Wikipedia:Reliable sources/Noticeboard

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Welcome to the reliable sources noticeboard. This page is for posting questions regarding whether particular sources are reliable in context.
Before posting, please check the archives and list of perennial sources for prior discussions of the source. If after reviewing, you feel a new post is warranted, please be sure to include the following information, if available:
  • Links to past discussion of the source on this board.
  • Source. The book or web page being used as the source. For a book, include the author, title, publisher, page number, etc. For an online source, please include links. For example: [http://www.website.com/webpage.html].
  • Article. The Wikipedia article(s) in which the source is being used. For example: [[Article name]].
  • Content. The exact statement(s) in the article that the source supports. Please supply a diff, or put the content inside block quotes. For example: <blockquote>text</blockquote>. Many sources are reliable for statement "X," but unreliable for statement "Y".

In some cases, it can also be appropriate to start a general discussion about the likelihood that statements from a particular source are reliable or unreliable. If the discussion takes the form of a request for comment, a common format for writing the RfC question can be found here.

While we attempt to offer a second opinion, and the consensus of several editors can generally be relied upon, answers are not official policy.
Please focus your attention on the reliability of a source. This is not the place to discuss other issues, such as editor conduct. Please see dispute resolution for issues other than reliability.
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Contents

The Epoch Times, once again[edit]

The Epoch Times is currently listed as a questionable source on Wikipedia:Reliable sources/Perennial sources and usually described as a "falun-gong mouthpiece" in previous discussions. They have recently come under scrutiny for being a Trumpian partisan outlet as well, to the point where Facebook banned them from further advertising on their platform. At the moment they still have those same video ads running on YouTube, with a guy snapping his fingers to changing headlines, using alt-right bingo buzzwords like "mainstream media", "hidden agendas", or "Russia hoax" that could've just as well come from a Trump campaign spokesperson. I think it is time to reclassify this website in the same category as the The Daily Caller and the National Enquirer. --bender235 (talk) 23:58, 6 October 2019 (UTC)

Bias does not make it not RS as such, usable with attribution.Slatersteven (talk) 08:16, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
Exactly. This is a typical "biased source" and as such can be used per policy with appropriate attribution. My very best wishes (talk) 15:18, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
The Epoch Times isn't a matter of bias. It's a matter that it deliberately and calculatedly publishes misinformation. It should be deprecated. Simonm223 (talk) 15:32, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Bias doesn't make a source unusable, but intentionally misleading its readers does. The Facebook ban was for that sort of misinformation, which I feel is a decent reason to consider them unreliable - Facebook doesn't ban ads from news sources lightly (after all, doing so costs them money.) NBC News' coverage describes them as spreading conspiracy theories about Trump's political enemies, and the New York Times says the same thing, which would at the very least make them a WP:FRINGE source, not one we can really use for very much. --Aquillion (talk) 17:09, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Yeah this isn't just bias. In addition to more or less openly campaigning for Trump, they've got credulous reporting on Qanon and Pizzagate, as well as vaccine scaremongering, and viral cancer quackery. Reporting from NBC News, Buzzfeed make it pretty clear that they're pushing false or misleading viral content related to contemporary politics. This is exactly the sort of content that has no place on Wikipedia. Nblund talk 17:26, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
That does not look good at all... My very best wishes (talk) 18:34, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Blacklist ASAP. How has this propaganda machine not been blacklisted yet? It's really remarkable—it couldn't be clearer that under no circumstance is The Epoch Times a reliable source, IMO. :bloodofox: (talk) 18:40, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Support RFC I'm not sure if this came up the previous discussion, but the Washington Post also reported on some issues with Wikipedia's use of the Epoch Times at the entry for Hunter Biden. This search of main space links turns up a number of cases where they're cited for pseudo-science (this story at Past life regression, and heavy use of this crazy story at This Man), and it is still cited on a number of BLPs and on stories related to Trump-Russia (Joseph Misfud, Paul Manafort). It's even cited at the entry for QAnon. The site is ubiquitous on social media, and it looks just presentable enough that users might sometimes mistake it for a reliable source. Based on this, I think its worth establishing a general consensus. Nblund talk 19:01, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
Support deprecating The Epoch Times as a reliable source per nom and Nblund. See my RfC below re: Media Matters for America. We should not be, either, considering PACs and non-profits directly connected to PACs to be reliable sources. Doug Mehus T·C 00:21, 15 November 2019 (UTC)

RfC: The Epoch Times[edit]

The following discussion is an archived record of a request for comment. Please do not modify it. No further edits should be made to this discussion. A summary of the conclusions reached follows.
Closing per an old request at WP:AN/RFC. There is considerable consensus to deprecate The Epoch Times as a source. While there is extremely weak consensus for the "marginally reliable" and "generally unreliable" options, the arguments presented in favor of those options vary too much to present a unified counterargument, unlike those in favor of the "deprecate" option. Therefore, I say we treat this similar to Breitbart News and Occupy Democrats, in that it can still be used as a reference, just never ever to cite statements presented as facts. (non-admin closure) ToThAc (talk) 17:19, 6 December 2019 (UTC)

Which of the following best describes the reliability of The Epoch Times (RSP entry)?

— Newslinger talk 19:13, 7 October 2019 (UTC)

Context matters: Please indicate if you have different opinions on different aspects of The Epoch Times's news coverage, such as edition (the English edition at theepochtimes.com Ic lock outline 48px.svg OOjs UI icon link-ltr.svg and the Chinese edition at epochtimes.com Ic lock outline 48px.svg OOjs UI icon link-ltr.svg), topic (e.g. Chinese politics, American politics, international politics, and Falun Gong-related topics), and year of publication. The closer is advised to evaluate whether there are separate consensuses for different aspects of the publication. — Newslinger talk 19:13, 7 October 2019 (UTC)

Survey (The Epoch Times)[edit]

  • Deprecate The publisher of such articles as 3-Year-Old Remembers Past Life as Snake and Refugees with two wives in Germany: Both can get social assistance is not a credible source. MarylandGeoffrey (talk) 02:48, 2 December 2019 (UTC)
  • Deprecate ASAP. Under no circumstance should this Falun Gong propaganda machine be considered a reliable source. The links provided by other users above make the source's utter unreliability crystal clear. For those new to the topic, I recommend this recent write up (The New Republic), think Russia Today—as the New Republic article puts it: "The Times has built a global propaganda machine, similar to Russia’s Sputnik or RT, that pushes a mix of alternative facts and conspiracy theories that has won it far-right acolytes around the world." :bloodofox: (talk) 19:24, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
  • 2 or 3 This isn't a good source, but judging by its complete usage, I don't see a reason for general prohibition on its use. The domains theepochtimes.com (English version) and epochtimes.com (Chinese version - is this RfC about both?) are used 1,348 times in Wikipedia. Most that I glimpsed through were rather uncontroversial, especially from the Chinese domain. The discussion above was rather insincere in my view. The Facebook advert ban was due to circumventing Facebook's political advertisement rules, not its news coverage. A QAnon story is being cited in support of deprecating it, but all I see in that story is reporting what the QAnon is, not advocating for it. Yeah, they also have more trashy stuff like the vaccine story as a "VIEWPOINTS" article, but so do many other lower-end sources like The Huffington Post. As for being pro-Trump: WP:PARTISAN applies and it should not be used for controversial statements. It's not feasible to deprecate all lower-end sources from the right-wing of the political spectrum. --Pudeo (talk) 20:06, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
According to the Epoch Times, they are unaware of why they were blocked from Facebook ([1]). Whether that's true or not is unclear, as the source is itself not unreliable, but what is clear is that the Epoch Times is a propaganda outlet for Falun Gong—it's about reliable and journalistic as Russia Today. :bloodofox: (talk) 20:56, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
The articles states If the Q posts are real, they may indicate that the Trump administration has established an alternate channel to speak to supporters, bypassing news outlets and social media altogether for something more direct. They're clearly pushing this as a plausible idea. Also: they were banned by Facebook because they created sockpuppet domains so that they could continue to run conspiracy themed ads that failed to meet Facebook's absurdly lax standards. This isn't just a low quality source. Nblund talk 16:14, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Deprecate. "Context matters" is not an appropriate approach for a source that just makes stuff up while claiming not to - David Gerard (talk) 22:41, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 2. I'd say close to RT or Global Times for Chinese politics and controversial statements, close to CS Monitor or Deseret News for general topics. Epoch Times is a publication associated with a new religious movement suppressed by China. It's obviously biased against China and its ruling party (thus WP:PARTISAN applies), but it runs both ways: Global Times is unlikely to be much better of a source for Epoch Times than vice versa. feminist (talk) 02:48, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Deprecate. The Epoch Times peddles unconfirmed rumours, conspiracy theories such as QAnon, and antivax propaganda, causing itself to be banned by Facebook. See NBC expose, Washington Post article, and NYT article. According to The New Republic, its European sites are even worse, and have become the mouthpiece of the far right fringe. -Zanhe (talk) 05:46, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Deprecate As per sources on the Epoch Times page they "peddle conspiracy theories about the 'Deep State,' and criticize 'fake news' media" and "its network of news sites and YouTube channels has made it a powerful conduit for the internet’s fringier conspiracy theories, including anti-vaccination propaganda and QAnon, to reach the mainstream." AmbivalentUnequivocality (talk) 05:53, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • 2 As I said bias is not a criteria for exclusion. We can use it if we attribute it.Slatersteven (talk) 08:25, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Deprecate - per Zanhe above and MarioGom below. starship.paint (talk) 08:28, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • 4 (Deprecate) or 3 Some news pieces are just fine, but usually a more realiable source exists for the same events. On the other hand, they insist on pushing for WP:FRINGE theories, they use news pieces as a hook for conspiracies (see my comment in the discussion) and you cannot just single them out by excluding opinion pieces. This undermines the reliability of The Epoch Times as a whole. Their magazines include a lot of WP:FRINGE commentary of notable wingnuts and charlatans, which may be useful for attributed quotes of these subjects' views when they are WP:DUE. --MarioGom (talk) 08:34, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Deprecate - per Zanhe--Ozzie10aaaa (talk) 10:13, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Generally unreliable, would need a very strong reason to include this as a source for anything. Guy (help!) 12:41, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Deprecate - The Epoch Times was founded as a propaganda outlet for a new religious movement and has, over time, gotten less reliable rather than more. While it was previously a relatively trashy outlet that was generally untrustworthy for anything controversial but might serve for routine, non-controversial information, it has transformed into a platform for pseudoscience, conspiracism and misinformation. The veneer of respectability and the ubiquity of Epoch Times newspapers in major urban centers makes it a substantial risk as a source of RS-looking misinformation on Wikipedia. We need to eliminate this source once and for all. Simonm223 (talk) 13:33, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Deprecate both versions. A source that merely has a perspective (even a strong perspective) is usable, but a biased source that also spreads conspiracy theories or fringe theories in the service of their bias is not; it's clear that this source lacks the reputation for fact-checking and accuracy that WP:RS requires. Since both versions are under the same management and seem intended to serve the same purpose, neither seems like a usable source. --Aquillion (talk) 15:09, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Deprecate This does not seem reliable, especially given its history of consipracy theories and support of what elsewhere could be considered Fake news. --- FULBERT (talk) 02:07, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Deprecate seems appropriate here because they publish conspiracy theories and hoaxes, and they've willfully mislead readers and advertisers. From what I can tell, the overwhelming majority of the content is unattributed aggregations of other news stories. The writers for the site are doing dozens of stories per day. Jack Phillips wrote 15 on October 8, none of those stories appear to involve any original reporting, and there are plenty of other sources for all of them. The content that is "original" to the site is garbage. They've repeatedly pushed QAnon, and now "Spygate", and their "wellness" reporting is rife with quackery. Stories like this one appear to be unmarked advertising, and they've given over a decade of breathlessly positive coverage of the Shen Yun performing arts company. None of that coverage discloses that the performing group is a project of the Falun Gong. Obviously there are worse sources out there, but this one seems to pose a high risk of causing a problem here because they have the look of a credible website Nblund talk 16:57, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Deprecate. No reason for an encyclopedia to use such a low-quality publication. Neutralitytalk 18:20, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 2- per feminist and Slatersteven. --ColumbiaXY (talk) 19:00, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 3 (first choice) or "2" (second choice). Looks similar to Fox news or RT (Russia). My very best wishes (talk) 20:25, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Deprecate/Option 4 Too unreliable. If they have reliable articles, it will be covered by other news outlets too. The Banner talk 21:21, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 3 I dislike the trend towards deprecating sources willy-nilly. I think it should be reserved for extreme cases. I looked at some of the examples of allegedly "fake" reporting listed here, and my impression was that the Epoch Times was writing a story about something that didn't need a story written about it, but I didn't see anything that was obviously false. That said, I couldn't find a corrections page on their site, so I'd go with option 3. Adoring nanny (talk) 00:07, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
  • 1, 2, or 3 - depends on the context I think, and not a broad category. Cheers Markbassett (talk) 03:46, 16 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 4 or possibly 3, per Nblund. If a person with a Wikipedia article wrote an opinion piece that appeared on Epoch Times, I'd first ask myself why they couldn't get it published elsewhere, and potentially use it with direct attribution, but never for regular news reporting. I don't think they'd tamper with other people's opinion pieces but that's a low bar. Anything Epoch Times can provide reliable coverage for should have reliable coverage elsewhere.-Ich (talk) 21:54, 16 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 4 per Zanhe and others above. Bobbychan193 (talk) 06:20, 21 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 4 - Epoch Times is an unreliable source, publishing alarmist "news" stories that are often fringe theories or conspiracy theories. Definitely not up to the standards of Wikipedia for a reliable source. Netherzone (talk) 12:35, 21 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Deprecate - Epoch Times has always been unreliable for Chinese political news, but it seems to have been moving toward fringe conspiracy theories on a host of other issues, as others have highlighted. I don't think it meets our standards for general usage.--Danaman5 (talk) 00:49, 22 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 4 / Deprecate: There's been weak to no support in this discussion for ET's journalistic integrity. Per :bloodofox: and Nblund: while the patently partisan bias alone isn't enough to justify its deprecation, there's been much ado about how far their writers will alter their stories to sway readers towards their own views. →‎ GS →‎ → 10:12, 22 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 2 or 3: They cover conspiracy theories as conspiracy theories. They're not trying to say any of that nonsense is true, just that it's a notable part of the discourse. And the "mouthpiece" argument makes no sense given that 99% of their article are not about that. Are newspapers started by Christians automatically mouthpieces for Christianity? Connor Behan (talk) 17:21, 26 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 3 - Generally unreliable but not completely useless as a source in all contexts. Horse Eye Jack (talk) 22:55, 27 October 2019 (UTC)
  • 2 to 4 Sometimes they have excellence interview with notable people. Sometimes their news reporting are so exclusively that either they have very good insider, or just fabricating the news. For example, claiming Sing Tao Daily (Canada) moved their editorial board to Mainland China. Matthew hk (talk) 10:31, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Options 2 To be evaluated case by case. Even NY Times publishes rot sometimes. Lightburst (talk) 18:18, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 4 while I wouldn't support deprecating all religious sources, The Epoch Times seems to be one that clearly crosses the line and is perfectly willing to publish nonsense. Nil Einne (talk) 09:19, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 3 or Option 2 per above. Doug Mehus T·C 00:22, 15 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 2 narrative not in line with other major media outlets. Biased towards politics in China. --Rgb128 (talk) 09:22, 23 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Deprecate. I can´t imagine any high quality encyclopedia using The Epoch Times as a source. JimRenge (talk) 18:18, 28 November 2019 (UTC) (orig. added 03:10, 28 November 2019)
  • Deprecate per zanhe. If other sources are available, they should be used. If no other source is available, then it'd be better to include nothing. Ralbegen (talk) 01:30, 3 December 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 4 - Deprecate: After reading about the concerns brought here, the site does alarmist and plainly strange stories that do not make a good reliable source.----ZiaLater (talk) 17:55, 4 December 2019 (UTC)
  • Deprecate: Its reports have strong bias, and sometimes nonsense.--【wopingzisoeng】💬📝 16:21, 6 December 2019 (UTC)

Discussion (The Epoch Times)[edit]

Notified: Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Medicine MarioGom (talk) 08:54, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Why are we even having this discussion? Did someone blank Wikipedia:RSCONTEXT without telling me? Does the FAQ at WT:V which has said "The reliability of a source is entirely dependent on the context of the situation, and the statement it is being used to support" for years, suddenly disappear? This source, like every other source, can only be judged to be reliable in context. It's not "reliable" or "not reliable". As a general rule, this source is going to be "reliable for certain narrowly written and carefully contextualized statements". It may be best to use it with WP:INTEXT attribution. It may not be the best possible source for general information. But reliability is not a yes-or-no situation. The whole concept behind this RFC (also: an RFC on a high-traffic noticeboard? What's going on with that?) is flawed. WhatamIdoing (talk) 15:36, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
    • We're having this conversation because the argument has been made that this outlet has equivalent reliability to sources like The Daily Mail and The National Enquirer while still being used as a source in multiple articles. As it is actively anti-reliable as a source, site-wide action is necessary. Simonm223 (talk) 15:42, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
      • Was there a series of real dispute that editors had difficulty resolving? I'm not seeing evidence of that. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:40, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
    • WhatamIdoing: Sources can be used in certain contexts even if they are WP:DEPRECATED. You may have to argue with someone who thinks that deprecated means completely blacklisted, but it should be ok otherwise if it is justified. Do you see any problem with this specific RfC? Or you are against the source deprecation process itself, or maybe the perennial sources list? --MarioGom (talk) 19:40, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
      • I'm against anything that indicates to other editors that the rest of us think don't think they can figure out how to write a decent article without the rest of us telling them to follow some more rules first. People with a classical education might be thinking about the Woes of the Pharisees here, and I admit that it's not far from my mind.
        MarioGom, I see your account is just two and a half years old, so you probably don't remember when Wikipedia:Ignore all rules was taken seriously as a policy, when the article was more important than the rules, and when "You may have to argue with someone" to be permitted to do what was right by an article meant that a policy or process was fundamentally broken. If RS/P results in editors having to argue with mindless rule-followers about whether it's okay to improve an article, and if it's putting the emphasis on what's "allowed" instead of what's best for the article, then I'll be against it. If it provides practical help to editors writing articles, then I'll be all for it. Perhaps you can tell me which category you think it's most likely to fall into. So far, all I see is that the list grows endlessly, and it is largely populated by people who aren't creating much content, and largely used by people who aren't genuinely trying to figure out whether a source is desirable in a particular article. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:52, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
        • The way I look at it (certainly others may feel differently) is that, given the (absolutely appropriate) emphasis on Reliable Sourcing, the RS/P is an incredibly useful tool, especially for new editors who may not have a firm grasp on what constitutes a reliable source or know how to dig through the RSN archives. I know it certainly was for me. I also believe that its usefulness is directly connected to its accuracy, and these discussions help to improve that accuracy by giving an accurate measure of a source's basic credibility. Even RSCONTEXT says "In general, the more people engaged in checking facts, analyzing legal issues, and scrutinizing the writing, the more reliable the publication." Discussions like this help us assign a rough reliability, according to this exact metric, to sources. Yes, context is still important, but that doesn't mean that the New York Times and the National Enquirer should be treated the same, as if they each require the same amount of scrutiny to determine whether a given article in either is acceptable to cite for an article here. AmbivalentUnequivocality (talk) 21:15, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
          • AmbivalentUnequivocality, could you explain that bit about RSCONTEXT better? I'm not sure how it relates. That sentence, in plain English, means "The New York Times, which has more than four thousand employees, is usually more reliable than little tiny newspapers like The Mulberry Advance, whose sole employee has to do everything from selling subscriptions to writing articles to sweeping the floor". I don't see how any discussion on Wikipedia could realistically "help to improve that accuracy", because "according to this exact metric", the only way for a source to become more reliable is to hire more journalists. The number of Wikipedians involved in these RFCs is irrelevant "according to this exact metric". "This exact metric" is about what they do, not about what we do. WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:37, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
            • WhatamIdoing Certainly. My reading on that sentence is slightly different than yours. I don't see it as being the same as "More employees = more reliable" because not all publications utilize their employees the same way. It is about how many people are actually engaged in checking facts, analyzing legal issues, and scrutinizing the writing. More employees does not necessarily mean that they have more people doing those things. A large paper could employ thousands of people and still not commit any sizable number of them to fact checking, and a small paper could have relatively few employees but still conduct robust and thorough fact checking on what material they publish. It is what they do with their employees, and how well they do it, that matters. Yes, this metric is about what they do, but our part in it is elucidating what it is that they are doing. Our part is figuring out how robust their reputation for fact checking is, how strong their editorial oversight is, how readily they retract and correct errors. Publications that knowingly publish false claims, or unknowingly publish easily disprovable ones, clearly show a lack of such robustness. We can improve the RS/P by accurately assessing how well a given publication commonly meets these criteria. There is value in having a list that accurately represents the general quality of various sources according to the established criteria of what constitutes reliability, but to do that we must determine how well a given source meets those criteria. I believe that is something we can do, and I believe that discussions like this aid in achieving that goal. Treating every source as though they are all equally likely to produce reliable reporting seems shortsighted to me. Yes, reliability is about what they do. Our discussions do not make a publication reliable or unreliable. But our discussions do help accurately assess whether they are doing the things that are considered indicative of general reliability (Robust fact checking, editorial oversight, etc.), or whether they are engaged in behavior that is indicative of pervasive unreliability (Intentionally publishing false or misleading claims, pushing fringe conspiracy theories, etc.) AmbivalentUnequivocality (talk) 07:20, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
        • WhatamIdoing: So if I understand correctly, you are against the deprecation of sources itself or this kind of RfC, but you have no particular concern about this specific RfC. I can understand that. It has certainly been problematic for me in the past. For example, when spotting an inaccurate story published at a sourced marked as generally reliable on perennial sources. But that's beyond the scope here, I guess. --MarioGom (talk) 21:40, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
          • That's the issue as I see it, and not beyond consideration here, that commentary must be distinguished from credible news, even in articles that are reporting some news. A neutral point of view doesn't sell many books or newspapers. Jzsj (talk) 07:13, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
            • Frankly I think the use of newsmedia is generally inappropriate for an encyclopedia and leads to many of our woes surrounding WP:RECENTISM, WP:10YT and WP:DUE across the site. When a newsmedia source compounds this problematic character by straight-up fabricating news to push a POV, well, if I think we shouldn't be leaning so hard on the NYT you can imagine what I think about such tabloids. And the Epoch Times, which was founded with the intent of being used as a propaganda outlet is one of the worst of a bad bunch. I'm sure an WP:IAR case might exist where deprecation might prove a challenge, but honestly I don't see it. And avoiding a 99% improvement to avoid a 1% chance of future impediments seems like weak cost-benefit analysis. Simonm223 (talk) 12:06, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
            • ^agreed. The consensus on deprecation can always change, but I have spent some time browsing the site, and I really haven't found a single story that appears reliable and not covered by a more reputable source. The Washington Post reports that the majority of the staffers are mostly part-time/volunteers rather than journalists, so it seems pretty unlikely that you're going to see any real reporting coming from them. Nblund talk 17:07, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
              • I agree with Jzsj's point. That's why we avoid {{one source}} articles. Librarians make a distinction between having "a balanced book" and "a balanced library": while there's a place in the world for a balanced book (history textbooks for schoolchildren spring to mind as an example), it's usually better to have multiple books (e.g., a book about a war that argues persuasively that it was all economics, a book that promotes the diplomatic aspects, a book that that focuses on the Great man theory, etc., so that you end up with a balanced view). But you have to read multiple sources to figure out where the sources differ from each other.
                Simonm223, it's always good to find an idealist on the English Wikipedia. ;-)
                Nblund, I believe that's true. However, the definition of "reliable" isn't "the most reputable source we could use for this statement". "Barely reliable" is still reliable. (IMO this source is probably "reliable enough" for some claims. You won't see me seeking it out, however.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:14, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
            • Just a warning even about high school history books. It's reliably reported that conservative groups attend trustees meetings as in Texas and New York, and any trustee who approves of a book that criticizes capitalism or American democracy is "history". The few publishers don't take a chance with such books. To get a more objective course in American history one needs to use a college textbook. Jzsj (talk) 17:46, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
As this RfC has run for 30 days, I've submitted a request for closure at WP:RFCL § Wikipedia:Reliable sources/Noticeboard#RfC: The Epoch Times. — Newslinger talk 01:31, 7 November 2019 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the debate. Please do not modify it. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Is Quackwatch an SPS and thus not allowed as a source on BLPs?[edit]

