Wikipedia talk:Conflict of interest

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Sources on conflict of interest

(chronological)
  • Michael Davis, "Conflict of Interest," Business and Professional Ethics Journal, 1(4), 1982, pp. 17–27 (influential)
  • Luebke, Neil R. "Conflict of Interest as a Moral Category," Business & Professional Ethics Journal, 6, 1987, pp. 66–81. JSTOR 27799930 (influential)
  • Michael Davis, "Conflict of Interest Revisited," Business & Professional Ethics Journal, 12(4), Winter 1993, pp. 21–41. JSTOR 27800924
  • Michael Davis, Andrew Stark (eds.). Conflict of Interest in the Professions, University of Oxford Press, 2001.
  • Andrew Stark, Conflict of Interest in American Public Life, Harvard University Press, 2003.
  • Sheldon Krimsky, "The Ethical and Legal Foundations of Scientific 'Conflict of Interest'", in Trudo Lemmings and Duff R. Waring (eds.), Law and Ethics in Biomedical Research: Regulation, Conflict of Interest, and Liability, University of Toronto Press, 2006.
  • Bernard Lo and Marilyn J. Field (eds.), Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice, National Academies Press, 2009.
  • Wayne Norman, Chris McDonald, "Conflicts of Interest", in George G. Brenkert, Tom L. Beauchamp (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Business Ethics, Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 441–470.

help with raising COI issue

I suspect a User may be massively editing the article about themself, and related articles, and I'm not sure how to proceed.

I've read the guideline, and sec. 9 How to handle... says to "raise the issue in a civil manner on the editor's talk page..." but the very next subheading is, Avoid outing. These seem to be in conflict. I can't just put, "Are you John Doe?" on their talk page, because that would be outing, but if I say, "Are you involved with COI on any of the articles you are editing," that seems so vague as to be worthless. Given their editing pattern, someone might figure out who I suspected them of being all the same. So how to proceed? Mathglot (talk) 08:26, 4 November 2017 (UTC)

Actually, I don't see much of a conflict from the mentioned point of view.Outing policy is roughly a measure against publishing off-wiki evidence on en-wiki, linking a real-world person with an en-wiki user, irrespective of it's accuracy.

We can obviously ask such statements to J.Doe, in good-faith, if his edits are to a page:--John Doe or something around that.But, if he denies that we can't do much except to aware him about COI (Remeber only the subject does not have a COI about himself/herself.It extends to his/her friends, relatives, staff etc.) and (maybe) use necessary sanctions and blocks on (assumed) grounds of COI but without ever identifying him as the subject, however sure we may be.

If there is a case, where, J.Doe supposedly edits J.Doe or other linked articles and confirms himself to be the subject.Later, the acc. gets blocked for some reason and J.Doe resorts to sock-puppeting in the name of ABraCabra, this time, denying to be the subject.But, if a CU/SPI finds the two linked, it at most gives out a self-declared info that Abracabra was the subject.(Even SPI's almost never link accounts with a real person.) And, there's definitely no outing.Regards:)Winged Blades of GodricOn leave 10:18, 4 November 2017 (UTC)

(edit conflict) It is something to be careful about in my view... but i am very cautious, having been indeffed for violating OUTING while working on COI stuff (I did cite an off-wiki link -- very stupid of me)
Here is my approach--
If the person's username is very similar to their real the article subject's name, you can do something like the section at the bottom of this page, which kind of forks them against IMPERSONATE.
If their username is not similar to their real the article subject's name, you can just give a standard COI message -- all they have to do is acknowledge a connection to the subject, they don't have to say "I am the subject". The acknowledgement of the connection is enough to go forward and explain how COI is managed in WP and ask them to stop editing directly. If you want to use my standard message for explaining why I am bringing this up, giving them notice, explaining why it matters, and asking them to disclose a connection (the goal is dialogue, drawing them out) it is here. If they don't respond, then you can bring it to COIN and just say "this person appears to have a very close connection with the subject of the article". Jytdog (talk) 10:22, 4 November 2017 (UTC) (so easy to be sloppy and bake assumptions in.. fixed. ack. always have to remember that we do not know who people actually are! Jytdog (talk) 19:31, 4 November 2017 (UTC)
Hmm...Soft-blocks for impersonation are definitely a smart way:)Winged Blades of GodricOn leave 10:24, 4 November 2017 (UTC)
I think Jytdog has it exactly right. One point that is separate from the impersonation issue that I think is worth repeating and underlining, because it relates directly to the original question here, is that instead of asking "Are you John Doe?", you can ask "Are you connected to John Doe?" Asking about being "connected" is all you really need, and it is never outing. --Tryptofish (talk) 14:03, 4 November 2017 (UTC)
@Winged Blades of Godric, Jytdog, and Tryptofish: Thanks, these responses have been helpful (and so has T's recent partial revert at COI). In this case, the user name is dissimilar to the suspected real name. To save future q&a of this sort, it would be nice if WP:COI had some suggested verbiage that could be copy-pasted onto a user's page, rather than have everyone coming upon it for the first time have to design their own, and wonder if they're risking outing. I see now the link to template {{Uw-coi}} at the bottom of the page which I didn't notice before (and there's also {{Welcome-COI}}, not applicable for this experienced editor) which could be used, but they sound a bit accusatory, especially the part about paid editing at the bottom, which I don't suspect them of. Would love to have a shorter, sweeter, gentler version, Template:Uw-coi-brief or some such. I was thinking of just copy-pasting the text from uw-coi up through the 5 bullets, and skipping the rest, but I think I like the snippet from Jytdog's sandbox better, and adapted it. How bout this:
Draft verbiage for experienced coi uw with username ≠ article subject name; adapted from Jytdog
In a couple of cases, I changed some wording and highlighted that in green. Changes for style, paragraph marks, and wikilinks are not highlighted. The struck text at "Peer review" is not so necessary, imho, as this is an experienced user.

