Wikipedia:Requests for comment/COI

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The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section. A summary of the conclusions reached follows.
Conclusions reached on the basis of this discussion are as follows:
  • Closer's observation: This format, with sectioning done not rationally by discussion topic but by person, seems almost guaranteed not to produce any usable result. Any future effort to actually decide anything would probably need to be far more focused on the thing(s) to be decided. However the present discussion serves reasonably well as a general gauge of feeling, which may have been the intention (assuming that it was planned at all).
  • On abandoning the conflict of interest concept: There is some support for ceasing to concern ourselves with editors' personal affiliations, and dealing with them purely on the basis of the quality of the edits they make. This viewpoint did not gain consensus here - it is more widely felt that such affiliations are still of some significance for how we deal with those editors and what advice we give them.
  • On restricting editing by those with conflicts of interest: In the other direction, there is some support for introducing various new restrictions on editors with certain types of affiliation, in particular paid editors. This too did not gain consensus - some participants feel that this is unnecessary since it is solely the content of an editor's edits that determine his/her suitability, while others point out that, in any case, such restrictions would be unenforceable in general, and would have the practical effect of punishing honesty and openness among affiliated editors.
  • Overall conclusion: Nothing in Wikipedia's best practices concerning conflict of interest can be said to have changed as a result of this discussion. The situation therefore remains as it was before: roughly, that conflict of interest editing is "discouraged" (although it remains unclear exactly what it is that is being discouraged and what form the discouragement is supposed to take); that editors with affiliations are encouraged to be open about them, and also to avoid making potentially controversial edits in the relevant area without prior approval; and that we don't post information about the identities of other editors (WP:OUTING).
  • Further steps: Although nothing can be said to have been accepted as a result of this RfC, nothing has been definitively rejected either, and a number of interesting ideas have been raised that might go somewhere if attention is focused on them. Participants are encouraged, having looked at the body of opinion expressed here, to consider what realistic proposals they might still wish to make, and to make them as specific, separate suggestions in the appropriate fora.

Non-admin close; no admin has come forward to close this for several months, so somebody had to. Victor Yus (talk) 12:31, 3 July 2012 (UTC)


This is a RfC initiated in accordance with the ArbCom remedy in a recently closed case. The case recommended a community discussion related to the following finding of fact:

Many issues concerning paid editing, anonymous editing, outing and harassment, are unresolved. Our policies and guidelines are complicated and sometimes contradictory. Investigating, sanctioning and/or exonerating editors on the basis of who they are or what they do in real life is not only controversial but often impossible. Furthermore, extreme cases apart, there is no consensus about the extent that editors may edit articles on topics with which they are personally involved. Hence, of necessity, review must focus primarily on the editing patterns of those editors about whom problems are claimed.

00:54, 27 February 2012 (UTC)

Contents

View by ASCIIn2Bme[edit]

Proposal
Delete WP:COI/N and WP:COI. (Ok, for the bureaucratically inclined: mark the former as {{historical}} and the latter as an {{essay}}.)
Rationale
Because the guideline is only "discouraging" COI editing, the brazen will not be discouraged, while claiming to operate within the guideline. And because the only recourse is to discourage them some more with lots of messages and threads, if you do that, you are really only providing them with ammo for a WP:HARASSMENT wikilawsuit (e.g. at ArbCom). It is thus clear that the COI Wikipedia guideline and associated drama board is only serving to antagonize and burn out people, while driving away only the somewhat ethically minded "bad apples" (mildly conflicted editors like experts editing in their field) and setting up traps for the clueless would be "enforcers". So, the guideline and particularly the associated drama board are a net negative for Wikipedia: the only people who stand to gain from it are those who ignore its advice. And that's in the lucky case when they even disclose their COI. If you ever get suspicious and try find out for yourself, oh my! The ArbCom case says, citing policy: "Focus on the edits not the editor". If there are blatant WP:SPAM problems, there are plenty of venues for dealing with that. For the more insidious NPOV problems, I'm not sure Wikipedia has a good answer, but third opinion, RfCs, WP:DRN, RfC/Us and ultimately arbitration are probably superior to the toothless and counterproductive WP:COI[/N]-style drama.
Support
  1. ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 00:54, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. I don't agree with all of ASCII's reasoning, but I agree with downgrading the COI guideline to an essay. Because Wikipedia places a priority on anonymous editing, it just can't support enforcing sanctions against editors based solely on COI. Any sanctions against editors with COI also needs supporting evidence that the editors have violated other policies or guidelines, such as WP:NPOV. Thus, COI doesn't need to be a guideline. Cla68 (talk) 01:20, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. Nobody Ent 02:20, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. "Focus on the edits, not the editor" is a problem I've long had with the nominal handling of COI on Wikipedia. Or, to quote myself from a discussion three years ago, "If the article is {{Nonnotable}}, {{POV}}, {{unbalanced}}, an {{Advert}}, needs {{cleanup}} or {{Unreferenced}}, or whatever, we have plenty of templates to say what the real problem is. But if it's a perfectly fine, NPOV article that just happens to have been written by someone with a potential conflict of interest, what is the point in marking it with a {{COI}} banner?" Anomie 03:58, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    True, but if the article has a promotional POV, or is advertising, and is written by the subject in that way, then {{coi}} may be a good alternative to {{advert}} or {{POV}} - it defines better the source of the problem - this reasoning is akin 'we have {{fact}} for statements which are unreferenced, so there is no need to have {{unreferenced}} on top of articles which are (largely) unreferenced, tag the sentences and identify the problem instead'. --Dirk Beetstra T C 17:25, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    {{coi}} is making an assumption about the editor (sometimes it's obvious, sometimes not), while {{advert}} or {{POV}} comment on the edits. The comparison to {{fact}} vs {{unreferenced}} seems to be irrelevant, as the purported issue there is completely different. Anomie 03:05, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    The point is, Anomie, if an article is written in a NPOV way by someone who has a (potential) conflict of interest, then the article does not need to be tagged with {{coi}}, actually, then the tag can be removed quickly - if the article however is not written in a neutral way by someone who is (likely) having a conflict of interest, then having that tag does get quicker to the point than NPOV/advert tags. WP:COI, WP:COI/N and {{coi}} don't come into play at all when the editor has written the article in a neutral way (at least: should not, if they do then the tagging editor should be talked to). --Dirk Beetstra T C 16:57, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. There's a legal principle somewhere that an unenforceable law (for which one can substitute "policy" or "guideline") is worse than no law. This is not to say that COI editing is a good thing; rather, the illusion that we can have any control over it does far more harm than good. Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 04:21, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    • Actually no. The principle propounded by Immanuel Kant and Jacques Derrida is that an unenforcable law is not law, not that it is worse. And what Derrida actually stated was that law is implicitly enforcable: "[…] there is no law that does not imply in itself, a priori, in the analytic structure of its concept, the possibility of being 'enforced', applied by force." — Jacques Derrida, Acts of Religion, 2002, p. 233. Be aware that this is a philosophical, not a legal, doctrine, moreover. Many legal positivists don't agree with it, either. Uncle G (talk) 09:45, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
      • Ah yes, Derrida. That would explain why the main point was incomprehensible. Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 16:46, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
        • The above is a beautiful example of what makes Wikipedia so great. -- Avi (talk) 15:58, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  6. Lord Roem (talk) 05:01, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  7. Agreed, it is not worth the grief. All it does is provide ammo for the dramah brigade, and encourage harmful actions such as Will's off-wiki sleuthing. Concentrate on the edits, not the editor.--Wehwalt (talk) 15:07, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Similar to somewhere below. Sometimes editors get (improperly) harassed on WP:AN/I. Do we call then to delete WP:AN/I to take away the ammo for the dramah brigade, or do we discourage the harassment? --Dirk Beetstra T C 17:33, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  8. Support, with a caveat: it would be better if WP:COI was completely rewritten, keeping mind many of the comments here that point out that a great deal of editing on Wikipedia is done by editors with varying degrees of conflict of interest. WP:COI instead should be much more friendly guidance and help, rather than leading with the assumption of "conflict = shouldn't edit." This gem from WP:COI is in direct conflict with most of the sentiment here: "If editors on a talk page suggest in good faith that you may have a conflict of interest, try to identify and minimize your biases, and consider withdrawing from editing the article." In other words, if an editor accuses you of COI, you should identify your conflict (implying that you should out yourself?!?!). And "in case the editor does not identify themself or their affiliation, reference to the neutral point of view policy may help counteract biased editing." - We are currently encouraging editors to harass someone into outing "identify(ing)" themselves. First Light (talk) 16:23, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    No, that is not what it reads, both examples are interpreted wrongly. I agree, there is ambiguity there, I read that as 'try to (identify and minimize) your biases' - not 'identify and (minimize your biases'. And the second one: "iin case the editor does not identify themself .." - so, if you do not know the editor has a conflict of interest - '... reference to the neutral point of view policy may help counteract biased editing' - so, you don't know that the editor has a conflict of interest, so do not accuse him of a conflict of interest, but since you do know that his editing is not neutral, point him to the neutral point of view policy instead. So .. no .. there is no harassing there. Both points do need clarification, but this is by no means an attempt to harass people to out themselves. --Dirk Beetstra T C 17:19, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    I said "implied" regarding the first quote, because a newish editor will certainly take it that way ("identify your conflict") after reading through the rest of the COI guidelines. Regarding the second quote, we should, according to ArbCom and POLICY, "Focus on the edits not the editor". The second quote is clearly saying "if you can't get the editor to admit to a conflict of interest, then use other Wikipedia policies." That's exactly why the recent ArbCom decision was made, to correct this "harass first, focus on the edits second". I can also see why the editor who was trying to out other editors' religion might have felt he had support in doing so, because yes, it is precisely giving guidance to try to force an editor to admit a conflict first. First Light (talk) 18:19, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Regarding the first: As I said, ambiguous, readable in two ways.
    Regarding the second 'in case the editor does not identify himself ..', also ambiguous, but it certainly does not read 'if you can't convince the editor to identify himself', or 'if the editor refuses to identify himself', it can however read 'if you don't know who the editor is', and also what you say.
    I can agree that the ArbCom makes a decision that corrects 'harass first, focus on the edits second', but that is not necessarily a direct outcome of this sentence in WP:COI - these statements are at worst ambiguous, they do not encourage harassment, and when an editor chooses to read the sentence like that, and starts harassing first and then focus on the edits (if ever he gets to the latter), then first the editor that misreads this (ambiguous) statement should be .. talked to, and then that statement should be changed. But no, it is not giving guidance to force an editor to admin a conflict first. --Dirk Beetstra T C 18:59, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    However you and I interpret WP:COI is certainly open to debate, and rightfully so. We'll have to agree to disagree. But a long-standing admin interpreted WP:COI in such a way as to use it as justification to harass and threaten editors. Here is some of the evidence for that. There is plenty more if you read through other sections of that page. WP:COI clearly needs to be thrown out or rewritten. "Focus on the edits not the editor." First Light (talk) 21:35, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Yes, so we agree, there are parts which are ambiguous ('you and I interpret WP:COI is certainly open to debate'). I agree, parts of it could be rewritten, but throwing it out on the basis that one editor abused it - and even if it were 10, that is a reason to tell those people: that is not what is meant. --Dirk Beetstra T C 04:17, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    Regarding this, I have asked/suggested on WT:COI to rewrite these two sentences to avoid this ambiguity. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:50, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    Those two sentences I mentioned aren't the only ones. Here are a couple more that can come across as veiled threats to a new editor who comes across WP:COI: "Editors who disguise their COIs are often exposed" ; "COI editing is routinely exposed". Exposed=Outed=harassment. Quite a charming way to welcome new editors who are suddenly in fear that they might have a COI and will be outed or harassed. First Light (talk) 06:30, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    Threats? No. And no, Exposed is not necessarily outed, and Exposed is not necessarily harassed. --Dirk Beetstra T C 07:07, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    Like I said, "veiled threats" (thanks for misrepresenting what I said). About as subtle as a parent telling a child, "and you know what happens when little boys don't tell the truth, don't you?" I hope the subtlety isn't lost on you. First Light (talk) 16:02, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    (ec)Sorry for the misquote, my apologies. But still, I don't believe that being exposed does mean harassed, by far. There are many editors who are exposed here on Wikipedia, many, many of them not harassed. --Dirk Beetstra T C 16:08, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    Thank you for the apology. I'm really trying to see this through the eyes of a new editor who is aggressively called out for COI because of their religious or personal beliefs, has perhaps experienced real life persecution for those beliefs, and sees those statements. Yes, those statements would definitely give one pause about editing Wikipedia in the area they might have the most knowledge. Especially if they were to view the on-wiki and off-wiki harassment that was the cause for the recent ArbCom case. First Light (talk) 16:31, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    The point is, I do not believe that WP:COI is to blame for the fact that users use it to harass others. If I know that someone has a conflict of interest with the edits they are doing, and their edits are ... on the edge, and I am pointing them to WP:COI and ask them to take due care with their editing, am I then more or less harassing an editor then when I am reverting their link addition and tell them that the link is not suitable for inclusion per WP:EL, or when I revert someone who inserted a piece of text of which I know that it is a direct copy of material which is copyrighted and I tell them that that material is not suitable per WP:COPYVIO. I have seen hordes of editors reverting the removal from display of non-free images, complaining that they were harassed by the editor who removed it - did people blame WP:NFCC (well, it was discussed, but we never got an RfC about completely abandoning it)? No, they blame the person who is (supposedly) too vigorous in removing said images. --Dirk Beetstra T C 16:45, 28 February 2012 (UTC) (added '(supposedly'), it is not absolute --Dirk Beetstra T C 17:45, 28 February 2012 (UTC))
    I've never seen those other policies used to harass an editor in real life. In the past I've used WP:COI myself to try to help straighten out an obviously conflicted editor. I've now seen that other policies, such as WP:NPOV, WP:VERIFY, WP:UNDUE are enough. I do appreciate that WP:COI is only a "behavioral guideline," and that the others I mention are Policy. I don't see WP:COI changing through all of this, but we can educate those new editors who are feel threatened by official looking templates and warnings that WP:COI is only a behavioral guideline, and that far more important are the nature of their edits. "Focus on the edits, not the editor." First Light (talk) 17:34, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    Ehm, all editors are real life people, any policy, guideline or essay that is used to harass a person is used to harass a real life person.
    Of course, our core policies are enough. Basically, that is what we live by. All of the guidelines are excerpts from that, all of the guidelines are explanations of the policies, coming down from the 5P. WP:EL can be justified on the basis of WP:NOT, with a bit of a mix of WP:NPOV and WP:COPYRIGHT, WP:SPAM dito (less WP:COPYRIGHT), WP:RS can be justified on the basis of WP:V. That is not a reason to delete or ignore the guidelines. The guidelines are there to guide specific cases, the editor then does not have to go through all of WP:NPOV, WP:V, and WP:UNDUE, they only have to go to the specific WP:COI, which is explaining the more difficult policies. --Dirk Beetstra T C 17:43, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  9. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 21:33, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  10. Support view. --lTopGunl (talk) 12:18, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  11. Partial support. Support marking COI as historical. COIN seems to be useful discussion forum, so I abstain on that one. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk to me 21:08, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  12. Shopkeeper: "If you have a tendency to steal things, please use the red shopping cart." Count Iblis (talk) 01:49, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  13. BeCritical 02:29, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  14. Strong support Yes agree these guidelines seem to be only a trap that if followed by well meaning editors while only be used against them to permanently ban them from the encyclopedia as proven by the ArbCom case of User:Will Beback. While of course editing positively about your subject matter while say working for the PR department of your company is deemed perfectly reasonable and indistinguishable from editors working in their area of expertize. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 13:27, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. Oppose, but focus on the edits, not the editor. We have some very productive people around who nonetheless have a conflict of interest. We all have a conflict of interest somewhere. People know how to work with it. WP:COI is a guideline, not a policy. --Dirk Beetstra T C 04:06, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Oppose deleting COI policy: I edit in at least one area where I am quite sure that there are dozens of paid operatives quietly working together; meat puppets putting on an NPOV act. At least knowing that if they accidentally out themselves (or expert hackers track them down) they might be banned is at least a minor discouragement to their activity. I myself have been offered money to edit and turned it down; in the first case because I suspected I wouldn't like what the companies would want me to work to have put in, and having to reveal my COI would make it even more embarrassing. In the second, by a group that has similar views to mine in areas I edit; I didn't want to jeopardize my freedom to edit in that area and said no. However, if there was no clear written COI policy, how easy might it have been to take money and do my thing, careful not to obviously violate policy but still putting in a lot of content in a not obviously POV way that no one else might ever properly balance, like with criticism or mention of alternate views. And how easy for hundreds or thousands of new editors motivated only by profit to work for hundreds of thousands of companies doing the same. (Don't be naive. People will set up part-time employment agencies to link freelancers and companies/organizations/individuals if you delete this policy.) You can't force volunteers to put in a lot of material they find uninteresting or even distasteful to enter; but should we encourage paid people - and even large numbers of them - to enter all sorts of material favorable to their cause which they can innocently claim that they didn't balance because "Oh, I didn't have the time. I'd love to but... Gee, you know...." and other B.S. Let's get real here. CarolMooreDC 04:46, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Excuse me, but did you actually read the WP:COI "policy"? What part of it authorizes that "they might be banned if they accidentally out themselves (or expert hackers track them down)"? What is certain is that if these "expert hackers" have Wikipedia accounts, they will be banned for WP:OUTING. ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 04:59, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    "Significantly biased edits in mainspace are forbidden." New editors who do it may be forgiven; editors who get in a dispute and lose their temper may be forgiven; editors who do it and keep doing it and are found to have denied a COI in whatever way are what Timid Guy Ban Appeal called "extreme cases." However, as we all know, some editors have more supporters than others so what might be considered extreme for a less "popular" editor might be far less than what is called extreme for one with more supporters. (And I'm sure good hackers can out people without being banned; and then there are all the times people accidentally let the cat out of the bag, on or off wikipedia.) CarolMooreDC 05:20, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    ASCIIn2Bme, if someone is editing as 'John Sebastian Maria Victor Doe' and adds his 'johnsebastianmariavictordoe.blogspot.com', then you are not exactly outing such an editor. If someone edits the page John Doe Inc. from 127.0.0.1, the static IP address of John Doe Inc. then you are not exactly outing such an editor. if John Sebastian Maria Victor Doe adds myrubbish.wordpress.com, and you follow the link and read that that wordpress.com is written by John Sebastian Maria Victor Doe .. then you are not exactly outing a person. If the person is identifying himself as someone, then it is not outing to say that he is that someone. If 127.0.0.1, the static IP address of John Doe Inc. is editing Jimbo Wales, adding a non-neutral sentence, to it, and someone accuses that person of having a COI, hoping that that person is saying that he is actually Jimbo Wales and that John Doe Inc. is his cover organisation, then that person is indeed outing the editor. Now, I am not saying that that does not happen, but that is reason to .. firmly talk to the 'outer', but firmly. Unfortunately, the damage is then already done, and probably Jimbo Wales should be told not to edit his page in such ways ... --Dirk Beetstra T C 17:48, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Adding to this, WP:OUTING actually says: " However, once individuals have identified themselves, such information can be used for discussions of conflict of interest in appropriate forums." --Dirk Beetstra T C 17:51, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. Oppose: I agree that it is very unlikely someone can violate WP:COI without also violating at least WP:NPOV. However, as a guideline to an inappropriate behaviour pattern, it is helpful. Downgrading the guideline to an essay sends the wrong message about how seriously we take these things. Babakathy (talk) 10:09, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. Oppose: That COIN has no enforcement mechanism and editors directed at COIN to not edit articles on which they have a COI, but to confine themselves to the talk pages, is not reason to throw away COI or COIN. The solution is to actually enforce it.Fladrif (talk) 15:01, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. As someone who volunteers at COIN often (and has been doing so for years) and who has worked with numerous editors who have conflicts of interest (either to help them or stop their behavior) I'd say that both COI and COIN are extremely beneficial to Wikipedia. The only time when the guideline and noticeboard have problems is when people fail to fully understand their purpose or how to apply them. COI gives guidance on how to approach situations where an editor has a conflict of interest. It's true that there is nothing enforceable on it, so it might lack the teeth of guidelines like WP:N or WP:SPAM (violating the former leads directly to article deletions, the latter can lead to being blocked). But reducing it to an essay might cause it to be dismissed when it shouldn't be. As to the noticeboard, it is in frequent use and most problems there are able to be resolved, so it seems absurd to try to shut it down. Basically, however, the proposal above couldn't have been written by someone with much experience in this area, it makes assertions and assumptions that are patently false. -- Atama 16:41, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Okay, maybe my experience was a freak accident and so was Will's. I've picked a couple of threads from the current board Wikipedia:COI/N#FortressCraft, Wikipedia:COI/N#Department_of_Corrections_.28New_Zealand.29 mainly because they are brief. I don't see any resolution in those, but surely I see calls for people to be banned for their COI and when the "defendant" responds s/he complains of harassment and outing. ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 17:25, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    That does not call for deleting WP:COI/N/WP:COI, ASCIIn2Bme, that calls for .. talking to the editors who suggest banning solely on the fact that someone has a WP:COI. People get (sometimes improperly) harassed on WP:AN/I, does that call for deletion of WP:AN/I, or does that call for actually doing something against the harassment? --Dirk Beetstra T C 17:31, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    (edit conflict) In balance, Wikipedia:COI/N#User:Noamusician_and_NOA_.28singer.29 resulted in a block for WP:BADNAME (but shouldn't/couldn't that have been reported somewhere else?) and the spam article they created repeatedly enough to deserve WP:SALT could have been reported to WP:SPAM as well. ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 17:31, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Editors on WP:AN/I are regularly pointed to the other noticeboards for their complaints, does that call for the deletion of WP:AN/I? --Dirk Beetstra T C 17:35, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Thirdly, there are threads where people self-declare COI, e.g. Wikipedia:COI/N#Introducing_myself and Wikipedia:COI/N#My_Conflict_of_Interest. I suppose having a central record of those might be useful, although, I don't know if that alone justifies the COI/N board. ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 17:42, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  6. The solution lies not in throwing the whole thing out, but aggressively reworking it by taking in some of the statements that have gained support here. I'd rather not leave a vacuum on the issue. Sven Manguard Wha? 18:17, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  7. Oppose. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater. What we need is more friendly but firm enforcement of existing rules. --Jayron32 19:04, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  8. Oppose. Your assumption that the output of COI or COIN in a net negative is backed up by no evidence what-so-ever. This isn't surprising as I've never seen you participate at COIN. As I actually have experience at COIN, my opinion that it's by far a net positive should easily outweigh your uninformed opinion. OlYeller21Talktome 20:09, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  9. Oppose. Essentially per Atama and OlYeller21. Whilst issues raised at COIN aren't always dealt with, I think that's more down to a lack of volunteers rather than an institutional problem. Without COIN, cases such as this might not have been reported, and the project would still be awash with crap spouted by a PR agency for the world's worst regimes. SmartSE (talk) 20:17, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  10. Oppose. We need a rational policy, not suppression of the subject. There is a vast difference between Trancendental Meditation and Kraft Cheese Dinner. Wikipedia is not a forum for unpaid advertising maintained free of charge by public relations operatives. User:Fred Bauder Talk 21:23, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  11. Oppose. While there might be changes that would narrow the guideline, maybe to only effect when there is an active dispute, the guideline itself points to what good behavior is when a COI situations occur. Belorn (talk) 22:41, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  12. Oppose per User:Jayron32. -- Alexf(talk) 02:00, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  13. Oppose. Further watering down WP:COI would seriously undermine WP:NPOV; a conflict of interest makes NPOV difficult, if not impossible. Miniapolis (talk) 02:23, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  14. Oppose per a number of the comments above. Pinetalk 04:52, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  15. Oppose per the fact that COIN is a net positive. NPOV is a WP:PILLAR. A412 (TalkC) 05:18, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  16. Oppose. Kilopi (talk) 08:32, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  17. Oppose. Disclosure: I am often a paid COI editor. King4057 (talk) 16:38, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  18. Oppose per Miniapolis.--В и к и T 22:16, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  19. Oppose. How to handle COI is a problem to which there is no black-and-while solution, or always applicable policy. It relies of judgment, and often requires centralized discussions to obtain the consensus. DGG ( talk ) 02:39, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  20. Oppose. Removing the guideline may lead to unintended consequences. Nevertheless, the guideline is not in proper shape and needs to be rewritten. --Anbu121 (talk me) 20:53, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  21. Strongly oppose. This is surrender; letting the perfect become the enemy of the good. Wikipedia has become the go-to website for spammers: for every goddamned shameless corporate publicist (pardon me, "public relations professional"), self-published author, "social media director", manager of unsigned rappers, unscrupulous campaign consultant for obscure local politicians, hoaxster, Search Engine "Optimization" mercenary, and egotistical 11-year-old who wants to publicize his YouTube video so it will go viral and he'll get on Tosh 2.0. Doing New Page Patrol is (as I wrote to Jimbo one time) "drinking from the Magic Firehose of Sewage"; and this would be seen as a license to the dungmakers! --Orange Mike | Talk 17:28, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  22. Oppose downgrading to essay. Support any re-writing which harmonizes and makes policy(s) clearer. Strong, stronger, strongest Support for --- focus on the edits, not the editor --- per WP:FOC. Peace! 22:34, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  23. Strongly oppose We already have enough trouble with academics promoting themselves and their colleagues with every other edit. Now, every academic, not-for-profit, government, corporation, and cub scout pack would be unleashed on WP. No thanks!  Kiefer.Wolfowitz 13:57, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  24. Oppose: don't throw the baby out with the bath water. COIN is an extremely useful forum for discussing how to deal with individual cases of COI. Deleting the guideline and teh forum runs contrary tp the current practice at wikipedia where we do not tolerate manipulation of articles for self-promotion or other violations of NPOV. Formulating a new and clearer way to handle COI policy does not mean dumping WP:COI or WP:COIN - just tweaking them--Cailil talk 15:13, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  25. Oppose. WP:COI is a fundamental principal of Wikipedia. Without it, Wikipedia becomes a PR free-for-all. Strengthen the policy. Do not eliminate it. Please view this comment as an Oppose vote to any suggestions in this RfC that WP:COI and the associated noticeboard be eliminated or reduced in scope/power. Ebikeguy (talk) 15:41, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  26. Strong Oppose as per OrangeMike ,Cailil,Ebikeguy and my statement.We need to retain WP:COI and make WP:COIN board more active. Pharaoh of the Wizards (talk) 16:16, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  27. Oppose (Note:moved from support on 2 March 2012 @ Smartses suggestion)---Both have no teeth. No enforcability. Suggestions are made to add a tag to talk requests and strongly recommended and then blatantly ignored. (diffs available). No better than a "Keep off the grass" sign. ```Buster Seven Talk 08:51, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    Interesting analogy. While "keep off the grass" signs do not physically prevent people walking on grass if they want to, in my experience, >95% of people do follow the 'rule' and not walk on the grass. You seem to be suggesting that because 5% of people don't follow the 'rule' there is no point in the sign, but if it weren't there, then everyone would walk on the grass. Even if COI issues are not dealt with perfectly, the fact that a page says that you shouldn't, probably does put a lot of people off doing it. What would have happened if we didn't have the COI guideline? Wouldn't it have given free reign to everyone caught by wikiscanner to edit as they liked? COI is a messy and complicated area, but getting rid of the guideline will only make it worse. SmartSE (talk) 17:24, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    @ Editor Smartse, I don't disagree that 95% of my neighbors "obey the sign". I think the percentage of operatives that "obey" COI may be considerably less. Grass walkers get very little advantage to ignoring the sign...maybe a few saved steps. But operatives get a Huge advantage. They remain hidden and their actions to control an article remain hidden until it becomes obvious that "sumthin's up!". Studies show that even the smallest of fences, 1' off the ground, will keep people from trespassing. I guess I want COI to be more of a fence and not just a sign. I wasn't clear if you thought I wanted COI to go away. Quite the contrary. I think it should be strengthened. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Buster7 (talkcontribs) 21:42, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  28. Oppose - we need to have a think about how we word things, and WRT anonymous editing, focusing on edits not the editor is paramount, yet I can't see how annulling these pages is a good thing. I am trying to keep an eye on Callista Gingrich which leaves me scratching my head on how to proceed. Casliber (talk · contribs) 03:29, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  29. Oppose. The appearance of conflict of interest topples and shatters the second pillar of Wikipedia. Strong guidance on objective conflicts of interest is essential to uphold it. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:17, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  30. Strong Oppose We have guidelines like this for a reason. Playing it by ear just doesn't turn out well. This provides a template for addressing a very real and unique issue with the project. If there are problems with the guideline, fix them. If there are problems with the editors who bring up the guideline, fix them. I agree with whoever above said this is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.--The Devil's Advocate (talk) 16:27, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
  31. Strong Oppose - our neutrality means nothing otherwise. I disclose my COIs on my user page. Bearian (talk) 16:14, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  32. Per Jayron32, although not sure about "more friendly". Don't be nice, be real. (Acknowledgements to Kelly Bryson.) Writegeist (talk) 17:36, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  33. Strongly oppose. The weak point in the COI guideline is that some editors read it as something they must enforce on others, and behave inappropriately. But that, in its way, is a weakness of all behavioural guidelines here. The guideline actually gives essential advice on how to behave in editing WP: if you can't put the encyclopedia's needs first in editing on a given topic, don't edit in that area. The most important aspect of the guideline is that this is actually the correct advice; and the only approach to COI that is actually win-win. The fact that many people who don't understand WP can't see that doesn't make the guideline less vital, at all. Charles Matthews (talk) 16:19, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
  34. Strong Oppose A strongly worded WP:COI is our first line of defense against people who would make Wikipedia worse for their own (or their employer's) benefit. A policy or guideline is not an answer to all problems--we would just as soon delete our opposition to vandalism since vandals still exist. But WP:COI does express the core of Wikipedia: neutrality and collaboratively edited encyclopedia. --TeaDrinker (talk) 01:20, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  35. Oppose Both are useful and should be reformed if necessary not deleted or deprecated. WP:COI profiles a serious treatment of the issues common to COI editors and gives them positive guidance, which is just what a guideline should do. It doesn't belong as a policy, at least not unless we take a strong stance on exactly when direct editing is allowed (and by whom), and it doesn't belong as a mere essay, since that would take all of its teeth out and render it a mere localized opinion. I think the majority of the guideline has consensus, and where it does not we should attempt to form one. Ocaasi t | c 15:42, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  36. Oppose. There's some logic the proposition as put, but the real answer is SOFIXIT. I don't think that the TimidGuy case is a good one to cite, because the problem there was really to do with a failure of accountability and transparency, rather than directly about the policy. --FormerIP (talk) 00:16, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  37. Oppose. This is helpful guideline. Yes, it must be improved, but not entirely removed. The reason: at least a few people indeed exhibit a highly problematic behavior because of COI, and I am not even going to blame them personally. They may do something on-wiki because that was ordered by their organizations. My very best wishes (talk) 19:38, 25 March 2012 (UTC)
  38. Oppose. The rationale being used here touches on some issues with WP:COI, but then somehow concludes that deletion is a solution. I don't see it. Problems don't go away when you stop calling them problems. Gobōnobo + c 18:37, 25 April 2012 (UTC)
  39. Oppose: Terrible, terrible idea. 86.** IP (talk) 22:25, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
  40. OpposePaid editing amounts to advertising that we get no money for. Biased articles where one side is being paid and the other side volunteers. User:Fred Bauder Talk 03:29, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
  41. Oppose While I think COI should be revisited and modified, deleting it wholesale is not the solution. COI is an issue that has to be addressed---both from paid and non-paid editors.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 20:00, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
Comments
  • I don't know if anyone is going to try to do anything constructive with this RfC besides clarify a few points in WP:COI. I do know that after reading through 2/3 of this I personally am LESS likely to declare any possible conflict of interest short of being paid by or holding an official position in some organization or being very very personally close to some who is subject of a BLP. With so many people hostile to the policy, and so many people I run into so obviously violating it, and all these other people using fake names while I registered with a real name, let them search the internet and then get me to admit I'm any Carol Moore at all. Face-smile.svg CarolMooreDC 23:01, 10 April 2012 (UTC)
    • It is a guideline, it suggests to take care when one has a conflict of interest, and if the edit one is thinking to do is advancing the position of the subject, that one better suggest it on the talkpage (but it still does not forbid to do it) - so I do not see how 'many people [you] run into [are] so obviously violating it' - yes, maybe they should be more considerate, but they are nowhere forbidden to edit that specific page. --Dirk Beetstra T C 07:35, 14 April 2012 (UTC)

Statement of the problem by Jclemens[edit]

Many issues concerning paid editing, anonymous editing, outing and harassment, are unresolved. Our policies and guidelines are complicated and sometimes contradictory. Investigating, sanctioning and/or exonerating editors on the basis of who they are or what they do in real life is not only controversial but often impossible. Furthermore, extreme cases apart, there is no consensus about the extent that editors may edit articles on topics with which they are personally involved. Hence, of necessity, review must focus primarily on the editing patterns of those editors about whom problems are claimed. Furthermore, it appears that editors who declare a conflict of interest are often subject to criticism on that basis, even though they have been abiding by the COI guideline's requests.

(most of this shamelessly stolen from here)
Support
  1. Jclemens (talk) 01:26, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Cla68 (talk) 01:26, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. I agree, but I think more than a mere [re]statement of these obvious facts is needed at this point. ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 01:32, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. First Light (talk) 01:35, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. Completely agree. --Elonka 01:56, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  6. bobrayner (talk) 02:01, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  7. Nobody Ent 02:21, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  8. Agree. --Dirk Beetstra T C 04:07, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  9. User:Rklawton - COI is just one possible cause for POV, but COI doesn't always cause POV, and POV has many other causes than just COI. In fact, COI can serve as an excellent motivation to improve poor quality articles if only we could harness that energy. For example, Wikipedians have rated 32% of our articles on Fortune 100 companies as "Start Class" or lower, yet every one of those articles shows up on the first page of both Google and Bing searches. At the moment, only one Fortune 100 company has the FA rating: Microsoft, and no Fortune 100 articles are rated "A-Class". That's just embarrassing! Why not challenge PR people to bring these 32 articles up to FA status? What's the worst that can happen - we revert? Rklawton (talk) 04:33, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Well said. I think though that we do have quite some editors around who have a COI, and who are actively editing their own articles (in a NPOV way). But I agree, we could use more of them. --Dirk Beetstra T C 04:42, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Support and support RKlawton's comment with the caveat that incomplete articles are better than ones that read like an advertisement. Whether COIs can improve the article - rather than make it worse - depends on the circumstances. I also support some of the discussions below that agreeing with this point of view seems to be in line with current policy and not require any changes. Disclosure: I am often a paid COI editor. King4057 (talk) 16:48, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  10. Lord Roem (talk) 05:01, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  11. Since only the quality of edits is relevant, there is no need for a specific guideline. I have never seen COI used legitimately for anything but harassment, and I have seen it used quite a few times. COI is absolutely nothing but a way of legitimizing stigmatization and harassment. BeCritical 06:15, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  12. Summary as stated by proposer is reasonable. Babakathy (talk) 09:13, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  13. MER-C 10:46, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  14. Good starting point for us to agree on. Sven Manguard Wha? 16:34, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  15. This I can agree with, though much of what is said above isn't an absolute. For example, as to the last statement about self-declared COIs, I've seen many cases where editors with COIs are given much more leeway to operate based on the good faith shown by self-declaring. But it's true that sometimes people use the COI as a weapon against people. -- Atama 16:45, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  16.  Sandstein  16:46, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  17. BusterD (talk) 18:39, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  18. Accurate statement of the problem. I await solutions. --Jayron32 19:05, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  19. This is a well-put statement of the issue. Carrite (talk) 19:14, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  20. Who could possibly disagree? SmartSE (talk) 20:10, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  21. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 21:34, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  22. Miniapolis (talk) 02:26, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  23. --Guillaume2303 (talk) 14:10, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  24. This is the starting point. We can move forward from here with some sense of purpose if people agree that this is the situation. We will have a problem if there is no consensus on these points, and will need to sort out those disagreements before we can make progress. SilkTork ✔Tea time 17:55, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  25. --JN466 20:25, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  26. This is the reality we're currently dealing with. --Michaeldsuarez (talk) 15:28, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  27. Agree except for some minor misgivings about the last sentence. Honorable paid editors won't mind some scrutiny. Dishonest paid editors will do their best to hide from it. ```Buster Seven Talk 13:26, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
    Jclemens is saying that honorable paid editors are often the victims of Wikihounding, which makes honorable editing and the use of talk pages uncomfortable. --Michaeldsuarez (talk) 15:15, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  28. Well said. Eluchil404 (talk) 08:12, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  29. Editors who abide by our policies should not be hounded for doing so. Hawkeye7 (talk) 02:49, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  30. fully Collect (talk) 04:30, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  31. --Cailil talk 16:30, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  32. Bearian (talk) 16:16, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  33. Agree, as long as "editing patterns of those editors about whom problems are claimed" means the editing patterns of specific individuals and not classes of editors, such as all editors of a specific group (e.g. "all paid editors," "all editors who know the article subject personally," etc. whether identified or not. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 02:24, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
  34. -- Agathoclea (talk) 07:05, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
  35. Bwrs (talk) 05:45, 23 March 2012 (UTC)
  36. Well stated and accurate as I perceive it. Fylbecatulous talk 02:06, 29 March 2012 (UTC)
  37. – SJ + 00:04, 3 April 2012 (UTC)
Comment
  1. As a statement of the problem, it is certainly accurate. The issues are currently unresolved. But it provides no direction for a solution. Surely the point of this is RFC is to attempt to develop a consensus on how to correct the problem and address the issues.Fladrif (talk) 15:06, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Agreed, it's not designed to be all-encompassing, just enumerating the starting point. I've posted my own opinion separately on one point to date, and will be commenting on others. I expect the closing admin to take all of these into account in the final analysis. Jclemens-public (talk) 20:46, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    What I find disturbing, but not at all surprising, is that this RFC has attracted relatively little effort to attempt to reach a consensus, and has attracted rather strenuous effort by a few editors which I perceive to be focused on ensuring that no consensus is reached. Fladrif (talk) 14:42, 3 April 2012 (UTC)
  2. A point needs to made here that if there any issue like libel,errors ,inaccurate details,privacy or copyright the subject can contact Wikipedia or even request Deletion and this be dealt by WP:ORTS. But in many cases is corrected in Wikipedia online itself as it saves time and is easier .This is not conflict of interest . Pharaoh of the Wizards (talk) 09:52, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. It seems apparent that the one thing nearly everyone agrees on is the above comment, which essentially says, "we have a problem" — contradictory policies, varying common practices, a guideline which is impossible to enforce, no consensus on how to fix, and poor results even when editors voluntarily follow the COI guideline and declare themselves. First Light (talk) 02:16, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. This is a fair statement of some of the problems in the current situation. Solutions will need to take another problem into account: the influence that conflict of interest, and the appearance thereof, has on undermining the second pillar of Wikipedia. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:19, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. Comment I don't disagree with what it explicitly says, but the implied foci of the problem and fix are wrong. So I disagree with the implied stuff. North8000 (talk) 22:49, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Very well put. I've enlarged on this in my own thread below. Tony (talk) 13:19, 18 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. As this appears to be the position of may Wikipedians on the matter it would seem to support the recommendation above to mark the guideline as it currently stands as historical.Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 13:40, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. I am sure that many people have some degree of COI. This is not a problem per se. Some forms of COI editing should even be encouraged, for example when students receive assignments to write wikipedia articles. A "COI editor" can be biased as anyone else. There is no much difference. The real problem comes when certain subject areas and individual editors become a target of outside political/advocacy/propaganda organizations (that may be CAMERA, religious organizations, PR companies, etc.). The on-wiki presence of such organizations may not be obvious or easily provable to people who do not edit in the affected subject area and unfamiliar with their goals and tactics, beyond the general knowledge that such organizations indeed exist. This is something to be addressed by wikipedia administration and community, although I would rather not comment anything else about this. My very best wishes (talk) 14:16, 25 March 2012 (UTC)
  9. It seems counterproductive to me, in an RFC, to support a statement that there's no consensus. That may be arbcom's determination, but it is our task in this RFC to find consensus. Furthermore, the idea of setting "extreme cases aside..." is to argue there is still very much a place for a COI guideline (or policy), if only to set out the clear consensus on those "extreme cases." Crying "no consensus" whenever the question comes up is counterproductive to building consensus. --TeaDrinker (talk) 19:43, 25 March 2012 (UTC)
    Agree 100% with that. As I commented above, on its face, ArbCom called for this RFC to attempt to reach a consensus on COI editing. It may have been useful to start with the premise that at the time, there was no clear consensus on how to deal with it. Unfortunately, there has been precious little effort in this RFC to attempt to reach or develop a consensus, and rather pointed effort on the part of some editors to prevent any consensus from being reached. Fladrif (talk) 14:42, 3 April 2012 (UTC)
    I think this RfC was started precipitously, by an editor with a particular POV that has not been supported by the majority. As such, I think the next steps are to have a better-planned, well-mapped-out RfC with appropriate definitions agreed to beforehand, with a few clearly salient questions posed in a manner that all sides see as clear and appropriate. Jclemens (talk) 00:05, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
    I confess to being utterly baffled by that statement. The RFC was called for by ArbCom in the TimidGuy Appeal case, which stated:

RFC on the "Conflicts of Interest" guideline
3) The community is encouraged to open a Request for comment on the "Conflicts of Interest" guideline with a view to reconciling some of the apparent contradictions discussed in the applicable finding of fact above.
Passed 13 to 0, 00:48, 27 February 2012 (UTC).

The "applicable finding of fact above" being the finding quoted by the editor who initiated this RFC. How exactly is it that the RFC was "started precipitously" when it is exactly what ArbCom called for? How is it that the RFC process is somehow invalid, tainted or corrupted because the editor who started this has a particular POV on the issue which appears not to be garnering majority support? What definitions are "appropriate" or "inappropriate", and who is it that you think will agree to them beforehand? Who is it that you think will pose those "clearly salient questions", and in what manner? What is the process by which all sides will see them as "clear and appropriate"? How will starting over from scratch - which is what you seem to be suggesting, and forgive me if I misunderstand - move the process forward productively? Fladrif (talk) 13:38, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
I'm puzzled by Jclemens's view generally. Here he's posted an ArbCom decision to be approved or rejected by an RfC? Were he not himself on ArbCom, I suspect this comment would have already been shut down as an improper forum. It is not really the place to debate the appropriateness of an ArbCom decision; his comment above questioning the RfC generally only adds to the confusion. --TeaDrinker (talk) 13:47, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
I do think it is time that an uninvolved admin (or perhaps 3 admins) close this. It is much too messy to come to strong conclusions about most of the views stated, but I'll suggest something like "Several proposals to eliminate WP:COI and/or COI/N failed to achieve a majority or were opposed by a consensus." At that point, in the ordinary course of things, a new RfC could be proposed. I strongly suggest that it be limited to straightforward questions (or a series of questions) that could be easily !voted up or down, e.g. 1) the following acts related to COI shall be explicitly prohibited by policy (perhaps this will come out as "none of the above") and 2) the following types of COI editing are too minor to be regulated by either policy or a guideline, editors should use their own best judgment. Smallbones (talk) 16:48, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
  1. "[T]here is no consensus about the extent that editors may edit articles on topics with which they are personally involved" Really? Then what is all the discussion and decision making happening at ANI called? There are tons of articles where this has come up and and many ANI discussions where some community consensus based decision was made. Just recently a COI editor who had been warned that their desclaimer about having a conflict in a section of an article meant that perhaps they shouldn't edit the article at all. Clearly stating that the editor was not being told to stop editing but to consider it. Drama of course, some that snuck up on me and a recent ANI ended with this editor being topic banned. I support the topic ban, but not because of COI...but because his editing was disruptive. But then, it was all within the topic, so the community topic banned him with a simple suggestion by an editor and then a quick count. I would say the problem was dealt with one way or another...but that editor is still here. So he wasn't blocked. He coould always attempt to re-open the discussion. Hey...if it was that easy to ask if he can be topic banned why not that easy to ask if untopic banned? But see...there are ways to deal with most issue and if they seem like hurtles they are certainly small ones. There are plenty of discussions and local consensus. Heck I know of one article with a COI editor who didn't admit to it, was leaving their real name linked to username and the community still allows them to edit. They feel the edits are not uduly self serving. There are some that do not agree but for the most part the consensus is that he is a notable person and his article and edits remain and they do not damage the article or Wikipedia. So, before we start basing the whole idea of no COI and edit behavior only we have to stop and consider that the premise is simply off base with the assumption that there is no consensus about the extent that editors may edit articles on topics with which they are personally involved....becuase there is.--Amadscientist (talk) 01:09, 29 April 2012 (UTC)

View by First Light[edit]

This is based on observing the recent Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/TimidGuy ban appeal, and being disturbed by the behavior that was hopefully corrected. But just in case it wasn't made clear:

Being a member or adherent of a particular religion, church, or sect does not, de facto, constitute a Conflict of Interest. For example, a quick look at Wikipedia:WikiProject Catholicism#Members (dedicated to improving articles on Catholicism) shows that many productive members declare themselves to be Catholic. An editor who edits articles relating to a specific religion, church, or sect should not be required to declare that they are a member of that religion, church, or sect. They should also not be asked to declare or to deny that they are an adherent of a religion, church, or sect. The religious beliefs of Wikipedia editors should be a private matter, unless they choose to declare them. Editors of such articles should be judged solely on their editing behavior, including use of reliable sources, adherence to a Neutral Point of View, and the willingness to calmly discuss controversial issues that arise.