WP:SPS says: Never use self-published sources as third-party sources about living people, even if the author is an expert, well-known professional researcher, or writer. (emphasis in original)

Prior RSNB discussions
"Why are we throwing skepticism out the window because of the specific wording of Wikipedia policy, when the obvious intent of Wikipedia's sourcing policies are to keep us citing independent, reliable sources instead of those with a vested interest in promoting their employers' products?"
(No mention of SPS)
(No mention of SPS)
(Mentions Quackwatch and whether a book criticizing Quackwatch is an SPS, but no discussion about Quackwatch being an SPS)
(No mention of SPS)
(No mention of SPS)
"WP:SPS allows for this sort of sources "when produced by an established expert on the topic of the article whose work in the relevant field has previously been published by reliable third-party publications.": This guy meets this with flying colors for the field of medicine and of quackery in medicine" but no actual discussion about whether Quackwatch is an SPS
(Discussion about SPS in the last four comments of the thread)
(No mention of SPS)
(No mention of SPS, but the article being discussed is a BLP)
(No mention of SPS)
(Discussion about Quackwatch, No mention of SPS)
"[Climatefeedback.org is] Not technically WP:SPS. In order to be "self-published", a website must be under the sole proprietorship of a single person or definable ideological group. This is not the case with this source which is simply a fact-checking website. Compare Snopes, TalkOrigins, or Quackwatch"

Is Quackwatch a WP:SPS? Should it be excluded as a source on WP:BLPs? --Guy Macon (talk) 16:13, 2 November 2019 (UTC)

Depends, no it should not be used (as long as it is an SPS per wp:sources for opinions about people, it could be used for critical analysis of their claims (but it would have to be their claims, not them).Slatersteven (talk) 16:16, 2 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Why are we starting this discussion when the discussion at BLPN is ongoing? GMGtalk 16:19, 2 November 2019 (UTC)
And [[3]] and [[4]]. But this is (I think) a better venue as this is about RS policy and what constitutes an SPS.Slatersteven (talk) 16:23, 2 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes, it's a self-published source and should not, per WP:BLPSPS, be used in BLPs or as a source on living persons elsewhere. That includes not using it for their claims. If there are no RS discussing the claims, then don't include those claims. Otherwise, we're violating WP:DUE, then violating WP:BLPSPS to demolish the UNDUE additions. SarahSV (talk) 19:34, 2 November 2019 (UTC)
As this is already being discussed at WP:BLPN#Quackwatch as a source on living person articles, is Quackwatch a SPS? it's not a good idea to bring it here as well. I wonder what would happen if there was a big disagreement between the two forums? Doug Weller talk 19:43, 2 November 2019 (UTC)
  • To avoid the potential for conflicting results... I suggest we simply close this discussion, and invite everyone to participate at the discussion at BLPN. Blueboar (talk) 22:19, 2 November 2019 (UTC)
  • I strongly disagree. BLPN is clearly the wrong place to talk about whether a source is a SPS. I propose that we recognize that the BLPN discussion is in the wrong venue and make the move in the other direction, leaving a link. Please respond in the "Proposed move" section below. --Guy Macon (talk) 00:12, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
  • We've been having this exact discussion about this exact article for over a decade, for the exact same reason: Null demanding that QuackWatch be removed, issuing legal threats demanding that, and sending people here to argue for it. The conclusion is always the same: QuackWatch is a reliable source for discussion of quacks and quackery. Guy (help!) 23:04, 2 November 2019 (UTC)
  • What Guy says. WBGconverse 05:45, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
Then WP:RSPSOURCES needs to be changed, because it does not say that. So it is giving the wrong advice, and is misleading, thus this will not go away.Slatersteven (talk) 09:32, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes Quackwatch is an SPS. Yes it should be excluded as a source for BLPs because is not a reliable source for BLPs (and probably most everything else) per WP:BLPSPS. It is self-published and it appears to lack independent editorial control. WP:USEBYOTHERS is weak. It is cited by publishers like the New York Post, AlterNet, the Daily Beast, Fox News, and Time. Although less of a concern, there is no evidence that the editorial process is independent of the commercial interest of the site (referral income from medically related products/services). On background, the owner of Quackwatch is a Psychiatrist who has not practiced medicine for 26 years.[5] Even if this blog were not self published, the principle that, if something is noteworthy enough for inclusion in an encyclopedia, it will have reported by other reliable sources, applies.- MrX 🖋 11:46, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Question - If the argument is that Quackwatch is SPS, and thus not appropriate as a source in a BLP... what about non-biographical articles about fringe medical practices or theories? Can we use it to say the practice or theory is “quackery”... but NOT use it to label the main proponent as “a quack” (etc). Blueboar (talk) 13:29, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
To that point, if we had enough information for a standalone article on an fringe medical practices, that would 100% need to be supported by MEDRS-based sourcing (otherwise it would fail MEDRS). And to that end, if we are truly talking a fringe medical practice, the MEDRS sourcing is going to point that out, eliminating the need for QW, or at least no longer making it the only source to call it out. --Masem (t) 14:05, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
Yes, this is about BLP's only. There is no blanket ban on SPS's (as far as In know) for anything else.Slatersteven (talk) 14:27, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
Ok... now let’s explore the grey area: non-biographical sections contained within biographical articles. It is not uncommon for a BLP about fringe proponents to contain a section outlining their theories/practices. Can SPS be used in these sections? Blueboar (talk) 16:25, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
I would (as we do about ourselves) comment on content not the proponent. So it could be used to critique specific ideas, but not to call them names.Slatersteven (talk) 16:30, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
Sounds reasonable. Blueboar (talk) 16:45, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
I'm not convinced that this source should be used anywhere without attribution. I also don't think we should WP:LABEL people as quacks or things as quackery, and certainly never in Wikipedia's voice. - MrX 🖋 18:47, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
Yes, it should be used with attribution.
If reliable sources label people "quacks", then we do so.
Labeling things "quackery" (or something similar, such as "pseudoscience") is often required per FRINGE. --Ronz (talk) 20:39, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
WP:FRINGE is a content guideline, and as a guideline does not 'require' anything, it suggests.Dialectric (talk) 15:20, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Quackwatch should not be used for biographical information where BLP applies. Quackwatch most certainly can be used in articles about a living person. --Ronz (talk) 16:04, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
  • While there may be some merit to limiting the use of SPS for talking about the person, experts can still be used for content about the person's actions and claims. QW and Barrett are such experts. BTW, keep in mind that much of the content at QW is not written by Barrett, so SPS does not apply. Those who appeal for blanket deprecation of QW are pretty clueless about the website and its content. This must be done on a case by case basis, just as with any other website. That is also the consensus in the many RfCs about QW. -- BullRangifer (talk) 16:58, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
It is a SPS and in any case its expertise is in fake medicine, not biographies. If an actor says they never get colds because they drink orange juice, then (depending on how they feel about them), tendentious editors will change the lead in their article to "actor and quack medicine advocate" and half the article will be about why vitamin C does not prevent colds. Besides, if information about an individual is ignored in mainstream media and reliable published books and articles, it lacks weight for inclusion in a BLP. TFD (talk) 17:41, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
Dictionary definitions
  • Dictionary.com[6]
A theory that rejects the standard explanation for an event and instead credits a covert group or organization with carrying out a secret plot: One popular conspiracy theory accuses environmentalists of sabotage in last year's mine collapse.
A belief that a particular unexplained event was caused by such a covert group: A number of conspiracy theories have already emerged, purporting to explain last week's disappearance of a commercial flight over international waters.
The idea that many important political events or economic and social trends are the products of deceptive plots that are largely unknown to the general public:
  • Merriam Webster:[7]
A theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators
  • The Free Dictionary:[8]
A theory seeking to explain a disputed case or matter as a plot by a secret group or alliance rather than an individual or isolated act.
The belief that the government or a covert organization is responsible for an event that is unusual or unexplained, esp when any such involvement is denied
  • Collins Dictionary:[9]
A conspiracy theory is a belief that a group of people are secretly trying to harm someone or achieve something. You usually use this term to suggest that you think this is unlikely.
  • Lexico (Oxford):[10]
A belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for an unexplained event.
  • Your Dictionary:[11]
Any theory that purports to explain something by ascribing it to collusion among powerful conspirators: a usually dismissive term implying that the theory is far-fetched, paranoid, etc. (Definition is from Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition)
A hypothesis alleging that the members of a coordinated group are, and/or were, secretly working together to commit illegal or wrongful actions including attempting to hide the existence of the group and its activities. In notable cases the hypothesis contradicts the mainstream explanation for historical or current events. [1960s]
(Dismissive, derogatory) Hypothetical speculation that is commonly considered untrue or outlandish.
Usage notes: The phrase conspiracy theory is sometimes used in an attempt to imply that hypothetical speculation is not worthy of serious consideration, usually with phrasing indicative of dismissal (e.g., "just a conspiracy theory"). However, any particular instance of use is not necessarily pejorative. Some consider it inappropriate to use the phrase "conspiracy theory" in an attempt to dismissively discredit hypothetical speculation in any form.

...but of course we are an encyclopedia, not a dictionary, so please see:

Conspiracy theory, an attempt to explain harmful or tragic events as the result of the actions of a small, powerful group. Such explanations reject the accepted narrative surrounding those events; indeed, the official version may be seen as further proof of the conspiracy...
The content of conspiracy theories is emotionally laden and its alleged discovery can be gratifying. The evidentiary standards for corroborating conspiracy theories is typically weak, and they are usually resistant to falsification. The survivability of conspiracy theories may be aided by psychological biases and by distrust of official sources.
A conspiracy theory is an explanation of an event or situation that invokes a conspiracy by sinister and powerful actors, often political in motivation, when other explanations are more probable. The term has a pejorative connotation, implying that the appeal to a conspiracy is based on prejudice or insufficient evidence. Conspiracy theories resist falsification and are reinforced by circular reasoning: both evidence against the conspiracy and an absence of evidence for it, are re-interpreted as evidence of its truth, and the conspiracy becomes a matter of faith rather than proof.

--Guy Macon (talk) 19:31, 3 November 2019 (UTC)

  • Quackwatch is perfectly appropriate for articles on BLPs and is not really a SPS. It is peer reviewed. It is published by an organization with a reputation for accuracy. It deals with a topic area in which a lot of people are trying to promote themselves and provides a rare bit of balance. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 09:25, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
agree w/ Doc James, Quackwatch should be used for BLPs--Ozzie10aaaa (talk) 13:02, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
I think you are confused Quackwatch today with how Quackwatch operated 11 years ago. Today it isn't published by an organisation - it is fully owned by Steven Barrett. It is also not "peer reviewed" in the academic sense, but instead Barrett sometimes (and not always) has articles checked by an anonymous expert before he publishes them. It may well be a reliable source, but to say that articles written by Barrett, edited by Barrett and then posted to Barrett's own website by Barrett based on Barrett's decision to do so are anything other than self published is a bit of a stretch. - Bilby (talk) 09:33, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
Describing Quackwatch as 'peer reviewed' threatens to degrade the concept of peer review. The site currently has no public peer review policy, editorial policy, or ombudsman; together, this typically indicates lower quality and reliability. Along with the indications that this is largely the work of Barrett himself with little outside input, describing this site as a SPS or personal blog seems more accurate than describing it as 'peer reviewed'. Dialectric (talk) 19:52, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
It is not peer reviewed according to the Wikipedia article on Quackwatch. From the article (emphasis added): "input from advisors and help from volunteers, ... Many more have since volunteered, but advisor names are no longer listed. ... He said a peer review process would improve the site's legitimacy." -- Timeshifter (talk) 15:28, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Just want to point out that "use as a source on BLPs" is not the same as "use as a source about living persons". An SPS can be a reliable source on a BLP article if it is used to verify information not about a living person, but it cannot be a reliable source for any information about a living person even if the information is only mentioned in passing within a non-BLP article. The key is what information the source is used to support, not whether the source is on an article primarily about a living person. This distinction should be made clear, particularly if we are having future discussions or RfCs on this topic. feminist (talk) 13:28, 5 November 2019 (UTC)

Proposed move[edit]

I wasn't aware of the BLPN discussion when I posted this here, but now that I know about it, let be say that BLPN is the wrong place to talk about whether a source is a SPS. I propose that we move this BLPN discussion here, the correct venue, leaving a link. --Guy Macon (talk) 00:06, 3 November 2019 (UTC)

Oh who cares. That's bureaucratic silliness. Consensus is not dependent upon venue. GMGtalk 00:53, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
Actually it is. Different venues attract editors with different interests and expertise. If you ask a question at BLPNB you get responses from people who are particularly interested in BLP issues. In this case there is nothing specifically related to BLPs to decide. Everyone agrees that if Quackwatch is an SPS then it must be excluded from BLPs, and everybody agrees that if Quackwatch is not an SPS then it is a reliable source that can be used on BLPs. The only question is whether Quackwatch is or is not a self-published source.
If you ask the same question at RSNB you get responses from people who are particularly interested in classifying sources, which is what we are trying to do here. Yes, there is considerable overlap in interests, but you can't ask a question about, say, paid editing at the No Original Research Noticeboard and expect that the answer will be the same as it would be if you posted the question at the Conflict Of Interest Noticeboard where it belongs.
When you put a question in the wrong place, the editors who are best at answering that sort of question tend to miss it. So posting questions in the proper venue is important. There is an essay on this at Wikipedia:Use the right venue which says "If you try to start a discussion in the wrong place, it won't be seen by the right people" --Guy Macon (talk) 01:21, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
You were not aware. Now you are aware. It is best to keep centralized discussion centralized. GMGtalk 02:17, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
Centralization is good. I like centralization. I am perfectly willing to move the BLPNB thread here, but for some strange reason I suspect that you or someone else will object. I am NOT willing to close down a thread that is in the proper venue just because someone posted a similar question in an inappropriate venue earlier. I would also add that pretty much all of the previous conversations on this (see my list above) have been here on RSNB. --Guy Macon (talk) 06:07, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
This is the venue for discussing RS.Slatersteven (talk) 09:33, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
Far from bureaucratic silliness, there are multiple tangible benefits to discussing things in the places designated for them. I won't attempt to enumerate them here. Oh who cares. For starters, Guy Macon, Slatersteven, and me. ―Mandruss  07:05, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
Could someone please move the two conversations to the RSNB? I would do it, but I am past my quota for being called a pedophile nazi bedwetter cabal leader for this month, and it is only the 4th... :( --Guy Macon (talk) 08:58, 4 November 2019 (UTC)

Moved from BLPN[edit]

There has been a discussion about Quackwatch being used on articles for living people. [15]. User Bilby says Quackwatch should not be used on articles of living people because it is a self-published source [16], and has removed Quackwatch as a source from some articles.

What is the consensus on this? This is the first time I have seen someone describe Quackwatch as a self-published source. User Bilby says "Quackwatch is a self published and partisan source. While it is reliable on scientific matters, under BLP policy we are not allowed to use an SPS to make claims about a living person." Is this right or not? The problem is that Quackwatch is being used on hundreds of Wikipedia articles for living people. I would hate to see Quackwatch removed from these articles, as it would take a lot of time to find replacement references. 81.147.137.6 (talk) 13:30, 31 October 2019 (UTC)

I will not comment on SPS, but will on "partisan", it may well be. The problem is that it is by experts in the fields it tackles. Thus I think that "partisan" is a non starter.Slatersteven (talk) 13:37, 31 October 2019 (UTC)
I'm ok if consensus has changed, but Quackwatch is listed on WP:RSP as "Quackwatch is a self-published source written by a subject-matter expert". Barrett does have an advisory committee, but according to Barrett that committee numbers "1000's", so I assume that they don't have direct editoral control. It is fully owned by Steven Barrett, although about 11 years ago it was managed through a non-profit he set up. Barrett says that some (most?) articles are reviewed to check scientific claims, but not all articles are reviewed [17], and that news articles are not usually reviewed prior to publication. I checked the list of recent articles, and all are authored by Stephen Barrett. As far as I can tell, Barrett publishes it himself, writes the articles, and uses his community of advisors to check scientific claims, but ultimatly is the author and the one in editorial control.
From my reading, it is a self-published site that gets input from advisors and is written by a subject-matter expert, which seems in keeping with WP:RSP. On scientific issues it should continue to be seen as written by an expert and used under WP:PARITY, and as a respected expert Barrett's opinion on issues and people are valuable and worth mentioning. But in terms of factual statements about living people presented without attribution, I see it as a good quality self published source, but ultimately still self published. - Bilby (talk) 13:57, 31 October 2019 (UTC)
All news media are published by themselves SPS means the person writing it has also published it. Thus an article by Barrett on Quackwatch Would be an SPS, an article written by someone else published there would not be.Slatersteven (talk) 14:01, 31 October 2019 (UTC)
But we list is as an SPS, as such it is not (according to policy) admissible to use in a BLP.Slatersteven (talk) 14:02, 31 October 2019 (UTC)
Yes. I have yet to find a recent article written solely by someone other than Barrett. No article listed under "recent articles" on the site was, but I'm open to the possibility that some are written by other people and would not, in that case, be self published. - Bilby (talk) 14:04, 31 October 2019 (UTC)
Just on the above, I've found some articles with someone else as the author. So far all were published between 15 and 20 years ago, but in that sense those articles wouldn't be self published. - Bilby (talk) 14:10, 31 October 2019 (UTC)
I'm uncertain why Quackwatch is being treated as an WP:SPS. However, assuming it is, my question is how strict the blanket prohibition on using reliable expert WP:SPS sources for BLPs is. I know there is a carve-out on WP:SPS for WP:ABOUTSELF (vexatious though it may be). Is this another place where there is an exception? No questioning that Quackwatch is published by experts. Simonm223 (talk) 14:06, 31 October 2019 (UTC)
We did have a series of RFCs about a year ago on this, with apparant consensus being that we don't want to make an exception to BLP for fringe topics [18]. - Bilby (talk) 14:12, 31 October 2019 (UTC)
  • My take on BLPSPS is to make sure that there is some type of editorial control on the source to make sure that this is not one person venting on a BLP without any serious fear of repercussions. The editorial control means that a serious accusation has been vetted to affirm (to the source's best knowledge) to be true or likely to be true. (That still might turn out wrong as recently happened with the NYTimes, but editorial control also means they redact statements and issue erratas to fix that). We assume that that editorial control does not exist at an SPS. (It's also why BLPSPS allows only the BLP's own SPS to be used to back claims about themselves and only about themselves, they are the only person they can talk with authority on).
So that question now turns to whether Quackwatch is an SPS, and while it seems to meet that, the fact that 1) it has a volunteer network of experts in the field to review quasiscience/medicine claims with the site owner then writing that information up, 2) does appear to have some type of process that while I would not call "editorial", is there to make sure that their volunteers are not slandering BLPs per [19], and 3) has often been cited in mainstream sources as a reasonably expert source, means to me that it should not immediately be taken as a BLPSPS, but I would strongly recommend not have it as the only source pointing out a BLP of quackery, because of the fact that most of the volunteer experts are anonymous at QW. I would find it hard that in relation to a BLP, QW would be the only such site. --Masem (t) 14:22, 31 October 2019 (UTC)
I take issue with removing Quackwatch because there is a larger picture here. If we start removing reliable skeptical websites like Quackwatch from Wikipedia because it is apparently a self-published source, then this will also effect other valid skeptical sources. Robert Todd Carroll owner of a website Skeptics Dictionary which is similar to his book The Skeptic's Dictionary. Have a little search for the Skeptics Dictionary (skepdic.com) on Wikipedia. The source has been used many times on articles for deceased and living people in relation to their pseudoscientific claims. Are you saying we should remove this source as well? Brian Dunning's Skeptoid website is also used many times on Wikipedia in regarding to living people's claims. I do not believe we should be removing any of these sources. 81.147.137.6 (talk) 16:41, 31 October 2019 (UTC)
We have polices for a reason, and they apply to all. Ask to change policy, do not ignore it.Slatersteven (talk) 17:14, 31 October 2019 (UTC)
So are you personally going to remove Quackwatch, Skeptic's Dictionary and Skeptoid from hundreds of Wikipedia articles of living people? I think not! 81.147.137.6 (talk) 17:55, 31 October 2019 (UTC)
Mostly they won't be being used incorrectly so it won't be a concern. - Bilby (talk) 20:20, 31 October 2019 (UTC)

It's usually fine. Attribute it. Make sure it is about FRINGE claims. Take care with it's use. --Ronz (talk) 19:53, 31 October 2019 (UTC)

  • We've been through this before. Quackwatch is self-published, and self-published sources are not allowed on living persons per WP:BLPSPS, even if written by experts in the field as permitted by WP:SPS. (And note that "expert" means an expert in the field under discussion, not a generic scientist.) If you want to change the policy, please go to WT:BLP, but bear in mind that a relatively recent effort to change it failed. SarahSV (talk) 20:32, 31 October 2019 (UTC)
  • SarahSV, you forget that we are not discussing legitimate "fields" of scientific endeavor. You wrote: "'expert' means an expert in the field under discussion, not a generic scientist." If the field is a legitimate scientific "field", then that certainly applies, but the "field" of quackery and health fraud detection and exposure is a very different animal. The pseudoscientific "experts" in the "fields" of quackery they practice are sometimes simplistic true believers, but they are also often sneaky criminals.
To understand this, look at the endeavors to expose counterfeit money. The real expert is the trained federal agent (Barrett, Doc James, and other trained physicians and scientists), not the counterfeiter (Gary Null, Samuel Hahnemann, Hulda Clark, Max Gerson, etc.). They know the basic principles of science and can recognize BS when they see it. Experts like Barrett and James Randi take this to the next level. They have so much experience dealing with quackery that they also recognize the various types of tricks that quacks use in their claims and practices, tricks which can often fool the ordinary physician or scientist. So these people are experts in the "real thing" AND the "fake thing". It's true that "Training in identifying counterfeit currency begins with studying genuine money", but it goes much further, and that's why we can't depend on ordinary doctors as experts in quackery, and why Barrett's expertise is so valued by federal and consumer protection agencies. His books are valued classics. -- BullRangifer (talk) 16:40, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
  • You really need to think differently about this. While there may be some merit to limiting the use of SPS for talking about the person, experts can still be used for content about the person's actions and claims. -- BullRangifer (talk) 16:41, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
BullRangifer, the distinction between a person and that person's views is a distinction without a difference. Can you post two things here, please? First, can you post examples of Quackwatch articles not written by Barrett? Second, can you give examples of the "tricks which can often fool the ordinary physician or scientist" that you mention above, that only people like Barrett can spot? Finally, if as you say Quackwatch is used as a source by mainstream reliable sources, then we can use those sources instead. That's how we normally handle primary sources and SPS that we don't want to use directly. SarahSV (talk) 17:50, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
  • It should be treated as an SPS if the publication belongs to the single moderator (Stephen Barrett). However, some usage on BLP pages is fine, as on page Jim Laidler, where the subject (Laidler) has published something on Quackwatch. Besides, I do not see it used on many BLP pages. My very best wishes (talk) 21:49, 31 October 2019 (UTC)
It is being used on quite a few BLP pages. I just counted about 38 pages (that was only a few minutes looking). I think we are all in agreement that it can be used if Stephen Barrett is not the author of the said article. For example, one popular article on Quackwatch that has been used on BLP pages is Jack Raso's Dictionary of Metaphysical Healthcare. If Stephen Barrett is not the author and the said author is an expert, then there should be no problem using Quackwatch on BLP pages. 81.147.137.6 (talk) 21:55, 31 October 2019 (UTC)
Did you check that many of these people are no longer living? If so, that could be checked, but a lot can depend on context. If this is clearly a defamatory claim by the moderator with regard to a living person, then yes, such claim should be removed per WP:BLP. My very best wishes (talk) 22:05, 31 October 2019 (UTC)
81.147.137.6, using Quackwatch as a source for living people is a policy violation. The only exception is if the author of the Quackwatch source is the subject of the BLP. That is the sole exception to BLPSPS, namely that you can be used as a source about yourself even if self-published. Otherwise no: not articles by Barrett or by anyone else. BLPSPS is part of a core content policy. Also pinging Bilby. SarahSV (talk) 00:15, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
That was what the last RFC determined. - Bilby (talk) 00:21, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
Do you have the link to RFC or any previous conservations about this? Users still do not know what the consensus is on this even though you have explained it here, I didn't know about it either. It be worth making this more public so future users know about it because I am sure this will be raised again in the future. Thanks 81.147.137.6 (talk) 00:57, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
Desclaimer: I started to copyedit the Gary Null article which I do see is using Quackwatch as a source. I will not be editing sources on that article. However, use of Quackwatch in a BLP article is a policy violation. Especially, as editors, we have to diligent if we dislike the living person, do not respect him or her and worse. We must be the ones who are neutrally driven knowing Wikipedia is not the place to "pay back" the subject of the article, alert the reader, nor do we have the right to attempt to destroy a reputation. It's very, very simple. The source is not compliant. If there are other compliant sources for the same content why would we even consider a non-compliant source. Littleolive oil (talk) 18:34, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
I see a long drawn out discussion below which I missed when I wrote this. Littleolive oil (talk) 18:41, 5 November 2019 (UTC)

Break 1[edit]

Bilby, the key is in your words here: "But in terms of factual statements about living people presented without attribution, I see it as a good quality self published source, but ultimately still self published."

