Wikipedia, BLP and porn

BLP is the policy by which wikipedia attempts to protect the living people mentioned in its articles from slander, etc. It is supposed to be a core policy which avoids the excesses of editors on the site anyone can edit from stating unverifiable things about people. The core of the policy is that all information about living people should be reliably sourced with one or more references and that if any editor challenges information about a living person that is not sourced and is therefore not reliable that editor is empowered to remove that material before discussing it. verifiability not truth is a wikipedia motto, the assertion that only verifiable material is allowed and when it is challenged it must be removed.

I understand that this is a difficult policy to take on board for some groups of wikipedia editors who would argue that surely if a group of editors are agreed that it is okay to have material about a living person in an article that has not been reliably sourced then one editor demanding that the offending material be removed on BLP grounds should simply be ignored. The problem with this type of approach is that it put the selfish needs of editors to create the encyclopedia they want to see above the needs of the living people they are writing about. It also offers no guarantee of verifiability other than trusitng editors in the encyclopedia anyone can edit.

There are also wikipedia editors who point out that the BLP policy only applies to a contentious issue and then go on to point out that being labelled a porn star could not possibly be contentious, after all who would mind being falsely labelled a porn star.

There are also wikipedia editors who are saying that inline citations are fine and that in fact a blue link (ie having a bio article on wikipedia) verifies whatever the wikipedia editor in question claims that it verifies. Another description for this is original research.

Within a little more than 24 hours after I, SqueakBox, imposed BLP standards on an article which proclaimed to be a list of porn actors who have appeared in mainstream films a group of irate porn article editors were clamouring for a change in BLP policy to allow them to add unsourced claims about living people to the wikipedia article space and to prevent other editors from enforcing BLP, ie they were proposing to rip up the policy and thus also rip the verifiability not truth core tenet of wikipedia. Nobody could have been more astonished than me.

They were outraged that one or two BLP enforcing editors could remove material that had not been reliably sourced and was therefore not verifiable about living people, and some were further outraged that I saw porn work as contentious and basically were of the opinion that I was anti porn and was a bigot trying to censor porn.

Editors were clearly highly aggrieved that all the hard work they had put in furnishing the list was in their eyes being blanked. It did not seem to occur to them that they should not have been doing that work pouting people on the list based solely on there own judgement of veracity and without reliably sourcing in a single case. The fact that these people know more about porn stars than me seemed to me to make them more contemptuous of me, as if how could I possibly not trust THEIR judgement in terms of trying to verify the truth of whether these people were actually verified porn stars and had appeared in mainstream films. How could I possibly doubt their word. The fact that I did doubt their word, I demanded verifiability for inclusion, clearly infuriated them and when they saw there many of them and only two of us they got angrier still, surely a consensus of editors MUST trump some silly old BLP concerns, after all its only living people. One editor even claimed that they were all porn stars anyway so what did they expect? This editor obviously expected me to take his word for it that tey were all porn actors. The point is that with a reliabkle source it is very hard for a living person to get their name removed from a list on wikipedia, reliable sources are wikipedia’s watermark. And clearly nobody should be labelled a porn star on any article on wikipedia without reliable sources to verify this claim.

What I was trying to do and stated I was trying to do was to remove material on living people that was not reliably sourced with the hope and intention that I and others could then restore these names of living people with reliable sources where these were to be found, and with onkyl the names of peope,l reliably sourced included. Not only is this approach demanded of by wikipedia’s BLP policy but it is the only policy which protects the living people about whom claims are being made without verification. It is also the only policy which gives our readers faith we havent just made things up.

One editor also suggested trying to get a topic ban placed on me, that topic ban being porn. The idea here was that if a group of editors could silence me then I would not be making challenges about BLP non compliance and they would then be free to get on editing articles without having to bother adhering to BLP policy or bother about the rights of porn workers or worry about veriufiability.

The problem with this particular article stemmed from the fact that none of the names were reliably sourced. So, following BLP, and with real concerns that claims were being made about a whole load of living people. Some have argued that I should have left the famous, ie well known ones in the article even though BLP says nothing about being more applicable to less famous people, and who am I to rely on MY judgement of who is a porn actor who has also appeared in mainstream films. Many editors pointed out that the fact that a person has an article on wikipedia is proof that they are or were a porn actor and have now appeared in a mainstream film and that the reliably sources must be in the articles. One editor even went so far as to point out that the editors knew that these people were porn actors who had appeared in mainstream films, and apparently this knowledge of editors on the encyclopedia anyone can edit is all the verifiability that wikipedia should require. One editor said the fact that these bio articles were BLP compliant was itself proof that they were or are porn stars who have also appeared in mainstream films. of course said editor had not gone through every article ensuring it was actually BLP compliant, he just assumed all articles about living people must be BLP complaint even though of course the articles could easily be BLP complaint and not mention both or either the fact of being a porn star and of being in mainstream films. I also was told that I should check the information myself, that way I could “verify” it. As if somehow it is better that any editor who wants to verify a long list of possible porn stars who have maybe been in mainstream films should check through 50 or 60 articles and then the next editor who comes along and wants to do the same thing, and the enxt and the enxt. It sounds positively medieval compared to the mdoern way of reliable sources that immediately verify the information for EVERYBODY. The number of times I got told the burden was on me to prove that the material I removed was not BLP compliant and one editor who clearly cannot have ready WP:Burden even quoted it at me (of course the burden is ALWAYS on the person who ADDS the info.