Support
  1. First Light (talk) 01:34, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Agree, but one of the issues with some new religions is that it is alleged that they sell their philosophies and techniques at a premium price, and therefore may have a profit motive for trying to keep out pejorative information in their articles in Wikipedia. Again, however, you should be able to judge edits by NPOV and other policies and guidelines, not COI. Cla68 (talk) 01:36, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    I think many churches (including large, established ones) could be accused of both profit motive and the motive of trying to get more adherents for philosophical reasons (prophet motive?). That's why I didn't mention motive at all. I think that financial incentives are actually a secondary reason for most advocacy editing on Wikipedia. First Light (talk) 02:08, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. Endorse. The personal faith of an editor is not relevant to whether they should or shouldn't be allowed to edit in a topic. The important elements are their editing behavior, not their beliefs. --Elonka 02:15, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. Nobody Ent 02:21, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. Ideally, anyone holding any strong conviction would want the topic covered appropriately and neutrally by Wikipedia. I realize that's not always the case, but there are plenty of editors with strong convictions on any number of topics--religious, political, whatever--who do contribute well. Jclemens (talk) 02:32, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  6. Definitely. If we do not allow people to edit what they care about, let's just toss the project out the window. Yes, people have died for religion, but they've died over football too.--Wehwalt (talk) 15:12, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  7. Absolutely. Being a member of a religion does not represent a formal conflict of interest. Yes, it can color one's view of the world, but so can't being a fan of a sports team, or of a movie franchise, or being a resident of a particular city, or any number of other issues. Not every possible association which colors an editors outlook on the world rises to the level of "conflict of interest", if we held it to this standard, no one would ever edit anything. Personal religion is NOT a conflict of interest basis; excepting in cases where a person is an employee or contractor of a religious organization, and that standard exists for employees or contractors of any organization, and has nothing to do with religion per se. --Jayron32 19:09, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  8. I largely agree with Jayron32. Pinetalk 04:47, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  9. Agree. This is merely an interest - no conflict unless such editors are belligerent towards those with competing points of view. Kilopi (talk) 08:32, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  10. Agree. Well said Kilopi. Interest without conflict. And when conflict in rears its ugly self, most editors will recognize its entrenchment. ```Buster Seven Talk 09:00, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  11. Agree. The same, by the way, goes for sources. The fact that an author writing on Islam, published by a reputable university press, is himself a Muslim in his private life is immaterial, and such sources enter the overall NPOV mix like any others, based on the reliability of the publisher and their standing in the academic field in question. --JN466 20:24, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    Interesting and valid point. I would go further and point out that religion articles in real encyclopedias, such as Encyclopedia Britannica, are mostly written by knowledgable adherents of those religions (and not by critics of the religion). The Britannica article on Christianity[1] appears to be authored entirely or predominantly by Christians, with no aggressive tag at the top of the article declaring that there is a Conflict of Interest, or that there even might be one. One or two of the three primary authors of Britannica's article on Islam was written by Muslims.[2] First Light (talk) 22:29, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  12. Agreed. Wikipedia shouldn't be marking the religious or non-religious with yellow stars. --Michaeldsuarez (talk) 15:32, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
    Thanks for finally pointing out what I thought (and still think) was obvious — yes, that was on my mind when I wrote my comment. First Light (talk) 16:50, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  13. Agreed - with the exception of sects for which reliable sources indicate a financial or other benefit to the founder of the sect (awkward wording - but think "Jim Jones" sect) ... Collect (talk) 04:33, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  14. Agree - and I believe that First Light has presented the situation very well. Gandydancer (talk) 13:58, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
  15. Half of the opposes and many of the comments seem to be supporting the statement? First Light isn't saying that people of religious faith should have to declare their beliefs or at a COI. He's saying that holding a particular view doesn't, by definition, disqualify somebody from working on an article. That we have to evaluate the edits to see if an editor can maintain neutrality or is unable to do so. If an involved person/expert on the subject can be neutral, then we should encourage them to do so. Knowing about a potential bias isn't a bad thing, it is a good thing.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 15:48, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  16. People will edit about matters which interest them, including their personal beliefs. That is expected and, for Wikipedia, productive. User:Fred Bauder Talk 03:32, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. No, it is a conflict of interest We all write about our own subjects, believes, and interests - but that does not mean that you can not write about it in a neutral and appropriate way. 'Due care'. --Dirk Beetstra T C 04:12, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    I'll add a comment in my own oppose, although it is an answer to many around here. On 'A Catholic editing the article on Catholicism has no COI': he has if he is promoting his religion, or his own church, with the hope that more people will come to his church, and avoid that it is being combined with another Catholic church (which is bigger and 50 km away). It is simple, keep a NPOV on all subjects you edit, especially on the subjects that are near to you. There is no-one forbidding you to edit if you avoid all impropriety (and those who do try to forbid you, WP:AN/I is thataway). --Dirk Beetstra T C 19:45, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Agreed. We all have lots of conflicts of interest. The issue should not be 'is there a conflict of interest', the answer is often yes. The issue should be 'can we edit productively, following NPOV, and avoiding outing and harassment'. Sven Manguard Wha? 16:36, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. Agree with this. A COI is determined when there is a clear, direct connection between an editor and the subject. A Catholic editing the article on Catholicism has no COI, but a priest who edits the article for the cathedral that he serves at probably would. The same way that George Lucas would have a COI with Star Wars articles, but a Star Wars fan wouldn't. -- Atama 16:47, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. While I agree that being an adherent of a particular religion does not necessarily give rise to a conflict of interest, it can do; I'm not sure it's possible to define a bright-line rule where it happens, though. I would say that as a matter of general practice, if you are of a particular religion and you want to edit articles relating to that religion, you should declare your status in some way (e.g. I am in Category:Atheist Wikipedians). However, I don't think anyone should be forbidden from editing articles about their religion (as long as their editing complies with other policies), nor should anyone be forced to identify their own affiliation if they don't want to. It should remain as it is, a recommendation rather than a strict rule. Robofish (talk) 17:34, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. Agree with Atama and Beetstra.--В и к и T 22:22, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  6. Religious belief is a public matter, not a private one. Hawkeye7 (talk) 02:51, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
    Seriously? You think that an editor should have to publicly declare on Wikipedia what they believe before editing an article having to do with beliefs? First Light (talk) 15:59, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. I partially oppose. With other sorts of minorities there is a clear distinction between the essence of belonging and a paid operative of an organization - for example, there is a clear difference between a gay editor and a public relations employee at GLAAD. A gay editor could even be anti-gay and nobody can revoke his status. But with some religions, people are defined by membership in a church, and membership in a church carries not merely spiritual but also tangible secular benefits, as well as the risk that someone could be thrown out for making the wrong edits, or even not making the right ones. Especially, in some "sects", especially those we would more think of as "cults", every action reflects back directly upon the financial well-being of the member, whose finances and economic opportunities may be partially or entirely controlled by the cult. Wnt (talk) 18:28, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. I don't see why religious affiliation should be less of a COI than professional, national, or others. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk to me 21:07, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  9. Why religion would be treated differently here is beyond me. The problem is in the COI framework itself. --Philosopher Let us reason together. 11:23, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  10. Mischaracterizes TimidGuy case Smallbones (talk) 05:32, 22 April 2012 (UTC)
Comment
  1. The guideline on COI here at WP is narrower than in a corporate governance setting, where one is considered to have a COI by being involved in any decision to do with the Interest. Our guideline says Do not edit Wikipedia to promote your own interests, or those of other individuals or of organizations, including employers(my emphasis). The guideline does not prevent or even discourage me from editing in an area where I have an interest, but says that you should not write about these things unless you are certain that a neutral editor would agree that your edits improve Wikipedia. We all have a conflict of interest in the general sense somewhere but if one edits with 'Due care', one does not violate WP:COI despite the interest. Babakathy (talk) 09:59, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Nothing in the TimidGuy Appeal case involved anyone asserting that editors had a COI because of their belief in TM. It involved an acknowledged COI by editors who voluntarily disclosed on Wikipedia that they were employees of the TM Organization. Fladrif (talk) 15:11, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. It can't really be said better than the bold text at the top of WP:COI "Where advancing outside interests is more important to an editor than advancing the aims of Wikipedia, that editor stands in a conflict of interest." - If you are a Christian (or TM follower or whatever) writing about Christianity then there is not a COI. If however, you are being paid by a church to edit here, with a particular point of view, then you have a COI and it could well cause problems. SmartSE (talk) 20:23, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. The contorted and narrow way in which WP:COI is defined is in fact part of the problem. It's too easy for people to throw up their arms and declare they have "no COI" here. For a real-world definition see conflict of interest. In the words of one Arbitrator (who knows something about this from her professional life): "Our current guideline, as written, means that every professional writing in their field of expertise (including physicians and university scholars) could be considered in conflict of interest, whilst editors with a strong personal viewpoint could probably be considered exempt. This is unsatisfactory. Risker (talk) 05:02, 25 February 2012 (UTC)" Religious beliefs can and sometimes do cause conflicts of interest in real life: [3] [4] [5]. Although of much less concern nowadays, someone may fear being excommunicated (or the equivalent) for doing or not doing certain things, which may well impact other aspects of his or her social life, including economically. However, plain bias is usually of more concern for Wikipedia in the case of ideologically involved editors. And the distinction between bias and conflict of interest is one that perhaps should be stated more often. [6] ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 02:45, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    How does a professional writing in their field of expertise have a COI per WP unless they are editting to promote ... own interests, or those of other individuals or of organizations, including employers? Babakathy (talk) 08:50, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. The essence for Wikipedia is if you have both the opportunity and the motivation in manipulating an article so that it presents details more in line with your personal interest, then you have a conflict of interest. Nearly all edit wars are essentially due to opposing conflicts of interest. The most troublesome topics are religion, ethnicity and nationalism - the conflicts of interest there can be quite extreme and disruptive. Indeed, it puts the attempts by paid advocates to tidy up articles on commercial companies into perspective. When we can't trust or have stable articles on significant topics such as Northern Ireland and the Troubles, Highways, Abortion, Falun Gong, Macedonia, Israel-Lebanon conflict , etc, then we have problems more significant than if an article on some video game includes enough negative comments. SilkTork ✔Tea time 20:31, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  6. I support separation of church and wiki; but neither should a declaration of faith create an exemption for paid representatives or others with a direct conflict of interest. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:21, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. I think disclosure of membership in a religion is helpful for COI and AGF purposes; I disclose on my user page that I'm an Epsicopalian. Bearian (talk) 17:05, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. This is sort of a tangent even though I agree. It presumes a requirement that every interest be declared. A person who has children would need to declare that a COI about any article involving children. North8000 (talk) 22:58, 10 March 2012 (UTC)

View by bobrayner[edit]

  • People editing from - or on behalf of - an organisation are a small minority; some manage to produce edits that meet en.wikipedia's standards, some do not. However, among the remaining (vast) majority we have just the same division; there are many good editors but there are also many problematic editors who have kept the drama-boards busy and stoked arbcom cases because of their urge to push a particular religious, ethnic, or nationalist cause (and a few other causes besides).
  • The division isn't black and white; a wise man once said that the line between good and evil runs through every man's heart, so many editors make a mixture of good and bad edits - we should encourage the former whilst discouraging the latter.
  • We should, therefore, put more emphasis on bad edits, not bad editors. I'm all in favour of taking a firmer line on persistent NPOV problems - an area where en.wikipedia is often weak - but an editor should only be labelled as bad if we have a good reason to believe that they (or a substantial chunk of their edits) are a net negative to the encyclopædia. Branding "COI" on the foreheads of some editors before assessing whether their edits are improving or worsening articles seems to be completely missing the point. bobrayner (talk) 01:55, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
Support
  1. bobrayner (talk) 01:55, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Cla68 (talk) 01:59, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. First Light (talk) 02:10, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. Nobody Ent 02:21, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. Jclemens (talk) 02:33, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  6. True, but there is nothing wrong with quite early on (after the first edits which are questionable) to remind an editor about it. I know quite a number of editors who have a vested interest in a certain part of editing, and I have reminded many of them, early on, to be cautious about those edits, per WP:COI. --Dirk Beetstra T C 04:16, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  7. Per Dirk Beetstra. Babakathy (talk) 09:18, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  8. MER-C 11:03, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  9.  Sandstein  16:45, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  10. Sven Manguard Wha? 18:14, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  11. Comment on edits, not editors. Well put.
  12. This again states the point well, but doesn't really offer policy guidance. Carrite (talk) 19:16, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  13. Per Beetstra, though I don't think some/some accurately portrays the ratio of good/bad edits coming from corporate communications departments. Kilopi (talk) 08:32, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  14. Mixed: Agree, with the caveat that companies make a disproportional amount of bad edits, which makes them a special case. I support what Fluffernutter said on this issue at last year's Wikimania. Disclosure: I am often a paid COI editor. King4057 (talk) 17:06, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  15. Our initial focus should always be on the edits. It is only when an editor persists in working against our policies and guidelines (and we have plenty enough of those to deal with any issues without needing WP:COI) should we look at sanctioning the editor. SilkTork ✔Tea time 20:37, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  16. JN466 04:39, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  17. Eluchil404 (talk) 08:15, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  18. Collect (talk) 04:34, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  19. --lTopGunl (talk) 12:17, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  20. Yes, branding "COI" on the foreheads of editors who do not edit Wikipedia to promote their own interests is not helpful. The presence of a conflict of interest does not always result in improperly placing one's own interests ahead of Wikipedia's interests. But when improprieties occur, "COI" is an important consideration for distinguishing between an editor who made some mistakes and one who is not in a position to uphold the second pillar of Wikipedia. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:22, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  21. Exactly. Focus on edits, not editors. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk to me 21:09, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  22. Yes. --Philosopher Let us reason together. 11:21, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  23. Support. Though certain situations (e.g paid editing) are a near-certain COI. North8000 (talk)
  24. I support this because I support the last bullet about concentrating on bad edits. In response to the first one, while a small number of editors may be editing on behalf of organizations, some of those produce a disproportionately large number of edits. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 02:32, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
  25. Agree.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 15:50, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  26. Yes, persistent, aggressive, tendentious editing is the issue regardless of the reason for it. However, someone who offers to engage in such editing on behalf of a client for pay is an abomination and intolerable. User:Fred Bauder Talk 03:37, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
  27. Agreed. Mark Arsten (talk) 02:42, 4 May 2012 (UTC)
  28. Agree. The conflict of interest only becomes a problem when it leads to conflicts and constant disputes with other users and to obvious disservice to reader. My very best wishes (talk) 04:51, 9 May 2012 (UTC)
  29. Definitely agree. To me, this is exactly what WP:NPOV says, and it's why WP:COI is more of a set of advice than it is a set of rules. It's us saying "We know that having a COI makes it hard to follow the rules, so we recommend editing on subjects you have a COI on, but if you do, you are still subject to those rules." As with bobrayner, I would like to see us get both stronger and weaker on this issue: we should be more aggressive to stop anyone editing non-neutrally (be that because of a nationalist POV, a corporate COI, a freelance job, or a fanboy), and be far less aggressive in going after people simply because they have a personal opinion/interest (which are, after all, the same thing). Qwyrxian (talk) 03:29, 11 May 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. Just to get some examples of why the policy is useful. Recently a party wanted to AfD Libertarian Party (UK). He didn't mention he was a member of another small UK party, but another editor found he'd mentioned it on his user page. I then admitted I was a former (2001) officer of the local Libertarian Party (USA). WP:COI really did make it necessary that we reveal all that. And it helped put the whole AfD in perspective. And the article was not deleted. CarolMooreDC 17:04, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    That's why disclosure of potential COI's should be acknolwedged and open; not frowned upon and hidden. Your example is a perfect reason why we need to revisit COI.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 15:52, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  2. Reluctant oppose, mostly per CarolMooreDC. Ideally we would focus on edits not editors, but in practice sometimes there needs to be a focus on editors with a strong interest in tilting articles. Pinetalk 04:50, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. Another reluctant oppose; my concerns are echoed by Kilopi above. Miniapolis (talk) 23:58, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. When a Major Director of a political campaign edits (via proxy assistance wih no editor input) articles about that campaign and the real people involved, our reader needs to know that information in the varied article may be less than forthcoming. The information, while 100% honest and verifiable, hides the warts and the blemishes and only shows the "best profile". We are obligated to our reader to inform them about the Professional COI of editors working on the article in question. ```Buster Seven Talk 13:47, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. People editing from or on behalf of an organization frequently dominate article and talk pages related to the organization, and often, on article and talk pages only tangentially related to the organization, trying in subtle and unsubtle ways to twist Wikipedia's coverage of the topics they are interested in into the form that they want the organization, its products, services, officers and other leaders presented. The fact that they may be only a tiny minority of editors compared to the overall pool of editors is irrelevant. It is an inherent COI that should result in such editors being prohibited from editing article mainspace within the scope, broadly defined, of their conflict. Fladrif (talk) 15:12, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Writegeist (talk) 16:25, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. Labeling edits with a COI can he helpful. In my experience, those who come out and say what they do and who they work for and why they care about the article, provided they make a good faith effort to engage the community, are treated with respect. That is what we should strive for. Not less labeling, but more shepherding of COI editors, especially paid editors, through our policies and processes. Ocaasi t | c 15:42, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. There doesn't seem to be any serious doubt that some editors are paid to subvert Wikipedia and edit against its core principles. This is a problem. WP:COI may not be a magic bullet for solving it, but pretending there is no problem in the first place is sophistry. --FormerIP (talk) 00:13, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
Comment
  1. Do you have a source to back up your assertion that "People editing from - or on behalf of - an organisation are a small minority"? 02:54, 3 March 2012 (UTC)

View by Jclemens[edit]

Wikipedians edit for many different reasons; all agree to support our pillars, abide by our content guidelines, and contribute their work freely under our chosen licenses. Whether an editor is directly paid to edit Wikipedia is irrelevant to the quality of their contributions: some paid editors are PR shills, others are grant-supported academics. Likewise, editors who violate our content guidelines can do so just as easily out of personal ideology as they can for direct or indirect monetary gain. Thus, any policies or guideline on conflict of interest should treat paid editing neutrally--no better or no worse than any other motivation for editing Wikipedia.

Support
  1. Jclemens (talk) 02:25, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Cla68 (talk) 04:11, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Absolutely. Look at the edits, not at the editor. --Dirk Beetstra T C 04:17, 27 February 2012 (UTC)Switched to oppose.
  3. First Light (talk) 04:20, 27 February 2012 (UTC) As much as I used to think that paid editing was anathema, there is no way to prove it without attempts to harass and out an editor. I've also seen that true believers in the realm of politics, business, religion, and the sciences seem to be more commonly editing Wikipedia with a conflict of interest. The only solution is to look at the edits, not the editor.
  4. BeCritical 04:30, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  5.  Sandstein  11:21, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  6. --Elonka 14:55, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  7. Research shows that the coverage of companies on Wikipedia has gotten an increasingly negative slant over the years. I think this is because some forms of bias are more unfettered than others. If by treating all forms of bias/coi/paid editing equally, you mean that they should all enter a civil debate on the Talk page and allow a neutral editor to make decisions, I support that. Inviting all forms of bias to have an equal footing in open debate with neutral decision makers will make Wikipedia more neutral. Disclosure: I am often a paid COI editor. King4057 (talk) 17:12, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  8. Yes. I have changed my mind on this. Some of the worst abuses I have seen in Wikipedia involve cases where article subjects (be it individuals or companies) suffered at the hands of activist editors. --JN466 20:30, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  9. Support the problem is the edits. A paid editor can edit neutrally, and some of them have been known to do so; some, to make certain there is no objections, even do it by editing on the talk page, which for come kinds of edits will continue to be necessary. The paid editors are not the worst of the problem: the problem is worst of our problems are the unpaid zealots, who can be much more difficult than anyone who is editing merely for money. DGG ( talk ) 18:54, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  10. Support. One must distinguish between those editors paid to insert or remove specific content for an employer ("write a great article on me", "cut out any mention of my company's bankruptcy") and those who as part of their general job description edit Wikipedia while on the clock. The former are usually a problem but the latter may or may not be. Eluchil404 (talk) 08:20, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  11. Whether a notable person "fixes" his BLP, or hires someone else to make the same changes, or convinces an unpaid person to make exactly the same changes, is really no different from our perspective. It's the bias, not the money, that matters.
    Also, we've had some striking and uniformly positive "paid editing" experiences, such as Wikipedia:WikiProject Medicine/Google Project, when the Google Foundation hired some independent, professional science writers to provide suggestions and sources for some key medicine-related articles. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:02, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  12. Support After reading the discussion below. Hawkeye7 (talk) 03:02, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  13. Collect (talk) 04:35, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  14. Agreed. Critics of paid advocacy assume that all paid advocacy is aimed at bypassing NPOV. I don't believe this would always be the case. What about people who want to pay somebody to create a good and neutral article? Is it so impossible to imagine they exist? --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk to me 21:11, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  15. Agreed, although I will point out that not all PR professionals editing Wikipedia are shills. I'm editing for PR purposes openly, using a community review system before publishing to mainspace. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 03:01, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
  16. Support Our policies should be focused on the quality of the editing, not who is doing it. I would carve out that paid editing may be a consideration if the editor is problematic, but it should be seen as a potential cause of the problem, not the problem itself. We should avoid witch hunts targeting people merely because of a COI. Monty845 23:17, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
  17. Yeah, I think this is the right approach. Mark Arsten (talk) 02:40, 4 May 2012 (UTC)
  18. Agreed--very similar to Bobraynor's stance above. Qwyrxian (talk) 03:30, 11 May 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. While editors can and do violate content guidelines (and policies) for any number of reasons, paid editors have a compelling reason to do so—a personal financial stake in producing content whose nature is frequently incompatible with the reliably neutral properties expected of an encyclopedia. Such conflicts of interest can neither be adequately ameliorated by self-disclosure nor resolved through education; they inevitably breed suspicion and promote conflict. If paid editing is now to be welcomed, I cannot help fearing for the continued viability of what I took to be a collaborative volunteer project. Rivertorch (talk) 08:31, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    You presume that belief systems, of whatever sort, cannot be a stronger motivation than money. While your presumption may be true in many cases, I suspect it also reflects a Western, capitalist bias in your world view. In fact, I would say that the major cause of POV-motivated arbitration cases have been nationalistic and religious in origin. Jclemens (talk) 15:47, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    With respect, you know nothing about my world view, and I don't think your stated suspicions about it are especially constructive. I do not presume what you've said I presume about motivations, and I'm well aware of the nature and scope of nationalistic and religious conflicts at WP over the years. What I do presume is that paid editing is uniquely problematic because it lies outside the collaborative volunteer environment—an environment that depends on consensus and mutual goodwill to thrive. Paid editors' wages, job security, and career stability and advancement are on the line, and that, in most cases, will override any feelings of duty they may have toward respecting the spirit of WP's rules. Rivertorch (talk) 20:38, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    If I'm reading that correctly, you're presuming that EVERY paid editor is solely supported by their Wikipedia editing. I think that is unsupported and possibly unsupportable. Protestations aside, you've just presumed that every paid editor is editing for a career, rather than a side job. I have seen no evidence as far as the proportion of paid editors who are careerists vs. hobbyists, but if a future study of the topic shows there's even a 50/50 split, I'll buy you a beverage of your choice. Cheers, Jclemens-public (talk) 23:54, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Actually, no, you're not reading that correctly. I didn't even imply that. You're making unwarranted presumptions about my presumptions. :) I wasn't attempting to cover every conceivable situation (I doubt that any brief statement on this page could do that) but rather was making what I hoped was a useful generalization: that paid editors—even those who aren't paid well or don't depend on that pay for their subsistence—have an interest in pleasing those who pay them that is highly likely to override any interest they may have in acting like responsible Wikipedians. Is that clearer? Rivertorch (talk) 17:43, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    So, bottom line, WP:ABFing about paid editors is appropriate, then? Jclemens (talk) 02:33, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Whether an editor is paid to edit Wikipedia is directly relevant. The obligation of the editor to their employer or client has clear precedence over his or her obligation to the principles of Wikipedia. The two can only be reconciled if, pursuant to existing policy, the editor with such a conflict of interest is required (i) to disclose the conflict and (ii) to confine their activities to talkpages where they may attempt to persuade other editors on content issues. The Gingrich PR guy referenced on Jimbo's talkpages is the model that should be followed where an editor is either paid directly to edit Wikipedia or the editing of Wikipedia falls within the general ambit of their job description. Fladrif (talk) 15:34, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Existing policy says neither of these things. COI is a guideline, and at least one opinion here is that it should be demoted to an essay. Jclemens (talk) 15:47, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    WP:COI strongly encourages both of these things. At least one opinion here is that it should be a policy, mandatory and directly enforceable at COIN, not merely a guideline. If you are going to take the position that this RFC is only about what the existing problem and policy is, and not what it should be, there is no point in this RFC and ArbCom's vote to hold this RFC was a sham. Fladrif (talk) 15:54, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. Paid editors can get fired if they fail to produce expected results. That's a whole bunch different than being (say) a Catholic or a member of the U.S. Democratic Party. Paid editors should disclose that they are being paid, and should not be allowed to directly edit articles (other than to remove WP:BLP violations or correct very minor factual errors). They can make suggestions (and propose new wording) on article talk pages, for articles that they are being paid to influence. Similarly, there is absolutely no way that a person can be neutral when editing the Wikipedia article about him/her, and we should prohibit that. (Of course there will be lots of people, particularly paid editors, who figure out ways to avoid being detected, but if we only kept rules that were 100% effective, we wouldn't have any rules at all.) -- John Broughton (♫♫) 17:47, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    All paid editors, or just paid advocates? Jclemens-public (talk) 20:50, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Sorry, don't understand the question. "Advocate" doesn't seem to be relevant here. If your financial well-being depends, even partly, on your success in editing a particular Wikipedia article, then you're a paid editor with respect to that article (with the emphasis on "paid"). If it doesn't - as, for example, a member of the Catholic church who wouldn't suffer any financial repercussions from having all his/her edits rejected - then you're not a paid editor. ("Editor" means "Wikipedia editor", if that helps.) -- John Broughton (♫♫) 16:23, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
    Your oppose presumes that all paid editors are paid to produce "results" and that those results are somehow necessarily at odds with our encyclopedic goals. In fact, people can be paid to contribute encyclopedic knowledge neutrally. Can you address how your statement applies to those folks? Jclemens (talk) 21:32, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    "absolutely no way" subjects of articles can be NPOV? The lady doth protest too much, methinks. Question mark. Since I cannot know for sure. Just saying. Anarchangel (talk) 09:06, 22 March 2012 (UTC)
    That (some) paid editors get fired if they fail to produce articles, can operate in a positive way. If we sufficiently watch incoming articles to remove those that are not acceptable, it will drive the worst of them out of the business. DGG ( talk ) 18:34, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Upon rereading this, switch to oppose. You'd be surprised what editors (spammers) do to get their information displayed on Wikipedia, and to get it displayed in a very positive way. They get paid to do it. If they can show that they edit neutrally, yes, sure, then this is fine, until that moment, they should be regarded what they are, people who get paid to represent an organisation with the aim of 'promoting' (in whichever form) that company. --Dirk Beetstra T C 18:07, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Again, your objection focuses on one specific type of paid editor, a paid advocate. Do you suggest that editors paid by a museum to put in neutral information about the museum's holdings should be treated differently than PR shills? If so, then payment isn't the issue, advocacy is. Jclemens-public (talk) 20:50, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    The problem is, paid editing, in any form, is giving impropriety - if someone is found to being paid for editing Wikipedia, then that should be disclosed and discussed (but not necessarily avoided, reverted or blocked). Take the due care, avoid the impropriety. You say, that if an editor is blatantly spamming Wikipedia, purely for the gain of their organisation, but all the edits are fine, neutral, that that does not need to be discussed. I am not saying that we should forbid a museum editor to post their external links to any suitable page on Wikipedia (even though that is very likely going to violate our core policies on some additions), but I do think that it needs to be discussed. --Dirk Beetstra T C 10:20, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    • further oppose: "Wikipedians edit for many different reasons; all agree to support our pillars, abide by our content guidelines, and contribute their work freely under our chosen licenses." - That is the ultimate goal, that is the interpretation of WP:AGF that should be active here on Wikipedia. But the base of that idea is, unfortunately wrong! Wikipedians edit for many different reasons, all should agree to support our pillars, abide by our content guidelines, but unfortunately there are editors, upon who we do assume good faith, but who are not here editing to support our pillars and abide by our content guidelines. They are here to further their own goal, or the goal of someone who pays them. They do that for advancing their own situation, they do that to for financial reasons, or they are paid to do so to advance the situation or financial situation of someone they represent. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:59, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. Paid editing represents a special sort of conflict that I think rises above personal traits, fandoms, and affiliations. It does require special attention. Not outright banning, but where paid editing is occuring, it should be under a higher level of scrutiny. --Jayron32 19:12, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  6. Commercial advertising placed for no charge on Wikipedia is an abomination. The higher its quality the more gross the violation. User:Fred Bauder Talk 21:28, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Fred, that's a non-sequiter. We're not talking about paid advertising, we're talking about policy-compliant encyclopedic content. Advertising is an entirely different matter. Jclemens-public (talk) 23:56, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Perhaps you do not live in a country where the government is controlled by corporations using the technology of public persuasion. User:Fred Bauder Talk 01:36, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    That's another non-sequiter. Or, at least, it has nothing to do with paid editing as I understand it. Can you please elaborate the relevance of control of the government to non-governmental editors being paid to edit Wikipedia? Jclemens (talk) 21:34, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. Oppose. I agree with Jclemens that the key issue is not paid editing, but advocacy (paid or unpaid). But in reality, paid editing almost invariably involves advocacy, because for the most part if a paid editor displeases his employer, he will lose his job or commission. So a paid editor can only be neutral if the employer requests it, or chooses to allow it. (An example would be Oxford University employing a Wikipedian to write a "warts and all" history of the university.) But where there are strong ideological or financial issues at stake, an employer is unlikely to permit a "warts and all" approach. And even if they were to do so, a Wikipedian taking instruction from — or allowing herself to be overly influenced by — a person, company or institution outside Wikipedia, involves placing the interests of that outside influence over the interests of Wikipedia, and that is the very definition of a problematic conflict of interest. It causes all kinds of editorial imbalances, and relies on unpaid volunteers to oversee it, placing an extra burden on them.

    I can see that it might be less problematic if a paid editor who has been an experienced Wikipedian were to be paid for a specific project, because she will have a deeper understanding of the content policies. But a paid single-purpose account arriving at Wikipedia for the sole purpose of editing in a certain direction will not have that background, and it is hard to imagine in such cases that payment will not, as a matter of fact, equal advocacy. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 02:33, 28 February 2012 (UTC)

    So I went out of my way to write a neutral statement that paid editing per se is not a problem. Yet you've "opposed" it by agreeing with me, and then going beyond the limited bounds of what I did say. Now, several people are opposing my summation "per SlimVirgin", when in fact, you're not opposed to anything I've actually said at all. Would you mind either moving yourself to the support section, or starting a new position below to comment on things beyond what my statement actually says? Cheers, Jclemens (talk) 02:30, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
    I'm afraid I'm not agreeing with you on the substantive point you've made here and elsewhere (if I've understood you correctly). I think it's possible to argue that paid editing, in and of itself, might not be a problem, and I've offered an example of that (Oxford paying a disinterested Wikipedian to write its history). But in practice, most paid editing will involve advocacy, because most of the occasions on which employers will be willing to fork out for an article will be where there are financial or ideological issues at stake.

    Also, it's easy to say "it's the edits that count, not the editor," but the reality is that it can be hard to assess the edits. For example, if a plastic surgeon who regularly performs a contentious procedure in private practice writes positively about that procedure on Wikipedia, it is very difficult for the average Wikipedian to know whether he is using the medical sources correctly, whether he is sticking to UNDUE, and whether the article is closer to being an ad than an encyclopedia entry. (Miniapolis's points below is an important one: at least with an ad, you know where you stand.) And other Wikipedians who are physicians might not want to get into a public tussle with a colleague about what he may or may not write on Wikipedia. So in situations like that I would say the COI is a red flag that we ought not to ignore, and that the surgeon should confine his input to making suggestions on the talk page. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 05:21, 3 March 2012 (UTC)

    Let me try again: If you can see any circumstance under which paid editing is not problematic, you agree with me. If you admit any theoretical possibility that paid editing does not involve COI, you agree with me. Sure, paid editors can be problematic, but it's not the payment that is the root cause of the problem, because payment can exist--by your own admission--without any issues at all. Jclemens (talk) 07:15, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
    I think that payment is going to be a root cause in the overwhelming majority of cases. When you edit an article, you assume good faith that Wikipedians are at least a little open-minded, even when they have strong views. And that if you present a strong-enough case during a dispute, with good-enough sources, they might be persuaded. That is, you assume they are here as Wikipedians.

    Payment interferes with that process, because you are no longer talking only to the Wikipedian; you are also talking to his employer. If the employer is the chairman of Company X, he is not going to be persuaded — no matter the strength of the argument or sources — that his company's widely discussed dumping of swine effluent into rivers ought to be in the lead. To argue that, in theory, payment need not cause this disconnect, this talking past each other, is to ignore that 99 percent of the time, it will cause it.

    The problem with payment — and this is a problem in principle, not only in practice — is that it introduces an invisible hand, an absentee landlord, as it were, so that the discourse is governed by an external force that has his own interests in mind, not Wikipedia's. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 07:54, 3 March 2012 (UTC)

    You're saying two different things here. Do you agree or disagree with this statement: any payment, no matter how small, no matter how occasional or irregular, no matter how inconsequential the direct or indirect benefit to the editor, always creates a conflict of interest where the editor being paid must be presumed to be editing against the best interests of the project. Agree or disagree? Jclemens (talk) 16:44, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
    I do see what you're saying, but I think it sets up a straw man. You seem to be arguing that, if I give you one penny to fix a typo, and Wikipedia is not harmed by it, that ipso facto proves that paid editing is not in itself problematic. Well, yes, but it's a straw man to erect an entire edifice on the most benign and exceptionally unusual of examples.

    My argument is that any payment to an editor to modify content — as in "I will pay you $200 to write an article about my company," or "You are my PR consultant, so please write an article about me as part of your duties" — creates a COI if the paid editor is prioritizing the interests of an outside body over the interests of Wikipedia.

    There may be happy occasions where Wikipedia's interests and the outside body's interests coincide, but the point remains that the paid editor has another master. And that concept lies in direct opposition to the idea of being a Wikipedian.

    When we edit Wikipedia, we are supposed to try to take our other hats off, so that we don't edit qua Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, Labour supporters, or whatever else. Of course, we can't shed our skins entirely, but we are expected to make an effort. But we can't make that effort if someone is paying us not to make it, but instead is giving us money to edit in their interests. Payment distorts the direct relationship (we hope of trust) between a Wikipedian and his readers, where the Wikipedian says: "I am writing this for you, not for anyone else."

    Would you trust The Guardian (or whatever your favourite newspaper is) if you discovered that its journalists were accepting payment from the people they were writing about — even if the journalists were to argue that sometimes the payments benefit the reader too? SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 01:17, 4 March 2012 (UTC)

    I think the issue of people being grant- or academic institution-supported to add to Wikipedia's knowledge in a neutral and encyclopedic manner is anything but a straw man. Paid editing is not the same as paid advocacy, and by ignoring the possibilities of neutral, encyclopedic paid editing, you're not doing Wikipedia any service. The difference between an academic and a PR guy is not the pay--it's the motivation. All the rest of what you've said is all well and good and I don't disagree, but I didn't propose a sweeping solution, just a very pointed statement that money isn't necessarily the root of all improper Wikipedia editing. Jclemens (talk) 02:11, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    I get the sense you're trying to corner people into a reductive, binary decision where "paid editing" is either entirely bad, or else entirely irrelevant. Those sorts of black-and-white dichotomies aren't well-suited here, which I think is why you're getting a lot of pushback. You make some good points about motivation, rather than money, being an important factor, but I don't think you can separate the two as cleanly as you'd like to. After all, the money is the motivation, on some level. And describing payment for editing as "entirely irrelevant" is an extremist stance which is at odds with both my personal viewpoint and my understanding of Wikipedia's culture. MastCell Talk 17:56, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
    I'd rather say the extremist viewpoint is that someone who is paid a single dollar to work on an article must be treated as a second-class editor, with their motivations presumed to be violating NPOV and their editing subject to prior restraint. Paid editing is not the thing that SV and other pseudo-opposers are talking about; they're simply not acknowledging (or only admitting a theoretical possibility) that not all paid editing is paid POV pushing. Paid POV pushing is bad. Paid encyclopedic NPOV content-creation is good. Unpaid POV pushing is bad. Unpaid encyclopedic NPOV content-creation is good. What, exactly is extremist about that position? Jclemens (talk) 04:09, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
    Payment creates a duty to the payer and to the mission defined by the payer. I would argue that about 99% of those represent a clear COI situation, including the high-minded academic grant situations. You are basically arguing that one can't make categorical statements because of the other 1% and that the lack of valid categorical statements means that the 99% conclusion should not be stated. Other than including wording that acknowledges the rare exception, IMHO the 99% statement still needs to be made. IMHO paid editing is almost always an actual COI. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 00:03, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
    There's an inherent assumption being made here that the only reason to pay someone to create or edit a Wikipedia article is to enhance the image or promote the subject, thus biasing the content of the article. I do want to point out that in the fields of online reputation management and search engine marketing that often it is desirable for a subject to have a Wikipedia article (even if skeletal, boring, or whatever) because that article will occupy one of the top search spots, thereby pushing competition off page one. In this case, the paid editor's primary mission is for the article to not get deleted and remain on Wikipedia indefinitely. The best way to ensure this is to write a good article that exceeds minimum community standards. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 03:01, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. Per SlimVirgin. Kilopi (talk) 08:32, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  9. As per comments in my section and slimvirgin.Pharaoh of the Wizards (talk) 08:55, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  10. Oppose... First, a clarification @ User:Fladriff. The Gingrich Communications Director PR Guy is not the model since he does not follow the guideline. Agree w/ Slim. Paid editors/advocates/operatives are paid for results. They are not paid to follow the rules of Wikipedia. They work for and do the bidding of an employer (corporate, religious, political, etc.). Not Jimbo, not ArbCom or fellow editors. They can't be convinced by consensus. In fact, its their job to make sure that consensus is always on their side. The rest of us are volunteers unaware of the reason for their fervor to win. ```Buster Seven Talk 09:28, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  11. Oppose per SlimVirgin.--В и к и T 22:26, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  12. Respectful oppose, in agreement with Fred Bauder above; I think s/he was referring to POV articles, rather than paid advertisements. With an ad, at least you know you're receiving a POV. Miniapolis (talk) 00:24, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  13. Oppose. If an editor is being paid to say something, it is unlikely that discussion will convince the editor either to change what he or she is saying (except in minor details) or to stop saying it. This will be true no matter how many facts or well-reasoned arguments are presented. Thus, editors who are paid to write from a particular viewpoint can be expected to be tendentious editors. Cardamon (talk) 07:47, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
    Again, this oppose presumes that all paid editors are "being paid to say something". Jclemens (talk) 21:37, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    Since I used the word “if”, I did not assume that all paid editors are paid to say something. However, in all probability, the great majority of paid editors are indeed paid either to say something or to write from a particular point of view.
    As for “grant holding academics,” if such a person discloses enough of the terms of his or her grant that we can be sure that s/he has academic freedom, and doesn’t have his or her point of view or conclusions dictated by the grantor, s/he should be treated as a regular editor.
    However, it would be a big mistake to assume that the numbers of “grant holding academic” and the editors who are paid to push some point of view are anything like equal. People who are paid to write a particular thing, or write from a particular point of view should be treated as tendentious editors. Cardamon (talk) 07:36, 26 March 2012 (UTC)
  14. Oppose. To suggest that monetary considerations are not better or worse than any other motivation for editing doesn't seem at all realistic (of course there are also a few other stand-outs as motivators, but that's not the issue here). Further, even if a paid editor's edits can be viewed as neutral, it may just be coincidental to WP, because his employer currently wants it that way. That's not the same thing as actually applying a NPOV. And as SlimV points out, that's still an outside influence on editing, and that's a COI. Ergo, you can't necessarily tell from the edits. Just like reference books, you have to consider the source. -- Maelefique(talk) 08:16, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  15. Oppose - There is a difference between an academic paid so he can edit, and a representative paid in compensation for editing. The latter is the worse motivation, and in practice the latter is going to be far more common. If we allow it will undermine people's confidence in our neutrality. Tom Harrison Talk 16:06, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
    Then you're in the wrong column, because "oppose" means that you believe the academic editing is inherently problematic, since he's receiving payment to participate in Wikipedia. Jclemens (talk) 16:46, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
    No, he's receiving payment so he can participate. It's the difference between compensation and a stipend, or between a whore and a wife. Tom Harrison Talk 16:53, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
    Still, what you've just said here--an entirely reasonable thought entirely welcome in the dialogue--isn't supported by your opposition to the notion that paid editing is not per se problematic. If paid editing IS per se problematic, to extend your analogy, then it's sex that's the problem, not the marital status of those involved. Jclemens (talk) 17:03, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
    Being paid to edit is in itself a problem. The academic is being paid (in the sense that the college gives him money) and he's editing; he isn't being paid to edit. Tom Harrison Talk 17:11, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
    You're drawing distinctions that my position does not. If you think an academic being paid to edit is not a problem while a PR person being paid to edit is a problem, then you should switch your position and endorse my viewpoint: while you're saying you oppose it, you're endorsing it at the moment. Jclemens (talk) 21:23, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    Whether an editor is directly paid to edit Wikipedia is entirely relevant, both to the quality of their contributions and to the health of our community. Our policy on conflict of interest should treat paid editing as the bad thing it is. Our notional academic is not paid to edit. Conflating honest scholars and paid corporate flacks, you wrongly equate two different things, then use the good to say we must not condemn the bad. Now, I contradict, reject, and condemn that view; if you're still going to insist I'm endorsing it, let me know on my talk page and I'll formally anathematize your view. Tom Harrison Talk 22:16, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    Just getting back to this substantially later, but it looks like what you're saying is that the only paid editing that is clearly a problem is results-based paid editing, and that people who get paid, and edit Wikipedia on the clock, are not "paid editors" within the scope of what you oppose. That's all well and good, but it my definition of paid editing was intentionally expansive, and well defined in my statement. You're still opposing what you think my position should say, rather than what it actually *does* say. Jclemens (talk) 16:52, 26 April 2012 (UTC)
    Whether an editor is directly paid to edit Wikipedia is entirely relevant to our policies. Any policy or guideline on conflict of interest should treat paid editing as wicked, and paid editors as bad men. The way to get me to agree with you is for you to condemn paid editing as I condemn paid editing. Tom Harrison Talk 12:38, 27 April 2012 (UTC)
  16. Oppose I strongly oppose. I made my first edit here on September 13, 2006 because I wanted to be part of The People's Encyclopedia where we all volunteer our time and share our gifts. I would have never joined if I knew that some people were being paid to edit. For me, paid editing destroys my entire dream of what I'd like Wikipedia to be. Gandydancer (talk) 03:24, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  17. Oppose per 1 Timothy 6:10 (KJV). "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." Accepting remuneration strays from full faith in the third pillar of Wikipedia, and the resulting conflict can lead to much sorrow. It is a conflict of interest. As with other conflicts of interest, it is only a problem when one becomes conflicted and places one's own interests ahead of Wikipedia's interests. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:26, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    Thanks for an intellectually consistent oppose. Jclemens (talk) 21:23, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  18. Oppose strongly, per SlimVirgin's more intellectually rigorous and nuanced observations. Writegeist (talk) 21:58, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  19. Oppose as hopelessly muddled at best. "any policies or guideline on conflict of interest should treat paid editing neutrally"... judging by his use of the term "PR shills", the proposer doesn't even believe this himself, if by "paid editing" is meant "all paid editing" (which we must assume, as no modifier is offered). There is no point in conflating into a single class (say) an academic paid by a grant to work on some scholarly subject and some corrupt hack whitewashing the Exxon-Mobile article, so the entire statement is pointless. Herostratus (talk) 07:26, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  20. Oppose Getting paid creates an obligation to the person that paid them. Unless the near-zero chance occurs that the payer's orders were to to further the interest of Wikipedia, such is inherently an actual COI. North8000 (talk) 23:03, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  21. Oppose, per various, including the above editor. The proposition juxtaposes the problem ("PR shills", if you like) with something that is rare or non existent (academics paid to edit Wikipedia) and seems to conclude that it is somehow unfair to treat the former any different from the latter. But it's completely fair. One is a problem with a known deleterious effect on Wikipedia, the other is not.FormerIP (talk) 00:27, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
    ... and two more non-oppose opposes from editors who can't conceive of payment to edit without obligation to have a COI. I will probably reorganize them all into a separate section to differentiate between those who oppose the premise of the question, and those who oppose the answer I've proposed. Jclemens (talk) 04:38, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
    No you won't. The answer you propose is the same as the premise you base it on: Whether an editor is directly paid to edit Wikipedia is irrelevant to the quality of their contributions. But it's false at both ends. FormerIP (talk) 13:37, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
    The premise I base it on ("not everyone who accepts money to perform a task is unduly influenced by that payment") is as self evident as "water is wet" or "the sky is blue". The fact that both of these have quite obvious exceptions--ice and cloudy days, respectively--does not change the underlying truth of each statement. Those who insist every editor paid a single dollar for any task on Wikipedia is editing counter to our goals are either not thinking through the implications of their positions well enough or are hyper-partisans not participating in good faith. Once such extreme and unsupportable viewpoints have been eliminated from the discussion as unhelpful, then we can begin to discuss real solutions to the real problems of editors who are unduly influenced by money. I will not support any outcome of this RfC that fails to differentiate between academics paid to improve Wikipedia and PR professionals paid to twist it, and your (and others') rejection of the premise of my position here leads to that outcome. Jclemens (talk) 23:46, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
    OK, lets suppose that it is conceivable that someone can be paid to edit WP without the payment influencing the edits. This is not conceded, because really we are talking about something that is a question of degree, but let's go with it for arguments sake. You seem to want to generalise that, because you are able to imagine such a case, paid editing is unproblematic. But this is a false generalisation. Even given the possibility of exceptions, paid editing remains problematic, if we are forced to consider it in general terms.
    In the same way, some people may have a very high tolerance to alcohol and be extremely good drivers. But drink driving, generally, is still a bad idea. The possibility of exceptions shouldn't lead us to think it would be better just to concentrate on the crashing and turn a blind eye to the drinking.
    I also think you're mischaracterising your opposition. I'm not sure anyone feels that "every editor paid a single dollar for any task on Wikipedia is editing counter to our goals". It is simply that they have a potential conflict of interest, to a greater or lesser extent, which would be best declared and handled according to an agreed and transparent process. --FormerIP (talk) 00:27, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
    Thank you; that's a much better basis on which to continue a conversation. I tried to explicitly structure my statement around the premise that some people are paid to edit Wikipedia without necessarily being accountable to the folks paying for the edit. One additional example: any employee editing from work during business hours is paid for their edit--often without the knowledge or consent of the employer--yet many of our hobbyists do exactly that. While it might be considered "timecard fraud" by one employer, another may consider it "reasonable personal use", and a third might actively encourage it--I have direct knowledge of at least one household-name employer that fits into each of these three categories. This is a very, very different thing than being paid to accomplish a specific task in Wikipedia, such as "reduce the relative proportion of negative content in our corporate article from 20% to 5%". This last group is the problem, but it's not the only group paid to edit Wikipedia. Back in the 2009 RfC, Jimbo pointed out that the term "paid editing" is essentially meaningless, and "paid advocacy" was what he found concerning. I find it strange to evoke such opposition to what has always been tacitly accepted, and I think it points out that we have failed to define our terms before arguing them. Even though I specifically included academics paid to improve NPOV encyclopedic content, the vast majority of folks opposing this viewpoint have failed to engage with that concept, treating "paid editing" and "paid advocacy" as equivalent when they clearly are not. Jclemens (talk) 04:45, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
    That is a true statement, Jclemens. Yes, there are editors who get paid for the time they are working, and some are allowed to edit Wikipedia during that time. Surely, if they work for Audi, they edit during their working hours, they are a muslim, they eat only vegetarian food, they hobby in model racing cars, and they edit the page on Changuito because they stumbled upon it - they do not have a conflict of interest with that edit. But whether they edit Wikipedia during worktime or outside of worktime, they do have a conflict of interest with editing the page Audi. And even then, that does not need to be a problem, as long as they do realise that they do have a conflict of interest, and should edit with due care. You are right in the point that being paid for editing is not necessarily a problem, it is if that editor has a conflict of interest with that paid edit - even if that Audi-employee is not being asked by his employer to keep the page Audi in shape, though is allowed to edit Wikipedia during work-time, it is very, very unlikely that the employee would, during or outside worktime, include a true, but bad-looking piece of information on their company - the company would not be pleased.
    I, strictly, refrain from editing articles with which I conceivably have a conflict of interest (for different reasons) - I know it does not improve Wikipedia in some cases, but I just can't - I actually cancelled an edit before saving just because of that reason. Worse is, I can't even mention things on the talkpage, or to others, because of my conflict of interest. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:38, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
    Now we're beginning to understand each other. That hypothetical Audi employee who plays at editing Wikipedia while he is on the clock (tsk, tsk) is not a problem for himself, his employer, or Wikipedia until and unless he starts editing things related to his employer. Indeed, if he edits about his diet or religion, we wouldn't bat an eye, even though he is paid by a corporation while he is editing, would we? If he, on the other hand, was directed and paid to polish work-related articles for the benefit of his employer, we are all agreed that that is advocacy and should be declared, scrutinized, if not relegated to the talk page or outright forbidden. The bit in the middle, where he might fix up work-related articles because he loves his job and wants to see correct information on, say, a product of which he has personal knowledge--there is the grey area which we should all be struggling with. Yet, all three highlighted areas of this spectrum fall under the broad heading of "paid" editing. Jclemens (talk) 07:22, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
    Well, in a way, I was there all the time. WP:COI does not forbid them to edit. I would not even go as far that our editor has to declare his conflict of interest with his job. I'd prefer it though - and editors may get into trouble if they did not declare a conflict of interest and edit in a non-neutral way (even if it was not really meant to be non-neutral). My conflict of interest declaration is in a way on my userpage, though secrecy prevents me to disclose my full conflict of interest - it is left to my own, I am fully aware of WP:COI, and I am extremely careful with it. And that is why I think that WP:COI is so important to have, to cover all forms of conflict of interest editing and to explain how to handle it - not to forbid the COI editor to edit, but to make the distinction of why their edits may be problematic. --Dirk Beetstra T C 08:43, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
    ...all three highlighted areas of this spectrum fall under the broad heading of "paid" editing. Only if we make it absurdly broad. I think most people would think it obvious that paid editing is editing pursuant to a contract. Editing at work while no-one is looking or editing during a time in your life when you are in receipt of an income do not count, even though you may be simultaneously "paid" and "editing".
    So, yes, if I edit random articles during work time, there is no COI. But there is also no paid editing. So it is not an example of paid editing without a COI and it doesn't mean that - hey presto! - we can pretend that paid editing does not raise any issues. --FormerIP (talk) 13:48, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
    Your definition of paid editing is insufficient to protect against "paid advocacy". Consider the Audi engineer example again: if he's editing religious or diet articles on the clock and it's not paid editing, if he edits Audi product articles on the clock, it's still not paid editing: Audi doesn't direct his editing, and is probably not even aware of it, such that the engineer cannot directly financially benefit from his actions, as he would if he were a paid PR contractor evaluated on the success of changes commissioned by Audi. If you want to construe freelance COI edits by such folks as unpaid... I suppose. But I wouldn't. I would say "paid" isn't the problem (rather than haggling over what is paid or not), advocacy is. Jclemens (talk) 03:27, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
    Advocacy requires definition (maybe you wouldn't think so, but it's clear from many of the comments on this page that it does) and it needs to work on the basis of a presumption in our favour (ie, for our purposes, it should be presumed, you "are an advocate" - though I prefer the term "have a conflict of interest" - if, for example, you are the subject of the article you are editing, you have a direct relationship to it (it is your wife, employer, priest etc) or you have been paid to edit).
    So, I agree that paid editing is not the whole of the problem. But it would be absurd to exclude it from the guideline on that basis.--FormerIP (talk) 17:24, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
    I never said it should be excluded, just that policies and guidelines should not single it out--that is, not focus on paid editing, but focus on COI advocacy, paid or not, vs. encyclopedic NPOV additions, paid or not. Jclemens (talk) 01:26, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
    It shouldn't be the primary focus, for sure. But it should certainly be singled out. It should be clearly stated that paid editing constitutes a conflict of interest. The alternative - that paid editing is basically nobody's business - is wrong-headed. --FormerIP (talk) 02:30, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
  22. Oppose Paid editing creates an obligation to the payer. 99% of the time that will be a real COI. While we should avoid categorical statements that ignore the existence of the 1%, this proposal ignores the 99%. North8000 (talk) 11:04, 26 March 2012 (UTC)
    Really? Even when the entity paying someone to edit Wikipedia has no idea they're doing so? Paid editing is a very broad term, much broader than straightforward paid advocacy, and includes grant-supported academics among others. Jclemens (talk) 13:45, 26 March 2012 (UTC)
    Well maybe taking a typical grant-supported academic example would be a good way to explore this. What is the goal of the grant? How is the misison defined to the editor? Assuming that their work will be evaluated, how will it be evaluated? How will success / failure be defined? Are the above in conflict with the goals of Wikipedia? What happens if/when they are? North8000 (talk) 14:25, 26 March 2012 (UTC)
    I am not aware of any cases when work in English wikipedia would be funded by US government, with maybe one exception. If there are any other cases, I would like to know.My very best wishes (talk) 16:31, 26 March 2012 (UTC)
    I think the intent was more of an analogy, if I am not mistaken. In academic publishing, authors might well have a conflict of interest with the subject they research, eg paid by a company to research their drug or product. The nature of that relationship is complex, analogous to the complexity here. However a good deal of research indicates peer reviewed literature (literature which has been thoroughly vetted by independent researchers) is routinely and substantially biased in favor of those cutting the paychecks. One study found peer-reviewed medical research was four times more likely to find results favorable to the company funding it than independent research. Medicine, at this point, may be too dependent on commercial funding for research to simply ignore all these people with conflicts of interest. Wikipedia does not have to become dependent on it, however. (I should also add that the sorts of conflicts of interest in medicine are companies funding studies with no editorial control over the results. If a company demanded a researcher they fund not publish or change their conclusions, it is a scandal and considered unethical.) --TeaDrinker (talk) 18:45, 26 March 2012 (UTC)
    The magnitude of the concern is actually much worse than that. Peer-reviewed publications funded by the tobacco industry were, notoriously, 88 times more likely to exonerate secondhand smoke than those funded by independent sources (PMID 9605902). But the only reason we know that is because the medical literature has increasingly taken COIs seriously. Right now, we're about where the scholarly literature was 30 years ago in terms of having our collective heads in the sand. Some of us seriously seem to believe that our existing policies (e.g. NPOV) will take care of the problem, just as the scholarly community believed that peer review was a sufficient filter to weed out problematic COIs. MastCell Talk 19:02, 26 March 2012 (UTC)
    A vast majority of reviewers who serve on panels in Food and Drug Administration have a serious COI (with respect to drug approval, not wikipedia editing) because they are connected to drug industry in various ways. And they actually declare their conflict of interest, because hiding this would be illegal. However, these people still serve on panels because it would be nearly impossible find experts without a conflict of interest. The result? They approve a lot of things that should never be approved, e.g. seroquel. The results of trials are usually published, and after reading them one must be crazy to use some drugs approved by the FDA and routinely prescribed by doctors.My very best wishes (talk) 19:41, 26 March 2012 (UTC)
    Not to drag this thread further off-topic, but in the interest of accuracy, I don't think the Seroquel saga is quite the way you've made it out. The drug was approved by FDA for a narrow range of indications. However, it was massively prescribed off-label for unapproved indications (apparently with AstraZeneca's encouragement). The data given to FDA for approval were also incomplete, as it appears from internal company documents that AstraZeneca withheld the results of several negative clinical trials ([7]). So it's certainly a sordid and sad story, but I don't see that conflicts of interest at the FDA level contributed. I'd be open to hearing more about it, though (perhaps at my talk page to avoid further derailing this thread). MastCell Talk 20:23, 26 March 2012 (UTC)
    The phrase "grant-supported academics" shouldn't be used as ipso facto desirable. An academic (or anyone else) paid to edit animal-testing articles with a grant from Understanding Animal Research would not be okay; nor would one with a grant from the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection. The objection to paid editing is that commercial and other interests will seek to fund articles that advance their cause. That the paid editor is an academic doesn't change that. Academics are trained to advance positions, not to write as though they're disinterested.