It should not be used "without attribution". Barrett's opinions are the opinions of a notable expert and can be used, but with attribution. -- BullRangifer (talk) 02:58, 1 November 2019 (UTC)

  • Often QuackWatch is the best source on the subject in question, as good sources when it comes to alt med are often few and far between. If used it should of course be attributed. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 13:52, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
  • @Doc James and BullRangifer: no self-published sources can be used about living persons. WP:BLPSPS is part of core content policy. Ignoring it may have legal implications for individual editors and for Wikipedia. It's not a question of attribution. It's whether there is an editorial process, a fact-checking process, a publisher willing and able to take legal responsibility. All those issues inform and curtail what organizations can publish about living persons. This editorial structure is entirely absent when it comes to SPS. That's why we don't allow them in BLPs, unless it's the BLP subject talking about themselves. SarahSV (talk) 18:31, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
  • The source is peer reviewed. It is published by Quackwatch. So not really self published. No different than using a paper published by Richard Horton in the Lancet. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 08:49, 2 November 2019 (UTC)
agree w/ Doc James interpretation--Ozzie10aaaa (talk) 13:11, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Quackwatch is owned and published by Barrett, so yes, if he publishes articles he wrote himself on a website that he owns and is the editor of, then he is self publishing. The Lancet is published by Elsevier, not Horton, and Elsevier in turn is owned by RELX. Lancet has a peer review process through which only 5% of papers are accepted, most of which are rejected in house and don't make it to the full peer review stage - if they do they are reviewed by at least three experts in the field. According to Barrett, Quackwatch articles may be checked by another person depending on the topic and how coinfident Barrett feels about the material, and most news articles undergo no peer review. I don't see that the two are comparable. - Bilby (talk) 09:14, 2 November 2019 (UTC)
  • That's right. Something published in The Lancet is not remotely comparable to something publishing on one's own website. See WP:RS. - MrX 🖋 15:52, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
  • And even the WP:ABOUTSELF carve-out in WP:BLPSPS isn't carte-blanche if a self-published statement about a subject was seen as unduly self-serving. Simonm223 (talk) 18:34, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
  • I would take that to mean about the person themselves, but would not apply it to other content in an article about the person, such as the work and claims of the person. If that is not clear in the policy, it should be made clear. We always handle content and person(s) in articles differently, just as we do in talk page discussions (discuss the content, not other editors). This is where we need to use some common sense.
As to legal liability, if we are REpublishing claims made on the internet, even false and libelous claims, we are covered by a legal ruling which involved Stephen Barrett himself (the irony!): See: Barrett v. Rosenthal. Only the original publisher can be sued. -- BullRangifer (talk) 20:12, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
Why are good sources when it comes to alt med few and far between? Could it be that the content is not notable (in which case policy says it should be excluded) or that more reputable publications don't want to attach their names to the kind of statements that QuackWatch makes? Зенитная Самоходная Установка (talk) 14:01, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
Зенитная Самоходная Установка, see Wikipedia:Fringe theories#Parity of sources. This is the policy that enables us to cover these fringe topics. See my outdented comment below about this. -- BullRangifer (talk) 14:46, 1 November 2019 (UTC)

This might be more an aside, but I'm getting the impression from those that really want to keep QW that there seems to be a need to make sure that WP calls out on people that are engages in pseudo-science/alternative medicine/etc. - the stuff at the FRINGES - to remind readers this stuff is FRINGEY. When there is clear scientific-based claims (MEDRS/SCIRS) to demonstrate the FRINGE, that's fine, but I'm reading between the lines here and it looks like there's a drive that even when the FRINGE factors aren't covered in MEDRS/SCIRS sources, that there's a need to make sure to call out the apparent FRINGE (eg in this case, using QW as the key source). I clearly understand that when there is something proven to be FRINGE by MEDRS/SCIRS sourcing that we make sure that that's well established to avoid giving readers the impression that the FRINGE may be true. But we seem to be dealing with cases here of suggested alternative medicine/etc. where subject-matter expert editors on WP can see the suggested science is FRINGY ("Eat nothing but chocolate to lose 50 lbs in a day!") but no appropriate RS has commented on that, outside of something like QW. At that point, is it really our place to try to make sure that this is identified as FRINGE, or should we be waiting for more sources to do that? I mean, we should be very wary of also including claims that are not backed by MEDRS sources, that's one thing. If a person is notable for this hypothetical chocolate diet, but we lack MEDRS to support it or refute it - outside QW - we may not be able to treat it as FRINGE and only as asserted claims. (Which to that end, UNDUE tells us it is inappropriate to go into excessive details about said claims). That is, we should consider what sourcing gives us to be able to distinguish between appropriately-sourced disproven FRINGE and yet-validated asserted claims, and from reading comments about, QW should only be the source making that distinction. --Masem (t) 14:10, 1 November 2019 (UTC)

If a Fringe source cannot be identified as fringe except through reference to Quackwatch or other WP:SPS sources, WP:FRINGE would suggest the page should be deleted. I know there's a strong sentiment against "wikipedia is silent on this issue" WRT quacks and pseudo-medical cons, but otoh, an encyclopedia is not a clearinghouse of all information everywhere, and not every quack needs an article here exposing their quackery. Simonm223 (talk) 14:17, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
I would agree that if the only facet a BLP is notable for is a yet-proven-or-disproven FRINGE concept like a fad diet, then we are better off not covering it per MEDRS. But there will be cases of people already notable for other things that then add in this type of fad diet or other PSCI concept to their resume, which gets covered in non-MEDRS reliable sources. Do we remain completely mum on that? I don't think we can, but we can keep the nonsense to a minimum by inline attribution and only making the very top level assertions. "Dr. Smith later introduced his all-chocolate diet, which he claimed helped to stimulate the body to consume fat and lose weight." -- and nothing else until at least some MEDRS stepped in to call it bad science. Using QW for that purpose seems wrong. --Masem (t) 14:33, 1 November 2019 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Fringe theories#Parity of sources often applies to the situations where QW is good to use. Many alternative medicine subjects are so fringe that they are ignored by peer reviewed and other mainstream sources, but QW and a few other RS will still examine and comment on them. This helps us stay true to our mission, which is to document the "sum total of human knowledge." Unfortunately pseudoscience, quackery, and scams are part of that reality, and we should not leave a hole in our coverage because the big name university sources don't comment on some of these fringe issues which are very notable in fringe sources we can't use, and which cause death and suffering to so many. QW serves us quite well by bringing a science-based mainstream POV magnifying glass to the subject. -- BullRangifer (talk) 14:41, 1 November 2019 (UTC)

But again per WP:V, if something is not covered by good RSes, we should not try to coerce "poor" sources to make that inclusion, and to me, that would include trying to disprove quack science. And if what Bilby says is true about QW being not seen as an RS from a previous RFC, then we can't QW as the only source disproving quack science without violating BLP. --Masem (t) 14:53, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
Masem, I'm not sure where they get the idea that "QW being not seen as an RS from a previous RFC". Most RfCs about QW have rated it a RS, sometimes to be used with caution, and sometimes to be attributed, but never an unreliable source we can't use. I suspect a misunderstanding or an exceptional situation due to a specific misuse of QW. No source is reliable in all situations, and all sources are unreliable in certain situations.
There is a lingering misunderstanding about QW created by an ArbCom case filed against me by a fringe medical person who came to Wikipedia with the sole purpose of attacking me. They were indeffed. The ArbCom decision contained some unfortunate wording which implied that QW was an unreliable source. Much later we got that wording changed to remove the slur. Follow the links here: User:BullRangifer#Vindicated_regarding_AE_case_and_Quackwatch!
QW is generally a RS for alternative medicine, fringe health claims, and quackery subjects. -- BullRangifer (talk) 17:41, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
I don't know where the RFC that SarahSV/Bilby have mentioned is linked, and I think its necessary to see that to comment further. --Masem (t) 17:44, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
Here the link from above to the RFC: [20]. The issue seems to be that a WP:SPS is not appropriate on a WP:BLP regardless of whether it is otherwise a WP:RS, with no consensus for an exception for WP:FRINGE topics. – Wallyfromdilbert (talk) 17:51, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
I never knew about those RfCs. They were both withdrawn. A quick scan of the page shows that QW was only mentioned in a positive manner, but I may have missed something. The bottom line is that the RfCs were withdrawn, so the previous RfCs about QW still apply, and there is no exception made for BLPs. The same rules apply to QW as to all other RS. -- BullRangifer (talk) 18:11, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
Yes, the rule is that a RS that is a SPS cannot be used on a BLP. The same rule applies to QW. – Wallyfromdilbert (talk) 18:13, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
The way I read that close and discussion, it basically means there's no concensus to "weaken" BLPSPS for FRINGE-related topics. Which is what I suspected and echos my point above about whether we are supposed actually call out fringy stuff that no real RS has actually called out fringe. And leaves the question if QW is an SPS or not. My guy from everything I read says "yes", but again, it can be used if other RSes have already called out the quackery. --Masem (t) 18:21, 1 November 2019 (UTC)

...are not allowed on living persons... @SlimVirgin:, you're the only person using that phrase. What does it mean? --Ronz (talk) 20:15, 1 November 2019 (UTC)

...cannot be used on a BLP. @Wallyfromdilbert:, you use similar wording. What does that mean? --Ronz (talk) 20:15, 1 November 2019 (UTC)

See WP:SPS: Never use self-published sources as third-party sources about living people, even if the author is an expert, well-known professional researcher, or writer. – Wallyfromdilbert (talk) 20:18, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
You misunderstand. The phrasing is awkward and ambiguous. You mean that such sources cannot be used about a person who meets BLP criteria? --Ronz (talk) 20:40, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
Ronz, what do you find awkward about it? WP:BLPSPS says (bold in the original): "Avoid self-published sources: Never use self-published sources—including but not limited to books, zines, websites, blogs, and tweets—as sources of material about a living person, unless written or published by the subject of the article. 'Self-published blogs' in this context refers to personal and group blogs." SarahSV (talk) 20:57, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
I asked for clarification for what you wrote. Your response doesn't help in the slightest. Your phrasing isn't what I'd consider grammatically correct, but at best is awkward and ambiguous. Do you mean that such sources cannot be used about a person who meets BLP criteria? --Ronz (talk) 21:35, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
Ronz, I'm not sure what you mean. We're talking here about living people who have biographies on Wikipedia or who are mentioned in other articles. When writing about those people, we must not use self-published sources, unless the source was written by the person in question. In other words, if someone is writing about themselves, it does not matter whether the source was self-published, but otherwise it is not allowed. SarahSV (talk) 21:47, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
The phrasing that you used, that I quoted, was unclear. You've now clarified it to my satisfaction: Such sources cannot be used about a person who meets BLP criteria. If you'd like further clarification from me, let me know. --Ronz (talk) 22:08, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
  • QuackWatch is a reliable source, cited by government websites and other authorities. it is not solely the work of one person, and even if it was there is no blanket prohibition on use of self-published sources in biographies - if we applied a "no third party self-published sources" rule and decided that QuackWatch is self-published we would arrive at the absurd situation where Null's claims could be repeated from his own mouth without rebuttal, since the reality-based community largely ignores him. We are being lectured on policy by User:Зенитная Самоходная Установка on the basis of their whopping 2,131 edits, and they came here because they read about this on Gary Null's website. Which is also where the earlier nontroversy was stirred up. Null tried to sue WMF to have this material removed a decade ago, the case was dismissed. He's recently started sending legal threats to editors. The cynic in me would think he has a publicity drive coming up and wants to purge Wikipedia of reality-based commentary on his activities.
M Quacks and charlatans hate QuackWatch. They have been demanding its removal from Wikipedia for as long as I've been here. The normal policy is to ignore them. I suggest we apply that now. Guy (help!) 23:14, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
  • JzG, Quackwatch is self-published. It's not a question of us deciding that. It's Stephen Barrett's website. Whether it's a single or group blog makes no difference. You write that without it "Null's claims could be repeated from his own mouth without rebuttal". But can those claims not be ignored instead? I've noticed this a couple of times with Holocaust denial. Wikipedians add their claims in detail, then use self-published sources to demolish them, because no Holocaust historian has addressed the details they're writing about. But there's a reason they don't bother, just as there's a reason scientists don't bother to demolish the claims under discussion here. By reproducing them, we're arguably spreading them, then we need SPS to demolish them. Is there not a way of writing the bio with non-SPS reliable sources only, perhaps a much shorter version? SarahSV (talk) 23:30, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
  • So basically you want to make an ad hominem attack against me, and then argue that we need to disregard BLP policy because it's more important to right a great wrong by exposing quackery, than it is to uphold a high standard of integrity and accuracy when it comes to biographies. What about Blackstone's ratio. Зенитная Самоходная Установка (talk) 00:05, 2 November 2019 (UTC)
  • The difficulty lies in writing about ideas viewed as harmful when there are few sources. Do we let a bad idea stand (e.g. no one died at Sandy Hook or Jews did 911), or do we use whatever sources we can find to make clear they are false? With the two examples I've given, there are lots of sources, but when you go off the beaten track you find fewer. You're then left with an ethical dilemma of how to present the information fairly and accurately. People do the best they can. I'm not familiar with the subject of this BLP, and I deliberately haven't looked in any detail, because I'm trying to respond to the principle not the particular. But it's hard not to notice the wide range of topics he covers. It would be difficult to have developed expertise in all those areas. SarahSV (talk) 02:06, 2 November 2019 (UTC)
  • To me it seems like Quackwatch sits in a sort of gray area when it comes to being an SPS or not. However, I also think that policies, including WP:FRINGE, explicitly prohibit "the absurd situation where Null's claims could be repeated from his own mouth without rebuttal". FRINGE states: "Proponents of fringe theories have used Wikipedia as a forum for promoting their ideas. Policies discourage this: if the only statements about a fringe theory come from the inventors or promoters of that theory, then "What Wikipedia is not" rules come into play. Wikipedia is neither a publisher of original thought nor a soapbox for self-promotion and advertising. Attempts by inventors and adherents to artificially inflate the perceived renown of their fringe theories, such as sock puppetry in AfD discussions, are prohibited." and WP:BLPBALANCE: "Do not give disproportionate space to particular viewpoints; the views of small minorities should not be included at all". By my reading, taken together the policies are pretty clear; if a fringe position has not generated enough notability to be covered by reliable sources, it has not generated enough reliability to warrant mentioning it in an article, as doing so so without rebuttal would certainly give the idea undue weight. AmbivalentUnequivocality (talk) 00:11, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
  • SarahSV, you write: "But it's hard not to notice the wide range of topics he covers. It would be difficult to have developed expertise in all those areas." That's a red herring, as expertise in illegitimate topics is not necessary (even though he has it in many of them). You forget that we are not discussing legitimate "fields" of scientific endeavor. See my in depth response to you above. -- BullRangifer (talk) 17:41, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
  • BullRangifer, when I wrote "It would be difficult to have developed expertise in all those areas", I was talking about the BLP subject. SarahSV (talk) 18:05, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes...? That ("those areas"...plural) is what I was talking about....the person(s) and their false claims. When that is your sole professional interest in life, it's easy to become familiar with the people who make the false claims, and the unscientific nature of the claims. It's not at all "difficult" for someone like Barrett to do that. Millions of other people also have great expertise over myriad topics in their special areas of interest. That's not an unusual claim. It's the nature of the beast for experts. They are supposed to be able to do what is "difficult" for non-experts. -- BullRangifer (talk) 19:33, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
  • BullRangifer, I think we're talking past each other. When I made my "difficult to have developed expertise" comment, I was talking about Null, not Barrett. For example, according to WP (I have not checked this), Null has expressed a view on the HIV virus. But he is not expert in that field. Ditto with many other claims. That was my sole point. SarahSV (talk) 21:08, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
  • SarahSV, Oh my! That changes everything. Thanks for the clarification. -- BullRangifer (talk) 21:22, 3 November 2019 (UTC)

Break 2[edit]

So basically what's going to need to happen is that Gary Null meets Jimbo at a cocktail party and makes a compelling case to him that his biography unfairly portrays him as a quack and therefore needs to be drastically truncated or deleted. But maybe those two don't attend the same cocktail parties, so such a chance meeting wouldn't happen, and even if it did, it's not like Gary is a celebrity.

Isn't there a Wikipedia:BLP ombudsman around here? No? I guess Jimbo is the de facto BLP ombudsman, since he's the only one who really has the clout to go against the administrative establishment in cases like this. If you really want to ensure the highest standards for BLPs, there has to be someone with authority to take action even in the absence of community consensus to enforce the BLP rules; and that would have to either be someone appointed by the WMF, or some elected position, or someone designated by the ArbCom, or something. Зенитная Самоходная Установка (talk) 21:39, 1 November 2019 (UTC)

That's extremely unlikely. Null has in any case already tried to have this material removed through legal action and the case was dismissed. Guy (help!) 22:53, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
Зенитная Самоходная Установка, Guy is right. That is extremely unlikely to happen, especially from Jimbo:
Wikipedia does not cater to what Jimmy Wales calls "lunatic charlatans":
Quote: "No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful. Wikipedia's policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals - that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately. What we won't do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of 'true scientific discourse'. It isn't." — Jimbo Wales, March 23, 2014
We do not allow advocacy of fringe points of view, so the fact that fringe believers don't like these articles shows that we must be doing something right. -- BullRangifer (talk) 23:29, 1 November 2019 (UTC)


So are we now going to re-write wp:sources, because that is where people will go to check on a sources admissibility?Slatersteven (talk) 10:28, 2 November 2019 (UTC)

  • Well...QW does seem to be pretty unequivocally self-published. When I looked into it, I expected to find that it was a registered non-profit with some type of definite governance structure. Apparently it used to be, and they've now dissolved that bit in favor of being openly a personal website. So I'm curious to what extent we actually need to cite it. In the case of the first reference in Gary Null, as it turns out, we don't need to cite QW at all. We can instead cite a Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper, who themselves quote Quackwatch verbatim. Voila. We actually improve the sourcing of the article by citing a secondary source, which presumably has vetted the SPS for relevance and accuracy.
The second citation, well it already has two books supporting it.
As for the third citation, hmm. Looks like we can instead cite Science-Based Medicine in their piece here. They actually do seem to be an established organization with a diverse board of editors and contributors, all of which seem to have a lot of fancy acronyms next to their names. A Yale clinical neurologist, a surgical oncologist, some pharmacy and anesthesiology. Seems to check out fairly well.
So I guess my question is, what bit of content are we actually arguing about?..the bit that is only supported by QW where no better source is available? GMGtalk 12:33, 2 November 2019 (UTC)
That for me is the issue, why are we using an SPS when we do not need to, what function does it serve. It looks like a reverse of "I don't like it", and that seems to be it, Garry Null does not want us to use it so we must use it.Slatersteven (talk) 12:39, 2 November 2019 (UTC)
Agreed. I don't care at all about this Null fellow, and little about Quackwatch, but the integrity of Wikipedia behooves us to attempt to find sources better than just one man's website. (I should note that I do deprecate the usage of Quackwatch, as one man's website does not notability make.) Javert2113 (Siarad.|¤) 12:48, 2 November 2019 (UTC)
We can surely debate the merits of the principle behind WP:PARITY, and I surely have had occasion to do so. It's probably been a year or more since I needed to drop an RfC on the issue, something to do with blogs and external links IIRC, though I'd be hard pressed to even tell you what article it was about. But what we should be able to all agree on is that PARITY ought not be an excuse to use poor quality sources out of convenience rather than necessity. If we want to cite crappy sources out of convenience, well, RationalWiki is that-a-way, and this ain't it. GMGtalk 12:53, 2 November 2019 (UTC)
A point to consider for those worried about FRINGE PSCI topics getting far too much coverage without the ability for using QW to call out its nonsense, in that WP:BLPSELFPUB exists too - excessive coverage of the details of a PSCI theory on a BLP would be "unduly self-serving". And even if there are normally-good RSes covering the PSI nonsense without calling out that nonsense (which becomes hard to believe), we can certain limit how much in the medical claim area is said by relying on WP:MEDRS to keep any non-peer reviewed claims - outside of high level summaries - out of these articles too. We can't call out quackery if we have to rely only on QW for that, but we can clearly limit how much of that quackery gets into WP. --Masem (t) 13:27, 2 November 2019 (UTC)
  • SarahSV, there is professional oversight, so your "No, we're not going to publish that on this website" statement is really bizarre and reveals you know little about the website. It's not a blog or a wiki. It's true that Barrett writes many of the articles, but there are probably more by other subject experts, and then there is also the fact that it's the largest database of documents, books, legal rulings, etc. on the subjects of medical history, quackery, health care scams, dubious practices, official government reports, reports by consumer protection agencies, etc., and much of that is only available at QW.
That massive amount of material is not written by Barrett. So if there is any question about SPS, it would only apply to articles written by Barrett, and you have no idea how many people helped gather that information, proofread, and give input, on those articles. -- BullRangifer (talk) 15:57, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
BullRangifer, there is no one who can say to Barrett, "no, we will not publish this on Quackwatch." If I'm wrong about that, and there is indeed an editor-in-chief and a publisher, and a staff that they control, please point them out. SarahSV (talk) 18:09, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
SarahSV. That was not immediately clear to me from what you wrote: "There's no professional editorial oversight, no one who can say (with authority) "No, we're not going to publish that on this website."" It is correct that Barrett is the "Editor-in-Chief" at QW. He is the top "professional editorial oversight" at QW. Is there something wrong with that? Is that different than so many other websites and magazines where there is an Editor-in-Chief and a staff?
Even if he were the only author of all the content at QW (which is not the case by a long shot), he's still a recognized subject expert, and Wikipedia allows us to use such subject experts as sources in many situations, even if they write it on their own blog or other website format.
The relevant question here is whether we can use articles written by Barrett at QW (an SPS situation) in a BLP. (This MUST not be about QW as a source in a general and non-specific sense.) If there is any question about that SPS issue, then we should make it clear in the policy that this applies only to comments about the subject (person) of the BLP, not to the dubious claims they make, which are then described in their BLP article. It should be allowed that the subject expert, even a SPS, can be used for commenting on the person's claims. -- BullRangifer (talk) 19:51, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
  • And, we might as well stop using Gorski's articles over SBM. WBGconverse 05:51, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
  • SBM is published by the New England Skeptical Society, rather than Gorski, so I don't think that is a concern. - Bilby (talk) 10:20, 3 November 2019 (UTC)