I dont believe a single editor who persisted in arguing against me had a coherent understanding of what BLP means or what their proposals to destroy it would do to living people who wikipedia writes about, or what destroying verifiability on wikiepodia would mean, All they seemed interested in were using weasel words in order to evade their BLP obligations as editors, which absolutely include not restoring any material that has been identified as BLP non compliant. The most common argument was that they interpreted BLP policy differently to me but how are unsourced allegations about living people, whether concerning porn or not, not subject to BLP. But those sources are available on wikipedia, you (and every other editor) just have to look for them yourselves in the 50 or 60 bio articles, people said, as if this highly laborious, indeed medieval, suggestion is the new verifiability on wikipedia, and as if all I care abkut is me verifying this info. 100 editors could edit this information and it still would not be verifiable. Of course the people who told me this will not have checked the information themselves laboriously for every single person on the list but even if they had done that does not verify that these people are or were porn actors who appeared in mainstream films other than to themselves. Reliable sources on the other hand would verify this information for everybody.

Of course trying to deny me a voice or an opinion was very much part of the campaign, as it must be in these cases where people are desperate to shut one up. My arguments were described as laughable as if they could simply be ignored and editors simply said they disagreed with me without trying to attempt to justify their beliefs as if somehow enough editors disagreeing with me means wikipedia editors can now ignore BLP. It seems to me that many editors definitely feed on the drama and on finding a victim they can attack and do not want to do any actual work, like adding reliable sources, or removing further BLP non compliant material.

The other thing I noticed alongside the weasley comments was an almost universal refusal to engage in the only solution to the task at hand which was to start adding reliable sources so the people in this list can be restored to it. One editor proclaimed that wikiepdia is not a bureaucracy as if to say how can you expect editors to do the actual work of adding reliable sources!

The only editors who I noticed did get on with the task of adding reliable sources albeit while vigorously arguing with me as to why they should not have to were 2 members of the wikiporn project whom I had come across 6 months earlier. I worked for a while on porn sub genres and it came to my attention in January that there were a whole number of porn lists which were completely unsourced as well as at least one article, on male actors in gay porn, which was almost BLP complaint and editing to make it completely so was not in any way challenged. So I went to the porn project user talk page and said I wanted to make these lists BLP compliant as part of a general campaign to make the porn coverage more BLP compliant. Both these editors were horrified that I was proposing such a campaign and said it was because I was anti-porn and wanted to censor it. This past weekend one of the 2 claimed that this restoring this BLP campaign was just too much straight after the notability level for inclusion had been upped as if the needs of porn editors somehow had to be put before the needs of living people mentioned in wikipedia, a trenchant belief I came across again and again. I realized it was going to cause more aggro than I ahd time for at that point in my real life and withdrew fromt he project for a while. So whenI went for it again this past weekend I ahd had time to think about it and the reactions were not unexpected although even I was shocked at people wanting to overturn BLP and destroy the encyclopedia as a serious project (by destroying its verifiability) just because of what I had done.

An exhausting Sunday ended for me when a respected member of the arbcom (if I can describe him in this way) made the claim that porn is a BLP mess and that we need to be careful about enforcing it. This to me would entirely play into the hands of those who are determined that BLP shoiuld not apply to them as editors, and to hell witht he living subjects of our articles. If we restore unsourced this dubious article claiming that living people are porn stars and mainstream performers we will be sending out the strong message that BLP does not have to be enforced and that this article can remain unsourced with editors adding whoever they feel like adding with nobody allowed to challenge them on whether the addition is verifiably true. Burden in wikipedia places the burden on the person who adds material not the person who removes it but allowing this article to remain unsourced would send out the powerful message that BLP isnt actually required on wikipedia. And when people get to hear that BLP is not be enforced for porn they will rightly not want it enforced in the areas they like to edit either. All power to the editors and to hell with the living people they write about.


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