Submissions:2014/The current state of the BLP problem

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Title of the submission

"The Current State of the BLP Problem" (note: title is subject to discussion based on responses and format)

Themes (Proposal Themes - Community, Tech, Outreach, GLAM, Education)

Community; also addresses impact of Wikipedia articles on their subjects

Type of submission (Presentation Types - Panel, Workshop, Presentation, etc)

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

Author of the submission

Ira Brad Matetsky (User:Newyorkbrad)

E-mail address



US state or country of origin

New York

Affiliation, if any (organization, 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.

Length of presentation/talk (see Presentation Types for lengths of different presentation types)

The 75-minute default time is fine, but I'm flexible as to both length and format. As anyone reading this who knows me is aware, I'm perfectly capable of discoursing on this subject for 75 or more minutes. However, I'm also prepared to do this as a panel discussion, and I'd like to spend some time discussing the example problems.

Will you attend WikiConference USA if your submission is not accepted?

Yes. (Note that I'm making multiple submissions. I'd be happy to present on any one of the topics or on all of them, depending on the needs of the conference.)

Slides or further information (optional)

Nothing fancy.

Special request as to time of presentations

I may not be available on Saturday afternoon between about 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. because of a potential scheduling conflict. I'll know within the next two weeks whether this is an issue, but it should be easy enough to work around.

Interested attendees

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