Advocacy is the use of Wikipedia to promote personal beliefs or agendas at the expense of Wikipedia's goals and core content policies, including verifiability and neutral point of view. Despite the popularity of Wikipedia, it is not a soapbox to use for editors' activism, recruitment, promotion, advertising, announcements, or other forms of advocacy.
This is an explanatory supplement to the What Wikipedia is not and Neutral point of view pages.
|This page in a nutshell: Wikipedia is not a venue for raising the visibility of an issue or agenda. Cooperate with other editors to neutrally summarize notable topics using reliable sources without advocating any particular position or giving undue weight to minority views.|
Wikipedia is first and foremost an encyclopedia which aims to create a breadth of high-quality, neutral, verifiable articles and to become a serious, respected reference work. Some editors come to Wikipedia with the goal of raising the visibility or credibility of a specific topic, term or viewpoint leading to disproportionate coverage, false balance and reference spamming. When advocates of specific views prioritize their agendas over the project's goals or factions with different agendas, battling to install their favored content, edit-warring and other disruptions ensue. Wikipedia operates through collaboration between editors to achieve the encyclopedia's goals. Differences of opinion about neutrality, reliability, notability, and other issues are properly resolved through civil discussion aimed at facilitating a consensus.
Advocacy is closely related to conflict of interest, but differs in that advocacy is a general term for promotional and agenda-based editing, while conflict of interest primarily describes promotional editing by those with a close personal or financial connection to the subject.
Some editors come to Wikipedia with the goal of raising the visibility or credibility of a specific viewpoint. It may be a hypothesis which they feel has been unduly dismissed or rejected by the scientific community; it may be alternate or revisionist interpretation of a historical event or personage; it may be additions to an article about an organization to portray it in a positive or negative light. The essential problem is that these goals conflict with Wikipedia's mission. Wikipedia is not a venue to right great wrongs, to promote ideas or beliefs which have been ignored or marginalized in the Real World, or to be an adjunct web presence for an organization. Wikipedia cannot give greater prominence to an agenda than experts or reliable sources in the Real World have given it; the failure to understand this fundamental precept is at the root of most problems with advocacy on Wikipedia.
If an editor appears to be advocating for a particular point of view, this can be brought to their attention with reference to the neutral point of view policy. If the editor volunteers information that confirms they are acting as an advocate, this information can be used to justify appropriate measures. Speculating on the real-life identity of editors is strongly discouraged to prevent outing, a serious form of harassment. When advocacy is not disclosed, it often manifests through behaviors such as tendentious editing, stonewalling, argumentum ad nauseam, or ignoring the opinions of others. When such behavior occurs over a length of time, advocacy is often the cause.
Something worth noting is that there is often a "fine line" between being an Advocate and being a Steward. While a Steward may have the best interests of Wikipedia in mind when editing an article, others may not view their edits and/or behavior in the same way. Be cautious when communicating with someone that might be an Advocate when they are actually a Steward or consider themselves one.
- Assert facts, including facts about opinions, but do not assert the opinions themselves.
- Attribute claims to known authorities or substantiate the facts behind an argument.
- Let the facts speak for themselves and let the reader decide.
Dealing with advocates
Polite advocacy can often be controlled by informing the editor of Wikipedia's mission and asking them to refrain from editing topics that they cannot cover neutrally. Disrupting Wikipedia to prove a point and disruptive editing can provide the basis for blocking an editor. For long-term, low-level disruption, those engaging in advocacy may be topic banned by the Wikipedia Community or the Arbitration Committee.
Advocates sometimes employ defenses, such as:
I only want to help Wikipedia!
Good intentions do not excuse actual disruption. If a significant number of editors protest that an editor is biased, the editor should listen to feedback and either change their editing style, or refrain from editing topics where they cannot be sufficiently neutral.
What I am writing is true!
Wikipedia does not indiscriminately collect "true" information, but aims to synthesize such information into an accurate, proportionate representation of the state of human knowledge. Our responsibility is not just to verify material, but to contextualize and weight it appropriately. Insisting on undue prominence for a true but minor or tangential viewpoint is a canonical violation of the neutral point of view.
The public needs to know this!
Wikipedia is not a platform for public relations campaigns, even for worthy causes. If information needs to be published, there are many media outlets. Once information has been published, it may be noticed by Wikipedia editors and utilized as a reference.
Articles on X should be written or edited by believers in X and not Y.
An oft-repeated argument holds that people who subscribe to a particular viewpoint are those best qualified to write about it. This argument takes forms such as: "We need AIDS-denialist editors to write a good article about AIDS denialism", or "Who better?" than a Klansman to edit our article on the KKK, or "People who attended Tech University have no business editing State University." These arguments are perhaps superficially appealing, but fundamentally mistaken.
The best articles on Wikipedia are written by people who value the encyclopedia's policies on neutrality, verifiability, and original research. Advocates of specific views prioritize their agenda over the project's goal of creating a serious, respectable reference work. Such advocates are unnecessary, and in fact distinctly counterproductive, to the goal of accurately and neutrally covering controversial topics.
Experience and expertise
Editors are not expected to have no opinions about a subject. The Community encourages editors with experience or expertise in particular topics to edit the relevant articles. Expertise alone is not advocacy, but if an expert consistently gives undue weight to a particular point of view, that can be a problem.
Productive ways for advocates to participate
Advocates may place suggestions for new topics, content, or useful references on article talk pages. However, they must not disrupt the discussion or prevent formation of a consensus. The Wikipedia Community values transparency. Those who seek to advocate on behalf of causes are encouraged to disclose the nature of their activities on their user pages and when joining a conversation.
- Wikipedia is not a soapbox or means of promotion
- Wikipedia is not an anarchy or forum for free speech
- Wikipedia:Advocacy articles
- Wikipedia:Avoid academic boosterism
- Wikipedia:Civil POV pushing
- Wikipedia:Criticisms of society may be consistent with NPOV and reliability
- Wikipedia:No holy wars
- Wikipedia:Paid editing (essay)
- Wikipedia:Writing for the opponent