    I could imagine a situation where a grant-giving body wants to see a great article on its topic, and agrees not only to pay User:X to write it, but also User:Y (who is known to have views diametrically opposed to the grant-giving body, or who at least is believed to be neutral). That would ensure that unpaid editors aren't expected to oversee the work of paid ones. But it would get complicated, and most employers would not want to pay someone who might introduce awkward material. SlimVirgin (talk) 20:52, 26 March 2012 (UTC)

    I do not think that any people would be unwelcome here only because they are supported by grants from Understanding Animal Research. I am sure these people could contribute positively by creating new content and article. If however they would establish a wikiproject "Animal research", list all articles in this area, re-edit all these articles to enforce their POV, and remove all volunteer contributors from "their" subject area by edit warring, filing litigious complaints, and making defamatory off-wiki postings, that indeed would be a huge problem. My very best wishes (talk) 15:36, 29 March 2012 (UTC)
  23. Oppose The argument that has been laid out is illogical because it presumes that because some paid editing might be neutral or of high quality, that the COI policy should not take paid editing into consideration. But if, say, 90% of paid editors are disruptive to the project and don't abide by by our content guidelines or support our pillars, we would be justified to exercise some control over paid editing, even if some paid editors do play nice. Paid editing is relevant to the quality of contributions. There are exceptions, but there is no guarantee that a paid editor's interests coincide with that of Wikipedia or that their interests would take a back seat to the pillar of neutrality. Gobōnobo + c 20:15, 25 April 2012 (UTC)
    So you think it's acceptable to punish the 10% for the crimes of the 90%, without even trying to establish whether that 10% participated in the offensive conduct? Mind you, you haven't even established that 90% is the correct proportion of disruption. Do you favor racial profiling, because members of certain minorities are more likely to be criminals? While that may seem to be an inherently offensive question, I'm struggling to see a logical difference between that question and the position you're advancing. Please, enlighten me to the difference. Jclemens (talk) 20:31, 25 April 2012 (UTC)
    No one is being "punished" by WP:COI. All editors, regardless of whether they volunteer their time or not, benefit from guidelines that discourage malicious behavior. The percentage I proposed was hypothetical and intended to be illustrative. I wouldn't even know how to go about establishing what proportion of paid editors are disruptive. I'm not offended by your question, but I think the comparison to racial profiling is a straw man. Gobōnobo + c 22:09, 25 April 2012 (UTC)
    Yes, if a "Wikimedian in residence" loses his job at a museum because he's no longer allowed to edit as "a paid editor", that is most assuredly punishment. And to follow up on what you dodged, what sort of a problem is it that cannot be quantified, measured, and progress assessed? One based on belief systems and personal prejudices, of course. Thus, I stand by my comparison. Jclemens (talk) 16:46, 26 April 2012 (UTC)
    Wow, 90% of paid editors are disruptive? Then of course we should sanction them... just as we should sanction teenagers where 90% of their edits are disruptive? But no seriously, do you really believe that 90% of paid editors are editing disruptively? If so, then I would have suspected that we would have uncovered a lot more paid shills! As is, most of them probably go unnoticed because their edits are not disruptive---do you honestly believe that all of those college/university articles got to where they are today without paid editors? I don't. But I suspect that most work done by paid editors has been quality work--of somebody who knows how to write. I'd suspect that less than 10% have been problematic. And that if we forced them to be open about their paid status, then they'd even be better because they would then be representing their institution.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 21:21, 8 May 2012 (UTC)
  24. Oppose. Paid editors have but one function: Controlling content to the satisfaction of the client. —ArtifexMayhem (talk) 08:44, 26 April 2012 (UTC)
    Is a "Wikimedian in residence" a part of this problem? Jclemens (talk) 16:46, 26 April 2012 (UTC)
  25. Oppose. while I agree that "Whether an editor is directly paid to edit Wikipedia is irrelevant to the quality of their contributions", I think that is irrelevant to the topic of COI. The simple fact is, if you are being paid to advocate a position, you are being paid to consider a position that is outside the goals of WP (whether it happens to align with the 5 pillars or not), and that is not the level playing field that we should all be on. -- Maelefique(talk) 14:47, 26 April 2012 (UTC)
    Correct, but this statement is only about paid editing, and says nothing at all about paid advocacy except to rebut the dozens of Wikipedians who lack the imagination to envision a paid editor who is not an advocate. Jclemens (talk) 16:46, 26 April 2012 (UTC)
    Must be the drugs (just back from the dentist), but I don't follow what you're trying to say. I quoted your words, and you're now saying the statement doesn't matter? If it doesn't matter, you should take it out of your opening view. I didn't say anything about advocacy, because I don't have a problem with paid advocacy, unless it's deceptive. I have a problem with paid editing whether it's deceptive or not, because of the reason I stated. -- Maelefique(talk) 23:30, 26 April 2012 (UTC)
  26. Oppose "Whether an editor is directly paid to edit Wikipedia is irrelevant to the quality of their contributions". Seriously? I mean all other issues aside, like whether an academic is actualy being paid because he edits while at work (a ridiculous assumption which would be akin to social networking to most academics. LOL!) The issue is whether being a true paid wikipedia editor (one paid specifically for their contribution here) effects quality alone and I see no way that it can't. There are trust issues on talk pages and the influence money would have over a discussion for one...a HUGE issue for me and MANY editors. AN being paid to edit infers editing for a specific reason and purpose and could amount to a single purpose account. Being paid to make any Wikipedia contribution should be seen as a direct conflict of interest. Not a reason to be banned or blocked. Any policies or guideline on conflict of interest should treat paid editing along with being a single purpose account and be blocked when activity is clearly shown to be such. Warnings may not even be enough becuase it is only one part of the COI, being a single purpose account ontop of being a paid editor are not compatable for Wikipedia.--Amadscientist (talk) 19:24, 28 April 2012 (UTC)
    You agree with me, then. You're defining a subset of paid editor, "one paid specifically for their contribution here", as a problem. My position says nothing about that, just that being paid while editing Wikipedia--e.g., salaried and making unrelated contributions from one's work computer--isn't necessarily a problem. It could be a problem, certainly, but you have just redefined what "paid editing" means into the subset that is generally regarded as most problematic, and opposed on that basis, rather than what I actually said. Jclemens (talk) 20:08, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
  27. Oppose: Downright Panglossian view, with no connection to reality. 86.** IP (talk) 21:58, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
  28. Oppose strongly. The quality and content of an editor's outpout is directly affected by any financial motivations they have for editing. That an editor could be unpaid and also edit with a bias is beside the point. ThemFromSpace 21:42, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
Comment
  1. There was some fairly lengthy discussion of paid editting over at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Cooperation. There's a difference between paid advocacy and other forms of editting that may broadly be seen as part of someone's employment per proposer some paid editors are PR shills, others are grant-supported academics. However, I disagree that we should treat them all the same. There is a huge difference between an academic adding information on a topic they know something about, such as a mineral, a tree species or a language and a public relations practitioner editting the article about one of their clients. There is also a big difference between the two types of edit as to how much resources this volunteer community must put into addressing any problems from the edit. Babakathy (talk) 09:33, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Call me dense, but I don't see how "grant-supported academics" constitutes a subset of "paid editors". Rivertorch (talk) 09:52, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    The argument could be (has been) made that an academic might be a paid-editor if such an edit could be seen as part of their work. Many universities include some aspect of outreach, community service or public appreciation of science in a lecturer/professor's job descrption. I used to work for University of Zimbabwe and edits I have made to articles such as Batoka Formation would have been considered as worthwhile comunity service and proper use of my time as an academic employee.in fact those specifc edits post-date my paid employment at the university but you get the point I hope. This is why some in the discussion at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Cooperation started referring to paid advocates as distinct. Babakathy (talk) 10:06, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Academics who receive grants (from whatever source) to improve Wikipedia, by whatever means, are paid editors. Likewise, academics who edit articles on which they publish are able to receive direct (book royalties) and indirect (tenure, promotion) financial gain through promoting their own theories. If we're going to look at "paid advocacy" vs. "paid editing" vs. "unpaid advocacy", what is the real issue: payment, or advocacy? I submit that it is the latter. Jclemens (talk) 15:43, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    If advocacy is the only issue, then it can be dealt with by NPOV, irrespective of the interest the user has. I think the point of WP:COI is it captures the motivation behind a series of problematic behaviour types (including NPOV editting) and COIN provides a forum to handle this. If one looks at COIN, it also provides a forum for good faith avoiding the problems. Babakathy (talk) 16:06, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    That would be the point: if the edits are good, whether or not the editor is paid to make them isn't important. Likewise, if the edits are bad, they are bad whether or not the editor received a single penny to make them. COIN doesn't help with any of that, does it? Jclemens-public (talk) 20:52, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. I understand the concern that people have that a paid editor would be working against Wikipedia's principles of neutrality and balance, though I wonder if the motivation of most organisations is to distort their Wikipedia article, or to work against our principles? When I have seen the websites of those companies who do paid editing, they seem to stress that they will work within our guidelines - in fact that appears to be a main selling point. What is the point of paying someone to add content that will be removed as inappropriate - that's a waste of money. The evidence I have seen, and common sense would support this, is that companies simply want to have a presentable, fair and accurate article. Having browsed through a number of articles on organisations, many are embarresing. If there's no volunteer Wikipedian willing to spend a few hours cleaning up an article on an organisation, then asking, encouraging, paying someone to do it seems reasonable, especially as our rules can be tricky regarding cleaning up articles on organisations due to the potential of using Wikipedia as promotion. SilkTork ✔Tea time 21:17, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    There seems to be a misunderstanding here: it's not true that people with COI are forbidden to add content. They're forbidden to add content directly, which is a whole different thing. If someone has a COI issue, he/she should post proposed changes on the article's talk page, and rely on other (non-COI conflicted) editors to actually do the addition. If the content is valuable and well-sourced, that will happen. (I've yet to hear of any cases where good content on article talk pages was ignored, but if that's a problem, we certainly can set up a process to deal with it). Likewise, it's totally wrong to penalize anyone with COI issues for posting on an article talk page, assuming his/her COI issue is mentioned, though heightened scrutiny of what they do post is appropriate. And yes, the current process makes it more difficult for companies who want to improve their Wikipedia articles to do so. But they need to realize that there are bad actors out there, and so the appropriate solution is for Wikipedia to strike a balance between the extremes of (a) banning all COI contributions and (b) not treating them any differently. There is significantly more likelihood of tenacious edit conflicts if COI is neither disclosed nor considered to weaken one's arguments.
    Editors with a conflict of interest, declared or not, are not forbidden from adding anything. "encouraged to not" is not the same as "forbidden from". Jclemens (talk) 02:24, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
    Indeed, having a conflict of interest does not disallow you to edit. The thought that "They're forbidden to add content directly" is IMHO the crux of the problem why we are here: the thought that editors with a conflict of interest should be disallowed to edit the subjects where they have a conflict of interest because they can never do that neutrally is just utterly wrong and that thought should be eradicated. And that thought is the source of the harassment that is observed, not the existence or wording of the guideline itself (though maybe wording of the guideline can be improved upon). WP:COI is there, or at least should be there, to tell editors how to handle their almost inevitable conflict of interest that they will have on some subjects. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:38, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Oppose; licensing the paid vandals (and yes, I consider spamming to be a species of vandalism) is not the answer. --Orange Mike | Talk 17:30, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
    Please read and internalize WP:VAND#NOT. Calling paid editors vandals is itself an NPOV violation, and really not helpful to discourse. Jclemens (talk) 04:48, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
    I called spamming a species of vandalism; I did not say that all paid editors are vandals. The distinction is vital. --Orange Mike | Talk 14:00, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
    Spamming is indeed a species of vandalism, with the additional problem, that a regular poop-vandal will not do everything within their capabilities to add 'poop' - they will stop when blocked. The spammer generally persists, as it is what they get paid for. They are paid vandals - and that behaviour should not be allowed through a back-door because a fraction of the paid editors are actually doing good work without any disruption or vandalism (in its broadest sense of the word). --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:38, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Oppose in part and concur in part; disclosure of paid or volunteer status is sufficient IMHO. Bearian (talk) 17:08, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. From my essay on public relations professionals editing Wikipedia: "As a Wikipedian and a PR professional, I think there are plenty of times when there is no incompatibility between the aim of Wikipedia (to produce a neutral, reliably sourced encyclopedia) and my own professional aim: to produce a neutral, reliably sourced article about an occasional client of mine (98% of my time is spent on digital PR initiatives unrelated to Wikipedia). To this end, there are many times when clients request things that I cannot produce: product descriptions, ledes that read like press releases or advertising copy, or simply an article on a non-notable company. In these cases I inform these clients that I can't write to their specifications, as doing so would both violate community standards and invite deletion of the work they've paid for. So I set out to find ways to produce neutral, reliably sourced articles, even though someone is paying to write them. Scientists have developed robust ways to remove bias during experiments, and I believe methods can be employed to mitigate conflicts of interest and take advantage of a resource: competent, professional writers that can improve the encyclopedia." ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 03:01, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
    What proportion of your colleagues in this profession do you think able to do article writing properly? I have seen it done acceptably, but not very often. Most have previously-learned manners of thinking and writing that they they seem unable to abandon. DGG ( talk ) 18:29, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Oppose While the possibility exists that someone might be paid to edit neutrally while conforming to Wikipedia policies and guidelines, the typical paid or on staff editor is hired or directed to promote the interests of whoever hired them or their employer. While a public relations professional might make some edits in good faith in accordance with professional ethics the general run of paid editors have no such compunction and freely engage in biased editing on behalf of their client or employers, using Wikipedia rules, if at all, as a shield to confound volunteer editors attempting in good faith to write in a neutral way or or counter the bias introduced by the paid or hired editor. User:Fred Bauder Talk 03:46, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
I think that depends on the subject area. I did not see any problems of that sort with articles in Biology, Chemistry or Physics. Actually, recruiting students like here may be a good idea (one may look how it works in another wikiproject, MicrobeWiki). In contrast, this is a serious problem with "political" subjects. Unfortunately, I do not see any practical solution. Such editors do not declare their conflict of interest, and it is impossible to prove if they were paid (although that might be obvious from their editing patterns for people familiar with the goals and tactics of their parent political advocacy organizations). Therefore, anyone who brings complaints about paid editors to AE, ANI, etc. would probably be sanctioned himself. My very best wishes (talk) 22:13, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
  1. Oppose. First of all, this is not necessarily "being paid". The problem comes when someone is working for an outside organization which goals are very different from the goals of Wikipedia. Whether or not an editor is working for such organization is very much "relevant to the quality of their contributions". My very best wishes (talk) 03:36, 6 May 2012 (UTC)

View by Nobody Ent[edit]

Says here "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit." so anyone should be allowed to edit.

Support
  1. Nobody Ent 02:31, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. Sure, it says that, but we also refer to policies and guidelines. At a simplistic level, anyone can edit but not if you're blocked... Babakathy (talk) 09:37, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. That is no more of an absolute than WP:AGF. If that was a hard-and-fast rule we could never protect or semiprotect pages. Saying "most people can edit most pages" would be the most accurate way to put it, but is much more clumsy than "anyone can edit" so the latter expression is used. -- Atama 16:26, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. I certainly hope that we're not going to let a slogan override ten years of reasoned discussion, and tens of thousands of selective blocks, regarding who we don't want to allow to edit. Or is this a proposal to do away with the Arbitration Committee, whose job is essentially to decide who won't be allowed to edit, under which specific circumstances? -- John Broughton (♫♫) 17:50, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. While I embrace the spirit of that statement, it is without context a dangerous oversimplification. I doubt that the proposer means 'unblock all our banned editors', but in all realism, certain people have to be excluded from "anyone". The purpose of this RfC is to see if paid editors and editors with strong COI in the areas they edit are to be excluded from "anyone" and to what extent. Sven Manguard Wha? 18:20, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. We regularly stop people from editing, for many issues, including vandalism and disruption. If we held the "freedom to edit" to the absolute standard this implies, Wikipedia would never work as we could never stop vandals from editing either. See Shouting fire in a crowded theater and Schenck v. United States for an anlogous restriction on another important freedom, that being speech. --Jayron32 19:15, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  6. Oppose per a number of comments above. Pinetalk 04:54, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  7. Oppose. Anyone that follows the rules can edit. Anyone can walk thru my gangway as long as they follow the rules. ```Buster Seven Talk 09:34, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  8. Where does WP:COI say that someone is not allowed to edit? And if someone is using WP:COI to disallow someone to edit, WP:AN/I is thataway. --Dirk Beetstra T C 16:25, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  9. That is a slogan, not meant to be taken literally out of context; there is a difference between freedom and anarchy. Miniapolis (talk) 00:28, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  10. Oppose Yes any one can but no not everyone may. Banned editors may not edit WP. Editors who are blocked may not edit WP. Editors who attempt to subvert our articles to do something other than present neutral well sourced information (for what ever reason) may not either.--Cailil talk 14:51, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  11. Oppose per Miniapolis and Cailil. Bearian (talk) 17:10, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  12. Oppose. This oversimplifies the issue. The point of a guideline is to provide clear mechanisms and processes for editors to not just edit but edit successfully. We make many caveats in our procedures to the 'anyone can edit' mantra in places where it benefits the encyclopedia. Ocaasi t | c 15:42, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  13. Oppose Oppose the implied statement that "anyone can edit" is unconditional. North8000 (talk) 23:05, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  14. Oppose Vastly oversimplifying the issue. While that's a great general slogan, the reality is that there are some people- such as those who merely want to use Wikipedia for promotion or disruption- that shouldn't be allowed to edit.--Slon02 (talk) 03:01, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
  15. Oppose Harassment, vandalism, sockpuppetry, paid editing; all of these hurt the work of everyone else. 86.** IP (talk) 22:31, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
  16. Reminds me of when a kid says, "Can I do something" and the parents say, "Yes you can, but no you may not."---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 15:55, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  17. Oppose We've never accepted advertisements. User:Fred Bauder Talk 03:47, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

View by Carolmooredc[edit]

Proposal
Delete WP:COI/N (mark as {{historical}}) and keep WP:COI.
Rationale
This is an alternate proposal. Paid advocates for specific organizations, viewpoints, etc. should admit it on articles for all the reasons people have advocated over the years. If they are unfairly harassed, they have recourse. In my experience WP:COI Noticeboard is too easily abused to harass people for POV reasons, including opposing the POV of quasi or organized groups of editors. If there is a real COI concern individuals should be reported to WP:ANI if they have admitted to being paid and there is evidence they are violating policy; they should be reported privately [added later to be replaced with correct info: "where ever one reports such things") if someone believes they've found out about their real paid position. CarolMooreDC 02:57, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
Support:
  1. CarolMooreDC 02:57, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
Withdrawn: I put this up as a "middle ground" but I guess people are all or nothing on this, and I do now see the good sense of keeping WP:COIN. So I withdraw it. CarolMooreDC 19:48, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. Sorry, but just moving the noticeboard somewhere else, which is what this proposal amounts to, isn't going to solve anything. And "reported privately" to whom? Not to Jimbo for a ban I hope... ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 02:59, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Comment: Questionable complaints to WP:ANI are considered more serious than those to WP:COIN and therefore hopefully they would be used far less for harassment purposes. In WP:BLP I've been having trouble keeping some editors from creating a defacto policy banning people with just personal grudges from even editing talk pages. So I don't think people are ready to get rid of WP:COI. (Especially since these proposals are coming in the middle of new discussions about WP:Wikiproject Cooperation which wants to help paid PR people edit; some might not consider that a coincidence.) Getting rid of WP:COIN is probably best you might hope for. CarolMooreDC 03:21, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Oppose. People should not be branded easily, but there should be an on-wiki place where those cases where editors who have a conflict of interest do not edit neutrally. One could move it to WP:NPOV/N, but I am against deletion. If that noticeboard is actively harassing an editor, we have other noticeboards for that. --Dirk Beetstra T C 04:21, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. For the same reason I opposed ASCIIn2Bme's idea up top. Sven Manguard Wha? 18:21, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. Oppose. This will not stop discussions about conflicts of interest, merely foist them off onto the already overworked WP:ANI. --Jayron32 19:16, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. Oppose, per Jayron32. Pinetalk 04:55, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  6. Oppose. Kilopi (talk) 08:32, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  7. Oppose: one of the uses of COI/N is discussion and assistance between disclosed conflicted editors and other editors, and these are often open and friendly and lead to improving articles. Such discussions would be out of place elsewhere I think. Babakathy (talk) 08:56, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  8. Oppose. As things are, we harass the honest COI editors who declare their COI (or were dumb enough to create a username betraying it). --Guillaume2303 (talk) 14:15, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  9. Oppose, in agreement with Babakathy above. Miniapolis (talk) 01:57, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  10. Oppose. I support the right to do paid edits, if the paid edits are proper. But a good many of them are not, and we need some simpler way of dealing with them than taking everything to AN/I. There are too many relatively trivial matters at AN/I already, & they detract from the necessary important business. DGG ( talk ) 19:02, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  11. Oppose per both DGG, Babakathy, Miniapolis, and DGG. Let's be reasonable here, folks. Paid edits are allowed currently, but are and should be scrutinized with a grain of salt. See also Talk:Callista Gingrich. Bearian (talk) 17:13, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  12. Oppose COI problems are not exclusively administrative in nature. They require careful time and attention which AN/I can not always provide. Also, they are a niche issue with their own focus and nuances and a group of editors used to working with those specifically is a plus. Ocaasi t | c 15:42, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  13. Oppose Why would you even want to do that? 86.** IP (talk) 22:32, 29 April 2012 (UTC)

View by BeCritical[edit]

Proposal
Delete COI and its noticeboard.
Rationale
COI is nothing but a vehicle for harassment, and is set up that way from the very start: you have COI and COI/N, yet the only legitimate reason to get after (persecute?) someone who has a COI is because they have breached NPOV. Thus, COI essentially says that its use (getting after people who have a COI) is illegitimate, and its function (NPOV enforcement) is redundant. If COI is good for anything but harassing people, it is that it enforces NPOV, but there are definite extreme problems with enforcing NPOV by any other means than the general consensus. Also, COI essentially discourages statements of COI, since to state a COI is to give a community-sanctioned weapon to anyone who wants to drum you out of a controversial article. BeCritical 04:11, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
Support
  1. All COI-related problems boil down to some combination of WP:NPOV, WP:V, WP:ADVERT and WP:WEASEL. Each of these issues (as one can see from the links) can be addressed specifically without creating a rather harmful assumption of bad faith on behalf an editor who can potentially be productive and helpful. I personally witnessed an editor significantly improving (both in terms of coverage and complying with Wikipedia's policies) the article on topic he was closely related to. — Dmitrij D. Czarkoff (talk) 22:38, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Support --Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 13:43, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. Helpful guideline, even for one's own behaviour. Babakathy (talk) 09:47, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Simply, no. Also, taking away the guideline will not take away the editors who harass people who have a COI. --Dirk Beetstra T C 10:17, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. As said above, COI is a useful guideline, beyond which new editors may start encountering serious resistance. MER-C 11:05, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. As per my statement and above.Pharaoh of the Wizards (talk) 15:23, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. No, COI is not a vehicle for harassment. The canard that editors who have a COI are unfairly persecuted is unsupported by any evidence whatsoever. Editors with a COI who disclose the conflict and properly confine themselves to article talk pages and attempt to persuade other editors on content issues rarely have any problems. Fladrif (talk) 15:46, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  6. Don't these RfC's need to say in big bold letters - do not make the same proposal as already made?? :-) CarolMooreDC 17:09, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  7. For the same reason I opposed ASCIIn2Bme's statement up top. Sven Manguard Wha? 18:22, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  8. Oppose. Same as first item, same response. --Jayron32 19:16, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  9. Oppose. Kilopi (talk) 08:32, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  10. Oppose. At least its something and something is better than nothing. It may be ignored, like a stop sign, by some but most of us stop (or at least slow to a crawl). It can be the beginning of conversation; a point od reference for all parties to refer to. ```Buster Seven Talk 09:41, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  11. Oppose; I disagree with the rationale above. Miniapolis (talk) 02:00, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  12. Oppose; buys into the Big Lie by the spammers and COI editors that enforcement of NPOV is harassment. --Orange Mike | Talk 17:31, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  13. Oppose. The appearance of conflict of interest topples and shatters the second pillar of Wikipedia. Strong guidance on objective conflicts of interest is essential to uphold that pillar. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:28, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  14. Oppose per Ningauble, Buster7, Miniapolis, and -- I can't believe that I agree with him -- Orangemike. Bearian (talk) 17:16, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  15. Proposal duplicates ASCIIn2Bme's, which kicked off this RfC Writegeist (talk) 17:45, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  16. Yes, here is my duplicate oppose, just for the record. FormerIP (talk) 00:29, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  17. Oppose per Fladrif and Ningauble. There may be some very minor COIs we should ignore, but there are also major, major COIs where letting people edit will hurt Wikipedia. As examples: Paid editing and editing the biographies of yourself and rivals. 86.** IP (talk) 22:35, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
  18. Oppose, COI is important. But, it should be revisited. Having a potential COI does not mean that one can't adhere to NPOV and other policies/practices here.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 15:57, 1 May 2012 (UTC)

View by Pharaoh of the Wizards[edit]

Please note we do not accept advertising now to accept paid editing and COI editing will negate that and WP:NPOV is the basis of the creditability of the encyclopedia.The site is worth millions in advertisement revenue for its traffic Conflict of interest editing is incompatible with the aim of producing a neutral, reliably sourced encyclopedia and will led to POV pushing.Further not all articles are watched once it gets past New Pages Patrol or even editing can be done to an existing page with few watchers .

There are broadly 3 types of COI Editors

1:Single-purpose account pushing there COI and promoting themselves or an organization, an agenda or a person amongst others.(Note some of them get blocked for spamming etc but not all)

2: Paid Editors editing on behalf of others being there employees or for money and some companies also maintain the article for a monthly fee and revert edits made by others editors this goes unnoticed in pages with few watchers.

There can also be negative editing a company may ask its employees or others to ensure that articles of rival companies or persons (like a Politician ensuring that the page of his election rival is negative) highlights more negative points than positive one.

The first 2 should not be allowed as they do not have an here inherent interest in Wikipedia is to build an a neutral, reliably sourced encyclopedia. Whether it is being by the person himself as an employee or as member or a paid editor. Also as per this this by Jimbo By Yellowmonkey and this

3:Established Editors editing with substantial contributions in other areas they may edit the areas where they may edit a article with a COI which may include there University,School ,Office ,Religion,country and may revert others. This is more related to his Point of view related than COI.But every editor has his point of view in some area or the others and if there is edit warring it should dealt as is the case. Note there inherent interest in Wikipedia is to build an a neutral, reliably sourced encyclopedia is not questioned here.Pharaoh of the Wizards (talk) 05:05, 27 February 2012 (UTC)

Support

  1. Comment on edits, not on editors. But if the vast majority of their edits is promoting/pushing one (or an) organisation or one (or a) point-of-view - then such editors do not take due care in how and what they are editing, and the encyclopedia should be protected to make sure that such edits do not continue. WP:COI is not a reason to stop someone from editing, it is a reason to take due care with your edits (and avoid the impropriety). --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:36, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Per Dirk Beetstra. Babakathy (talk) 09:48, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. Keep both WP:COI and WP:COIN.Pharaoh of the Wizards (talk) 14:54, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. Agree with 3, above. To turn a blind eye to COI would make a mockery of NPOV. Miniapolis (talk) 02:05, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. Agree with the Pharaoh: keep and use both. Enforcement is too weak already. --Orange Mike | Talk 17:01, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Mostly agree Pol430 talk to me 11:03, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. Strongly support the point about paid editors. Also support that COI is never the case with established editors unless they edit their biography probably. Oppose the point about SPAs because those who are left unblocked are not disruptive rather only adding good content. There are some good explanations for this by Wnt in his oppose comment. --lTopGunl (talk) 12:31, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. Support, although it is dangerously vague regarding banning SPA's. North8000 (talk) 23:10, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  9. Agreed. →Στc. 01:42, 17 April 2012 (UTC)
  10. Support, however difficult it may be to made accurate and appropriate determinations in specific cases, once the floodgates are open the quality of our product will deteriorate, the atmosphere will be even more poisonous, and we will be unable to successfully solicit adequate contributions. It's a death spiral. User:Fred Bauder Talk 03:51, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

Oppose

  1. I think that "single purpose account" is one of the worst concepts Wikipedia has ever come up with. There was recently an essay by Aaron Swartz discussed on Jimbo's talk page, which shows that newbie editors and IPs with under 50 edits contribute a large part of Wikipedia's best content. These people all start out as "single purpose accounts". We should stop lumping together people with a real conflict of interest, personal or financial, that would count to get a juror dismissed for cause in voir dire, with simple personal feelings and interests. Wnt (talk) 17:07, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Oppose. The taxonomy of COI types is incomplete, and probably not fruitful. Exempting established editors is not a good idea. It is the quality of the edits, not their quantity, that matters. Don't assume those with tenure never take a bad turn. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:30, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. I can't even agree with the assumptions in the first paragraph. While its entirely possible for paid editing to be de facto advertising, it's an overly narrow view of what editors might be paid for which admits no possibility that paid editing might have a neutral, encyclopedic goal. Jclemens (talk) 02:23, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. I am not convinced that type 2 editor outlined above is always violating NPOV and being disruptive. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk to me 21:14, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. Per all. Additionally, this #3 tries but doesn't quite realize that ultimately the problem is the edits, not the editors. --Philosopher Let us reason together. 11:16, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Partial support, partial oppose. Case 2 is obviously bad; Case 1 varies - a SPA as WP:SPA is usually used is usually a problem, but someone who's only interested in editing, say, basketball articles, or science articles usually isn't; Case 3 needs a lot more care than this setting-out would indicate. 86.** IP (talk) 22:40, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
  7. oppose agree with JCLEMENS, to broad a brush. While paid editors need more scrutiny, being paid does not equal bad or biased. Suppose a person is hired to edit the Taiping Rebellion article and to get that to FA quality, is that going to by definition mean that they are editing the article in a non-neutral biased perspective? What about a person who works for a corporation that is concerned about scientific articles? The company wants accurate information to be out there, so they hire somebody to improve the quality of the articles. Does the fact that the person is being paid mean that they are going to be biased with those subjects? Or does it mean that they will be more dilligent in editing the articles properly and with a higher calibre of expertise? Sweeping all paid advertising under the same blanket is short-sighted and niave. Now a person hired by Company X to rewrite the article on Company X needs to be monitored a little more closely. Is that person writing a neutral article or is that person writing an advert? (Face it, many of our major company/University articles already read like they were written by people with COIs.)---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 16:06, 1 May 2012 (UTC)


Comment

Thanks for your comments below.WP:COI(which is only a guideline not a policy) and WP:COIN board it needs to be retained and made more active unlike AIV or UAA not all reports are even acted upon.Otherwise it will be a Carte Blanche to anyone particularly for those who come only to promote themselves,there employers or clients if they do not do so .The obligation of the editor to their employer or client has clear precedence over his or her obligation to the principles of Wikipedia clearly over WP:NPOV and Pillars of Wikipedia.This is particularly relevant for Single-purpose account and to Editors who solely do Paid Editing.Please note they can be sacked and lose money if article is deleted or even information is changed and they are working more there client than for Wikipedia the client may stop paying them for monitoring the article only established editors can be expected to know and follow policy Pharaoh of the Wizards (talk) 08:53, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  1. This pretty much sounds like the current policy, though perhaps WP:COI could make it more clear since too many editors yell COI when it's just POV. Do you want to actually delete WP:COI and WP:COIN? Not clear. CarolMooreDC 16:54, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  1. Can't follow this point to decide if anything needs to be supported or opposed. Needs carification. --Jayron32 19:18, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  1. Clarification needed, per comments above. Pinetalk 04:57, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  1. I agree there are different types of paid editors, but not so much with the categories. There are those that make (a) good edits (b) salvageable edits (c) disruptive or corrupt edits. Ban C, help B and encourage A. Different types of paid editors have a habit of falling into different categories. Disclosure: I am often a paid COI editor. King4057 (talk) 17:33, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. A bit garbled but a valid point is made about the different types of Paid editors. There is no blanket that will cover them all. Any COI principle (rather than suggested guideline) should focus on the worst case scenario. IE...It depends if they are trying to sell a can of soup or to influence voters for the President of the USA. One is of little significance and the other of major importance. ```Buster Seven Talk 14:03, 1 March 2012 (UTC)

View by Sandstein[edit]

Conflict of interest (COI) is a problem only where it leads to the production of non-neutral (or unverifiable, or otherwise policy-noncompliant) content. It is possible to have a COI and still contribute useful content. The risk resulting from COI is reduced on Wikipedia compared to traditional publishers, because the Wiki process allows for the relatively rapid correction of any deficiencies that may result from a COI. COI is also not the only reason for the production of non-neutral content. Such content is also (and probably more often) produced as a result of incompetence, bias or prejudice (ideological, religious or otherwise).

Consequently, policy and enforcement efforts should focus on removing and preventing non-neutral content generally, rather than COI as but one possible cause. Editors who persistently make non-neutral contributions for whatever reason should be warned and ultimately sanctioned as may be necessary to prevent them from making such contributions.

Support
  1.  Sandstein  16:43, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Yes, yes, definitely. A COI on its own isn't a problem until and unless it leads to disruption. Identifying a COI can help give us a clue as to how to deal with a related problem. -- Atama 16:50, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. Yes, better enforcement of other policies, mainly of NPOV, will implicitly deal with the detrimental long-term COI editors (declared or not). ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 17:03, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. I support this. And I think that WP:COI is a good guideline to point such editors to if they do not edit neutrally (and can be identified as having a COI, and WP:COI/N is a good noticeboard to discuss editors which have a known COI and to consider to them to change their behaviour. And I do think that policy and guideline everywhere are focussing on removing and preventing non-neutral content, including WP:COI. --Dirk Beetstra T C 17:39, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. Agreed. We have lots of different neutrality problems; I think that zeroing in on one of the smaller ones is counterproductive. bobrayner (talk) 20:08, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  6. Jclemens-public (talk) 20:53, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  7. Yes, hunting down and identifying editors with a conflict of interest is a waste of time and effort. Emphasis needs to be on removing biased editing and maintaining neutral point of view. Only when a paid editor or clumsy public relations operative aggressively interferes with editing should they become the issue. User:Fred Bauder Talk 21:33, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  8. First Light (talk) 21:43, 27 February 2012 (UTC) "Focus on the edits not the editor."
  9. Agree, but we need a more formal statement that will help guide our admins in addressing COI concerns. Cla68 (talk) 22:37, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  10. Agree, I think. A light bulb just came on that the Conflict of Interest is between the paid editor and our reader. The reader comes for neutral or at least un-biased info. They are unaware that the article has been orchestrated one-way because of pay. WP has a responsibility to defend the legitamacy of public reliability. ```Buster Seven Talk 09:53, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  11. Agree as a general statement, not sure what this viewpoint advocates changing (or not). I think that it can be incorporated into WP:COI. Babakathy (talk) 11:38, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  12. An encyclopaedia first, a community second; the content must be our primary concern. Skomorokh 13:54, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  13. WP:NPOV does the job. If someone having a COI edits neutrally, there's no problem. If they edit in a biased way, they'll bump into NPOV and if they persist will sooner or late have to face the consequences. the existence or not of WP:COI does nto really change this one bit. --Guillaume2303 (talk) 14:20, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  14. Well said. --Elonka 14:58, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  15. --JN466 20:33, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  16. BeCritical 20:58, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  17. This makes the important distinction between a COI and the editing it produces. COI does not automatically lead to POV but it certainly can, which is why we need to retain both the guideline and the noticeboard. Miniapolis (talk) 02:13, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  18. Important points. Eluchil404 (talk) 08:22, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  19. Well said. Hawkeye7 (talk) 03:05, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  20. Collect (talk) 04:36, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  21. Dmitrij D. Czarkoff (talk) 22:39, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  22. Yes, that is quite like that! WhiteWriterspeaks 21:01, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  23. Roughly in the right ball park. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk to me 21:15, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  24. Roughly correct, prefer Sven's formulation, below, though. --Philosopher Let us reason together. 11:15, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  25. Focus on content, not contributor.--Wehwalt (talk) 22:49, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  26. Agree. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 03:05, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
  27. Yes Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 13:45, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
  28. Well said. Monty845 23:23, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
  29. Support COI is a red flag indicator that problems may exist, but it isn't a conclusive one that they do exist.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 16:09, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  30. Yes, agree. There is nothing to dispute here. My very best wishes (talk) 04:38, 9 May 2012 (UTC)
  31. Agreed; again, this seems quite similar to Bobraynor's view above. We need to do a better job of enforcing WP:NPOV (and similar policies), and stop worrying about labeling editors. Qwyrxian (talk) 03:35, 11 May 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. In other words a bunch of paid editors from one ideology or nation state's propaganda office can come in here, edit away to make their side look good, meat puppet away on an article, come up with a bunch of phony arguments against the one or two volunteer editors trying to make the article NPOV, and even get them blocked/banned when they even slightly lose their temper and say something stupid - instead of just going away like they were supposed to do. We already have that happening. Why encourage it through abolishing WP:COI?? CarolMooreDC 16:50, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    Reread first line of statement, Conflict of interest (COI) is a problem only where it leads to the production of non-neutral (or unverifiable, or otherwise policy-noncompliant) content. This isn't trying to get rid of COI, but rather to define where it actually exists. Somebody working for a state's propaganda office isn't necessarily a bad thing. Such a person could adhere to policies and procedures and neutrality and actually improve the article. The concern with COI only arises when they do what you describe---which is what the proposal agrees is a bad thing. One doesn't have to be paid to have similar forms of COI and similar issues... ever tried to edit an article on Climate Change or Abortion?---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 16:16, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  2. Paid editors who want to contribute productively can do so, today - they just have to do this via article talk pages. That's far more effective than asking volunteers - who do burn out, and who can go elsewhere - to get into lengthy discussions with people who are paid to fight for a particular point of view. Paid editors have a built-in advantage; requiring them to put comments on article talk pages balances things out, since the burden of proof is then on them, not on volunteers, to show that their suggestions are valuable. -- John Broughton (♫♫) 17:56, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
    The problem then becomes proxies editors that input what the operative editor wants without discussing with the rest of us. And what about when the rest of us are not there. ```Buster Seven Talk 09:59, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. All editors have biases. The difference between my biases and most paid advocates are: I want a neutral article not necessarily one acceptable to my employer? and I hope other editors with differing biases will compensate for any bias I inadvertently introduced? Kilopi (talk) 08:32, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. Oppose All editors have a POV and there will be disputes while editing but Paid editors can be sacked or lose there commission if they fail to produce expected results and they are more concerned about it than Policy,guidelines of Wikipedia.The inherent conflict of interest editing is incompatible with the aim of producing a neutral, reliably sourced encyclopedia.They are here to promote something rather than improve Wikipedia and that will remain there intention till they leave.Pharaoh of the Wizards (talk) 16:46, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. While the idea "focus on the edit, not the editor" is generally sound, there are many interactions on Wikipedia which are not edits per se. Worse, "non-neutral contributions" is difficult to define. I believe that editors - even paid editors - should be allowed to make a long series of edits, each of which has the effect of being favorable or unfavorable to some point of view, provided each one is an NPOV summary of the source cited. It is up to other editors to look at an article and tell if one side is underrepresented. One mechanism by which they can tell if this is the case is to check whether key editors involved have an explicit COI or not. Wnt (talk) 17:03, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Oppose. Agree that "focus on the edit, not the editor" is right in theory. But if we discover that edits have been made by a lawyer working on behalf of the subject of the article, and if the issue is contentious or complex, it can be very difficult to judge whether her edits fairly represent what the reliable sources have said. It might require a lot of research — and it would be unpaid research, unlike the work done by the lawyer. It's just not fair or reasonable to expect volunteers to assume that extra burden. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 01:49, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    Reply: In the case of this paid lawyer - remember, there are at least two sides to a litigation. If one paid lawyer wants to add legal nuances supporting her side, there's no reason not to hope a (paid) lawyer representing the other side may want to representing the opposing view. In the end, we get a balanced, detailed, professional article representing a complex issue rather than a piece of crap written by school kids. You know, something actually worth of a page one Google ranking. Rklawton (talk) 02:03, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. Oppose. Per SlimVirgin and Pharaoh of the Wizards.--В и к и T 13:05, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. Oppose Policy and enforcement efforts do not treat COI as the sole cause non-neutral content. It is indeed but one possible cause, but when improprieties occur it is an important consideration for distinguishing between an editor who made some mistakes and one who is not in a position to uphold the second pillar of Wikipedia. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:32, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  9. Oppose per SlimVirgin Ocaasi t | c 15:57, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  10. Oppose While the thoughts are good, it is too scrambled to support. It is based on an erroneous definition of COI rather than the actual one in the beginning of the policy. North8000 (talk) 23:15, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  11. Oppose, per WnT. FormerIP (talk) 00:34, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  12. It undermines the trust that readers place in us, and we place in each other, to approved of people with conflicts of interest editing. It undermines the volunteerism on which the project relies, and it undermines the quality of the project. We need clear guidance on conflicts of interest. --TeaDrinker (talk) 00:42, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  13. Oppose, with a caveat: For clear cases of COI - paid editing, editing your own biography; and, more arguably, some sorts of fringe promotion and SPA accounts, this would be a terrible idea. A very strong COI indicates a user's edits cannot be trusted to be neutral, and so need checked - basically, occupying a second editor's time double-checking things. For trivial COIs, though, e.g. "I have expressed a viewpoint on the subject", the viewpoint holds, though. 86.** IP (talk) 22:43, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
  14. Oppose People hired to engage in biased editing in an effective way will fulfill their task diminishing the quality of articles, reducing accuracy, increasing bias, and ultimately reducing public support for our projects. The more effective a paid editor is the more damage they will do. User:Fred Bauder Talk 03:56, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
Discussion
  • Well, I basically agree, except with the statement that people can have a conflict of interest while producing good content. It's basically a semantic quibble, but if what you want is to produce good content, and what the community of editors here at the English Wikipedia wants is for good content to be produced, then there is no actual conflict between your interests and our interests. There is, instead, a desirable synergy. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:02, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  • NPOV is not the only issue. COI is still an issue. Bearian (talk) 17:24, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  • I agree with the gist of this, but Wnt and SlimVirgin raise good points as well. ThemFromSpace 21:50, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

View by Sven Manguard[edit]

Everyone comes to Wikipedia with established viewpoints. Everything from a person's country of birth to their religion to their educational institutions or workplaces to their particular hobbies gives them established viewpoints. Everyone who edits Wikipedia, even if they make a conscious effort to follow NPOV, is affected by those viewpoints. It effects what they choose to work on, what sources they choose to use, and how they fall in talk page dicussions. This is rarely malicious, and almost impossible to avoid.

Some segment of the editors let their established viewpoints get the better of them, and become intractable, abrasive, or combative. Wikipedia is very bad at getting rid of people that contribute content but prove impossible to work with.

Editors who are paid to edit fall into both groups. Some of them follow policy, some of them are required (or choose to) be intractable, abrasive, or combative.

We should not treat paid editors differently from unpaid editors. Users who follow our rules should be allowed to participate normally, period. Editors who are so intractable, abrasive, or combative that they cannot function in the community should be asked to leave, irregardless of whether they are paid or unpaid.

Support
  1. Sven Manguard Wha? 18:50, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. And WP:COI is there, early on, to give those who are here to give guidance how they should handle their conflict of interest. For those who choose not to follow that, indeed, they should just be treated as those who are not being paid for their edits and show a strong, intractable, abrasive or combative attitude. --Dirk Beetstra T C 19:04, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. This is an ideal goal, although COI declarations remain necessary, in my view. Carrite (talk) 19:19, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. Jclemens-public (talk) 20:54, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. First Light (talk) 21:40, 27 February 2012 (UTC) "Focus on the edits not the editor"
  6. Cla68 (talk) 22:38, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  7. True. I agree with Carrite that COI declarations are necessary. MER-C 07:12, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  8. Support. Kilopi (talk) 08:32, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  9. --Elonka 14:59, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  10.  Sandstein  00:49, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  11. Well put. Miniapolis (talk) 02:17, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  12. --Guerillero | My Talk 23:59, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  13. JN466 19:57, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  14. Eluchil404 (talk) 08:23, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  15. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:07, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  16. Hawkeye7 (talk) 03:06, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  17. Dmitrij D. Czarkoff (talk) 22:40, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  18. Yes, that is the most logical way to deal with that! Bravo! --WhiteWriterspeaks 21:08, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  19. Exactly. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk to me 21:16, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  20. Excepting editors who are paid representives of small groups, companies or organizations whose main purpose it to assert notability thereof, regardless of NPOV considerations, Collect (talk) 15:24, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
  21. Strongest. Possible. Support. The problem is bad edits, not good edits coming from "COI" editors. --Philosopher Let us reason together. 11:12, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  22. Focus on content, not contributors. Remind everyone that some of the most intractable disputes come from religious edit wars. They no doubt have a very strong COI as they answer to a Higher Authority.--Wehwalt (talk) 22:51, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  23. Merits of the content are available for all to review. Merits of individual editors runs the gamut from unknown, to guessed at, to known via self disclosure. Let's stick with what is universally known by all, and judge that. Otherwise we give people reasons to stay cloaked. I'd rather know that someone is a PR professional (because they aren't afraid to disclose) so I can teach him or her how to edit without running afoul of the rules. Two hours of instruction could save 10 hours of arguments, flame wars, noticeboard writeups, etc. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 03:11, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
  24. Support, looking at the edits is the way to go. Monty845 23:24, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. ```Buster Seven Talk 10:09, 28 February 2012 (UTC). I think paid editors have a different reason to edit than the rest of us. How can volunteer and paid be the same? My focus is political operatives. I may have a COI. But no-one is paying me to have it so....I'm easier to convince that I'm wrong. I can be reasoned with. Not so if my employer wants the article to hide his blemishes. ```Buster Seven Talk 10:09, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Oppose; I think we should have drawn a bright line in the sand long ago: if you're a paid editor, you're inherently so conflicted that we don't want you here. --Orange Mike | Talk 17:33, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
    Your argument appears to carry the assumption that paid editors have a particular viewpoint they are being paid to advance. This may be the case sometimes, but is not the case in a great many other times, as digital marketing continues to rise. Having a Wikipedia article, even a stub, means that my clients occupy at least two slots on the first page of search. If they have a Facebook page, then three. After a few more additions, they can effectively control all of page one. In this case, I don't particularly care what the article says. I just want it to stay up. Best way to make that happen is to ensure it meets community standards. And the client may not even know I'm writing it at all; they may just be paying to own page 1 of Google for "Acme Tomato Company." If Acme Tomato Company is notable and has some reputable 3rd party verifiable sources, then Wikipedia gets a new article that meets company standards, and my client gets good positioning. I can't see how Wikipedia loses there. Now for PR practitioners that don't follow community standards, that's a whole other issue, and of course those articles should be rewritten or deleted, just like any other, and the editors should be dealt with also like any other editor displaying that same pattern of behavior. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 03:21, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Oppose As per Orangemike and my statement. Paid editors can be sacked or lose there commission if they fail to produce expected results and they are more concerned about it than Policy,guidelines of Wikipedia..The inherent conflict of interest editing is incompatible with the aim of producing a neutral, reliably sourced encyclopedia.Pharaoh of the Wizards (talk) 16:25, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. I generally favor treating paid editors the same as everyone else, but so long as we maintain quixotic policies like WP:SOCK it is unreasonable to give them absolute equality. Paid editors should be required to disclose the financial support they receive, so we can look more closely to make sure they're following the same policy as everyone else. They should not be allowed to vote on RfAs or ArbCom cases for other editors from the same employer. And when we spot such things happening, we should allow ourselves to do something about it --- before the paid editors belonging to some entity have put themselves in charge here. Wnt (talk) 16:58, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. Oppose per 1 Timothy 6:10 (KJV). "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." Accepting remuneration strays from full faith in the third pillar of Wikipedia, and the resulting conflict can lead to much sorrow. It is a conflict of interest. As with other conflicts of interest, it is only a problem when one becomes conflicted and places one's own interests ahead of Wikipedia's interests. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:35, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Oppose In an ideal world my governmental congressional representatives would be supporting the needs of the people. But in reality, corporate lobbyists have taken over my country and given it to the corporations. For Wikipedia to support paid professional lobbyists in a manner similar to the paid professional lobbyists that have taken over my country, is a big mistake. Sure they're smooth talkers and know better than to break any rules, but know for certain that they have the savvy and the know-how to build bridges to nowhere. Gandydancer (talk) 22:28, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. Oppose - we should treat paid editors differently from unpaid editors; the work of the latter needs to be scrutized more heavily. I have no assumption of good faith for paid editors. Bearian (talk) 17:26, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. Oppose When a person argues a point because they are paid to take it, it is really their employer who needs convincing. The paid editor is not, therefore, arguing in good faith. Other forms of advocacy or editorial intransigence aside, paid editing is inviting lengthy disputes and discord, and our policy aught to be aimed at minimizing it. --TeaDrinker (talk) 01:02, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  9. Oppose Paid editors in particular have a very unique set of motivations and pressures on them. They are often tasked with changing content on which their job may depend. We should do what we can to assist those editors to act for the benefit of the encyclopedia, and to prevent them from inadvertently or intentionally harming our mission. Paid editors are a special case and require a special focus. Ocaasi t | c 15:57, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  10. Oppose Good thought except on paid editors. Getting paid creates an obligation to the person that paid them. Unless the near-zero chance occurs that the payer's orders were to to further the interest of Wikipedia, such is inherently an actual COI. North8000 (talk) 23:18, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  11. Oppose The proposition is partly false, in that is supposed that there are only two ways of dealing with any given editor - ban them or let them edit. That's not the reality, however. we may wish to restrict what an editor may or may not do, or we may simply want to keep a close eye on an editor. No explanation is offered as to why we should not do these things. FormerIP (talk) 00:39, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  12. Oppose - We should not treat paid editors differently than other editors after they declare their COI on the talk page. Carrite (talk) 18:25, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
  13. Oppose We SHOULD discriminate against paid editors, because they're being paid to provide content for someone to promote that person's views. That's an inherent NPOV problem. 86.** IP (talk) 22:47, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
  14. Oppose Agree with the first two paragraphs, and disagree strongly with the last two. Paid editors, even when they appear to follow policy, have an inherent NPOV problem. Nobody is willing to pay for a purely neutral perspective and paid editors will always have an obligation to side with (or against, depending on whose doing the paying) the subject they are working on. ThemFromSpace 21:57, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
Comments
  1. I agree with this view in general, but I need convincing about the idea of treating paid editors/advocates the same as everyone else. The request edit system for public relations people working for a client seemed like a good idea to me, not entirely happy with dropping it. Babakathy (talk) 11:43, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    I support the statement above, but I'm not sure it isn't already the status quo. If paid editors are treated equally with other forms of bias/COI, wouldn't that imply encouraging them to use the request edit feature? Just as other COI editors already do? King4057 (talk) 17:42, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. I agree with much of the sentiment, but it seems way too easy for slightly obscure topics with few watchlisters to fall through the cracks of the RCP and other countermeasures and become whitewashed/adverts if paid editors are involved; some level of restriction is merited. --Cybercobra (talk) 22:10, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. Oppose Pleasant, courteous, seemingly professional editors who on behalf of a client or employer follow most of our rules for the purpose of introducing biased information into our articles diminish the quality, neutrality and usefulness of our article and, ultimately, will reduce popular support for our projects. User:Fred Bauder Talk 04:00, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

View by Anonymous Coward[edit]

Out there in the real world scientific journals insist that the authors declare any conflicts of interest even though peer review ought to catch obvious problems with the science - they have been doing this for ten or twenty years now. This is because sponsorship, inventments or mere cozy relations raises issues beyond the science itself. Ask yourselves: imagine there is a professor of economics, whose focus is attitudes towards money, especially retirement savings, and who is funded in part by Fidelity Investments. Would you trust this person's advice with regards to your investments; would you trust her when she gives advice on policy to government institutions? If not, why not?

Obviously in the anonymous environment that is Wikipedia that there is no way to verify suspicions of conflict of interest, and that's one of the things that's wrong with this site. Good luck!

