Wikipedia:Vandalism

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Vandalism is any addition, removal, or change of content made in a deliberate attempt to compromise the integrity of Wikipedia. Vandalism cannot and will not be tolerated. Common types of vandalism are the addition of obscenities or crude humor, page blanking, and the insertion of nonsense into articles.

Even if misguided or ill-considered, any good-faith effort to improve the encyclopedia is not vandalism. Even harmful edits that are not explicitly made in bad faith are not vandalism. For example, although reinserting it despite multiple warnings can be disruptive, adding a controversial personal opinion to an article is not vandalism. However, edits/reverts over a content dispute are never vandalism, but edit warring. Not all vandalism is obvious, nor are all massive or controversial changes vandalism. Careful thought may be needed to decide whether changes made are beneficial, detrimental but well-intended, or outright vandalism.

Committing vandalism violates Wikipedia policy. If you find that another user has vandalized Wikipedia you should revert these changes; you may also warn the user (see below for specific instructions). Users who vandalize Wikipedia repeatedly, despite warnings to stop, should be reported to Wikipedia:Administrator intervention against vandalism, and administrators may block them. Note that warnings are not always required: accounts whose main or only use is obvious vandalism or other forbidden activity may be blocked without warning.

How to spot vandalism[edit]

The best way to detect vandalism is through recent changes patrolling, using the recent changes link to spot articles with edits that have come from IP addresses, or keeping an eye on your watchlist. The what links here pages for Insert text, Link title, Headline text, Bold text, Image:Example.jpg and Image:Example.ogg are also good places to find many test edits or vandalism. The auto-summary feature can also help users spot vandalism, as can viewing the abuse log. Edits tagged by the abuse filter may also contain vandalism. However, many tagged edits are legitimate, so they should not be blindly reverted. In addition, the edit history of an article may be checked for any recent suspicious edits, and compared with the version after any previous revert or cluster of non-suspicious edits. This method checks many suspicious edits at the same time.

How to respond to vandalism[edit]

If you see vandalism in an article the simplest thing to do is just to remove it. But take care! Sometimes vandalism takes place on top of older, undetected vandalism. With undetected vandalism, editors may make edits without realizing the vandalism occurred, and this can make it harder to detect and delete the vandalism, which is now hidden amongst other edits. Sometimes bots try to fix collateral damage and accidentally make things worse. Check the edit history to make sure you're reverting to a 'clean' version of the page, or if you can't tell where the best place is, take your best guess and leave a note on the article's talk page so that someone more familiar with the page can address the issue—or you can manually remove the vandalism without reverting the page back.

If you see vandalism on a list of changes (such as your watchlist) then revert it immediately. You may use the "undo" button (and the automatic edit summary it generates), and mark the change as minor. It may be helpful to check the page history to determine whether other recent edits by the same or other editors also represent vandalism. Repair all vandalism you can identify.

For a new article, if all versions of the article are pure vandalism, mark it for speedy deletion by tagging it with {{Db-g3}}.

To make vandalism reverts easier you can ask for the rollback feature to be enabled for your registered Wikipedia account. This feature is only for reverting vandalism and other obvious disruption, and lets you revert several recent edits with a single click. See Wikipedia:Requests for permissions‎.

If you see that a user has added vandalism you may also check the user's other contributions (click "User contributions" on the left sidebar of the screen). If most or all of these are obvious vandalism you may report the user immediately at Wikipedia:Administrator intervention against vandalism, though even in this case you may consider issuing a warning first, unless there is an urgent need to block the user. Otherwise you can leave an appropriate warning message on the user's talk page. Remember that any editor may freely remove messages from their own talk page, so they might appear only in the talk history. If a user continues to cause disruption after being warned, report them at Wikipedia:Administrator intervention against vandalism. An administrator will then decide whether to block the user.

For repeated vandalism by an anonymous IP address it is helpful to take the following additional steps:

  1. Trace the IP address (e.g. http://www.domaintools.com/) and add {{whois|Name of owner}} to the user talk page of the address. If it appears to be a shared IP address, add {{SharedIP|Name of owner}} or {{Shared IP edu|Name of owner}}. The OrgName on the IP trace result should be used as the Name of owner parameter in the above three templates.
  2. For repetitive anonymous vandalism, particularly where registered to a school or other kind of responsive ISP, consider listing it on Wikipedia:Abuse response.

