Wikinews talk:Conflict of interest

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I have been bold[edit]

I have been bold and tagged this as an official policy. It is largely adapted from the corresponding policy on Wikipedia so there may well be some niggles to work out in how it relates to Wikinews.

  • First off, does anyone object to this being official policy? I was prompted to import it when we had people from the Church of Scientology trying to edit articles about them.
  • Second, although it has been gone through and adapted to suit Wikinews are there any specific areas it does not cover, or covers inappropriately?
  • Lastly, in being bold, tagging this as official policy, and semi-protecting it do people think we should institute a vote instead? --Brian McNeil / talk 10:12, 14 March 2008 (UTC)

Discussion[edit]

  • Support this action by Brianmc (talk · contribs), I think this is a very good idea, especially as applied to groups and organizations, and representatives of those groups or individuals with financial ties to specific organizations. Will go through this and provide some comments as to how it could perhaps be better applied specifically to Wikinews. It may also be helpful to write some kind of a Guide to how specific parties could contribute in a constructive manner, perhaps by placing a fully-formatted and researched article for review on a talk page, or on a Wikinews Preparation subpage. Cirt - (talk) 10:30, 14 March 2008 (UTC)
  • Support On february 10 we got protesters covering their protests. We need this policy.--Anonymous101 (talk · contribs) 06:17, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
  • Support --ShakataGaNai ^_^ 00:52, 20 November 2008 (UTC)
  • comment COI is not a policy on Wikipedia, but a guideline. I do think it may be better as a policy *here* because of the nature of what we do, but don't say it's adapted from the Wikipedia "policy" :) Cary Bass (talk) 01:00, 20 November 2008 (UTC)
Good point. Cirt (talk) 14:46, 20 November 2008 (UTC)

Input[edit]

Hi, Cirt has asked me to offer feedback on this page. Although I rarely log in at Wikinews, I have a lot of experience dealing with conflict of interest issues on en:Wikipedia. This policy could be better than it is.

The policy needs to mimic a real world understanding of conflict of interest. That hinges upon the appearance of impropriety. Partly, the policy is here to protect the integrity of the project. It's also here to help individuals and the organizations they represent avoid harming themselves. The business world in general is not well versed in how wikis operate and often underestimates the danger of a public relations backlash from aggressive editing. When the real world press picks up on a COI story at en:Wiki, in the space of a few hours those individuals often find themselves with a public relations nightmare several orders of magnitude worse than whatever problem they were trying to fix.

Also, the disclosure issue ought to be clear and firm: do disclose a conflict of interest (even a potential one) and disclose it clearly on one's userpage. The benchmark for when and how much to disclose is if this came out by other means, how would it look to an uninvolved observer? Yes, it may constrain an editor's involvement somewhat to have a disclosed conflict of interest. But that's far better than the consequences of someone else bringing the same information to the public's attention.

If people aren't sure what I'm talking about, I could bring up examples from the United States congressional editing scandal of Jan. 2006, the Microsoft editing scandal of January 2007, or the WikiScanner editing scandals. Durova - (talk) 23:38, 17 March 2008 (UTC)

All of which Wikinews has articles on, if anyone wants the "crib notes" version. And I agree that the main issue with COI is to deal with any possible interpretation of impropriety - while I'm personally confident I didn't let my COI influence my interview, I still declared it. Chris Mann (Say hi!|Stalk me!) 23:51, 17 March 2008 (UTC)
I've added a section down the bottom on the consequences of "outing" a COI editor. Chris Mann (Say hi!|Stalk me!) 00:05, 18 March 2008 (UTC)
I was pretty sure you did have articles on those incidents, thanks. :) Durova - (talk) 05:52, 18 March 2008 (UTC)
Yes, and what was a real pain in the ass is the Congressional one was pre-WikiScanner. Amgine and I manually checked the edits from Congress' IP range. --Brian McNeil / talk 11:48, 27 March 2008 (UTC)

<unindend> I have worked in the appearance of impropriety phrase suggested above. Please, please suggest additional items we have to work into this. --Brian McNeil / talk 09:18, 10 May 2009 (UTC)

Template[edit]

New template, see {{COI}} -- Cirt - (talk) 18:34, 9 May 2008 (UTC)

Revision?[edit]

The current policy is missing something. Take the following examples from the lead:

A Wikinews conflict of interest (COI) is an incompatibility between the aim of Wikinews, which is to produce a neutral, article, and the aims of an individual editor.
Where an editor must forego advancing the aims of Wikinews in order to advance outside interests, he stands in a conflict of interest.