Wikipedia is a widely-used reference work and managing conflict of interest is essential for ensuring the integrity of Wikipedia and retaining the public's trust in it. As in academia, COI is managed here in two steps - disclosure and a [[WP:Some Guideline Here?|form of peer review]].

Please note that there is no bar to being part of the Wikipedia community if you want to be involved in articles where you have a conflict of interest; there are just some things we ask you to do (and if you are paid, some things you must do).

  • Disclosure is the most important, and first step. While you need not disclose your identity (anonymity is strictly protected by our outing policy) would you please disclose if you have some connection with XXXI will substitute the article name here, either directly, or indirectly through a third party (e.g. a PR agency or the like)? You can answer however you wish (giving personally identifying information or not), but if there is a connection, please disclose it.
  • Peer reviewLinked to policy After you respond, I can walk you through how the peer review part happens we can discuss the peer review process. and then, if you like, I can provide you with some more general orientation as to how this place works. Please reply here, just below, to keep the discussion in one place.
Thanks! ~~~~
And if they do respond, I'll need some additional help to know what to say about peer review.
Thanks, Mathglot (talk) 22:54, 4 November 2017 (UTC)
If you look at my sandbox where you took that stuff from, just below it is my "template" for Step 2 which is about how to disclose, and the very important concrete instructions about how to post things for review instead of editing directly. Jytdog (talk) 22:58, 4 November 2017 (UTC)
Wow, lot of stuff there I missed, and then I see there's a variant, and concrete examples of how it all went. Lots of stuff to digest for someone looking at all this for the first time; would be nice if some version of this got into the guideline with some copy-pasteable boilerplate, and/or template mods or new templates. I'll wait a bit to see if anyone else wants to comment on the adapted draft above; if not, I'll post it, and come back here if need be, after they respond. Mathglot (talk) 23:12, 4 November 2017 (UTC)
I am glad you find this stuff useful. The two-step "templates" are things I have developed and use, trying to keep in mind what this guideline and the PAID policy say, the many perspectives on COI and paid editing in the community, and the many ways that humans can react to this kind of approach.. and i adapt them for each new person I am dealing with. I don't know if they are template-able, and i wouldn't, well, presume to do that myself. If you are interested in making some kind of formalized templates out of them I suggest you try to use them raw a bit to get a feel for how they work and how people react to them before formalizing them. But that is just my perspective. Jytdog (talk) 01:37, 5 November 2017 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── @Jytdog: and @everybody else: Since my original post above, I placed another COI template and request along the lines of our discussion above, regarding a different matter. The article concerned, is Waclaw Struszynski, and I placed it at the creator's Talk page: Gfg1234 (talk · contribs). Professor Gott has graciously replied at my Talk page, here. I think the article subject is clearly notable, the article was a bit of a mess at the outset, but he has been cleaning it up steadily (I helped in minor fashion); those are all content issues, of course, but just by way of indicating that this is certainly not just some non-notable vanity project, and I view the COI thing as orthogonal to that.