Template and CSS vandalism[edit]

If no vandalizing edits appear in the page's edit history, or the vandalism obscures the page tabs so you can't easily access the history or edit the page, it is probably template or cascading style sheets vandalism. These are often not difficult to fix, but can be confusing.

To access the page history or edit the page when the "View history" or "Edit" tabs are inaccessible, use Wikipedia keyboard shortcuts. You can also access the history through a vandalism patrolling tool if you're using one, or by going to another page and using the "My Watchlist" link (if you are watching the page) or "My Contributions" link if you've edited the page recently. Or, enter the URL manually into the address bar of your browser: it will take the form http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Name_of_article&action=edit or http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Name_of_article&action=history.

If vandalizing edits do not appear in the page history, the vandalism is likely in a transcluded template instead of the page itself. To find the template page, edit the article (using shift-alt-e if necessary); toward the bottom of the edit page is a list of all templates transcluded into the page. Look for vandalism in the transcluded templates not protected. Alternatively, look for {{Template name}} or {{Template name|parameter...}} in the text, approximately where the vandalism appears, then go to the page Template:Template name and revert any vandalism. When you return to the original page, the vandalism should be gone, though you may need to purge the page.

How not to respond to vandalism[edit]

  • Avoid the word "vandal". In particular, this word should not be used to refer to any contributor in good standing, or to any edits that might have been made in good faith. This is because if the edits were made in good faith, they are not vandalism. Instead of calling the person who made the edits a "vandal", discuss your concerns with them. Comment on the content and substance of the edits, instead of making personal comments.

Warnings[edit]

Template:WarningsSmall

Note: Do not use these templates in content disputes; instead, write a clear message explaining your disagreement.

There are several templates used to warn vandals. They are listed at right according to the nature and severity of the vandalism. Though some people vandalizing are incorrigible returning vandals and may be blocked quickly, others can be stopped by a simple warning and go on to become productive contributors. If you are not certain that an edit is vandalism, always start with Template:Tls. Conversely, if you are confident that a user is aware of the disruption they are causing, you may start with a stronger warning such as Template:Tls or Template:Tls.

For a full list of user warning templates see Wikipedia:Template messages/User talk namespace.

Tracing IP addresses[edit]

Template:Shortcut The owners of IP addresses can be found using:

If an address is not in one registry, it will probably be in another.

Types of vandalism[edit]

Template:Policy shortcut Vandalism on Wikipedia usually falls into one or more of these categories: Template:-

Type Description
Abuse of tags Bad-faith placing of non-content tags such as {{afd}}, {{delete}}, {{sprotected}}, or other tags on pages that do not meet such criteria. This includes baseless removal of {{policy}} and related tags.
Account creation, malicious Creating accounts with usernames that contain deliberately offensive or disruptive terms is considered vandalism, whether the account is used or not. For Wikipedia's policy on what is considered inappropriate for a username, see Wikipedia:Username policy. See also Wikipedia:Sock puppetry.
Avoidant vandalism Removing {{afd}}, {{copyvio}} and other related tags in order to conceal deletion candidates or avert deletion of such content. However, this is often mistakenly done by new users who are unfamiliar with AfD procedures and such users should be given the benefit of the doubt and pointed to the proper page to discuss the issue.
Blanking, illegitimate Removing all or significant parts of a page's content without any reason, or replacing entire pages with nonsense. Sometimes referenced information or important verifiable references are deleted with no valid reason(s) given in the summary. However, significant content removals are usually not considered to be vandalism where the reason for the removal of the content is readily apparent by examination of the content itself, or where a non-frivolous explanation for the removal of apparently legitimate content is provided, linked to, or referenced in an edit summary.

Blanking that could be legitimate includes blanking all or part of a biography of a living person. Wikipedia is especially concerned about providing accurate and unbiased information on the living; blanking may be an effort to remove inaccurate or biased material. Due to the possibility of unexplained good-faith content removal, {{uw-test1}} or {{uw-delete1}}, as appropriate, should be used as initial warnings for content removals without more.

