Thursday, July 28, 2011

Neutral Point of View and its Enforcement

The following is an essay I wrote in Wikipedia on January 6, 2008 on "Neutral point of view (NPOV) and its enforcement". Today, the essay might be outdated but serves as a fond memory. Some of my opinions might even be wrong as I pretty new to Wikipedia, eight then.


Adherence to the Neutral Point of View is one of the foremost commitments offered by Wikipedia to students and research scholars. This is crucial as it determines the quality and reliability of the website.

Wikipedia's policy with respect to the Neutral Point of View is pretty contradictory. For example, Wikipedia does not care much if particular topics get excessive coverage while other topics dont even get adequate coverage. However, this is understandable. The main goal of NPOV is only to enforce neutrality and NOT to prevent excessive coverage. As long as points of view are not biased or individuals, organizations,ideologies. etc. are not abused, it is well and fine.

Regarding References


Though an individual is required to maintain neutrality and not to bias his edits based on his point of view he however has full freedom to reproduce from biased sources. However, he should mention his references while quoting from them. For example, if an individual reproduces a point from a source A which is biased in favor of or against an individual called 'person', he should express it as:

"According to A[external link to reference], person is ...."

or

"According to some sources[external link to reference], person is ..."


and not as


"person is ....."


Nevertheless, even in such cases, the editors are required to see to it that the article maintains neutrality. This is achieved by quoting from sources which portray alternate points of view. For example, if a source A accuses the subject of the article (let us say an individual called 'person') of a particular crime and source B rejects these accusations, the editors are expected to mention both sources and not A or B alone.

"According to some sources[external link to reference A], person had surely committed the offense. However, there are other sources which deny these accusations as baseless [external link to reference B]."

However, while individual editors have the freedom to quote from sources which "may be biased" it is not advisable to quote from websites of banned terrorist organizations or extremist groups. Abusing someone's religion, race, political or spiritual ideology and referencing the content with the homepage of some hate group is a blatant violation of NPOV. Hence, in order to clarify which sort of websites can be referenced from, Wikipedia has arrived at clear specifications which are "clean" or "reliable". This of course excludes the websites of banned terrorist or extremist organizations and websites which carry content considered offensive by local or international cyber laws. Referencing from private blogs or personal homepages of non-notable individuals are also to be avoided.


POV and Vandalism


Edits made by new users or users without user accounts are more likely to contain a POV. Hence, these edits are to be thoroughly scrutinized. From my my observations, more than three-fourths of all edits made by users without accounts have been found to contain a POV. Some of these edits might be made in good faith while some of them might be religious propaganda, hate crime or abuse made knowingly. In either case, Wikipedia advises restraint on the part of the Counter-Vandalism Unit. This expectation is quite reasonable as new users are mopre likely to lack knowledge of Wikipedia's policies and their first edit is more likely to be in near complete ignorance of the same.However, a repetition of vandalism isnt permitted and fellow editors are expected to give a stern warning to the vandal. Repeated violation of Wikipedia's policies with contemptuous disregard for advises or warnings might result in the user being blocked.

Administrators and POV


An administrator is the person who is least expected to infuse existing articles with his POV or block user accounts of people with an alternate viewpoint. This, of course, is due to the fact that administrators have enormous rights and virtually control Wikipedia with the ability to delete articles or images or block people . An administrator who nourishes the secret desire to promote his own viewpoint could even tilt Wikipedia itself in his favor. Hence, administrators are chosen after careful scrutiny and examination, the whole process being extremely elaborate and the choice itself in the hands of the few experienced bureaucrats who could be expected to make reasonably good decisions.

Tackling NPOV Violations


Articles


In minor cases, articles containing POV should be tagged with '''
{{NPOV|date=}}
'''. This is applicable in instances wherein POV violations are restricted to a particular section or a few lines(''
{{NPOV-section|date=}}
''for section). Regardless of whether these edits have been made in good faith or not, still they could be easily removed or reverted.In the event of repeated vandalism, a [[#Page Protection|page protection]]
should be requested. There are two types of page protection: ''partial'' and ''full'' and the level of protection chosen should depend on who the vandaizers actually are i.e. whether they are newbies or established users. In cases, wherein an article is replete with POV or is written like an advertisement, then the article could well be tagged for deletion. This is applicable in cases wherein the article has been written for advertising an individual or an organization or a viewpoint and the title of the article itself is a reflection of the creator's point of view.

Users


Users who purposely or unknowingly introduce their point of view into an article should be notified of the rules of Wikipedia and advised to abide by it. Assuming that newbies are unaware of the rules of Wikipedia it is necessary to be kind and helpful to them. However, repeated infusement of POVs should not be tolerated. A sufficient warning should be issued to them intimating them of the consequences of such acts. If the user continues infusing his POV or reverting edits heedless of these warnings, then drastic measures should be taken against him/her. In the case of an administrator, he could well block the user from editing Wikipedia. However, if normal users are involved then he/she could make a post in the Administrator Noticeboard requesting administrator attention to the user's activities.

Page Protection


Pages which have become the target of edit wars or advertisements from vandals or unregistered users are often considered for protection. There are different levels of possible protection for an article ranging from partial protection to full protection. A particular kind of protection are enforced depending upon the extent of vandalism.

Conclusion

Despite the fact that there are so many rules which describe what an NPOV violation actually is, none of us can be certain about what an article should contain and what an article should not. However, we have the sense of discretion to judge to a fair degree of efficiency and correctness when an edit is an NPOV violation. Differences of opinion do exist and what might appear an NPOV violation for me need not necessarily be one to you. In such cases, we need to be more cautious before tagging a particular article. However, there are some edits which blatantly violate NPOV. In such cases, we should not hesitate to affix an NPOV tag or take adequate measures against the editor. In the end, an edit is considered to be an NPOV violation if such is the viewpoint of a considerable majority of Wikipedia editors.

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