Wikipedia:No personal attacks

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Do not make personal attacks anywhere on Wikipedia. Comment on content, not on the contributor. Personal attacks harm the Wikipedia community and the collaborative atmosphere needed to create a good encyclopedia. Derogatory comments about other editors may be removed by any editor. Repeated or egregious personal attacks may lead to sanctions including blocks or even bans.

What is considered to be a personal attack?

There is no rule that is objective and not open to interpretation on what constitutes a personal attack as opposed to constructive discussion, but some types of comments are never acceptable:

  • Abusive, defamatory, or derogatory phrases based on race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religious or political beliefs, disability, ethnicity, nationality, etc. directed against another editor or a group of editors. Disagreement over what constitutes a religion, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or ethnicity is not a legitimate excuse.
  • Using someone's affiliations as an ad hominem means of dismissing or discrediting their views—regardless of whether said affiliations are mainstream. An example could be, "You're a railfan so what would you know about fashion?" Note that it is not a personal attack to question an editor about their possible conflict of interest on a specific article or topic; but beware – speculating on the real-life identity of another editor may constitute outing.
  • Using someone's political affiliations as an ad hominem means of dismissing or discrediting their views, such as accusing them of being left-wing or right-wing, is also forbidden. Editors are allowed to have personal political POV, as long as it does not negatively affect their editing and discussions.
  • Linking to external attacks, harassment, or other material, for the purpose of attacking another editor.
  • Comparing editors to Nazis, terrorists, dictators, or other infamous people. (See also Godwin's law.)
  • Accusations about personal behavior that lack evidence. Serious accusations require serious evidence, usually in the form of diffs and links.
  • Threats, including, but not limited to:

These examples are not exhaustive. Insulting or disparaging an editor is a personal attack regardless of the manner in which it is done. When in doubt, comment on the article's content without referring to its contributor at all.

Why personal attacks are harmful

Personal attacks are disruptive. On article talk pages they tend to move the discussion away from the article and towards individuals. Such attacks tend to draw battle lines and make it more difficult for editors to work together.

Contributors often wish to have their viewpoints included in articles. Through reasoned debate, contributors can synthesize these views into a single article, and this creates a better, more neutral article for everyone. Every person who edits an article is part of the same larger community—we are all Wikipedians.

The prohibition against personal attacks applies equally to all Wikipedians. It is as unacceptable to attack a user with a history of foolish or boorish behavior, or one who has been blocked, banned, or otherwise sanctioned, as it is to attack any other user. Wikipedia encourages a civil community: people make mistakes, but they are encouraged to learn from them and change their ways. Personal attacks are contrary to this spirit and damaging to the work of building an encyclopedia.

Avoiding personal attacks

As a matter of polite and effective discourse, arguments should not be personalized; that is, they should be directed at content and actions rather than people.

When there are disagreements about content, referring to other editors is not always a personal attack. A posting that says "Your statement about X is wrong because of information at Y", or "The paragraph you inserted into the article looks like original research", is not a personal attack. However, "The statement..." or "The paragraph inserted..." is less likely to be misinterpreted as a personal attack because it avoids referring to the other editor in the second person. "The paragraph inserted here [diff] into the article looks like original research" is especially advantageous because the diff cuts down confusion. Similarly, discussion of a user's conduct or history is not in itself a personal attack when done in the appropriate forum for such discussion (for example, the other editor's talk page, or Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents).

Editors should be civil and adhere to good etiquette when describing disagreements. The appropriate response to an inflammatory statement is to address the issues of content rather than to accuse the other person of violating this policy. Accusing someone of making personal attacks without providing a justification for your accusation is also considered a form of personal attack. (See also: Incivility.)

