Wikipedia recently banned its editors from including any messages of support for traditional marriage in their userboxes, but will still allow messages of support for same-sex marriage.
Wikipedia is staffed by volunteers who write and edit Wikipedia articles. Each volunteer has the opportunity to communicate information about themselves via a “user box”. Some editors have used that box as an opportunity to proclaim their support for traditional marriage.
But other users recently raised the userboxes with pro-traditional marriage messages as an issue to Wikipedia, leading to a dialogue among editors and Wikipedia.
In the discussion, the sides were drawn between those on the “keep” side (those who advocated keeping the userboxes with pro-traditional marriage messages) and those on the “delete” side (those who argued userboxes with pro-traditional marriage messages should be deleted).
“Delete” advocates generally argued that pro-traditional marriage messages are “inflammatory or divisive” and “propaganda or advocacy” and thus, violate Wikipedia’s guidelines on userbox content restrictions.
- Orgonebox voted “Delete” : “Divisive, hateful bilge that has no business here.”
- StarM voted “Delete”: “Wikipedia is no place for advocacy toward bigotry.”
- Lev!vich voted “Delete”: “imagine if it was anti-interracial marriage. Some things, just no.”
Lev!vich further went on to argue that pro-traditional marriage messages suggest “that marriage between gay people is not marriage, and this is discrimination based on sexual preference, a type of discrimination that I personally disagree with, but more importantly that the entire anglosphere has outlawed. That’s evidence of the userbox being divisive…”
“…these userboxes add nothing of value to the encyclopedia, but risk doing harm (by alienating editors), and therefore they are bad for the project and should be deleted,” Lev!vich wrote.
“Keep” advocates rebutted that deleting these userboxes and banning outspoken support of pro-traditional marriage would undermine Wikipedia’s policy on neutrality, especially since userboxes with pro-homosexual marriage messages would not be affected.
- Dps04 voted “Keep”: “Given Wikipedia has not completely outlawed any userboxes which broadly relate to discourse in politics and social issues (there is even a Wikipedia page listing such userboxes), it follows that a blanket ban against one side of the debate of a controversial issue flies in the face of Wikipedia’s mission as a free and open encyclopedia.”
- Zoozaz1 voted “Keep”: “Having an opinion, clearly, does not mean you are spouting propaganda simply because another editor disagrees with that opinion; by that logic one could call every userbox propaganda.”
Zoozaz1’s full argument is worth the read:
While I sympathize with not having these userboxes on Wikipedia, I disagree that there is a strong grounding in policy for it.
I’m not quite sure how one can personally attack a family structure; yes, people may feel offended (and they have good reason to be) but you are not personally attacking anyone; you are attacking an institution that some people are committed to and feel strongly about.
While I can’t dispute that this is inflammatory and divisive, so is every single political userbox. That rule seems to apply based only on the preferences of the people who comprise the vast majority of Wikipedia, Western educated men (not everyone in Wikipedia is that, of course, and I haven’t checked anyone’s user page specifically) not on what the other side might find divisive. Huge amounts of the world view gay marriage as inflammatory and divisive; why not delete userboxes supporting gay marriage? The point is that this is an arbitrary and useless critereon that clearly was not intended for a blanket deletion of what would extend to quite literally anything.
Having an opinion, clearly, does not mean you are spouting propaganda simply because another editor disagrees with that opinion; by that logic one could call every userbox propaganda. And there is no evidence that it is religious advocacy, nor is there any mention of religion in the userboxes. “An opinion piece is an article… that mainly reflects the author’s opinion about a subject.” One sentence does not comprise an article.
The debate concluded on September 24th in favor of “Delete.”
“The result of the discussion was: DELETE,” wrote Wikipedia’s English language administrator Sandstein. “Consensus is quite clear, both numerically and in terms of strength of argument, that these templates for display on Wikipedia user pages – which broadly speaking express opposition to same-sex marriage – violate the guideline on user box content restrictions because they are ‘inflammatory or divisive’ and ‘propaganda (or) advocacy’, as prohibited by that guideline.”
The Christian Institute reported that the site administrator, “Ad Orientem”, resigned following this decision, warning that it was “clearly inconsistent” with Wikipedia’s commitment to neutrality.
Ad Orientem is quoted as saying that the vote to delete the pro-traditional marriage messages represents “an ugly tendency to condemn the views of others as outside the bounds of acceptable thought, never minding those views are held by the vast majority of people globally and the followers of most of the world’s major religious faiths.”
Caitlin Bassett graduated from Liberty University in 2017 with her Bachelor’s in Politics and Policy. She grew up in the great Pacific Northwest, but now calls Northern California home as she pursues ministry school.