BLP deletion rules discussed amidst controversial AFD

In the midst of a controversial deletion request regarding the article Giovanni di Stefano, SlimVirgin "re-proposed" a change to Wikipedia's deletion policy. If enacted, deletion discussions of biographies of living persons would result in the deletion of the article if no consensus regarding the issue was established. Currently, such a no-consensus result would, by default, result in the article being kept.

BLP proposal

The proposal has been made in various forms for at least a year. In the wake of a discussion over whether Daniel Brandt should be deleted (see archived story), the suggestion was mentioned in an e-mail by Jimmy Wales in April 2007, and formally put forth for discussion soon afterward by SlimVirgin. This discussion came to no consensus, and was not implemented.

The proposal came up again last Saturday, April 19, when Doc glasgow created the essay Borderline biographies, advocating a guideline to be applied only as necessary:

Whilst many Wikipedians do not believe that we should automatically delete an article out of consideration to the views or interests of the subject, administrators may consider that it is irresponsible to simply default to keep in the case of low-notability biographies. In cases where there is a reasonable belief that the article may cause distress to the subject or, due to a lack of interest, there may well be problems in maintaining the article in a fair and accurate state, administrators may wish to require a positive consensus that Wikipedia requires to retain the article. In short, in the absence of consensus to retain, Wikipedia may be best served by defaulting to delete the article (or relist where participation has been low).

The proposal, as re-submitted by SlimVirgin, would trigger the deletion of any BLP in the absence of consensus to keep it:

When the biography of a living person is submitted for deletion, whether at the request of the subject or not, the default presumption in favor of retention is reversed. That is, if there is no consensus to keep the BLP in the opinion of the closing admin, the article will be deleted.

The suggestion triggered a flurry of comments (over 300 in the course of 48 hours) regarding the issue. As of press time, about 70% of the comments supported such a change in the policy, with about 30% opposing.

In support, Kat Walsh argued that "It's a small thing, changing a default, and doesn't hurt the ability to keep any article if there is consensus to keep it. The Wikipedia project isn't meant to affect what is known about a person or how prominent they are, only to make encyclopedic note of it. I am generally in favor of being broadly inclusive of information on all sorts of topics—but in the case of people, especially those who are only barely public, we need to be mindful of what we are doing and what effect we have."

JoshuaZ noted, however, that "If the community consensus taking into account a BLP-penumbra issue doesn't call for its deletion then we shouldn't delete. We already have admins able to close no consensus as delete if they think the strength of the arguments is strong enough. There's no reason to make this any stricter. ... The fact that this would result in many deletions where there are no actual concerns for the individuals in question makes it particularly jarring."

Controversial BLP

Just as discussion over the article on Daniel Brandt triggered the first major discussion on this change in 2007, discussion over the article Giovanni di Stefano seemed to trigger this discussion, at least in part.

Giovanni di Stefano is an Italian European lawyer, who has served on the defence team on many high-profile cases, including the trial of Saddam Hussein and that of Jeremy Bamber. His involvement on these cases and in other cases has made di Stefano a controversial figure, whose Wikipedia article has been the source of concern in the past. The article was deleted by Wales on April 24, 2007, but a deletion review ruled that the article could be re-created, with full sourcing. Fred Bauder deleted and stubbed the article twice, once each in November and December 2007.

The article was nominated for deletion on April 19, by Lawrence Cohen. Cohen cited BLP concerns, and a threat of legal proceedings by di Stefano, in his nomination:

The subject of this article, Giovanni de Stefano, wants this article gone. To the degree that this user is willing to initiate legal proceedings over it, as seen here. As the WMF and the community hasn't taken action to protect this BLP subject per the standards that any BLP subject should be entitled to, and the possible existence of this article threatens the name and reputation of this BLP subject, and both the project and any individual editor who has touched the article is potentially at risk, the local community should simply remove the article. ... If real people are negatively affected, we do the right thing, and stop hurting them.

Aecis disagreed, arguing, "All the information in the article is sourced to extremely reliable sources. If the subject disagrees with the information contained in those sources, he should take it up with the people behind those sources. We've bent over backwards for the subject, as we should with any possible BLP violation. But that's all that can be expected of us. If the subject has valid concerns, they should be addressed in the article. But 'the subject doesn't want to have an article about him' is never a ground for deletion."

Seraphimblade noted that:

The Foundation has a perfectly qualified person to evaluate the nature and merits of legal threats, unlike the vast majority of participants in this discussion, myself included. If they decide action must be taken due to legal issues, they can and will do so. Until and unless that occurs, we have a well-referenced article on a relatively public person. Granted, much of that person's notoriety is negative in nature, but that in itself is not a BLP violation. The subject is also a good distance past marginal or questionable notability, so the question of deletion upon request really does not come into play here, as that should only be used in cases where the subject is on the edge of the notability requirements, not well past them.

Consensus was clear on the AFD, with about 85% of those commenting supporting keeping the article. Interestingly, the proposal made by SlimVirgin would not apply to di Stefano's article, because a consensus stands to keep the article.

Discussions on SlimVirgin's proposal, and on the article on di Stefano, are continuing.

Also this week:
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  • Global features
  • WikiWorld
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  • In the news
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