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Reliability of WikiLeaks discussed

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By Mikehawk10

Over the past few months, the use of documents hosted on WikiLeaks as a source for facts has been a topic of discussion across several different noticeboards.

Editors discuss reliability of WikiLeaks

Several discussions began surrounding the reliability of WikiLeaks (see entry in perennial sources list), following a dispute regarding the use of the source in a stub-class biography article of Laotian politician Sisay Leudetmounsone. The biography article's creator, Ruling party, had inserted a WikiLeaks document purporting to be a diplomatic cable of the United States into the article while building the page. After JzG objected to the use of the source, a discussion began at the article's talk page regarding whether the use of the source was consistent with Wikipedia policy.

Discussions on the article's talk page soon spilled over to the biography of living persons (BLP) noticeboard, where editors debated in a now-archived discussion whether or not a specific leaked U.S. diplomatic cable available on WikiLeaks, which lists the biography's subject as a part of the 8th Central Committee of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, is a reliable source. Editors discussed whether or not the source being available on WikiLeaks satisfies the policy requirement that reliable sources be published, whether WikiLeaks has a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy, and if the extent to which previous discussions that had taken place at the reliable sources noticeboard should play a role in evaluating the particular use of the source. Editors also discussed if other sources whose reliability is not contested existed for the information.

Further discussion occurred in a now-archived thread and a request for comments (RfC) on the reliable sources noticeboard regarding the general reliability of WikiLeaks in providing authentic primary source documents. Initial comments surrounded the use of WikiLeaks as a source for the biography, and the discussion initially focused on whether the cable in question had been reported on by reliable sources or subject to external verification. Many editors noted some skepticism of WikiLeaks' fact-checking and document verification process, though a clear consensus was not immediately reached.

The RfC proposed by Szmenderowiecki raised the question of WikiLeaks' reliability in general, asking editors to consider the extent to which editors believe that WikiLeaks is "per se reliable for the publication of genuine government documents" and whether or not there would be special considerations for cases in which "a reasonable editor may conclude that the coverage from RS [reliable sources] is likely to be minimal or absent on the subject". At the time of writing, the RfC has been archived without a closing summary statement.

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' Thank you'for the kind comments! I'm happy to be a contributor and I look forward to producing future reports. — Mikehawk10 (talk) 05:21, 28 June 2021 (UTC)[reply]
@Mikehawk10: as someone who clearly knows more about the field, is there a reason this is particularly key - as an inherently primary source, but mainly covering controversial topics, how much use was it likely to get? Nosebagbear (talk) 10:30, 28 June 2021 (UTC)[reply]
@Nosebagbear: Sorry for the delay in my response. As you say, it's inherently a primary source that is used in covering controversial topics, and it's currently used currently used in just under eleven-hundred articles despite being marked as WP:GUNREL at WP:RSP. It's awaiting a close (I assume it will be an admin close), but I would expect it to be consequential considering its relatively wide current use should guidance on using the source change.


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