Support
  1. Srtongly support; we should be devoting more editor time to this, not less; and abolishing our guidelines will be seen as a license to spam. --Orange Mike | Talk 17:04, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. This is a key point which seems lost in the shuffle (my formulation of the same idea is here). The argument seems to be that since we can't detect all COIs, we shouldn't worry about any. That seems silly on its face, but it's the dominant thinking on display here. I don't understand why we're willing to set our standards so low. MastCell Talk 05:13, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Yes, I can see why we've gone the inclusive approach, which has made this place what it is today, but it also creates the headache here re COICasliber (talk · contribs) 04:17, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Moral support. You've made no specific proposal, but your point makes sense. Rivertorch (talk) 09:33, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. This is the key issue. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 01:53, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. --В и к и T 13:11, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. Support, but let's not be defeatist. An anonymous environment can never attain the reputation for neutrality that is achieved (with no little effort, and not without lapses) by major peer reviewed journals, but that is no reason to abandon efforts to uphold the second pillar of Wikipedia. The world at large clearly recognizes that conflict of interest compromises neutrality, and we would be foolish to deny it. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:48, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. Agreed. This is only a statement of fact; I see that Carrite below made a more concrete proposal in this direction which goes somewhat too far. Hopefully people can meet in the middle with a userpage-only declaration that would gain more favor? Wnt (talk) 16:51, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  9. Support in spirit. It is absolutely correct that payment biases outcomes. There are multiple studies of medical research demonstrating a strong statistical effect of research sponsorship on research outcomes; reading the declared conflicts of interest section is standard practice when we teach new graduate students how to read a paper. On Wikipedia, we have seen the same effects in specific examples. There's every reason to suspect that people paid to edit are detrimental to the project. I do not share the same degree of pessimism expressed in this proposal. It think recognizing this problem of paid editors opens the door to solutions. But we do need to recognize it is a major problem. --TeaDrinker (talk) 01:10, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  10. Yes. Hard to believe I've scrolled this far down before anyone actually brought up what the concept of "conflict of interest" actually means. FormerIP (talk) 00:42, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  11. Support Editors are encountered in commercial or controversial areas who are obviously engaged in a pattern of biased behavior and are getting away with it; at least to the extent that it is exceedingly difficult, or even impossible, to make a case sufficient to do anything about it, assuming you have the time or inclination to do so. Spider webs catch flies, hawks fly through. User:Fred Bauder Talk 04:05, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
  12. Support Strongly. This hits at the heart of the issue, which is that COI editing, including paid editing, goes against ethical standards of encyclopedic writing. ThemFromSpace 22:00, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. This view mixes concept of trust with editing permission. I wouldn't trust the author in example, though I would consider his opinion, and I definitely won't ask him to quit his topic because of such relation. — Dmitrij D. Czarkoff (talk) 22:44, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. While factually accurate, I disagree with the tone that anonymous editing is a bad thing. The beauty of Wikipedia is that who we are in real life doesn't matter, we are judged on our contributions. Monty845 23:40, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
Comments
  1. Wikipedia operates in different ways than academia on more than one level. The request that Wikipedia operate like academia coming from an anonymous editor is only funny. ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 02:00, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Journals have their own issues [8], [9], [10],[11],[12], and [13] Nobody Ent 02:48, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. There is a wiki that has tried to take more of an academic approach, it is called Citizendium. I think there may be a couple more out there. The jury is still out on whether they will succeed or not. WP's model is different, and definitely has some strengths and weaknesses. WP's emphasis on anonymous editing, in my opinion, makes a COI restriction almost unenforceable. Cla68 (talk) 04:59, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. I'd read AC's omments more allegorically: journals require statements of interest as peer review may not catch all COIs - Wikipedia needs WP:COI as community review may not catch all problems associated with COI. But again, I can't see a proposal in this? Babakathy (talk) 11:48, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. I disagree that the real world is relatively free of undisclosed COI; drug studies funded by drug manufacturers are among the most obvious examples. One of the chief differences between that kind of COI and those on Wikipedia is the profit motive; remove that (as is the case here), and I don't think we're tilting at windmills. Miniapolis (talk) 02:43, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
    The funding sources for any study published in any reputable medical journal must be disclosed. These are key examples of disclosed, not undisclosed, COIs. MastCell Talk 05:16, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. This seems to support a stronger COI statement. One that is followed because it is the norm, its what is expected. COI's need to self-identify for scientific journal inclusion. Likewise, COI's need to self-identify for WikiPedia inclusion. ```Buster Seven Talk 14:15, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. I'd support if not for the fact that Wikipedians are allowed to be anonymous. Therefore they are not require to reveal anything about themselves. While personally I am not that fond of this situation, this is our established practice. Anyway, I don't see why we should pick on paid editors more than on religious believers or political mavericks. I don't see why an editor should declare they edit for Microsoft, but not that they edit for their favorite church or political party. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk to me 21:18, 6 March 2012 (UTC)

View by Rklawton[edit]

Resolved
We don't need COI to remove the clumsy; we don't need to remove the honest; liars are going to lie. Rklawton (talk) 02:30, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
Comment
  1. The reality, folks, is that there are likely thousands of paid editors improving our articles all the time. We only see the dolts who didn't RTFM the first go 'round. After that, they wise up, get a new account, and follow all the rules carefully except one: they don't actually broadcast their conflict of interest. Chances are, they also edit Wikipedia on their own time for the same reasons the rest of us do. As a result, we just don't know who our COI editors are. And we'll never know because they have enough experience to know that when their client asks them to do something that won't fly in our wiki-world, they just write up a memo explaining what would happen if they tried and bill them for the memo instead. In the mean time, we've got all manner of editors running around willy nilly slapping COI tags on articles and warnings on user talk pages thereby causing a terrible amount of ill-will - and this at time when the Foundation is lamenting the steady decline in regular editors. It would be far better for us to train our well meaning editors to focus on neutrality and put away the COI stick that all too often bashes the wrong people. Rklawton (talk) 01:42, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. At some point, Google is going to catch on that most (out of 3 million) of our articles are utter crap (less than "GA") and don't deserve an automatic page one ranking. Indeed, we've got a couple of articles about Fortune 100 companies that get Google and Bing page one rankings - even though they're rated as Stub class. The more COI editors we can bring on to improve our articles, under our supervision, the better. Flogging them with COI rather than NPOV serves as a pointless distraction. Rklawton (talk) 02:07, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
Support
Oppose
  1. Resolved: We can use COI to explain the clumsy, we don't need to remove the honest; liars are going to lie. --Dirk Beetstra T C 04:20, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Concur with Dirk Beetstra.Babakathy (talk) 09:06, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. We can use NPOV, one of Wikipedia's 5 Pillars to explain the clumbsy. However, COI is also being used for this far too commonly. Not that this is a current case at AN/I where one editor is making demands of another editor rather than focusing on the edits. Rklawton (talk) 14:02, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    'far too commonly' - way more commonly than that editors with a conflict of interest in a subject edit that specific subject? You've given one example, I guess that we will have 5-10 obvious cases of ('obvious') editors editing their own page every hour (could do some statistics on that). How many of those get harassed? --Dirk Beetstra T C 15:13, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    Apparently it's common enough that I could find an example on the current AN/I page. The question, however, isn't which is more prevalent, the question is how much of this can be dealt with simply by using NPOV? And the answer is: there is nothing COI can do that NPOV can't already do, and there's is lots that COI shouldn't do but is doing anyway. Rklawton (talk) 15:52, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    In the mean time, 32% of the Fortune 100 company articles are in piss-poor condition (Start Class or worse), even though all 32 appear on the first page of both Google and Bing results. I have no doubt there is a legion of PR people who would love to have a shot at improving these articles in a POV way but fear getting flogged by the COI guidelines. So on the one hand we have crappy articles, and on the other hand, it would take any of us no effort at all to restore these articles to their current crappy condition and banish NPOV editors - if it really comes to that. Rklawton (talk) 16:02, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    Well, seen the number of reports on WP:COI/N, I am sure that WP:NPOV/N would quickly be greatly overloaded, but then the editors on WP:COI/N would probably join WP:NPOV/N.
    I am not convinced by one case currently on AN/I, as I said, unfortunately every policy, guideline, essay is used to harass other editors. I am convinced that we will be able to find a case where someone is using WP:NPOV to harass other editors, WP:CIVIL is regularly not being enacted while there are quite often problems on WP:WQA - and neither of these policies are considered useless (well, not under discussion, though). The point is, editors should not harass other editors, and that is something that should need to get teeth, whatever policy, guideline or essay is being used to harass.
    Nobody representing those 32 of the Fortune 100 companies should feel any resistance to coming here and contribute to the articles. I am working together with about 10 different organisations to get our 14.000 pages up to a higher level, linking them to many external databases. All of those organisations do have an interest in having Wikipedia linking to their databases. WP:CHEMS is happily working together with them, and all are very aware of their conflict of interest. Most of those organisations have active editors on Wikipedia. I do not see why all of those 100 Fortune 100 companies could not have their representatives active here, it should be a delight. WP:COI does not forbid them to edit, I would, at the very most, might ask them to take due care, and edit in a neutral way, per WP:COI - which I did with a couple of those organisations helping WP:CHEMS as well. Just to avoid questions of impropriety, not, in any form, to discourage them from editing, and certainly not to harass them. --Dirk Beetstra T C 16:23, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    By the way, the discussion you mentioned seems to be on WP:COI/N, not on WP:AN/I (unless I am mistaking the COI discussion you mean). --Dirk Beetstra T C 16:27, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. As long as civil, good-faith efforts to improve the encyclopedia are undermined by cries of "harassment", it's going to be hard to get anywhere. Miniapolis (talk) 02:53, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. Agree w/ Editor Miniapolis. Cries of "obsessed, hater, Liberal (as an attack), demonic, Jesus hater, oppressive and, my favorite, schzophrentic" are also used against any editor challenging a paid political operative. Not by the operative, mind you, but by his proxies that are at his beck and call. I'm not sure that proxy editing for a paid corporate advocate is a problem, but it IS a problem at political articles where most paid operatives remain hidden and not too obvious. ```Buster Seven Talk 07:24, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. We do need "COI" in one form or another. The world at large clearly recognizes that conflict of interest compromises neutrality, and we would be foolish to deny it. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:49, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. Oppose per Ningauble et al. We need WP:COI. Bearian (talk) 17:28, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. Oppose I don't think this captures the reality of large public relations firms spending serious money to manage their clients' reputations on Wikipedia. A bit too wishful and too simple. COI matters and WP:COI is good guidance. Ocaasi t | c 16:42, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  9. Oppose Honest scoundrels do damage. User:Fred Bauder Talk 04:07, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

View by Beetstra[edit]

Users who are, in an obvious way, very likely connected to a subject (examples include, but are not limited to, the choice of username, self-identification on or off-wiki, or the use of their IP address) can be notified that they are likely to have a conflict of interest on a certain subset of articles they edit, and that they should take due care when editing those articles. That is not harassing the editor, it is a genuine concern, and it helps to tell those editors what the concerns are with conflict of interest editing and our core policies and guidelines. The the conflict of interest guideline does not forbid the editors to edit, even in their own field. There is nothing wrong with suggest editors to take that (extra) due care, and to avoid the impropriety when editing articles where they are associated with. After all, if their edits are, intentionally or unintentionally, not adhering to a neutral point of view, they are giving the suggestion that they are promoting their own cause.

However, if the conflict of interest guideline is used to suppress the editing of an editor (whether the conflict of interest is disclosed or not) in a certain area, to suppress a certain point-of-view, or to harass an editor to stop editing in a certain area, while there are no concerns regarding the edits of the editor, the editors attempting to harass that editor should be appropriately warned, and possibly sanctioned.

When the affiliations of an editor are not known, attempts to find those affiliations, or real life identities of such editors is a form of harassment (WP:OUTING) that also should result in warnings, and possibly sanctions, aimed at stopping those attempts. Note, that a neutral posed question, whether an editor is affiliated with a certain subject (which they can be shown to promote, or on which they can be shown to have strong point of view) is not a form of harassment, the editor has all the rights to ignore that question; repeating the question or pushing to get an answer however is a form of harassment.

Nonetheless, also editors with an unknown affiliation (where the affiliation is not disclosed, or the real life identity of the person is not disclosed or unknown) are supposed to adhere to WP:COI in the areas where they do have a conflict of interest.

support
  1. --Dirk Beetstra T C 08:34, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    By the way, any user (ab)uses an essay, guideline or policy to harass someone else should be appropriately warned, and, on continued behaviour, possibly sanctioned. That is not just specific to WP:COI. --Dirk Beetstra T C 11:34, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Concur. Babakathy (talk) 11:56, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. Support. Truth is, time and time again, I've seen volunteer editors accused of working for my client, when I have personal real-world knowledge this is not the case. It's a witch hunt that misses its target more often than it hits and it creates a poor culture when volunteer editors are harassed based on excessive suspicion. King4057 (talk) 17:52, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    All I can say is, that the editors who are wrongly accusing such editors should be appropriately warned, and possibly sanctioned. If that is not possible on-wiki due to privacy concerns: the Arbitration Committee can handle private information in a discrete way, you can disclose your identity to them, and they have (or at the very least they should have) the capability to handle this type of situations. --Dirk Beetstra T C 18:13, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. Well said. --Cybercobra (talk) 22:01, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. Agree. Miniapolis (talk) 02:56, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  6. Support as per above and my statement.Pharaoh of the Wizards (talk) 09:25, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  7. Agree with all.--В и к и T 21:10, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  8. Support with modification in comment #2 below. Very well put. Rivertorch (talk) 07:12, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  9. Quite reasonable. Kilopi (talk) 02:05, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  10. Support. Well said (even better as amended under "comments" below). Nonetheless, when conflict of interest becomes apparent and there is a pattern of improper edits, it is an important consideration for distinguishing between an editor who made some mistakes and one who is not in a position to uphold the second pillar of Wikipedia. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:50, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    I think that is why we have {{uw-coi}} - notify the editor, ask them to be careful. If they take more care, no harm done, otherwise, there may indeed be problems that they can not upkeep the 5P, and more specific problems need to be addressed (as a note, I think it is more than just the second pillar, also the other pillars are important, and some are also reflected in WP:COI). --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:21, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
  11. Sounds good to me. Common sense approach. Ocaasi t | c 16:42, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  12. Support - with the altered text agreed with Rivertorch below. Stuart.Jamieson (talk) 12:42, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
  13. Support - seems to cover most of the bases. Murray Langton (talk) 19:45, 10 April 2012 (UTC)
oppose
  1. COI is currently only strongly suggested. If a paid editor doesnt take the suggestion, there is not much that can be done. WE might try adding "Very, Very Strongly Suggested" and underline it and Bold it. But I doubt that would change anything. COI needs to demand adherance and imply repercussions just like other guidelines hint at penalty. Not that the penalty need be enacted. The threat of topic ban, for instance, would be a huge price to pay for article "highjinks". ```Buster Seven Talk 07:53, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. It's long been our policy and our practice to prevent people from doing things like editing their own biography,except for removing vandalism and outright slander. Saying that "it's OK to edit your own biography, as long as you edit it well" has never been our policy. So yes, COI policy should and is used to restrain people from editing certain articles. The editors who persist in doing so should be the ones sanctioned, not the people who block them to prevent their persistent COI editing. These people who continually abuse Wikipedia for their own ends should blocked as soon as they have proven that they can't control themselves. Gigs (talk) 03:28, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
    Is that written down in policy? --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:48, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
    WP:AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 86.** IP (talk) 04:27, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
comments
  1. Here's an example of the sort of harassment noted above: [14] Rklawton (talk) 14:06, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    Rklawton, I am not saying that that form of harassment to advance a point is not occurring, but I think it is far from regularly. Occasional occurrences of that type of harassment can't be excluded, and they happen with every policy and every guideline, and sometimes even with essays or on a personal note. The IP seems to be mainly trolling, and I commend your resolution of the situation, I hope it stopped. --Dirk Beetstra T C 14:33, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. I would really like to support this except that the first sentence in the third paragraph—the one about attempts to confirm identity—seems too broad. Attempts per se aren't a problem; certain types of attempts are. That is made clear in the sentence that follows, but it would be better to qualify it up front. Rivertorch (talk) 06:38, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
    I see that I wrote that sentence a bit too strong .. what about "When the affiliations of an editor are not known, attempts to find those affiliations, or real life identities of such editors iscan be a form of harassment (WP:OUTING) that also; repeated attempts to out an editor should also result in warnings, and possibly sanctions, aimed at stopping those attempts"? I would also consider to emphasize the word 'should' in that sentence. --Dirk Beetstra T C 11:03, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
    Yeah. That works. Rivertorch (talk) 20:16, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. My own thoughts below are related to this. --Tothwolf (talk) 10:11, 20 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. I agree with everything except the harrassment bit, which has oftentimes been used as a defensive countermeasure by POV pushers who are called out on their affiliations. ThemFromSpace 22:03, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

View by Buster7[edit]

User:MastCell calls it "our basic pact with our reader". Our reader/visitor/researcher is unaware of any off-wiki committment to a third party or single-minded mindset. Our reader is unaware if the article has been orchestrated, cajoled, manipulted into shape by editors with ulterior motives. Making mortgage payments over-rides keeping WP rules. Transparency. One of our favorite concepts. Keep everything above board and in sight. A Political Campaign can put together a large team of specialists for extensive editorial input. Our reader thinks it is created by the teamwork of Volunteers. No warts allowed. No blemishes without make-up. No bad history permitted.

Proposition
..1)that the {[request tag}} be Required rather than just strongly suggested. No punishment if not adhered to. Stop sign----->most people stop. 2) That a timed discussion of some reasonable duration take place if editing is done by proxy. No discussion, no inclusion of the requested info.
Support


Oppose
  1. Unenforceable. Only penalizes the honest. Jclemens (talk) 02:36, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Meaningless. If you are required to use something, then your refusal to use it must have consequences. Otherwise, it's not actually required. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:27, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Having unenforceable rules undermines respect for the rules we actually intend to enforce. Monty845 23:43, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
Comment
  1. I'm generally supportive of using Talk pages, request edit, AfC, boards, etc. for anyone with a compelling POV/COI/bias that's relevant to the section they're editing. There needing to be some refinement about the types of paid editing that typically have a "compelling" COI, grammatical changes and so on. King4057 (talk) 18:21, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. A requirement is self-enforceble. We dont need someone to enforce line etiquette at the grocery store. There is no penalty suggested for honest editing. The good guys will honor it because they are good guys and those that do not honor a required rather than just strongly suggested COI can be reminded that they have committed a breech. No COI Police required. It gives editors editing alongside a place to point. "Hey! Political Operative. Did you see the sign? You were suppossed to do such and such!" And, "you proxies were not suppossed to do this and that".This exact circumstance exists at campaign articles currently "manicurred" by paid political operatives. The ppo makes a lengthy, multi-tiered suggestion and, without a single word of discussion, his request is implemented, by a proxy, in just over three hours. (Diffs available)```Buster Seven Talk 08:10, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Per WhatamIdoing, what you seem to be describing is a suggestion, not a requirement. "Self-enforceable" rules are rules in name only; voluntary compliance often means no compliance at all (think about corporate polluters being asked to police their own emissions). As in the larger world, at Wikipedia the really good guys will be aboveboard and honest even without suggestions, the really bad guys will behave horribly even with requirements, and for the in-betweens we have a serviceable guideline right now that just needs a bit of work. Rivertorch (talk) 09:26, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
Observations
  1. Lets assume I wanted to hire someone to write a resume. I would want someone who is a wordsmith, adept at the subtleties of word manipulation. Someone able to hide the truthful facts of my frailties. Someone who can make the sun shine during a rainstorm. I would want my resume to highlight all the good points of my life and to barely, if at all, mention the low points. If my terrible grades as a freshman are mentioned, they might be explained as Freshman adjustment. The sordid event and arrest resulting from "The Sorority Incident" could be passed off as a "childish prank". Since my lawyer promised that the record was expunged, there is no real need to even mention the event. The fact that I attended maybe 10% of my classes is slander and anyway, how is that pertinent, and who is gonna prove it!. I got my degree did I not? What I want, what I am paying the resume writer to do, is to make me look like a $10000 tuxedo. The fact that I usually run around in sandals and shorts is unimportant. He gets paid to make me look good, even if I don't. He is paid to hide my blemishes, my warts, my scars. His job is to get me THE JOB. I don't pay him to worry about following "The Rules". And, I am certainly not paying him to worry about the reader of the resume. The reader is completely unimportant except for how the reader can be manipulated. ```Buster Seven Talk 17:20, 10 March 2012 (UTC)

View by Elen of the Roads[edit]

The problem with the current guideline is that it uses the same term (COI) to cover

  • "a situation where a conflict of interest might arise",
  • "editing to support whatever you have an interest in that might give rise to a conflict of interest" and
  • "editing against the interests of the encyclopaedia to support other interests"

Editors who take money to write a Wikipedia article (directly or because they work for a PR agency) appear to be a low number.

Editors who have some other 'vested interest' - ie an interest related to money or reputation - are probably higher, but fall into at least three groups: the guy who owns Joe's Pizzeria and thinks it should have an article, the Microsoft intern who has been told to keep an eye on Microsoft articles, and Professor Elk who has dedicated an academic career to studying the Bambisaurus, and wants to see his research represented properly in Wikipedia.

Then we get editors whose interest is ideological, and sufficiently powerful to affect other aspects of their life (they volunteer to work for Mitt Romney, they join a direct action group against animal testing).

And lastly, we have the people who edit against the interests of the encyclopaedia to support nationalism, football teams, controversial subjects that they hold a view about, pseudoscientific theories, things that the government is covering up, things that the aliens are covering up....etc

The question is - what's the line. When do you cross it? When you revert vandalism on Windows 7. When you don't declare that you are Professor Elk? When you edit articles on cosmetic companies to include information on whether they use animal testing? When you write an article for your client that is factual but leaves out the lawsuit that cost them $20m to settle. When you edit war to exclude a source because the author is Italian?

The guideline needs to exist, to be part of the "how to edit" section, to not focus excessively on the editor, and to be clear that the problem is not working for Acme PR, being Prof Elk or having a lifelong interest in debunking astrology. It is breaching the contract with the reader that articles will be fair, balanced, neutral, give due weight to all the current thinking.

Support
  1. Elen of the Roads (talk) 12:04, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Yes, WP:COI is useful guidance for editing with a COI and for working with editors who appear to have a COI and are having difficulty maintaining neutrality. Jojalozzo 21:30, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. Agree. Addressing ASCIIn2Bme's comment below: Editors may (or may not) have conflicts of interest; their edits, however, must not (as much as is humanly possible). Miniapolis (talk) 03:17, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. A good way of highlighting that the "paid editing is bad!" crowd just don't have a scalable way to address the nuances of COI, nor any way to single out paid editing other than the assumption that money is everyone's driving force (which itself ignores Maslow's Hierarchy, but whatever) and somehow of a different sort than all the other -isms that motivate people. Since I serve with Elen on the Arbitration Committee at present, I have an inside view of how disruptive these -isms can be to the project in a way that few other editors can match. Jclemens (talk) 02:39, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. --JN466 05:03, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. --Cailil talk 16:25, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. This seems to be a reasonable proposal. Cla68 (talk) 22:44, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. Appropriately nuanced view. Perhaps WP:COI needs to give a better break down of the types of COI editors and what each needs to look out for.
  9. --FormerIP (talk) 00:53, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  10. Support Stuart.Jamieson (talk) 12:52, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
  11. Support - Even though it's another simple declaration that "NPOV is good." Carrite (talk) 18:23, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
  12. This is exactly the spirit with which the COI guidelines should be written. Monty845 23:47, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
  13. Support as a start I think this is a good start, but not complete view of the situation.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 16:32, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  14. Support Good semantic analysis. The questions you raise are thought-provoking and helpful. ThemFromSpace 22:05, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
  15. A very thoughtful analysis; I wish you would have taken your analysis a bit further, perhaps speculating where the line is. Thank you. ~Adjwilley (talk) 16:32, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. I think main idea of her statement is that we should only look at the contributions, but do not analyze motivations of the people behind their edits (that may be COI, nationalism, personal bias, and so on). This would be a reasonable approach if we had editorial boards to make a qualified judgement that someone does a disservice for readers. So far, this can be judged only in the most obvious cases. Unfortunately, according to the current practice, Arbcom and other administrators should only focus on behavior of users and can not rule on content. Hence the analysis of motivations (e.g. COI) seems to be unavoidable, because one can not understand behavior of people without looking at their motivations. My very best wishes (talk) 13:29, 7 May 2012 (UTC)
Comments
  1. I was writing an oppose, and then found I had actually nothing to oppose .. but also nothing to support. This guideline needs to exist, just because of the different types of COI .. whether it is with a situation where a conflict of interest may arise, whether it is editing to support a topic that might give you a conflict of interest, or whether it is actually editing against the interests of the encyclopedia. in a nutshell: "Do not edit Wikipedia to promote your own interests, or those of other individuals or of organizations, including employers. Do not write about these things unless you are certain that a neutral editor would agree that your edits improve Wikipedia." (WP:COI). The lines are the 5P, this is a guide to tell you how to handle a part of that, and how to avoid the impropriety. --Dirk Beetstra T C 12:20, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. One one hand WP:COI talks right in its nutshell about this mythical "neutral editor" that has agree with the edits of the COI bastard. On the other hand, people supporting the guideline freely acknowledge some sections above that no editor is unbiased. What gives? Hypocrisy. ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 12:30, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    No, ASCIIn2Bme, that is a misinterpretation, no hypocrisy anywhere. What is said above is that every editor has somewhere a conflict of interest. In other fields that editor does not have any conflict of interest, and in that field, that editor is a neutral editor. That is also true the other way around, another editor has a conflict of interest in another area, but not in the area of the first editor, and hence is there a neutral editor. The first editor should edit in his field in a way, so that the other, neutral editor, would agree with that. And that someone has a conflict of interest, does not make him a bastard, there is no need for that language. --Dirk Beetstra T C 13:03, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    I'd actually like to see who where 'freely acknowledge[d] some sections above that no editor is unbiased'? --Dirk Beetstra T C 13:24, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. I wish I could agree, Elen; but it seems to me that spammers are the most persistent new editors nowadays; see my comment above in "View by ASCIIn2Bme" about doing New Page patrol. --Orange Mike | Talk 17:36, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
    Spammers are a problem, but spamming is often a very simply defined COI - the user is editing ONLY to promote Joe's Pizzeria. In many ways, that's the easiest to deal with. The only concern is whether you can persuade Joe's neice (who wrote the article) to stay and edit other articles. I unblocked User:Jeff Bedford and a couple of his colleages (who had been blocked as socks of each other because they were all editing on the office IP), and they have been a really good resource *even though* they work for a PR firm, because they understand COI and when it might cause a problem eg here. Elen of the Roads (talk) 13:51, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Most of what you say is on target, but the last paragraph downplays the near inevitability of certain types of COI: "working for Acme PR" is almost certainly going to be a problem because Acme PR isn't paying anyone to follow WP:NPOV but rather to make their clients look good. Rivertorch (talk) 09:12, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
    Working for Adme PR, however, does not mean that the person is going to circumvent the other policies/procedures here. Nor does it mean by default that the edits are all bad. Now some might be, but the employee might also realize that a "cover up" might look just as bad. Being paid is a sign that problems might exist or arise from their editing, but it doesn't mean that we can/should simply dispell them out of hand. I'll use a personal experience. I wrote an article on First Command Financial Planning. Personally, I've had bad experience with them and honestly see them as a bunch of crooks. An employee for First Command came in and started editing the page. He declared himself as such (if I remmeber correctly he claimed to be a VP there.) I didn't like their edits, but knowing my own COI, I asked Malleus to take a look at it. He sided with the paid employee. I have no doubt that the article as it exists today is more influenced by a paid editor than it was by me... but in all honesty, it is a better fairer article than what I originally wrote.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 16:32, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  5. I agree that the language is used too loosely in referring both to having an interest and acting improperly on that interest. I also agree that the focus needs to be on editing from a neutral point of view, but there is no way not to make this about the editor – it is all about where they are coming from. First and foremost, the world at large clearly recognizes that conflict of interest compromises neutrality, and editors need to recognize this about themselves. Secondly, the community needs to deal with POV regardless of the underlying motivations, and voluntary disclosure of personal interest can help to sort out points of view in a collegial manner. Thirdly, when it becomes apparent that conflict of interest underlies a pattern of improper editing, it is an important consideration for distinguishing between an editor who made some mistakes and one who is not in a position to uphold the second pillar of Wikipedia. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:53, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Seems reasonable, but if the guideline is to stay it would need a major overhaul and preferably, simplification. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk to me 21:21, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. There is also the "Multiple vested interest" where Prof Elk not content with citing his own research decided that he too is notable enough to have an article so writes one, or tries to influence debates in favour of sources from his immediate colleagues (rather than himself) - I've seen at least two of these in my time editing on Wikipedia and they can quickly form intricate webs of linked articles that are difficult and unlikely to ever be properly cleared of their NNPOV/NOT problems. Stuart.Jamieson (talk) 12:52, 14 March 2012 (UTC)

View from a Paid COI Editor[edit]

Proposal: Change nothing.

Rationale:

  1. Many of the proposals here are on-target, but are also supported by current policy
  2. Users witch-hunting paid editors can already be warned of Outing
  3. COI editors are already encouraged to use Talk Pages, COIN and the request edit feature
  4. It already is the quality of contributions not the identity of the editor that counts
  5. Yet current policy does support disclosure which can be a best practice when disclosure isn't overly personal
  6. No policy changes are required to implement most of the proposals here
  7. COIN and the COI guideline helps resolve issues, educate editors and provide advice to a group of editors likely to break content rules

The examples shared throughout these proposals aren't justification for policy changes, but for more education and enforcement of current policy. I would be interested in ideas on how we can do a better job (a) discouraging bad edits (b) improving mediocre edits (c) encouraging excellent edits from COI editors using current policies and guidelines.

Disclosure: As a (often) paid COI editor (see here) I have a conflict of interest with this entire subject. I also believe that my real-world experiences on this subject gives me a unique perspective on what goes on at companies around this topic. King4057 (talk) 19:08, 28 February 2012 (UTC)

Support

Oppose

  1. Disagree. Something clearly needs to change, the guidelines right now are apparently useless. -- Maelefique(talk) 04:09, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Absolutely. Inaction will not remedy the absurd situation on, for example, the Newt Gingrich-related articles where the edit requests of NG's communications director, who follows WP:COI guidelines to the fullest possible extent - which includes limiting himself to edit requests at the talk pages - are unilaterally reviewed, approved and implemented by a proxy who is also a COI editor (his self-disclosure appears to be limited to the guidelines' "strongly recommended" COI template at the top of the talk pages), and who evidently has no wish to follow the "edit request" guideline. The practice neatly circumvents the guideline and the result is exactly as if the communications director made the edits directly (when in fact he is at pains not to). Surely the tiger needs at least one tooth. Writegeist (talk) 21:00, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. 100% Agree w/ Editor Writegeist. It was only thru constant cajoling that the NG articles maintained some modicum of transparency. Without COI, the in-good-faith CommDir would not have stepped forward, would not have self-identified in his signature, his vassals would have done his bidding within minutes of his requisition and any complaints would have amounted to the bleating of sheep. At least the COI guideline provided some instruction and a point of reference. ```Buster Seven Talk 14:31, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Dmitrij D. Czarkoff (talk) 22:51, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. Oppose. "Do nothing" is not really an option. The Arbitration Committee has clearly indicated that it is difficult to discharge their duty to apply the present policies and guidelines. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:56, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Oppose. I also agree completely with Writegeist's comments above. Gingrich's Communications Director goes well beyond error-correction, instead making suggestions to add or remove sections and material that the campaign wants in or out, micro-managing and even providing mark-up of whole paragraphs to read exactly how they want them to read, making it easy for his proxies to paste them in, which they do almost instantly. The effect is that we may as well have Joe post the text himself- there has been no critical review or discussion, and this has been pointed out many times to no avail, perhaps because he's been commended for his following COI guidelines. Articles should be developed in an organic way - the editors writing them will sooner or later decide if a particular matter should be included, and how to state it - by providing campaign-approved and paid for material, we of necessity are getting their slant, even though they attempt to not be blatantly POV. COI guidelines for individuals who are paid specifically to not be neutral about the subject need to be strong, and that aspect should be spelled out more. Tvoz/talk 09:13, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. Oppose No. We are already too lenient towards paid editing and these proposals will only serve to further damage our credibility. We need to be more proactive and vigilant against COI/paid editors. Your advice against "witch hunting" paid editors is casting the blame at those who want to ensure NPOV where the real problem lies with the POV pushers. ThemFromSpace 22:11, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

Discussion

  • "Change nothing" overstates things a bit... There does need to be explicit clarification to policy on the matter of paid editing — although that might be as simple as adding a few lines making explicit that the business relationship is not itself a bannable offense SO LONG AS: (1) COI declarations are made to talk pages; (2) Actual editing output conforms with NPOV and that there is no clear spamming taking place. But, in essence, existing COI rules are pretty close to the mark, if refined and made explicit. Carrite (talk) 19:34, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
    Carrite - what you propose is already in the COI guideline - hence "change nothing". Rklawton (talk) 19:37, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
Obviously, the part about a (paid) business relationship not being an automatically bannable offense isn't that explicit in the guideline, otherwise there would have been no Jimmy Wales ban and ten weeks of TimidGuy at ArbCom. I think at some point here were should look at a line-by-line review and clarification of the formal COI guidelines... Carrite (talk) 19:50, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
I would support adding something along the lines of Jimbo's bright line: "paid editors such as public relations professionals, expert Wikipedians for hire, subjects of autobiographies and others with a financial conflict of interest are encouraged to stick to Talk Pages, noticeboards and request edits." This is pretty minor compared to some of the suggestions here. Statistically I would gander more bad COI editors are born from not reading policy at all than from problems with the policy/guidelines themselves. So instead of asking "how can we improve policy" my question is "how can we get more COIs to read it." King4057 (talk) 06:34, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Things may need clarification, but I think that that can be done on WT:COI, we don't need an RfC for that per sé. It is clear that there is something that needs discussion, that for sure. --Dirk Beetstra T C 07:45, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  • As a frequent member of WP:AFD discussions I have pretty opposite observations. WP:COI is mainly used to "tag" editor's opinion as the one to discard, and there are case when this approach works just fine. That said, editors concerned with their COI can use all the aforementioned instruments without any policy saying that, and all the rest COI editors won't anyway, so this policy is already dead. — Dmitrij D. Czarkoff (talk) 22:51, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
    • It appears the COI guideline already instructs editors with a Financial COI to use the request edit template. Abusing policies to discredit opposing views certainly isn't supported by current policy either, so I think these issues both have to do with enforcement. King4057 (talk) 08:54, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
      • Sure, but it by far easier to demote useless policy then to deal with consequences of its existence. There are no benefits of keeping it. — Dmitrij D. Czarkoff (talk) 09:46, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  • The guideline is well-written, and displays a sensitivity to balancing the interests of all parties while maintaining the primacy of core content policies such as WP:NPOV. What needs to change is behaviors, rather than the written guideline, and the most useful change will be for paid COI editors to openly declare themselves. The problem is what to do if you either know or suspect that a particular person is a “stealthy” COI editor and you can see that the conflict may be causing the edits to be non-neutral? The dilemma is that merely pointing out the non-neutral nature of the edits may not be sufficient to fix the problem, but if you also mention why you think the editor is conflicted, you run the risk of outing them. Bwrs (talk) 06:14, 23 March 2012 (UTC)

View by Carrite[edit]

Proposal: 1. Make explicit a requirement for paid COI editors to make talk page declarations of their conflict of interest. 2. Make explicit the permissibility (albeit discouraged) of paid COI editors making contributions so long as COI is formally declared on each and every talk page and WP:NPOV is maintained.

Rationale:

If there is a lesson of the TimidGuy case, it is that there is a right way and a wrong way to do COI editing at WP — assuming that our warnings that such editing is often times a BAD idea are not heeded. We need to make formal the requirement of paid editors to declare COI and to make clear that those following this policy and adhering to the tone and spirit of the Wikipedia project will not be persecuted for having made such declarations.

The relevant section needing to be formally addressed is: WP:Conflict_of_interest#Declaring_an_interest.

Rather than proposing formal language, I will leave this as an open-ended statement of what actually needs to be done here. Carrite (talk) 20:03, 28 February 2012 (UTC)

Support
  1. - as proposer. Carrite (talk) 20:07, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. strongly agree with this.--В и к и T 22:36, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. Agree. The status quo isn't working. Miniapolis (talk) 03:29, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. Agree. This makes a lot of sense (which unfortunately means it will be close to a miracle if it gets implemented!). -- Maelefique(talk) 04:19, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. Support. Declaration followed by caution and common sense. User:Fred Bauder Talk 21:10, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  6. Support. While I recognize the apparent contradiction with the way we handle those with other forms of COI, this is one type of COI we can deal with in this manner. DGG ( talk ) 07:16, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. Support especially per Fred Bauder, DGG, and Carrite. Bearian (talk) 17:30, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. Support This will give clear guidance to a special class of COI editors. One thing to figure out is what 'paid' covers. For example, if I work for a non-profit or government, am I considered paid? What if I own the company I'm writing about. 'Paid' might have to be expanded to 'paid to edit, employed by or financially affiliated with the subject' or somesuch. Ocaasi t | c 12:43, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  9. Support To a degree. Paid editing should be an expected disclosure. Failure to disclose would thus have negative ramifications on perception of the intent of editing.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 16:36, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  10. Weakly support Declaring an interest on a talkpage only works when the talkpage is watched. A central forum like COIN would serve a better place to declare an interest. Mandating that COI and paid editors publicly declare their interests and financial connections would be a large ethical step forward. ThemFromSpace 22:15, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. That would not be helpful. If edits by a contributor with a COI are productive (neutral, verifiable, etc.), a declaration of the COI is of no benefit to readers or editors. If the edits are not productive, they can and should be reverted (and the contributor possibly sanctioned) on that basis alone, and the declaration of the COI is likewise of no additional benefit. Moreover, COI contributors who are willing to disobey Wikipedia's rules by making problematic contributions are likely to also disregard any requirement to declare their COI.  Sandstein  00:47, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Enforcing such a requirement would be unworkable. Any efforts to police and investigate violations of this requirement would be harassment in and of itself, and would likely have to include off-wiki investigations. First Light (talk) 21:18, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. Per Sandstein. It penalizes the honest, making them call out "Unclean!" wherever they go, but allowing the dishonest free rein. Jclemens (talk) 02:42, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Oppose unless we require similar disclosure for potentially highly biased editors for ideological reasons including nationalism, religious fundamentalism, etc. Those inclinations often create a conflict of interest with respect to NPOV of comparable intensity. I don't have firm numbers, but I have the impression that many more of those were banned by ArbCom than financially-tied editors, so they are a bigger problem for Wikipedia. ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 09:09, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. Oppose as unenforceable because it is fundamentally incompatible with a venue where registration and identification are optional. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:57, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Mandatory disclosures should be avoided when possible, and I'm not convinced paid editing is a problem serious enough to justify such a disclosure. I also fear the rule resulting in witch hunts. Monty845 23:49, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
  7. Oppose The "requirement" is unenforceable, so long as Wikipedia editors are not required to document their identities and affiliations. It would be too easy for a sly COI editor to refrain from mentioning that he works for a certain company or that he has been paid to write or edit articles relating to some topic. Like the US "Loyalty oaths" of the McCarthy era, this proposal would only catch the careless or naive or extremely honest, who chose an obvious username, or who used their real name and were tracked down in real life (which could result in sanctions for the "tracker,") or who used the same username in some other forum where their affiliation or solicitation or paid Wikipedia writing assignments could be deduced. I oppose a rule which could be used to punish only the very honest, naive or careless POV editor. Focus on the edit, not on the user. Edison (talk) 16:01, 27 April 2012 (UTC)
  8. Oppose. Being a paid editor does not necessarily mean a conflict of interest, as I said elsewhere [15]. Also agree with Sandstein.My very best wishes (talk) 04:45, 9 May 2012 (UTC)
Partial support
  1. Per Rivertorch's second caveat below, I think it would be good to require those receiving financial support for Wikipedia work to disclose that support on their main user page, only. There should be a standard template for it, in a standard position (e.g. end of the page) which puts them into a category. This is so for any sort of financial support, and only financial support. It would be up to others to decide what they think about the conflict of interest - often it might indeed be innocuous. This, to me, seems in line with the standard disclosure statements now included on many biomedical research papers. It is true that people could ignore that, but the point is, doing so would create a risk of an actual scandal rather than a debate. The organization funding these editors, realizing the chance for a scandal if multiple editors of theirs weren't declaring, would probably set their own policy to declare the conflict of interest and monitor their user's pages to verify it is being done. While the category clearly has potential to be abused as a scarlet-letter status, we could also as a community decide to set up a periodic audit mechanism by which the contributions of editors can be evaluated in the light of their disclosed COI, especially during their first month of editing or COI, and passed as being within Wikipedia guidelines. Wnt (talk) 16:48, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
Discussion
  1. I don't see how disclosing a COI would have no benefit to readers or editors; it would be useful in helping to determine whether any POV was intentional or not. However, I acknowledge the problem of dealing with editors determined to disregard policy (NPOV) and guidelines (COI). Miniapolis (talk) 03:29, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. @Sandstein: If a paid COI editor is completely neutral on a topic, I would suggest one of two things:
  1. He is very bad at his job because *anyone* could do that
  2. His job is unnecessary because there is nothing negative to say (in which case, what would they be paying him for?)
Either way, he wouldn't have a COI (or a job!) so I don't think that's a fully thought out idea yet. Additionally, if it was made a requirement, and was found to have violated that requirement, WP would at least have a place to start with sanctions, instead of the case now, where it's been proven ppl have a COI's, and it's still all "ya, but..." etc. -- Maelefique(talk) 04:19, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
You assume that the job of paid COI editors is to write non-neutral content and that they will therefore always do so. If so, that would be an argument to forbid paid COI editing altogether, not only to require COI declaration. But I do not think that this assumption is correct, because a smart COI editor will know that he is likely to be blocked or his additions reverted if they are promotional, whereas they are more likely to persist if they are not. Also, an organization may well have an interest in being covered in a neutral manner on Wikipedia, if the practical alternative is being covered not at all (WP:CSD#G11). Moreover, not all organizations even have something verifiably and notably negative to say about them. In this case, a paid COI editor would do their job, and benefit Wikipedia, by writing about their employer neutrally. (In the admittedly more frequent case where they would simply be promoting their employer, they can and should be reverted and eventually blocked.)  Sandstein  07:06, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
I'm a paid COI editor. Even with a topic as narrow as COI paid editing, there is a broad spectrum. Many edits from Edelman's IP address were basic grammatical fixes and wikification. Do they have to disclose for those? Volunteer editors are routinely accused of being paid COI editors and this sounds like an opportunity to fuel the witch hunt for Outing volunteers. However, I would support it with the caveats that (a) the policy can only be enforced when the paid COI identity of the user is confirmed based on edit history AND a check user that confirms the IP address and (b) it doesn't apply to reverting vandalism, grammar, etc. It would be silly to ban a user for correcting a comma undisclosed. King4057 (talk) 06:59, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
Maelefique, I wonder what you think of the paid editors hired for the WP:WikiProject Medicine/Google Project. Their job was to assist with a charitable translation project by improving some medicine-related articles before the Google Foundation paid for professional translation of the articles into other Wikipedias. Their work was generally quite good, and they were particularly strong on finding a neutral balance. Are you going to label them as "incompetent" since they didn't have an axe to grind? Perhaps you think them "unnecessary", since the Google Foundation could have paid for translations of lower quality articles? Or is the world of paid editors perhaps just a little bigger than you thought it was? (The Google Foundation is not the only charitable outfit that's paid people to improve content without pushing a POV or promoting a particular organization.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:38, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  • My personal opinion on the TimidGuy case is that the principle remedy of the case would have saved everyone a great deal of grief if it had only been carried out four and a half years ago. So I suppose I read it more along the line that COI/N and related accusations have tended in practice to be more abusive than fruitful. Mangoe (talk) 14:33, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
My personal opinion on the TimidGuy case is that everyone would have been saved a great deal of grief of TimidGuy had done what he was told to do nearly 5 years ago at COIN by the closing administrator:
Durova posted: "TimidGuy has a clear and immediate conflict of interest and for this reason would be well advised to restrict participation to talk pages for all transcendental meditation-related articles."
Given that this is the Conflict of interest noticeboard, a response like "Not sure why you're making this point" is not straightforward and intelligent. This section is about editors, you for example, and in fact you in particular, with, yes, clear and immediate conflict of interest issues which it would behoove you to take seriously....
Wikipedia does not need another ream of paragraphs out of you, it needs you editing neutrally or not at all. No more long diatribes, no more changing the subject, no more disingenuity and smokescreens, capisce?
This section alone is already over 56 kilobytes. Enough, already. — Athænara ✉ 05:08, 5 April 2007 (UTC)[16]
Had TimidGuy actually followed those clear instructions, or if Athænara and other admins been been given the tools to make it mandatory, this would have come to a quick halt 5 years ago, long before WillBeback make the mistake, two years later of picking up that Tarbaby at another COIN discussion of why TimidGuy hadn't following the warning he had gotten in 2007.[17] Fladrif (talk) 16:45, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
So the solution is for editors with a COI to stay second class editors forever? Jclemens (talk) 02:45, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
Within the scope of their conflict, they should be limited to talk pages only. At the very least, the closing administrators at COIN should, after a problem as arisen, be able to mandate that they limit themselves to talk pages only, and be able to enforce that with a block, if necessary. Outside of the area of conflict, they can edit article mainspace like anybody else. So, no, they are not second class editors - everyone plays by the same rules, and those rules should include "don't edit in article mainspace where you have a conflict of interest". In effect, it cuts the B and the R out of BRD for editors with a conflict, and sends them straight to Discuss. I see no problem with that whatsoever, and I am absolutely convinced that ArbCom would have been saved dozens of Arbitration cases and hundreds of AE cases every year is that was formal policy. Fladrif (talk) 15:51, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
If we're willing to do this to all editors who demonstrate POV editing, not just those who admit they are being paid to edit Wikipedia, I'd be more favorable to the idea. Jclemens (talk) 04:42, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
I'd be OK with that. Fladrif (talk) 13:47, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
Fladrif is the above exchange covered more or less in your view below? Or will you set it up as a proposal? Babakathy (talk) 14:03, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
More or less. As the discussion continues, I'll probably draft a formal alternative proposal to incorporate the various tweaks that seem to be gathering some support, but I want to hold off lest the discussion get too confused. Fladrif (talk) 14:58, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
I think I could support this with two modifications. First, disclosure should only be required if the community has determined there is likely a problem. (I guess that would mean a thread at COIN closed with a finding of a "likely problem".) Second, disclosure on user page should suffice; pasting boilerplate onto every talk page would be onerous to the editor, tiresome for everyone else, and should only be required if a legitimate challenge is made to one or more edits on NPOV grounds and the editor wishes to defend such edits or make similar ones at at the articles in question. I have to admit that enforcement sounds like a nightmare, though, and I'm not clear this could be required without upgrading guideline to policy, which I've opposed elsewhere on this page. Rivertorch (talk) 08:57, 3 March 2012 (UTC)

View by Fladrif[edit]

Proposal
WP:COI upgraded to a policy from a guideline. Editors with a conflict of interest as defined in WP:COI are required to declare on their userpage that they have a conflict of interest and the scope of the subject matter where they have a conflict of interest. Editors are not, however, required to state their real-world identity nor to disclose what real-world circumstance creates the conflict of interest. (eg an editor would not need to disclose that they are an officer, director, employee or agent of a company or an organization, that they were the subject of or a relative of a BLP subject, that they are litigant in a lawsuit etc... simply that they had a conflict of interest with respect to the subject matter) Within the scope of the conflict of interest, editors are prohibited from editing article mainspace, but must confine their posting to talkpages. There they may suggest changes to article content and attempt to persuade other editors to a consensus. WP:COIN would continue its current function, but uninvolved Administrators would be specifically authorized to impose blocks for violations of WP:COI.
Rationale
The nature of COI is inherently that the editor is attempting to serve two masters. The best-intentioned editors will have difficulty in resolving that conflict in favor of Wikipedia's requirements if, notwithstanding their conflict, they are permitted to edit in article mainspace in areas where they have such a conflict. Others will simply find it impossible. By requiring both (i) a declaration of COI by editors without requiring that they disclose their real-life identity or the precise nature of the conflict and (ii) that, within the scope of the conflict, they may not edit article mainspace, but confine their editing to talkpages, will drastically reduce the impulse to non-neutral editing and conflict. The current guideline strongly urges these things; making it mandatory and giving COIN authority to enforce it is necessary step. Will some editors ignore or be oblivious to these requirements, particularly the declaration of COI? Of course. Just like some editors are oblivious to or ignore lots of other requirements at Wikipedia and in real life. In those cases, the manner of enforcement becomes tricky where identifying the COI of an editor is tied up in real-life circumstances and identities, but a process for private, non-public submission of information could be implemented to minimize issues with WP:Outing Will some editors with COI be tendentious, use sockpuppets and meatpuppets, assume bad faith, and do other horrible things on talkpages in a misguided attempt to persuade, bully or force consensus to what they are advocating to add or delete from mainspace? Of course. Wikipedia already has processes in place to deal with all of that, imperfect as they may be.
Support
  1. As proposer. Fladrif (talk) 22:42, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Mixed. I support that admins in COIN be given the authority to tell editors to stay on the Talk page when a COI editor has been disruptive. This would greatly increase the likelihood of a more positive interaction and decrease editing wars, escalation and other issues. Disclosure: I am myself (often) a paid COI. King4057 (talk) 07:07, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. Not sure to fully upgrade it to policy, but I do like the idea that if an editor with a known COI has been disruptive in his area, that they then can be forced to the talkpage. That allows editing with a conflict of interest, as long as one does not disrupt the subject to one certain POV. Let WP:NPOV handle single cases of non-neutrality, WP:COI the whole topic of a coi editor, even if they have just been disruptive on one page in that topic. The maximum WP:COI is then allowed to do is to confine an editor to talkspace (with the usual exceptions of vandalism reverts). --Dirk Beetstra T C 08:00, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. and see comment. Babakathy (talk) 16:25, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. Support. Gives a safe harbor to ethical public relations professionals. I do think some editing of content such as correcting simple errors of fact and removing defamatory material should be permitted. User:Fred Bauder Talk 21:06, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  6. Exactly. They are not paid by Wikipedia to adhere to the rules. They are paid by someone to make sure they (someone) look good. And if they bend the rules to do it at least they can say they tried and still get their paycheck. 'Cause it's the Pay that gets in the way. ```Buster Seven Talk 08:26, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. Support, per Buster7.--В и к и T 12:39, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. Per Buster7. Writegeist (talk) 18:00, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  9. Prefer this over alt1. Ordering a pseudonymous editor to make a user page disclosure seems like a bad idea. Prefer voluntary disclosure which invites transparency and independent review for neutrality. Kilopi (talk) 01:58, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  10. Support rewriting COI and promoting to policy. I wouldn't support requiring editors to declare their COIs on their user pages; if they stay away from articles where they have a COI, there's no problem. But if they want to have input into those articles, they should declare their COI on talk, and confine their input to talk. That is mostly how things have been handled in the past, at least when people have been honest. It works well, in that Wikipedia benefits from their suggestions, but volunteers are not required to fix or monitor COI articles because no actual edits have been made. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 02:03, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  11. Support per Buster 7 and SlimVirgin. Gandydancer (talk) 19:35, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  12. Support per all of the above. Bearian (talk) 17:32, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  13. Support. I don't think this is necessarily a total solution, but it would be a positive step. I don't accept the objection that it is unenforceable. It's enforceable in cases where we know about the COI. The law against burglary in unenforceable if there is no evidence against the burglar, but that doesn't make it a pointless law. --FormerIP (talk) 00:59, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  14. Support, with minor caveat: This should only apply to clearer COIs; simply having ever expressed a view on a subject, or holding a certain belief isn't necessarily enough to trigger this. 86.** IP (talk)
  15. Support Weakly. Not sure of the user page mandate, but COI editors should publicly disclose their status somewhere on-wiki. That some editors would choose not to declare their interests is of little concern, as they would more likely be the kind to cross NPOV anyway and they can be sanctioned if/when they are caught. ThemFromSpace 22:19, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. This would not be helpful. As mentioned above, COI is but one possible reason for bad contributions, and not all who have a COI make bad contributions. In consequence of this proposal, we would also need to require the declaration of other biases, which could not be implemented. It follows that we need to focus on and prevent edits that are actually problematic, not contributors whose future edits merely may be problematic.  Sandstein  00:39, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Oppose, because we need to "Focus on the edits, not the editor." Even if WP:COI were rewritten to reflect actual practice on Wikipedia, it should still be a behavioral guideline. Wikipedia has no authority or policing mechanism for investigating people to see if they have a conflict of interest. The only way to determine that is to focus on the edits, ....... First Light (talk) 02:03, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. Oppose unless you plan to write a new policy that plainly forbids COI editing. A policy that merely discourages is pointless. ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 03:37, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. Oppose because, as long as Wikipedia places priority on allowing anonymous editing, there is just no way to enforce COI regulations. Cla68 (talk) 04:40, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. Penalizes the honest, rewards the duplicitous. Jclemens (talk) 02:46, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. BLP policy and other help and guidance pages specifically allow subjects to remove BLP violations, for example, and on balance that seems sensible. --JN466 04:59, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. Collect (talk) 04:38, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. Oppose. This strikes me as overreaching. Editors need to be aware that COI is a potential problem and that the community takes it very seriously, but inasmuch as neutral editing by editors with COI issues is possible, requiring disclosure would be unnecessary and run counter to our standards of assuming good faith and focusing on content not contributor. I'm also fairly confident it would be unenforceable. Rivertorch (talk) 08:34, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  9. Oppose as unenforceable because it is fundamentally incompatible with a venue where registration and identification are optional. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:59, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  10. Oppose per JClemens. Eluchil404 (talk) 23:33, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  11. Oppose per JClemens, and also COI edit requests often languish for months, requests on talk pages are just not a viable way of dealing with the problem. Monty845 23:51, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
  12. Oppose Per Sandstein and First Light, and as generally unforceable, unless the COI editor is naive, exceptionally honest, or careless. It then facilitates the sly and crafty COI POV-warrior who will go right on with the editing of article in his area of conflict. Edison (talk) 16:18, 27 April 2012 (UTC)
Comment
  1. @ASCIIn2Bme: I am proposing that COI editing in article mainspace is prohibited, but that conflicted editors must confine themselves to talk pages only within the scope of their conflict. Fladrif (talk) 03:58, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
    @King4057 and Beetstra - Giving COIN administrators the power to require that an editor confine his or herself to talkpages only and not edit in mainspace would be a good first step. I'm suggesting that if the editor does not comply with that requirement, uninvolved admins, including the COIN closing admins, would then have the right to issue blocks. Fladrif (talk) 15:02, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
    @Jayen - I thought about whether the article mainspace editing prohibition should exempt those things currently covered as permissible under Wikipedia:COI#Non-controversial_edits, but didn't propose that exception because I have seen so many intractible disputes on various fora as to whether one edit or another was a BLP violation, for example (Seems to come up all the time on the 3RR noticeboard, for example). Better, it thought, to simply confine folks to talk pages and avoid all that. But, if there was an exception from the "Thou shalt not edit in mainspace" rule to cover non-controversial edits, would you then be able to support something along these lines?Fladrif (talk) 21:47, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
    @ various other "Oppose" comments. What if there was no initial prohibition against mainspace editing by editors with COI, but if the matter went to COIN, the tools in the closing admins' bag of tricks would include to require an editor confine him or herself to the talk pages, enforceable by blocks if ignored? Fladrif (talk) 21:47, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
    I think that's a very good tool to have, but it still leaves the problem that almost no one *apparently* has a COI to begin with, at least de facto, around here. -- Maelefique(talk) 22:53, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. I think we have to start with thinking about what is the purpose of a paid editor? To spin things in the direction of the employer? And right there, isn't that COI? Further, you can twist an article in many directions (as we all know), simply by opposing some material and enhancing others. You never have to make a "bad contribution" if you are smart about it, but you are definitely not working towards the goal of this project. To completely ignore or disregard the real world fact that someone is getting paid to write things here is a little too utopian for me. -- Maelefique(talk) 04:28, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. @Sandstein, @First Light: WP:COI focuses on the edits: Do not edit Wikipedia to promote your own interests, or those of other individuals or of organizations, including employers. Agree that not all who have a COI make bad contributions - but if it is a neutral contribution it does not break WP:COI. Babakathy (talk) 16:25, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. @ Jclemens. How are the duplicitous rewarded? Or the honest penalized?```Buster Seven Talk 08:31, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
    Is it really not sufficiently obvious that people who are required to disclose a COI don't have to work very hard to not disclose such a COI? Or that by doing so they dodge cumbersome requirements that apply to those who have honestly declared a COI? Jclemens (talk) 04:40, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
    Obvious? This is Wikipedia. Nothing is obvious. ```Buster Seven Talk 14:59, 7 March 2012 (UTC)

Alternative Proposal 1 by Fladrif per Comments[edit]

WP:COI upgraded to a policy from a guideline. Editors with a conflict of interest, especially those with a financial COI, are strongly encouraged to (i) declare on their user page that they have a COI and the scope of the COI, (ii) not edit in article mainspace other than non-controversial edits as defined at WP:COI but only on talk pages within the scope of the COI. Editors are not required to state their real world identity nor to discuss what real-world circumstance creates the conflict of interest. WP:COIN continues its current function, but the closing admininstrators are specifically empowered after a finding that an editor has a COI and is not editing neutrally, to (i) require that the user declare on their user page that they have a conflict of interest and the scope of that conflict; (ii) require that an editor with a COI not edit article mainspace, but only on talkpages; and (iii) to enforce the same, if not followed, with blocks. Any uninvolved admin would also have the right to impose blocks for violation of such COIN remedies. Fladrif (talk) 18:26, 3 March 2012 (UTC)

Support
  1. As alternative per comments of various editors above. Second choice, but could support this. Doesn't really change current policy, but gives COIN enforcement tools. Doesn't solve everything, just one step in the right direction. Fladrif (talk) 18:34, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Support. ```Buster Seven Talk 16:04, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. Still penalizes the honest and rewards dishonesty. I appreciate that you're trying to incorporate feedback, but I think is the fatal flaw in every "declaration" proposal: the path of least resistance is to not declare it, and it's nearly impossible to catch unless the editor in question is sufficiently ham-fisted that the declaration wouldn't have been necessary in the first place. Jclemens (talk) 02:23, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    Now I am stumped. How is someone found to have a COI at COIN being forced to carry that label on their user page and confined to talk pages within the scope of the COI penalizing the honest and rewarding the dishonest?Fladrif (talk) 02:41, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    "... are strongly encouraged to (i) declare on their user page that they have a COI and the scope of the COI" Jclemens (talk) 02:42, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    Still perplexed. Editors are not "penalized" if they voluntarily do that which they are strongly encouraged, but not affirmatively required, to do. Editors are not "rewarded" if they choose not to do that which they are strongly encouraged, but not affirmatively required to do. Penalties and rewards are things imposed by third parties, not things one chooses to do oneself. Or, do you simply think that editors with a COI should not be encouraged to disclose it or to stick to the talk pages? Is that bad advice? Fladrif (talk) 03:23, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    If you don't understand how adding extra work to editors who take a recommended action--one that is not enforceable in the first place--disincentivizes that action, I'm really afraid I can't help you. I strongly recommend studying up on game theory if you're having trouble understanding my point. Jclemens (talk) 04:54, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    That doesn't make the consequences of the choice one makes either a punishment or a reward. Failing to make the choice to follow the recommended course of action does, under both alternatives I've proposed, lead to mandated compliance if the failure to make that choice leads to problems that make it to COIN.Fladrif (talk) 15:58, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    If you don't see a fatal flaw in encouraging ("reward" is just fine terminology, but I'll switch if you really have a problem with it...) non-compliance through reduced scrutiny and lower administrative overhead, then there's really nothing else to say here. I maintain my position that increasing burdens on editors taking an optional action disincentivizes that action. Jclemens (talk) 17:44, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Oppose giving blocking authority to admins based on such a poorly and vaguely written guideline. For example, WP:COI says, "There are no firm criteria to determine whether a conflict of interest exists...." Admins should be focusing on editing behavior, which means "focus on the edits, not the editor", or as current policy puts it "Comment on content, not on the contributor." (from WP:NPA). First Light (talk) 16:26, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Cla68 (talk) 22:46, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Oppose. I agree with most of what you wrote, but the prohibition on any direct editing of articles, even after declaring ones COI is too broad. For one, the COI guideline already permits non-controversial changes such as spelling, grammar, and simple facts. Two, COI is too broadly defined in the policy and preventing all COI editors from editing directly--without tightening up the definition of what a COI editor is--would mean that many, many individuals would not be able to work on articles where they had previously contributed productively and in good faith. People with COI get involved in a way that completely neutral editors do not; yes, sometimes to excess, but often COI editors are the only ones who care enough about an article to actually work on it. I don't think we should make the bar so high that they can't contribute. Ocaasi t | c 12:50, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
Discussion

View by PleaseStand[edit]

Leaving COI in place as a guideline draws significant attention away from the main NPOV policy and reinforces the Wikipedia bureaucracy. We should instead demote COI to essay status and drastically rewrite it in a more concise, example-focused manner. The new version would ideally fit on a single, easy-to-read page similar to WP:42 or even some other essays such as WP:MILL. We could continue to show the resulting page to new editors, who could use some guidance on writing neutral articles and acting in their and Wikipedia's best interests. Only the most damaging POV issues would warrant blocking, banning, page protection, and other preventive measures. Editors should discuss less damaging issues on article talk pages, as with content disputes in general. PleaseStand (talk) 01:06, 29 February 2012 (UTC)

Support

  1. Cla68 (talk) 04:40, 29 February 2012 (UTC)

Oppose

  1. There are already short-version COI essays, such as those listed here. Disclosure: I am myself (often) a paid COI. King4057 (talk) 07:09, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. This line of thinking is true for any guideline - they are all based on policies, which are all based on the 5P. Following the reasoning that a guideline is drawing significant attention away from the policies is then true for all guidelines, and all should become essays. Which defies the purpose of essays ... --Dirk Beetstra T C 07:50, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. Oppose. This is a move in the opposite direction of what should be considered. Fladrif (talk) 16:20, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. Sends wrong message. Babakathy (talk) 16:27, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. Oppose; sends wrong message, implies that this is less important than it is. --Orange Mike | Talk 17:38, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Oppose. ```Buster Seven Talk 23:03, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. Oppose. Essays are great, but they're only essays. New editors have no easy way to determine whether a given essay enjoys broad support, so they may feel free to ignore it. Rivertorch (talk) 08:23, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. Oppose per all of the above. Bearian (talk) 17:33, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  9. Oppose. Gives the impression we don't take COI editing seriously when instead we should be doing more to educate and instruct COI editors in best practices. Ocaasi t | c 13:01, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  10. Oppose horrid idea! 86.** IP (talk) 22:22, 29 April 2012 (UTC)

Comments

View by Jayen466[edit]

There are many aspects of Wikipedia policy and guidelines – the COI guideline among them – that favour Wikipedia's anonymous editors over biography subjects and their representatives. This is not entirely surprising: Wikipedia's policies and guidelines are written by its anonymous editors, who take good care to ensure that their own interests are served – the top priorities being that it should be as difficult as possible to hold them personally accountable for what they write, and that they should be able to write what they like, without interference from those they write about.