There is a thread over at RSN now, can we please not discuss this in half a dozen different forums?Slatersteven (talk) 19:21, 2 November 2019 (UTC)

  • No, Quackwatch is not a reliable source for BLPs (and probably most everything else) per WP:BLPSPS. It is self-published and it appears to lack independent editorial control. WP:USEBYOTHERS is weak. It is cited by publishers like the New York Post, AlterNet, the Daily Beast, Fox News, and Time. Although less of a concern, there is no evidence that the editorial process is independent of the commercial interest of the site (referral income from medically related products/services). On background, the owner of Quackwatch is a Psychiatrist who has not practiced medicine for 26 years.[21] Even if this blog were not self published, the principle that, if something is noteworthy enough for inclusion in an encyclopedia, it will have reported by other reliable sources, applies.- MrX 🖋 11:26, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
    and probably most everything else Consensus says it is a reliable source. You're not going to change minds by repeating strawman arguments. --Ronz (talk) 16:09, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
Would you care to link to the RfC where consensus was established that this blog is a reliable source? I'll wait. - MrX 🖋 16:59, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
Wikipedia:Reliable_sources/Noticeboard#Is_Quackwatch_an_SPS_and_thus_not_allowed_as_a_source_on_BLPs? Collapsed at the top of this discussion are a list of past discussions on the topic of the reliablity of Quackwatch, based upon Barrett being an expert at identification and analysis of quackery. You'll see the "he's not practiced medicine" strawman repeatedly. --Ronz (talk) 17:16, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
If your complaint is that his retirement 26 years ago was central to my argument, let me assure you, it was not. I have looked at the other discussions, and I not finding any consensus that would permit us to ignore our core content policies. If I've missed it, please point it out, otherwise I will assume that it doesn't exist.- MrX 🖋 17:32, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
My complaint is that this appears to be an IDHT situation. --Ronz (talk) 17:45, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
MrX, I appreciate your input in the AmPol2 area. There you're an expert, but here you seem to be out of your depth and reveal little knowledge or understanding of QW and Barrett. QW is anything but a "blog". My comment above may enlighten you a bit. In fact, read this series of comments. -- BullRangifer (talk) 17:51, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
The only "oversight" documented on QW is a legal team (who aren't even named) to handle those potential issues. Barrett's team of volunteers are anonymous so we have no idea who they are. --Masem (t) 18:14, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
Really? The only oversight documented on QW is a legal team?
"Are your articles peer-reviewed?"
"It depends on the nature of the article and how confident I am that I understand the subject in detail. Most articles that discuss the scientific basis (or lack of scientific basis) of health claims are reviewed by at least one relevant expert. Some are reviewed by many experts. News articles are not usually reviewed prior to posting. However, the review process does not stop when an article is published. Complaints or suggestions from readers may trigger additional review that results in modification of the original version."[22]
--Guy Macon (talk) 19:42, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
Who are those that oversee them? What are their names? Note that I am not saying the guy's lying nor are what he is publishing incorrect... but in the context of BLPs (About a person or the ideas they have presented), we have an extremely high standard as an encyclopedia to avoid questionable sources that put doubt onto a person. I go back to the fact that if no one else but QW has commented on the quackery of a BLP's claim, that wouldn't be sufficient to include. It is one source without any of the rigor expected of MEDRS. But again, we also don't give that much space for the quackery in detail, as we do not allow unduly self-servicing material. The checks and balances are there without having to make the SPS QW as an RS. --Masem (t) 21:34, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
BullRangifer, that's an interesting take, but it's mostly your unvalidated opinion wrapped in an ad hominem. Your linked comment is unsupported by evidence and raises more questions than it answers (Professional oversight by who? Articles by what subject matter experts, published where?) If you would care to advance an argument that this self-published website should be elevated to the status of a reliable source, then you have the onus to show that it fits within the framework of our long-established policies. In my mind, the best way to do that is to show that other reliable sources routinely cite it, that it's under some sort of independent (from the author) editorial control, and that it has a reputation for fact checking. - MrX 🖋 18:33, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
MrX, sorry about that, but I don't know any other way to say it. (I'll comment on your talk page, as this must not derail the discussion.)
The attempt here is not to "elevate", but to "demote". Even more specifically, this is about a SPS/BLP situation, not a general RS situation.
QW has a long-established general status (by numerous RfCs) as a RS here. Now we're discussing whether it is a BLP violation to use this SPS. I contend that this specific rule should only apply to comments about the BLP "person", but the SPS source can still be used for comments on that person's false claims in their BLP article. That distinction is not apparent in the BLP policy, and we need to fix that. -- BullRangifer (talk) 20:14, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
@BullRangifer: Could you please link to one of those "numerous RfCs" establishing Quackwatch as a reliable source? I asked an editor the same thing a couple of hours ago and all I got in return was an insult. - MrX 🖋 20:30, 3 November 2019 (UTC)

MrX, this is from the top of Talk:Quackwatch:

Enjoy. There's a lot of stuff there, and I suspect there are other RfCs that are not included. -- BullRangifer (talk) 20:55, 3 November 2019 (UTC)

None of those (old) discussions were closed, or indicative of a broad consensus as far as I can tell. Proper RfCs seek outside input. The 10 year old Arbcom amendment (which barely passed) only says "The use of Quackwatch as a source is not banned;" That's way different than saying "Quackwwatch is a reliable source".- MrX 🖋 21:27, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
So there are no proper RfCs by today's standards? Is that a problem for say RSP? --Ronz (talk) 21:41, 3 November 2019 (UTC)
I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're asking. Perhaps you could restate the question.- MrX 🖋 11:28, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
I think it's irrelevant if we simply work from the RSP entry which does not indicate broad consensus for general reliability. --Ronz (talk) 16:29, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
MrX, you wrote: "...only says "The use of Quackwatch as a source is not banned;" That is not correct. Motion 1 (which you reference) did not pass. Only Motion 1:1 passed. (It's the very last words on that page.) QW had been considered a RS before that ArbCom, but ONE admin put ONE misleading word ("unreliable") in a header (a provenly false "finding of fact"), and that action placed the status quo acceptance of QW as a source into question. Unfortunately no one noticed the implications of that mistake at the time.
After that, friends of quackery kept pointing to the ArbCom decision as permission to remove the existing QW sources from articles. The Amendment fixed that problem by removing the word "unreliable" from the header, thus ensuring the existing status quo acceptance of QW as a RS would no longer be questioned. (Now you're questioning it?!) Now editors can't point to that ArbCom case and use it against QW. -- BullRangifer (talk) 01:12, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
OK, thanks for the clarification about the correct amendment. However, I would not regard it a declaration that that quackwatch is reliable per se. It doesn't really matter anyway, because in the ensuing ten years, I think we have trended toward more stringent sourcing requirements for controversial content, especially for BLPs. An RfC will be initiated soon, then we can calmly determine where consensus lies. - MrX 🖋 11:14, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
MrX, I welcome such an RfC. It should be very specific, not about the general use of QW. Failure to limit that discussion will create a serious cluster fuck that will invalidate any decision. (A general RfC could occur separately and after the end of the specific RfC.)
It needs to focus specifically on the use of articles by Barrett at QW (SPS) in BLPs. It must recognize that this only applies to the articles written by Barrett at QW, not to the website as a whole, because most of the content at QW is not written by Barrett. It may appear so when one looks at many of the articles on the index page, but that's just the surface of a huge database of information and content authored by others. Let's get this right. Muddled RfCs are disruptive nightmares. -- BullRangifer (talk) 16:55, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
There is a workshop below. I believe we need to determine consensus about whether quackwatch is a reliable source and whether it's a self-published source (which actual seems self-evident). If his website is an index to other sources, then we should simply use the other sources, if they are reliable. Problem solved.- MrX 🖋 17:07, 5 November 2019 (UTC)

Summary to date[edit]

The questions discussed above can be summarised as:

  • Is QuackWatch a WP:SPS;
  • If QuackWatch is an SPS, would it be an appropriate source in Gary Null and other BLPs?.

Differences break down according to a divide: editors who normally specialise in WP:FRINGE mainly support use of QuackWatch, editors who mainly specialise in WP:BLP tend to oppose, and editors who are brought here by Gary Null firmly oppose.

Other known relevant facts: This has been under discussion for this specific article for many years. Gary Null sued WMF a decade ago to have QuackWatch removed as a source, the case was dismissed ([23]).This predates Jimbo's well-documented statement that our policies on this are "exactly correct" (WP:LUNATIC). Null has also issued legal threats in recent months against wikipedia editors (including me) in substantially similar form to his case against WMF in 2009, leading to the banning of Nealgreenfield, identified on-wiki as his legal representative, and likely sock Fela Watusi. One lead promoter of his agenda is Rome Viharo, self-identified on Wikipedia as Tumbleman. The Null article has seen other SPA / IP attempts at whitewashing over the years but the current press for change seems to be part of a new and concerted campaign by Null. Зенитная Самоходная Установка was attracted to this dispute by commentary from Gary Null. Concern has been expressed to some of us via email that Зенитная Самоходная Установка is a Tumbleman sock, this is not factored in, and we operate on the assumption of good faith at this point.

Past attempts to use Wikipedia to promote Gary Null resulted in Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Gulf War Syndrome: Killing Our Own (delete and redirect), Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Seeds of Death: Unveiling the Lies of GMOs (delete), Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Twin Rivers Multimedia Film Festival (delete and redirect), Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Vaccine Nation (delete), Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/AIDS Inc. (no consensus, now a redirect). The fundamental problem is that the reality-based world pays very little attention to Null and his work, but he is widely perceived as a dangerous proponent of nonsense due to the pervasive nature of his claims (e.g. the fraudulent "death by medicine" trope that medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in America and his promotion of the equally fraudulent Burzynski Clinic). He is considered significant by charlatans and skeptics, and pretty much nobody else, on the face of it. Guy (help!) 11:33, 4 November 2019 (UTC)

While Null's opinions and actions regarding Quackwatch are interesting, they are also largely irrelevant. Just as I would be opposed to Null dictating that we cannot use a source, I'm also opposed to him forcing us to use one. Ultimately, the questions are much simpler than anything to do with Null: Are articles by Barrett published in Quackwatch self published; is Quackwatch reliable; and what are the policy limitations on how Quackwatch can be used in BLPs? - Bilby (talk) 12:39, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
No his opinions are not irrelevant. This debate is happening because Null is insisting that QuackWatch be removed. I see no evidence of any involvement here other than that caused by his repeated attempts to remove QuackWatch, going right back to his failed legal case. QuackWatch has always been a source in this article, there's long-standing consensus that it's a reliable source, and the continual drama around QuackWatch on this and other articles is caused entirely by the repeated attempts by defenders of quackery to have it removed, necessitating endless relitigation based on exactly the same facts - aka "keep asking until you get the answer you want".
We should know, at root, who's asking for a thing, and in the end it always turns out to be the same: proxies for Null. It's not a new request it's a repeat of the same request that's been consistently rejected for over a decade. Guy (help!) 12:49, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
As you may recall, the debate started because I replaced some Quackwatch references on List of food faddists with non-self published sources. It had nothing to do with Null when we started this. - Bilby (talk) 13:06, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
As you may recall, WWI started because Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. However this started, it wasn't long before Gary Null fans jumped in, then the regulars at the Fringe Theories Noticeboard responded, then we were off to the races. Also whether Quackwatch is or is not a SPS is the question we are discussing, so please don't beg the question. --Guy Macon (talk) 16:00, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
*Bismark anxiously looks at the camera and slowly looks away.* GMGtalk 16:01, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
Guy Macon, I'm the one asking to keep this focused on whether or not it is an SPS, rather rthan try and bring Null into the issue. - Bilby (talk) 19:46, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
The consensus as summarized at RSP is Quackwatch is a self-published source written by a subject-matter expert...
From my perspective, Quackwatch is fine for information identifying and addressing FRINGE claims in articles. BLP has nothing to do with it. SPS has nothing to do with it. Quackwatch is a useful source for a skeptical POV to address FRINGE issues when no better sources are available. (It's fine in/on/within a BLP article when used properly.)
Quackwatch should not be used for BLP information. (It should not be used about a person that meets BLP criteria.) --Ronz (talk) 16:22, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
I listed all previous RSNB discussion in the collapsed list Prior RSNB discussions at the top of this thread. Please tell me which one suports your claim "The consensus as summarized at RSP [Is this different from RSNB?] is a self-published source written by a subject-matter expert." --Guy Macon (talk) 16:32, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
I linked the RSP entry, which is supposed to summarize all discussions. --Ronz (talk) 16:58, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
Brain Fart. For some reason I temporarily lost all memory of that page. :( --Guy Macon (talk) 19:13, 4 November 2019 (UTC)

As I have said, until it is removed form out list of sources as an SPS it is an SPS and thus cannot be used for information or opinion about living people. It can be used to say "Garry Nulls theories are quackery" It cannot be used to say "Garry Null is a quack". If (however) we now find it is not an SPS the question is moot, and our page on perennial sources needs changing.Slatersteven (talk) 17:40, 4 November 2019 (UTC)

Wikipedia talk:Reliable sources/Perennial sources#SPS now says "Quackwatch is a self-published source (disputed)" and will say so until we have reached a consensus.
I suspect that we may end up with an RfC on this, but I beg anyone considering posting an RfC to post a pre-RFC and gathering comments on the RfC wording and the proposed location for posting it first. We have had far too many cases recently where someone posts an RfC and someone else immediately responds by claiming (rightly or wrongly) that the RfC is invalid, deceptively worded, posted in the wrong place, etc. --Guy Macon (talk) 04:16, 5 November 2019 (UTC)

Workshop on Quackwatch RfC[edit]

Since there is disagreement over multiple aspects of Quackwatch, I agree that an RfC is the best path forward. The RfC should determine community consensus on these three factors:

  1. Whether Quackwatch is generally reliable in its areas of expertise (i.e. alternative medicine and/or quackery)
  2. Whether Quackwatch is a self-published source (and restricted from being used as a third-party source for living persons)
  3. Whether Quackwatch is a biased or opinionated source

Here is one way the RfC could be structured:

RfC format suggestion by Newslinger
RfC: Quackwatch

This RfC asks editors three questions about Quackwatch:

  1. Is Quackwatch a generally reliable source for alternative medicine and quackery?
  2. Is Quackwatch a self-published source?
  3. Is Quackwatch a biased or opinionated source?

(Insert signature here)

Context matters: For each of these questions, please indicate if you have different opinions on different aspects of Quackwatch's content, such as the author(s), topic, and date of publication. The closer is advised to evaluate whether there are separate consensuses for different aspects of the publication.

Generally reliable?

Is Quackwatch a generally reliable source for alternative medicine and quackery?

Survey (Generally reliable?)
Discussion (Generally reliable?)
Self-published?

Is Quackwatch a self-published source?

Survey (Self-published?)
Discussion (Self-published?)
Biased or opinionated?

Is Quackwatch a biased or opinionated source?

Survey (Biased or opinionated?)
Discussion (Biased or opinionated?)

Please feel free to adapt this into your own version, or suggest something different altogether. — Newslinger talk 05:42, 5 November 2019 (UTC)

Looks good. Just tossing out ideas here; should there be urging readers to actually read the polices by adding language like "...as defined at WP:GREL and WP:RS" instead of just linking to the policies? Or maybe a sentence at the top explicitly asking them to do that? --Guy Macon (talk) 06:23, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
Would this work?
Questions with explicit links to policies and guidelines
  1. Is Quackwatch a generally (WP:GREL) reliable source (WP:RS) for alternative medicine and quackery?
  2. Is Quackwatch a self-published source (WP:SPS)?
  3. Is Quackwatch a biased or opinionated source (WP:BIASED)?
— Newslinger talk 07:02, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
Perfect. --Guy Macon (talk) 07:22, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
Great! The RfC is ready to go. If any other editors have suggestions or objections, please share them as soon as possible. — Newslinger talk 07:48, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
Definitely support separate survey and discussion subsections for each question. It's Be Kind To Closers Month! ―Mandruss  07:55, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
Newslinger, no, it's not ready at all. Put on the brakes. See my comment at the bottom. -- BullRangifer (talk) 17:15, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
I would say three is irrelevant as it is not an RS restriction. It will just generate debate that will not in any way have any real benefit.Slatersteven (talk) 10:27, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
I agree. Three is irrelevant. Don't do it. That rabbit hole leads to madness. -- BullRangifer (talk) 17:15, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
I suggest dropping #3 per Slatersteven. It would only tend to complicate the RfC. Other than that, I think this wording would be the most wworkable:
  1. Is Quackwatch a generally reliable source for alternative medicine and quackery?
  2. Is Quackwatch a self-published source?
I also agree with Mandruss about separate survey and discussion sections, and enforce it mercilessly. - MrX 🖋 11:02, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
About question #3: it's common for the perennial sources list to note when a source is perceived to be biased or opinionated. A quick browser search in WP:RSP reveals 35 instances of the word biased and 19 instances of the word partisan. Right now, WP:RSP § Quackwatch states: "Some editors consider Quackwatch a partisan source (disputed), citing a 2007 Arbitration Committee finding." Question #3 would definitively resolve the issue of whether the RSP entry should mention perceived bias/partisanship at all, and the compartmentalized format of the RfC should prevent any disagreements on #3 from affecting the discussions on the other two questions. — Newslinger talk 11:20, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
A key part of the ArbCom finding was that it was partisan. I'm open to letting that sit, but I wouldn't want to discount that because it didn't get asked here.- Bilby (talk) 12:28, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
Concur Q3 is irrelevant. We are allowed to use biased sources. Whether QW is biased or opinionated is neither here nor there. Simply: is it self-published, is it reliable, is it usable for BLPs? Simonm223 (talk) 13:38, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
Agree also that Q3 is not needed. Additionally, we need to be sure we steer clear of the concept of "BLPs" or "BLP pages" as things for which SPS's cannot be used. BLP policy applies to biographical informational wherever it is. Some content on a BLP page is not biographical (for which a SPS may be okay); conversely biographical content can occur in articles which are not biographies (and so an SPS would not be okay). For this reason I think Q2 should simply be "Is Quackwatch a self-published source", as WP:BLPSPS would obviously then apply. Alexbrn (talk) 17:04, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
Well put. -- BullRangifer (talk) 17:19, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
I was thinking something similar, just could not quite put my finger on what it was. I kept separating the two out and then came back to "but its not two questions".Slatersteven (talk) 17:22, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
I see a problem with "Q2 should simply be 'Is Quackwatch a SPS', as BLPSPS would obviously then apply." My problem is the lack of obviousness to those who !vote on the RfC and to those who apply the result of the RfC. It is far from obvious to someone who doesn't deal with this sort of thing all of the time that a support !vote for "Quackwatch is a SPS" is also a support vote for "Quackwatch cannot be used as a source for calling a obvious Quack a Quack." I think that the two things should be explicitly connected so that every one knows what they are !voting for/against. --Guy Macon (talk) 20:57, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
That would then create a problem where we are running an RFC to see if policy should apply to a policy violation. I don't see that as a viable approach. If there is a problem with the policy, the policy needs to be changed. - Bilby (talk) 21:03, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
Guy Macon, we need to be careful with our language. Writing that "Quackwatch cannot be used as a source for calling a obvious Quack a Quack." is an example of (mis)use that turns people off, turns them against QW, and is also inaccurate. We would never use QW in that manner. QW doesn't even use the word "quack" about people, AFAIK. Its content is much more nuanced. -- BullRangifer (talk) 22:36, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
Bilby, it's partisan in the same way we are: it is biased towards empirically established fact and against woo. The entire universe is biased in that way. Guy (help!) 17:45, 5 November 2019 (UTC)

I welcome a very specific RfC on the use of articles by Barrett at QW (SPS) in BLPs. Don't blend it with an RfC about the general use of QW. Failure to limit that discussion will create a serious cluster fuck that will invalidate any decision. (A general RfC could occur separately and after the end of the specific RfC.)

