Submissions/The current state of the BLP problem

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This is an accepted submission for Wikimania 2014.

Submission no. 1079
Title of the submission

The current state of the BLP problem

Type of submission (discussion, hot seat, panel, presentation, tutorial, workshop)

Presentation, panel, interactive discussion, or all of the above

Author of the submission

Ira Brad Matetsky (User:Newyorkbrad)

E-mail address



Country of origin

United States

Affiliation, if any (organisation, company etc.)

I'm a member of the Board of the New York Chapter and am on the En-WP Arbcom, but I wouldn't be presenting in either of those capacities

Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

To an extent that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago, people use the Internet to learn about each other. To a great extent, that means they use Wikipedia, given Wikipedia's prominence in search results and inclusion of biographical articles and content about living people. Although much of the project's biographical content is completely appropriate, there have been problems over the years with numerous biographies of living persons (BLPs) and related articles, including incidents of negative claims presented without sourcing, misuse of articles for purposes of harassing their subjects, undue weight given to minor aspects of the subject's life, use of Wikipedia to perpetuate off-site disputes, and at times outright defamation.

while these problems can occur anywhere on the Internet, so that categorizing Wikipedia as the epicenter of abusive online behavior is a mistake, Wikipedia's prominence in search engine results and the objectivity we claim for our encyclopedia makes it all the more important to do everything possible to avoid or minimize them. It is now 12 years since Wikipedia was founded and 8 years since English Wikipedia adopted its first BLP policy. What is the state of the BLP problem today? What have we done right, and what more should we be doing?

My approach to the program would be similar to presentations I have made at prior sessions of Wikiconference New York, including a keynote speech in 2009 (link(Ogg Theora Player required. Speech starts about 8 minutes into the video.) and a follow-up session in which we discussed the hypothetical (but realistic) sample problems set forth at this page. Concrete examples of BLP problems that have arisen on English Wikipedia and how they have been resolved, if at all, will be discussed and will be contrasted with how similar problems are addressed on other websites and in offline media.

Please note that I'm knowledgeable about this issue primarily as it relates to English Wikipedia. It would be useful for Wikimania participants with experience handling BLP concerns on other projects to contribute their perspectives.


WikiCulture & Community

Length of session (if other than 30 minutes, specify how long)
30 minutes

30 minutes, or as long as desired (I have spoken for longer on this issue at Wikiconference New York, without overt signs of audience fatigue or too many people demanding refunds)

Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?


Slides or further information (optional)

Nothing too fancy.

Special requests

None at this time. Please note that I'm making two submissions (also Submissions/Wikimedia and the Law). I'd be glad to present on either or both, depending on the needs of the conference.

Interested attendees

If you are interested in attending this session, please sign with your username below. This will help reviewers to decide which sessions are of high interest. Sign with a hash and four tildes. (# ~~~~).

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