To illustrate the gap, here's a review of the Microsoft editing scandal at a sister WMF project from January 2007:

  • Microsoft employees saw a problem with an article.
  • A Microsoft employee approached a blogger and offered to pay him if he corrected the article.
  • Instead of taking the offer, he blogged it.
  • Within hours hundreds of newspapers globally picked up on the story, causing a significant PR disaster for Microsoft.
  • But on the merits, the Microsoft employee's opinion of the article was correct. The blogger would have improved it if he had accepted payment.
  • Therefore, under current Wikinews policy, no conflict of interest policy violation would have occurred.

An onsite conflict of interest policy is useful only to the extent that it mimics real world dynamics. What current policy defines is not conflict of interest, but one possible outcome of a conflict of interest: the scenario where an editor gives precedence to a competing interest whose aims are in active conflict with the best interests of Wikinews. If Wikinews runs a story about Microsoft and an IP edits our story from a Microsoft corporate computer, conflict of interest exists whether or not Microsoft's needs happen to be compatible with the best interests Wikinews. A state of conflict of interest exists even if the Microsoft IP editor deliberately places Wikinews ahead of the interests of his or her employer.

The relevant matter is not whether someone makes bad edits, but the following:

  • Does a state of competing interests exist that could motivate improper onsite action?
  • Would a reasonable person in possession of the full facts view the situation as probably improper?
  • If the general public became aware of the situation, would that be likely to taint the editor, his or her offsite associate(s), and/or Wikinews?

Even though not a single edit got made in the 2007 Microsoft editing scandal and Wikipedia would have been improved it Microsoft's request had been honored, both the press and the public had a very negative reaction because the appearance of impropriety was too strong. This is why I'd like to revise the Wikinews COI policy, so it covers that sort of thing. Durova (talk) 19:17, 17 October 2008 (UTC)

I agree with what you wrote and your above points - but how would you adjust this page accordingly? Cirt (talk) 02:24, 18 October 2008 (UTC)
Here's a suggested draft for the introduction. Durova (talk) 20:02, 5 November 2008 (UTC)
Quote

A Wikinews conflict of interest (COI) is an incompatibility between the aim of Wikinews, which is to produce a neutral article, and other pressures that act upon individual editors.

COI editing involves contributing to Wikinews under circumstances that generate an appearance of impropriety. COI exists in situations where reasonable questions may arise about whether an editor participates in Wikinews in order to promote one's own interests or those of other individuals, companies, or groups. Where an editor may forego advancing the aims of Wikinews in order to advance outside interests, he stands in a conflict of interest.

COI edits are strongly discouraged. When they cause disruption to the project in the opinion of an uninvolved administrator, they may lead to accounts being blocked and embarrassment for the individuals and groups who were being promoted. Editing in the interests of public relations is particularly frowned upon. This includes, but is not limited to, edits made by public relations departments of corporations; or of other public or private for-profit or not-for-profit organizations; or by professional editors paid to edit a Wikinews article with the sole intent of improving that organization's image.

COI exists in these situations whether or not a COI editor actually promotes a competing interest ahead of the interests of Wikinews. The site's readers want to trust that their news is unbiased. Concealing a conflict of interest is not a solution, because when a conflict of interest comes to light involuntarily it looks worse than a voluntary disclosure.

Durova (talk) 22:47, 5 November 2008 (UTC)

That looks like a reasonable rewording to me. (I took the liberty to put your draft in a blockquote to separate it from general talk). --SVTCobra 23:05, 5 November 2008 (UTC)

Issues with the nature of Wikinews[edit]

As I mentioned in my notes on forwarding a proposal to the WMF to fund a professional rewrite of COI policy, there are points about how Wikinews works that need taken into consideration.

  • Volunteer project - nobody forced to do anything
  • Constant contributor-wide COI (like BBC news reporting on other parts of BBC)
  • Integration of COI with other policies - someone looking at the bigger picture
    • Archiving - cf current vote to delete PR-ish article in archive
    • NPOV - a definition that encompasses things like interviews
  • OR - guidelines for conducting research with primary sources and talking to subjects

This last couple of points suggest we might need Wikinews:Ethics as an additional point with special sections for Accredited Reporters.

Thoughts? Other points?

Basically, how can we progress to a list of items where we have 3-4 sentences per point as input to a COI rewrite? --Brian McNeil / talk 09:29, 10 May 2009 (UTC)

[1] - This is a good change. Going forward, I think we should keep in mind the Examples, but particularly keep in mind the case studies of edits made by congressional staff, FOX News employees and a person who was paid by Microsoft. Cirt (talk) 13:00, 10 May 2009 (UTC)
There are limits on how applicable these examples are - having been Wikipedia editing. As a much smaller community, Wikinews tends to catch COI stuff more readily. --Brian McNeil / talk 10:35, 6 June 2009 (UTC)