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Do banned users even matter that much?

Noto Emoji Pie 1f4c4.svg This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.

Banned users themselves deem it to be important to implement reforms, such as making more widespread use of the standard offer, that will allow them to come back to the community. From the banned user's perspective, it may seem very important? But how much do these changes really matter to the community? How much impact would there be if these users were brought back?

First, let's consider numbers. en:Special:Statistics says that there are 130,000 active registered users ((Users who have performed an action in the last 30 days). When one views the source of en:Wikipedia:List of banned users and en:Wikipedia:List of banned users/Banned by Jimbo Wales does a Find All on "{{banned", one finds that there are about 600 banned users. So, banned users are a little under one-half of one percent of the Wikipedia active registered user population. This is assuming that all these banned users would be active if they could be.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that all of these banned users could be allowed to edit Wikipedia without causing problems, and that they would be as productive as the other active registered users. What does Wikipedia lose by not allowing them back? Only a very small percentage of its users. So, in the big scheme of things, what does it really matter? It's possible that erring on the side of banning users and leaving them banned, rather than being more lenient, hurts Wikipedia; but it might be a luxury that Wikipedia can afford.

What are the characteristics of banned users? In total, what do the potential contributions lost to their being banned amount to?Edit

What has been said thus far assumes that the typical banned user is neither more useful nor less useful than the typical Wikipedian. Is this the case? Some banned users are quite prolific, and many are WikiDragons. What harm is done by making this particular breed go endangered/extinct? Are they useful dissidents who play an important role in the ecosystem? Or is it mostly pointless to be a WikiDragon when the rough consensus keeps going against you?

What are the characteristics of the users who would leave if banned user came back?Edit

Some people would probably leave Wikipedia in protest or disgruntlement if certain banned users came back. Are the contributions of those users who would leave a net positive or negative?

Are there some people who would be more likely to edit Wikipedia if certain of those banned users were present? Are the contributions of those users who would join and stay a net positive or negative?

To what extent does banning users succeed at keeping them away? Does it mostly deter good contributions or bad contributions?Edit

It has been said that the whole point of banning users is to keep them from making good contributions.[1] The question is, does it accomplish anything other than preventing them from making good edits?

As a practical matter, a banned user can come back under one or more sockpuppets, if he is determined enough that he is willing to go to the trouble. From the standpoint of a user who wants to make bad edits, it makes no difference whether he's banned or not, because those edits were going to be reverted or deleted whether he was banned or not.

The psychological incentive to sock, for one who is determined to deliberately make bad edits, may be greater than the psychological incentive to sock for one who wishes to make good edits. Destruction is, after all, easier than creation. But it is easy to go astray when trying to analyze what motivates people. Generally, no one takes the trouble to ask banned users what their motivations are, so information is lacking.

What about the effect of chilling speech?Edit

Banning, say, en:User:Tyciol only got rid of one user, but may have chilled the speech of many more with respect to the topics he was editing concerning.


  1. Kusma (13 July 2012). "Wikipedia talk:Criteria for speedy deletion". Have you ever dealt with banned users? It is extremely frustrating, but really, the only way to show them they are not allowed to edit is to remove and revert all of their good edits. (That is precisely what "banned" means: you are not allowed to make good edits. Bad edits are reverted and deleted no matter if the user they originate from is banned or not, so it is really the good edits of banned users that we have to delete, or we never actually ban anyone)