Wikipedia:BLP policy advises fix over delete

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This essay explains how the long-term policy "WP:Biographies of living persons" (WP:BLP) states that material should be improved/mended and fixed first, rather than delete an article page quickly, to correct BLP-issues. The text of policy WP:BLP has stated since (March 2008), "Page deletion is normally a last resort."

Official wording from policy WP:BLP[change source]

Policy WP:BLP has stated since 2008 (under subheader "Deletion"): [1]

"Biographical material about a living individual that is not compliant with this policy should be improved and rectified; if this is not possible, then it should be removed. If the entire page is substantially of poor quality, primarily containing contentious material that is unsourced or poorly sourced, then it may be necessary to delete the entire page as an initial step, followed by discussion. Page deletion is normally a last resort."

The policy continues (in the same section titled "Deletion"):

"Summary deletion in part or whole is relevant when the page contains unsourced negative material or is disparaging and written non-neutrally, and when this cannot readily be repaired or replaced to an acceptable standard."

The conditions for re-writing the article text include: unsourced negative material; disparaging; or written non-neutrally. Removal of text is only when those issues cannot readily be repaired or replaced to an acceptable standard.

Search-engine copies can go viral[change source]

Wikipedia is the root source of many mirror-copy websites, which copy partial or whole article pages. When an article page is deleted, some Internet search engines (including Google and might still retain their prior index information, as copied from prior revisions. Then, because the article has been deleted, no automatic updates can be made to those search-engine copies. As a consequence, the article goes "viral" as being spread by uncontrolled copies, no longer kept current with a latest revision maintained by Wikipedia editors. Often, it would be preferable, first, to revise an article to have suitable contents (as directed by policy WP:BLP), then let it be re-indexed into those search-engines, and then if necessary, delete the article after the improved contents have been copied into those cache-pages of the search-engines. Let an acceptable copy go viral, but not a bad version of the page.

Note: because (or possibly Google Search) is structured as a "decision engine" (within a knowledge-based system), the page contents are not always mere text copies, but rather can be re-structured into special databases using knowledge engineering. Those re-structured contents can be reformatted to appear in multiple, various pages, such as with the sub-header links on some match entries.

The problem of viral copies occurs in many situations, not just for sensitive or libelous BLP articles. A similar situation occurs when a page is moved/renamed, while containing improper information. A search-engine index is likely to contain both versions, one frozen as the old title (for weeks/months) and also the other, kept current under the new page title. In general, fix a page first, delay by leaving a few days, then after re-indexing in search-engines, move or delete. This delay in activities might require protection to deter improper editing during the time period.

Recap of policy[change source]

In summary, as noted in Wikipedia policy WP:BLP, articles should first be improved or repaired, rather than deleted, if those articles contain sensitive personal material about living persons, particularly if it is negative. Page deletion is normally a last resort.

Notes[change source]

  1. The directive to fix-before-delete has existed over 2 years. Also check current policy WP:BLP.