It must recognize that this SPS/BLP issue only applies to the articles written by Barrett at QW, not to the website as a whole, because most of the content at QW is not written by Barrett. It may appear so when one looks at many of the articles on the index page, but that's just the surface of a huge database of information and content authored by others. Let's get this right. Muddled RfCs are disruptive nightmares. -- BullRangifer (talk) 17:11, 5 November 2019 (UTC)

BullRangifer, I am annoyed by the fact that this entire debate has been prompted by a quack sending his followers here often enough that eventually a few good editors who err on the side of fairness towards cranks and charlatans (IMO sometimes to excess) have been sucked in. We can't have articles on quacks and charlatans that exclude the leading reality-based sources on quackery. Guy (help!) 17:47, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
Problom is policy says we do not use SPS for information about BLP, Null is alive, we list QW as an SPS. So we must either change the policy on using SPS for BLP's or declare that QW is not an SPS. What we should not do is create special rules for Mr Null, one way or the other.Slatersteven (talk) 18:39, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
I'd agree that we either comply with our own policies or adjust them, but ignoring a policy doesn't seem appropriate. If there are places where a source is really needed an RFC specific to that article and content is a way to go, or as has been suggested here, a general RFC. I'm not sure suggestions editors are being sucked in is a fair assessment of editors complying with policy. I know nothing about Null and don't care to know but pushing aside our own policies can be a precedent we don't want to set. Littleolive oil (talk) 18:51, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
As the one who - unfortunately - triggered this, it had nothing to do with Null, and wasn't even in relation to claims about Null. It was a straight out case of using an apparant SPS for claims about living people on a different article. This focus on Null is not relevant. - Bilby (talk) 19:20, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
Point taken. My comment was a disclaimer since I eventually noticed in my copy editing of the Null article that Quackwatch was source used and that Null was mentioned here. The use of any self published source can be a issue so no worries about bringing up a topic that generates discussion. Littleolive oil (talk) 19:36, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
Slatersteven, you are correct. We need to revise the policy to make it apply only to comments about the "person" (subject of the BLP), not to their false claims. That would resolve this problem. -- BullRangifer (talk) 22:40, 5 November 2019 (UTC)

Since neither the ArbCom case or any previous RfCs about Quackwatch as a RS have ever mentioned this conflict between the BLP/SPS issue and how we use QW and other RS in these types of fringe articles, I wonder if that BLP policy language is of later date. Does anyone know? -- BullRangifer (talk) 22:42, 5 November 2019 (UTC)

We had a series of RFCs a year ago led by Jytdog about this issue, arguing that we should make an exception to BLPSPS and reword it to allow the use of self published sources on fringe BLPs. The first was withdrawn and restarted by Jytdog, the second was closed by Jytdog when it was clear that the proposal was not going to get consensus. They are archived here. - Bilby (talk) 23:34, 5 November 2019 (UTC)

Discussion on the second draft of the RfC continues at § Draft 2 of Quackwatch RfC. — Newslinger talk 09:07, 7 November 2019 (UTC)

Straw polls for Quackwatch RfC[edit]

Let's determine what the RfC should ask, and how the questions should be phrased. Feel free to add more polls to cover any other areas of disagreement. — Newslinger talk 01:57, 6 November 2019 (UTC)

Bias/partisanship[edit]

Should the RfC ask a question on whether Quackwatch is a biased or opinionated source? — Newslinger talk 01:57, 6 November 2019 (UTC)

Survey (Bias/partisanship)[edit]
  • Yes. It's common for the perennial sources list to indicate when a source is biased or opinionated. (Source descriptions in the list contain the word biased 35 times and the word partisan 19 times.) I'm not fond of linking to the 2007 Arbitration Committee finding, since ArbCom's remit covers disputes on user conduct, not article content. This question allows the community to determine whether Quackwatch should be classified this way. — Newslinger talk 01:57, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No. It's a daft question that has a nebulous relation to the WP:PAGs. So if, for example, a source is "biased" in favour of medical evidence and against fraudulent claims what does that mean? Probably, that we should use it. Just saying a source is "biased" means little – I'd like to know what problem people think an answer to this question solves. Alexbrn (talk) 06:49, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes The current situation is that we use the ArbCom description. That may or may not still hold, but it is worth asking to see if the consenus now is different from ArbCom's, rather than staying with the older finding as the default. - Bilby (talk) 09:49, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No - I don't think it would help in the determination of if the source is reliable, and if it is an SPS. Remember, someone has to close this future mess.- MrX 🖋 14:05, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No. Such sources are expressly allowed by our NPOV policy. To then single out a source and label it, in Wikipedia's voice, as "biased" or "partisan" appears to be a dissing, negative, judgment. That's wrong.
If QW were extremely partisan and biased in the sense that it lacked reliability, it would be justifiable to express caution, but QW is just the opposite. It is biased in the way a source should be. It is biased toward truth and scientific facts, toward ethical marketing, toward consumer protection, and against false claims. Is any of that a bad thing? It has the same bias toward truth held by fact-checkers. It is the oldest and most notable fact-checker of health care claims. We should not do anything to make that look like a bad thing. -- BullRangifer (talk) 15:37, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No. Accusations like "Quackwatch is biased" and of course the classic "Wikipedia is Biased" are what motivated my to create the essay at WP:GOODBIAS. Wikipedia really is biased towards laundry detergent, and biased against laundry balls in a fundamental way. We say that, when it comes to cleaning laundry, laundry detergent works and laundry balls don't. Unlike some of the other areas covered in my essay, the makers of laundry balls have yet to send an army of shills to Wikipedia to protest about our anti-laundry-ball bias, and we haven't been sued over our coverage of the topic, but it would not surprise me if they did. As far as I can tell, Quackwatch has not covered laundry balls (The Straight Dope has[24]), but if they ever do I am confidant that they will share our anti-laundry-ball bias. --Guy Macon (talk) 16:35, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No. As long as the go-to is the ArbCom decision, which should not be used at all per the scope of ArbCom. My bringing it up at RSP was because of this scope. Misuse of the decision has caused ongoing problems. --Ronz (talk) 17:51, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No, this is getting a bit out in the weeds. Reliability is not a measure of bias, nor visa versa. It just so happens that many of the sources we've outright depreciated also happen to be hyper-partisan. That may be because these sources have consciously sacrificed factual accuracy in service to political objectives (no way Orwell hadn't read his Machiavelli after all), or (my personal opinion) it may be that people who are hyper-partisan tend to be hyper-partisan because they're not very good critical thinkers to begin with. But it is perfectly acceptable for two reasonable people to look at the same sets of facts and draw different conclusions; that's in the neighborhood of bias. It is not acceptable for one of them to fudge the facts to support the opinion they've already made their mind up about. That's reliability. Besides that, things like pseudo-science and conspiracies are not a partisan issue. There are as many essential-oil-touting, crystal-wearing, big-pharma-fearing, new-age hippies on the left, as there are bigfoot-hunting, deep-state-fearing, race-obsessed country bumpkins on the right. Gullible ignorant people come in all shapes and sizes.
    I couldn't care less about ArbCom's opinion on the matter. The pontifications of ArbCom are wholly irrelevant to the editorial decision making process, whether they think so or not. GMGtalk 18:13, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Background for the ArbCom.... As the subject/victim of that ArbCom case, I know a bit about its background and why comments about "content" made their way into the wording, even though that should not have happened. One of the Arbitrators is a supporter of certain forms of quackery, and therefore skeptical of QW. He should have recused himself, but he didn't. On the contrary! Based only on his own quack-friendly biases and the accusations of pushers of quackery, and before any evidence was presented, he wrote up the list of "findings", some of which were BS, but they remained unchanged. He basically set me up right from the start. Fortunately other editors mounted a very strong defense. Those BS "findings" are the ones which have caused problems for QW. As a defrocked lawyer, that Arbitrator should have known better. "Findings" are written after looking at the evidence, not just the accusations by pushers of quackery. -- BullRangifer (talk) 03:48, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No QuackWatch represents a scientific / evidence based perspective. It is not biased but often analysis sources that are. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 09:27, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes - I'm of the mind that it would, of course, depend on whether or not the article in QW is cited to verifiable scientific fact, or it is the opinion of a single medical expert or a prevailing medical opinion in a peer reviewed Journal, etc. ArbCom's remedy states: ...that Quackwatch is a site "whose purpose is to combat health-related frauds, myths, fads, fallacies, and misconduct", and is therefore explicitly not giving a balanced presentation. Further, in that same case, ArbCom (7-0) stated with reference to BullRangifer's use that He is reminded that editors with a known partisan point of view should be careful to seek consensus on the talk page of articles to avoid the appearance of a COI if other editors question their edits." per the amendment here. Would a decision in an RfC change that Arb remedy, or would it require a case at ARCA? Atsme Talk 📧 13:28, 30 November 2019 (UTC)
Discussion (Bias/partisanship)[edit]
  • @Alexbrn: The "problem" solved by this question is that it's unclear whether in-text attribution is recommended when using Quackwatch. I suppose the question could directly ask whether in-text attribution should be used, rather than ask whether Quackwatch is biased/partisan. (The effects are the same.) — Newslinger talk 07:04, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • I don't see how that would apply, and think we're in danger of constructing a bureaucratic decision tree which works against the WP:PAGs. So, for example, if a source is "biased" in favour of medical evidence (a kind of WP:GOODBIAS perhaps) attributing its comments would violate NPOV as described in WP:ASF. Would we really have to say "According to Steven Barrett, squirting coffee up your bum will not stop the progression of cancer"? If we are to say QW is "biased" we would need to say how exactly it is biased and what the consequence of that "bias" is (not necessarily that attribution is required). I'd prefer to fall back on the existing WP:PAGs which deal with all of this adequately already. Alexbrn (talk) 07:22, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • WP:BIASED, a section of the reliable sources guideline, states that "Bias may make in-text attribution appropriate". Your comment indicates that you do not consider in-text attribution necessary for uses of Quackwatch in many cases, and you can express that opinion in an RfC asking either the proposed question on bias/partisanship or a question on in-text attribution. — Newslinger talk 07:34, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Asking whether QW should always be attributed would be a different question - an even more daft one. We have guidance on when attribution is necessary already, and it's more nuanced than this question would suggest. Alexbrn (talk) 08:03, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • The question would not ask whether Quackwatch "should always be attributed". — Newslinger talk 08:17, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Arbcom does not legislate on content (let alone a committee of 12 years ago). So this is not a problem that needs solving. Saying a source is "partisan" absent of context is pretty much meaningless. Alexbrn (talk) 08:03, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Editors have been referring to the ArbCom finding in past discussions (2007, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2015). Although the ArbCom finding doesn't directly apply to content discussions, the finding's use of the word "partisan" has a real impact on editors who evaluate specific cases of how Quackwatch should be used in articles. — Newslinger talk 11:42, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes, and it's a negative impact, making what is a good bias appear to be a negative thing. We must not perpetuate the problematic nature of that ArbCom. Read the comment I just made about the background for that ArbCom. Then you'll understand why we should distance ourselves from it and that "biased" and "partisan" wording. -- BullRangifer (talk) 04:27, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Wikipedia RSs can be non-neutral in tone. However, I believe the real question is whether a RS is reliable for the content it references as well as being verifiable. While Quackwatch presents opinions from multiple authors, I don't see that content has oversight from a board of reviewers, specifically experts in the particular areas they are writing about. Verifiability states sources must be "attributable to reliable, published sources." Quackwatch is attributable to single persons with no apparent oversight which is not a publishing model. WP requires that we look at the quality of the publication as well as the author. As well, when writing about health related subjects MEDRS must come into play. Right? The difficulty which has been mentioned several times in this discussion is how to source fringe-to-the mainstream content, especially health related content.
Possibly the question we should be asking is, is Quackwatch verifiable? Then we have to ask, how do we include content for which there is no verifiable reliable sourcing. Or do we? My suspicion is that these days we are likely to find sources which are verifiable and reliable even for non-mainstream sources and can bypass Quackwatch for these better sources.
RS are only reliable per the content they are referencing; editors, though, have the right to bypass on an individual basis, with consensus, policy. What this RfC seems to asking for is the carte blanche use of this one source in any situation. I'm not sure that's something we can agree to for any source let alone one that is not verifiable or reliable. Littleolive oil (talk) 03:11, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
The question "Is Quackwatch verifiable?" is essentially the opposite of the question "Is Quackwatch a self-published source?", since WP:SPS is a part of WP:V (although WP:SPS also contains an exception for subject-matter experts). I believe the questions proposed in the straw poll below, § Self-published status of authors, give you an opportunity to address concerns with Quackwatch's verifiability. I'll start another straw poll on a question about Quackwatch's general reliability, which will hopefully get to the center of your "carte blanche" concern. — Newslinger talk 04:02, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
The straw poll is at § General reliability. — Newslinger talk 04:46, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Comment. So are we also going to label all sources one inch to the left and right of center as biased or opinionated, because that's the nature of the beast? Few sources are totally fact-based and unbiasd. That's a very rare thing. Do you see the consequences of us dissing, in Wikipedia's voice, a source? That's what we'd be doing. That's not right. We should leave that type of commentary to RS we use in articles, but not here.
QW is biased toward the scientific POV, ethical behavior in medicine, and toward consumer protection, and that is a good thing, but our labeling it as "biased" makes it look like a bad thing. -- BullRangifer (talk) 03:18, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
Not necessarily. For example, the Southern Poverty Law Center (RSP entry) is labeled as biased or opinionated because it's an advocacy group, but there is still consensus that it's generally reliable. The perennial sources list tries to measure bias and reliability independently. — Newslinger talk 03:47, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
I'm not sure you understood my comment. "Wikipedia RSs can be non-neutral in tone." That is, bias and opinionated sources can be acceptable sources. I'm not discussing bias. I am asking whether sources that are not verifiable or reliable be used carte blanche. This has to do with oversight as in publication and author quality the usual ways we discern the quality of publication and so oversight. I am also suggesting we have a problem with writing articles where fringe to the mainstream sources and content may be necessary to create accurate content. We can solve that problem with individual consensus for specific sources, by bypassing lesser sources for better sources for the problematic content, or something else no one has suggested yet. Littleolive oil (talk) 03:50, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
If you're responding to me, my previous comment was actually a response to BullRangifer. I'll respond to you above. — Newslinger talk 03:55, 6 November 2019 (UTC) Fixed in Special:Diff/924821657. — Newslinger talk 04:08, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
Clarifying for BullRangifer. The indents are a bit confused. Littleolive oil (talk) 04:03, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Scope of arbitration: In his !vote above, Bilby says:
"The current situation is that we use the ArbCom description. That may or may not still hold, but it is worth asking to see if the consensus now is different from ArbCom's, rather than staying with the older finding as the default".
This appears to be a direct contradiction of Wikipedia:Arbitration#Scope of arbitration, which says:
"The Committee accepts cases related to editors' conduct (including improper editing) where all other routes to resolve the conduct issues have failed, and will make rulings to address problems in the editorial community. However it will not make editorial statements or decisions about how articles should read ("content decisions"), so users should not ask the Committee to make these kinds of decisions. It will not do so".
--Guy Macon (talk) 16:47, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
Guy Macon, Bilby's view is probably coloured by his long-term work ensuring that articles on antivaxers and other charlatans are as fair to them as humanly possible. In that context, excluding QW from biographies would be a boon. It's a valid mission. I personally think he goes too far, but that's one of those things on which reasonable people can differ. Guy (help!) 12:22, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Having bias is not a consideration in whether something is an RS. Having an extreme bias is where there could be a case of asking "are they so biased as to be manipulating facts to their liking?" which would then lead to questions on reliability, but it is still not directly due to having a bias. QW's only bias is that they are against bogus claims of alternative medicine and the like, which is not an extreme position, so bias really isn't a question here. --Masem (t) 14:55, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

Self-published status of authors[edit]

How should the RfC ask whether Quackwatch is a self-published source? — Newslinger talk 03:12, 6 November 2019 (UTC)

Feel free to add other options to the list above.

Survey (Self-published status of authors)[edit]
  • Option 2A. It is only Barrett's articles which meet the definition of SPS at QW. No other authors meet that definition. The idea of two separate questions is a bad idea with no legitimacy found in the definition of SPS, unless someone can find an exceptional example. No rule is necessary for such an exception, as we always use QW on a case-by-case basis anyway, and that's when we deal with exceptional cases. -- BullRangifer (talk) 03:22, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 1. If we are going to be reductive, and determine reliability sans context, we should be properly so. The question as to whether there is any real editorial oversight of material published by QW, or whether it is essentially "user-generated", is not limited to only material authored by Barrett. - Ryk72 talk 04:33, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • That is not the remit of the proposed RfC. The discussions we have been having are specifically about the use of QW as an SPS in BLP subjects and articles. A general RfC on QW as a whole is another matter and these two should not be mixed.
Several RfCs have already ruled that QW is generally a RS, and therefore such an RfC is not necessary as nothing has changed since then.
Also, it is not "user generated". It is not a blog or wiki.
Reliability is never determined sans context. The suitability of every single RS we use is judged by the context in which it will be used, and that also applies to QW. It is not special in that regard. All previous RfCs have determined that it, like all other RS, should be used on a case-by-case basis. Not even the most notable and best RS are reliable in all instances, and even blacklisted sources are considered RS in very limited and specific situations. Context is always a factor. -- BullRangifer (talk) 06:41, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
In my opinion, WP:RSP and related discussions (of which this is one) attempt to codify "reliability" (broadly construed; perhaps "usability" is better in this context?) of sources without regard to context or specific use of those sources. I am as yet far from convinced that this is advantageous to the purpose of building an encyclopaedia aligned to the WP:5P; but if that's what we're going to do, we should do it right. And if we're examining the self-published nature of QW, which is about effective editorial checks & balances or lack thereof, we should not artificially limit that to QW material written by Barrett in the RfC question itself. The mileage of individual Wikipedians may, of course, vary. - Ryk72 talk 08:36, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
I agree, and think WP:RSP is a (bad) attempt to legislate WP:CLUE. It's not part of the WP:PAGs so can be safely disregarded but might lead less clueful editors astray. I would favour its deletion, frankly. Alexbrn (talk) 08:45, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
If you think it's a net negative, you're welcome to nominate it for deletion at any time. The page is unlikely to be deleted considering the community support in Wikipedia talk:Reliable sources/Archive 59 § RfC: Should this guideline contain a link to WP:Identifying reliable sources/Perennial sources? and Wikipedia talk:Reliable sources/Archive 60 § RfC: Should Template:Supplement be added to WP:Identifying reliable sources/Perennial sources?. Proponents of fringe and conspiracy theories would appreciate the deletion of the list. — Newslinger talk 09:07, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
As yet, I'm agnostic. - Ryk72 talk 10:50, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 2 If for no other reason than to ensure every option gets a hearing. I do not know enough about QW to make a clear judgement on whether it is generally (other then specifically in relation to Barrett) an SPS.Slatersteven (talk) 10:02, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 1. People aren't going to just say yes or no - if they want to qualify their statement, they will when they make it. - Bilby (talk) 11:10, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 1 - There is no valid reason to pay any attention to articles from other sources that he re-publishes. Just use the other sources (if they are reliable). - MrX 🖋 11:53, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 1 Any original reporting at QW should be reviewed for SPS-ness. For any reprinting of published material on QW, then we go to the original source and judge that (Peer-reviewed paper? Great! Medium.com post? Nope!). --Masem (t) 14:57, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 1. RfCs allow for open-ended responses, and closers are expected to examine any exceptions or qualifications mentioned in the comments. — Newslinger talk 20:46, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Option 2 - for the reasons I stated in the first section of the survey with reference to the ArbCom remedy, Quackwatch is a site "whose purpose is to combat health-related frauds, myths, fads, fallacies, and misconduct", and is therefore explicitly not giving a balanced presentation. It depends on what was published in QW and whether or not it was a medical opinion or a peer-reviewed article, etc. MEDRS should apply here, should it not? Atsme Talk 📧 13:33, 30 November 2019 (UTC)
Discussion (Self-published status of authors)[edit]
  • Note that any changes to WP:BLPSPS need to be proposed at WT:BLP. WP:SPS allows the use of self-published sources written by subject-matter experts, as long as the material is not about a living person. — Newslinger talk 03:12, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • We should revise the rule to make it clear that the rule applies to comments about the person, not their false claims. Because fringe and false claims have little due weight, QW and other sources which debunk those claims would have the most weight, thus enforcing our status as a mainstream encyclopedia where SPOV rules. -- BullRangifer (talk) 03:26, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
That was attempted. We could try it again, but I'm not sure the result will change. - Bilby (talk) 05:26, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
@BullRangifer:. I don't think we no to do that. WP:BLP applies to biographical information. Ideas people express do not inherit the protection of WP:BLP. We already have policy on how to cope with fringe concepts: WP:PSCI. Alexbrn (talk) 07:11, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • As I have been reading the various comments about whether Quackwatch is a SPS, it occurred to be that by the criteria many here are using pretty much every independent (not part of a chain) small town newspaper is a SPS that cannot be used in a BLP. Most such newspapers have one person who writes most of the articles, decides what articles from the AP to include, does all the editing, and decides what to cover. Yet small-town independent newspaper reporting is the backbone of many BLPs. If the Frostbite Falls News reports that one of our BLPs did something noteworthy we use it as a reference without a second thought, even though the Frostbite Falls News consists of Fred, who owns the paper, writes all of the copy in the morning. and operates the printing press in the afternoon. --Guy Macon (talk) 10:45, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • As I understand it, the realpolitik of BLP is that nobody wants the WMF (or the community) exposed to the legal jeopardy that would result if Wikipedia published defamatory/libellous content. Hence we are required by policy effectively to use sources where wise lawyers (or at least legal-savvy people) will already have run their wise eyes over it and headed off any such possibility. This is also, of course, the ethical course that best serves Wikipedia's mission to share only accepted knowledge. So far as I can tell, Quackwatch is fully lawyered-up and Barrett is acutely aware of the legal perils any mis-step would expose him to. Perhaps somebody should ask him? Alexbrn (talk) 11:02, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • If it can be shown that Frostbite Falls is an SPS, I am happy to have it removed under policy from BLPs. - Bilby (talk) 11:17, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • My point is that by any criteria you could name, if Quackwatch is a SPS then Frostbite Falls News (which I am using as a stand-in for pretty much every independent small town newspaper) is a double plus SPS. Either ban Quackwatch and most small town newspapers from BLPs or allow Quackwatch and most small town newspapers in BLPs. It isn't fair to use different criteria. --Guy Macon (talk) 00:34, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
  • This is actually 100% fair and appropriate. To me, it would be more appropriate to say that unless you can clearly show there is a standard "editing" team - one or more writers and at least one editor-in-chief or similarly titled position that does not frequently write but is validating content - then the work should be presumed in the current "new media" to be an SPS and not usable for BLPs. Having that distinction between writer and editor - so that unfounded claims don't get published without at least two sets of eyes that have looked at it - is what is necessary to maintain the BLPSPS issue. So by that definition, we still would have QW as an SPS. --Masem (t) 00:42, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
  • I understand that Frostbit Falls was used as a stand0in. My feelings mirror Masem - if a source is an SPS, it can't be used to make claims about a living person unless written by the subject of the BLP. That includes the hypothetical Frostbite Falls or other smalltown newspaper, which I'd similarly be willing to remove. - Bilby (talk) 04:53, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Barrett is acutely aware of the danger. He has been libeled and been in court many times. As a public person, it is hard for him to win, although Mercola settled out of court.
Barrett v. Rosenthal resulted in a legal decision (the subject of the ArbCom) which protects Wikipedia and its editors. It allows the REpublication of libelous material found on the internet, without any jeopardy to the REpublisher (IOW editors) or host (in this case Wikipedia). Only the original author of the libel can be sued. -- BullRangifer (talk) 15:58, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
IANAL, but as I understand it, in British law repeating a libel can be as bad as originating one (hence, not too long ago, the famous Lord McAlpine case.[25]). Alexbrn (talk) 17:11, 6 November 2019 (UTC)

General reliability[edit]

How should the RfC ask about Quackwatch's general reliability? — Newslinger talk 04:43, 6 November 2019 (UTC)

  • Option A: The RfC should ask a question on whether Quackwatch is generally reliable, e.g.:

Is Quackwatch a generally reliable source for alternative medicine and quackery?

  • Option B: The RfC should ask a two-option question on Quackwatch's general reliability, e.g.:

Which of the following best describes the reliability of Quackwatch?

  • Option C: The RfC should ask a three-option question on Quackwatch's general reliability, e.g.:

Which of the following best describes the reliability of Quackwatch?