So what do I do about the COI issue now, given his positive disclosure? (I.e., now it's the peer review thing? Am clueless what to say in reply.) It's totally fine if one of you wants to jump in and take this one over and respond to him, but if you want to coach me a bit here, that'd be cool, and hopefully will also help spread the workload in future cases, once I come up to speed. Your choice, am fine either way. Mathglot (talk) 06:02, 10 November 2017 (UTC)

Thanks for posting again with the follow up. I took your invitation and stepped in. I moved the reply to their talk page and replied there. The whole thing is at User_talk:Gfg1234#Conflict_of_interest_in_Wikipedia. This person appears to be a "fan", not to have a COI per se. The editing of fans and people with a COI look very much the same. This is the key ambiguity that asking questions helps resolve.
fwiw, when i talk to folks about COI, I want it to be a conversation and not too startling. So in the opening of the discussion, I introduce myself (like I would if i met someone at a conference), and explain why I have approached them, explain that I am giving them a notice of policy/guideline, give it (this is the where template:COI is used) and then follow up with a bit more explanation and the actual request for a reply. ( I also ask them to reply just below, which helps avoid the reply-at-your-page problem).
This person was very gracious, happily... I built in the more human-like beginning stuff because many people respond negatively to these questions being raised out of the blue. again, just fwiw.
But i totally get why the questions about WP:APPARENTCOI were raised for you, and also want to say thanks for helping pull this person into the WP community and our mission.
OH, also... some people react really negatively when you both change the edits they made to the article, and raise the COI question. It can start to feel to the other person like you are personally attacking them in order to contest their edits. People unfortunately do sometimes jump to conspiracy-theorizing too quickly when there are content disputes, and it can ~look~ that way to people who come across the situation later if things get ugly, even if you are completely correct that their edits reflect advocacy/COI. Mixing content and behavior issues can get tangle-y. So in my experience it wise to address the behavior stuff first, before you fix the article. Once the discussion has played out, and you explain how we manage COI or how the person can better manage their own fan-hood as is needed, you can go back and fix the article, with you and the other person on the same page, as it were. Jytdog (talk) 15:47, 10 November 2017 (UTC)
  • @Mathglot:, that editor doesn't have a COI at Waclaw Struszynski (who died in 1980), unless I'm missing something. The editor said he worked with the subject 50 years ago, and that was the last time he had contact with him. SarahSV (talk) 15:53, 10 November 2017 (UTC)

Responding to requests

Regarding how best to respond to requests from paid editors to insert their text into articles, I'd like to add this to the section "Responding to requests" (diff of proposal):

If the proposed paid text is added to the article, this should be done as a regular edit, not by merging the history of the article and the history of a paid draft. Merging histories distorts the article history, and makes it harder for others to see where the paid text begins. The edit summary should include the name of the paid editor, a link to the draft or edit request, and that the edit contains a paid contribution—for example: "Text inserted on behalf of paid editor User:X; copied from Draft:Paid draft."

I wrote this after noticing someone merge a paid draft with the article history, which left the history harder to interpret. SarahSV (talk) 19:26, 20 November 2017 (UTC)

Sorry, I meant to add that I took some of the words from the section on copyright at WP:COIATTRIBUTE, which says:

If editors choose to add material to an article on behalf of a COI or paid editor, they must provide attribution for the text in the edit summary. The edit summary should include the name of the COI or paid editor, a link to the draft or edit request, and that the edit contains a COI or paid contribution. For example: "Text inserted on behalf of paid editor User:X; copied from Draft:Paid draft." In addition to complying with copyright requirements, this transparency allows editors and readers to determine the extent of COI input into the article.

SarahSV (talk) 19:34, 20 November 2017 (UTC)
Seems great to me. Jytdog (talk) 21:32, 20 November 2017 (UTC)
For the scenario that prompted this proposal, the draft article contained a mixture of edits by paid and unpaid editors. I'm not sure that combining all of their contributions into a single edit to the mainspace article is always the best approach. isaacl (talk) 02:47, 21 November 2017 (UTC)
Copying over retains the history of the target page, and linking to the draft you copied satisfies Wikipedia:Copying within Wikipedia. SarahSV (talk) 03:13, 21 November 2017 (UTC)
The issue is that the edit summary you propose is manageable for a single paid editor, but unwieldy for multiple editors, particularly when some are paid and some are not. Perhaps in many cases it is the best way forward, but I'm not certain that it should be the only permissible way, as it requires the single edit to be further traced back by readers to determine what content was provided by the paid editor. isaacl (talk) 04:14, 21 November 2017 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── The problem with merging paid drafts into existing articles is this:

1. Where the draft page and target page have been edited in parallel, history merging can mess up the page history because edits to the old version now appear to be edits to the new one (see Wikipedia:Parallel histories). Looking at the article that prompted this, Forcepoint, you can see that a couple of diffs no longer work. For example, the InternetArchiveBot, "Rescuing 2 sources and tagging 0 as dead" at 15:08, 3 October 2017‎, appears to have rewritten the article. [1] Diffs like this are confusing to future editors, especially in an article with more edits than this, who may want to identify the last non-paid version.
2. Merging the histories of paid drafts and existing articles about commercial enterprises means that we're arguably hosting covert advertising with no way for anyone but experienced editors to be able to work out which edits were paid.
3. The admin tools are needed to merge histories because the target page has to be deleted and undeleted. (There's now a history-merging tool; I don't know whether admin tools are needed for that.) If the admin has been working with the paid editor, this raises the advanced-permissions issue that people have been discussing recently.

I'm therefore proposing (diff of proposed text) that we add to "Responding to requests" that volunteers helping paid editors should not merge histories. Rather, they should copy paid drafts into the target page, with an edit summary that links to the draft (like this), thereby satisfying Wikipedia:Copying within Wikipedia. They should also add that it's a paid draft.

Pinging Doc James, Smallbones, Coretheapple, Kudpung, TonyBallioni, and Dennis Brown. SarahSV (talk) 20:09, 21 November 2017 (UTC)

  • Edit summary attribution is almost always the preferred method of attribution here. Histmerges are pains, and cause issues. There will rarely be more than 2 or 3 editors on a draft, which means edit summary attribution is very manageable. The other method is to have an attribution talk subpage listing all authors who contributed to the text that is merged, and reference that in edit summary attribution. TonyBallioni (talk) 20:17, 21 November 2017 (UTC)
I am only willing to fix well defined errors when it comes to paid editors. I am not willing to support the entire rewriting of articles. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 20:23, 21 November 2017 (UTC)
@Doc James: the proposed text wouldn't actively support the rewriting of articles. It would say only that, if it's done, the page histories should not be merged. SarahSV (talk) 20:26, 21 November 2017 (UTC)
SV I am fine with that change. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 23:58, 21 November 2017 (UTC)
  • I histmerged the articles because that is the normal course of action. Differentiating for paid versus not paid, other than making an edit summary to that effect, is unnecessary. We've done histmerges forever here and it is how we generally preserve copyright and show how the article came to be. In the case given, it is obvious when the paid editor made changes, there is no intermingling of edits. I think everyone is getting too excited because it is a paid editor, but in this case, one that asked for peer review, got it, and made a better version. He kind of had to do it in isolation and merge. Had he not been a paid editor, he would have made the same series of edits. Histmerge is what makes the history make sense and tells you how it got there. If it had been one or two edits by one editor, then a copy/paste would have been the solution, but that wasn't the case. Drmies, myself and another editor made small edits to restore some of the criticism that the original had. Since I don't care about the subject matter, just the neutrality, that certainly wouldn't prevent me from merging after others had agreed the new version was better. There is no need to change anything because nothing was broken, got broken or is broken. Dennis Brown - 02:39, 22 November 2017 (UTC)
  • Regarding issue 1, it's a problem regardless of whether or not any of the editors are paid, so it should be addressed for everyone (for example, ban history merges except under specific conditions). Regarding issue 2, if it's desirable to easily identify paid edits while browsing through an article's history, then we should change the guidance for all paid edits, stating that the edit summary must flag them as paid edits. (Or, as you suggested, make paid editors create a separate account for paid edits, and put "paid editor" or something like it in the name.) It seems odd to only single out this specific scenario, rather than marking all edits. isaacl (talk) 03:53, 22 November 2017 (UTC)
Dennis and Isaacl, see Wikipedia:Parallel versions. We're not supposed to merge histories in these circumstances. That it's paid editing is an additional reason to keep the page histories clear, but of course it's not the only one. The reason for mentioning it in this guideline is that it seems to be happening with paid drafts. Forcepoint is just an example. SarahSV (talk) 04:32, 22 November 2017 (UTC)
Everything happens sometimes; I don't think we should starting replicating guidance for each intersection of two scenarios. If the existing guidance on history merges isn't being followed, then prohibiting it in only one specific scenario seems to be addressing the issue at the wrong scope. We should strive to fix the general case. isaacl (talk) 04:44, 22 November 2017 (UTC)
There is nothing to fix in the general case. Anthony Appleyard handles the majority of histmerge requests and is very aware of how parallel histories work. Documenting it here for admins who do not typically work in areas involving history fixes and copyright is beneficial for them. It is only explaining the general policy towards people who are unlikely to have much experience with it. TonyBallioni (talk) 04:50, 22 November 2017 (UTC)
To be explicit, just deal with issues as they would be normally: if administrators are not using the history merge tool within the confines of the conditions where it is reasonable, then comment on their talk page and discuss the matter with them. If there is a persistent issue, bring it up for general discussion on a noticeboard. If there seems to be an issue with many administrators, then make the guidance more strict. I don't see a need for special guidance related to conflict of interest editing. isaacl (talk) 05:09, 22 November 2017 (UTC)
This wouldn't be special guidance. It'd just be a quick summary of what the standard procedure is. I don't see what the opposition of listing best practices here is for admins who are unlikely to know the shortcut to the actual guidance. Avoiding situations that confuse page histories is a plus and I see no negatives to more admins and editors knowing what the standard practice should be. TonyBallioni (talk) 05:16, 22 November 2017 (UTC)
The proposal isn't to summarize standard procedure; the proposal is to ban history merges entirely. If history merges should be banned except under specific conditions, then it ought to be done for all types of merges, not just ones related to conflicts of interest. isaacl (talk) 05:19, 22 November 2017 (UTC)
That is already the standard procedure. We do not do history merges for simple merging of text. We do basic edit summary attribution. There is absolutely nothing new here. TonyBallioni (talk) 05:27, 22 November 2017 (UTC)
We should just point to Wikipedia:Merging#How to merge for details on the mechanics. isaacl (talk) 05:30, 22 November 2017 (UTC)
This isn't about COI in general, it's about paid edits. The current section on attribution (WP:PAIDATTRIBUTE) assumes that paid drafts won't be added to existing articles via history merges; that's obvious from the way it's written. When that was written, I don't think it occurred to anyone that paid editors would request history merges. So this proposal brings the issue up to date by expanding the "Responding to requests" section. SarahSV (talk) 05:33, 22 November 2017 (UTC)
The current section on attribution applies to conflict of interest editors generally, but that aside, why replicate existing guidance here? Just point people to the procedure for merging content, which already says not to request a history merge. isaacl (talk) 05:39, 22 November 2017 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Because a significant portion of our active editors have no idea how to merge pages and do proper attribution so adding a basic summary in places where people are likely to see it decreases the workload on everyone. TonyBallioni (talk) 05:42, 22 November 2017 (UTC)

