accomplished people (the people who are typically subjects of BLPs)
distrusting or disliking us, damages our credibility.

* We aspire to be neutral and accurate. We know that not all BLP
complainants share that goal - some simply want their BLP whitewashed. The
existence of unfounded complaints, though, doesn't undercut the seriousness
of the real problem: many BLPs are inaccurate, unfair and paint a distorted
picture of their subject. They are not up to Wikipedia's standards.

* And -as I said earlier- these are real people's lives. Neutrally-written,
sourced information that is unflattering to the subject of an article is
appropriate to an encyclopedia, but lies, nonsense, insinuations and
unbalanced portrayals are not.

So what can we do? Here are the things I am thinking about. I would love
your input:

* Do we think the current complaints resolution systems are working?  Is it
easy enough for article subjects to report problems?  Are we courteous and
serious in our handling of complaints?  Do the people handling complaints
need training/support/resources to help them resolve the problem (if there
is one)?  Are there intractable problems, and if so, what can we do to solve
them?  Some Wikimedia chapters have pioneered more systematic training of
volunteers to handle OTRS responses; should we try to scale up those or
similar practices?

* Are there technical tools we could implement, that would support greater
quality in BLPs?  For example – easy problem reporting systems,
particular configurations of Flagged Revs, etc.

* Wikimedians have developed lots of tools for preventing/fixing vandalism
and errors of fact. Where less progress has been made, I think, is on the
question of disproportionate criticism. It seems to me that the solution may
include the development of systems designed to expose particularly biased
articles to a greater number of people who can help fix them. But this is a
pretty tough problem and I would welcome people's suggestions for resolving
it

* The editors I've spoken with about BLPs are pretty serious about them –
they are generally conservative, restrained, privacy-conscious, etc. But I
wonder if that general attitude is widely-shared. If Wikipedia believes (as
is said in -for example- the English BLP policy) that it has a
responsibility to take great care with BLPs, should there be a
Wikipedia-wide BLP policy, or a projects-wide statement of some kind?

BLPs and our general effect on living people have been a tough problem for a
long time, and I think we need now to bring together the appropriate people
and resources, and hash through how to best make some progress on the
problem. I'd like to start that discussion here, now. I'd appreciate any
feedback from you all, before April.  Please note I am deliberately not
asking questions about who should be responsible for what: chapters,
individual volunteers, the Wikimedia board or staff.  We can figure that
part out later. Right now I'm mostly interested in what we should be doing.

Thanks,
Sue
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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

Geoffrey Plourde
In reply to this post by Tomasz Ganicz
They have no recourse. We are not subject to Polish law.




________________________________
From: Tomasz Ganicz <[hidden email]>
To: Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List <[hidden email]>
Sent: Monday, March 2, 2009 6:24:09 AM
Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] Request for your input: biographies of living people

2009/3/2 David Gerard <[hidden email]>:

> 2009/3/2 Tomasz Ganicz <[hidden email]>:
>
>
>> Two recent examples from Polish Wikipedia:
>> *A sportsmen had anitdoping case around 5 years ago, when he was 18.
>> There is good source of this information (his own interwiev in sport's
>> magazine in which he appologises for taking an illegal drug). Now the
>> guy is saing that it was all forgotten by mainstream media, he was
>> already punished for this (6 months break)  but he is now trying to
>> get new contract and Wikipedia entry on him may destroy the deal.
>> Therefore he ask for removing this info or his entire bio...
>> *A pop singer manager wants to remove the birthday of his starllet,
>> because she is (probably) around 30 but her current image show her as
>> "almost teenager". The birhtday is sourced by "Who is Who in Poland",
>> paper eddtion - but it was removed from electronic version, and they
>> also manged to remove it from all other web-pages.
>
>
> If those were answered any way other than "no, go away" (however
> politely phrased), then that's just wrong.
>

Yes. They were answered in such a way. Bu it does not solve the
problem from legal POV, and when you make such an answer you are - at
least in Poland at some legal risk. In Poland there is a law that a
person can always ask for removing his/her personal data from any
electronic database (except govermental ones). In the second case the
info about drugs is not "personal data" but in the first one is
(birthday). In the first case we have just recieived a formal request
from the starllet's solicitor to remove her birthday based on the
"personal data" law. Although Wikipedia servers are fortunetally not
in Poland, the "database operator" which in this case may mean the
editor who added this birthday should remove this birthday or he/she
is commiting a kind of minor crime. This is just a practical example
how legal POV might be in some cases different than general BLP policy
writen and voted by local project's communities.


--
Tomek "Polimerek" Ganicz
http://pl.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Polimerek
http://www.ganicz.pl/poli/
http://www.ptchem.lodz.pl/en/TomaszGanicz.html

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Re: Request for your input: biographies of living people

David Gerard-2
In reply to this post by Lars Aronsson
2009/3/2 Lars Aronsson <[hidden email]>:

> What you could do is to ask Polish journalists how they operate
> newspaper websites under this law, and how they (as guardians of
> the freedom of the press) would react if the Polish Wikipedia was
> censored in this way.  Perhaps they should write a newspaper
> article about how this musical artist tries to hide her real age.


Yes. It's the sort of issue custom-crafted to backfire really badly.


- d.

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