The Wikimedia Foundation itself does not want to be accountable either, for obvious reasons.

Thus it is not surprising that Wikipedia has had and no doubt continues to have many articles on individuals and corporations that were or are unfair to their subjects, to the point of being attack pages.

  • Wikipedia's anonymous editing concept makes it an ideal venue for defamation, encouraging stalkers, professional rivals and competitors to edit the articles of people they don't like.
  • While there is every arrangement and policy investment designed to protect anonymous editors, there is no comparable policy investment to protect biography or corporate subjects – for example:
    • Someone complaining at a Wikipedia noticeboard about another editor's "conflict-of-interest" edits or "legal threat" usually obtains a response within 5 minutes, while a subject writing to OTRS sometimes has to wait weeks for a reply.
    • While a biography subject who threatens to sue an editor for libel is blocked from Wikipedia, someone who is already in a real-life legal dispute with them can edit their biography, the top Google link for their name, with impunity.
  • Biography subjects or corporate officers who come to Wikipedia, alarmed that the no. 1 Google link for them shows them in a worse light than they deserve, find themselves in a disorienting environment where the rules are stacked against them, and frequently end up hazed, mocked, and blocked from editing.
  • It is not uncommon for biography subjects to ask for deletion of their biographies here. This is sometimes granted, if the person's notability is marginal, and sometimes it isn't.
  • While Wikipedia has much the same reach as a top newspaper, it is not accountable to the public in any significant way – it is not subject to the Press Complaints Commission, for example. People victimised by it have no voice.

A paid Wikipedia advocate with a good knowledge of Wikipedia policy and dispute resolution processes might actually make sense in such circumstances. But the matter is fraught with difficulties:

  • If paid advocates do not disclose their status, they are open to being discovered, and the community feels betrayed.
  • If paid advocates do disclose their status, Wikipedia will be criticised for allowing such advocacy.
  • If paid advocates disclose their status, they may be ganged up on and thwarted by anonymous contributors hostile to the business world.
  • If paid advocates support each other, to counteract this effect, community relations will suffer from the formation of two hostile factions.
  • If paid advocates are too successful, articles may end up too positive, causing an additional credibility problem – for it has to be admitted that where subjects have been able to edit little-watched articles in a solitary manner, the results have tended to be problematic as well, by being overly favourable.

Remainder moved to discussion, below, per Jclemens. Perhaps one solution would be to have an internal review board in Wikipedia, similar to Wikipedia's arbitration committee, that biography subjects, companies and their paid representatives as well as other concerned editors can appeal to when they are unable to establish a neutral wording in an article on them. This board should not be composed of Wikipedians alone, but should also include representatives of the general public.

As unfair information on an individual or a company under their no. 1 Google link can have a very damaging effect indeed, this board should respond much more quickly than the arbitration committee, which is generally the last port of call once all other avenues have been exhausted.

Support

  1. Support further discussion in this direction. --JN466 12:20, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. These reasons are why Wikipedia articles on "living" subjects (including companies/religions) are usually slanted much more negatively than equivalent articles written by the experts who write and edit professional encyclopedias. An editor with an obvious vendetta against a company/person/religion is rarely called out for their Conflict of Interest, while someone who demonstrates real knowledge of the subject is often called out for having a "conflict". That is quite opposite to how professional works are written. First Light (talk) 15:51, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. Good idea. Cla68 (talk) 23:07, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. This should really be broken into two statements, because I support the summary of the problem. I've seen this happen on OTRS time and time again: real tickets about unbalanced articles do go unanswered for weeks. At the same time, I'm not sure the solution proposed is the most optimum response to this problem. Jclemens (talk) 02:50, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
    You're right. I've struck the material at the end and put it below instead. (If you think I should strike and move more, please let me know.) --JN466 03:52, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. I'm going to "cross the aisle" here to give partial support, where respect and some lenient consideration for disclosed COI editors, especially named editors, is concerned. I've seen cases with people like User:James dalton bell, User:VictimsWife, User:Brews ohare, and some minor actor whose page I think has been deleted (I remember toward the end saying in frustration that his argument with some COI critics was like a "fistfight with a whore" that ends up as a reputational loss no matter what the merits, but the search terms yield nothing). There is a toxic combination here that the person involved with a case starts out being treated with rudeness and suspicion, while he himself is unfamiliar with the rules, and things quickly degenerate to all out war. I am very much against BLP censorship, but for just such reason I am very much for figuring out ways for BLP principals to get their side of the story in when they want to. I think that one method could be to expand the OTRS system to arrange what I would dub "Verified Interviews with Biographic Subjects" (VIBS) for publication in Wikinews and referencing in Wikipedia. The subject of a BLP should be a reliable source even if he has not rented his own website. Wnt (talk) 15:41, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Supporting the summary of the predicament, not the crossed-out proposal. ThemFromSpace 22:22, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

Oppose

  1. Oppose. Arbitration committee doesn't decide on the article content, but on the user conduct issues. Creation of the "internal review board in Wikipedia that biography subjects, companies and their paid representatives....can appeal to when they are unable to establish a neutral wording in an article" goes against everything what Wikipedia is. There are article talk pages and appropriate noticeboards for discussion about article content, and for user conduct issues we have arbitration committee. It is unacceptable that some committee or board has the power to make decisions on the content, bypassing established procedures and ignoring the consensus of editors who edit those articles.--В и к и T 12:50, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  2. Oppose, per Wikiwind. And by the way, part of this is already covered by WP:OTRS. --Dirk Beetstra T C 13:05, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  3. Oppose. Adding a layer of bureaucracy for the purpose of creating an editorial board making decisions about content questions behind closed doors strikes me as fundamentally changing the core idea of Wikipedia. I'm not saying that having an editorial board to make decisions about content questions in an Encyclopedia is a bad thing - Britannica has been doing it for over 250 years, and it's worked out pretty well for them. It just isn't the way Wikipedia works. Fladrif (talk) 16:18, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  4. Oppose. Content can never be turned over to a committee, which here is likely to be a very small, interested committee. We have an editing and discussion process which while it is imperfect will be short-circuited by creation of an option which permits dictation of content. User:Fred Bauder Talk 21:01, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  5. Oppose. The best committee is the whole body of editors. This is the basic concept of Crowd Sourcing at the heart of Wikipedia ; though a group like ours cannot be reliable in an academic sense, we can at least give a fair summary if enough people participate. DGG ( talk ) 04:15, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Oppose per all of the above opposes. Undermines the concept of a community of editors regulating content through consensus. Rivertorch (talk) 08:18, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. Oppose. Kilopi (talk) 01:41, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. Oppose. Goes against the basis of Wikipedia, as per above comments. It is not part of our purpose to ensure that the subjects of our articles are happy with the coverage they receive, and there are already processes which they can use to highlight issues with their articles, which have been known to work. --FormerIP (talk) 01:04, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  9. Oppose - More flogging of the BLP horse. A diversion from the real issue and its reasonable solution. Carrite (talk) 18:20, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
  10. Oppose per Fladrif. 86.** IP (talk) 22:52, 29 April 2012 (UTC)

Discussion

Perhaps one solution would be to have an internal review board in Wikipedia, similar to Wikipedia's arbitration committee, that biography subjects, companies and their paid representatives as well as other concerned editors can appeal to when they are unable to establish a neutral wording in an article on them. This board should not be composed of Wikipedians alone, but should also include representatives of the general public.

As unfair information on an individual or a company under their no. 1 Google link can have a very damaging effect indeed, this board should respond much more quickly than the arbitration committee, which is generally the last port of call once all other avenues have been exhausted. --JN466 03:40, 1 March 2012 (UTC)

Other possible solutions would be –

  1. A policy similar to BLP, but for corporate subjects. In writing this, we should involve outside stakeholders: the people and companies we write about.
  2. A corresponding noticeboard, modelled on the BLP noticeboard.
  3. Particularly problematic articles and minor (little-watched) biographies could be moved to a separate project where editing is registered, rather than anonymous. --JN466 03:45, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
I would very strongly oppose extending BLP beyond living natural people. The reputation of a living individual, and the risk of doing harm to one by undue emphasis is a much more serious ethical question than doing harm to an impersonal entity. For one thing, a corporation is usually in a very much better position to defend itself. In fact, a corporation is in a position to defend itself very effectively against even the most valid of criticism, and is very apt to claim unfairness as a way of discouraging critics. We cannot engage in clear libel, or compiling articles out of consumer complaints that belong on Yelp!, but that's a long way form the special consideration we owe our fellow human beings. You cannot hurt the feelings of a corporation, only its economic interests. That's not a trivial matter, but its a very different thing from unfairly shaming a real living person. To a company we owe fairness, to a person we owe humane consideration. I would give no special opening to the apologists for corporate behavior--that's encouraging their COI. We do better to judge abstractly, by published sources. the appropriate role of a corporate entity is calling our attention to those we may have overlooked, and that can be done on the talk page or OTRS. the only real need of OTRS is when we must consider private data, and this is much more likely for an individual. DGG ( talk ) 07:44, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
DGG, your point about the difference between natural persons and other legal persons is well taken, and I would not (and did not) propose extending BLP to other types of legal person. At the same time, though, unless I am missing something, we seem to offer remarkably little guidance on how to write encyclopedic articles on companies (beyond the very obscure Wikipedia:Companies, corporations and economic information page, which does not even claim to be an essay). Putting some thought into what a Wikipedia article on a company should look like, and writing a corresponding guideline, would be a worthwhile undertaking. Any such guideline should naturally reflect the differences between natural persons and companies. JN466 03:13, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  • The discussion options above all move in the wrong direction. The problem is not that we are too lenient toward editors, but that we are too hostile toward subjects. The subjects of biographical articles, and yes, even corporations, should have a right to reply in some way that is referenced from and even summarized in the article. But they should not have the right to strip out sourced information from the article because it looks bad. We achieve NPOV by including all points of view, not by trying to work out an average. Wnt (talk) 16:36, 3 March 2012 (UTC)

View by Anbu121[edit]

Proposal: Make two separate guidelines, one for paid COI/direct COI and one for unpaid COI/indirect COI

Paid COI/direct COI will include cases like

  • A company paying its marketing personnel or an external agency for writing about it
  • A user editing his own BLP (Autobiography)
  • The owner/copyright holder of the subject of the article

Unpaid COI/indirect COI will include cases like

  • A student editing the article of the school/college in which he/she studies
  • Fans editing article of a celebrity

These are only examples. We need to frame some guidelines on how to determine whether the COI is direct or indirect.

The current guideline does not explicitly differentiate these two types. Hence, in many cases, an indirect COI is handled in a manner that a direct COI ought to be handled, leading to disputes. --Anbu121 (talk me) 22:18, 29 February 2012 (UTC)


Support

  1. Paid editors should be split into categories. Promoting a new line of Jeans or being overly protective of your favorite bands article are not as consequential in the real world as influencing the political voting public. Hundreds of thousands of voters come to WP for info. COI, or some new principle, should protect them from chicanery. ```Buster Seven Talk 14:52, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Support Paid editors are inherently more corrupted than personal ideology. I can weakly hold a belief. A company paying me to do PR won't weakly hold a belief that their product should be made to look good. 86.** IP (talk) 22:53, 29 April 2012 (UTC)

Oppose

  1. Again, with someone assuming that cash trading hands is somehow more corrupting than personal ideology. I don't believe that it is, having seen all sorts of other -isms. The nice thing about paid editors is that, unlike nationalistic (or whatever) ones, they rarely seem to take things personally. Jclemens (talk) 02:51, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
    I did not meant that they are more corrupt. I am just saying that the suggestions given in the guideline to handle COI can be separate for direct COI and indirect COI. There are other policies (NPOV, verifiability) to handle the personal ideologies.--Anbu121 (talk me) 06:21, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. I think is would be an unneeded complication.Babakathy (talk) 08:11, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Oppose, and where is the line between those two types, and it would be overly bureaucratic. --Dirk Beetstra T C 19:32, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. I agree that mercenary COI edits are probably less of a threat then those with ideological motivations. Monty845 23:53, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
  5. The line between the two is blurry, and they should be able to be handled by one policy page. ThemFromSpace 22:23, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

Comments

  1. I agree those are qualitatively different cases, best dealt with in different ways. WP:COI is useful for editors with commercial bias; I can't think of what WP:COI (indirect) could say that isn't already in WP:NPOV. Kilopi (talk) 01:37, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Maybe COI (strong) and COI (weak) rather than paid or unpaid. Paid falling under a strong COI. King4057 (talk) 04:23, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. I agree with this particular division as there is a difference between a band member editing the article on his band and a fan editing the same article. However, I'm not sure it's a good idea to view the "fan" as having a COI, strong, weak, or otherwise. What's the difference between having a "weak COI" and being "neutral"? If you like the band's music just a "little bit" do you have a COI?. I would hate to see an environment where only those who don't give a rat's ass about a topic are viewed as "neutral". --Ron Ritzman (talk) 21:30, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. I wouldn't support two separate guidelines, but I would support a separate section within WP:COI which specifically addresses paid editors. Ocaasi t | c 13:13, 11 March 2012 (UTC)

View by Eclipsed[edit]

Professionals who responsibly engage with the Wikipedia Community should be encouraged to devote a portion of their work time to Pro bono assistance within Wikipedia, in areas outside of their conflict of interest.

Support
  1. as proposer.     Eclipsed   (talk)   (COI Declaration)     12:33, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. I think the sentiment behind this is a good one. I wouldn't call it 'pro bono' work, since that implies something compensatory about their COI editing; I would just make it a positive suggestion: "COI editors are encouraged to edit outside their area of conflict, to gain experience editing neutrally, and to help develop the encyclopedia."
Oppose
  1. Thing is, this applies to everyone who edits - anyone can edit, everyone is encouraged to edit.Babakathy (talk) 13:26, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. No, oppose. What you are actually enabling, is that an editor can blatantly promote his own business on Wiki, as long as he 'pays' with his knowledge to Wikipedia. And how are we going to measure whether how much Jimbo is earning by turning Wikipedia into a massive promotional page, and how many other pages does Jimbo have to edit to counter that? And how will that compare to a small local company from some little village somewhere in some country? --Dirk Beetstra T C 19:30, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Unworkable. ```Buster Seven Talk 14:43, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. All professionals should be encourages to do pro bono work for WP, surely! And those who deal responsibly with a COI have already done everything we can reasonably ask of them. --FormerIP (talk) 01:06, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
Comment
  • Interesting idea, but unenforceable and it would amount to a tax (in time, not dollars) on editors who declared a professional interest, but provided no penalty whatsoever to an editor who failed to declare one. Jclemens (talk) 07:19, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Agree with Jclemens. I would have to disclose on 200 articles' talk pages that I'm an attorney. Bearian (talk) 17:35, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
    Only if you have a conflict of interest on those 200 articles. Simply having knowledge of a particular subject area doesn't count. But, being a lawyer, I expect you know that. --FormerIP (talk) 00:42, 12 March 2012 (UTC)

Draft 2[edit]

Revised per the suggestion in support #2 above:

Professionals engaged with Wikipedia are encouraged to edit outside their area of conflict, to gain experience editing neutrally, and to help develop the encyclopedia.

Thanks. -- Eclipsed (talk) (COI Declaration) 23:04, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

View by Hipocrite[edit]

Wikipedia is an attractive target for anyone who wants the TRUTH to be different than the truth. By manipulating the most well-known and visible source of content on the internet, any PR agent, true-believer, or paid disinformation agent can complete their mission of changing the public perception of something. Wikipedia, the community, does an incredibly poor job of protecting its editors who attempt to stem the tide of this torrent of disinformation, giving rise to an atmosphere where conduct matters far, far more than content ever does.

Administrators, and more importantly, arbiters, need to be informed that NPOV is a pillar of the encyclopedia, and that editors, regardless of how civil they are, how much they fail to obviously edit war, and how well sourced their contributions might seem to be, remain blockable and bannable if they fail to follow our basic compact with the reader - that we will provide information that reflects the weight that information is provided in the informed world at large.

Support
  1. Hipocrite (talk) 14:37, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Yes. MastCell Talk 19:11, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Strongly support. --Orange Mike | Talk 19:25, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Strong support. --Dirk Beetstra T C 19:31, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. I'm on board with this, though I'd tweak the wording a bit. Maybe "reminded" instead of "informed", but the jist of it is on the mark. Fladrif (talk) 20:19, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Support.--В и к и T 20:28, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. Strong support. Editing for the good of the reader instead of editing for the good of the candidate. ```Buster Seven Talk 22:59, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. Strong support as both the current consensus, and as what in my opinion ought to be the consensus. DGG ( talk ) 03:22, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  9. Support. Though I fear the tide is turning. The paid-editors/COI crowd grows increasingly strong and brash, attacking those who speak out for a volunteer-based, NPOV encyclopedia. I don't know if they can be stymied, but we need to keep trying. Ebikeguy (talk) 04:14, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  10. Support. If our readers get the impression that paid editing has taken root on Wikipedia, they'll lose whatever confidence they had in the project. It has taken years to build up that confidence, and it's still precarious. It makes no sense to weaken it deliberately. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 05:39, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
    I think the single most important thing we can do to protect Wikipedia's credibility in the eyes of the public is to insist paid editors disclose their COI and stay on Talk pages, AfC, noticeboards, sandboxes, etc. I want to continue to make contributions as a paid editor, but I also want to see Wikipedia flourish, grow and become more reliable as a result. King4057 (talk) 08:37, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  11. If by "the informed world at large" you mean reliable sources, then certainly. Jclemens (talk) 07:17, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  12. Seems sensible. Mathsci (talk) 07:49, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  13. Support. Policing articles for subtle POV-pushing is a thankless task but a necessary one if Wikipedia is to attain and maintain credibility as a repository of neutral information. Rivertorch (talk) 08:13, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  14. Support, subject to observation below. Tom Harrison Talk 15:55, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  15. Support strongly. Writegeist (talk) 17:56, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  16. Support, though I feel the first (and currently only) two observations below are true. --Elvey (talk) 21:21, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  17. Support--Cailil talk 00:13, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  18. Support. Kilopi (talk) 01:28, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  19. Mixed I support that it should be considered an NPOV violation if a single purpose account appears to systematically and intentionally be corrupting the neutrality of Wikipedia. In other words, verification + civility does not necessarily = NPOV. But I also agree that such a rule would be prone to abuse. King4057 (talk) 05:19, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  20. Support Gandydancer (talk) 20:31, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  21. NW (Talk) 00:49, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  22. Support as a statement of principle. Wikipedia falls short of this mark at present, but we should craft policy to move us in this direction. --TeaDrinker (talk) 04:48, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  23. In-theory-only support. In abstract principle, yes it would be great to simply vaporise all the editors who fail to follow WP:NPOV. That's on the assumption that, naturally, it will be me who gets to be the judge. I might give firmer support to a fuller, workable proposal. FormerIP (talk) 01:11, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  24. Support This succinctly describes a persistent problem seen in any number of the scientific articles, for example topics such as Cold Fusion or Climate Change, which have vast numbers of editors seeking to push their own singular points of view to the exclusion of all others. The true believers that Hipocrite speaks of. Unfortunately such groups often succeed at taking control of the topics to the detriment of the project, and something really ought to be done about it. --Vanished User 13579 (talk) 00:47, 28 March 2012 (UTC)
  25. Support Strongly. A correct documentation of our model's greatest weakness. ThemFromSpace 22:25, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. Sorry, but this is a battleground attitude. It's way easy for editors who psych themselves up along the lines of the battle cry above ("torrent of disinformation" etc.) to bite well-meaning but less wiki-experienced contributors or to massively and successfully push their own POV by skillful wikilawyering. See the Messer-Kruse affair. (And you probably mean "contract with the reader" not "compact with the reader".) The idea that editors who persistently edit against NPOV should be sanctioned has been better phrased by Sandstein above. ASCIIn2Bme (talk) 11:44, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
    I'm not an authority on English usage, but in my mind "compact" and "contract" are synonymous. Wiktionary agrees with me... which probably means I'm wrong. :P MastCell Talk 19:56, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Agree with ASCIIn2Bme. This sets up a theoretical dichotomy that does not really exist, for our community contains many who, to use Hipocrite's apt words, "want the TRUTH to be different than the truth" and who "by manipulating the most well-known and visible source of content on the internet" would like to "complete their mission of changing the public perception of something". This latter ability is – and always has been – a major recruiting tool for Wikimedia. It is reflected in battleground areas and arbitration cases where the entire active editorship consists only of extremists with diametrically opposed viewpoints, and no middle-of-the-road editors are in evidence. So, while I agree that Wikimedia holds out, to all comers, an opportunity to edit the no. 1 Google link for any topic under the sun, the way this is phrased is an example of psychological splitting. The enemy is within, not without. As I have said above, I have seen too many cases where the "COI editor" was in the right, and given a very, very rough deal here. Sandstein did indeed offer a better, fairer and less obviously self-congratulatory version of this above. JN466 03:29, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Close, but depends too much on weight; which in practice means that successful prior PR or disinformation efforts must be uncritically ratified. User:Fred Bauder Talk 04:02, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Oppose - Vigorously says nothing with great emphasis and an aggressive flourish. Let's save some words and reduce it to something we can all agree upon: "NPOV is good." Carrite (talk) 06:14, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. I'd be concerned if this had a chance in hell. All this says is that we should allow administrators and Arbitrators to make content decisions and enforce them by block. This proposal has nothing positive to offer in terms of how such a thing could be implemented without destroying the consensus process. It is a nullification of the crowdsourcing model on which Wikipedia is based. BeCritical 20:18, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    Let me play devil's advocate. Admins already make conduct decisions and enforce them by block, and these conduct issues are often far less clear-cut than content disputes. Your arguments are general enough that they could equally well be applied to prohibit admins from making conduct-based blocks, as best I can tell. MastCell Talk 20:38, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    Conduct has little to do with content. I really don't have to argue this: if anyone wants this to actually be the way WP works, let's just make a community RfC over whether we should change policy to let ArbCom make conduct content decisions. Then do the same for regular administrators. Till then, let's keep using the admin tools to enforce content something that can get you desysopped. BeCritical 20:57, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    "let's just make a community RfC over whether we should change policy to let ArbCom make conduct decisions." Did you mean to write "content decisions"? Certainly arbcom and admins already make content decisions in areas that, as a result of arbitration, are subject to discretionary sanctions. This effects a significant and increasing number of articles. Tom Harrison Talk 21:34, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    Corrected, thanks. BeCritical 21:44, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. This sounds as if it is making excuses for editors who violate WP's policies in certain topic areas, but justify their actions based on the fact that we know what the TRUTH is and are just trying to make sure that only the TRUTH as we know it is represented in Wikipedia. This attitude has caused immense problems in certain topic areas in Wikipedia, especially in science and pseudoscience, some of which have yet to be resolved. Cla68 (talk) 22:55, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    I don't see that anywhere in Hipocrite's statement. He's advocating that people who egregiously violate Wikipedia's policies (in this case, WP:NPOV) should be blocked. His view is informed by the fact that a committed advocate can push any form of nonsense, no matter how unencyclopedic or pernicious, nearly indefinitely so long as s/he remains superficially civil. That's a reality that I think a lot of editors have experienced, and I think it's a substantial contributor to the problem of editor retention. MastCell Talk 01:06, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
    I would have to have examples of that. I haven't seen it happen, and I think it would be difficult to push nonsense without proper sourcing and without a large team of similarly minded editors. But I do see where Cla68 gets that, because admins pushing their individual or collective POV is even worse than general editors doing so. And admins deciding what is their idea of NPOV and then pushing it is what's being recommended here. BeCritical 02:07, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
    You are preaching to the "choir" here, in a manner of speaking, although I doubt that you realize just how close to the "mark" that your comment has come. ;-) --Vanished User 13579 (talk) 00:56, 28 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. Oppose concept we will provide information that reflects the weight that information is provided in the informed world at large. The mass media makes money off hyping war, terrorism, violence, etc., so there is a bias in much news reporting. It may take years before books and scholarly works give a more balanced view of reality on these and similar hot button topics. Therefore this sentence seems to say that it's OK to focus only on what the mainstream media "informed world" thinks and defacto calls POV those WP:RS that aren't part of the mainstream media. CarolMooreDC 05:00, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. Try as I might, I fear the tenor of the comments is one which I can not support. POV-warriors ahave not been shown in the past to be predominantly "paid" at all. I suggest it is better to ensure NPOV than it is to go witch0-hunting and outing editors. The actual compact for Wikipedia is only to present reliably sourced information to readers, and to present the sources so that the readers can see precisely what they say. Collect (talk) 15:15, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
  9. Sysops shouldn't be trigger-happy with the block tool. Interacting civilly with those suspected of having a COI is a good idea. Use clear, concise warnings, but don't resort to playing the "bad cop". --Michaeldsuarez (talk) 01:40, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
Observations
  1. The statement "editors, regardless of how civil they are, how much they fail to obviously edit war, and how well sourced their contributions might seem to be, remain blockable and bannable if they fail to follow our basic compact with the reader" is factually incorrect. Any admin who blocked or banned a civil, non-edit warring user employing at least remotely credible sources would be gleefully and energetically made an ex-admin by the Arbitration Committee. Admins are expressly forbidden from intervening in content (aside from BLP). Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 15:01, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
    One could only wish that it were so. Your claim most decidedly lacks any resemblance to the reality that I have observed here. Reality is quite the reverse in that the worst offenders are frequently rewarded rather than being punished as you suggest. --Vanished User 13579 (talk) 01:06, 28 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Support the basic point, but admins (and editors) usually don't know what's NPOV because they aren't familiar with the sources. They define neutral based on what the talk page says, what they saw on the news last Tuesday, or just on their own superficial knowledge of the subject. It's as if Johnny takes a pie to school, and Billy snatches it away. They fight. Teacher breaks it up and decrees a fair compromise - each gets half the pie and must stay in at recess. That's how it works in practice when Wikipedia administrators rule on content. Tom Harrison Talk 15:55, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
    I really like your schoolteacher–pie simile here. :) JN466 06:21, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    I concur with Tom Harrison that you need to read the sources to assess whether a set of edits are NPOV, removing existing POV bias or introducing POV bias. Babakathy (talk) 08:47, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Not sure what the actual change advocated by this view is - are we talking of increasing/changing powers of admins, and are we talking of NPOV policy or COI guideline? Babakathy (talk) 08:50, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    I think it's pretty clear "Start blocking people for being non-neutral advocates for minority positions beyond their prevalence in reliable sources, already." Hipocrite (talk) 12:55, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    Thanks, but as an amendment to WP:COI (and upgrade to policy??) or an amendment to WP:NPOV? Babakathy (talk) 13:15, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    I don't believe in reductionism. The solution to the problem is to start actually blocking advocates, as opposed to the current practice of blocking people who say a bad word. Arguing about what verbiage some policy no one reads or follows says is irrelevant. Hipocrite (talk) 16:16, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    NPOV violations swing both ways, so this would necessarily apply to NPOV-violating advocates as well as NPOV-violating opposers. And I'm assuming individual admins will start making the judgments as to who is violating NPOV? If not, then the evaluation and blocking/banning process needs to be made clear. Dreadstar 18:25, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    Good point. Hipocrite, do you mean for your proposal to also include non-neutral advocates of the purported majority position? Cla68 (talk) 22:59, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    I don't know why you can't read what I wrote. It says quite clearly "we will provide information that reflects the weight that information is provided in the informed world at large." How hard is this to understand? Hipocrite (talk) 23:23, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    Sorry, I should have phrased my question differently because I didn't intend to provoke such a defensive response. The problem I have seen in some science and pseudoscience articles is that some editors interpret the "weight" issue in a POV manner and refuse to acknowledge that a notable minority opinion even exists. In that case, those editors are pushing POV editing in support of a claimed majority opinion. They may have a COI to do so, for example if they are a member of a profession or activist group which has a stake in the issue, but their COI isn't as important as how they act on it, i.e. if they engage in POV editing. Cla68 (talk) 23:30, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    If editors are failing to follow our basic compact with readers that "we will provide information that reflects the weight that information is provided in the informed world at large," they should be blocked until they do so. You clearly believe that this is false - that readers who bias our coverage away from the weight information is provided in the world at large (by over weighting either the majority or minority views outside of their proportion in reliable sources) should not be blocked, because admins are not permitted to judge NPOV, despite the fact that it is one of the five pillars. That's fine, but I don't know why you want to have some threaded discussion about why you don't think NPOV is blockable because some editors push science/psuedoscience. Hipocrite (talk) 23:35, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    Hipocrite, however much fun it would be to see admins with differing takes on NPOV blocking non-admin editors and each other, I don't think it would be very good for business. BeCritical 23:44, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    I think the reason NPOV isn't enforced better, as in blocking POV-pushing editors, is mainly a question of simple manpower. To take care of POV-pushing editors, an admin would need to study all the sources, peruse the topic's talk page discussions, including all the archives, ask all the parties some questions, then some follow-up questions, hand out the blocks, then deal with the resulting fallout and recriminations at ANI/AN. This process would be extremely time-consuming. If WP had more active admins, they could share this task among themselves, along with all the janitorial work that needs to be done. Since they don't have enough people, the admins choose not to get involved in such time-intensive activities. Cla68 (talk) 00:04, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
    Doesn't work, any such determination of NPOV is automatically enforcement by the admin/s of their own POV. It's just allowing admins to have a POV which is more important than that of other editors, and enforce it. BeCritical 00:09, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
    Presumably, if there is POV-pushing happening on both sides of the issue, then editors on both sides would be blocked. You're right, but there are ways to mitigate it, such as by having at least three admins, preferably chosen at random, involved in the decision or review process. Or, perhaps the admin could take his/her evidence then present it as a public RfC before making a decision on who gets blocked. Of course, that would make it even more time consuming. Cla68 (talk) 00:32, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
    If you want me to write a 2,500 word explanation every time I want to block a civil AIDS denialist, then forget it. I don't get paid for my time here, but volunteering doesn't equate to my time having an opportunity cost of zero. NW (Talk) 00:49, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
    NW, that's a straw man. That's not what I'm saying. Cla68 (talk) 05:17, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
    So what are you saying? A public RFC (necessitating the comment of two previously involved editors) suggests something of that length to me. NW (Talk) 14:49, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. In principle, I'd be happy to support this but Cla68 and NW are right about the time it would take. And it would need to take the time for it to be done properly. Often arguments on this sort of thing degenerate into why won't you let me include this info, you are censoring vs. because it is psudeoscience/not widely accepted/small minority. Sometimes in such debates you run into genuine, civil editors who listen to policy and you can work together to improve the article in NPOV manner, but such cases are rare. But more often when you are trying to avoid WP:UNDUE the editor pushing the POV will respond with you are stopping me becase you are a fascits/communist/Christian/Muslim/Jew/partyX/partyY. For an uninvolved admin to sort it out and ultimately block someone they would need to review the edits and read many of the sources (or have some expert knowledge). Lot of work but it would be needed if an editor ends up being punished. My ambivalence to this proposal is I would hate to see a situation where a case is reviewed and an editor blocked after 30 minutes review or less. It just would not do justie to the complexity of the situation. I'd be happy to support this proposal, provided there were clear guidelines included as to what findings of fact where necessary (on weighting of content for example). If there's not enough time to do that, then don't block. Babakathy (talk) 07:44, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
    The process on balance works pretty well in areas subject to discretionary sanctions. It doesn't seem to take more time on average than a 3rr investigation. It isn't perfect, but it's better than nothing,and it's made contentious articles managable - no small accomplishemnt. It should be possible to extend it to other contentious areas. That may gradually be happening, one arb case at a time. Tom Harrison Talk 13:26, 7 March 2012 (UTC)

View by Cailil[edit]

As well as the points about paid editing one of the primary issues of this RFC is about "outing" and where and when exposing what an editor does in real life/elsewhere on the web can be of net benefit to a COI case and when it is plain harrassment. In my time here (as an editor and sysop) I've encountered anonymous (IP) troll accounts on articles not widely watched (comic books, games, tv shows etc) but with a significant or vocal blogosphere or internet community. These anonymous editors making edits that include unsourced negative information are just as bad as the PR companies being paid to censor wikipedia articles or use them for marketing purposes.

Liking Superman comics is not a prima facie conflict of interest (just like being a Buddhist or using a Linux operating system are not prima facie COI positions) on its own – editing (paid or not) to use wikipedia to espouse anything other than a, well sourced and neutrally worded record of the existing research on a topic is where COI problems occur with personal allegiance or ideology in annymous and/or unpaid editors. Being paid to edit (ie being employed to use wikipedia in order to promote anything), or being encouraged by non-monetary pressures, to alter articles for the benefit of anything other than wikipedia's aims is a conflict of interest in dictionary definition of the term. As long as someone has a real life incentive to make an article show something in a particular light (positive or negative) they are not adhering to WP:5 and are breaking this site's 3 core policies.

The next question is not whether we should allow paid editing but rather, how do we deal with exposing COIs. Going back to my Superman comic fan analogy – just the fact that an editor likes something (or has a userbox saying that they do) doesn't mean they have a conflict of interest. Being a member of another internet community/forum (Warcraft for example) does not make an editor an automatic COI problem. It is only when they make edits contrary to core policy in order to advance a POV that they are problematic. In this circumstance when an editor has not just being misbehaving but has demonstrated acts of bad faith (starting a thread on an outside forum calling for meatpuppets for example, or making polemical pronouncments about other editors in other public forums in order to game WP:NPA) then yes I believe we do have a duty to consider off site behaviour.

Currently only ArbCom are invested with the authority to take this information into account. But ArbCom haven't got the time to deal with the problems of COI on WP as a whole – just look at the legitimate threads on WP:COIN, the Arbs' workload precludes them from being able to deal with all of this. Furthermore the malicious use of COI to take another editor “out of the game”, and the issues around harassment of editors by others stalking and hounding them on suspicion of a COI are deeply problematic, and are just as toxic to the community as actual COI edits are.

My solution would be to bring WP:COIN into a format like the Requests for Oversight systems. If we set-up a system wherein Oversighters (or A.N other trusted and accountable group of editors) could investigate claims of COI based on sensitive/private information off-wiki that might reduce the problems of "outing" and hopefully curb harrassment. From a practical standpoint this could be done by asking users with concerns to contact the COI Ovesighters through a form-to-email script that goes directly to a WMF account. If there is a problem this could then be published on-wiki (at WP:COIN) in an abridged form (like we deal with Checkuser requests)--Cailil talk 15:54, 3 March 2012 (UTC)


Support
  1. --Cailil talk 15:54, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. King4057 (talk) 04:16, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. This concept could be worth a good thought and discussion. It is a bit like what WP:OTRS can do, but then maybe more specified for one wiki. I don't think it will solve the problem, it will however give a good handle on a couple of difficult cases and take out at least a part of the problem. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:27, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Could help. Babakathy (talk) 09:01, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. Oversight. ```Buster Seven Talk 14:36, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Oversight is a sensible solution: a way to deal with potentially sensitive information and investigation while maintaining the trust of the community, and allowing Wikipedia to maintain the trust of our readers. --TeaDrinker (talk) 04:52, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. We don't need another black box, hidden from public scrutiny, where block decisions are made. Monty845 23:59, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
Comments
  1. It is only when they make edits contrary to core policy in order to advance a POV that they are problematic - this is precisely the point often missed in COI discussions. Having an interest in what you edit is not a COI, editting to promote outside interests is - it's the edits. Babakathy (talk) 09:01, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    I think an often missed point is, that while problematic COI edits do have a certain point-of-view, it is not always only a violation of WP:NPOV, it may not even be the biggest of the violations.E.g. (true) spammers by definition have a conflict of interest, they try to add their links hoping people will follow them so they make money with it - the addition of that link does not push so much a non-neutral point of view on the page they are adding it to, it is however very often a stronger violation of WP:NOT. --Dirk Beetstra T C 10:02, 5 March 2012 (UTC)

Call for a general amnesty by Wnt[edit]

I believe that people User:Will Beback who have been blocked for zealous anti-COI efforts, as well as people who have been blocked or not unblocked due to a hostile reaction to their COI such as User:Charlie wilkes, should receive a general amnesty from blocks/bans that have been made under our contradictory, confused, unclear, and apparently unpopular policies regarding whether COI should be criticized or protected. I propose that at the close of this RfC these two and any similar cases people can agree on should be unblocked and unbanned - provided no independent compelling reason exists for a block/ban, and in that instance, it should be clearly identified in the log. This would not invalidate other sanctions against them. This is an exercise of the community's power to override ArbCom.

Support
  1. Wnt (talk) 17:17, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Support. Yes this is exactly what is needed. Blocks that where handed out for enforcing policy need to be removed Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 13:50, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
    It is not policy. And I challenge you to show me blocks that were purely made on the basis of WP:COI. For those that exist I agree, those editors should be unblocked, and as a follow up, the editors that caused the block should be seriously talked to, if not sanctioned. --Dirk Beetstra T C 13:55, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. I back ArbCom's decision in the TimidGuy case. Carrite (talk) 06:10, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. That decision was based on outing, harassment, battleground conduct, and personal attacks because of other editors' religious views—all violation of WP policies. First Light (talk) 06:53, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Unblocks are not merited in either of those cases. For other cases that might have more merit, we have process for requesting to be unblocked.--FormerIP (talk) 01:18, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. User:Will Beback should have been reined in years ago; his battleground approach to these matters was disruptive, and this discussion will not mitigate that. Mangoe (talk) 15:41, 29 March 2012 (UTC)
Comments
  1. This RfC is a fully improper place for such Wiki-political concepts. Collect (talk) 22:45, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Inappropriate place - and I don't think that these editors were blocked on the bases of WP:COI alone. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:14, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. If major changes in policy result from this RfC, ArbCom could be asked to review specific decisions, in the light of the findings of the RfC bu there is no way we can in a general RfC give specific suggestions on individual cases. Babakathy (talk) 09:07, 5 March 2012 (UTC)

Call for a narrow policy by Elvey[edit]

What's wrong with COI is that its a vague guideline. Typically, the folks that hold back from editing because of it don't need to, and those that don't hold back are the ones that needed to be turned back. We should have a policy that 1)narrowly defines and 2)forbids COI edits. (COI edits would be much more narrowly defined than edits by editors with a COI.) The hassle introduced requiring COI edits to be proposed on the talk page instead of in mainspace is totally worth the reduced hassle of dealing with persistent harmful COI edits. (The current COI should become an essay; so technically, I support the original RfC.)

Support
  1. --Elvey (talk) 21:43, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Yes but see comment. Babakathy (talk) 09:12, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Yes. Narrow the definition and start to include political operatives in the deliniation. ```Buster Seven Talk 14:28, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. We have a policy against vandalism because it damages the encyclopedia. Of course, vandalism still happens. The policy is important, however, because it sets out expectations, even if not every editor meets those expectations. It engenders trust among our readers to know that we firmly oppose ethically problematic editing, even if some PR flacks sneak through. It provides a basis for action, when the COI is known. We should not be writing policy or guidelines for people who ignore policy and guidelines, we should unequivocally state best practice. In short, this is a good idea. --TeaDrinker (talk) 20:11, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. Yes, if the definition focuses on actions more than level of involvement. Non-paid supporters of whatever ideological/academic/nationalist/religous/etc. viewpoint will feel free to admit COI/POV if won't be punished for it; then it just becomes a way to judge if their actions are neutral in interests of Wikipedia or COI/POV against Wikipedia. Or maybe we need to RENAME policy COI/POV and say what is COI and what is POV and how to deal with each. CarolMooreDC 21:36, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. I partly support the premise, but think the focus should remain on the editor rather than the edits. Unproblematic edits can be dealt with by way of exemption (so that, for example, we don't end up ensnaring editors who have only ever fixed typos on the relevant article). If the reverse were the case (ie, it were necessary to show that their edits met a set of criteria), the wikilawyering advantage would be with problematic editors. FormerIP (talk) 01:36, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
Comments
  1. I'd like to hear a good proposal about how this is to be enforced. As a riff on your statement, I think the folks that declare a COI aren't always the ones who need to, and the ones who do not declare a COI are often the ones most in need of doing so. I'd love to hear ideas on enforceability, such that honesty is not penalized. Jclemens (talk) 00:30, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. I agree on the premise that ethical companies are the most discouraged to participate, while corrupt or lazy paid editors aren't discouraged enough. I'd be interested in ideas for a better carrot/stick, but I'm not sure it's a problem with definition. King4057 (talk) 04:11, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. I agree with this in general, but it does not take us much further; concur with Jclemens.Babakathy (talk) 09:12, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. I agree with the more narrow definition; but the forbidding of COI edits also should be narrow. Editing out totally erroneous factoids should be OK. As well as massively WP:undue and defamatory info that no one else will edit out for you. CarolMooreDC 05:12, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. I concur with Jclemens, et al. Bearian (talk) 17:37, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. " Typically, the folks that hold back from editing because of it don't need to, and those that don't hold back are the ones that needed to be turned back" Exactly. And yes, how would this be applied? BeCritical 19:59, 10 March 2012 (UTC)

View by Collect[edit]

The basis of Wikipedia is to create an encyclopedia written as dispassionately as possible. Edits by any editor which advance that goal are to be commended, and edits which do not advance that goal are to be deplored.

In the past, editors were sometimes "outed" as having a "conflict of interest" - although often this was done by editors with a directly conflicting conflict of interest (or "conflict of POV" if we wish to be less judgemental). Thus the laudable intent of seeking to bar editors with a COI was sometimes subverted in splendid examples of game theory in practice.

Thus we are now faced either with maintaining a fiction that editors with a COI are intrinsically incapable of obeying WP:NPOV or we should face the reality that such editors can certainly advance the goals of Wikipedia with a fully WP:NPOV editing ethos.

It is, moreover, antithetical to Wikipedia's long-term goals to accuse such editors of being "paid editors" which, more properly, should apply only to editors who create an article with an expectation of financial remuneration for articles which do not actually obey WP:NPOV.

Thus the current WP:COI is more a problem than it is a solution to the actual situation now faced by the project. It leads more to an accusatory environment than is proper per the core values of professional conduct towards other editors. And most certainly no change should be used to reward those who have been found to have improperly used the system to attack other editors as having had a COI in the past. Collect (talk) 22:44, 3 March 2012 (UTC)

Support
  1. Collect (talk) 22:44, 3 March 2012 (UTC) )
  2. per Collect. --Kenatipo speak! 22:56, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Jclemens (talk) 00:31, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Hawkeye7 (talk) 00:51, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. Well put.VolunteerMarek 02:10, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. That's right. First Light (talk) 02:18, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. JN466 03:39, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. BeCritical 18:24, 4 March 2012 (UTC) Very much agree.
  9. Cla68 (talk) 22:32, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  10. The accusatory environment (battleground, harassment, etc.) created by any policy is a major problem. Good job identifying one here. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk to me 21:27, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. I can't see what part of WP:COI Collect sees as a problem, or antithetical to WP's goals; has he read it? Dicklyon (talk) 03:16, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    Yes - and all the associated essays and several of the ArbCom decisions reflecting thereon. Your point is? Collect (talk) 03:19, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    My point is that you seem to be blaming WP:COI for some aspect of recent problems; but you didn't say what parts of WP:COI you object to, or cause the problem, or could be improved. When I read it, I don't find anything that looks like what you're complaining about. Dicklyon (talk) 03:23, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    I stated that the current "accusatory environment" has been exacerbated by the use of COI in some cases - I take it that you have not noted any such environment, even though such has been noted in ArbCom decisions? Cheers - no need to answer Dick. Collect (talk) 03:29, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    You stated that "the current WP:COI is more a problem than it is a solution"; but I can't see what in WP:COI you refer to. Dicklyon (talk) 03:43, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Oppose. WP:COI isn't the problem. The lack of enforcement tools at COIN that makes COI issues spill over elsewhere instead of being nipped in the bud there is the problem. Fladrif (talk) 03:34, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Oppose. I'm sure that - in some cases - volunteer editors abuse COI to implement their own bias against the bias of a paid editor, rather than inviting both forms of bias editors to a civil discussion on the talk page, but I don't agree that such instances means the COI guideline is worthless. I am a often a paid editor. King4057 (talk) 04:06, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Strong oppose. No, it is not WP:COI that is the problem then, it is WP:NPOV that is the problem. Specifically, the POV of editors who want to support his own POV and suppresses other editors (and if they have a conflict of interest, the easier it is for them to suppress that). --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:21, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. Oppose--В и к и T 12:44, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Oppose. ```Buster Seven Talk 15:58, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. Oppose --WhiteWriterspeaks 21:02, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. Oppose: it is the edits that matter. Current guidelines only finds a violation of WP:COI if edits made promote outside interests, not where edits are neutral but in an area where the outside interest exists. Babakathy (talk) 09:18, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
  9. Oppose. Editing a lot in the Israel-Palestine area I assume that a large number of editors are paid operatives who would lie about it if you ask them - and even if they accidentally provided hard evidence of it! The policy is not for those committed to lying. It's for those who have at least a little bit of conscience and honesty who are trying to do the right thing and respect Wikipedia's rules. Even with COI rules, it's easy to forget COI issues in the middle of debate. (Example I give above of my minor party affiliation whose relevance didn't occur to me til someone else's affiliation was pointed out; everyone fessing up just helped clarify the issue on an AfD.) I do think the COI rules have to be a bit narrower and more specific since people are harassed too much for mere POVs. CarolMooreDC 05:09, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  10. Per incisive and insightful comments by Dicklyon, CarolmooreDC et al. Writegeist (talk) 23:20, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  11. Although I am generally receptive to the harm reduction strategy of policy, I think the COI heads off a lot of problems. We can't write p&g for people who ignore them entirely; that's never pragmatic. However we can head off a number of problems by clearly stating the problems which arise from editing with a conflict of interest. In medicine, researchers sometimes take industry money to run studies. We teach new grad students that such studies are four times more likely to reach a conclusion favorable to the funding company than independent studies of the same question. That is the best case for a COI: the company has no input or editorial control on the research (no one would knowingly publish a paper where people other than the authors determined the conclusion), and all research is independently reviewed by multiple (unpaid) scientists. And yet this remarkable statistical tendency persists. To ignore that fact is to ignore reality. It is not being pragmatic to ignore the subtle or pernicious effects of conflicts of interest. --TeaDrinker (talk) 20:23, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  12. Oppose - per Fladrif. Smallbones (talk) 22:25, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  13. Oppose. The proposition misstates the nature of a conflict of interest. Editors with a COI are not supposed by anyone to be "intrinsically incapable of obeying WP:NPOV". However, they are potentially compromised. If you serve on a company board and you declare a conflict of interest, it is not because you believe yourself to be "intrinsically incapable" of contributing to the relevant discussion, but so that the conflict is out in the open. --FormerIP (talk) 01:42, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  14. Oppose COI and paid editors cannot be just let free to do their own thing, that would greatly damage our integrity. While Wikipolitical game playing damages our collegial atmosphere, we do not need to sacrifice our integrity to put a stop to the frivolous "he said/she said" games. ThemFromSpace 22:32, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
Comments
  1. (repost) The guideline on COI here at WP is narrower than in a corporate governance setting, where one is considered to have a COI by being involved in any decision to do with the Interest. Our guideline says Do not edit Wikipedia to promote your own interests, or those of other individuals or of organizations, including employers(my emphasis). The guideline does not prevent or even discourage me from editing in an area where I have an interest, but says that you should not write about these things unless you are certain that a neutral editor would agree that your edits improve Wikipedia. We all have a conflict of interest in the general sense somewhere but if one edits with 'Due care', one does not violate WP:COI despite the interest. Babakathy (talk) 09:18, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. not write about these things unless you are certain that a neutral editor would agree that your edits improve Wikipedia is a nice line. And there is no doubt that a person who never went to a meeting of such and such group/movement might be a fanatical supporter using wikipedia to advance a cause, constantly abusing policy; a person who is regularly active attending meetings of this groups/movement, sending out emails, etc., may also be careful not to abuse Wikipedia rules and no real behavioral problems can be found. What we need is to get tougher on those who DO abuse wikipedia policies, whatever their motivation is. And that should be especially true for those who have worked their way into admin positions to promote their agenda. CarolMooreDC 21:29, 7 March 2012 (UTC)

View by Collect - Mark II[edit]

The basis of Wikipedia is to create an encyclopedia written as dispassionately as possible. Edits by any editor which advance that goal are to be commended, and edits which do not advance that goal are to be deplored.

