Commons:Disruptive editing

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Disruptive editing is a pattern of edits whose end result is the destructive obstruction of the building of a free media repository. It may extend over a long time. Vandalism is always disruptive, however not all disruptive edits are vandalism. Instances of such patterns should be treated case-to-case, with the consideration as to whether the actions violate Commons policies and guidelines. If a user repeatedly does changes that may not be vandalism, but is driving away potential and existing contributors, that is harmful to health of the wiki.

Disruptive editing is not necessarily intentional. Users may be accidentally disruptive by repeatedly uploading copyright violations because they are not aware of copyright, or they could lack the social skills or competence necessary to work collaboratively. Disruption, whether in good faith or not, is still harmful to Wikimedia Commons.


Wikimedia Commons attributes its active existence and community to its own openness. This openness, however, can sometimes attract people who are acting against this site's mission and vision as a free media repository, as well as people who seek to use this wiki as a platform to promote someone or themselves. While we recognize that constructive users, experienced and newbies alike, may occasionally make mistakes, sometimes an editor may create long-term problems by persistently changing a single or set of pages or files such that they become unreliable for those who rely on Wikimedia Commons like reusers and archivists.

When mistakes and errors are done multiple times without the effort from the performer to correct themselves and prevent from doing such actions again, this can harm the site by degrading its overall reliability and quality, and ultimately exhausting the patience of productive users (who after all, are just volunteers) who may leave the project out of frustration when a disruptive user continues with impunity.

A single edit may not be disruptive at itself, but when looked along with other edits that has the same end result as the single edit, this is a disruptive pattern. A disruptive group of edits may be spread out over time, or close together. They may occur only in one page, or on many. The edits may look similar to each other, or different (while still being against the spirit of collaboration).

Disruptive users may disguise their behavior by making other productive actions, or even pretending that they weren't aware that their edits were disruptive. Despite this disguise, their distinctive traits separate them from productive editors. When discussion fails to resolve the problem and when an impartial consensus of users outside the dispute agree, further disruption is grounds for blocking, and may lead to an even more serious site ban imposed by the community.

Attempts to evade detection[edit]

Disruptive users attempt to evade scrutiny in several ways:

  • Their edits occur over a long period of time, in which case no single edit is disruptive but the overall pattern clearly is.
  • Their edits are largely confined to talk pages; such disruption may not directly harm a file or gallery, but it often prevents other users from reaching consensus on how to improve it.
  • They may avoid making personal attacks, but still interfere with the collaborative environment by creating a toxic atmosphere.
  • Their edits are limited to a small number of pages that very few people watch.
  • Conversely, their edits may be distributed over a wide range of files to make it less likely that any given user watches a sufficient number of affected files to notice the disruptions.

Nonetheless, such disruptive editing violates Commons policy and norms.

Examples of disruptive editing[edit]

This guideline concerns gross, obvious and repeated violations of fundamental policies, not subtle questions about which reasonable people may disagree.

Disruptive users exhibit tendencies such as the following:

  1. Does not engage in consensus building:
    a. repeatedly disregards other users' questions or requests for explanations concerning actions or objections to actions;
    b. repeatedly disregards other colleagues' explanations for their edits or uploads.
  2. Rejects or ignores community input: resists moderation and/or requests for comment, continuing to edit or upload in pursuit of a certain point despite an opposing consensus from impartial users.
  3. Campaign to drive away productive contributors: attempt to exhaust the community's patience by acting contrary to policies and guidelines and engaging in sockpuppetry/meatpuppetry.
  4. Blindly add problem tags on files: tagging files as "no permission" even though such evidence is clearly not needed, and resorting to tagging even if it can easily be corrected.
    Note that this is not an excuse to not add sufficient information to your uploads in the first place. Consistently omitting such information is also disruptive.
  5. Creating multiple deletion requests: this is not necessarily disruptive on its own. While every user has the liberty to question a file's existence on Commons, abusing this privilege is disruptive. Examples of such abuse include (but not limited to):
    a. Creating many controversial deletion requests with the same rationale for each request, and without the effort to clearly explain why the file/s should be deleted.
    b. Creating multiple deletion requests when it could've been opened as a single request containing multiple files instead.
    The opposite can also be disruptive. Creating a single deletion request containing multiple files that are significantly different to each other makes it harder for other users to judge whether the files should be deleted or not.
    c. Creating deletion requests with the sole purpose of pushing an agenda that is not in line with the project's mission and vision.
    d. Creating another deletion request of a file that has been kept, with the current rationale that is not any different from the original.


When one becomes frustrated with the way a policy or guideline is being applied, it may be tempting to try to discredit the rule or interpretation thereof by, in one's view, applying it consistently. Sometimes, this is done simply to prove a point in a local dispute. In other cases, one might try to enforce a rule in a way that makes users disapprove of it, with the goal of getting it changed.

Such tactics are highly disruptive to the project. If you feel that a policy is problematic, the policy's talk page or the village pump is the proper place to raise your concerns. If you simply disagree with someone's actions in a page, discuss it on the said page's or the performer's talk page.

Note that someone can legitimately make a point, without disrupting Commons to illustrate it.

Failure or refusal to "get the point"[edit]

Sometimes, editors perpetuate disputes by sticking to an allegation or viewpoint long after the consensus of the community has decided that moving on to other topics would be more productive. Such behavior is disruptive.

Believing that you have a valid point does not confer upon you the right to act as though your point must be accepted by the community when you have been told that it is not accepted. The community's rejection of your idea is not proof that they have failed to hear you. Stop writing, listen, and consider what the other editors are telling you. Make a strong effort to see their side of the debate, and work on finding points of agreement. "Hearing" doesn't mean you "agree" with them.

Sometimes, even when editors act in good faith, their contributions may continue to be disruptive and time-wasting, such as by continuing to say they don't understand what the problem is. Sometimes a lack of competence can get in the way. If the community spends more time cleaning up mistakes and educating users about policies and guidelines than it considers necessary, restrictions may have to be imposed.

Dealing with disruptive editors[edit]

These steps do not necessarily have to be followed in this order. In some extreme circumstances a rapid report to Commons:Administrators' noticeboard/User problems may be the best first step. But in general, most situations can benefit from a gradual escalation, with hope that each step may finally resolve the problem.

  • First copyright violation by what appears to be a disruptive uploader:
    • Assume good faith. Do not attack the uploader who you suspect is disruptive. However, tag the upload (if you're an admin, delete it) as a copyvio and notify the user of the impending deletion (or of its deletion, if you're an admin). Stay very civil. Do not bite the newcomers, and be aware you may be dealing with someone who is new and confused, rather than a problem editor.
  • If the uploader reverts your tag,
    • Don't act yet. If you realize that the upload may not obviously be a copyvio, convert the tag into a deletion request and allow the uploader to explain why their file shouldn't be deleted. If the upload is obviously a copyvio and the uploader reverts in bad faith (or doesn't understand why their upload is a copyright violation), revert and warn them.
  • If someone is disputing one of your overwrite or edits and reverts you,
    • Don't revert again, yet. Try to seek a resolution, even a compromise, with the user you are in dispute with. If that doesn't work, try to seek third opinions. Only revert to your own version if you have reached consensus with other users. Don't edit war.
  • If they continue to revert despite the consensus:

Disciplinary actions[edit]

  • Disruptive editing may result in warnings and then escalating blocks.
  • Accounts used primarily for disruption will most likely be blocked indefinitely.

See also[edit]