Schweet, someone wrote an essay critical of Wikipedia’s Biographies of Living Persons policy

Here’s what they wrote. Meanwhile, this is as good a time as any to post some content I’ve been wanting to move off-wiki for awhile. BLP policy seems to me very complex, which is apparently why they have to have a whole noticeboard devoted to it.


This is an analysis of the edits made to the Murder of Yeardley Love article, and at User_talk:St._claires_fire/Archive_1#BLP_removal_on_Murder_of_Yeardley_Love and at Wikipedia:Biographies_of_living_persons/Noticeboard/Archive254#Murder_of_Yeardley_Love.

The sequence of events began with this edit to the Murder of Yeardley Love article, noting the Yeardleygate political controversy in which Arlington County School Board member James Lander apologized for commenting on a radio show, with regard to Yeardley Love, “if all that education, if she wasn’t strong enough or educated enough to remove herself from a violent relationship then we have failed her as a society. Because if you are the smartest person with books but you can’t apply the knowledge then what good is it?”

In retrospect, the main problem with this edit was that it didn’t include enough material about Lander’s defense of himself. Whenever you’re going to include negative content about any living person, you always have to give equal space to their side of the story, or you open it up for people to make a BLP removal.

Berean Hunter reverted this edit, calling it “undue weight and looks politically motivated…only matters to local County area and not an issue in the grander scheme of things”.

Undue weight is a legitimate concern in any article, but “politically motivated” is an appeal to motive and therefore a fallacy of relevance. The assertion that it “only matters to local County area and not an issue in the grander scheme of things” is questionable, because The Washington Post and Blue Virginia did see fit to publish articles about it, and the interpretation of her death is part of her legacy (sort of like when the One Love Foundation was founded to honor her memory; the Foundation isn’t notable either, but it is mentioned in the article).

I made this edit, saying, “due to the statewide/regional coverage, there should be at least some mention” and Berean Hunter reverted it, saying, “BLP removal…do not restore.”

“BLP removal…do not restore” is a trump card editors use when they want to say, basically, “If you restore it again, you could be blocked, because this isn’t like a normal dispute where we can just use the BRD cycle to resolve our differences. This is a Big Deal™ and we have to err on the side of keeping the content that I don’t like out of the article.” Anyone who wants to whitewash coverage of a living person can resort to this pretty effectively:

The idea expressed in WP:Eventualism—that every Wikipedia article is a work in progress, and that it is therefore okay for an article to be temporarily unbalanced because it will eventually be brought into shape—does not apply to biographies. Given their potential impact on biography subjects’ lives, biographies must be fair to their subjects at all times.

This is directly contrary to the wiki way.

WP:BLP also says: articles with information about living persons have to adhere strictly to policies on Neutral point of view, Verifiability, and No original research. It says that BLPs must be written “with regard for the subject’s privacy.” What does that mean, exactly?

“BLPs should be written responsibly, cautiously, and in a dispassionate tone, avoiding both understatement and overstatement. Articles should document in a non-partisan manner what reliable secondary sources have published about the subjects, and in some circumstances what the subjects have published about themselves.” What’s a “non-partisan” manner? Is that the same as a “neutral” manner? What if the majority viewpoint is partisan, as it often is?

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