Copyrighted material, repeated uploading of Uploading or using material on Wikipedia in ways which violate Wikipedia's copyright policies after having been warned is vandalism. Because users may be unaware that the information is copyrighted, or of Wikipedia policies on how such material may and may not be used, such action only becomes vandalism if it continues after the copyrighted nature of the material and relevant policy restricting its use have been communicated to the user.
Edit summary vandalism Making offensive edit summaries in an attempt to leave a mark that cannot be easily expunged from the record (edit summaries cannot simply be "reverted" and remain visible when viewing a page's history). Often combined with malicious account creation.
Gaming the system Deliberate attempts to circumvent enforcement of Wikipedia policies, guidelines, and procedures by making bad faith edits go unnoticed. Includes marking bad faith edits as minor to get less scrutiny, making a minor edit following a bad faith edit so it won't appear on all watchlists, recreating previously deleted bad faith creations under a new title, use of the {{construction}} tag to prevent deletion of a page that would otherwise be a clear candidate for deletion, or use of sock puppets.
Hidden vandalism Any form of vandalism that makes use of embedded text, which is not visible to the final rendering of the article but visible during editing. This includes link vandalism, or placing malicious, offensive, or otherwise disruptive or irrelevant messages or spam in hidden comments for editors to see.
Image vandalism Uploading shock images, inappropriately placing explicit images on pages, or simply using any image in a way that is disruptive. Please note though that Wikipedia is not censored for the protection of minors and that explicit images may be uploaded and/or placed on pages for legitimate reasons (that is, if they have encyclopedic value).
Link vandalism Adding or changing internal or external links on a page to disruptive, irrelevant, or inappropriate targets while disguising them with mislabeling.
Page creation, illegitimate Creating new pages with the sole intent of malicious behavior. Includes blatant advertising pages, personal attack pages (articles written to disparage the subject), blatant POV pushes, hoaxes and other intentionally inaccurate pages. New users may sometimes create test pages containing nonsense or even autobiographies, and doing so is not vandalism, though such pages are normally speedily deleted. Also, creating a page on a topic that is simply not notable is not vandalism.
Page lengthening Adding very large (measured by the number of bytes) amounts of bad-faith content to a page so as to make the page's load time abnormally long or even make the page impossible to load on some computers without the browser or machine crashing. Adding large amounts of good-faith content is not vandalism, though prior to doing so, one should consider if splitting a long page may be appropriate (see Wikipedia:Article size).
Page-move vandalism Changing the names of pages (referred to as "page-moving") to disruptive, irrelevant, or inappropriate names. Only autoconfirmed and confirmed users can move pages.
Silly vandalism Adding profanity, graffiti, or patent nonsense to pages; creating nonsensical and obviously unencyclopedic pages, etc. However, the addition of random characters to pages is often characteristic of an editing test and, though impermissible, may not be malicious.
Sneaky vandalism Vandalism that is harder to spot, or that otherwise circumvents detection, including adding plausible misinformation to articles (such as minor alteration of facts or additions of plausible-sounding hoaxes), hiding vandalism (such as by making two bad edits and only reverting one), simultaneously using multiple accounts or IP addresses to vandalize, abuse of maintenance and deletion templates, or reverting legitimate edits with the intent of hindering the improvement of pages. Some vandals even follow their vandalism with an edit that states "rv vandalism" in the edit summary in order to give the appearance the vandalism was reverted.
Spam external linking Adding or continuing to add external links to non-notable or irrelevant sites (e.g. to advertise one's website) to pages after having been warned is vandalism, or sites that have some relationship to the subject matter, but advertise or promote in the user's interest, or text that promotes one's personal interests.
Talk page vandalism Illegitimately deleting or editing other users' comments. However, it is acceptable to blank comments constituting vandalism, internal spam, or harassment or a personal attack. It is also acceptable to identify an unsigned comment. Users are also permitted to remove comments from their own user talk pages. A policy of prohibiting users from removing warnings from their own talk pages was considered and rejected on the grounds that it would create more issues than it would solve.
Template vandalism Modifying the wiki language or text of a template in a harmful or disruptive manner. This is especially serious, because it will negatively impact the appearance of multiple pages. Some templates appear on hundreds of pages.
User and user talk page vandalism Unwelcome, illegitimate edits to another person's user page may be considered vandalism. User pages are regarded as within the control of their respective users and, with certain exceptions, should not be edited without permission of the user to whom they belong. See Wikipedia:UP#OWN. Related is Wikipedia:No personal attacks.
Vandalbots A script or "robot" that attempts to vandalize or add spam to a mass of pages.

