Submissions:2023/The BLP Situation on Wikipedia Today

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This submission has been accepted for WikiConference North America 2023.


The BLP Situation on Wikipedia Today


Recent Changes, Community Initiatives, Equity / Inclusion / Community Health, Governance, Legal / Advocacy / Risks

Type of session:



(Note: This would work as a lecture but potentially also as a panel if others are interested in joining. Depending on the time allocated, this could be a discussion of fairly significant length, as there is a lot of material to cover. If interested, please see the links on my English Wikipedia userpage for some of my prior writings on this subject, both on Wikipedia and elsewhere.)

Early in the history of Wikipedia, our editors realized that articles with content about living people pose special challenges and impose special obligations, because their contents can affect the article subjects' lives. Because this fact created ethical and potential legal obligations for Wikipedia editors and the community, and also prompted by a couple of unfortunate incidents, Wikipedians created special rules for articles categorized as Biographies of Living Persons ("BLPs"). The policy emphasized that while all Wikipedia articles should be reliably sourced, neutral in tone, and free of defamatory or unduly weighted negative content, it was especially important that BLPs adhere to these goals. Over time, the community has further strengthened the BLP policy, and the Arbitration Committee has lent its support to enforcing it.

Fourteen years ago, at the first Wikiconference North America in 2009, I gave a keynote talk discussing the history of the BLP problem and BLP issues on English Wikipedia. There have been a lot of new articles created and a lot of old articles edited since then, and it is time to assess the state of things today.

My talk will cover the history of BLP policy and BLP-related disputes and incidents on English Wikipedia; best practices for Wikipedians editing BLPs today; and future ethical and legal challenges that we can continue to anticipate. I will also discuss some sample situations, including hypothetical examples that I will provide as well as the very real example of my own English Wikipedia BLP.

Author name:

Ira Brad Matetsky

E-mail address:

Wikimedia username:


Affiliated organization(s):

Estimated time:

As desired. My talk in 2009 was 45 minutes plus 15 minutes for questions.

Special requests:

Have you presented on this topic previously? If yes, where/when?:

Please see above

Okay to livestream?

Livestreaming is okay

If your submission is not accepted, would you be open to presenting your topic in another part of the program? (e.g. lightning talk or unconference session)