The primary test as to the nature of edits by any editor is the degree to which WP:NPOV is adhered. Any editor whose edits do not substantially conform to NPOV is violating a core principle of Wikipedia, no matter the reason.

An editor who is being paid by any organization, campaign or person with the goal of resulting in any edits which are not in conformity with NPOV is acting in violation of the core principles of Wikipedia.

Any unpaid editor who seeks to edit other than in full conformity with NPOV is precisely and equally in violation of that core principle.

Denigrating any editor on the presumption that being paid automatically makes their edits or suggestions suspect, or that anyone who believes those edits are in conformity with NPOV is acting improperly, is itself improper entirely.

Wikipedia is not "Paypedia" nor does this view in any way propose that paid editors be treated in any preferential manner, nor that such NPOV-observing editors should be treated in any discriminatory manner.

(Trusting that this addresses the concerns of some about the earlier comments) Collect (talk) 16:07, 12 March 2012 (UTC)

Support
  1. Collect (talk) 16:07, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Because of the basic principle: focus on the edits, not the editor. BeCritical 20:02, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. Because of the basic principle: focus on the edits, not the editor. FormerIP (talk) 20:29, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. This seems to ignore the facts that so often plague NPOV discussions: there are many grey areas. Grey areas are inevitable. Readers trust that editors navigate those grey areas as impartially as possible, while understanding we're all human. Readers trust that, when faced with making decisions in a grey area, editors will reach a consensus based on the merits of each position, rather than on external influence. This proposal suggests that other editors will be able to detect when someone strays from NPOV. I submit that editors themselves may be unaware of the pernicious influence of personal gain on their thinking. Judges, journalists, and other professionals recuse themselves, and have statements of professional ethics supporting their recusal, in cases where they have a pecuniary interest. Their ethics statements demand this because (i) they want to maintain trust and (ii) they may be unaware of their own tendency to slant their decisions toward their own interest. Wikipedia needs a conflict of interest standard, not just a blanket statement that people should follow the five pillars. --TeaDrinker (talk) 21:12, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. (ec) But of course there are people who are paid to be advocates (e.g. lawyers, PR folks). At a minimum we need to tell these folks loud and clear, up front, that their edits will likely break Wikipedia rules if they follow their obligation to their employers. If we don't do this (and a few additional steps) then we are just inviting in paid shills and propagandists who could ruin Wikipedia along the line of "he who hires the most editors gets his own POV in Wikipedia articles and gets to remove the POV of anybody else." Of course that would be against current Wikipedia rules, but how could we realistically prevent it from happening when consensus (even of paid editors!) is the rule and stopping violations of NPOV editing takes so long and is so clumsy? Paid editors have intrinsic advantages over amateur editors - they don't have to go out and make a living outside of Wikipedia, and they don't have to spend time thinking out their contributions - they just take their view from their employers. Do you really want Wikipedia to be as informative and reliable, say, as a typical TV commercial? Smallbones (talk) 21:18, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
Comments
  1. Just as an aside, great encyclopedic writing can be done passionately. ThemFromSpace 22:34, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

Statement by John Vandenberg[edit]

WP:Reward board and WP:Bounty board are useless, and should be marked as {{historical}}. According to Wikipedia_talk:Bounty_board#How_much_success, the bounty board has resulted in a grand total of USD $215 being given to the WMF, tho I haven't seen any WMF report that these funds have been received (nor would I expect them to write a report for such a small amount of money).

Wikipedia:NOPAY makes an exception for these systems, as if it is appropriate to permit for-pay editing if arrangements are done at WP:Reward board between pseudonymous people, but harass people when for-pay editing is arranged via http://freelancer.com/ or private negotiations between real legal entities.

Support
  1. I would expect all the people who've been taking a de-facto one red cent rule on payment corrupting Wikipedia edits to support this, or, if not, explain how small payments to a charity is fundamentally different than small payments to one's self. Jclemens (talk) 17:57, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. They has long since outlived their usefulness Hawkeye7 (talk) 01:48, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. The board could be made workable in principle, but it has had virtually no use/interest in practice. --Cybercobra (talk) 21:53, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. These do seem to be basically irrelevant. I don't think they are a problem, per se, but they muddy the waters terribly when it comes to keeping out the stuff even arbcom acknowledges is a problem. --TeaDrinker (talk) 01:32, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. I'm not sure what the first sentence has to do with the problem presented in this RfC. But, if someone is payed by an external company to make their Wikipedia page look appropriate, then that is an obvious conflict of interest (but if that editor would improve the article strictly following our 5P, then there would not be a problem). It is however appropriate when one editor is offering an incentive to expand significantly on a page. The latter may have also a conflict of interest and may turn it into an advertisement (in which case, WP:COI would come into play, and likely WP:NPOV, WP:SPAM, WP:NOT), whereas in the case the editor does not have a conflict of interest, it would be a neutral improvement. So yes, it does certainly not need to be inappropriate.
    For example, editor A is working for company A Inc., and is offering money to improve the article [A Inc.]], and editor B, who is not working for A Inc. but for B Inc., would improve that article, then there is no problem with a conflict of interest (except that editor A obviously wants the article to improve, but does not want to improve the article as to show his preferred form - he may find a nasty lawsuit, neutrally presented and properly referenced, being in the 'final' product). If that same editor A would pay to improve on article on B Inc., and finds editor B, who is working for B Inc., then B would have a conflict of interest (but if B would improve the article strictly following our 5P, then there would be no problem with that either!). --Dirk Beetstra T C 13:56, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    I agree with you that people can edit neutrally when paid. This RFC is about contradictory language/policies/etc relating to COI. Assuming that the COI guideline is kept, this part of the policy is ridiculous: "Generally speaking, the Reward Board is an exception to the above cautions." We should not make exceptions for financial agreements that are made on Wikipedia. We should not even be encouraging financial agreements to be made on Wikipedia, where the parties are likely to be pseudonymous, and the WMF is not going break its policies in order to help someone claim the reward or bounty. I think we should disable these now, and point people to freelancer.com, MTurk, etc and encourage people to monitor those sites. John Vandenberg (chat) 23:22, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
    It is then probably in the wording - I do agree that WP:COI needs rewording (I have answered some posts above regarding that, where sentences are ambiguous - also posted to WT:COI to get them rewritten in a clearer language as they obviously can be read in a wrong way), and maybe pieces need to be removed altogether. I think my main problem is with your 'as if it is appropriate to permit for-pay editing if arrangements are done at WP:Reward board between pseudonymous people' - you seem to suggest that you do not believe that it can be appropriate, every case is different - it is however a stupidly open loophole waiting for abuse. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:15, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    My intention was to juxtapose our acceptance of these boards vs our historical position regarding paid editing (e.g. arranged at freelancer.com). IMO both have the same potential for NPOV problems - our reward/bounty boards have the added problem of permitting contract negotiation on a wiki; otoh, offwiki negotiations are less visible to us. John Vandenberg (chat) 07:13, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    I agree that WP:COI can not prevent all forms of conflict of interest. We can detect quite some obvious cases (even by bot, and there will also be false-positives there), and of all those obvious cases, many are not a problem. Others are not detected, and also of those, many will not be a problem, others will. The self-promotion ones are often easy to detect and find, and easy to address (many editors 'out' themselves (further explanation removed per WP:BEANS)). The indirect forms of COI (generally you can group them as 'paid editing' - whether it is hiring a Search Engine Optimization company, or paid editing in a form of 'write this article nicely like this for me and I give you 100 dollar') are difficult to catch, and when that paid editing is pushing to have something look in the way the organisation wants (and often that is the case) that goes against our core policies (and not only WP:NPOV). The case you are attacking here is often a minor conflict of interest - which does not necessarily make it correct, nor makes it finding problematic conflict of interest cases more easy. I think I do agree with your thoughts about this, I do however not agree with your current wording as it is in this proposal. --Dirk Beetstra T C 08:04, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    (always a pleasure; thanks for discussing; over and out) John Vandenberg (chat) 12:52, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Rather than shuttering the Reward Board, we could easily make it a place to just trade editing tasks and prohibit monetary compensation. People get paid on this site to edit all the time as part of their work or motivated by their own business. Reward Board is a murky validation that such practices are within scope of COI policy. That said, people getting paid to edit can be neutral, and should still be judged on their content not their background. Ocaasi t | c 03:17, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
Discuss
  • I think that the current reward to translate Bitcoin to any language is a good example of a pragmatic motive and effect - clearly, making that meme available to consumers speaking other languages will tend to further the profits of the inventors of this ingenious way of making money out of thin air. I can't call it "wrong", exactly, but I'm not fond of the advertising-driven motivation either. Wnt (talk) 17:55, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
  • I think we would be better served by framing the issue as a compelling COI versus a minor COI. Even though the bounty board handles cash, the COI of its editors is not enough to be routinely disruptive. King4057 (talk) 02:36, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    Have you been following the discussions above? There are plenty of editors who will not admit any such thing as a "minor COI"--the logical extension being that if paid a single dollar (or Euro, etc.) the editor receiving payment is incapable of editing with the best interests of the encyclopedia and NPOV in mind. Jclemens (talk) 02:42, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
    I think if someone edits in exchange for a donation to WMF or is paid $5 and the funding party is not themselves in a COI, that is - at best - a minor COI. When the funding party has a COI and they're paying $7,000 on a results-based contingency basis, that's different. Yes, I think the amount of money, the COI of the funding party and the circumstances make a difference on the likelihood a COI will be disruptive/bias and therefore the most appropriate way to handle. King4057 (talk) 03:25, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Although the Reward and Bounty Boards are somewhat tangential to the core issues, their existence is often cited in broader discussions. I agree that it might be time to move they be marked historical. Casliber (talk · contribs) 11:11, 8 March 2012 (UTC)

View by Ocaasi[edit]

I have a few principles I'd like to lay out:

  1. Wikipedia strives for neutrality in all aspects of articles.
  2. Editors are not required to be unbiased, although their writing must be.
  3. Getting paid to edit, or having a direction financial stake in an article, is always a conflict of interest.
  4. Having a conflict of interest requires extra attention to neutrality.
  5. Best practices for COI editors involves plainly stating where and why you have a conflict of interest and seeking the input of other neutral, uninvolved editors.
  6. Paid editors, or those with a direct financial stake, do work on this site daily.
  7. There are both paid and unpaid editors whose advocacy is a persistent problem.
  8. There are gaps in article creation and article content, as well as inaccurate, misleading or outdated information that COI editors have a particular interest in correcting. Done neutrally, fixing those gaps and inaccuracies significantly benefits the encyclopedia.
  9. Current policy is ambiguous in strongly discouraging editors with a COI from editing while also listing non-controversial edits which read as a formal exception to a prohibition which doesn't actually exist in the policy.
  10. A strict prohibition on directly editing articles would only drive it underground. Our focus should be on bringing it into the light and encouraging best practices.

Thus my recommendations:

  1. WP:COI should be kept as a guideline, because it provides useful guidance and describes current editing practices. It should neither be promoted to Policy or demoted to Essay status, since there is no clear consenus that is either definitive or superfluous.
  2. WP:COIN should be kept as a noticeboard, since it serves a useful function in examining COI editors
  3. WP:COI should be expanded to identify specific situations where editing is and is not controversial.
  4. WP:WikiProject Cooperation should be utilized regularly and seek to create a cadre of able helpers who can assist and review COI editors.
  5. Added after (support #3 and oppose #1). We should hold a more directed RfC with the following questions: 1) Should WP:COI be demoted to essay status; 2) Should COI/N be closed; 3) Should COI editors be required to declare their conflict of interest; 4) Should paid editors be required to declare their conflict of interest; 5) Should paid editors be allowed to make substantial edits to articles if they have declared their conflict of interest; 6) Should paid editors be allowed to make substantial edits to articles if they seek uninvolved editors to review their changes; 7) Should COI editors be judged solely on the basis of their contributions rather than their background

And some ideas for discussion:

  1. Paid editors should not be allowed to make substantial edit to articles, unless they make a clear declaration on their userpage and relevant talk pages disclosing their COI, and involve at least one neutral uninvolved editor to preview and/or review their edits. Not doing so should be handled the same way vandalism is, with a series of increasing warnings leading to a block.
  2. Jimbo should stop telling people they can't edit directly if they're paid and instead start telling people that if they want to be treated seriously they follow our best practices for COI editors.
  3. The Foundation could consider appointing COI liasons who are available to assist COI editors from major corporations. OTRS already does this if requested. WikiProject Cooperation's Paid Editor Help page does so informally. #Wikipedia-en-help does so 'every single day, as a matter of course.
  4. The reward board could prohibit financial compensation and only allow neutral editing "trades".
Support
  1. Ocaasi t | c 03:45, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. I disagree with your principle 3, as I've made abundantly clear elsewhere, but that's not enough to stop me from endorsing what appears to be largely a realistic and common-sense approach to the issue. Having worked in the corporate world for 15+ years, I'd be willing to help out with this on OTRS if I weren't so busy with other Wiki-work. Jclemens (talk) 07:24, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Well presented. I like the idea of a neutral uninvolved editor review I just don't know where you will find one on the campaign "trail". To often things happen under the cover of night and only involved editors, trained by experience, are watching. ```Buster Seven Talk 14:19, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. I strongly agree with the 10 principles you led with. I agree with your recommendations as well. Nicely done. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 03:41, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. Well put. Carrite (talk) 18:13, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. I can agree with some of this, and disagree with other parts of it. COI editors, paid or otherwise, should be barred from mainspace editing, and Jimbo should redouble his efforts in this regard. Fladrif (talk) 20:19, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
    Barring anyone on that basis just rewards those who keep their COI a secret, and punishes the transparent. It isn't practical. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 03:41, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Recommendation #5 is biased. I agree that we should hold a more directed RfC, but if we have question "Should WP:COI be demoted to essay status", then we need also question "Should WP:COI be promoted to policy status".--В и к и T 11:56, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
Comment
  1. I support the 10 principles and the first 2 recommendations. But I think the name of Wikipedia:WikiProject Cooperation ought to be changed. Bwrs (talk) 06:19, 23 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Per principle #9 and recommendation #4, there is now a draft essay at Wikipedia:WikiProject Cooperation/Non-controversial edits where the community is invited to craft a more specific description of the topic. -- Eclipsed (talk) (COI Declaration) 19:21, 4 May 2012 (UTC)

View by Herostratus[edit]

Well, let's clarify a little by talking about some different classes of COI editors.

  • A: Professional public relations agents engaged in "reputation management" for a client, or employees of an organization engaged in "reputation management" for that organization, on the clock and as an assigned job task, and other situations that are extremely similar.
  • B: All other paid editors, such a academics (or other people) writing on the clock (technically they are being paid while writing Wikipedia), people being paid by a grant to contribute scholarly material to Wikipedia, and so forth.
  • C: All editors who are unpaid, but with a COI: They work for an organization and have strong feelings about it. Their cousin is the band's bass player. They live in that town. They think this guru is the wisest man ever. They hate that country. They want people to understand how cool this game is. They can't stand the mayor. Yadda yadda yadda and on and on.

The point I want to make is that people in class A are just very very different from the other situations and that's the class I want to focus on here. They have specific agenda and they are generally clever and subtle about achieving it: it is their profession, after all. They are clever at slanting things so that you won't even know they're slanted, and they will run rings around amateurs like you and me, or wear us out, or engage in whatever other tactics will get their meal ticket punched. They will be able to quote Wikipedia policy chapter and verse, they will seduce the weak-minded among you into believing that that they really are just nice guys, or if appropriate they will turn mean. It's all billable. And I have seen this in action.

If they don't do these things, they are incompetent practitioners of their profession, or unethical practitioners. The Public Relations Society of America Member Code of Ethics says "A member shall act in the best interests of the client or employer, even subordinating the member's personal interests", and a public relations professional who doesn't do this is no better than a defense lawyer who admits that his client is guilty. Let's give these folks the respect of assuming that they're not incompetent or unethical.

(I grant that these people will write good material at times, but purely for tactical effect (to appear as good Wikipedians) or by coincidence (it just happens that this particular client really is a benign entity), and the policing work required is very onerous.)

Besides the damage to our articles, there are three big problems with allowing these people into the henhouse:

  • It'll be ruinous to our reputation when it gets out that our articles are written (in part) by paid corporate flacks and we allow and even encourage this. Ruinous.
  • It's utterly against the volunteer paradigm and very destructive to morale. I'm not willing to engage in contentious discussions with overt and open professional paid agents as a hobby. I bet a lot of people aren't.
  • It's corrupting to our processes for professionals to be involved in governance issues in which they have a financial stake.

I'm not making any suggestions (here) for solutions, so even if you're of the "well, yes, but nothing can be done about it" camp you can still sign on as agreeing that there's a problem here.

Support
  1. Herostratus (talk) 06:02, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Group A includes paid political operatives. Their Mortgage, etc. is paid for by their candidate, not by Wikipedia. Where would your allegiance be? ```Buster Seven Talk 13:51, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Any policy or guideline will have grey area in who it covers, and difficulties in enforcement. However we should not allow these to sidetrack us from stating principles and best practices. I have no inclination to argue with someone who is paid to not yield. Such is contrary to an open encyclopedia. Class A editing is against the foundation of the encyclopedia and we should state that in uncompromising terms. --TeaDrinker (talk) 04:29, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Support. Rivertorch (talk) 05:34, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. I'd maybe not say "ruinous" but the policing is definitely onerous. People who can devote working hours could spend hours daily pushing gently, cajoling, reasoning extensively etc. It could be incredibly time-consuming if we have significant numbers of these situations. To Jclemens, Class A are paid to achieve a result so might be less able to compromise, will also have alot more time on their hands than volunteers, including class C. I need to see some more test cases myself. Casliber (talk · contribs) 11:09, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. The language is a bit hyperbolic, but I have to register support here. Tis is one of the few views so far that draws thoughtful distinctions and employs the sort of reasoning appropriate to a serious, respectable reference work. MastCell Talk 21:29, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. Support - If you've ever had a paid (or similarly motivated) editor oppose your work, the 3 bullet points are obvious. Smallbones (talk) 22:41, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  8. Writegeist (talk) 16:44, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  9. Support, how did I miss this before? No shills, and if we find one, they need to immediately and unambiguously be shown the door. (We also need to not punish people who do find them, not that I'd be talking about any particular case.) Amateur POV pushers are comparatively easy to deal with, and both admins and ArbCom routinely do. Seraphimblade Talk to me 01:43, 16 June 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. Although I like your three classes of COI editors, I think you overstate the problem or the direction for a solution when it comes to public relations professionals. The solution is to work with these individuals, some of whom are acting in good faith and bringing legitimate complaints (see Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement). What needs to happen, IMO, is threefold: 1) require disclosure from public relations officials; 2) advertise and quickly respond to the {edit request} system; 3) promote education, mentoring, and best practices through WP:WikiProject Cooperation. Ocaasi t | c 14:27, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Fear-mongering and exaggeration. --Michaeldsuarez (talk) 01:55, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
Comment
  1. There's quite a few declared paid editors out there who seem to work well through the request edit system, which seems a good way to do this. Babakathy (talk) 06:19, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
    I understand what you say with I'm not willing to engage in contentious discussions with overt and open professional paid agents as a hobby, I more or less agree - it is an unfair balance in effort. However there has to be a mechanism to work with overt and open guys or we drive them underground. I don't enjoy having to engage in contentious discussions with people pushing pseudoscience and having to dig up all the refs to show them their pet theory was debunked years ago (yeah, WP:RANDY sums it up) but what can you do?
    Seriously, I get your frustration but what can we do? Babakathy (talk) 08:00, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
    My experience (during the current nomination campaign) is that the request edit system is a sham and does not achieve its intended goal. Long envolved edits with markups and refs, probably molded by a campaign team, are suggested and almost immediately, without discussion of any kind, entered into the article by some supportive vassal. Completely unbeknownst to our reader who assumes the article is written by volunteers, not employees of the articles subject. ```Buster Seven Talk 14:04, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. I'm with you on the classification of editors, and the thoughts on PR professionals' abilities and goals, but I'm not sure I buy the bullets:
    • Ruinous? Really? Let's be serious here. We're Wikipedia, and we have a reputation for being a quick and great orientation to certain topics, as well as a great collection of links to the sources which nearly everyone agrees should be consulted by anyone for anything truly important. I think "ruinous" is hyperbolic; my own take is that such influence is 1) obvious to anyone with a clue--if there's a benefit to be gained by influencing Wikipedia, people and organizations will try it, and 2) the reputation of Wikipedia depends not on individual editors' actions, but the community's response when improprieties are discovered.
    • No, paid and volunteer are not opposites. I've worked in multiple fire departments where the volunteers and paid staff got along just fine, because they all worked together to a common goal.
    • I do not see how the influence of people in your category 'A' corrupts governance any more than that of people in category 'C'. It's possible that such is the case, but from where I sit on Arbcom, I've gained a newfound appreciation for how destructive nationalism (to pick one example) is, in a way that I really never experienced as an editor who never touched such areas on purpose.
    At any rate, it's a very thought-provoking statement, and a good assessment of the landscape, even if I disagree with your conclusions. Thanks for posting it. Jclemens (talk) 07:20, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. While the delineation helps, since you aren't clear about your solution except for the hen house comment, more information needed. I do note that the one time I most consistently find Wikipedia very slow or overloaded is Monday mornings, so there is no doubt a lot of people are editing at work. But that does not mean they are doing it for work. Though today bosses have the software to catch them if they choose. Wikipedia statistics to show if that is my imagination, and also to see which kind of articles get worked on most on Monday mornings (or Tuesdays after holidays) would be interesting! CarolMooreDC 15:20, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. As a public relations professional, I'd like to take issue with your view. You characterize us as being "clever at slanting things so that you won't even know they're slanted, and they will run rings around amateurs like you and me, or wear us out, or engage in whatever other tactics will get their meal ticket punched. They will be able to quote Wikipedia policy chapter and verse, they will seduce the weak-minded among you into believing that that they really are just nice guys, or if appropriate they will turn mean. It's all billable. And I have seen this in action." First of all, my agenda is usually to produce an article where one didn't previously exist. I don't really care if it is positive or not; I just want it to stay up. I can best ensure that by producing a good article that meets community standards. If the client has had controversy in their past (or present), I will warn the client that verifiable, factual information about it will likely end up in that article. Clients with those issues have always changed their minds about having me write one. So my "agenda" isn't one you've taken into consideration. I usually want to occupy a slot on Google page 1 for my client's brand name. And you say "Its all billable," but I write on a project basis, I don't bill for time. My point is that you come to this discussion with a lot of negative assumptions about people like me, based on other people in the same profession that you've used for the basis of your opinion. You quote the PRSA Ethics Code regarding acting in the best interest of the clients. I'm based in Manila, but let's go with that. The best interests of my clients are for them to have a Wikipedia article if that meets their larger PR goals. If the article they want me to write is going to get deleted for violating community standards, its in the client's best interest for me to explain to them why I can't write it. You talk about "allowing these people into the henhouse." We're already here, and we've been among you for years. Wouldn't you rather know who we are so you can review, regulate, and monitor our work? You think it will be ruinous to the Wikipedia community's reputation when it gets out that our articles are written (in part) by paid "corporate flacks." Its already out there that brands and agencies edit Wikipedia. Its just now that some of us are coming forward because we want to collaborate and be transparent. That's why I proposed a system for community review of articles written by PR practitioners. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 04:19, 14 March 2012 (UTC)

Second view by BeCritical[edit]

COI is a violation of the maxim focus on the edits, not the editor. The COI guideline has some legitimate purpose to warn inexperienced COI users, but this functionality should be made part of the NPOV policy, as a paragraph describing how COI can lead to NPOV violations. The guideline and its noticeboard should be eliminated, because the only legitimate use of COI is to discourage non-NPOV edits, and that is properly handled by the NPOV noticeboard. BeCritical 21:20, 8 March 2012 (UTC)

Support
  1. What is a non-POV problem covered by COI? It's a serious question. Find me a compelling one and I'll retract my support for this. Jclemens (talk) 02:28, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    1) Spammers have a conflict of interest, they spam their links to earn money with it. They do not necessarily have a non-neutral point of view on an article, they even spam links to articles where there is only a slight overlap with the subject of the article. They WP:SPAM to earn money, not to change the point-of-view of an article. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:13, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    See for example diff. Editor does not incur a POV, however, declares a conflict of interest here. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:22, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    The spam itself is an NPOV problem for the article, especially per WEIGHT, and anyway we have WP:SPAM. BeCritical 06:03, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    Yes, but a) the main violation is a violation of WP:NOT, not a violation of WP:NPOV (which for spam often is just minor), and b) since we have WP:NOT (and WP:NPOV), we do not need WP:SPAM, which is also just a guideline. And if you say, that spam is an NPOV problem, maybe we should then also degrade WP:NOT as everything covered by WP:NOT can be explained as a form of WP:NPOV. --Dirk Beetstra T C 06:07, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    A Reductio ad absurdum rebuttal doesn't apply when no such argument has been made. I'm saying that this guideline would be better folded into a single paragraph of NPOV. BeCritical 08:09, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    What I am saying, Becritical, is that WP:COI is wider than only WP:NPOV violations, it can also be WP:NOT violations - some cases are even more a violation of other core principles of Wikipedia then of WP:NPOV. You are suggesting that WP:COI can be replaced by incorporation in other policies and guidelines, I am saying that it has a merit on its own as combining certain principles from several policies and guidelines into one specific type of problem - diffusing it all out to other policies and guidelines is not going to take away the problem that some editors do have a conflict of interest. --Dirk Beetstra T C 08:35, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    I see what you mean. Then rewrite it as an explanation of other guidelines, and eliminate the tone of harassment. Don't focus on me wanting to delete it. Focus on the fact that it is often used to harass. The entire focus of COI is flawed because you have this "how much of a sucker" guideline out there to catch the honest folks and reward the dishonest. Just why should people declare a COI? Is there any other reason than that they can then be harassed and put under a microscope? There's something to be said for having other guidelines applied to COI specifically, and surely there's room for such an essay. But since COI is used to harass, and there is already due warning that such behavior is not acceptable, either something has to be done about the harassment, or the guideline ought to be deleted. BeCritical 08:57, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    Can you show me some evidence for 'the fact that it is often used to harass'? Most editors with a conflict of interest are not even notified of it (even those of whom edits are clearly in violation of our 5P), and if they are notified of it, I am not sure if that is harassment anyway. So, it must be those who do not have a conflict of interest but a perceived conflict of interest that are being notified that they have a conflict of interest that are the harassed ones. --Dirk Beetstra T C 10:09, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    See the tip of the iceberg which was the recent ArbCom case. And I only know what I've observed myself, Jclemens is in a much better position to answer that. BeCritical 19:38, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    'the tip of the iceberg', unless you can show me a significant number of the cases where WP:COI is used to harass, and show me that that is a significant portion of all the cases where editors are not harassed but who do very likely have a conflict of interest (I think that we have ~5 edits to mainspace with a very obvious conflict of interest per hour). Yes, you are right, WP:COI is used to harass editors - but the problem is not WP:COI, it is the POV of the harassing editor. And that harassing editor does not need WP:COI to harass, they will push their POV with or without WP:COI. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:24, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
    Sorry, but claiming that SPAM violates NOT instead of NPOV is uncompelling. Spam, by its very nature, attempts to unduly influence one, most often to promote something. The reason spam is part of NOT is because it is so blatantly and incontrovertably part of NPOV that it's essentially a speedy removal criterion. But by all means, try again. Anyone else give me a COI problem unrelated to NPOV? Jclemens (talk) 14:05, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    I do see your point, but this runs the risk of coming to a point, that everything harming the encyclopedia boils down to a POV-problem, possibly even a large part of vandalism is a POV problem. I could come up with cases where a spammer in a way actually makes the page more neutral by including their spam. One often sees that on list-pages, WP:SPAMHOLE/WP:OTHERCRAPEXISTS applies there to avoid it, but it would be a stretch to invoke WP:NPOV as a reason not to add the spam in such cases. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:24, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. Strongly oppose. Fladrif (talk) 13:30, 9 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Strongly oppose. The conflict of interest, to me, lies between our reader and the paid editor. We need many safeguards in place as tools to protect the readers capacity to view an un-biased, un-orchestrated article. With the subtle nuances and interplay of policies and guidelines and varied editor interpretations, more than a screwdriver is needed. ```Buster Seven Talk 13:43, 9 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Strongly oppose. To me this is a matter of trust. Readers trust we do our level best to ensure a NPOV encyclopedia; not many readers would trust a PR firm hired by a politician to keep that politician's article neutral (even if other editors might take a crack at editing from time to time). Volunteer editors trust that we enter discussions with reasonable people, but a person paid to never change his mind is hardly discussing the matter in good faith. The COI guideline is an essential part of carrying out the mission of the project. --TeaDrinker (talk) 14:49, 9 March 2012 (UTC)
    Let me put it this way to the people who oppose this: you are advocating for harassment. There is no other legitimate use of COI than to instruct people about NPOV. I recently noticed that an admin was banned for such harassment, and probably some of you should be too if you are advocating so strongly for the harassment protocol which is COI. BeCritical 02:06, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    It seems rather absolutist to suggest that anyone who opposes your view on this issue is actually advocating for harassment. In fact, many of us who oppose your policy idea actually strive to be nice people. Some of us even like kittens and puppies, and oppose harassing people. Endorsement of a policy does not imply endorsement jackbooted thuggery in its enforcement (and I am not at all clear how your critique applies to a guideline). --TeaDrinker (talk) 06:55, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    I agree that this one-size-fits all attack and absolutist condemnation of "people who oppose this" is contrary to the collaborative spirit of WP encapsolated in AGF. Protecting an article, and thereby the reader of that article, is not harassment. Pointing out that an editors allegiance elsewhere detracts from his ability to edit in a balance manner is not harassment. Paid operatives harass the articles that they shape for the good of their customer/employer/candidate. Paid operatives harass the Wikipedia readers who come here to get correct and truthful information. Those that advocate COI as only a tool for harassment are restricting their own capacity to see and understand other uses. Their outlook straight jackets their fellow editors into mean-spirited thugs, up to no good. The opposite is closer to the truth. ```Buster Seven Talk 08:46, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    Well, Hitler liked puppies :P What I'm saying here is that any good that this guideline might or might not do needs to be balanced against the harassment. We shouldn't be accepting a significant amount of harm with the excuse that good is being done too. If having all the other policies and guidelines explained in one place as relating to COIs does so much good, then address how all the harm is going to be eliminated. First lets acknowledge the significant harm that is being done. If there is no effort to eliminate the harassment, then there is no excuse to keep the guideline. BeCritical 09:32, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    There is no harassment to acknowledge. If I don't pay my bills in a timely fashion I begin to get "friendly reminders". Now, I can view them as harassment. I can view them as messages of, "Hey! Asshole. You didnt send us the money you owe us!!." Or, I can view them for what they are--friendly reminders. You mention significant amount of harm and how all the harm and significant harm. I'd like to see some concrete examples of an editor stating that the COI guideline is harmful to him and is harassing. ```Buster Seven Talk 13:35, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Strongly oppose. WP:NPOV is not the only problem that editors can show when violating WP:COI. Again, according to the view you show here, all guidelines should be removed, as they are all dependent on the 5P in the end. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:02, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    You failed to find even one example above. And the reason for removing this guideline is that it's intended, and functions as, a vehicle for harassment to the extent it is not a simple application of NPOV (too simple for its own page). BeCritical 06:07, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    for the record, I strongly disagree that it is 'intented for harassment'. --Dirk Beetstra T C 06:09, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    And do you really believe, that if we would not have WP:COI in any form, that the editors who do have a conflict of interest would not be harassed since they do have a conflict of interest? I would even argue, that if WP:COI would enable editors to edit with a conflict of interest (which it does; discouraging is not the same as disallowing!), that that is a stronger reason to warn and possibly sanction editors who use it as a reason to harass editors then without having that guideline. --Dirk Beetstra T C 06:26, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    One sentence in NPOV would be enough to make harassment an actionable offense. BeCritical
    We have WP:HOUND for that. --Dirk Beetstra T C 08:36, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. Strongly oppose.--В и к и T 09:53, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Some good thoughts there, but complete elimination is going too far. We need a revised shrunk wp:coi to provide guidance and basics. North8000 (talk) 10:50, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. Oppose This is a good reason why the maxim focus on the edits, not the editor is flawed. We need to judge by focusing on both the edits and the editor making them. In order to determine NPOV you need to determine why edits were made. Motivation is key here. The edits and the editor go hand in hand, you cannot separate one from the other. ThemFromSpace 22:46, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
Comment
  1. Strongly oppose as "either your are with us or you are against us" mentality. COI is not intended, and does not function as a vehicle for harassment. The harraser is the vehicle and any excuse will satisfy them. It's not the policy, it's the editor. Blaming the policy for editor behavior in this manner is just not accurate. Using it as an excuse to eliminate COI standards as if harrassment was not already an actionable offense seems very offbase to me.--Amadscientist (talk) 09:31, 29 April 2012 (UTC)

View by North8000[edit]

WP:COI starts with 2 excellent sentences, including an astoundingly good definition of a COI. After that it and what it has created is a mess. It has a second conflicting definition of a COI which basically says that everybody with an interest which poses a potential COI is a "COI". Then, when people do the right thing and disclose such a potential COI they get wrongfully branded / scarlet-lettered as a "COI" using the second definition, thus discouraging what we need most which is disclosure of such interests. And then it wades into the hopeless task of trying to give detailed instructions that cover the widely varying possibilities.

Solution:

  1. Nuke/delete wp:coi down to those first two sentences.
  2. Say that they should not do any edits influenced by a COI as defined. I.E. where the other interest not only exists, but overrides the good of Wikipedia.
  3. Add a paragraph defining paid editing or editing as a paid operative as a certain COI and say that it should not be done.
  4. Add a paragraph defining commercial interests (that the editor would financially benefit from the editing if the subject company/school/band/performer/author/professor etc. does better) which present a high likely likelihood of a COI
  5. Strongly ask (or require) that editors clearly disclose (and keep updated) the above specific types of interest at the article.

The end! Disclosure itself will significantly affect everything that follows in a good way. North8000 (talk) 14:51, 9 March 2012 (UTC)

Support
  1. Rewrite built from the first two sentences. Also, very important to include mention and definition of paid political operatives not just paid editing and paid advocacy. All 3 are considerably different. ```Buster Seven Talk 21:32, 9 March 2012 (UTC)
I changed it per / based on your thought. North8000 (talk) 22:44, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  1. I too think that the policy has been poorly worded after the first two sentences. It needs to rewritten. --Anbu121 (talk me) 11:38, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. Oppose, language can be optimised, but you are talking about the editors who are abusing WP:COI for their own POV. Thát is what should be addressed, having a conflict of interest is not forbidding you to edit. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:11, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
Comment
  1. I agree with much of what you wrote, but we shouldn't just stub WP:COI. Instead, create a draft page in your userspace or at a subpage of the guideline and try and come up with a better alternative. Meanwhile, WP:COI should remain an active guideline. I do think that a paragraph defining paid editing and/or commercial interests is a step in the right direction. I would be open to discussing mandatory disclosure for specific types of interests. Ocaasi t | c 14:20, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
I guess I wrote it as "nuke it to the first two sentences and start over" as a rough overview and beginnings of a way forward, knowing that even if accepted, nuances would be added later. And that the the latter would inevitably include reviewing the rest of the content for retention of material that doesn't have the described issues. North8000 (talk) 21:16, 12 March 2012 (UTC) Revised North8000 (talk) 13:44, 14 March 2012 (UTC)

COI editors are "meatpuppets" (suggestion by Wnt)[edit]

All editors who are paid by an organization which evaluates their work, or are members of a religious or other organization which is watching their edits and would be in a position to contemplate disciplinary action against them within the organization depending on what they say, are what Wikipedia has called "WP:Meatpuppets", because they are recruited to edit based on outside associations. If the community decides to treat paid/organizational editors entirely the same way as other editors, then the "meatpuppet" policy should be dropped, and editors such as friends, spouses, family members, roommates, etc., should not be restricted from taking positions partial to the people they know, just as they would be permitted to do if paid. The contrapositive likewise applies.

Support
  1. Wnt (talk) 07:23, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. support. --Dirk Beetstra T C 10:11, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. support. --В и к и T 16:43, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Support. Exactly correct. Paid COI editors fit the definition of WP:Meatpupper exactly. Far from being a straw man argument, Wnt has hit the nail on the head. Those advocating for abandonment COI and COIN rather than giving them real teeth might as well throw the prohibition on meatpuppetry out the window as well. Fladrif (talk) 19:38, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. An excellent point. We should not allow meatpuppets just because they get a paycheck. --TeaDrinker (talk) 20:37, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Hammer. Nail. Head. Writegeist (talk) 22:12, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  7. According to WP:MEAT, "Do not recruit your friends, family members, or communities of people who agree with you for the purpose of coming to Wikipedia and supporting your side of a debate.". This is mostly about recruiting people to support you in one specific debate. This is probably not a good thing. But it is much worse to recruit a number of people to support you (or your organization) in a large number of related articles. My very best wishes (talk) 03:48, 6 May 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. Unworkable, ABF. Meatpuppetry is a legitimate challenge to individualized recruitment efforts. This is a straw man argument. Jclemens (talk) 14:02, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Confusing - eliminating the prohibition on meatpuppets would likely gut the prohibition on sockpuppets as well, which almost nobody would want. Smallbones (talk) 16:04, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    In writing this, I didn't specify which way to go with this, only to recognize the connection. The contrapositive, that if you can't give up the policy on "meatpuppets" then you shouldn't give up the COI policy, is also a resolution. You might even try to draw some less pure boundary, such as restricting the "meatpuppet" policy only to people using the same IP address. But to my way of thinking, there is little conceptual difference between a person holding multiple Wikipedia accounts on his own, or paying or otherwise monitoring multiple Wikipedia users whose actions are accountable to him. Wnt (talk) 18:48, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    If you are simply saying that many COI editors are essentially acting as meatpuppets, and should be prohibited as such, then I'll change my oppose to support. I do prefer direct statements to "if you do this, then we have to do that". Smallbones (talk) 22:06, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Oppose - for the simple reason that asserting that a tail is a leg does not make horses have five legs. We might just as "logically" state that anyone who is paid by a corporation is automatically a "vandal" if that is where we wish to head. Collect (talk) 22:28, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Oppose. The policy on meatpuppets is flawed, of course, and should be scrapped just like COI because it focuses on the editors and not the edits. So I'd agree but for the last sentence. BeCritical 02:02, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. Oppose - It would create an environment where anyone could be accused of COI or meatpuppetry because of any connection to any organization. Jest because people from a religion, company, non-profit, etc. edit articles connected to that area, doesn't mean they are meatpuppets. I know Wnt has qualified this, but it would not be used this way. People with an "I belong to organization X" on their user page would get accused of meatpuppetry and if they don't have it on their user page and it is found out, the accusations will be worse. Richard-of-Earth (talk) 06:28, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Oppose Missing the obvious point behind allowing and regulating paid editors. What happens when a person is closing an AFD where there is obvious meat puppetry occuring? They will disregard the !votes of those whom are obvious puppets. Identifying meat puppets, however, can sometimes be a challenge---especially in light of AGF. Paid editors, however, would be expected to disclose the fact that they are paid and potential puppetry issues would thus come to light. If four paid editors are saying to "keep" an article at AFD, and everybody else says to DELETE, it makes it easy to see where the line is. Fail to have any controls over paid editors, and those same 4 paid employees will still chime in Keep, but it might not be obvious that they are being paid to do so. So contrary to the proposal, allowing disclosed paid editing would limit the effectiveness of meat puppetry.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 19:49, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
Comment
  1. He's got a point. If it's okay to pay someone to edit on my behalf, why isn't it okay to just ask someone to edit on my behalf? Tom Harrison Talk 18:47, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    Getting paid creates an obligation to the person that paid them. Unless the near-zero chance occurs that the payer's orders were to to further the interest of Wikipedia, such is inherently an actual COI. North8000 (talk) 22:42, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. COI and Meatpuppet have a lot in common, not the least of which is that ArbCom turns a blind eye to both more often than not. But that hardly means that both should not be vigorously enforced. Fladrif (talk) 19:38, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
    Meatpuppetry, as part of WP:SOCK, is a policy. WP:COI is a guideline. As much as you might wish that COI was on the same footing as SOCK, ignoring the difference does not help further the conversation about whether there should be a difference. Jclemens (talk) 04:33, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
    Paid or even ideological meatpuppetry seems to fall squarely within the Sockpuppetry policy: "While Wikipedia assumes good faith, especially for new users, recruiting new editors to influence decisions on Wikipedia is prohibited. A new user who engages in the same behavior as another user in the same context, and who appears to be editing Wikipedia solely for that purpose, may be subject to the remedies applied to the user whose behavior they are joining. Sanctions have been applied to editors of longer standing who have not, in the opinion of Wikipedia's administrative bodies, consistently exercised independent judgement." Perhaps we could amend the policy to make this absolutely clear, or we could make this absolutely clear as part of a new COI policy, or both. Would you object to that? Smallbones (talk) 04:56, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
    @Jclements - Bullshit. This RFC is about soliciting comment on what policy should be. To repeatedly parrot "but COI is just a guideline not a policy" misses the entire point of this exercise. If you think that the point of this is to simply codify what current practice is, then this RFC is pointless and one has to wonder what ArbCom had in mind in calling for it. If you think that this RFC should be confined to that, then get out of the way, and let those editors who are actually serious about addressing how to deal responsibly with COI at Wikipedia - which is a serious problem that current procedures and policies do not deal with in a manner reasonably calculated to address the problems in a serious manner. COI should be a policy not a guideline. It should be dealt with swiftly and seriously, and if that was done, disputes over COI would not fester and devolve such that ArbCom has to deal with it - badly and inconsistently. If you're not going to be part of the solution, you're definitely part of the problem. Fladrif (talk) 23:09, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
    If you're going to call for equal enforcement (or rather... criticize a dispute-resolution body for not enforcing both equally) then the current states of SOCK and COI are indeed relevant. You weren't talking about how it should be, you were criticizing others for not treating the same when they are not, in fact, the same. If you'd like to restate your issue in a forward looking manner, then indeed my response to your criticism would be moot. Also, please try and be more civil. Cheers, Jclemens (talk) 04:51, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. I think this is a clever argument, but ultimately misconstrues the intent of WP:MEAT, which is designed to prevent mass recruitment in order to create the appearance of support for a proposition where none exists. COI, at least when it deals with paid editors, often applies to a single representative or employee from a company, who is not trying to create such an impression. Although they may be promoting a particular approach at an article, provided they declare their conflict of interest and attempt to act neutrally, they are not acting as meatpuppets but good faith editors, and should be treated as such. There is of course a line that could be crossed which would turn COI editing into meatpuppetry, for example if a company appointed 8 people to comment at an article. However, if they all declared their conflict of interest and acted neutrally, even that would not necessarily breach WP:MEAT, although it would likely be seen as disruptive. Ocaasi t | c 13:31, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
    "provided they declare their conflict of interest " as you say above is a very important part of your argument. We can deal with transparent paid editing and COIs, but right now it is not transparent. If COI declarations were specifically written into policy, I'd be more inclined to agree with you. Your argument about the "intent of WP:MEAT" however doesn't convince me. It does not allow an individual meatpuppet or a limited number of meatpuppets - it prohibits ALL meatpuppets. From a straightforward reading of the policy, most readers might generalize to something like "The important thing is to edit as yourself and exercise independent judgement." That general message has been consistently included in many places on Wikipedia, including at WP:COI but some editors consistently claim that it is not clear. Isn't it time to make it precisely and directly clear and put it into an enforceable policy? Smallbones (talk) 14:10, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. In my opinion the reason that meatpuppetry is treated the same as sockpuppetry is for administrative convenience: if administrators think that an account is a sock, but can only prove it is a meatpuppet or a sock, they can treat it as a sock. Real meatpuppetry falls more under the guideline of WP:CANVASS. Bwrs (talk) 05:53, 23 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. I don't think an editor can be a meatpuppet unless they know they are working in tandem with someone else. ThemFromSpace 22:48, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

View by Smallbones[edit]

We need to focus on things we can agree on - and I'm sure there are many things we do agree on, including types of COI editing that are so egregious that they have to be banned and how we can and how we can't enforce bans, as well as types of COI editing that are not problematic and should be explicitly allowed. This should be policy. There will of course be areas that we can't agree, this should be the area where the COI guideline (perhaps rewritten) should come into play. So I suggest we restart this RFC, 1st on how to write a very minimal policy that will explicitly outline some things that are banned and some things that are allowed, and then an RFC on rewriting the COI guidelines (given a new minimal policy).

For example, I might suggest that:

  • Administrators and arbitrators are explicitly banned from participating on topics where they have received payments from people asking for specific decisions.

and

  • Academics are specifically allowed to quote their own published works without identifying themselves as having a conflict of interest.

Folks may respond that these cases are absolutely clear, so that we don't need to identify something so obvious. But are they clear to everybody? to newby editors? Do we already have rules that explicitly cover these situations? The ArbCom has said that the COI rules are unclear, so let us please give them the cases where a consensus thinks that the rules should be clear to everybody. It will do no good to say that all COI rules should be abandoned - there will never be a consensus for that. Neither does it make sense to lump all types of COI together - there are too many types, with too many different consequences. So we need to sort COI types into "egregious" (banned by policy), "unclear" (guided by the guideline), and "reasonable" (allowed by policy).

Support
  1. As proposer, for new, more structured RFC (not necessarily for the examples cited) Smallbones (talk) 04:21, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. BeCritical 04:41, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Yes. I'd rather a set of people took some time and set out the issues better, using this RfC as a source for a better-worded one. I'm finding that non-shared vocabulary has muddled the waters quite a bit here, and that there's probably a lot more agreement than is evident in this RfC so far, if only editors could agree on terms and assumptions first. 04:47, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. FormerIP (talk) 15:09, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. Yes, we need a structured and more narrowly defined RfC that fulfills ArbCom's request for a guideline that is clear. That would mean clearly defining the broad range of COI, then stating what you phrase well, declaring which is "egregious (banned...), unclear (guided), and reasonable (allowed)." There may never be a consensus on any COI guideline, which is why it is currently unenforceable, and may never be — but this approach has the best chance to fulfill ArbCom's request for clarity (and for something that can be enforced). First Light (talk) 15:47, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. This RfC is a dismal failure, and it won't led to any real changes. A second RfC should indeed be considered. --Michaeldsuarez (talk) 01:59, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. Oppose. No, we should not specify it like that. It is a gray area - the moment that it that self-written reference is added in one place, it may be fine, it may also be totally superfluous and more a thought of 'I know my stuff, this is good', then that it is improving Wikipedia. WP:COI is to warn editors to take due care. Currently, WP:COI would already allow me to cite my own papers, but I am asked to take due care. WP:COI is there, and should be there to inform me that I should take due care, and give examples of what may be conceived as not a good way of handling my COI. The problem is, that WP:COI should, like never, be used to tell me that I am not allowed to add my own papers, not that WP:COI can be, and is/was, used to disallow editors to edit in certain fields (and possibly to hound them away also from other articles). --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:46, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
    Of course the gray area, regulated by a COI guideline, can be as large as we want it to be. But at this point, I don't think it useful to say that the whole topic is a gray area. ArbCom has said the current rules are unclear and unenforceable. I'm afraid that if we do nothing, THEY will in effect say - there are no rules or guidelines that apply. Let us please give them some rules of things that are clearly prohibited, some things that are clearly allowed (but we can still say "Be careful about...") and some things that are unclear or require some judgement to enforce. And of course tell ArbCom that somebody has to enforce in this area and it should be them. Bailing out and saying "everything is currently fine" or "the whole idea of COI regulation needs to be thrown out" don't seem to be viable options. Smallbones (talk) 14:48, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
    But the problem there is IMHO with the ArbCom statement. They find WP:COI unclear and unenforceable. In my opinion - WP:COI should not be enforced, and as a guideline should not define rules. That is totally the wrong way. WP:COI is to inform editors to take care with COI, that their edits may run into problems with our 5P. The rules and the enforcement comes from the policies. We are not enforcing WP:SPAM, we are not enforcing WP:EL, they are guidelines. They all read "It is a generally accepted standard that editors should attempt to follow, though it is best treated with common sense, and occasional exceptions may apply.". If I block editors for 'spamming', I actually block them for repeated violations of WP:NOT/WP:NPOV - I block them for repeated policy violations, as expressed and explained by a guideline (or some guidelines). Many COI editors violate WP:SPAM, WP:EL, WP:NOT, WP:NPOV. When I see an obvious WP:COI violating editor adding one external link with which they has an obvious COI, I already warn them to be careful. Though there are quite some cases which I revert, I sometimes do NOT revert the editors edits, even if, strictly speaking, they violate WP:COI and WP:SPAM. If I see a library employee add their links to a multitude of articles, I will warn them of WP:COI and WP:SPAM, and depending on whether the links are violating our policies (typically WP:NOT), may revert some of their edits (sometimes when the number of edits is large, and a reasonable cross-section of their edits is 'bad' I will revert all of them, even if there may occasionally be a good one - and I do get sometimes reverted on one or two, with good reason). However, if a viagra spammer is adding their links, I will revert all of that as violating our policies, and block the editor for WP:SPAM - totally ignore the WP:COI that the editor obviously has. WP:COI is there to inform and warn the editor, not to be enforced. And if there are confusing statements, there is WP:COIN to ask for clarification on the actions, or WT:COI to ask for clarification or to amend the guideline. --Dirk Beetstra T C 06:17, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
Comment

View by 86.** IP: Paid editors waste everyone's time[edit]

I have spent the last month dealing with User:Expewikiwriter's contributions. At time of writing - and there's another AfD due to close soon - there's been about 30 articles of his deleted, mostly through AfD. Major problems resulted from them abusing sources to try and make his clients look more notable than they were, see, for example, Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Richard Finney or Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Eduard Davis.

The suggestion that paid editors might be good begin by postulating educational or scientific organizations paying people to write neutral articles on their subjects of expertise. This has probably never happened, and, if it did, would count as an obvious exception under WP:IAR. But that's not what most paid editors are; it probably doesn't even represent a single percentage point of them.

Wikipedia would be insane to suddenly allow paid editors in. The ban must remain.