What is not vandalism[edit]

Template:Policy shortcut Although at times the following situations may be referred to as vandalism, usually, they are not considered vandalism, as such. However, each case should be treated independently, taking into consideration whether or not the actions violate Wikipedia policies and guidelines. In addition, if an editor treats situations which are not clearly vandalism as such, then that editor may harm the encyclopedia by alienating or driving away potential editors.

Type Description
Boldly editing Bold edits, though they may precede or be inconsistent with prior consensus, are not vandalism unless other aspects of the edits identify them as vandalism. The Wikipedia community encourages users to be bold, and acknowledges the role of bold edits in reaching consensus.
Copyright policy violations Uploading or using material on Wikipedia in violation of Wikipedia's copyright policies is prohibited, but is not vandalism unless the user does so maliciously or fails to heed warnings.
Disruptive editing or stubbornness Some users cannot come to agreement with others who are willing to talk to them about an editing issue, and repeatedly make changes opposed by everyone else. Dispute resolution may help. Repeated deletion or addition of material may violate the three-revert rule, but this is not vandalism and should not be dealt with as such. See also: Tendentious editing
Edit summary, failing to provide an The edit summary is important in that it helps other editors understand the purpose of your edit. Though its use is not required, it is strongly recommended, even for minor edits, and is considered proper Wikipedia etiquette. Even a brief edit summary is better than none.
Editing tests by experimenting users Users sometimes edit pages as an experiment. Such edits, while prohibited, are treated differently than vandalism. These users should be warned using the uw-test series of user warning templates, or by a talk page message including, if appropriate, a welcome and referral to the Wikipedia sandbox, where they can continue to make test edits without being unintentionally disruptive. Registered users can also create their own sandboxes as a user subpage. If a user has made a test edit and then reverted it, consider placing the message {{uw-selfrevert}}, on their talk page.
Harassment or personal attacks Personal attacks and harassment are not allowed. While some harassment is also vandalism, such as user page vandalism, or inserting a personal attack into an article, harassment in itself is not vandalism and should be handled differently.
Incorrect wiki markup and style Inexperienced users are often unfamiliar with Wikipedia's formatting and grammatical standards, such as how to create internal and/or external links or which words should be bolded or italicized, etc. Rather than label such users as vandals, just explain to them what the standard style would be for the issue at hand, perhaps pointing them towards the documentation at How to edit a page, and the like.
Lack of understanding of the purpose of Wikipedia Some users are not familiar with Wikipedia's purpose or policies and may start editing it as if it were a different medium—such as a forum or blog—in a way that it appears as unproductive editing or borderline vandalism to experienced users. Although such edits can usually be reverted, it should not be treated as vandalism.
Misinformation, accidental A user who, in good faith, adds content to an article that is factually inaccurate but in the belief that it is accurate is trying to contribute to and improve Wikipedia, not vandalize it. If you believe inaccurate information has been added to an article in good faith, remove it once you are certain it is inaccurate, or discuss its factuality with the user who has added it.
NPOV contraventions The neutral point of view policy is difficult for many of us to understand. Even Wikipedia veterans occasionally introduce material which is not ideal from a NPOV perspective. Indeed, we are all affected by our beliefs to a greater or lesser extent. Though the material added may be inappropriate, it is not vandalism in itself.
Nonsense, accidental While intentionally adding nonsense to a page is a form of vandalism, sometimes honest editors may not have expressed themselves correctly (e.g., there may be an error in the syntax, particularly for Wikipedians who use English as a second language). Also, connection errors or edit conflicts can unintentionally produce the appearance of nonsense or malicious edits. In either case, assume good faith.
Policy and guideline pages, good-faith changes to Editors are encouraged to be bold. However, making edits to Wikipedia policies and guidelines pages, such as this one, does require some knowledge of the consensus on the issues. If people misjudge consensus, it would not be considered vandalism; rather, it would be an opportunity to discuss the matter with them, and help them understand the consensus.
Reversion or removal of unencyclopedic material, or of edits covered under the biographies of living persons policy. Some material—sometimes even factually correct material—does not belong on Wikipedia, and removing it is not vandalism. Check to make sure that the addition was in line with Wikipedia standards, before restoring it or reporting its removal as vandalism.

See also[edit]

Tools and guidelines[edit]

Essays[edit]

Meta[edit]