  • Option D: The RfC should not ask any questions about Quackwatch's general reliability.

Feel free to add other options to the list above.

Survey (General reliability)[edit]
  • Option A: It is generally reliable for alternative medicine and quackery. As a mainstream health and medical source, it has been recognized for its value in these subject areas by numerous RS and agencies for many years. -- BullRangifer (talk) 06:27, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
    • It is the duty of editors to accept the decision of RS. They should not allow personal editorial opinions to trump what RS say. That's a violation of NPOV. Mainstream RS consider it a valuable RS. -- BullRangifer (talk) 06:27, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • *Option D per Masem. General reliability is not the issue here. Only use of Barrett's articles for BLP persons, not their claims. -- BullRangifer (talk) 20:12, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Option A or Option C. If we are going to be reductive, and determine reliability sans context, we should be properly so. No great preference as to the open question in A or the closed question in C. If a closed question, the third option ("generally unreliable"), while unlikely to receive great support, should be offered explicitly. - Ryk72 talk 06:36, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Option A or Option D I think this has been decided, it is generally reliable. But consensus can change.Slatersteven (talk) 10:04, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • A. We just need to ask if it is reliable or not - if people want to choose one of the suboptions they can just do so in their comment. - Bilby (talk) 11:16, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Option A - The question should be open ended in order to get the best input.- MrX 🖋 11:49, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Option D - The issue does not seem to be related to whether or not QW is sufficiently an expert reliable source for quackery absent any BLP issues. It is specifically whether QW is an SPS, and to that end, how BLPSPS overrides RS to allow/disallow its use in BLP and BLP-related articles. --Masem (t) 14:59, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Option A. The Science-Based Medicine RfC asked this question, and it turned out quite well. Quackwatch is held to the same standards as any other source: if other sources can be evaluated on their degrees of adherence to the reliable sources guideline, so can Quackwatch. Otherwise, we'll just end up having this RfC at a later time since there appears to be disagreement here. — Newslinger talk 20:33, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Option C - IF my interpretation is correct in that (a), (b) & (c) are a combined consideration when making the choice to cite an article published in QW. In other words, case by case basis with an approach to QW similar to the approaches we would use in similar articles that require strict adherence to WP:MEDRS. And also if such an RfC can override an ArbCom remedy. Atsme Talk 📧 13:40, 30 November 2019 (UTC)
Discussion (General reliability)[edit]
  • Question. Is there a typo above (two times)? I see The Epoch Times written there. -- BullRangifer (talk) 06:43, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
    Fixed, thanks. I need to be more careful when copying and pasting. — Newslinger talk 07:18, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • In practice, QW is a source of last resort but it is also an excellent source when it's needed per WP:PARITY because often mainstream publications do not sully themselves with consideration of altmed nonsense like coffee enemas and so on. Other, better, sources for particular quackery topics are sometimes available (from e.g. the NHS, FDA, etc.). How to capture this? Something like "QW is generally reliable on WP:FRINGE medical topics and should be used in the absence of stronger sources". Alexbrn (talk) 07:05, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Good point. I have often cited PARITY when defending use of QW. Some alternative medicine practices and claims are so far out there that no medical journals bother with commenting on them, but those claims and practices are very notable and dangerous, and QW deals with them. They serve a very valuable purpose. -- BullRangifer (talk) 16:03, 6 November 2019 (UTC)

  • The question of general reliability is not appropriate for this RfC. Stay focused on the use of Barrett's articles for BLP persons, not their claims. -- BullRangifer (talk) 20:14, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

Draft 2 of Quackwatch RfC[edit]

The consensus in the first straw poll (to exclude the bias/partisanship question) is clear, although the other two polls would still benefit from more participation. Here's the second draft:

Draft 2 of Quackwatch RfC
RfC: Quackwatch

This RfC asks editors two questions about Quackwatch:

  1. Is Quackwatch a generally (WP:GREL) reliable source (WP:RS) for alternative medicine and quackery?
  2. Is Quackwatch a self-published source (WP:SPS)?

(Insert signature here)

Context matters: For each of these questions, please indicate if you have different opinions on different aspects of Quackwatch's content, such as the author(s), topic, and date of publication. The closer is advised to evaluate whether there are separate consensuses for different aspects of the publication.

Generally reliable?

Is Quackwatch a generally (WP:GREL) reliable source (WP:RS) for alternative medicine and quackery?

Survey (Generally reliable?)
Discussion (Generally reliable?)
Self-published?

Is Quackwatch a self-published source (WP:SPS)?

Survey (Self-published?)
Discussion (Self-published?)

What are your thoughts on this draft? — Newslinger talk 00:03, 7 November 2019 (UTC)

An RfC is totally unnecessary. Per WP:PARITY, Quackwatch is an excellent resource for alerting readers to the fact that the topic they are reading about is based on quackery, whether intentional or not. As discussed many times, normal scientists do not bother spending time and effort refuting every nonsensical claim and gold-plated reliable sources are not required to counter WP:REDFLAG topics. Johnuniq (talk) 09:16, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
Agree on this point. The question here was "Is Quackwatch an SPS and thus not allowed as a source on BLPs?" So why has this morphed into a general question about reliability too? Also unhappy about linking to WP:GREL, a piece of content which is not part of the WP:PAGs, has unsufficient community weight behind it, and leads into dangerous over-simplification. The RfC should just ask whether Quackwatch is an SPS. Alexbrn (talk) 09:25, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
The relevant straw poll is at § General reliability. — Newslinger talk 09:28, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
If there is consensus (in the above straw polls) not to ask any questions, we won't have an RfC. — Newslinger talk 10:26, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
No issue with using it about theories, the problem is we say it is an SPS and SPS are blanket banned for comments ABOUT living people. So either we change policy, or declare QW not an SPS.Slatersteven (talk) 13:08, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
QuackWatch is self published. We don't have the right to say it's something it isn't. We also can't change policy without wide community input. So we cannot here decide to throw out BLPSPS. However, sourcing fringe to mainstream content is a problem. If, as editors we cannot source the topic of an entire article with out going to a non-compliant source or no sources that article should not be written. If we are dealing with a topic like, "moon is made of green cheese" then we are dealing with a theory and we can almost certainly source theories with compliant sources. If we are dealing with content that is supported by compliant sources as in MEDRS topics and there are other views, and there are no good compliant sources for those views we could possibly with agreement go to lesser quality sources as long as they are added per their lesser weight to better sources. "Of course, for any viewpoint described in an article, only reliable sources should be used; Wikipedia's verifiability and biographies of living persons policies are not suspended simply because the topic is a fringe theory.", but also per parity "...The prominence of fringe views needs to be put in perspective relative to the views of the entire encompassing field; limiting that relative perspective to a restricted subset of specialists or only among the proponents of that view is, necessarily, biased and unrepresentative.
I question whether Quackwatch is verifiable and then reliable given it is self published, but there are instances where it may be all we have. I personally would never use it, given its reliance on sarcasm, hyperbole and generalization and in some instances is just not factual, and can be cherry picked to accent this kind of language in our articles, but I realize others do not feel this way, and understand it can be used best as Alex said above as a last resort.
The "bottom line" given the complexity of discussion here, and our policies and guidelines seems to be that the best use of QuackWatch is on an individual basis with discussion and agreement. No source is reliable for all content anyway. Just my opinion and will leave this others now. Littleolive oil (talk) 18:52, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
The "bottom line" line for me is one of the appearance of integrity. We do not do the reputation (and therefore impact) of our articles (or the project) any good if we ignore our own rules to slag someone off (even if it is justified). No one (as far as I know) has suggested its not an RS for opinions about opinions, just it is not RS for opinions about the holders of opinions. Yes we cannot (and should not) change policy here. But that is (in effect) what is being done, BLPSPS is being altered or ignored when it suits certain opinions, and only a policy change can do that.Slatersteven (talk) 11:45, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
I think it goes further than the appearance of integrity, to integrity itself – and this hinges on the question of whether QW is (in whole or in part) a WP:SPS. Answering that question will allow things to proceed with certainty and with compliance to the WP:PAGs. Alexbrn (talk) 12:10, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
This is good, but please collapse the list of previous discussions and place it after the signature, but before the first section break. WP:PARITY is not a guideline that enjoys broad consensus, so it obviously can't override policies like WP:BLP and WP:RS. I think we have already established that there will be an RfC.- MrX 🖋 12:20, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
  • It is important to remember that the BLP restriction on self-published sources relates to statements about PEOPLE (ie we can not use an SPS to support a statement about the person who is the subject of the BLP). It does NOT relate to statements about theories, claims, practices etc (so, we can still use an SPS to support a statement about what that subject says). To put this another way: While we can not use QW to say that Dr X is a “quack”... we can use it to say that his claim that eating earth worms cures cancer is deemed “quackery“. Blueboar (talk) 12:47, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
True, what avoiut (say) "A promoter of Quakery"?Slatersteven (talk) 12:51, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
No... that is still a statement ABOUT the person. We would need a separation ... something like: “a promoter of the earthworm diet, which is deemed quackery”. Blueboar (talk) 13:22, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
Which is not up for deabte, it is whether or not it is acceptable for saying the former.Slatersteven (talk) 15:17, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
Although that may not an unreasonable approach, we've failed to get consensus for that interpretation when talking about BLPs. - Bilby (talk) 13:11, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
Which is why we are here, if it is an SPS we need to then discus a change of policy at the appropriate venue, if it is not an SPS case closed.Slatersteven (talk) 13:14, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
This is all a bit of a nonsense anyway I think. Such a statement could be reformulated as (say)

Dr X promotes the green tomato diet with claims it can "cure all forms of cancer".[ref to Dr X's site] The green tomato diet confers no proven health benefits and has been characterized as quackery.[ref to QW]

So the insistence that QW cannot be used to say Dr X is a promoter of a quack diet is just syntactic pettifogging IMO. Alexbrn (talk) 13:23, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
Only if you believe that using Wikipedia as a platform to debunk pseudomedicine is more important that our BLP policy. Also, I've never understood why it's necessary to WP:LABEL things quackery, when we could simply say that they're not supported by scientific evidence. In fact, WP:BLPSTYLE seem quite clear on that point. - MrX 🖋 17:17, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
BLPSPS can be read to include statements about what a person thinks or does. Say a public figure, otherwise normal in all other aspects, asserts the moon is made of cheese and when pressed, stands by that statement, vowing he knows it is the truth. It would be inappropriate to use an SPS to talk about that fallacy absent mainstream RS sources that also point out the statement is wrong. Now, this is different from a situation where a person may be an an anti-vaxxer with their reasons for that falling in the same general lines that other anti-vaxxers give. If there was some need to include an SPS to dispel the fallacies of anti-vaxxing that did not talk about that person but about anti-vaxxers in general, that would be fine, as the SPS is not specifically focusing on the person. But as soon as the SPS turns to a piece that is directly about the person, their ideas or their actions, BLPSPS kicks in. --Masem (t) 15:05, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
NPOV is a core policy of Wikipedia and we are required to ensure fringe views are clearly described as such. Whether the moon is made of cheese is not a matter subject to WP:BLP. Using an ingenious "reading" of BLP to kick away one of WP's pillars would be ... problematic. Alexbrn (talk) 15:19, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
BLP overrides NPOV for all purposes. Claims made about a BLP must be from RSes. If no RS has challenged an idea made by a BLP as quackery, it is not our place to call it out as quackery -- but at the same time, it is not our place to include the BLP's claim if no RSes have covered it in the first place (BLPs are not meant to be unduly self-serving so we're not going to re-iterate in-depth claims of quackery from primary sources). That's how we achieve the NPOV/FRINGE issues; if they are so fringe that only SPS are covering them, there's zero reason to include. --Masem (t) 15:21, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
This is really a different issue, and one worthy of debate, just not here.Slatersteven (talk) 15:23, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
Perhaps, but I think the core issues is specifically if QW is an SPS so that how it intersects with BLPSPS is handled. I don't think its status as an RS (SPS or not) on non-BLP pages about fringe medicine is in question: its got the right expertise for that when no names are involved. --Masem (t) 15:30, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
BLP content must adhere strictly to NPOV, and NPOV tells us how to deal with fringe views. This is plainly written explicit policy. Alexbrn (talk) 15:44, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Specifically, the WP:PSCI section of WP:NPOV, which directs the reader to WP:FRINGE for more info. Also see Wikipedia:Neutral point of view/FAQ#Pseudoscience. --Guy Macon (talk) 15:55, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
All of which talk about "Theories", not the people that hold them, nor can I see any mention of BLP's.Slatersteven (talk) 15:58, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
NPOV does not state we must identify fringe views as fringe views, which is the point you argue. The sourcing has to be there to support it, otherwise that's engaging in OR. We need RS sourcing to identify those views as fringe to identify those views as such, and when we get to a BLP, that RS sourcing cannot be an SPS. But I will stress: between BLP, NPOV, and FRINGE, it is wholly inappropriate to include a BLP's fringe view in medical areas in the first place it is not discussed in any RS, thus eliminating the concern about disproving that view as FRINGE. That is, I find it really hard to believe there would ever be a case where we have good RSes that document a BLP's fringe medical view, and none of those RSes or other RSes describe the view as bad science or quackery to go along with it. --Masem (t) 15:51, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
(edit conflict)I believe that we have established that Quackwatch is a RS regarding pseudoscience and BLPs of pseudoscientists. What is still being debated is whether Quackwatch is an SPS -- specifically a self-published expert source that is considered to be a reliable source because it is produced by an established expert on the subject matter. My position is that Quackwatch is not an SPS at all and thus cannot be a reliable SPS. Other here disagree, and some here keep begging the question by assuming without evidence that we have already determined that Quackwatch is an SPS and using that as an argument in favor of us determining that Quackwatch is an SPS. These question-begging arguments are typically in the form of proclaiming that cannot use an SPS in a BLP without ever establishing that Quackwatch is an SPS. --Guy Macon (talk) 16:08, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
"we get to a BLP, that RS sourcing cannot be an SPS" <- you keep arguing that, but it's not part of the WP:PAGs, whereas BLP/FRINGE/NPOV are, and we are told to obey them strictly. BLP's prohibition on SPS's does - yes - apply to biographical information anywhere. But a claim in the realm of biomedicine is not biographical in nature (though it is a common misconception among arts types that scientific statements are a kind of self-expression). The problem would occur when RS (a mainstream news source say) uncritically reports some person's championing of something dodgy, and only a WP:PARITY source like Quackwatch bothers to counter it. Alexbrn (talk) 16:02, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
BLP overrides NPOV for all purposes. As one of the original authors of WP:BLP, this makes it appear that you have a stupendous misunderstanding of WP:BLP. BLPs precisely must conform to NPOV, V, NOR - the difference from any other article is that standards of these policies are much higher. That's literally all - David Gerard (talk) 18:33, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
The issue is that it is being argued that NPOV requires us to point out fringe medical/pseudoscience views, which may require weak sourcing like an SPS to do, but BLP does not allow the use of SPS for that. The way I would phrase it is that BLP requires meeting V/NOR/NPOV. but has special additions that enforce additional requirements beyond what V/NOR/NPOV establish. BLP does not weaken adherence to V/NOR/NPOV. --Masem (t) 18:41, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
"but BLP does not allow the use of SPS for that" <- that is a mis-statement of policy, pure & simple. Alexbrn (talk) 19:39, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
Never use self-published sources—including but not limited to books, zines, websites, blogs, and tweets—as sources of material about a living person, unless written or published by the subject of the article. I realize that the line "material about a living person" is the tricky part because it is very grey. A separate stand-alone quack theory is not material about a living person, but so often in disproving that theory, QW is making statements about the person's education, which is not allowed per BLPSPS (if QW is an SPS). Or, if we're not talking a full-fledged theory and are novel statements of opinion that trend towards quackery, it would be inappropriate to use QW as an SPS (if it is one) to criticize those since that's material about a person. Answering whether QW is an SPS is a key step, because if QW isn't, then all those issues vanish. But if it is, then becomes where is the line drawn where QW can be used on reporting on quackery of a theory without touching on the BLP themselves. --Masem (t) 20:08, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
Nobody else seems to be finding it "very grey". Yes, the qualifications somebody has is "about them" (so no SPS for sourcing that!); whether or not (say) taking a dietary supplement is dangerous, or whether the earth is flat, is not information about a living person. NPOV tells us how to deal with fringe views, and BLP directs us to follow NPOV strictly. Alexbrn (talk) 06:37, 9 November 2019 (UTC)

This (at its heart) is major part of the problem, BLP policy clearly states that nothing about a LP can be sourced to an SPS "Never use self-published sources—including but not limited to books, zines, websites, blogs, and tweets—as sources of material about a living person...", to me never means never. So we go back to policy needs to be re-written, which is not in the scope of this RFC, or forum.Slatersteven (talk) 19:44, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

It may not be in the scope of this RfC, but the results of this RfC may well produce the arguments to be used in an attempt to tweak the BLPSPS policy wording. -- BullRangifer (talk) 20:29, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

Arbitrary break[edit]

I think we need one example of a fringe theory or pseudoscience that is not called that in any RS.Slatersteven (talk) 16:03, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

A lot of these same arguments were rehearsed about Michael Greger's claims about diet (though the source in that case was Science-Based Medicine, not QW). This led to an RfC.[26]. Quackwatch is currently used in several biographies. From a quick search: Robert O. Young, Joseph Mercola and Eric R. Braverman - I haven't explored the wider sourcing for these people. Alexbrn (talk) 16:13, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
Not sure its quite the same (but am not aware of the case), no one is saying we canont use QW for opinions about anyones views, only about them. As has been pointed out above much of this could be dealt with my re-wording. Which makes it all the harder to understand the opposition.Slatersteven (talk) 16:19, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
Looking at Young's page, as a starting point, I will say that is where QW is being used alongside non-SPS RSes (sciencebasedmedicine, a few other reports). Using QW to expand on those claims is fine, BLPSPS does not prevent that (presuming QW is treated as an SPS). It is when QW is the only source to point out fringe stuff. --Masem (t) 16:23, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
I'm generally concerned about this - in times when we have a good source to use to reference a statement about a living person, using an SPS as well is unnecessary. If it is already sourced, we don't need need the SPS alongside it. If it is not sufficiently referenced by the non-SPS, we can't use the SPS to cover it. I see little value in using an SPS in addition to an RS in those cases, and some risk if we do. - Bilby (talk) 21:17, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
This is probably an issue beyond the present question of QW related to BLPSPS, but it is fair. As long as QW is going into more depth about claims made about the person already established in an RS, and not introducing new ones (in the case of QW, providing a more firm scientific basis why something is quackery), then it doesn't seem to run afoul of why we have BLPSPS. However, I do see BLPSPS being that hard line so would also agree with the point of why use QW if other nonSPS RS cover the same effective points. --Masem (t) 21:31, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
If an SPS is making claims that no RS is making, even if that is simply a matter of more depth or details, then we're back in the realm of using an SPS to make claims about a living person. It is relevant, in this case, because QW has been used that way, and I've seen this a lot on fringe BLPs, where an SPS and a RS are both being used to source the same thing, but there is strong resistence to removing the SPS even when it adds nothing to the claims, and if it did add something we couldn't use it. But it is complex. :) - Bilby (talk) 21:57, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
@Slatersteven: "no one is saying we canont use QW for opinions about anyones views, only about them" – that is precsiely what (I think) Masem is arguing. (quote above: "We need RS sourcing to identify those views as fringe to identify those views as such, and when we get to a BLP, that RS sourcing cannot be an SPS"). Alexbrn (talk) 16:51, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
OK then I (and I suspect all but one other person) have not argued that.Slatersteven (talk) 16:54, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

Also there is no point is discussion if QW is an SPS, that is for the FRC to decide. Do we have an agreement that this can be the basis of the RFC.Slatersteven (talk) 16:13, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

The original question was "Is Quackwatch an SPS and thus not allowed as a source on BLPs?" I'm not sure why this has become so complicated. Alexbrn (talk) 16:17, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

Whether or not a source is a SPS is determined by whether or not they have independent reviewers (defined as lacking a conflict of interest) doing fact checking. Since proving a negative is damned near impossible, can anyone who thinks Quackwatch is not a SPS provide who the independent reviewers are? --Kyohyi (talk) 16:14, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

Why would reviewers change anything? An SPS is a self published source. If the same person writes, edits and publishes the material, whether or not they also seek advice about the content, they are self publishing. The most getting people to advise on their content does is speak to reliablity - it doesn't change whether or not they are the one responsible for publishing their own material. - Bilby (talk) 21:22, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
As others have said above, it's not necessarily so simple. What about this piece for example? Alexbrn (talk) 16:18, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

::Examples of self-published sources

Almost all websites except for those published by traditional publishers (such as news media organizations), including:
Blogs
Web forums
Wikis
Social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn
Sites with user-generated content, including YouTube and Find A Grave
Business, charitable, and personal websites
So we go back to, looks like policy says it is.Slatersteven (talk) 16:23, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
The link provided by Alexbrn just above points out why this is a major BLP concern. That link, while demonstrating why the person's science is bad, starts by criticizing the lack of certain degrees or expertise. Absent any discussion of the medical/scientific theories, that information related to the person's expertise would be absolutely disallowed from an SPS on a BLP; that's exactly the type of stuff BLPSPS is meant to keep out without an RS to back it up. If we were discussing the quackery medical concepts only, we can still use that article, but we'd have to keep a 10 foot pole from including the claims about lack of expertise from that. This is where using QW becomes an issue as often, the disproving of the theory starts with challenging the BLP's credentials. If an RS was doing that, that would be fine, but not from an SPS , if that is what QW is. --Masem (t) 16:33, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
Also says this
If the answers to these questions are the same, then the work is self-published. If they are different, then the work is not self-published.
In determining whether a source is self-published, you should not consider any other factors. Neither the subject material, nor the size of the entity, nor whether the source is printed on paper or available electronically, nor whether the author is a famous expert, makes any difference.
As such work published on the site by other authors may not be SPS (It does also say forums and Wiki's which are often edited by people who do not own them), but nor does expertise render it an non SPS.Slatersteven (talk) 16:47, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
So from that it would follow that portions of Quackwatch (i.e. those not authored by Barrett) cannot be classified as WP:SPS? Alexbrn (talk) 18:11, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
As I implied its not quite that simple "Self-published material is characterized by the lack of reviewers who are independent of the author (those without a conflict of interest) validating the reliability of contents.".Slatersteven (talk) 18:15, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
Of course. Only the articles by Barrett which are only published at QW can be considered SPS, and that should be the focus of this RfC. Scrub all other considerations and simplify this matter. -- BullRangifer (talk) 20:37, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

Let's compromise: we can start the RfC on whether Quackwatch is self-published, since there is strong support for that question. If the RfC finds consensus that Quackwatch is self-published, or if there's no consensus, Quackwatch will continue to be classified as "No consensus, unclear, or additional considerations apply" – with a note that WP:PARITY is in effect for fringe topics. If the RfC finds consensus that Quackwatch is not self-published, we'll do a follow-up RfC to determine whether it's generally reliable. — Newslinger talk 20:40, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

RfC: Quackwatch[edit]

Is Quackwatch a self-published source (WP:SPS)? — Newslinger talk 23:49, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

Context matters: Please indicate if you have different opinions on different aspects of Quackwatch's content, such as the author(s), topic, and date of publication. The closers are advised to evaluate whether there are separate consensuses for different aspects of the publication. — Newslinger talk 23:49, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

