Proposal:Authority over content disputes

From Strategic Planning
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The status of this proposal is:
Request for Discussion / Sign-Ups

This proposal is associated with the bolded strategic priorities below.

  1. Achieve continued growth in readership
  2. Focus on quality content.
  3. Increase Participation
  4. Ensure that the underlying project infrastructure is secure, stable, and sufficient to guarantee the permanence of the projects and support ongoing growth.
  5. Encourage Innovation


In the English wikipedia (as well as several other of the larger wikis), we have an arbitration committee, intended as a "court of last resort" for irreconcilable disputes between editors, as well as for editor misconduct. Although not a perfect solution, it does deal effectively with problems that have gotten completely out of hand. Unfortunately, by design, the arbitration committee is not concerned with the content of Wikipedia, but with the conduct of editors.

Most content disputes resolve themselves, but in rare cases, consensus fails to work, or it reaches a "compromise" that actually puts our values and quality at risk, particularly with controversial articles. While some of these disputes turn into cases that the arbitration committees can act on, many do not reach that level, and the underlying issues may still remain unresolved.


Create a governing body charged with maintaining the quality of Wikipedia, including factual accuracy and neutrality. This body would:

  • Act as a responsible custodian of Wikipedia's articles.
  • Compensate for shortfalls and systematic bias in consensus decision-making.
  • Recognize the work, contributions, and advice of verified subject-matter experts as well as other truly knowledgeable editors.
  • Keep close watch on ethnic disputes and other perpetually contentious articles.
  • Manage content disputes that don't involve editor misconduct, but which have defied other attempts at resolution.
  • Preserve neutrality of articles during protracted disputes.
  • Coordinate quality-control activities.


  • Consensus shouldn't be about who can yell the loudest and drown everyone else out.
  • Consensus shouldn't be about which side can outlast the other.
  • Consensus should be about true compromise and collaboration.
  • Consensus shouldn't be used to ignore other core values.
  • Some disputes aren't likely to be resolved through consensus in reasonable timeframes.
  • Some articles and topics will be perpetually disputed, particularly where they are ethnically and/or politically charged.
  • Some contentious articles will always need to be watched by responsible, neutral editors.

Key Questions

The following are major concerns (can be discussed on the talk-page):

  • Q1. How would the content-committees differ from Wikiproject groups?
  • Q1a. Would a content-committee have the power to define new guidelines?
  • Q1b. Could a content-committee issue an order to direct the activities of a Wikiproject or other users?
  • Q2. Is there a limit to the number of members on a content-committee?
  • Q3. How many content-committees would be needed to cover all Wikipedia articles?
  • Q4. Would some types of articles be exempt from content-committee judgments?
  • Q5. How would effectiveness of a content-committee be assessed?
  • Q6. How would ineffective content-committees change or disband?
  • Q7. How would a content-committee stop poor quality edits?
  • Q8. Could a content-committee override a WP admin judgment?

Potential Costs

There are several potential costs to empowering a group of people to decide issues against a mob of people accustomed to deciding, or re-interpreting, policies to suit their whims. Some of the costs:

  • Legal analysis: The concept of content-committees must be analyzed to determine the limits of such control, or steering, of articles, which might make Wikipedia liable for controversial content in articles. Limits need to be set as to how users are still free to write libelous comments, for which they, alone, are responsible. However, the release of those comments cannot be seen as an organized decision, but rather, a natural progression from someone exercising their freedom to use the system without strict control of content. The result might be a control structure which limits how many articles a new user can modify, per day(?), with the quality control being a suggestion or retraction by a content-committee, rather than acting as a gateway which decides what content cannot be displayed. The accidental release of libelous text should not be judged as an organized intent to empower libel, but remain an individual responsibility.
  • Protection costs: People on content-committees must be given some protection, so they won't be easily edit-blocked by people devising tricks against them, to force their decisions about articles.
  • Membership costs: People must earn their way into a content-committee, because of the power a committee could wield.
  • Membership lottery: Part of a content-committee might consist of some senior members who "earned" membership by a lottery win (accepted if willing).
  • Term limitations: In the case of unforseen biases, each member of a content-committee should have a limited term, so that they might avoid temptation to define rules that another group would reject.
  • Charter creation: Documents would need to be written to define the charter (scope and role) of each group.
  • Training costs: A short training program would be needed to focus the group decisions on policy issues, rather than how many people want something, despite the fact that, what most users might want, violates policies. It might be shocking to 98% of debaters to learn that the days of gaming-the-system are over, and a group has the power to follow the policies, rather than allow "63" people to push a slanted view of some pet project.
  • Ambassador assignments: Some liason (or ambassador) roles would need to be defined to connect with ArbCom in a direct fashion, such as a task queue of action items, to resolve issues between the groups, or various subgroups.
  • Policy impacts: The impact to policies and guidelines should be estimated, because quality control is likely to affect how articles are created, modified, or retired/merged.

Other potential costs should be added into the list above.


Some examples of potential groups managing the content of articles, and their typical activities, would be the following:

  • (..list each example group as a bullet above...)


Community Discussion

Do you have a thought about this proposal? A suggestion? Discuss this proposal by going to Proposal talk:Authority over content disputes.

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  1. .. Sign your name here!