Support
  1. As proposer. 86.** IP (talk) 08:06, 25 April 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
Comment

List of identified problems with COI policy/guideline enforcement[edit]

  1. Can easily be used to harass.
  2. Has only one circumstance where complaints about COI editing are legitimate: actual non-NPOV edits.
  3. Discourages dishonest editors from revealing a COI
  4. Encourages honest editors to reveal a COI, which may then expose them to harassment.
  5. Discourages COI editors from editing at all ("COI editing is strongly discouraged"), when in fact their contributions are usually good for the encyclopedia.
  6. Tends to discourage experts from editing.
  7. Makes a big deal about COI, when advocacy is a much bigger problem with the very same symptoms.
  8. Generally "criminalizes" COI, partly by use of language ("Disadvantages of COI editing on the sly") rather than advising, cultivating and encouraging COI editors, which would be more in the vaunted spirit of Wikipedia.
  9. Insults editors via a dramatically inconsistent definition, branding every interest that is a potential COI challenge as a "COI"


Please add to the above list. BeCritical 22:56, 12 March 2012 (UTC)

Support
Oppose
  1. oppose, it is a guideline for a reason - use common sense and now that you can WP:IAR. --Dirk Beetstra T C 06:20, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. oppose No proof of harassment. No proof of insults. No proof of 'criminalization". A limited, negative viewpoint of the results of COI without any proof. ```Buster Seven Talk 13:49, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Strong oppose "usually good for Wikipedia"[citation needed]. User:Expewikiwriter says no. 86.** IP (talk) 08:15, 25 April 2012 (UTC)
Comment
  • Changed section heading from "List of identified problems with COI" Smallbones (talk) 00:57, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
  • COI is a guideline, please do not suggest that it is a policy. --Dirk Beetstra T C 06:20, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
    • I'm just suggesting that it could become a policy - we're here to explore the solution of a difficult problem and to come up with new solutions. Smallbones (talk) 14:47, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
    • Obviously, what we need is a sensible draft which satisfies both parties. One that does not get rid of COI and COIN but narrowly and clearly defines COI and differentiates it from POV. My draft suggestion - and we can making it a proposal if people like this or some variation of it:
A Conflict of Interest is when an editor knows or believes that including or excluding any specific material, negative or positive, in an article would jeopardize, damage and even sever the relationship with an employer, organization or individual with whom that editor wants to have a ongoing relationship. Everyone has a point of view. But if the editor's approval or disapproval of individuals, organizations or ideas that are the topic of or mentioned in any article begins to negatively influence editing through repeated complaints of violation of policies, as found through comments by non-nonvolved members of the community on various community boards, then the point of view can be viewed as a conflict of interest.
Followed by more specifics and recommendations for action. Thoughts? CarolMooreDC 20:04, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
Too vague. 'an editor knows or believes that including or excluding any specific material, negative or positive' - no, an editor who is editing a subject with which it has a relation is in a conflict of interest. The problem is, having a conflict of interest is not a bad thing. Editors can very neutrally word on a subject while having a conflict of interest - as long as they know that they a) have a conflict of interest, and b) understand that their edits will be subject to a higher scrutiny then with edits to articles with which they do not have a conflict of interest. Sometimes it is just better to go to the talkpage, even if you strongly believe, and probably are even right, that your edits are neutral - just to avoid the impropriety, or just to double check. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:16, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
  • alternatively:
A Conflict of Interest arises where any editor believes that it is to his personal advantage to edit any article, whether for financial gain, or any other reason. The sole acceptable reason for editing any article must be the creation and improvement of encyclopedic articles written from a Neutral Point of View, and any other rationales must be subservient to that primary requirement. Any editor perceived to be editing with a purpose other than this primary purpose ill-serves Wikipedia, and may be regarded as editing with a Conflict of Interest. Collect (talk) 20:32, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
No, way too vague. People want a narrower definition not an equally broad one. CarolMooreDC 03:28, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
Indeed, way too vague. It needs to be worked out way wider. This needs an own full-size guideline, which can lean heavily on WP:NPOV (and to a lesser extend also on the other 5P - they do come into play). --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:16, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
A conflict of interest arises if a user seeks to modify an article or material:
  • about her or himself;
  • about someone or something with which they have a direct relationship (for example: an employer, a relative, a friend);
  • about something in which either they or an employer, friend etc has a financial or reputational interest (for example: a company, a product, a book, a competitor);
  • as part of their employment or in fulfilment of a contractual obligation.
A conflict of interest does not arise merely because a user has knowledge or an opinion about a given topic. However, users should always work in line with our policy on maintaining a neutral point-of-view.
FormerIP (talk) 18:20, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
Misses out the WP:SELFCITE aspect of a COI. you could add a point like:
  • attempt to introduce a source about a subject, which they themselves have written, with which they have a direct relationship with the writer of, or which they (or an employer, friend, etc) has a financial or reputational interest in.
Stuart.Jamieson (talk) 19:59, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
In fact in a case I have seen on Wikipedia, another editor introduced the source and the individual with the COI (about that source) simply promoted the introduction as proving the point he intended to make. So perhaps introduce or promote might cover it better. Stuart.Jamieson (talk) 20:03, 14 March 2012 (UTC)

─────────────────────────Pardon my reformatting but I was getting so lost... anyway... I came up with that definition mentioning "jeopardize, damage and even sever the relationship" because it seemed like a solution to the most difficult COI related editing situation I have been in where 8-15 editors (3 or 4 of them suspected or proven sock puppets) hate a BLP, and one editor admitted who he was and that he had written/acted against this individual. There was a COI but that was NOT seen as a conflict of interest, just a POV to be careful of. (Which they have somewhat been, but that could change.) Trips to BLPN has brought neutral editors to also criticize WP:Undue criticism and even remove some, but the enemies of the BLP always put it back a week or so later. They can NOT edit the article in any positive fashion without risking at the very least their ideological purity, not to mention their network of friends who hate this BLP.

Well recently I met this person a couple times, bought their book, spoke about my concerns about their writing, told them I agreed on some points; but I don't hate this person like these people do. Well, you know all hell is about to break out since I pretty much admitted this had happened and will more explicitly next time I actually go to edit. You can bet they'll have me at COIN in no time and bring in a dozen cronies. And my proposal would not stop them. Is there any way to address that issue? Besides dumping COI and COIN, which because of this case I feel more and more like doing. CarolMooreDC 02:09, 15 March 2012 (UTC)

I've often thought that if Einstein edited Wikipedia on relativity, he would need to cite himself to avoid violating wp:ver; if he disclosed that we would put the Scarlett Letter "COI editor" on him. So he can help here for free and get abused, or else get paid a lot for doing the same thing elsewhere. We don't want his type in Wikipedia! North8000 (talk) 02:46, 15 March 2012 (UTC)
No, I think we do. We just want him to be upfront about who he is, and accept being reverted when he deletes material relating to quantum mechanics. --FormerIP (talk) 02:51, 15 March 2012 (UTC)
My point was the Scarlett Letter "COI Editor"; what most would consider to be a pejorative term. North8000 (talk) 03:19, 15 March 2012 (UTC)
I guess my point is there a way to divide off those few people who have a COI that surely WILL affect their editing from those whose "COI" only may give them a POV but not prevent them from editing the article as long as they fess up about it. The other issue, is when is it really necessary to both to mention you have COI? I mean I've edited stuff about libertarianism without mentioning it unless I get in some debate where it becomes relevant. I've edited articles about the Libertarian Party without mentioning I'm a member (though the statist direction it's going may not have to much longer) unless there's some reason it becomes relevant. On the other hand IF I became an officer of a local, state or national party (again) and edited on that article I would know right off I had to admit COI on talk page and my edits should be carefully scrutinized. When someone brought up during an AfD that another editor was a member of a minor Brit party opposed to the LP of UK, it occurred to me it was relevant that I was a member the LPUSA and past officer of local parties. Should it have occurred to me earlier that was relevant? Evidently, I didn't think so. But when it became relevant I fessed up. CarolMooreDC 18:01, 16 March 2012 (UTC)
I'm not sure that being a common-or-garden party member (as opposed to an employee, candidate or organiser) would give rise to a COI. But if you feel it does, would it have been so much of a hassle to put on the talkpage: "I have been editing this article and I am a party member. Please feel free to review my edits if you want to"? I think that's all that would be required. --FormerIP (talk) 18:15, 16 March 2012 (UTC)
I guess my larger point got lost so will repeat: I guess my point is there a way to divide off those few people who have a COI that surely WILL affect their editing from those whose "COI" only may give them a POV but not prevent them from editing the article as long as they fess up about it. And by this I mean just looking at the relationship itself, with editing behavior as a later indicator. CarolMooreDC 18:57, 16 March 2012 (UTC)
Yeah, I agree. But I think the best thing is just not to refer to "COI" in inverted commas. Editors who have a POV but no COI are, at the end of the day, editors without a COI. It isn't a COI to have previously written about the subject of an article (unless you are their official biographer, maybe). It's also not a COI to hate the subject of an article. FormerIP (talk) 19:13, 16 March 2012 (UTC)
Now we're getting there. Why is it not a COI to hate someone - or even to write and protest against them outside Wikipedia. But it is a COI to have a positive relationship - in other words a relationship you are afraid could be harmed if you edited only to include good things and argued against any or most negative things (assuming all other policy requirements met). This gets back to my original definition: fear of losing the relationship.
Now there can be debate on what is real fear: is a wife fearful of losing a husband? is employee fearful of losing a job? is an activist fearful of getting kicked out of their group or movement? is a musician's fan fearful they won't ever say hello again at a gig? etc etc etc. (And that's assuming the party in question even knows who it is who may be including or defending or refusing to remove negative material.) CarolMooreDC 20:03, 16 March 2012 (UTC)
Why is not a COI to hate someone? Because it's just a regular bias, and NPOV is our main mechanism for dealing with bias. COI isn't about bias per se, it's about RL involvement.
Is it about fear of losing a relationship? I guess in an extreme case it could be, but it's not the essence of the thing. If I edit the article about my wife to make her sound cooler than she is, it's because I like my wife, not because I'm afraid she'll leave me if I don't airbrush her article. --FormerIP (talk) 20:25, 16 March 2012 (UTC)
I guess you are right. So then why can't we make PAID the one hard and fast COI that must be revealed or else; and everything else just stuff that should be revealed but only if there has been serious disruption vs. wiki policy make it a serious case if not? CarolMooreDC 20:37, 16 March 2012 (UTC)
I'd assume we will not treat all COIs in the same way. But I think probably all or most COIs should be at least revealed (it's difficult to say exactly, because there has not been that much discussion on this page about what we actually do in the case of a COI). But what would be the benefit to not asking for a COI to be declared in, say, a case where someone was editing their own article or editing an article on behalf of a PR company where they were an intern? --FormerIP (talk) 21:19, 16 March 2012 (UTC)
I'm not opposed to the most obvious issues like that. Well, since I don't see any resolution here - just possibility that more precise language would satisfy some concerns, at my leisure after this dies out, maybe I'll just go to the policy page, read carefully, and see if I can suggest some better language. CarolMooreDC 06:14, 17 March 2012 (UTC)

List of identified problems with COI editing[edit]

  1. Puts biased information or just a single POV into articles
  2. Removes alternate POVs and unbiased info from articles (probably even more important than 1.)
  3. Discourages amateur editors, who are not allowed by COI editors to put information into articles
  4. Is often a form of advocacy or advertisement
  5. Could create an overall bias in Wikipedia that only organizations with large amounts of money (e.g. corporations) or large numbers of highly motivated followers (e.g. political parties) can fully express their POVs.
  6. Destroys the credibility of Wikipedia
  7. Can destroy the legitimacy of Wikipedia governance procedures


Please add to the above list. Smallbones (talk) 00:57, 13 March 2012 (UTC)

Support
  1. Good points. And like I said above, I think the policy is well-written, only there are real-life dilemmas involved in administering it. Bwrs (talk) 06:24, 23 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. To which I'd add "encourages the creation of articles on non-notable sources" and "wastes good editors' time cleaning up afterwards", as well as "since not all sources can easily be checked, for obscurer subjects, presenting only one view from a source (or worse, misusing a source) can lead to an article that appears neutral, but only because the facts cannot be checked, biasing Wikipedia in very difficult to fix ways."
Oppose
Comment

It's pretty clear that there are potential problems with both, NOT having a COI policy as well as with enforcing a COI policy. Why don't we attempt to write a well designed policy and balance the benefits and costs of having the policy? Smallbones (talk) 00:57, 13 March 2012 (UTC)

It's at least obvious that the problems with COI editing you listed above are real. I merely question whether our policy should be about COI specifically, or about POV editing. How do we identify and deal with disruption which causes POV articles without allowing administrators to enforce their own POV. I think couching the problem in those terms would be more fruitful. We need to focus on the edits, not the editors. BeCritical 03:15, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
We're more or less talking about the same thing here: COI can equal POV and vice versa. Almost everybody with knowledge in an area has a potential COI (however mild) and everybody who edits does have a POV, however much they are able to see outside that POV to let others include other POVs. Note that our NPOV policy does not prohibit POVs in articles - how could it? It only says that all relevant documented material can be included whatever POV it supports, and that all non-fringe POVs should be included and appropriately weighted. COIs can't be excluded either - indeed we want experts and the like to contribute pretty much because of the situation that gives rise to the COI (they've studied the area for a long time and can have fairly fixed views on it). But extreme COIs should be excluded, just like fringe POVs should be excluded. I'm most concerned about COIs where they exclude other editor's POV and documented material. I don't want to harass people with COIs, but part of that is letting them know ahead of time, what situations would be considered extreme. We should do everybody a favor and let everybody know what types of COI we don't consider to be a problem. There's no point in telling people that they can't edit articles on politics because they have a cousin who is a Republican. Similarly there no point in telling lawyers (known in some countries as "advocates") that they can represent their clients on Wikipedia "as long as they don't break any rules." They are paid to advocate for their clients, and any major edit they make regarding their clients is almost certainly going to break a rule. So let's please just narrow down the problem and recognize that the majority of COIs are not a problem, but some definitely should be taboo. Smallbones (talk) 04:28, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
Everybody has a POV. The key is to edit neutrally, practicing “journalistic objectivity.” But a paid editor is a little bit different than one who merely has a particular POV. In the former case, sometimes there is a hidden agenda; in the latter case, the agenda may be more open. You can fix the hidden agenda by encouraging it to be un-hidden. Bwrs (talk) 06:24, 23 March 2012 (UTC)

View of Stuart.Jamieson[edit]

Sometimes when a COI is discovered - there is no obvious way to clean, delete or improve the articles without either

  1. Inadvertently outing the individual
  2. Exposing a personal COI of the reporting editor
  3. Create Real World consequences for either the reporting editor, the COI editor, or both.

As an example of #2, and #3 I will present the Article OBASHI - The primary editor uses his own name and identifies himself so #1 doesn't apply here. For #2 I have a personal conflict of Interest, since the article editor was my boss (CEO) at the time they started creating OBASHI and I along with the entire development team had our projects shut down and were laid off in order to allow the CTO to work alone creating it. For #3 - I don't believe OBASHI meets our notability criteria and it it were created by any other organisation I would have tagged it for deletion by now - but doing so in this case would have unintended real life consequences for me as they could burn me with clients I have as a self employed contractor today - it would also sour the good relationship that we have built back up in the decade since we parted ways. In an example for #1 to take Ellen's example of a hypothetical "Professor Elk" if Editor Moose2034 says something that inadvertently identifies him as "Professor Elk" and a sole editor picks up on this checks the article Professor Elk and finds that Moose2034 was the article creator and is the primary editor then tagging the article or discussing on Moose2034's talk-page about this COI with the article may be seen as hounding, harassment, or outing even when it's a genuine attempt to improve the Professor Elk article (and the entire encyclopaedia). I would propose a process be defined by which discussions about the COI within an article can be raised with the COI editor in a low-profile/non-public discussion with a trusted and undeclared third party present and defining ways that that undeclared third party can either get the editors to work together to fix the affected articles, or ask a team of editors to fix the problems without those editors becoming aware of the COI themselves.

Support
  1. I support the basic idea here - but this falls in a similar category as a situation I describe elsewhere - I can, due to intellectual property/conflict of interest concerns sometimes not improve a page or even flag a page or discuss a problem on a talkpage. That is of course only a problem in a rare case of a BLP violation where one would need to let a BLP violation stand without any possibility to flag, notify or repair it (if intellectual property problems would come into play, one could not even mail OTRS - it is conceivable, but extremely rare on a BLP). In most situations one can mail OTRS to handle it, and sometimes one just needs to leave it be and hope for someone else to see it. --Dirk Beetstra T C 07:39, 17 March 2012 (UTC)
    Mailing OTRS is one option I had not considered - In an article I'm currently trying to get some traction on I discovered the identity of an Editor by accident, from that and from articles they I had written I know that they have a COI in multiple NNPOV articles that are written by them and in other articles with sources written by them. I don't have a COI with the subject, but as I have admitted that their identity was revealed by something they said and as they are nearly the only editor on these articles if I tag them then it will stick out like a sore thumb that this is their (auto)biography. So far I've approached a checkuser and an arbiter by email to avoid outing the editor - specifically because these articles with the COI also have an appearance of puppet activity being used to game the system (including puppets being used in 2 RfC's) But neither the checkuser nor the arbiter have responded to my concerns in the past weeks. I don't really have anywhere else to take the issue at the moment (ironically the editor has plenty of edit summaries pointing to puffery but doesn't see it in their self). Stuart.Jamieson (talk) 12:53, 17 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Support as a proposal with real world examples of real consequences for well-intentioned, good faith, right acting editors. Those who wish to honor the "contract with our readers" and such, please take note. I believe it is not sufficient to define the rules more closely as per Ellen of the Roads; the system already in place to maintain privacy evidently needs to greased with an editor or two more working on it, and perhaps to be given a higher profile in descriptions of COI, so that more editors are aware of it. Anarchangel (talk) 09:43, 22 March 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
Comment

View by Guettarda[edit]

It's unrealistic to assume that editors can (or even should) avoid all potential conflicts of interest. We have our interests in our politicians, our home towns, the schools and universities we attended. And then there are indirect financial interests in the topics we edit...it's not just a matter of someone being paid to buff a businessman's reputation - it may also be that by crafting a great article on a local historic mill, you manage to help the non-profit your spouse works for get a renewal on the grant that pays his/her salary. Having a potential COI doesn't make your editing necessarily bad - it just means that your edits deserve closer scrutiny. The problem that many people have identified with COI is harassment. Often, the motivation behind that harassment is to use it as a way to silence "opponents". So why not make it commonplace to declare potential interests?

If declaring a potential COI is extremely rare, as it is today, then admitting anything is a kiss of death to your editing. But if people routinely admit a long list of potential conflicts, then it becomes normal. Yes, it should attract more eyes to their editing, but the consequences of being called out are much smaller. Unless, of course, you deny it and are then found out. This isn't a matter of having to out yourself. You can be vague - "I admit to a potential conflict of interest on [subject x]". No need for details. If you deny it, and someone catches you, that's a different story. But if you declare potential conflicts - even minor ones. Should I be editing my wife's great-great-great grandfather's bio? I really don't see why not...but someone might, so I haven't touched it in over six years. I'd much rather declare an interest and work freely to improve the article. But declaring a string of potential interests, when no one else does, would just paint a target on my back. If everyone declared their interests, then the appropriate flags could be raised without witch hunts. And the project, I think, would be better off.

Support
  1. Guettarda (talk) 08:12, 17 March 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. Strong oppose. It does not say that editors should avoid a potential conflict of interest "Do not edit Wikipedia to promote your own interests, or those of other individuals or of organizations, including employers. Do not write about these things unless you are certain that a neutral editor would agree that your edits improve Wikipedia."; "Where advancing outside interests is more important to an editor than advancing the aims of Wikipedia, that editor stands in a conflict of interest ... COI editing is strongly discouraged." - having a conflict of interest does not, in any form, forbid you to edit subjects that are dear to you, or even those for which you get paid. There is no witchhunt for editors with a conflict of interest, editors who declare a conflict of interest are not systematically pushed to stay away from their area. The only thing WP:COI does is to warn you that if you have a conflict of interest (and everybody has subjects on Wikipedia with which they have a conflict of interest) with an article you are editing, that there you should take extra care to make sure that your editing is neutral. The problem are the editors who use the guideline to hunt away others so they can express their POV - and those are the editors who should be warned and, if necessary, sanctioned. --Dirk Beetstra T C 08:21, 17 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Probably not compatible with the founding principle that we allow all to contribute anonymously or pseudonymously. Extensive self-declaration requirements would amount to enforced self-outing, as Jclemens explains below.  Sandstein  18:10, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
Comment
  • Interesting, but problematic. If I declare a large set of conflicts of interests ranging to the major (my employer) to the minor (my wife's relatives) then that is a recipe for OUTING anyone's real life identity in this age of Google and data mining. I'm fully aware that even my userboxes quite reliably identify me to anyone who cares to look remotely hard... Jclemens (talk) 08:19, 17 March 2012 (UTC)
    Indeed, problematic and unnecessary. The point of WP:COI is that one should not advance ones conflict of interest, not the conflict of interest itself. "Do not edit Wikipedia to promote your own interests, or those of other individuals or of organizations, including employers. Do not write about these things unless you are certain that a neutral editor would agree that your edits improve Wikipedia.". Can you write in a neutral way about a far relative of your wife? And though it would be good to declare that that person is a relative, you are by no means obliged to do so! --Dirk Beetstra T C 08:27, 17 March 2012 (UTC)
    I agree, it does pose that risk. Of course, so does editing another other than a completely random set of topics. But the thing is that there will always be a tension between anonymity and trustworthiness for Wikipedia. Declaring conflicts will help with the latter and weaken the former. But the truth is that a vast number of Wikipedians are identifiable to anyone who datamines the site, and many people are either actually or tacitly out. Guettarda (talk) 15:13, 17 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Clarify the language a bit and stick it policy: "The point of WP:COI is that one should not advance ones conflict of interest, [it is not necessarily]] the not the conflict of interest itself."Might solve some problems! CarolMooreDC 23:37, 17 March 2012 (UTC)
    • Exactly, I fully see that the language can be confusing, but I do not think that the current language of WP:COI is incorrect. I may have a bold go at some parts soon. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:20, 18 March 2012 (UTC)

View by Tony1: it's whether your text is neutral, not whether you're paid[edit]

Summary:

  1. Focus on the end-product our readers see, not on whether the rewards for good editing are social or monetary.
  2. You can still produce neutral text if you have one-sided views or allegiances—we've all had to learn to do this.
  3. We need a properly organised taskforce and noticeboard for policing neutrality.

Many comments above are based on idealistic moral expectations that are simply impractical. There's no way payment for editing can ever be policed; that presupposes conscious or inadvertent disclosure by either paid or paying party. Paid editing has been with us for years; among the first WPians were those who edited on the boss's time. All we can do is to police the result. Try to police payment and you get into all sorts of muddy questions such as:

  • How directly related is a payment to the editing of an article? (Many school teachers, academics, and corporate/civil-service professionals are paid to disseminate their knowledge; a large proportion of WP is written on the boss's time. May no paid staff ever write or edit the article on their own institution, even though they know it in greater depth than most others?)
  • How obligated is the editor to the payer, even if there is a fee for editing a specific article or area?

Who cares?

All that matters is the text, which we can (but don't properly) police—neither the identification of potential problem articles and topics nor the monitoring of (paid and unpaid) editors who don't understand or adhere to policy. At the moment, we have the worst of both worlds because we're lulled into a sense of security by a CoI policy guideline that is enforced patchily and inefficiently. Want to make lots of extra work for ArbCom and admins? Stick with the current non-strategy. If we're going to finger-wave, let's do it effectively; otherwise, all of the CoI editing will continue to be by subterfuge, not just some of it.

Dumping the current unrealistic CoI policy guideline is probably the way to go, shifting the focus onto the practical issues we've been shying away from by pretending that various shades of third-party payment aren't happening as we speak, or that they are somehow worse in effect for the readers than that of our own personal (unpaid) biases. Whichever way, the community needs to put a lot more effort into policing neutrality.

But at least one question arises: should editors be allowed to advertise their services, whether off- or on-wiki? Before you recoil in horror, think about the scrutiny anyone who did advertise would attract. They'd have to be very professional about neutrality, wouldn't they. That might attract excellent article writing; or it might attract our derision if not professional in writing, verification and neutrality: at least we'd know about it and have greater control over it.

CoI disclaimer: I've been asked and I've refused (I have plenty of work and I don't need the money); you'll just have to trust me on that, which underlines my whole point about the impracticality of enforcing it at that end of the pipeline. Tony (talk) 13:19, 18 March 2012 (UTC)

support
  1. Well said. Realism dictates that we cannot determine whether any edit is paid for or not. Given that insurmountable problem, this is a fatal flaw in the idealistic and unrealistic expectations espoused by those who oppose this viewpoint. Jclemens (talk) 15:48, 18 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Yes. While all of this can't be mentioned in the current guideline, there should be a mention of this after the definitive bold sentence in the opening paragraph of WP:COI ("Where advancing outside interests is more important..."). We should add something like, "Since Wikipedia allows anonymous editing, and there is no way to prove an editor has a Conflict (unless they voluntarily disclose the Conflict), editors are advised instead to focus on the edits, and whether they express a Neutral Point of View, which is a Wikipedia Policy." First Light (talk) 16:10, 18 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Agreed. All we can and should do is monitor the quality of the content; as we allow all to edit anonymously or pseudonymously, taking into account editors' motives and personal circumstances is not only beside the point but also infeasible.  Sandstein  18:07, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Agree. By the way, I have been offered compensation a couple of times to help with an article. I expect this is true of many of WP's editors with many successful FA nominations. I have always turned it down, not based on any supposed ethical (at least, according to WP's weird ethics) considerations, but because the amount offered wasn't sufficient to cause me to feel that it was worth my scarce free time. Whatever my motivation for editing a particular article, I have no problem with my edits being judged according to WP's policies. Cla68 (talk) 06:20, 20 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. Agree . This is the only practical way to go. Hawkeye7 (talk) 23:13, 26 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Strongest possible agree If, for example, the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research wants to pay someone to improve polymer-related, let them! We need experts. The only edits which should be discouraged at those violating WP:NPOV. If the article is neutral and well-written, it does not matter one bit if the author was paid or not. The end result is what matters, not the method used to achieve it. If a paid editor abides by all our content policies, there's zero reason to get rid of them. Kick out the political interns whitewashing their candidates pages, and let's keep other folks who are doing good work. Headbomb {talk / contribs / physics / books} 05:44, 17 April 2012 (UTC)
    And the WP:COI-guideline is there to guide them - there is nothing in WP:COI that would stop them, nor should any editor use WP:COI to stop them. WP:COI does not stop me from improving polymer or other chemicals related articles (disclaimer, I am a SABIC employee, a company 'active in chemicals and intermediates, industrial polymers, fertilizers and metals'). --Dirk Beetstra T C 06:27, 17 April 2012 (UTC)
  7. Ok, my wife left wikipedia in part because she was offered money to write for other sources. The other sources gave her topics to write on. She wrote on those topics for several different online sources. Never in writing for any of those sources was she asked to write a from a specific point of view or to advocate a certain stance. In fact, one of the sites, she only knew that a company wanted a series of scientific articles written. She wrote those articles with the same care and dilligence she did when she wrote for Wikipedia. The real money isn't in writing the articles yourself, but in figuring out how ot get companies to hire you to hire others to write articles for them! I betchya that somebody could write a proposal to some of these major corporations and donate grants to "improve the quality of articles related to" X on wikipedia. Such a paid writer would NOT be in a position to advocate a specific POV, but to improve the quality of articles. I have no doubt that some companies already have employees doing that right now as part of their job descriptions! Being paid isn't the enemy.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 17:00, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
oppose
  1. Strongly Oppose. I care. If the text is subverted because of salary, the reader is cheated. This is not about editing while on the clock at work. It is about a hidden allegiance to a customer/candidate/employer that restricts any possibility of neutrality. ```Buster Seven Talk 13:49, 18 March 2012 (UTC)
    That is one type of paid editing. It is not the only type. A museum/university might pay somebody to improve the quality of an article with no concern about advocating a specific position. Hell, paid editing might actually include a dictate to be neutral and factual! You are making a huge assumption of facts not in evidence.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 16:48, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  2. Oppose, we should care - per Buster7. --Dirk Beetstra T C 13:55, 18 March 2012 (UTC)
    My point is that it's impractical to "care" if we can't do anything about it. "if the text is subverted because of salary, the reader is cheated"—I would re-express this as " "if the text is subverted because of salary, the reader is cheated". The reader is cheated by POV, whether it's by paid or unpaid editors. Unpaid editors are well capable of skewing according to their own prejudices. Tony (talk) 14:40, 18 March 2012 (UTC)
    I'm beginning to see your point that it may be impractical and a wild-goose chase to force paid editors to wear a nametag. I just know that recently working on a few articles with a self-identified high-ranking member of one of the Republican 2012 Campaigns, while still problematic, was a far sight better than had he remained hidden. All editors involved knew where he stood and why. All the editors involved knew why he requested changes and minute alterations. All editors involved knew that his intention was to get his "guy" elected. With a little investigation, the reader could also know and judge the merits of the article accordingly. Edit discussions began with the basic understanding by all editors that the campaign-employed editor had an ulterior motive. It prevented long-wided time-wasting drama. ```Buster Seven Talk 23:26, 18 March 2012 (UTC)
    There is nothing impractical. We do not need to put a nametag on them, we don't need to goose chase, we should not goose chase. I am looking at WP:COI from completely the other end. ALL editors should uphold WP:NPOV, that is policy. That is what we check, that is what we (should) enforce. Whether an editor is paid or not does not matter, whether an editor has a conflict of interest does not matter, the text should be WP:NPOV. If new editors come in, they should edit in the full spirit of WP:NPOV. But editors have, almost by definition, in certain areas a conflict of interest. That does not forbid them to edit, that does not disallow them even to edit those pages where they have a conflict of interest. While they may have a POV on different areas .. they for sure have a point of view on the areas that they have a special interest in. WP:COI there informs them how to handle that part of their WP:NPOV - it should be there to tell them, that while they should edit always in the best interest of the encyclopedia, fully following WP:NPOV, that with the articles with which they may have a conflict of interest, they should take extra care - while they will be reminded of WP:NPOV when they are editing in fields where they do not have a conflict of interest (from above, the vegetarian, muslim, racing car fanatic Audi employee who edits the page Changuito they randomly stumbled upon), they will be bashed around if they add advertising (i.e. non-neutral) information to Audi (and it is known that they work for Audi). WP:COI is not about categorisation of editors and the subject that they have a conflict of interest with, WP:COI is not about chasing editors around to find their conflict of interest so they should be bashed around when they edit one of those subjects in a non-neutral way - WP:COI is rightfully a guideline for editors to absorb and know that they have to be careful with that, whether they are paid for editing 'their' articles or not, whether their conflict of interest is disclosed or not. WP:COI is not, and should not be enforced, it should be there to inform the editor - just like all other guidelines are there to inform the editor, not to be enforced. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:18, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Oppose. The logic of this is a bit like: We should remove metal-detectors from airports, because it's not about whether passengers have knives, it's about whether they intend to take hostages. What we should do instead is concentrate on our wreckage-trawling procedures. FormerIP (talk) 23:44, 18 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Oppose Getting paid has about a 99% chance of creating a genuine COI by even the most lenient definition. Per FormerIP's analogy except with this in mind I would substitute "wired bomb" for "knife". North8000 (talk) 11:56, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. Oppose Writing requires judgement calls: Is a lawsuit about a company notable enough for inclusion? Is an external link necessary? Is describing a new product necessary? And many more questions go on this list. Fundamentally, readers trust that we're doing our level best to ensuring those judgement calls are being made solely out of concern for writing an encyclopedia, not because of financial concerns. We know that extensively peer-reviewed publications, when people have a financial interest, are about four times more likely to reach a conclusion in line with the financial interest. It does not seem either wise or pragmatic to ignore this effect. --TeaDrinker (talk) 16:09, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. Oppose - for the reasons of all the above editors (although I like FormerIP's formulation quite a bit). --Orange Mike | Talk 15:27, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
  7. 'Strong oppose - Paid editors waste everyone else's time. Sure, some may be fine, but we can't know that without carefully scrutinizing. After me and several admins spent the last month cleaning up the hosts of non-notable articles by paid account User:Expewikiwriter, I have the strongest possible objections to any suggestion we open up the floodgates to more people who can abuse sources, or selectively choose sources to make their clients look good - and which can only be shown to be doing such by hours of careful checking. Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Richard Finney's research says that this view is simply misguided. 86.** IP (talk) 08:11, 25 April 2012 (UTC)
comment
  • First off, WP:COI is not a policy, it is a guideline - and that makes a huge difference: a guideline does not need to be enforced (and it is not enforced), it is meant to be a guide telling those who have a conflict of interest in a certain subject should handle editing that subject. It is not forbidden to edit that subject, it is not necessary to declare your conflict of interest when editing - you are right in the base statement: it is the editing that counts, whether or not you have a conflict of interest does not matter. However, it is good that one is aware that when one has a conflict of interest on a subject, what one has to be aware of, and that it then, in some cases, is better to just stay on the talkpage instead of editing the page itself. --Dirk Beetstra T C 13:37, 18 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Am I to conclude that those opposing this view, and those like it, are idealistic and unrealistic boobs while those in support are pragmatic realists? These constant alienations become hard to endure. ```Buster Seven Talk 23:47, 18 March 2012 (UTC)
    • You added the "boobs" bit, but I'll gladly withdraw my "idealistic and unrealistic" comment if you can solve the problem of achieving reliable self-disclosure by COI editors. In fact, I find the likelihood of that happening sufficiently remote that I will eat any hat of your choosing should you solve it. Every proposal should take into account that we have no way to determine the motivations of any editor making any edit outside their voluntary self disclosure--and even in that case, we rely on their honesty. Jclemens (talk) 00:07, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
Yes, that's mainly true, although we don't always have to rely on their honesty because other editors will sometimes make busy-bodies of themselves.
But there is no reason why self-disclosure needs to be reliable for it to make sense that we should have a guideline. It is not reliable that people will abide by the tax code, but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be one. Hell, I sock all the time, because I know how not to get caught. But that doesn't mean we should get rid of the policy against it.
Disclosure should work in the favour of COI editors, because it will provide a fast-track to getting a realistic portion of what the editor would like. That won't apply in all cases, of course, and some COI editors won't realise that disclosure is to their advantage.
You're also correct that we have no way of (in terms which are absolutely reliable) determining the motivations of any editor. But so what? I don't see what the consequence of this statement is. As in my example above, we also don't know the motivations of someone walking onto a plane with a knife. But we can, nevertheless, take a view that some precaution may be advantageous. FormerIP (talk) 00:50, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
I should probably mention that I never sock. I do sometimes lie to make a point, though. FormerIP (talk) 02:16, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
I suppose it's not strictly necessary that policies benefit the honest and penalize the dishonest, instead of the other way around. I tend to find it ethically preferable. Socking, which you point out can go unnoticed, is detectable by a number of methods--some of which you know how to avoid. In the case of highly disruptive socking, a finer microscope can indeed ferret out problematic editors who would escape a cursory notice. In the same way that ostensibly new users are not routinely asked "Are you a sockpuppet?", we currently do not ask new users about their COI issues, and for much the same reason: truly new users will be clueless, and abusive returning users will not tell the truth. Jclemens (talk) 02:01, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
Depending on how they are formulated, our COI procedures can benefit the honest (as stated, the reality in most cases is that an up-front COI will get there objectives met - those which are meetable - more quickly). The hidden COI will typically get reverted, get their article deleted and perhaps just go on and on not understanding why their efforts are being frustrated. In other words, the disadvantage of a COI editor is they cannot just explain what they want to do and why and get assistance. Plus, if our policies were to allow for it, they could be sanctioned if discovered. Of course, it is impossible to ever guarantee that an ill-intentioned COI editor will not simply go unnoticed and get off scot free. All I can say is that's life. A good COI guideline would make life more tolerable for us and for them a certain proportion of the time. A certain other proportion of the time, it will make no difference. But get your abacus out and you'll be able to calculate that this means a net benefit. FormerIP (talk) 02:14, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
There are a number of assumptions here which, if true, might make things less imbalanced. I'm skeptical that the anti-paid-editing crowd is willing to greet openly declared paid editors with open arms and volunteer assistance to get their goals met, but not to the willing-to-eat-a-hat level. Our policies already allow for sanction of non-NPOV editing; that part of the proposal I have no doubt would be implemented with sufficient vigor when appropriate. Still, there's potential here if sufficient community buy in that paid editors are allowed and not to be treated as pariahs can be generated. Jclemens (talk) 02:37, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
I would suggest, then, that the real question is are we able to design a COI guidline that will achieve the right objective?, rather than should we have a COI guideline?. If it turns out that we are unable to do the former then, by all means, we can turn our attention to the latter. FormerIP (talk) 02:48, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
I have no quarrel at all with that formulation of our objective here. It may be too generic to answer specifics, of course, but I agree with the goal unreservedly. Jclemens (talk) 02:56, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
Also in hat-less agreement w/ FormerIP. ```Buster Seven Talk 07:10, 19 March 2012 (UTC)

Views by Jmh649[edit]

If people get indefinitely banned by Arbcom for attempting to enforce WP:COI then we should probably scrap the policy/guideline in question. Else if we are going to keep the WP:COI we should overturn the arbcom ruling in question.

Support
  1. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 14:15, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Support in a hypothetical sense, but this hasn't happened. If you're referring to Will Beback's desysop and ban, I suggest you read the relevant ruling to see for which activities he was actually sanctioned. Jclemens (talk) 14:25, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
    Per "persistently dwelt on editors' affiliations and has seemingly used the "affiliations [of others] as an ad hominem means of dismissing or discrediting their views"." seems to state that part of the issue was his mentioning of other affiliations to the subject matter they where editing which pertains to the policy in question. This case also mentions that he posted comments to the COI notice board as justification of wrong doing. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 14:40, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
    Looking into some of the diffs give: Here Will brings up the issue of COI on Sue Gardners talk page [18] [19] Neither one mentions anything about the people involved in the arbcom case in question but are only dealing with the topic of COI in general. The comments on Jimmy Wales talk page are equally bland here [20] and [21]. And this is put forwards as justification for an indef ban? It appears that it is dangerous even discussing the COI policy due to the concerns of ArbCom "ban hammers" coming out. I think many of us may need to read the ArbCom case in question. Will do so tonight and post the analysis to Jimmy Wales and Will Beback's talk page... Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 14:49, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
    All enforcement efforts must be proportional to the infraction itself. The case was not "soft on COI enforcement" in the same fashion that Tennessee v. Garner was not "soft on burglary": both highlight that there are impermissible ways to pursue 'justice' that violate the rights of those accused. Jclemens (talk) 02:37, 20 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Support. But no reason to forgive abuse of a bad policy. BeCritical 06:00, 20 March 2012 (UTC)
    WP:COI is not a policy. --Dirk Beetstra T C 07:41, 20 March 2012 (UTC)
    Very true, my brain fart but it's used as if it is. BeCritical 06:53, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
    'it's used as if it is' - no, that is a sweeping statement for which you can not provide complete evidence. It is 'some editors use it as if it is' (and the ArbCom that resulted in this case shows that the group 'some editors' contains at least one editor) - and those editors should be .. explained that WP:COI is a guideline, not a policy. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:29, 26 March 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. This is not the venue to bring up overturning arbcom cases. There are plenty of non-controversial uses of the COI guideline, the existence of a controversial one does not negate the importance of the guideline. --TeaDrinker (talk) 16:13, 19 March 2012 (UTC)
  2. Absurd. Editors have never been banned based on WP:COI alone, I even doubt if editors have been blocked on the basis of WP:COI alone. And if that happened, then that will be surely only a very, very few, and in that case, I would severely suggest sanctions on the editor(s) who issued said sanctions. And per TeaDrinker, one case does not negate a whole guideline. And this is certainly not a reason to overturn ArbCom. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:18, 20 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. If Arbcom is wrong, arbcom is wrong, and the community should forcefully overturn their decision - not compound their mistake. 86.** IP (talk) 08:23, 25 April 2012 (UTC)
Comment
  • This may give some context for Jmh649's view. Cla68 (talk) 06:10, 20 March 2012 (UTC)
  1. Morally support in the sense that the recent ArbCom case was an absurd example of Kafkaesque politics at work, where the noble are punished and those who damage are exonerated. ThemFromSpace 22:53, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

View by Tothwolf on COI vs Harassment and outing[edit]

I'm not much of a fan of the current COI/N noticeboard and COI guideline, mainly because of the way both have been used in the past to attack others. I myself was targeted in this manner by this guy beginning in May 2009 (discussion) and it continued on for roughly a year and a half with him trying every way he could think of to obtain my personal information. After a badly handled ArbCom case which was open from November 2009 through January 2010, he and two of his "buddies" continued with this same "COI meme" until August 2010 [22] (both of these accounts were abandoned after being sanctioned [23] [24]) and November 2010 [25] (indef blocked [26] and then continued to target other editors while engaging in sockpuppetry)

Some of my own thoughts about the COI guideline and how it was abused can be found here and here. Further background can also be found here. --Tothwolf (talk) 10:08, 20 March 2012 (UTC)

comments
  1. Repeating what I said before - any attempts to out an editor should result in warnings and, if that does not help, warnings. IMHO, this is more a problem of the weak enforcement of WP:HARASS than of attempts to enforce the WP:COI guideline. --Dirk Beetstra T C 10:15, 20 March 2012 (UTC)
    I think that efforts to discourage or require disclosure of paid editing are to avoid unleashing the floodgates of creating a huge industry out of it which is what would happen if it were accepted. Efforts to go after an individual when this is suspected are almost inevitably asking them to out themselves or making efforts to out them. North8000 (talk) 11:00, 20 March 2012 (UTC)
    The irony with my case is this guy actually disclosed his IRL name with one of his former accounts, and we were able to link it to him after he made threats that was was going to continue on with sockpuppet accounts. According to WP:OUTING and the discussion on VPP at the time, it wouldn't be considered outing to include his name in a WP:LTA entry, although I've not (yet) done so.

    To take this a little further, when the ArbCom case itself was further twisted and use to attack me ("Tothwolf has a COI", my reply to which can be found here), it highlighted just how screwed up things were within parts of the community. [27] The fact that ArbCom case pages themselves could be allowed to be used in this manner is deplorable [and that's even without getting into the off-wiki stuff they were doing].

    In the end, the community itself [28] and a newer ArbCom sanctioned [29] [30] two of the individuals involved but the primary instigator continued on for several months more.

    While I can't fault the current ArbCom for mistakes made by editors previously involved with ArbCom, I still would like to see the current ArbCom go back and reexamine what happened and set aside the original case though. The way that case was handled harmed my credibility both on and off-wiki and a number of people have even linked to the cases pages while trying to attack and discredit me when they don't agree with something I've said. --Tothwolf (talk) 02:47, 21 March 2012 (UTC)

    Tothwolf. It must be clear that I do share your sentiments about ArbCom here, but I still don't think that this statement here is the solution. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:24, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
    While this may not be the perfect place to be bringing this up, there really isn't a perfect venue for it. This isn't really an AN or AN/I issue, it isn't something for VPP, and isn't something to bring up at ArbCom. Because it is related to this RFC however, I've brought it up here, and per WP:BURO and WP:IAR there really isn't anything wrong with bringing it up here where it can be made visible and hopefully discussed.

    Again, I don't blame the current ArbCom for stuff that happened before. I also commend the current ArbCom for stepping up and dealing with the case that led to this RFC.

    That said, it would be nice if the current ArbCom could fix some of the stuff that had been badly handed in the past with other related cases, including mine. Despite promises from (now former) ArbCom members that the case pages would be renamed, blanked, etc. that too was never done so those pages ended up scrapped by robots and copied to other websites (and right now I'd prefer the case material be reviewed vs blanked anyway).

    I really don't think I'm wrong to be frustrated with how some of this stuff played out with this ArbCom case (including the way in which the case was named [31]). It harmed my credibility both on-wiki and off-wiki, and caused measurable harm to non-wiki projects I worked with. As far as Wikipedia stuff goes, the case pages and my block log (details of which are linked on my talk page) effectively prevent me from ever passing RfA, which while I have little interest in dealing with a lot of the baggage that comes along with the bit, would be very useful for the template work I was doing.

    Sigh. Maybe I need to write a book... --Tothwolf (talk) 00:46, 22 March 2012 (UTC)

    There is, WP:RFC, and/or a change in the Wikipedia:Arbitration Policy. What is done is done, but we should strive to prevent those things in the future. If something is broken here, it is not WP:COI, it is the pillar WP:CIVIL]. --Dirk Beetstra T C 05:07, 24 March 2012 (UTC)

COI/N usage currently is part and parcel of a problem and not a solution - as has been shown now a number of times. Right now anyone "suspected" of having a COI is subjected to a great deal of pressure - and woe betide anyone who openly states a COI as every nugget of nugatory knowledge is then placed on Wikipedia pages with total disregard for the tenets of WP:BLP. Cheers. Collect (talk) 13:24, 25 March 2012 (UTC)

View by bwrs on biographic articles[edit]

Whatever the outcome is of this discussion, I think there should be "safe harbor" for the subject of a biographical article to:

  • Remove factually false information (of course, this is already existing policy);
  • Remove private information (existing policy provides for this if the information is poorly-sourced, but what about if the source is reliable but simply not well-known?) or
  • Request the deletion of their article altogether.

Article subjects who do that should not be treated as COI editors. Remember that things in Wikipedia have real-life consequences. If an employer googles you and you have a Wikipedia article, then most likely your article will appear on the first page of hits, if not as the very first hit. And in today's tough economy, having WP:BLP1E laundry aired out in public can render somebody nearly unemployable! If you are only semi-notable (see User:durova's "dead-tree standard") or, a fortiori, if you are non-notable, then we should respect your privacy by honoring your request for your article to be deleted. If you pay somebody to assist you, that's fine. Bwrs (talk) 06:41, 23 March 2012 (UTC)

Support
Oppose
  • Very strongly oppose. This buys into the theory that the subjects of articles have a right to manipulate and shape how we report what is already public record. "source is reliable but simply not well-known" in particular is near-nonsense. This is a license for vandalistic reputation-management editors. --Orange Mike | Talk 15:20, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
Comment
  • I agree in part and disagree in part. Anyone should be able to request the deletion of an article on themselves. However, individuals correcting their own entries are almost always making reference to personal knowledge, which is OR. Likewise, I do not believe a subject's own preferences should play into deletion decisions: notable is notable, not is not, and giving the subject any input into that decision is inappropriate, given how our existing policies are written to ensure appropriate biographical content: if we're doing our jobs right, no new harm comes to anyone from an accurate Wikipedia article. Jclemens (talk) 19:24, 23 March 2012 (UTC)
    • There is a grey area, rather than a bright line, between notable and non-notable. This may be off the topic of WP:COI, but I will say it anyway: if anybody requests deletion of a biographical article, and there is an AFD with no consensus, then the default should be to delete. If the subject requests deletion, I think there should be a presumption of privacy even stronger than that in WP:BLP that is, instead of adhering to WP:BLP1E as currently written (merge and redirect), we should delete the article and create no redirect. I myself pledge never to remove a {{PROD}} that says it was placed by the article's subject and, if I do so, then you are free to put it back. People deserve second chances. And if there is a factual inaccuracy and the subject chooses to correct their own entry rather than ask for its deletion, I see nothing wrong with removing something that is factually inaccurate, even if it is backed-up by sources. Regardless of whether it's a stale WP:BLP1E or a factual inaccuracy, a Wikipedia article can greatly raise the profile of what the sources say. (In the interests of WP:NPOV, however, I tend to be deletionist towards WP:BLPs regardless of what the subject says. It's just that if the subject wants it out, that converts it from a "weak delete" to a "strong delete"; likewise, no-consensus AFDs for living people should default to delete especially if the subject requested deletion.) Bwrs (talk) 03:44, 24 March 2012 (UTC)
      I'd say just the opposite. If the subject of an article wants their article out, then unless there is unfair negative information in the article--which we have good procedures for dealing with, it indicates either modesty, or a desire to remove the article because it is not as favorable as it they might desire. I respect modesty, but most of the time this is not the reason: it is rather the desire to have an article only if it reflects their own view of themselves. Normally, they only ask for removal after they have failed to edit it to their liking. This is their attempt to have their COI endorsed, and a policy of doing it will result in our having articles on moderately important people only if the subjects like them, the complete destruction of NPOV. I have always taken it as an indication that we should probably keep the article--though of course editing it very carefully. On the other hand, if the subject strongly wants the article included, I look at the notability very carefully, and examine carefully for omitted material and promotional content, and I am inclined to view their claims for their own importance very critically. DGG ( talk ) 18:48, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
      • Strongly concur with what DGG has to say here. --Orange Mike | Talk 15:20, 21 April 2012 (UTC)

Template:Connected contributor content review request[edit]

This is a draft of an article template intended to be:

  • used by Connected Contributors to raise concerns about article content
  • a "natural progression" after a {{coi}} tag is placed on top of an article


User:Eclipsed/Template:Connected contributor content review request
Thanks. Eclipsed   (talk)   (COI Declaration)   12:19, 24 March 2012 (UTC)

Comment
  • Oppose This sort of tag is highly unlikely to prevent Salemization of articles. Collect (talk) 13:14, 25 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose - Tags like this are graffiti in mainspace. Carrite (talk) 18:17, 4 April 2012 (UTC)

Professional COI[edit]

Copy/pasted from the COI Guideline Talk page per request. Please note, this is an effort to make current policies and guidelines more clear (not to change them), which seems aligned with the original RFC.

Disclosure: I often but not always contribute with a financial COI

Context: Many PR professionals claim the COI guideline is confusing.

Rationale:

  1. From their perspective, marketing and communications professionals don't fit in any clear COI category, because Financial COI is baffling to career professionals who have no direct financial gain. (argue as you will, it is confusing to the intended readers of the guideline)
  2. The language offers too many opportunities for un-productive interpretations, where a clear COI can justify to themselves that they don't have one.
  3. Often direct editing occurs because no one responds on the Talk page and it benefits us to educate COIs on other options to find a volunteer editor to work with
  4. Many are claiming that PR pros are prohibited from even correcting spelling. We might as well clarify.

Some possible edits:

suggestions

Financial or Professional[edit]

You are very strongly discouraged from directly editing Wikipedia article-space in areas where there is a potential, actual or perceived conflict of interest that may make your edits non-neutral (biased) if you fit eitherany of these descriptions:

  1. you are receiving monetary or other benefits or considerations to edit Wikipedia as a representative of an organization (whether directly as an employee or contractor of that organization, or indirectly as an employee or contractor of a firm hired by that organization for public relations purposes);
  2. you expect to derive monetary or other benefits or considerations from editing Wikipedia; for example, by being an owner, officer, or other stakeholder of a company or other organization about which you are writing; or
  3. you are a marketing, SEO, lobbyist or public relations professional working on behalf of an article subject or an organization or individual with a vested interest in the article subject

Wikipedia's neutral point of view policy states that all articles must represent views fairly and without bias, and conflicts of interest may significantly and negatively affect Wikipedia's ability to fulfill this requirement. If your financially motivated edits would be non-neutral, do not post them.

If you have a financial or professional interest in a topic (either as an employee, owner or other stakeholder) it is advised you to provide full disclosure of your connection, and use the "discussion" pages to suggest changes (using the {{Request edit}} template to request edits) rather than editing articles directly. Requested edits will be subject to the same editorial standards by neutral editors (which means they are not guaranteed to be carried out) and will help avoid situations of advocacy and related problems. Editors with a financial or professional COI may also ask for help on the Conflict of Interest Noticeboard, on Wikiprojects an article is associated with or use the {{Request edit}} template to put the edit request in a queue. Generally speaking, the Reward Board and non-controversial edits(such as grammar and spelling) are exceptions to the above cautions. There, you may derive monetary gain from editing Wikipedia, as these are usually rewards for featured or good article status which should not introduce bias. However, be wary of editors asking you to make specific edits that challenge your sense of neutral perspective, or to clean up a "hatchet job", as you may unwarily become their meatpuppet.

