Wikipedia vandalism

This is not an official policy page (yet). Rather, this is a community-editable page in an attempt to define what we consider to be vandalism. Feel free to edit the text so that it reflects your understanding of the community attitude toward vandalism.
This page is not an all-language policy page. It only reflects an English point of view.

See also: w:Wikipedia:Dealing with vandalism

I know it when I see it

Does it really need to be defined?

It's arguable that most (identified) vandalism has consisted of really quite obvious cases. Hence, Wikipedia doesn't need to define an "official" policy on what constitutes vandalism at all. We can use the rule of thumb, "When a reasonable person might be in doubt as to whether something is vandalism, it would be polite not to call it vandalism."

Of course, that depends on the normative definitions of "obvious", "reasonable" and "polite", which are necessarily subjective.

Patent vandalism is vandalism where both the reader, and the contributor (of the suspected vandalism), agree that it is vandalism. This is sometimes easy to determine (e.g. vandal puts HAHAHAHAHA as their edit summary or otherwise states that it is vandalism), and sometimes slightly harder.

What may be considered Wikipedia vandalism

Since we wish to encourage people to feel as free as possible in modifying pages (see especially en:editing policy and be bold in updating pages), as a community we should, at least in most cases, be opposed to the labeling of any but the most obvious examples of vandalism as indeed "vandalism."

For instance, when someone adds a line to an article adding an insult or profanity, that may be considered vandalism and should not stand. There have been instances where entire pages have been deleted without explanation, or replaced with something that can best be described as infantile, and not anything that anyone would confuse with an encyclopedia article. That too can be considered vandalism.

By contrast with the foregoing, often merely bad jokes and other "nonsense" can be called vandalism, but sometimes they shouldn't be; usually they are simply cases of misunderstanding, confusion, or humor unnecessary to the entry. Such stuff should be removed, but there's little point in justifying its removal by labeling it "vandalism."

The most inviting target for such vandalism is the en:Main Page. Its contents have been replaced dozens of times by anonymous people with off-topic material, which is why editing of the page is currently restricted to Wikipedians with administrator access.

Other types of edits considered vandalism at some point:

  • Using an offensive user name: Jimbo Wales decided that TMC's chosen username was vandalism, a summary of that controversy should be included in this article. -- NetEsq
  • Blanking own talk page (en:User:BuddhaInside)
  • Blanking or putting insanities on other people's user page (en:User:RK)

Vandalism through anonymous websites

Vandalism may occur through websites from which the user can use an anonymous IP address. After their IP address has been blocked, vandals may attack Wikipedia through these websites. Examples are:

Policy pages which refer to vandalism

Wikipedia:Replies to common objections
Wikipedia FAQ
Deletion policy
Speedy Deletions policy

Note for users: If you notice acts of vandalism on Meta, please edit Meta:Requests for help from a sysop or bureaucrat adding the person's IP number, the date and the approximate time (server) of the alleged vandalism. Then put the person's IP or handle in the Summary box and hit save.

See also