Well, it's a balance: it increases the workload of keeping copies of the information up-to-date. But as long as people are willing to do so, it's OK. isaacl (talk) 16:59, 22 November 2017 (UTC)

Isaacl, guidance is replicated all the time. If you want to expand on it elsewhere, you're welcome to do that, but this is a proposal to expand on it here. SarahSV (talk) 05:44, 22 November 2017 (UTC)

Edit summary attribution is the standard for merging content in these cases, not history merges. I don't care about the paid editing stuff here, I just see no reason why we would do a history merge when simple edit summary attribution works just fine. TonyBallioni (talk) 04:36, 22 November 2017 (UTC)
per Tony - I can't see doing a history merge if it is both more complicated and obscures the true editing history. Smallbones(smalltalk) 04:55, 22 November 2017 (UTC)
A histmerge is not so complicated and can't obscure the true editing history because everything is kept intact. Every edit, including the page source of the edits that were merged, which is automatically included in the summary when you do a histmerge. THAT is the reason to use it. THAT is the reason I'm surprised people are up in arms. It provides the most information and full disclosure of source. Dennis Brown - 13:55, 24 November 2017 (UTC)
That is false. Histmerges can obscure the true editing history, and they frequently do. See WP:PARALLEL. I’m not up in arms: I have no clue what article you are talking about. If you histmerged when a simple edit summary would have sufficed, it’s not a big deal, just a one time mistake. What I do care about, however, is making it clear what our attribution policy for merges prefers, which is edit summary attribution. TonyBallioni (talk) 14:12, 24 November 2017 (UTC)
Sure, we've discussed this before. I dislike having every scenario treated as a place to replicate guidance that is more effectively covered elsewhere. After all, the whole point of a wiki is the ability to quickly link to related information and to quickly follow these links, thereby avoiding the need to duplicate info. And why should some scenarios be singled out for replicating info? But if people are willing to keep it all in sync, more power to them. (Maybe some kind of sectional transclusion could be done to help, though that has an effect on the time required to generate a page.) isaacl (talk) 17:04, 22 November 2017 (UTC)
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