Past discussions related to Quackwatch

Survey (Quackwatch)[edit]

  • No. See "Quackwatch is now an international network of people who are concerned about health-related frauds, myths, fads, fallacies, and misconduct."[27] QuackGuru (talk) 00:27, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes, at least mostly, because the people who write most of the content are the same ones deciding to post that content on the website. It's important for editors to remember that "self-published" is not a term of abuse. It only means that the author and the publisher are the same person or organization. The same is true for, e.g., www.apple.com, www.coca-cola.com, and most other websites (with the significant exception of typical media outlets). So as a purely factual matter, if Stephen Barrett writes an article, and Stephen Barrett decides to post that article on Stephen Barrett's website, then that's self-published. It doesn't matter if Quackwatch is "now an international network", because the same definition applies: If "an international network" writes an article, and "an international network" decides to publish it, then it's self-published. However, articles by occasional contributors and people otherwise uninvolved in the organization are probably not self-published (because the occasional contributor writes it, but Stephen Barrett or that underspecified "international network" publishes it).
    There's always a tendency in these discussions to try to dodge the plain facts because it's inconvenient when we recognize that a source we like is somehow a WP:NOTGOODSOURCE – it's primary, or it's self-published, or it's not independent, or whatever. But I think the solution in that case isn't to pretend that this isn't (mostly) a self-published source. I think the solution is to invoke IAR or to adjust the policies and guidelines to accept these good sources even thought they don't happen to fall into the right abstract categories. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:46, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes - Quackwatch is now (and has been for the last 11 years) written, edited and published by Steven Barret on a website which he fully owns and controls. He does seek advice on some articles before he publishes them, (he notes that he sends some articles to advisers he selects if he is not confident with the material, and that he doesn't seek advice on news articles), and this helps speak to reliablity, but if an author ultimately controls all aspects of the publication process then they are self publishing. There are a small minority of articles on Quackwatch which were not originally published elsewhere but which are solely by authors other than Barrett - these should be considered on a case-by-case basis. - Bilby (talk) 01:13, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • A couple of editors have mentioned Quackwatch Inc. Quackwatch Inc was disolved by Barrett in 2008. Since then it has been solely owned and operated by Barrett. [28] - Bilby (talk) 11:49, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Just as a note about reliability vs publication status. The argumnent turns up that Quackwatch is reliable and therefore not an SPS - either due to Barrett's expertise or to do with the anonymous expert review that it is claimed some articles undergo. That it is reliable is a fair enough claim. But just as non-self published sources can be unreliable, (the Daily Mail springs to mind), it is possible that self-published sources may be reliable, and we acknowledge in RSP that self published sources by an expert may well be reliable in their area of expertise. Nevertheless, whether or not something is reliable does not change how it was published or who was ultimately responsible for decisions at each stage of that publication. Even if Quackwatch is reliable, it is still also self-published, and it is the publication status which is in contention. - Bilby (talk) 09:39, 23 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No, except the articles written by Barrett. The website is NOT an SPS. It's a huge database. -- BullRangifer (talk) 01:27, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes, Quackwatch is a self-published source (SPS). It is Stephen Barrett's website, and he writes most of the articles and controls the site. Contrary to WAID's post above, Apple.com isn't an SPS; it's created and maintained by a professional staff. Self-published sources are described in the sourcing policy, Wikipedia:Verifiability, at WP:SPS:

    Anyone can create a personal web page, self-publish a book, or claim to be an expert. That is why self-published material such as books, patents, newsletters, personal websites, open wikis, personal or group blogs (as distinguished from newsblogs, above), content farms, internet forum postings, and social media postings are largely not acceptable as sources.

