Commons:No personal attacks
Do not make personal attacks anywhere on Commons. Where possible, comment on content or behaviour, not on the contributor. Personal attacks harm the Commons community and the collegial atmosphere needed to create a good media repository. Derogatory comments about other users may be removed by any user. Repeated or egregious personal attacks may lead to sanctions including blocks.
What is considered to be a personal attack?
There is no rule that is objective and not open to interpretation on what constitutes a personal attack as opposed to constructive discussion, but some types of comments are never acceptable:
- Abusive, defamatory, or derogatory phrases based on race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religious or political beliefs, disabilities, ethnicity, nationality, etc. directed against another user or a group of users. Disagreement over what constitutes a religion, race, sexual orientation, or ethnicity is not a legitimate excuse.
- Using someone's affiliations as an ad hominem means of dismissing or discrediting their views—regardless of whether said affiliations are mainstream. An example could be "you're a train spotter so what would you know about fashion?" Note that it is not a personal attack to question an user at their talk page about their possible conflict of interest on a specific article or topic. (Speculating on the real-life identity of another user may constitute outing.)
- Linking to external attacks, harassment, or other material, for the purpose of attacking another user.
- Comparing users to Nazis, communists, terrorists, dictators, or other infamous persons. (See also Godwin's law.)
- Accusations about personal behaviour that lack evidence. Serious accusations require serious evidence. Evidence often takes the form of diffs and links presented on the wiki.
- Threats, including, but not limited to:
- Threats of legal action
- Threats of violence or other off-wiki action (particularly death threats)
- Threats or actions which deliberately expose other Commons users to political, religious or other persecution by a government, their employer, or any others. Violations of this sort may result in a block for an extended period of time, which may be applied immediately by any administrator upon discovery. Admins applying such sanctions should confidentially notify Bureaucrats of what they have done and why.
- Threats to out (give out personal details about) a user.
These examples are not exhaustive. Insulting or disparaging a user is a personal attack regardless of the manner in which it is done. When in doubt, comment on the article's content without referring to its contributor at all.
Why personal attacks are harmful
Personal attacks are disruptive. On article talk pages they tend to move the discussion away from the article and towards individuals. Such attacks tend to draw battle lines and make it more difficult for users to work together.
The prohibition against personal attacks applies equally to all Commoners. It is as unacceptable to attack a user with a history of foolish or boorish behaviour, or one who has been blocked or otherwise sanctioned, as it is to attack any other user. Commons encourages a civil community: people make mistakes, but they are encouraged to learn from them and change their ways. Personal attacks are contrary to this spirit and damaging to the work of building an educational media repository.
Avoiding personal attacks
As a matter of polite and effective discourse, arguments should not be personalized; that is, they should be directed at content and actions rather than people.
When there are disagreements about content, referring to other user is not always a personal attack. A posting that says "Your statement about X is wrong because of information at Y" is not a personal attack. However, "The statement ..." or "The claim made ..." is less likely to be misinterpreted as a personal attack because it avoids referring to the other user in the second person. Similarly, discussion of a user's behaviour is not in itself a personal attack when done in the appropriate forum for such discussion (for example, the other user's talk page, or Commons:Administrators' noticeboard/User problems).
Commoners should be civil and adhere to good etiquette when describing disagreements. The appropriate response to an inflammatory statement is to address the issues of content rather than to accuse the other person of violating this policy. Accusing someone of making personal attacks without providing a justification for your accusation is also considered a form of personal attack. (See also: Incivility.)
Responding to personal attacks
First offences and isolated incidents
Often the best way to respond to an isolated personal attack is to simply ignore it. Sometimes personal attacks are not meant as attacks at all, and during heated and stressful debates users tend to overreact. Additionally, because Commons discussions are in a text-only medium, nuances, and emotions are often conveyed poorly which can easily lead to misunderstanding (see Emotions in virtual communication). While personal attacks are not excused because of these factors, users are encouraged to disregard angry and ill-mannered postings of others, if it is reasonable to do so, and to continue to focus their efforts on improving and developing Commons.
If you feel that a response is necessary and desirable, you can leave a polite message on the other user's talk page. Avoid responding on a talk page of an article, as this tends to escalate matters. Likewise, it is important to avoid becoming hostile and confrontational yourself, even in the face of abuse. Although templates may be used for this purpose, a customized message relating to the specific situation may be better received. If possible, try to find a compromise or common ground regarding the underlying issues of content, rather than argue about behaviour.
Attacks that are particularly offensive or disruptive (such as physical threats, legal threats, or blatantly bigoted insults) should not be ignored. Extraordinary situations that require immediate intervention are rare, but may be reported at Commons:Administrators' noticeboard/User problems.
Discussion of behaviour in an appropriate forum (e.g. user's talk page or Commons noticeboard) does not in itself constitute a personal attack.
Removal of personal attacks
Derogatory comments about other user may be removed by any user. However, there is no official policy regarding when or whether most personal attacks should be removed, although it has been a topic of substantial debate. Removing unquestionable personal attacks from your own user talk page is rarely a matter of concern. On other talk pages, especially where such text is directed against you, removal should typically be limited to clear-cut cases where it is obvious the text is a true personal attack.
Nevertheless, unusual circumstances do exist. The most serious types of personal attacks, such as efforts to reveal non-public personal information about Commons users (outing), go beyond the level of mere invective, and so can and should be removed for the benefit of the community and the project whether or not they are directed at you. In certain cases involving sensitive information, a request for oversight may also be appropriate.
Commons cannot regulate behaviour in media not under the control of the Wikimedia Foundation, but personal attacks made elsewhere create doubt about the good faith of a user's on-wiki actions. Posting personal attacks or defamation off-Commons is harmful to the community and to an user's relationship with it, especially when such attacks take the form of violating an user's privacy. Such attacks can be regarded as aggravating factors by administrators.
Linking to off-site harassment, attacks, or privacy violations against individuals on Commons for the purpose of attacking another individual on Commons is never acceptable. Attacking, harassing, or violating the privacy of any person on Commons through the posting of external links is not permitted. Harassment in this context may include but is not limited to linking to off-site personal attacks, privacy violations, and/or threats of physical violence. This is not to be confused with legitimate critique.
The interpretation of this rule is complex. See Wikipedia:Linking to external harassment for guidance on interpretation.
Consequences of personal attacks
Although users are encouraged to ignore or respond politely to isolated personal attacks, that should not imply that they are acceptable. A pattern of hostility reduces the likelihood of the community assuming good faith, and can be considered disruptive. Users who insist on a confrontational style marked by personal attacks are likely blocked.
In extreme cases, even isolated personal attacks may lead to a block for disruption. Death threats and issues of similar severity may result in a block without warning. Lesser personal attacks often result in a warning, and a request to refactor. If a pattern of lesser personal attacks continues despite the warning, escalating blocks may follow. However, administrators are cautioned that other resolutions are preferable to blocking for less-severe situations when it is unclear if the conduct severely disrupts the project. Recurring attacks are proportionally more likely to be considered disruptive. Blocking for personal attacks should only be done for prevention, not punishment. A block may be warranted if it seems likely that the user will continue using personal attacks.
- Avoid personal remarks
- Casting aspersions
- Competence is required
- Do not insult the vandals
- On privacy, confidentiality and discretion
- Staying cool when the editing gets hot