Responding to personal attacks

First offenses and isolated incidents

Often the best way to respond to an isolated personal attack is to simply ignore it. Sometimes personal attacks are not meant as attacks at all, and during heated and stressful debates, editors tend to overreact. Additionally, because Wikipedia discussions are in a text-only medium, nuances and emotions are often conveyed poorly, which can easily lead to misunderstanding (see Emotions in virtual communication). While personal attacks are not excused because of these factors, editors are encouraged to disregard angry and ill-mannered postings of others, if it is reasonable to do so, and to continue to focus their efforts on improving and developing the encyclopedia.

If you feel that a response is necessary and desirable, you can leave a polite message on the other user's talk page. Avoid responding on a talk page of an article, as this tends to escalate matters. Likewise, it is important to avoid becoming hostile and confrontational yourself, even in the face of abuse. Although warning templates may be used for this purpose, a customized message relating to the specific situation may be better received. If possible, try to find a compromise or common ground regarding the underlying issues of content, rather than argue about behavior.

Attacks that are particularly offensive or disruptive (such as physical threats, legal threats, or blatantly bigoted insults) should not be ignored. Extraordinary situations that require immediate intervention are rare, but may be reported at Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents.

Discussion of behavior in an appropriate forum (e.g. user's talk page or Wikipedia noticeboard) does not in itself constitute a personal attack.

Recurring attacks

Recurring, non-disruptive personal attacks that do not stop after reasoned requests to cease can be resolved through dispute resolution. In most circumstances, problems with personal attacks can be resolved if editors work together and focus on content, and immediate administrator action is not required.

Removal of personal attacks

Derogatory comments about other editors may be removed by any editor. However, there is no official policy regarding when or whether most personal attacks should be removed, although it has been a topic of substantial debate. Removing unquestionable personal attacks from your own user talk page is rarely a matter of concern. On other talk pages, especially where such text is directed against you, removal should typically be limited to clear-cut cases where it is obvious the text is a true personal attack. The {{RPA}} template can be used for this purpose.

Nevertheless, unusual circumstances do exist. The most serious types of personal attacks, such as efforts to reveal nonpublic personal information about Wikipedia editors (outing), go beyond the level of mere invective, and so can and should be removed for the benefit of the community and the project whether or not they are directed at you. In certain cases involving sensitive information, a request for oversight may also be appropriate.

Off-wiki attacks

Wikipedia cannot regulate behavior in media not under the control of the Wikimedia Foundation, but personal attacks made elsewhere create doubt about the good faith of an editor's on-wiki actions. Posting personal attacks or defamation off-Wikipedia is harmful to the community and to an editor's relationship with it, especially when such attacks violate an editor's privacy. Such attacks can be regarded as aggravating factors by administrators and are admissible evidence in the dispute-resolution process, including Arbitration cases.

Linking to off-site harassment, attacks, privacy violations, or threats of physical violence against any persons who edit Wikipedia, including those who edit for the purpose of attacking another editor, is never acceptable. This is not to be confused with legitimate critique. The inclusion of links in articles is a matter for sound editorial judgment.

The interpretation of this rule is complex. See Wikipedia:Linking to external harassment for guidance on interpretation.

Consequences of personal attacks

Although editors are encouraged to ignore or respond politely to isolated personal attacks, that should not imply that they are acceptable. A pattern of hostility reduces the likelihood of the community assuming good faith, and can be considered disruptive editing. Users who insist on a confrontational style marked by personal attacks are likely to become involved in the dispute resolution process, and may face serious consequences through arbitration.

In extreme cases, even isolated personal attacks may lead to a block for disruption. Death threats and issues of similar severity may result in a block without warning. Lesser personal attacks often result in a warning, and a request to refactor. If a pattern of lesser personal attacks continues despite the warning, escalating blocks may follow. However, administrators are cautioned that other resolutions are preferable to blocking for less-severe situations when it is unclear if the conduct severely disrupts the project. Recurring attacks are proportionally more likely to be considered disruptive. Blocking for personal attacks should only be done for prevention, not punishment: a block may be warranted if it seems likely that the user will continue using personal attacks.

See also

Wikipedia policies and information pages

Wikipedia essays