User:King4057 (COI Disclosure on User Page) 05:34, 19 April 2012 (UTC)

The King asked me to comment, perhaps as a member of his "loyal opposition." On the surface most of these edits make sense. If the people you want to reach don't understand the rule, then rewrite it in their own language. #3 is the key addition - it might be a bit confusing to non-PR types - but I trust King that most PR folks will understand it (perhaps with a little rewriting). My only concerns are that it can contribute to instruction creep, and, heaven forbid, some people might just not want to understand it. (Yes I know about WP:AGF - but I'm just talking theoretically that some people might exist ...)
And I would prefer something quite direct about the road to banishment, e.g. ignore this advice and you are likely to be viewed as disruptive, as well as violating WP:NPOV, and therefore will likely to be banned. Folks do understand that type of direct advice. Yes, I know that the same advice is more or less distributed through the guideline, but the more direct the better as far as I'm concerned. Smallbones (talk) 20:04, 19 April 2012 (UTC)
Thanks Small. What about adding "Ignoring this guideline may have consequences. See Consequences of ignoring this guideline
User:King4057 (COI Disclosure on User Page) 00:39, 20 April 2012 (UTC)
Your suggestions would fully contradict WP:COS. We don't discriminate if a person has a professional interest in something, on the contrary we encourage it. For example, I'm an IT network administrator so with computer-related subjects I would be considered to have a professional interest in the field (though for some reason I rarely edit those articles, go figure). But there is no COI there, unless I'm editing an article related to my employer (which I've never done). I have trouble believing that a PR person who is paid by a client doesn't feel that they are financially compensated for improving their client's image. That's delusional. They could weaselly argue that they aren't directly compensated (the client didn't explicitly tell me that I had to edit the article to be paid) but they darn well know that they're being paid to do what they're doing. I suppose we could clarify that indirect compensation could be a financial COI but that might just be making things even more confusing. -- Atama 17:21, 20 April 2012 (UTC)
Your "delusional" comment hits the mark. PR folks should be able to figure out that by being paid to write PR they have a financial interest. On the other hand, it's not surprising that this proposal for change contradicts WP:COS. This is a subsection of COS and King's just trying to change it.
I've just read that the UK PR organization's code of ethics prohibits anonymous communications of PR material, which would include anonymous editing of Wikipedia. I believe the US PR organizations all have the same type of rule. Since the PR folks say that anonymous editing here is unethical, I think that we can just directly say something like "Since a broad range of professional Public Relations organizations consider anonymous editing by PR professionals on Wikipedia to be unethical, all PR professionals writing editing a client's article must declare a conflict of interest on their user page and on the article's talk page" - to replace point 3. The "must" might be controversial, and I'd make it a policy rather than just part of a guideline, but we might as well start here. Smallbones (talk) 18:58, 20 April 2012 (UTC)
Smallbones, it's not really the English Wikipedia's job to tell PR folks that they have to follow their own rules. We could turn this in to a comprehensive book on how to live an ethical and legal life, including things like "if you're paid to edit Wikipedia, then don't cheat on your income taxes" and more, but it's not really our purpose. We need to include our rules, i.e., those things that they don't already know. WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:02, 23 April 2012 (UTC)

Actually this section and WP:COS are both subsections of "Examples" - sorry. I suggest that we have a new sub-section between these two titled "Professional"

Suggested text: Since all major professional Public Relations organizations consider anonymous editing by PR professionals on Wikipedia to be unethical, all PR professionals editing a client's article must declare a conflict of interest on their user page and on the article's talk page. Many other professional organizations have codes of ethics or conflict of interest guidelines. If you are a member of one of these organizations you should follow both Wikipedia's COI guidelines and the professional organization's codes or guidelines, i.e. the stricter of the two sets of rules. Smallbones (talk) 19:24, 20 April 2012 (UTC)

That's not a bad idea, but aren't we now talking about changing the policy, rather than just making it more clear? If a "professional COI" is = "financial COI" then we are merely using terms the reader understands. However if we say "must" disclose, we just changed the policy. Also, we can't actually enforce "must," we can merely create consequences. So it seems like the real discussion there is if non-disclosure should be a bannable offense - which is a whole new conversation that there will likely never be consensus on.
In any case, a couple changes below to address other points. Lets keep this string going.
Revised

Financial or Professional[edit]

You are very strongly discouraged from directly editing Wikipedia article-space in areas where there is a potential, actual or perceived conflict of interest if you fit any of these descriptions:

  1. you are receiving monetary or other benefits to edit Wikipedia as a representative of an organization
  2. you expect to derive monetary or other benefits or considerations from editing Wikipedia; for example, by being an owner, officer, or other stakeholder of a company or other organization about which you are writing; or
  3. you are a marketing, SEO, lobbyist or public relations professional working on behalf of an article subject or an organization or individual with a vested interest in the article subject

Wikipedia's neutral point of view policy states that all articles must represent views fairly and without bias, and conflicts of interest may significantly and negatively affect Wikipedia's ability to fulfill this requirement.

If you have a financial or professional conflict of interest in a topic (either as an employee, owner or other stakeholder) it is advised you provide full disclosure of your connection, and use the "discussion" pages to suggest changes rather than editing articles directly. Requested edits will be subject to the same editorial standards by neutral editors (which means they are not guaranteed to be carried out) and will help avoid situations of advocacy and related problems. Editors with a financial or professional COI may also ask for help on the Conflict of Interest Noticeboard, on Wikiprojects an article is associated with or use the {{Request edit}} template to put the edit request in a queue. Generally speaking, the Reward Board and non-controversial edits(such as grammar and spelling) are exceptions to the above cautions. Ignoring this guideline may have consequences. See Consequences of ignoring this guideline

User:King4057 (COI Disclosure on User Page) 19:35, 20 April 2012 (UTC)

I think one confusing thing that's being missed in these clarifications is the status of the COI guidelines as rules. We on the one hand say that COI editing is "strongly discouraged", and not to do it, and on the other we offer a path to ethical engagement under a strict subset of what's reasonable for them to do. I think we need to clarify the "don't do this" and "do do that" bits so that it's more obvious that what we're saying is more along the lines of "You can edit freely with a COI, but it's risky because our side has strict editorial rules and you might see PR backlash from the public—but if you follow this special set of voluntary extra rules, everybody should be safe." That is the key point we want to get across. The "safe zone" seems to be being understood as more of an "official" rule that must be followed, and that leads people down the wrong path even before they start considering how to follow the rules, because the "safe zone" is in many cases too restrictive to be practical. If a professional communicator of any sort is seeing this page, it's a sign that we want them to move into the "safe zone" so that they can learn how things work with less risk of either side getting burned—rather than because we want them to only ever edit indirectly. {{Nihiltres|talk|edits|}} 21:37, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
Thanks Nihiltres. I'm a little confused, but I see where you're going. PR people think Wikipedia contradicts itself, because there is policy, then guideline, then best practice and these each give different advice. How about something like this:
"COI editors are required to follow community policies such as NPOV. They are strongly encouraged to abide by this guideline to uphold those policies, however Wikipedia has also documented numerous COI best practices that are recommended.
User:King4057 (COI Disclosure on User Page) 03:01, 22 April 2012 (UTC)
That sounds good, though it's a little vague on what the rules each mean. This guideline is mostly an extension of other policies—it says, don't violate NPOV, use good, independent sources, and don't try to do something that doesn't fit in an encyclopedia. The policies are non-negociable. I re-read the guideline, and realized it's fuzzier than I thought. The guideline discourages people editing with a COI, reiterates the need to follow policy, implicitly sets out a lower threshold for blocking COI editors, establishes that COI in and of itself is not offensive, and sets out some of the "best practices" rules (not in that order). The "best practices" page(s) then set these out more directly.
My suggestion is that we try to more clearly delineate the guideline from the best practices, or more clearly integrate them directly. By delineating them, we could make the "outline of the rules" nature of the guideline more clear, and by integrating them it might be more clear that they're the paths expected by the community for good-faith COI editing to happen. The latter seems friendlier, but insofar as it results in a change of the scope of the guideline might need us to ensure a wider consensus for those changes. In either case working on the broad structure of the guideline, as a document, is probably desirable. {{Nihiltres|talk|edits|}} 15:32, 22 April 2012 (UTC)
Oh my. Incredibly good points. I too thought it was a farse people think the COI guideline is confusing, but I'm seeing questions from PR people where I can reasonably understand their confusion - acknowledging they have no prior understanding of how Wikipedia works. Even a basic question like "can I edit my own article?" is confusing. ArbCom's suggestion for an RFC seems to indicate as much and they would have experience working with confused COIs.
How do you suggest we go about such a project to improve the clarify and readability of the current guideline? I don't know if any major structural changes are in order, but I also see a need to improve other sections, such as consequences and "how to handle." I started on an essay, then realized there was already a section in the guideline for how to work with COIs.
Working on a project that involves broader community consensus is beyond my skillset/know-how at the moment. But I'm in a unique position to help and am willing and able. User:King4057 (COI Disclosure on User Page) 17:37, 22 April 2012 (UTC)

In any case, revised below. I also made it a new example for "professional COI" per smallbones' suggestion - creating a new example doesn't seem to require a policy change.

revised

Professional COI[edit]

You are very strongly discouraged from directly editing Wikipedia article-space in areas where there is a potential, actual or perceived conflict of interest if you are a marketing, SEO, lobbyist or public relations professional working on behalf of an organization with a vested interest in the subject. Wikipedia's neutral point of view policy states that all articles must represent views fairly and without bias, and conflicts of interest may significantly and negatively affect Wikipedia's ability to fulfill this requirement.

If you have a professional conflict of interest in a topic (either as an employee, owner or other stakeholder) it is advised you provide full disclosure of your connection, and use the "discussion" pages to suggest changes rather than editing articles directly. Requested edits will be subject to the same editorial standards by neutral editors (which means they are not guaranteed to be carried out) and will help avoid situations of advocacy and related problems. Editors with a professional COI may also ask for help on the Conflict of Interest Noticeboard, on Wikiprojects an article is associated with or use the {{Request edit}} template to put the edit request in a queue. COI editors are required to follow community policies such as NPOV. They are strongly encouraged to abide by this guideline to uphold those policies, however Wikipedia has also documented numerous COI best practices that are recommended. Generally speaking, the Reward Board and non-controversial edits(such as grammar and spelling) are exceptions to the above cautions. Ignoring this guideline may have consequences. See Consequences of ignoring this guideline

User:King4057 (COI Disclosure on User Page) 16:34, 23 April 2012 (UTC)

Rather than talking about this here, I suggest that you have these conversations at Wikipedia:Requests for comment/COI, which is where the current big discussion on paid editors and related COI points is being held. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:58, 23 April 2012 (UTC)
I don't see this as an improvement to Wikipedia:Conflict_of_interest#Financial, which is the topic in case people have gotten confused by the various shortcuts. It seems too general and vague. And linking to the WP:Advocacy page makes it worse since it's only talking about beliefs, which are NOT WP:COI but WP:POV. CarolMooreDC 10:20, 25 April 2012 (UTC)
The link to the advocacy page was carried over from the current version. Are you suggesting we de-link the term? I'd be interested in your suggestions on how to make it more clear. User:King4057 (COI Disclosure on User Page) 17:46, 25 April 2012 (UTC)


Second view by 86.** IP: Paid editing is a net detriment. The claim that "it's fine if it's NPOV" shows an ignorance of basic facts.[edit]

Paid editing (or, at least, commercially-paid editing) is always a problem, because the edits cannot be trusted. Even if the paid editor is circumspect, the only way that that can be checked is to basically have one or more users checking all their edits. And if it takes another editor's time away, it's no net benefit to the project. This is rarely how it works out, though. One paid editor can occupy multiple good editors' time. Smartse, me, and several other editors have just had to run... must be at least 20 AfDs, not to mention a dozen or two articles so bad they could be speedied as unambiguous advertising, just to clean up the work of the single paid group account User:Expewikiwriter, almost all of which either closed delete, or had to be heavily redacted to bring into line with NPOV. That wasted time:

  • I noticed a strange editing pattern - the user was editing on very disjointed subjects, making promotional-tending articles on both scientists, psychics, and obscure companies with no geographic link.
  • I brought it up, and invited the editor to discuss it.
  • Other editors found evidence of problems.
  • Only once it became clear the user was a paid account did the next stage begin:
  • Carefully analysing every article he produced. The assumption for non-paid editors is that their motivation is to help the project. This cannot hold for PR flaks.
  • Once it became clear that sources were being abused due to suspicious statements in the articles that didn't check out with the sources, every article had to be checked.
  • Since Expewkiwriter reverted to massive sockpuppetry once found out, prods got removed, meaning that there were several stages of trying to deal with problem articles.
  • This led to a lot of articles going to AfD, wasting even more users' time, as they had to analyse the articles from scratch in order to vote on the AfDs.
  • For the rare articles (number = ~5, out of around 40-60 he had created) that had some minimal salvagable content, the person was known to abuse sources, so only such material as could be independently confirmed could be kept. Meaning that such work as the paid editor did create had to mostly be removed.

But you say "Oh, well, their edits weren't NPOV, so our point stands!" No it doesn't: The edits were sneaky, and non-obvious distortions of sources. Articles were cited for a fact, but then additional material was slipped in, or some material was presented misleadingly, such as claiming one person was a producer on several movies... not mentioning he shared that title with 6-10 other people. Without the increased scrutiny of discovering a major COI, the analysis that showed an apparently-fine article wasn't at all fine wouldn't have happened.

So if we say that COI isn't cause for scrutiny, we may as well shut down Wikipedia, because we simply can't operate that way.

Of course, a very minor connection with the subject, academic expertise (if that's even a COI at all), holding most beliefs (so long as not so fanatic to leave you incapable of NPOV editing), or similar trivial conflicts of interests should be considered, at most, worth very minor scrutiny (if any). And, But the worse the COI, the more it taints all material that comes out. We cannot - and should not - trust paid editors, since - ridiculous fantasizing about charities paying scientists to edit for us aside - paid editing is basically paying someone to advertise you.

I'd also say there are other COIs that should bar you. Politicians shouldn't be editing their own or their rivals' pages; it's unseemly at best, and has been the source of widely-publicised scandal multiple times. Why is it a scandal worth reporting in newspapers? It's not because we have a COI policy, it's because most people see it as an attempt to mislead the electorate, and this view is outside Wikipedia. The moment we say "Actually, it's fine," we betray our users' trust in how we're meant to operate.

Now, there's some cases mentioned above which are stupid applications of a COI policy - minor, trivial connections no reasonable person would actually see as a problem. But that's not a case for opening Wikipedia up to every PR firm, political spin doctor (and so on) to edit Wikipedia to better reflect their desired description of events. That's a case for being a bit more clear about the distinction between a major COI that should bar editing; minor cases where you may just want to mention it on the talk page once; and stupid cases that shouldn't restrict you at all.

Support[edit]

  1. As writer 86.** IP (talk) 11:22, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
  2. I agree that often paid editing is detrimental to the project as a whole, whether for commercial reasons or more generally as Raul654 argues. I have come across countless COI articles which at first glance appear reasonably well referenced and neutral etc., but upon deeper inspection are riddled with problems similar to those described above. What I'm not sure about though, is how we can deal with it - there is nothing to stop another Expewikiwriter coming along and doing the same all over again - hopefully if we deal with the articles in the same way as we have done in this case though, over time people will be put off from paid editing. SmartSE (talk) 13:54, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
  3. Paid editing is an immense minus, which could get 10 times bigger and worse if we are not careful. There are a FEW exceptions where it is a plus and not a COI. Whatever we do should recognize all of that. North8000 (talk) 14:03, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
  4. Support. -- Maelefique(talk) 16:49, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
  5. Strong support Trust is the key issue. We can not embrace paid advocates without destroying the trust that readers place in us, nor the assumption of good faith editors place in each other. --TeaDrinker (talk) 01:00, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  6. Quite realistic vs. totally unrealistic views of the philanthropic paid editor I see elsewhere. Exceptions, distinctions, etc. could be made, but first things first. Smallbones (talk) 01:16, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  7. Support - reflects realities we face. --Orange Mike | Talk 01:29, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  8. Support --Dirk Beetstra T C 08:15, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  9. Support the time sink involved in dealing with open/obvious vandalism and behaviour contrary to policy and ArbCom rulings is bad enough. Having to police the work of editors who are being paid to edit will dwarf that work load--Cailil talk 11:17, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  10. Support - Paid editing is certainly detrimental to the encyclopedia, and to the community of people who write and maintain it. Tom Harrison Talk 16:40, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  11. Support COI and paid editing cause a great headache and lots of work to those who patrol for neutrality. Perhaps at best we can turn the issue into a little headache by requiring COI editors to disclose their relations on a centralised public forum. ThemFromSpace 22:58, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
  12. Support This is the crux of the problem. Paid editing introduces the need for oversight, the level of which takes away from other good work. --Jayron32 04:39, 6 May 2012 (UTC)
  13. Support--В и к и T 09:59, 6 May 2012 (UTC)

Oppose[edit]

  1. Arguing from anecdote is inherently improper. There's nothing that can be logically deduced from one bad apple (who was a paid editor) about paid editing in general. Jclemens (talk) 20:02, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
    This is a typical case, so far as I can tell; you've provided no evidence to the contrary to show that paid editors in general are the (logically unlikely) paragons of virtue you seem to think they are. Further, the number of scandals about politicians editing Wikipedia to promote themselves/attack their rivals which have appeared in mainstream newspapers shows that such COIs are generally held to be scandalous, and that Wikipedia embracing such behaviour would strongly hurt Wikipedia's reputation. 86.** IP (talk) 22:02, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
    I just don't understand the JClemens phrase "Arguing from anecdote is inherently improper" - if you have better evidence show it. There are lots of "anecdotes" of this sort, and I haven't seen any evidence for JClemens supporters. Without some sort of evidence - we're just left to argue over general principles - are your general principles better than mine? Smallbones (talk) 01:16, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
    I'm sorry, since when did WP:AGF need "supporters" and "evidence"? It is, rather, the problem of ugly prejudices without evidence that I've been combating here--without much apparent success. Substitute your least-favorite slur for "paid editor" in much of this discourse, and if you can open your mind enough to look at the discourse through that lens, then you will see my position and approach to the problem. Paid advocacy is a problem; not all paid editing is paid advocacy. But the anti-paid-editing crusaders--who can't even be bothered to stop and read the arguments--are themselves a problem. Calling my defense of paid editors (again, not advocates, editors) against ABF enthoning them as "paragons of virtue" is hyperbole which can serve no purpose but to polarize the debate. I will always be the advocate for the unfairly maligned; it's what drove me into policy: to keep people with prejudices from putting signs up on Wikipedia to keep out the kinds of editors they don't want drinking from the same water fountains. Jclemens (talk) 07:20, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
    (ec) Straw man argument, anecdote: "An account regarded as unreliable or hearsay", or "A short and amusing or interesting story about a real incident or person". Are you suggesting that 86's experience is unreliable, or are you suggesting it's merely comic relief? Either way, I'd have to say that arguing from his experience is far better than arguing from your hypothetical assumption. I would be curious though, how many "bad apples" does it take to draw a conclusion about paid editors, in Jclemens opinion? -- Maelefique(talk) 07:33, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
    Uhm, they're using hyperbole which can serve no purpose, but your analogy of their position to racism is not?? ooookkaaayyy.... -- Maelefique(talk) 07:33, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
    Actually, moral panic is probably a better analogy than racism, but they're both formed from bad ideology, evidence taken out of context and used to smear whole segments of humanity... And besides, racism is easier to allude to without having to overburden the analogy with explanation. Racism is actually less appropriate an analogy than, say, the persecution of sexual minorities, because those who cause no one any problem continue to exist, closeted and indistinguishable, in a society that fears and loathes them, such that the only examples held up in the press or public consciousness are those which stand to fuel the moral panic and stereotypes. Jclemens (talk) 07:58, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
    Wow, you sound like you live in an uptight community my friend. I do not believe that where I live we fear and loathe sexual minorities, but I think you've wandered off-topic here! The question was, how many "bad apples" did you need to see before 86's "anecdotal" experience counts as valid in your mind? -- Maelefique(talk) 08:26, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
    Also, the counterpoint to AGF, is to be found at Bad Faith, which states that "A bad faith belief may be formed through self deception, being double minded, or "of two minds"...", which sounds a little like a wikipedia editor, who's being paid to edit here, by someone else. Just an observation. -- Maelefique(talk) 07:42, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
    JClemens, I am far from convinced that it is just 'one bad apple'. There are hordes of editors coming in who are paid for editing Wikipedia and to push their POV, or earn money because of the way they have edited Wikipedia. We have a very, very high editor retention on spammers, significantly higher than on any other editor (if you go through WT:WPSPAM, you will see many links who have been added by a large number of IPs and accounts - they are at the very least meatpuppets of each other, likely the same physical editor, they are not scared away by warnings, comments, sometimes even blocks, they stay - and why: because it pays their rent). Paid editing is not necessarily bad, but all of them should know that they have a conflict of interest and should know how to avoid getting problems with it - and if they know that, and do that, then for those editors, WP:COI has become a 'useless' guideline. --Dirk Beetstra T C 08:28, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  2. Oppose at detriment to my prestine reputation(?), see First Command Financial Planning. An article where I had a clear POV and the paid editor/employee improved. I mean, if anecdotes can prove points... As for one paid editor being used to condemn all paid editing... that is again fallacious arguing. I don't mean to throw him under the bus, but I can bring up a former 'crat/arbcom member whose good faith unpaid edits took a bunch of time to clean up as well. There have been other unpaid editors whose contributions have taken similarly long times to clean up. The problem is not whether they are paid, but how they edit.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 16:39, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  3. I think this paints all paid editors with the same tar brush. There are some bad actors, without question. But not all paid editors produce these problems, and some volunteer editors produce equal problems. (For example, we have "volunteer" editors who have written biographies despite having been involved in lawsuits against the subject, or believing the subject to have murdered someone they knew, etc.) But I wouldn't want to stop a sales person from removing serious or obvious factual errors from an article about the notable product they're selling, and I definitely wouldn't want to interfere with paid editors like the ones at the WP:WikiProject Medicine/Google Project. The fact is that every seemingly promotional edit needs to be double-checked, no matter who made it. Distortion from a fanboy is just as bad as distortion from an employee. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:09, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  4. Oppose, paid editing is a net detriment, specifically because, on average, the edits do not comply with WP:NPOV. The problem with the problematic edits is that they are non-neutral, not that they are paid. Suppose I got paid by the Particle Data Group to write Quark (I wasn't), a featured article. Does the article suddenly become crap solely because one of its editors was paid? I'm affiliated with PediaPress. Does Book:Hadronic Matter suddenly becomes crap because I created it and is the main contributor, and cleaned up several content issues, and even got praised by the vehemently anti-Wikipedia Wikipedia Review crowd as one of the high points of Wikipedia? Or is suddenly a pile of crap because I'm affiliated with the company developing the PDF renderer and prints these Wikipedia books? The problem is paid POV-pushing, which is no different from any unpaid POV-pushing, not paid editing. Headbomb {talk / contribs / physics / books} 17:27, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
    There's a parenthetical note in my first sentence, "or, at least, commercially-paid", by which I mean anyone editing on behalf of a client or other person who pays them for reasons of commerce or other tangible gain on their part, such as perceived political or career gains. EVEN IF you were a commercially-paid editor who edits in line with policies, WP:AGF is not a death pact: the presumption, which holds true for most editors, that their goals are Wikipedia's cannot hold true when a client is telling them what to do. Being paid for editing is in itself sufficient to stand as strong evidence your editing may not be neutral, and will need checked for that neutrality. This means that even if they were editing neutrally, we'd need to check all their edits and independently research the subjects to make sure they were, which means an unpaid editor has to do as much work - or likely even more - just to allow the first editor to be trusted. This is a horrible idea, since any work the unpaid editor did on his or her own could, barring contrary evidence, be presumed to mesh with Wikipedia goals, but the paid editor has that contrary evidence in every paycheck.
    Such checking is impractical. It requires as much work or more on the part of the non-paid editor than the person actually being paid, and why on earth should we make the unpaid work on subjects that other people are getting money to write about? This is gross unfairness to the unpaid editor, so kick the paid editor out.
    Obviously, this does not apply in cases where the group paying and the purpose of the payments directly mesh with Wikipedia's goals. For example, if Wikipedia pays editors, or a public understanding of science charity. But those would not, to my eyes, count as "commerically-paid". 86.** IP (talk) 07:21, 3 May 2012 (UTC)

Second view by Wnt: WP:Paid editor's bill of rights[edit]

Considering this issue, I've decided that a starting point for moving forward is - entirely apart from the question of whether paid editing should be allowed or under what conditions - we should declare that there are rights which a paid editor should have in regard to his employer. This changes the dynamic from corporation + paid editor versus Wikipedia to corporation versus paid editor and Wikipedia acting together as a union. Once we say what rights the paid editor should have, in terms of salary, terms of payment, the right to follow law and policy without reprisal, and many other things - then - we can enforce that by saying paid editing is only allowed if it upholds these editor rights. Any corporation not going along with this would suffer a loss of legitimacy in its operations. Even if we were to ban all paid editing, the rights would still apply, in the sense that we could choose to name and shame those not meeting that level more than other paid editing concerns. Usually in labor relations, we have the image of the company building up an operation, and then employees try to unionize. But in this situation, what we have is essentially a giant and occasionally too powerful union to begin with, and now employers are coming up to it and looking for labor. We have the right, and the duty, to dictate terms for the protection of all editors from scammers and exploitation. Wnt (talk) 17:30, 29 April 2012 (UTC)

I really don't think we should be encouraging paid editing at all, and certainly not trying to write corporate policies of companies that want to do it. Oppose as horribly unfeasible, and likely counterproductive: Once we say paid editors should have these rights, are we suddenly fine with Wikipedia being used to advertise? 86.** IP (talk) 23:34, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
Go look at WP:WikiProject Medicine/Google Project. Those are well-paid, professional editors. Do you think they were using Wikipedia to advertise anything? WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:11, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
Your proposal does not limit the rights to people like them. Shall we allow a PR company to pay for editors, so long as it pays them well? No. Hell no. 86.** IP (talk) 14:25, 3 May 2012 (UTC)

Moving Forwards: Proposal by 86.** IP[edit]

Any Conflict of Interest policy is going to have grey areas, since stronger conflicts of interest create more problems, but no policy can provide guidance on every single case. However, what we can do is set out examples of what's permissible, set out suggestions for how to deal with grey areas, and set out some lines that should not be crossed. I'm not going to propose exact details, instead, I'll provide a structure:

Minor conflicts of interest

  • This will be a list of examples of things that are usually unproblematic, simply reminding people that all articles and edits must obey WP:N, WP:NPOV, and WP:FRINGE and to be extra careful if they think they might cross the line into advocacy. Experienced Wikipedians who knows the rules well should probably be given a bit more leeway.

Things you might want to declare

Things that MUST get a one-time declaration on talk page of article(s) (if you want to edit them):

  • With these two headings, my logic is simple: there's no strict lines, so we can only really require people's compliance with fairly clear-cut examples. But we can encourage them to a little more openness, and make it clear that any harassment and bad-treatment for making such voluntary declarations is forbidden.

Grey area

  • Articles about yourself, close relatives, etc.

Per WP:AUTO#IFEXIST, articles about yourself should not be edited, except in the most trivial of circumstances. Whether this should apply any further is a question. I don't see how it's possible to enforce that without saying one should identify oneself when doing so. For things like editing your partner's article, the same might still apply, or we might be somewhat more lax.

Must be declared on user page, and needs rubber-stamped

[This section is hypothetical: I have seen no evidence that anyone wants to charitably pay academics to edit Wikipedia, but people keep acting as if this can't be dealt with by a COI policy unless you let PR firms in, so... ]

If people want to pay academics a grant to edit - as has been stated above as a possibility, without evidence of it having happened, that's great. Some care should be taken here: Remember that cigarette companies, oil companies, and various other companies trying to avoid regulation have offered grants to academics in the hope they'd put out material favourable to their views, while seeming independent. We could set up a system of reviewing such grants and rubber-stamping them, or a similar way of letting the rare, non-problematic paid editors in.

Severe COI: Forbidden from directly editing articles; may only suggest material on talk page of article, and that only if COI declared

  • An article about a rival, or anyone you are in dispute with.
  • People acting on behalf of an organization or individual.
  • All paid editors, not covered by the last section.

It's probably better to let them have input than to ban them outright, thereby rewarding the sneaky, but we really don't want them editing articles.

Notes on non-article-space COIs

  • We can cover behaviour out of article space here, so long as we don't venture into WP:BEANS.

Obviously, this is a very, very rough outline; the point is that we could structure the COI proposal to make it clear what sort of things don't need declared, give a guide to when you've passed a line to something that does need declared and how, tell people what's forbidden, and note possible exceptions. We can only rough it out, and I'd probably say tha

86.** IP (talk) 07:09, 1 May 2012 (UTC)

Support:

  • As proposer 86.** IP (talk) 07:09, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  • A start on a path forward. Most of the proposals here are way too simplistic. Bottom line, we should be able to force revision of material which goes off track due to bias, conflict of interest, or simply wide deviation from known facts and deal with editors who insist on editing that way regardless of cause. Failure to do so results in low quality, a diminished editing experience, and ultimately loss of public support. User:Fred Bauder Talk 23:07, 3 May 2012 (UTC)

Oppose

  • This still needs to deal with paid editors who have no agenda at all, like the salaried Audi employee example described above. Having said that, it's still a reasonable starting point, which we probably should have arrived at some long time ago if the definitions had been more carefully orchestrated before the conversation began. Jclemens (talk) 08:06, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
    • I think that you may be having an odd definition of paid editor. As most people read it, it's "paid for the purpose of editing", you seem to be using it to mean "edits articles about people/corporations he or she got money from, even if the money was not for editing Wikipedia." I'd put editing articles about someone who employs you (unless that's part of your job for them) would fit into "grey area". 86.** IP (talk) 08:45, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
      • No, a paid editor is an editor who is paid, for any purpose or rationale by any entity, while editing Wikipedia for any purpose or rationale. Differentiate this from "paid advocate", a term which goes back to the 2009 RfC which forms the basis for the recent ArbCom decision, and which I am using as a starting point. Jclemens (talk) 16:39, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
        One of the UK cancer charities has been paying an employee to add information to articles about the various forms of cancer. That's a person who is being paid to edit articles, and whom I personally would like to see continue working here. She's been doing a good job. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:14, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
        ... and it's no surprise to me that someone who understands the non-abusive uses of paid editing would endorse my view above, as you have done. I think many of the more severe reactions against paid editing are simply failures of imagination, which amount to not AGF'ing... Jclemens (talk) 21:32, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose - I don't oppose the thought of attempting to move forward...but, the above ignores a heck of a lot of consensus that this would overide and falls way short. You can't make an editor declare something that will out them. In your grey area you say editors editing their own articles need to declare it. Oh.....no. That is an issue right there. Wikipedia demanding that they out themselves in order to edit even good faith contributions that do not violate any policy or guideline? I should be all over this for one editor that outed himself by accident and still edits his page but....the local consensus allows it with the understanding that his edits do not really amount to self promotion even with the article not being particularly well sourced. It's not self serving in the sense that he benefits in a way that is significantly different than an admirer or supporter editing in the information. While there is some attempt to use some information and images that might be questionable the working knowledge of this person has helped form a consensus on other similar editors. If you do not have a username that matches your page name, you do not have to declare you are the subject of the article. That is formed and working consensus and I will not disclose the article or the editor openly. Another formed consensus is that the editor that is supected or known to be the subject of the article may edit the page as long as nothing they do is unduly self serving or attempts to damage the article in any way or reverts or removes well sourced and written information. This redefines COI in many ways that are not appropriate.--Amadscientist (talk) 09:23, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
No editor is required to edit an article. If you don't want to out yourself, you would not be in violation of any rules if you didn't edit it; it's only if you deceitfully edit your article without declaring it that you would be. 86.** IP (talk) 09:31, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
That made no sense. If ANY editor didn't edit Wikipedia they wouldn't be in violation of a policy becuase they wouldn't have a chance to breach a policy. But just editing is not a breach of policy and niether is editing anonymously or as you say in such POV terms as "deceitfully edit your article". Yeah....this lead balloon must be getting heavy to drag. Sorry, but you are not coming from a neutral perspective in my opinion. I trust your good faith and intentions, but you may have some of your own bias to look into.--Amadscientist (talk) 09:45, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
This is already more-or-less required by a Wikipedia guideline. I see no point continuing a discussion when editors are already not allowed to edit articles on themselves, and must stick to the talk page. 86.** IP (talk) 10:41, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
No, it is not "more or less" covered in guidelines sir. It is DIRECTLY addressed in guidelines and we do not go by your interpretations. We go by what the guidelines states. Please review it. There is consensus and it is consistant with the current policy and guideline.--Amadscientist (talk) 20:37, 1 May 2012 (UTC)
Your views, sir, are nonsense and not worth debating further. 86.** IP (talk) 02:59, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
Nonsense? I see. But your views are complete truth and must be discussed to the fullest? --Amadscientist (talk) 21:57, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
You've basically picked on a small part of my proposal, and have accused me of being evil because I object to people editing their articles through deceitful means. Once your bizarre accusations aboiut me started flying, any point of discussing with you ended. 86.** IP (talk) 03:44, 3 May 2012 (UTC)

View by NYKevin[edit]

Proposal
Replace WP:COI with WP:ADVOCACY (or a suitable alteration thereof). Paid editing would be otherwise permitted.
Rationale
As far as COI's are concerned, I can see two orthogonal issues:
  1. Paid editing: any edits which result in monetary compensation for the editor, including arguably benign things like WP:BOUNTY, as well as more nefarious things.
  2. Advocacy or POV-pushing: edits which intentionally or unreasonably steer the article towards a non-neutral state.

I don't see how 1 harms anyone, except in the presence of 2, which is harmful on its own. Ipso facto, we only need to make rules against 2; outlawing 1 gets us nothing. --NYKevin @118, i.e. 01:50, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

Support
  • Of course this is sensible, value neutral, and in line with our pillars. It also is at odds with the belief systems of many of the Wikipedians posting here. Jclemens (talk) 01:34, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
  • Support. Being paid is not the problem. Advocacy is.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 19:35, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  • Oppose Horrible idea; would simply legitimise bad behaviour. 86.** IP (talk) 02:58, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose "remove/replace WP:COI" has already been roundly defeated twice above. "Treat Paid Editing Neutrally" failed to get a majority above. It's time somebody closes this, or we'll all have to keep !voting these things down multiple times. Smallbones (talk) 05:25, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose Paid advocacy for commercial interests is called an advertisement. We don't accept advertisements, NPOV or not. User:Fred Bauder Talk 22:59, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
    • My proposal explicitly rules paid advocacy out. I don't understand the substance of this objection. But perhaps I'm just obtuse. --NYKevin @101, i.e. 01:25, 6 May 2012 (UTC)

View by Cardamon[edit]

Having Wikipedia become a website where people or organizations can pay to have their opinions presented as fact would not be compatible with the principle that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. Cardamon (talk) 23:53, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

Support
  1. Support 23:53, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
  2. Support - True enough, quoting "Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. It incorporates elements of general and specialized encyclopedias, almanacs, and gazetteers. Wikipedia is not a soapbox, an advertising platform, a vanity press..." I do sometimes wonder where some folks got the idea that Wikipedia allows paid editing - probably just wishful thinking. It has always been banned in the form that it shows up in, first as spam, next as vanity pages, and so on. As paid editors figure out a new way to get around the rules, they are banned again. It's time to take care of it for good. It's also time for an admin to close this. The new material can be moved to a new page. Smallbones (talk) 00:52, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
  3. Support-- The Red Pen of Doom 01:12, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
  4. I'm not sure that anyone is actually opposing this. The debate seems to be more over how loudly paid editors will have to shout "Unclean! Unclean" as they go about their wiki-business. Jclemens (talk) 01:33, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
    As loudly as possible for as long as their business is taking place on-wiki. -- The Red Pen of Doom 01:55, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
  5. Support 86.** IP (talk) 07:00, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
  6. Support as more than apparent. --TeaDrinker (talk) 07:07, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
  7. support but only because it says nothing new really. It doesn't matter if a person is paid or not, if they are advocating opinion as fact, it is detrimental to the project and we have that occuring right now. Simply being paid to edit does not equate to the notion that they will act contrary to wikipedias policies or guidelines.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 19:34, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
  8. Support Even more true for corporations selling products or political operatives trying to gain voter or public support.
  9. Support YEAH! --Jayron32 04:03, 6 May 2012 (UTC)
  10. Support--В и к и T 10:02, 6 May 2012 (UTC)
  11. Support, absolutely. Seraphimblade Talk to me 22:41, 7 June 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
Comments
  • Makes an assumption as to what paid editors are paid to do. Paid advocacy is inherently bad. But being a paid editor does not defacto equate to paid advocy.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 19:28, 3 May 2012 (UTC)

view by TheRedPenOfDoom[edit]

I think that any formal endorsement by Wikipedia of anything other than a strong and vigilant opposition to conflict of interest editing will cause many of Wikipedia's funders to have ample reason to have second and third thoughts about whether this is a project that they want to support with their donations.

Support
  1. -- The Red Pen of Doom 11:32, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
    • In response to Jclemens below:
      • 1) why would corporations donate to wikipedia and hope for the best when all they would have to is hire an editor to make sure their article and the articles of their competitors say exactly what they want?
      • 2) corporate related donations would be ESPECIALLY concerned that they are not funding projects loaded with conflict of interest. While the tax benefits are something, corporations equally or more donate to be able tout their good "citizenship" and they certainly cannot tout their relationship to an organization that is rife with conflict of interest as being a good "citizen" and so most corporate donation programs have stringent guidelines to prevent such bad associations. -- The Red Pen of Doom 22:47, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
  2. Support. There's the occasional newspaper article on the scandal of politicians editing their own or rivals' articles. Now imagine the scandal if we suddenly say that's fine. 86.** IP (talk) 11:41, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
  3. Given that most of the WMF's funding comes from small donors, there's no question that there will be some backlash against any decision to allow paid editing, the only question is how much. A much more extreme situation - and I think this is unlikely to happen, but we have to watch out for it - is if we come out with a strong position supporting paid editing. For example, if we came out with a policy encouraging paid editing and free advertising by corporations, then the foundation might lose its non-profit status. Non-profits must use their resources for non-commercial purposes (with limited exceptions). It's not likely that anybody here would come up with such an extreme encouragement of paid editing, but we do have to draw the line somewhere. Smallbones (talk) 12:20, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
Oppose
  1. That would presume that corporate donations (of whatever form) wouldn't make up for that shortfall--not that I am advocating anything like that, but if we're going to honestly discuss the balance of funding, we have to admit that people will pay Wikipedia to "see things their way". More to the point, though, I don't think relative funding impact is a good reason to make any decision on Wikipedia. I'll leave the implications of such a decision making rubric to the imagination of everyone else, per WP:BEANS. Jclemens (talk) 19:36, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
Comments
  • How can we oppose your opinion? If you believe it you believe it, but it doesn't make it factual.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 19:26, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
    • Who said you were meant to be able to oppose it? ;-) -- The Red Pen of Doom 23:06, 3 May 2012 (UTC)

Third statement by 86.** IP.[edit]

By "commercially-paid editor", I mean anyone editing on behalf of a client or other person who pays them for reasons of commerce, brand-recognition, public relations or other tangible gain on their part, such as perceived political or career gains.

I'd like to point out that EVEN IF you were a commercially-paid editor who edits in line with policies, WP:AGF is not a death pact: the presumption, which holds true for most editors, that their goals are Wikipedia's cannot hold true when a client is telling them what to do. Being paid for editing is in itself sufficient to stand as strong evidence your editing may not be neutral, and will need checked for that neutrality. This means that even if they were editing neutrally, we'd need to check all their edits and independently research the subjects to make sure they were, which means an unpaid editor has to do as much work - or likely even more - just to allow the first editor to be trusted. This is a horrible idea, since any work the unpaid editor checking their work did on his or her own could, barring contrary evidence, be presumed to mesh with Wikipedia goals, but the paid editor has that contrary evidence in every paycheck.

Further, such checking is impractical. It requires as much work or more on the part of the non-paid editor than the person actually being paid, and why on earth should we make the unpaid work on subjects that other people are getting money to write about? This is gross unfairness to the unpaid editor, so kick the paid editor out.

Obviously, this does not apply in cases where the group paying and the purpose of the payments directly mesh with Wikipedia's goals. For example, if Wikipedia pays editors, or a public understanding of science charity. But those are exceptions, and, even then, we'd need to be very careful, because we don't want a policy that encourages WP:FRINGE-advocacy charities - say, the Discovery Institute or the Australian Vaccination Network to pay people to edit. Nor would we even want to necessarily encourage organizations that were merely one-side of a debate. I may have a lot of sympathy for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and their views are probably not fringe ones, but, even still, we probably shouldn't allow them to pay their activists to edit us.

So, what paid editing could we allow? I'd say only such cases where the views of the organization (at least as a whole) were mainstream and encyclopedic. Most universities, mainstream science organizations, museums... and, indeed, most of academia as a whole are going to be largely safe, with a minimal amount of care. If Wikipedia, or its allies pay people, that's fine. But this is a distraction; the exceptions are such obvious exceptions that even if the policy said "No paid editing! We mean it!" We'd immediately invoke WP:IAR and say "but, of course, that doesn't apply to you".

And such people only serve as a Trojan Horse if they're used to open up Wikipedia to every PR firm and person willing to pay someone to edit their biography.

86.** IP (talk) 07:42, 3 May 2012 (UTC)

Support[edit]

  1. As nominator. 86.** IP (talk) 07:44, 3 May 2012 (UTC)

Oppose[edit]

Comment[edit]

  • I don't oppose this philosophically--and indeed, I think this is what everyone agrees should happen. On the other hand, I have two parts to one objection:
1) It's not possible to detect such editing with any degree of accuracy or regularity.
2) In dealing with editors believed to be paid advocates, I've seen some pretty damning evidence of harassment, OUTING, and off-Wiki behavior that we have routinely banned people for when it was just POV vs. POV.
So, given the impossibility of detection AND the past evidence that this has been used to harass otherwise policy-compliant Wikipedians on the basis of e.g. minority religious views... is it even worth stating this? Is it even a net positive to the project to amend AGF in this way that is undetectable in all but the most incompetent cases? How are we ever going to catch those violating this proposed guideline in a manner that they wouldn't already be caught and shown the door under existing practice? And, given that we're not going to catch any net (more) bad guys this way, isn't this just so much posturing and security theater like the U.S. TSA? Jclemens (talk) 07:51, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
You realise, of course, that most people actually follow the rules. If the rules weren't there, there'd be far, far more people doing this. 86.** IP (talk) 08:01, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
The behavior you're seeking to prevent (sneaky POV pushing, misrepresenting sources, etc.) is already against "the rules". People who are going to break the rules will be undeterred by such a guideline, and those who aren't going to break the rules don't need one. Jclemens (talk) 08:06, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
Well, if you want a full reply; I haven't seen evidence of any harassment as yet. You do not include any links or describe any in your statement claiming such, for instance. Further, how would having "minority religious views" have anything to do with my statement, which is on commercially-paid editors. Thirdly, this would not be an amendation of AGF; AGF has never required you to ignore strong evidence, and, in any case, my point was simply that commercially-paid editors can't be presumed by default to edit neutrally, which we can do for people we don't have reasons to doubt the neutrality of. Fourthly, it's possible to identify likely paid editing from the edit history - for instance, a variety of unrelated topics, all of them obscure, say, and occasionally editing from opposite positions (for instance, Expewikiwriter had both articles praising scientists and extreme pseudoscientists. While this isn't PROOF, it's a good sign that the other behaviours should be checked for. Fifthly, I'd probably say the stupider ones were the ones most likely to harm Wikipedia. Smart ones will bend the rules a little. Stupid ones will actively falsify data, for instance. Sixthly, you bring up attacks on minority religion members for COI. May I point out that my statement is explicitly and solely about paid editors, so, unless the religion was organising or paying its members to edit Wikipedia, it's irrelevant, and if the religion was, they probably should be getting heavily questioned about it. Seventhly, we do catch out paid editors. You are fully aware of the Expewikiwriter case; you commented about it above. 86.** IP (talk) 10:25, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
I'm sorry if you're coming to the party late on this one, but this was the subject of much of the private evidence in the TimidGuy ban appeal case which was the precursor to this discussion on COI. In short: editors including WillBeback made allegations that TimidGuy was a paid advocate of a particular religious organization, and escalated the matter to Jimbo, who banned TimidGuy on the basis of that evidence. In that case, OUTING (correlation of off-Wiki and on-Wiki identities) and selective presentation of evidence including past COI disclosures were used to support that assertion. A full review showed that not only was the editing pattern inconsistent with at-work editing, but that WillBeback had a history of using such tactics against ideological opponents. One key finding was that there is no policy authorizing the OUTING of suspected COI editors as was done in that case, and thus, this RfC was specified as one of the remedies. Does that help explain where I'm coming from? Feel free to ask follow-up questions and I will respond as I can within the constraints of the public data on that case. Jclemens (talk) 19:45, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
  • @86.** IP. I like your argument about common goals of Wikipedia and Academia. Yes, absolutely. That's why COI editing in purely scientific areas is not a serious problem. So, speaking about "Professors Elks" [32], they are very much welcome. As about paid contributors who are coming from other organizations, they are already here, and we simply do not have a choice but to accept them, excluding cases when they act unprofessionally and therefore can be easily banned. My very best wishes (talk) 17:59, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
    • I don't see any reason why we should accept them. 86.** IP (talk) 18:02, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
      • We do not have a choice because there is no way to prove anything. Of course user X can be banned if he does something outright stupid and against the policy. But what if he does not? What if he relentlessly POV-push by using sources of his choosing and discredit all alternative sources by claiming them to be non-scholarly, disproved, controversial, outdated, whatever? To make a qualified judgement that he/she does a disservice to reader (as Helen suggested [33]) one must be an expert on the subject, but admins usually do not have a clue. They do not rule on content. What remains? Outing the user to identify his formal affiliations and real life connections? This is bad idea for several reasons: (a) this is against our privacy policy (as Jclemens said), (b) a user may be hired by an organization or by someone else but do not have any formal affiliation; in such cases he may even tell his name and occupation to refute concerns of any potential affiliation; (c) a person with some degree of COI can contribute a lot and positively to the project. That's why this whole COI discussion is probably fruitless.My very best wishes (talk) 13:07, 4 May 2012 (UTC)

View by My very best wishes[edit]

There are good and bad COI editors, just as good and bad volunteers. I agree that ill-intended paid editors can make significantly more damage than biased volunteers, simply because they have more time and organizational structure. This strongly depends on a subject area. I did not see any serious problems due to COI editing in areas like Biology or Chemistry. In fact, recruiting students like here is a great idea. Of course students make mistakes that just need to be fixed (one may look how it works in MicrobeWiki). But there is no political agenda behind it. In contrast, there are serious problems with "political articles", including politicized areas of science like race or climate change. Many articles on Russian and Chinese subjects are ridiculously biased in favor of pro-government positions (surprise, surprise). This may be one of the reasons for unrest in certain subject areas. The bias or outright disinformation is easily achieved by selectively choosing and combining the sources. Paid editors in these areas do not declare their conflict of interest and frequently make impression of following the letter of the policy. Therefore, anyone who brings complaints about such editors to AE or ANI will probably be sanctioned himself. I do not see any practical solution here. In fact, just an opposite is going to happen: this project will rely more and more on paid editors because volunteers are leaving. My very best wishes (talk) 14:19, 3 May 2012 (UTC)

@Fred and IP86. I'd like to be wrong in my statement, but there is no practical solution. A person who is really engaged in paid advocacy will never admit it. And he may not be officially affiliated with his organization. To give up? Yes, because this becomes worse and worse. A few years ago I could easily edit in these subject areas. Now I can not. My very best wishes (talk) 12:39, 11 May 2012 (UTC)
Some people think that such problems can be resolved by following NPOV and other similar policies. But this is not working. According to our policies, any serious changes require consensus. Now consider any subject on Chinese or Russian politics or history that is edited only by a few people. There is an important and well sourced information to be included. But you will never have consensus if there is a couple of paid advocacy editors (or other POV-pushers) out there who do not want it be included. First, they are going to tell that your sources are unreliable as non-scholarly, "yellow press", or whatever. Then, if the sources are brought to RS noticeboard and decided to be reliable enough, they are going to tell that information should not be included because it was "undue weight", and so on, and so on. This is waste of time.My very best wishes (talk) 14:17, 13 May 2012 (UTC)
  1. Oppose Giving up in this way is not an option. User:Fred Bauder Talk 22:57, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
  2. Oppose Per Fred. 86.** IP (talk) 10:27, 6 May 2012 (UTC)
  3. Oppose Some years ago, the concern was Wikipedia could never control vandalism. The open access format allowed vandals to run amok, and there were plenty of cases of high profile vandalism. However we addressed it using a variety of tools, most of all vigilance, and it never became the dire threat that so many predicted. If we identify people editing with a conflict of interest to be a problem, we can open a discussion for how to address it. Right now such discussions are stymied by the "you don't have consensus" brigade of paid editors and their allies. --TeaDrinker (talk) 17:26, 6 May 2012 (UTC)

View by Balloonman[edit]

Background

Ok, it appears as if one of the most vocal opponents of Paid Editing has been accused of being a paid editor. Said user is now on a wikibreak and actions here and elsewhere now appear to be somewhat hypocritical. This editor has written several articles that were promoted to GA status some have alleged they were promoted in part due to the editors reputation as a quality editor---and now his edits are being discected. Another editor/admin, has vowed to go through the accused edits to "check as many such identified articles" as he can.

Another Admin noted that he sees behavior similar to what the accused did regularly... the person "panics when they think they might have done something wrong and does everything they can to excuse it/fix it." (The editor in question tried to cover some of his tracks/fix his mistakes before departing.) Well, most of the accused paid editing appears to have been 2 year old or so.

Our system doesn't have any mechanisms to control paid editing or to admit to being a paid editor. It encourages people to stay hidden behind a veil of anonymity. Paid editors exist---this vocal opponent to paid editing proves it. What motives this editor had in opposing Paid Editing I don't know. Was it because he felt remorse of his past transgressions? Was it because he messed up in the past, saw it as a mistake, but had no mechanism to undo what he did? Was it because he hoped to put up a smoke screen obfuscating his real actions and place his edits above the spectrum of being accused of being a paid editor? I don't know---and my purpose is not to persecute this specific user (thus not linking to the discussion or listing his name.) But this editor, who has been at the forefront of the Anti-Paid Editor charge now appears to be one himself.

Because he was anonymous, his edits were not scrutinized as a paid editor and his reputation carried him. The editor who has vowed to check all of the accused articles said, the article which was passed to GA "would never have been given such status without the reputation of the editor." In other words, this editor was a good editor, but we now know he had a paid bias.

Solution

We need a means to identify paid editors. Rules for them to follow so that when they do edit, we know their potential biases. We need procedures in how to handle them after they self-identify AND how to handle them if they fail to do so. Failure to self-identify (especially of established editors) could then be construed as the paid editor acting in bad faith.

Recognizing that an issue exists and attempting to control/regulate it is not "surrendering", but owning up to an controlling the situation. Failing to do any thing but say, "It's not allowed" is the easy way out. It is burying our heads in the sand and pretending the issue doesn't exist---which EVERYBODY knows does. People talk about losing credibility. We are losing credibility because we have no controls/disclosure over paid editing.

impact of not having solution

OK, considering my past with said editor, I feel somewhat hypocritical saying this... but because of this issue, we appear to have potentially lost another respected editor... an editor who arguably made mistakes by anonymously editing on articles he was paid to edit... but who also worked elsewhere on issues which he undoubtably was not paid. Our failure to have reasonable controls, has (in this case) thrown the baby out with the bath water.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 14:51, 7 May 2012 (UTC)

Oppose[edit]

  • I do not recommend anyone to disclose any personal information in any Wikimedia projects because that can make you a target of on-wiki and off-wiki harassment by contributors with very serious COI problems who are not going to disclose their personal information and especially who they are working for. That was my experience here. My very best wishes (talk) 12:47, 9 May 2012 (UTC)

Comment[edit]

  • According to current version of WP:COI, Where advancing outside interests is more important to an editor than advancing the aims of Wikipedia, that editor stands in a conflict of interest.. Well said. It might be that an editor is paid by an outside organization, but he still advances the aims of Wikipedia, rather than aims of his organization, or it may be that the aims of his organization and wikipedia are exactly the same (for example, promoting the knowledge). Being a paid editor or an official affiliation with an outside organization does not necessarily mean a conflict of interest, according to this definition. Or it could be a serious conflict of interest. Everything depends on priorities of the user and the goals of his organization. My very best wishes (talk) 14:20, 8 May 2012 (UTC)
    • Exactly... now a paid editor who is striving for NPOV and to do things right might have a bias towards the body that is paying them; but that is true for all of us. If I am working on an article on a subect that I care about, then I might interject a bias into the article without realizing it. Hopefully I'll catch it or others might, but its a risk endemic of the system. Identifying oneself and one's potential biases is not a bad thing.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 15:53, 8 May 2012 (UTC)
      • Surprisingly, but I found it much easier to deal with your biases in the area of your expertise related to your work and your potential COI. This is because you know well the subject. But when you venture to a different area of knowledge, you would typically write something after reading one or two books that you found interesting, although there are many more. Hence you inherit the bias from sources. My very best wishes (talk) 18:52, 8 May 2012 (UTC)
Assuming that's "you (generic)" not "you (balloonman)"---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 19:04, 8 May 2012 (UTC)
Yes, I mean my own experience. My very best wishes (talk) 21:26, 8 May 2012 (UTC)
  • Like all others, there must be sufficient incentives for paid editors to self-identify. If there aren't--if ABF'ing just because someone is paid, for example--then we will never solve the problem. There are two ways to do this: increase incentives or decrease disincentives. I really don't think we want to do the former, so we really need to focus on the latter. Are we willing to make harassment of paid editors a bannable offense? Are we willing to lose that segment of the community which cannot countenance any sort of engagement with the reality of paid editing? I'm not sure there is a right answer, but to solve this problem, I think we need a unanimous basic approach, much like BLP has. Unfortunately, Jimbo's approach to date has neither been realistic nor workable, at least insofar as it has been applied by anti-paid-editing community members, with the net effect of making COI disclosure a clearly disincentivized choice. Jclemens (talk) 19:13, 8 May 2012 (UTC)
    • Again, agree 100%. His approach isn't going to get people to self identify, it's going to encourage them to continue to fly under the radar. In order to address this issue we need a means to make it beneficial to self-identify... Jimbo's approach provides no incentives to do so.---Balloonman Poppa Balloon 19:34, 8 May 2012 (UTC)
      • I think this is a much wider issue. People are banned or editing-restricted on a regular basis for something they tell on various talk pages. Therefore, the less they talk, especially about other users and themselves (including COI and biases), the better they fare. Comment on content, not on the contributor (including yourself) - this is an important piece of advice that should be followed very literally by everyone who is not an administrator. My very best wishes (talk) 21:26, 8 May 2012 (UTC)

The above discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.