Directory:Wikiversity/Wikimedia Ethics/The Ethics of Breaching Experiment

MyWikiBiz, Author Your Legacy — Saturday December 09, 2023
Jump to navigationJump to search

Why do people execute breaching experiments? How do they do it? On this page we discuss, analyze, explore, and study why and how people execute breaching experiments — in particular whether it's possible to conduct one ethically, and if so, how they might be designed and executed to best inform policy and practice on WMF projects. People who have formally executed breaching experiments may be asked to provide some insight as to why and how they did it for the purpose of better understanding what motivates people to do it.


please do sign up below

What is a breaching experiment?

Please have a go at your own definition below;

  1. ethical breaching experiment: An experiment which causes no harm in its execution, whilst yielding results useful for the greater good, or which inspire positive change, but which uses methods which may violate the letter or spirit of the guideline 'Do not disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point'

Privatemusings 00:57, 18 January 2010 (UTC)

Wikimedia examples

On Wikipedia Documents the Dr. Handel debacle

Wikiversity case study on the Mike Handel situation.

Report from Limey (link)

I have two lovely fake biographies on Wikipedia that have been there over 6 months. They've both been edited by other people, and contain fairly outlandish statements that anyone with an internet connection should know to be false. If they ever get removed, I'll write it all up at On Wikipedia, but they may perhaps remain forever and gradually become a part of history.

Report from Herschelkrustofsky (link)

Plausible-sounding but fictitious references exist in Little Roger and the Goosebumps, but no effort has been made to remove them

Report from Tarantino (link)

This article on the Himalayan Panda was created on April Fools Day and lasted nearly 6 months before it was [ deleted]. The reference and external link seemed to support it if you didn't read them carefully.

It still lives on in a similar form on Persianne's user page.

Hoaxes not apparently related to "breaching experiments"

Suggestions / Ideas from others

Suggestions from Gomi (link)

  1. Add citations to plausible-sounding but fictitious references to BLPs

and/or health/medical articles. Inserting no actual defamation or misinformation, but supporting statements with fake references will show how open to abuse the Wiki model is;

  1. Create articles on non-existent people and companies. This will be

difficult, but if carefully checked to be non-existent, the harm done here is minimal;

  1. Create fake articles on (non-existent) latin-named plants and animals,

similar to #2, above;

related studies, non 'breaching'

Possible areas of research

Feel free to make suggestions below - you may even be able to make a point while you're at it! (see no.s 5 and 6 below ;-)

  1. Comparing classes of articles - eg. how is unsourced information

treated when added by editors of similar reputation in different classes of articles

  1. Copyright concerns
  1. Academic honesty / plagiarism
  1. "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." -Isaac Asimov
    1. from Larry Sanger to Moulton:

Wikimedia's war against academic scholars

    1. the destruction of content by Wikimedia's deletionists
    2. censorship, bad blocks and bad bans imposed by Wikimedia's abusive


  1. Studying the effect on Wikiversity/Wikipedia relations - are

experimental pursuits into Wikipedia space, amid possible claims that this workshop encouraged, which it certainly did for some time in its initial months, going to result in a polaristation from which participants in Wikiversity are seen as experimental saboteurs, sneaking into the encyclopaedia to damage? Will Wikiversity seem as a hideaway which cannot be reached in which disruptions are plotted and recruits employed? Will Wikipedia editors find themselves imposed upon as unwilling test subjects by this workshop?

  1. Egregious question-begging in Wikiversity



Feel free to answer (please sign with four tildas) below;

  • If an organization is so dysfunctional in correcting its defects that

people are driven to perform "breaching experiments", then is there really any reason to hope that "breaching experiments" could lead to positive outcomes? If an organization cannot correct its problems through conventional means, then won't attempts to use unconventional means simply be crushed/ignored by the people in the organization who already prevent conventional methods from correcting existing problems?

Hopefully not - the understanding gained from considering such

approaches may be valuable regardless, I think. Privatemusings 00:20, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

  • Should any Wikimedia website be permitted to examine, and thereby

provide a staging ground, for testing anothers rules by breaking them?

A difficult one - probably worth looking deeper into [[w:Quality

control]] and things like that to see how other organisations deal with such things. Short answer from me is I don't know. Privatemusings 00:20, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

  • Is this a matter of a playful grey area?
It does seem grey, and it's probably possible to learn from play (as a

principle) but I don't feel this is just a playful grey area, no. Privatemusings 00:20, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

  • Are the links to previous hoaxers etc. a hall of fame, intentionally or


They don't seem to me to have that efect.

Privatemusings 00:20, 15 March 2010 (UTC)


  • I have seen your posts on Wikipedia Review and Wikiversity regarding the subject of "ethical breaching experiments". These generally are not permissible, and your involvement would be particularly unhelpful in light of prior history. Please refrain from engaging in, or inducing others to engage in, this practice. Newyorkbrad (talk) 15:58, 18 January 2010 (UTC)

(newyorkbrad is a member of the english wikipedia's 'arbcom')

  • The only thing I'd personally like to see regarding "breaching experiments", especially that those that deliberately insert bad/false information into articles is: "Don't do them.", personally. They violate WP:POINT in a way that cannot easily be reconciled with further editing. SirFozzie (talk) 01:47, 19 January 2010 (UTC)

(sirfozzie is a member of the english wikipedia's 'arbcom')

  • The Dept of Fatherland Security runs deliberate tests of the airport security system, by having agents see if they can get stuff past the screeners, who are (supposedly) left out of the loop. It's very important QC instrument. But suppose they were total doofuses who weren't doing this AT ALL. And suppose some citizens decided to take it upon themselves, using harmless toy mockups and so forth. Can you imagine the shitstorm? That's rather what we have at Wikipedia. They won't do it themselves, and they won't let anybody else do it, either. — "Milton Roe" (link)
  • This page was deleted, and undeleted, leading to this review.