Per WP:BLPSPS, self-published sources are never acceptable in BLPs unless written by the subject, and then only with certain caveats. This is an important safeguard in the BLP policy. It means that no individual can post something about a living person directly to their website, then use that post as a source on Wikipedia. It means that material about living persons has been checked before publication by professional editors and if it's contentious perhaps by the publisher's lawyers. For BLPs, we need to rely on sources with a professional editorial staff. SarahSV (talk) 02:02, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes As in my comments above [29] and per Slim Virgin. Add: if there is something really worth using as a source in QuackWatch it could possibly be found in another more reliable format. Littleolive oil (talk) 02:44, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes, but among such sites it's reasonably reliable and has a good reputation. Per WP:USEBYOTHERS, see LA Times (though that describes it as the skeptical blog Quackwatch), PSmag, CNN, The Atlantic (also describes it as a blog), New York Times, etc. The fact that many of these describe it as a blog IMHO makes it too dicey to use it directly for claims about a WP:BLP, but I do feel it's definitely a good source (with an in-line citation) for statements about treatments, theories, etc. Also, since I suspect this may come up, I don't feel that "this theory is wrong" or "this treatment is harmful" (on an article about the theory or treatment) is a WP:BLP-sensitive statement, even if the theory is unambiguously associated with one person - down that route lies madness, because it would rapidly extend BLP to cover nearly everything. --Aquillion (talk) 03:02, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
    • Aquillion, that The Atlantic inaccurately describes it as a blog, and that LA Times inaccurately describes QW as a blog (they accurately describe SBS as a blog) is problematic....for The Atlantic and LA Times. That means that they are not RS when it comes to describing QW. That is very careless writing. At least they use QW favorably.
    There is NOTHING about QW that is like a blog, not in the old sense or new sense. BTW, even if it was a blog, it would not be the comments from others which we'd use, only the content written by the recognized subject experts, and that is allowed here (except for Barrett's articles about a BLP person as his articles are SPS). Unfortunately, some still use the old definition of a blog (a personal public diary where others can comment, and that is the type of blog we deprecate) and don't see the development in use of blogs since then. It's just another website format, and some public persons, politicians, and companies choose that easy format as their official websites. QW is nothing like that. It does not use blog software or format. Besides, no matter the format, there is still editorial control by subject experts, and for the articles written by Barrett, he often seeks input from other subject experts, and he does have lawyers. -- BullRangifer (talk) 15:25, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
Exactly BullRangifer! Sgerbic (talk) 18:07, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
Editorial control involves having an editor other than the author in charge of whether or not something is published. In this case Barrett seeks advice about some articles, but the editor is still Barrett, as he makes all the editorial decisions regarding the articles he writes and publishes. - Bilby (talk) 20:07, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
Bilby, yes, Barrett is just like the Editor-in-Chief of the Los Angeles Times in many ways. An editorial in the Times is also an SPS, and the Editor-in-Chief makes editorial decisions about the other content that is published, often involving consultation with specialists.
That's exactly what happens at QW, except that Barrett is a renowned and highly respected subject expert whose articles are usually well-referenced and not just his opinion. He uses his scientific background. He also consults with other subject experts, and you and I know just as little about that process as we do with the Editor-in-Chief of the LA Times. (Well, that's not totally true with QW. We know more about that process because Barrett posts a list of experts he consults.)
We don't have to know the exact nature of that process, because we trust that people in the Editor-in-Chief position are a notch above other writers. We recognize that they have more credibility, otherwise they wouldn't have gotten into their positions. -- BullRangifer (talk) 00:38, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
Actually, he hasn't posted that list of experts since 2006. The advisers are anonymous now. - Bilby (talk) 03:09, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
Already answered in a separate section below. The experts are still there, just not posted. There is no justification for dissing and disrespecting a notable subject expert. -- BullRangifer (talk) 07:14, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
I'm not "dissing" anyone - just posting a small correction to your statement "Well, that's not totally true with QW. We know more about that process because Barrett posts a list of experts he consults". - Bilby (talk) 07:21, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
Bilby , I just noticed this. No, we DO know more about QW than we do the LA Times. We do not know what experts are used by the Times. -- BullRangifer (talk) 16:24, 19 November 2019 (UTC)
According to QuackWatch, they do not post a list of who their experts are, because "the task of keeping a directory up to date became far more trouble than it was worth". [30] - Bilby (talk) 21:00, 19 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No except those articles written by Barrett not proofread or overseen by Quackwatch’s Scientific and Technical Advisors. Quackwatch has made an effort to let the public know that its articles were overseen by 152 advisors in 2009, and more than 1,000 over time.[31] I accept these statements in good faith. Also Quackwatch should not be called “partisan” because according to definition it is not “strongly supporting a person, principle, or political party, often without considering or judging the matter very carefully”.[32] By comparison or contrast articles by the Southern Poverty Law Center are not called “partisan” at WP:Reliable_sources/Perennial_sources. Alternatively Quackwatch may be biased against quackery, but that's not a bias, just a normal, neutral and mainstream sensible position. CatCafe (talk) 04:00, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
    A small clarification: the Southern Poverty Law Center (RSP entry) is labeled as biased or opinionated in its entry, a term that is used interchangeably with the word partisan. — Newslinger talk 05:18, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No per CatCafe. I give a "here here" to Cat's statement that it is not biased against quackery, it is just repeating the conscientious of science. It has a terrific reputation. Sgerbic (talk) 05:06, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
Further comment - If the argument is that QW is not allowed because it is a blog because it allows comments, then SBM would also be a blog. If the argument is that QW is published on a website, then again so is SBM. Barrett himself is notable and even his comments about living persons when published on QW are RS as are all other comments from other notable persons. Those comments should always be qualified by "According to Steven Barrett ... " The definition that is written for this discussion is the problem and we should be discussing QW's use as a RS and NOT how it fits some wordy description that sorta sums up what we call rules. These discussions are really getting into the weeds. Is QW a RS or not? That is the question we should be discussing. And to that I say Yes. And keep in mind that these arguments against QW would also fit the discussion against SMB which I'm sure we would agree, would be ridiculous. Sgerbic (talk) 18:00, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
QW is NOT "a blog because it allows comments." It's not a blog, and the only comments are those sent to Barrett, just like what happens on other websites and magazines. There isn't even a Letters to the Editor feature at QW. (Just to be sure, I just searched the site and didn't find any. It has a good search function.) -- BullRangifer (talk) 00:49, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
"Letters to the editor" are at [33]. - Bilby (talk) 03:12, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
I guess you could call them that. Big deal. Is there something wrong with that? That is no different than all other RS, and we would never use them. -- BullRangifer (talk) 07:18, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
Just a clarification. - Bilby (talk) 07:21, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
    • QW isn't comparable to SBM. While I dislike the sarcastic tone of both, SBM has the oversight of multiple qualified editors in the fields of medicine and science which makes it a reliable source per our guides, and which at the least makes SBM a good source for relevant opinions. (As well, it might be worth repeating.) Sources are only reliable for the content they source but not for anything and everyhting. Littleolive oil (talk) 19:01, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes, similarly to what Littleolive oil and Aquillion wrote, I think it's a good source that may be useable for scientific statements on a case-by-case basis (particularly when lacking opposing views sources in fringe topics), but not for biographies, as it is a self-published source. But even for scientific statements, either QuackWatch provides a good bibliography that we can directly use, or it's not and then it's only QuackWatch's opinion and not facts and then it's arguable whether QW should be used at all. The fact that there may be multiple authors does not change the fact that there is no systematic reviewing process, this essentially remains a blog. Essentially, I think we should treat it as any other self-published source, we should make no exception solely because we appreciate the source, as I think it's a dangerous path as I wrote in WP:NOBIAS. --Signimu (talk) 06:24, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No QuackWatch is peer reviewed and is published by Quackwatch, Inc. It is not like a self published blog. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 09:30, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes It is (mostly) written, owned and published by one person (thus fits OUR definition of SPS), Expertise and accuracy are (as stated in policy) irrelevant for determining this. Now there may be evidence of peer review, but there are some statements that its owner publishes anything he likes the look of without peer review (thus may fail the SPS statement about knowing the publisher), thus I am not sure it is possible to say which have been peer reviewed or which are by his mates and have just been published as is.Slatersteven (talk) 09:45, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No because QuackWatch is peer reviewed --Ozzie10aaaa (talk) 11:44, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes - The answer to this question is a judgement call because of the loosey-goosey definition of "self published source" in WP:SPS. Quackwatch has characteristics of "claim to be an expert", "newsletters",[34], a "personal blog", a "group blog", a "content farms", and "internet forum postings"[35]. The website includes articles written by the owner of the website, as well as articles curated from various sources like forum posts,[36] conference papers,[37] other self published sources, and journals. The website owner has a medical degree and practiced psychiatry more than two decades ago, but it's not clear what qualifies him to declare a wide variety of subjects "quackery". I'm not aware that he has specialized training in the field of identifying and debunking quackery, although it's clear he is singularly devoted to that cause. The website has no editorial staff or independent editorial process that I can discern, and the idea that the website is peer reviewed appears to be an attempt to lend it legitimacy by co-opting jargon from conventional science publishers. - MrX 🖋 13:21, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • As far as I can tell, yes. One way or the other, it seems to be Barrett's website, to the extent that anyone else has input on the content it is at the discretion of Barrett, and Barrett it the final authority on all editorial decisions. Saying "lots of anonymous experts look at this stuff sometimes" sounds nice, but from what I can tell, it is still Barrett who decides what topics need outside input, Barrett who chooses these experts, and Barrett who decides whether or not to incorporate their recommendations. None of these accouterments make it not-Barrett's-website. GMGtalk 15:44, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes Everything I can see here fits the definition of SPS almost to a tee. Almost everything is written or dictated by the owner of the site with no oversight. It is basically a blog from what I can tell. Also I see no signs of actual peer review so that is not an argument. PackMecEng (talk) 16:47, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes It is (mostly) written and reviewed by Barrett, and published at a site owned by the author. Gandydancer (talk) 17:21, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No, there's an editorial board/peer review going on and it's an authoritative source on quackery of all sources. Headbomb {t · c · p · b} 19:45, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
    • I don't think there's an editorial board (if there is, please post a source). I've never seen any mention of a board on the site. SarahSV (talk) 00:05, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No per CatCafe and Doc James. --Guy Macon (talk) 19:46, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes: Lack of evidence that would otherwise suggest independent or outside review, by peers or others of any sort. Javert2113 (Siarad.|¤) 00:19, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No as many others have explained, it is peer reviewed. It’s not an SPS and is widely seen as a useful and authoritative source on the subject of quackery. Toa Nidhiki05 00:25, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
  • This has been brought up by multiple people, but what I haven't seen is what that peer review process actually is. Are the recommendations of the reviewers binding, or are they merely suggestions for Barrett to take or leave as they see fit? If it is the former, then the peer review argument might hold weight. If it is the former, then it looks like peer review in name only. GMGtalk 16:45, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes per arguments of Bilby and SlimVirgin. It's fundamentally a website owned and operated by Stephen Barrett with only the thinnest veneer of editorial oversight by volunteers. The fact that it cites scientific papers, is generally reliable, and is extremely popular with some editors doesn't change the fundamental position. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 10:53, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes it is a self-published site. It may have some noted experts, but it lacks the proper editors/peer review facets we would expect for an RS (particularly one in the medical area like MEDRS). --Masem (t) 15:53, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No, very obviously No. I randomly picked twenty links on the site. 13 of them were written by Barrett, 7 were by other people. Those 7 are very, very obviously not self-published, because - I feel silly having to write this - the author and the publisher are different people. I have no idea how anybody can even consider describing them as self-published. Therefore, calling the whole of Quackwatch self-published would be obviously wrong. Many other No voters have already pointed out that there are such non-Barrett articles, but I cannot see any response from Yes voters. Is this a case of WP:IDHT, or did I miss something? --Hob Gadling (talk) 22:17, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
I was curious about this too, and checked the first 100 articles on the site. Of those, the majority were by Barrett, and the majority of those written by other people were reprints from elsewhere. It ended up being that less than 10% were both written solely by someone other than Barrett and were not simply a republication. Of the articles published and listed as recent, which covers the last three years, all were written by Barrett except for four published elsewhere and hosted on the site. - Bilby (talk) 22:24, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
So, you think that the 10% non-Barrett articles are also self-published because... it is only 10%? What flimsy excuse for a reason is that?
Others have already suggested the "only the Barrett articles are self-published" solution. What is wrong with that? I repeat: Why should we call articles "self-published" when they are obviously not self-published? --Hob Gadling (talk) 11:39, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
What I originally said - and still stand by - is given that the bulk of the articles are self published or reprints, we regard Quackwatch as self published, and take other articles on a case-by-case basis. - Bilby (talk) 11:47, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
When you say "other articles", what do you mean?
Are you saying that you call Barrett's articles on Quackwatch "Quackwatch", and you call non-Barrett articles on Quackwatch "other articles"?
If yes, then a) that is an extremely weird way of talking, and b) you are agreeing with the "only the Barrett articles are self-published" solution, which is different from "the whole of Quackwatch is self-published", and you should have answered my question "What is wrong with that?" with something like "Nothing, that is what I want too".
If no, I have no idea what you could mean. Maybe "other articles" is the non-Quackwatch part of the internet? Why is it so difficult for you to clearly say what you want to say? --Hob Gadling (talk) 13:14, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
Honestly, I'm ok with your view. It's simply that I looked into this as well, and for me when under 10% of the articles were not by Barrett and not published everywhere, I was happy to regard Quackwatch as an SPS - except in regard to the few exceptions. But I'm ok if you want to argue that it is not an SPS because some article are by other authors, and only those by Barrett are self published. Personally, I'm only inclined to treat articles by Barrett on QW as self published anyway, so from my end I'm good with either way of labelling things if that is where consensus ends up. - Bilby (talk) 14:34, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
Bilby, the catch here is that you are referring to the fact that you "checked the first 100 articles on the site. Of those, the majority were by Barrett..." No one is denying that Barrett writes a lot of the content there, but your investigation is a very limited. The index page is indeed nearly all Barrett articles, but QW is a database with many other sources, and you and I really don't have any exact statistics, so we can't make any judgment based on what's on the front page.
The other articles, documents, legal reports, historical documents, entire books, court judgments, etc., most of which were originally published elsewhere, are usually housed at QW because they can no longer be found elsewhere. That's the whole idea. QW specializes in information which is hard to find elsewhere. It's right there in the site description. When I cite such a source found at QW, I format my citation just as if it was still found on the original source, but use the QW url. Very simple solution.
General comment: Attempts to dis QW would cut off our use of these sources, and that would be a great loss. Some editors here have obviously not read our Quackwatch and Stephen Barrett articles and have not performed due diligence. I suggest they do so before they continue digging a grave for QW in their eagerness to bury it. They should also stick to the limited scope of this RfC. Bilby, IIRC, you have been pretty good at that, and I thank you for it. -- BullRangifer (talk) 16:29, 19 November 2019 (UTC)
How do I access the other articles that are not linked to on the front page of his site? - Bilby (talk) 02:05, 20 November 2019 (UTC)
I have usually found them because they were cited by outside sources, were linked to by Barrett in his own articles (QW uses internal "wikilinks" extensively, and by using the site's own search engine. I know of no "index" for all the content. -- BullRangifer (talk) 04:44, 20 November 2019 (UTC)
Thanks - I guess what you are referring to then are attachments to the articles he publishes, such as primary sources he used, but not necessarily original content. - Bilby (talk) 05:29, 20 November 2019 (UTC)
Yes, I think that's often the case. His articles usually cite his sources. Some are totally external, others are third party RS housed at QW, and others are links to internal articles related to the topic, where more info and sources can be found. That's been my experience. -- BullRangifer (talk) 06:24, 20 November 2019 (UTC)
Hob Gadling, a self-published site is one where you can wake up at three in the morning and, sitting in bed in your pyjamas, tap out an article and press "publish", without having to check first with a professional staff of fact-checkers, copy editors, a managing editor, an editor-in-chief, the company lawyers, or a publisher. We don't allow that kind of source in BLPs, for obvious reasons, with no exceptions. That part of the policy (WP:BLPSPS) is strongly supported. Quackwatch is the very essence of what's meant by a self-published site, where one person—its owner and the person who has written almost all of it—has complete control over what appears there. SarahSV (talk) 22:45, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
Why are you even talking to me when your contribution completely ignores what I said? Please read WP:IDHT.
So, now I have seen "responses" by Yes voters, but both of them are crap. One sidesteps the question, and one ignores it.
You people use the word "most", as in "most articles are written by Barrett", but your conclusion "it is self-published" only follows if you replace the "most" by "all". Why is that? Did the definition of "most" change when I was not looking? Is there an obscure Wikipedia rule that says those two words are the same? I very much sympathize with Alice at the moment. --Hob Gadling (talk) 11:39, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
Hob Gadling, if you create a website and sometimes you invite your neighbour to make a contribution, that doesn't mean it's no longer your own, self-published site. The point would remain that you own the site and that you alone decide what appears there. SarahSV (talk) 22:45, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
SarahSV, the same applies to any newspaper where the Editor-in-Chief writes editorials and also has others write articles. Only the articles by that Editor-in-Chief are considered self-published. -- BullRangifer (talk) 16:40, 19 November 2019 (UTC)
BullRangifer, that's not how newspapers work. Even small newspapers have many eyes on every piece, including by the editor-in-chief, and editorial board meetings to decide what to publish and how to cover things. Newspapers are not self-published sources. SarahSV (talk) 01:05, 20 November 2019 (UTC)
Wikipedia:Identifying and using self-published works says "Self-published works are those in which the author and publisher are the same." I will stop talking to you now because of your WP:IDHT condition. --Hob Gadling (talk) 09:51, 16 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes I've been in 2 minds on this since I first saw it at BLPN. It seems clear that QuackWatch probably has better processes in place for trying to avoid the problems of having just some random person (be it a subject matter expect) publish something without check by some other party. And especially, that they have better processes in place for managing complaints after the fact than many SPS. Heck in some ways their use of a subject matter expert may often produce better results when it comes to the science than some of the crap that nominally reliable sources with clear editorial processes publish. Still, I've seen nothing that is sufficient to ensure it isn't still a self-published source. And I say this even for articles written by others published exclusively on QuackWatch. So yes for BLP purposes they should all be treated as SPS. While I understand the concerns over preventing us challenging some of the stuff proponents if questionable practices say and do, we have to accept that sometimes this is how things have to be. We should equally demand quality sources before allowing any claims from such proponents to be presented, including in articles on them. Also, this may not effect articles on practices provided we aren't using QuackWatch to support claims about specific people. For example, if we have an article on Licking cats, it may be fine to say "The scientific consensus is that there is no medical benefit arising from licking cats. There is also a risk of infection by toxoplasmosis and other diseases, especially those transmitted via the fecal–oral route. Many cats don't like it anyway." sourced to QuackWatch. However we shouldn't say "Nil Einne is a proponent of the practice" if the only source of that is QuackWatch. For an article on Nil Einne, we may not be able to mention the criticism of the practice if there is really no other source, but I suspect in most cases there will also be no merit to mention the practice at all because it's simply not covered in good sources. (If it is covered, it's likely there will be some mention that the practice is controversial so we can mention that, maybe without needing to elabourate.) Nil Einne (talk) 10:02, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No, not by any meaningful test. Multiple authors and at least informal review. Guy (help!) 12:09, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No, not by any reasonable standard. XOR'easter (talk) 16:17, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No — not by any standard definition. There have been plenty of RfCs on whether we ought use Quackwatch, and they all end up showing the same thing — QW is a reliable and quality source. Carl Fredrik talk 19:07, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
    • Yes, but don't you think that it's possible for some self-published sources to be a reliable and quality source? The WP:SPS policy seems to indicate that this is possible, when the source is written and published by a recognized subject-matter expert (which IMO Barrett is). WhatamIdoing (talk) 06:58, 27 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Mu – depends on what page on the QuackWatch website you're talking about. Some pages are self published, other pages are not self published. Levivich 23:50, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
    Could you please be more specific? Among editors who believe Quackwatch is partially self-published, there is disagreement over which of Quackwatch's pages are self-published. — Newslinger talk 02:01, 12 November 2019 (UTC)
    Yes – I can be more specific. Face-smile.svg Per WP:USESPS, the question is whether the publisher and the author are the same. QW publishes a mixture of self-published [38] [39] and non-self-published [40] [41] [42] content. So when answering "Is QW an SPS?", a categorical "yes" and a categorical "no" are both wrong. The only right answer is, "it depends on the work". A separate issue is that "self-published" is being used at times in this discussion as a proxy for "reliable", and those two aren't the same thing. An SPS can still be reliable. Levivich 03:02, 12 November 2019 (UTC)
    PS: the way I read it, the word "source" in "self-published source" refers to a work, and not a publisher. Same with a "reliable source"–that's a specific work, not a publisher. For this reason, questions like, "is this source self-published" or "is this source reliable" cannot be asked or answered about a publisher, but only about a specific work. Levivich 03:05, 12 November 2019 (UTC)
    Thanks for the clarification, Levivich! As a note, the primary objective of this RfC is to determine how WP:BLPSPS should be applied to Quackwatch, if at all. — Newslinger talk 03:23, 12 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes I think it is. And this is an example of where self published != bad. However it does mean that we shouldn't be relying on it for sole-sourcing in BLP articles. If a neutral article about a quack depends on Quackwatch to be possible, we just shouldn't be covering them. Not everything needs to be on Wikipedia. Simonm223 (talk) 19:01, 12 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes with a qualification, for reasons stated above. I believe Quackwatch to be the professional medical opinion, but opinion nonetheless, of Dr Barrett, who is also the founder and most prolific writer. Maybe some distinction could be made between the articles of Barrett's and those of his contributors, but in my estimation, Barrett seems to be the sole gateway for content and thus have to say it seems the content of this site is solely dependent upon Dr Barrett's personal opinion.— Preceding unsigned comment added by SK8RBOI (talkcontribs) 07:24, 13 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes per Bilby and with strict adherence to WP:USESPS, WP:V and WP:NOR; adding that it's best to also better to cite at least 1 or 2 RS that corroborate what they've published. Atsme Talk 📧 11:25, 13 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No Quackwatch has been used on many BLP articles for well over a decade. It is the most reliable source on the internet dealing with quackery written by professional experts, not just one person. This is not a website written in someone's bedroom. For example Jack Raso, M.S., R.D., [43] and [44] has published reliable articles on the website as have many other specialists. Psychologist Guy (talk) 22:26, 13 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes-Clearly self-published. If there was any doubt, multiple reliable sources refer to it as a blog.--Rusf10 (talk) 16:04, 15 November 2019 (UTC)
    Rusf10, even RS can get it wrong. There is nothing bloglike about QW. Nothing at all. Very few RS make that mistake. -- BullRangifer (talk) 16:39, 15 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No does not match SPS I re-read SPS and all these comments and I am now questioning how relevant SPS is now as compared to when it was written in about 2007. I think the definition of WP:SPS is outdated. We have this policy, "self published sources", but the criteria for being a "self-published source" is unrelated to "self-publishing". The criteria are more about the availability of publisher information. Yes, I agree, one person is publishing Quackwatch, and this person is not subject to external or institutional editorial control, and is only presenting themselves as an expert of their field. However, the intent of WP:SPS was never to dismiss self-published sources exactly, but rather to communicate that 12+ years ago there was no such thing as a reputable source which could publish in a one-person media channel. Times have changed and self-publishing has a different meaning and context now. Lots of experts acting alone can have their own websites now, when this used to be much more unusual. In the opposite case, books which are not self published are much less trustworthy, because publishing costs for books have dropped so much. For example, one person could publish a book, and it could get sold to a reputable publisher, but since the publishing industry is wrecked as compared to 15 years ago, a book from a reputable publisher nowadays is more likely to be of the low quality of a self-published website of 12 years ago. The guideline about SPS in Wikipedia is not about a publication method, but about whether a source has markers of reliability, such as an identified author, known positions, discoverable bias, etc. Quackwatch is an old website and we have all this information about it. It is consistent for what it is and it publishes mainstream opinions for a demographic, and the author of that website is an author in conventional book publishing as well. I would like to rename WP:SPS to get away from evaluations of publishing method, and instead to distinguish the original intent of that policy. The original intent was to dismiss publications which appeared without context, and to emphasize publications where we have a large body of information about the source. Blue Rasberry (talk) 16:53, 15 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes Seems to be clearly a self-published source for articles written by the same person who has ownership and editorial control. The fact that nobody other than an article author reviews and could reject or question facts in an article means that we should not be treating this source the same as other sources in certain circumstances. "Self-published" is a factual question and not about whether the source is "reliable". Also, concerns with Wikipedia policies about how to use self-published sources seem largely irrelevant here, and should be addressed on the talk pages of those relevant policies. – wallyfromdilbert (talk) 18:41, 15 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes per WhatamIdoing, Bilby, and SlimVirgin. Surveying their new articles page, pretty much everything that's not a reposted PDF scan was written by Barrett. Significant parts of the site FAQ is written in the first person singular. Donations go directly to Barrett [45], and they report that their non-profit organization has been dissolved for a decade. The content creator and publisher are the same, so it seems like a WP:SPS to me. That said Barrett may meet the criteria of being an "established expert on the subject matter, whose work in the relevant field has previously been published by reliable, independent publications," which would permit its limited use in non-BLP situations. However, I have no opinion on whether Barrett is actually an "established expert" or not, since I haven't looked into it. - GretLomborg (talk) 19:59, 15 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes, as explained by SlimVirgin. I find it telling that the "How to Become a Quackwatch Advisor" page, mostly written from a plural "we" and "us" perspective, contains the text "send me an e-mail", emphasis mine. Even the website's attempts to make a professional impression fail to make it look like anything else than a self-published blog. ~ ToBeFree (talk) 23:54, 15 November 2019 (UTC)
    ~ ToBeFree, it has nothing in common with a blog. (People are very careless with that word, including that the use of many blogs is far from what it used to be, so we do accept those by subject experts, businesses, and politicians. It is the diary type blog and readers' comments which we deprecate.)
    Barrett's articles published on his own QW website are of course SPS, but not other content or articles by others that are part of that huge database. -- BullRangifer (talk) 02:04, 16 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes, obviously. "an international network of people who are concerned about" some topic or other could mean just about anything. Insofar as Barrett is considered a subject-matter expert (I have no idea if he is), then his writing could be WP:DUE for opinions attributed directly to him. Otherwise the site has all the hallmarks of a group blog. Claiming it isn't because it doesn't use "blog software" and so forth is equivocating with the meaning of "blog". A blog can be anything from someone's Tumblr account to a professional WP:NEWSBLOG. Quackwatch is a self-published website according to its own mission statement, which describes the site and others as "Dr. Barrett's ... sites". The contact address is listed as Barrett's own; there's no masthead or any other sign of editorial oversight and/or independent fact-checking that I can see. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 06:46, 18 November 2019 (UTC)
    Sangdeboeuf, in spite of repeated explanations that QW is not a blog and has none of the features characteristic of blogs, you repeat that accusation above. What are you really trying to say? Are you saying that anyone can post there, or are you saying something else? -- BullRangifer (talk) 03:02, 19 November 2019 (UTC)
    I realy don't think hammering at the same points over and over is helping the discussion. I've indicated what I think of the merits of said "explanations" already. Whether "anyone can post" does not determine whether something is a blog or not. What I'm "trying to say" is exactly what I did say; QW is quite evidently a self-published website and therefore should not be considered generally reliable. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 03:43, 19 November 2019 (UTC)
    Sangdeboeuf, thanks for the clarification. Just as long as you don't use the term blog to describe QW we're on more solid ground. Using it as a slur just muddies the water for a website which myriad RS consider a very valuable source, and as the website of a renowned subject it is indeed considered a generally RS, but that is not the subject under discussion.
    This RfC is about the use of a SPS in a BLP, which is not allowed. That would not apply to QW as a website, but only to articles written by Barrett and self-published at QW, not to articles written by others and published there, just as we do with any newspaper or magazine. Only the articles by the Editor-in-Chief and employees can be considered self-published.
    It also would only apply to using such articles by Barrett about the person, not their false claims. I'll address the MEDRS issue below.
    I suggest that you read the Quackwatch and Stephen Barrett articles before you participate in an RfC of this nature, as failures to understand them has consequences here. Perform due diligence. -- BullRangifer (talk) 16:44, 19 November 2019 (UTC)
    I suggest you refrain from casting WP: ASPERSIONS on your fellow editors. I have read both articles, which overall seem bloated with WP:PROMOTIONAL content that makes me question the site even more. For articles written by others on the site to be usable, Barrett would need to be considered a reputable publisher first. That's highly debatable from what I can see. The comparison to the editor-in-chief of a newspaper or magazine is apt, since QW seems to have no such professional structure in place. This idea that an SPS isn't an SPS when the site's owner lets his buddies post there is frankly ridiculous. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 01:54, 20 November 2019 (UTC)
    I'd also second Masem's point about WP:MEDRS, which seems to be a large topic area for the site; we should avoid citing it for any biomedical information. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 04:37, 19 November 2019 (UTC)
    Sangdeboeuf, we do not use QW for such medical content, but for content related to false and misleading claims which are often of a medical nature. The two subjects may seem identical, but they are not. They just happen to overlap. In the process of dealing with such content, history shows that editors are perfectly capable of figuring out when to use which policy so as not to violate MEDRS. -- BullRangifer (talk) 16:44, 19 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Definitely yes looks most definitely like a self-published source. No published editorial team, no indication of paid editors, and its contributors, regardless of whatever qualifications and credentials they may hold, are still contributors that either self-invite themselves to join or are invited by the site's owners. If Quackwatch is not a self-published source, applying the same methodology, we'd have to include ICANNWatch and Wikipediocracy as not self-published sources. --Doug Mehus T·C 02:28, 20 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No per CatCafe, JzG, and BullRangifer. -Crossroads- (talk) 18:34, 20 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No. I'll stay away from the "per" trope except to say the Blue Rasberry and JzG summarize a lot of my views I don't need to pad the RfC further with. Others above had already established there is editorial oversight where most articles are reviewed by another expert, and editorial oversight is the bar for this discussion. That act of professionalism crosses the bar differentiating from being a simple blog post and at least makes it so this RfC cannot be closed as a blanket yes. Given this particular source's reputation for fact checking as an expert source, etc., it doesn't match with WP:SPS as Blue Rasberry discusses. On the SPS continuum between a random blog and the highest quality newspaper, Quackwatch may not be as clear cut in terms of its editorial process compared to that high-quality newspaper example, but not occupying the highest end of the spectrum doesn't put it in the bottom of the barrel of the other side of the spectrum either. A lot of comments above seem to be making that mistake (especially comparing it to something like Wikipediocracy), and BullRangifer addresses a lot of those problems coming up in this disccusion that need to weighed in assessing consensus per WP:NOTVOTE.
There's also WP:LETTER issues in play where the spirit of avoiding SPS is based on avoiding sources anyone can easily create without any barrier (i.e., bottom of the SPS spectrum again). That includes things like the traditional sense of a blog where someone can just sign up on wordpress or whatever the flavor of the week is nowadays, uploading a self-published book pdf to a host, etc. When someone creates a media organization with oversight and a reputation for fact checking, that at least in the spirit of the policy, moves it away from being an SPS. It's not the random yayhoo SPS is meant to target. That doesn't mean such content shouldn't be without attribution, which I think the consensus historically has been that it's perfectly fine to use Quackwatch with attribution in cases where WP:PARITY applies, so we'd be running into other WP:PAG issues trying to exclude the use of the source here. WP:FRINGEBLP is clear we also need to weigh other issues besides whether a source is self-published or not, so whether use or not of Quackwatch significantly affects things like WP:DUE, WP:PROFRINGE, or WP:BLPBALANCE needs to be done on a case-by-case at the relevant BLP, not at an overarching RfC. Kingofaces43 (talk) 18:07, 21 November 2019 (UTC)
Also, even if I play devil's advocate and say this definitely is an SPS, that doesn't functionally change anything. SPS policy is very clear on what spurred this RfC (my bolding): Never use self-published sources as third-party sources about living people, even if the author is an expert, well-known professional researcher, or writer. There's plenty of guidance scattered around on what a third-party source is. Quackwatch already is supposed to get attribution anyways, so current useage already wouldn't conflict with BLP policy even if it was classified as SPS. If someone was trying to entirely exclude Quackwatch based on that part of BLP-related policy, that would be misuse of the policy. You just couldn't use it as a third-party entirely disinterested source is all, hence the attribution when using it instead as a non-third-party. Kingofaces43 (talk) 18:07, 21 November 2019 (UTC)
  • No, per JzG and BullRangifer. I don't feel I can add anything more than that, other than to wonder at some of the "Yes" voters ruleslawyering to get the results they want. --Calton | Talk 14:53, 23 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes It is a self-published website. The fact that it involves various people does not change that. Many of its articles may be written by experts and therefore usable in non-BLP contexts, but it will never be acceptable in the BLP context. It will be necessary to look for peer-reviewed journal articles, published books and other reliable sources when dealing with BLPs. Neljack (talk) 00:58, 24 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes - It's a self-published website. As noted above, that makes it ineligible for use in BLPs but it's still useful in other contexts under a different justification. May His Shadow Fall Upon You📧 14:27, 25 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes - and I see that Nil Einne has already elaborated the distinction that I was going to make, so I won't belabor the point by repeating it. shoy (reactions) 16:37, 26 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes per Nil Einne and Neljack. It might be a useful way to find statements attributable to individual subject matter experts, but it is still functionally self-published. Thryduulf (talk) 20:30, 30 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes It's absolutely self published with no independant peer review. It's a blog. Morgan Leigh | Talk 05:30, 1 December 2019 (UTC)
    Morgan Leigh, QW is a website, not a medical journal, so the desire for it to be "peer reviewed" has always been a red herring. We don't demand than of any other website. It isn't used as a MEDRS source. You call it a "blog". On what basis do you do that. -- BullRangifer (talk) 01:04, 6 December 2019 (UTC)
    Others have already answered this point. Morgan Leigh | Talk 01:58, 6 December 2019 (UTC)
    Morgan Leigh, ah, our tame acupuncturist, here to tell us not to rely on a site that criticises acupuncture. Who predicted that? Guy (help!) 12:55, 5 December 2019 (UTC)
    JzG Please refrain from spreading disinformation, again, in an attempt to discredit people who don't agree with you. I am not now, nor have I ever been, an accupuncturist. Morgan Leigh | Talk 01:58, 6 December 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes. Quackwatch is self-described as a "network of people", but exactly who these people are is unclear. Quackwatch is "Operated by Stephen Barrett, M.D." I see no indication of a Board of Directors or an editorial board. I've never been comfortable with the idea of citing a source named "Quackwatch" to essentially declare that a living person is a "quack". – wbm1058 (talk) 20:10, 4 December 2019 (UTC)
    wbm1058, I hope your realize that that is a straw man. We don't use QW in that manner. -- BullRangifer (talk) 01:04, 6 December 2019 (UTC)
    BullRangifer, I suppose opinions can vary regarding "straw". I don't follow alternative medicine articles very closely, but one topic I'm somewhat familiar with is the Burzynski Clinic. I see that "quack" appears a dozen times in that article, including a link to a Quackwatch piece in the "Further reading" section, and a citation to the Quackometer blog. The Stanislaw Burzynski biography was merged to the article about his clinic, which I suppose is a way of mitigating potential BLP issues. wbm1058 (talk) 01:47, 6 December 2019 (UTC)
    Thanks for the prompt reply. Yes, I see that the word "quack" appears several times in the article because many sources use that word. It's a real word with a real meaning.
    BTW, calling someone a quack is not libelous in the USA. Multiple court cases have established that. It's protected free speech.
    Quackwatch is not used as a source in the article, only as a "Further reading", a speech by Saul Green.
    If QW is ever misused, then we should deal with it just the way we do with any other RS that's misused. Often changing the article's wording so it harmonizes with the source does the job. If the source has got it wrong, then we might consider removing it. -- BullRangifer (talk) 03:07, 6 December 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes, mostly. As the site lacks a proper editorial process, content that appears on Quackwatch authored by Barrett is self-published. It should not, therefore, be used as a source for biographical information on people covered by WP:BLP unless our policy changes. Caution should be used in separating opinion from fact when citing Barrett's writing, but the site is useful and sufficiently careful in its treatment of data to be considered as a source for content that does not raise BLP issues. — Charles Stewart (talk) 12:32, 5 December 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes it's a self-published source of high quality by a credible expert. It is used by others and can be used by us too with certain limitations. Self-published sources aren't necessarily bad. Haukur (talk) 13:40, 5 December 2019 (UTC)
  • No, I think it is closer to online newspaper or to a sufficiently reliable database online. This is not just a blog. In spirit of WP:RS, everything depends on the reputation for fact checking, etc. This particular place has a rather high reputation, simply based on the publications in other, more reliable sources about it. This is reflected in our page Quackwatch. My very best wishes (talk) 21:47, 6 December 2019 (UTC)
    @My very best wishes: The question is if they are a SPS not if they are a RS. PackMecEng (talk) 21:57, 6 December 2019 (UTC)
  • The publications on the site are written by different people of various expertise. The self-publishing assume that anyone can publish whatever he or she wanted. This is clearly not the case here, and there is a generally good reputation of this site acting as internet media. Hence I belive this is more like an online newspaper where something published by Barrett would qualify as an "editorial material", and something published by others would qualify as a "publication". My very best wishes (talk) 22:20, 6 December 2019 (UTC)
  • WP:USESPS is fairly clear on what a SPS is. Are the publisher and content creator the same person? If so then it is a SPS. Which is the case for almost all the articles on that website. That does not mean they cannot be used in certain places as a subject matter expert though. A good reputation is also only part of what makes a RS, but also does not disqualify them as a SPS. PackMecEng (talk) 22:30, 6 December 2019 (UTC)
  • "Are the publisher and content creator the same person?". No, at least with regard to all articles published by other people (there are many of them). A director/owner of a small media frequently can work as a presenter (for example, Natalya Sindeyeva at "TV Rain). That does not make everything on the channel self-published. In addition, per Wikipedia:USESPS, the question is: "Who is the author or creator of the work?". If this is a collective work by several people, as frequently happens, then it is arguably not self-publishing. My very best wishes (talk) 00:48, 7 December 2019 (UTC)
  • SPS applies only to Barrett's own articles, but not to articles written by others. -- BullRangifer (talk) 00:53, 7 December 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes as explained by SlimVirgin and Nil Einne, clearly a self-published source in context of BLP policy, although it may be very well be usable in other situations.--Staberinde (talk) 20:17, 8 December 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes. QW content by Barrett is clearly written and published by the same person; definitionally a SPS - there is not evidence of serious editorial oversight. Of course, this does not mean that it is not usable; WP:SPS defines a special case of (reliable) sources: SPS written by established experts, and allows their use. Conversely, any reliability conferred on expert SPS cannot remove their self-published nature; "it's reliable" is not an argument that it is not a SPS. QW content other than by Barrett is more problematic - again there is not evidence of serious editorial oversight of this content - and, therefore, we must either conclude that it is not reliably published or that it is also essentially "self-published" (by the authors of that content). I believe we should choose the more inclusive of these options, and allow non-Barrett QW content by established experts to be used as expert SPS. Finally, content published elsewhere and republished on QW should reference the original publication - Ryk72 talk 01:55, 9 December 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes per SlimVirgin and Bilby. Ealdgyth - Talk 14:54, 9 December 2019 (UTC)

Discussion (Quackwatch)[edit]

Notified: Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons/Noticeboard, Wikipedia:Fringe theories/Noticeboard, Talk:Quackwatch, Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Skepticism, Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Alternative views, Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Alternative medicine, Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Medicine. — Newslinger talk 00:04, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • @Doc James: Quackwatch Inc. was disolved 11 years ago, in 2008. - Bilby (talk) 09:37, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • According to Quackwatch the site is peer-reviewed. QuackGuru (talk) 13:40, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
    • Some times "It depends on the nature of the article and how confident I am that I understand the subject in detail.". The problem is we do not know how often, or which are.Slatersteven (talk) 13:44, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
      • That is misleading to take the content out of context. Also see "Most articles that discuss the scientific basis (or lack of scientific basis) of health claims are reviewed by at least one relevant expert. Some are reviewed by many experts."[46] QuackGuru (talk) 13:48, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
        • And most is not all, so (again) we do not know which or how many. So any article (even if it is only about the science) may not have undergone any peer review process.Slatersteven (talk) 13:53, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
          • That is another misleading statement. Most articles related to the scientific basis are reviewed by at least one expert, while others are reviewed by more than one expert. QuackGuru (talk) 13:59, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
            • Which part is misleading? "some does not mean all"? or "we do not know which or how,many"? Ohh and it does not say "while others are reviewed by more than one expert." it says "Some are reviewed by many experts", that may well include all of those listed under "at least one relevant expert".Slatersteven (talk) 14:02, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
              • "And most is not all" is your personal opinion. Quackwatch did not say there are articles related to the scientific basis that are not reviewed. They explained most are reviewed by at least one expert and there are other articles that are reviewed by many experts. Everything else is speculation. QuackGuru (talk) 14:10, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
                • And if they had meant all they would have said all. "Most articles that discuss the scientific basis (or lack of scientific basis) of health claims are reviewed by at least one relevant expert. Some are reviewed by many experts." does not say all are peer reviewed. Also does it differentiate between news and "science articles"?Slatersteven (talk) 14:16, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
                  • QuackGuru also left out the next sentence where Barrett states "News articles are not usually reviewed prior to posting". [47] However, having some articles checked before you publish them doesn't change who the publisher is - the author and publisher are still the same person, so it is still being selfpublished, even if Barrett seeks advice on some articles. - Bilby (talk) 20:03, 9 November 2019 (UTC)

I have a question for you. All across the USA there are small-town newspapers where one person owns the paper, writes the copy, does the editing, and makes every decision, all without any sort of editorial board or peer review. Stories in such small-town newspapers are the backbone of many of our BLP articles -- they are often the only source of information about a notable individual from before they became famous. Theoretically, If I were to post an RfC asking whether all such newspapers are self published sources and thus not allowed to be used in BLPs, would you !vote yes? If not, please explain your reasoning. --Guy Macon (talk) 11:05, 10 November 2019 (UTC)

My answer would be the same as for the daily Myth below, two wrongs do not make a right. Yes if a newspaper is owned edited and (largely) written by one man its an SPS, that is what policy says.Slatersteven (talk) 11:10, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
I would give a more nuanced answer: It depends. For a statement such as “Joe attended Smalltown High School and graduated with honors in 1975”, the local paper is not a self published source. But for a statement like “Even in his student days, Joe was a quack” then yes, the paper is self published. The difference is that on the second sentence, the editor/reporter is inserting his personal opinion into his reporting. He is self publishing his opinion. Blueboar (talk) 13:53, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
I would give the same nuanced answer if I could, and I would apply the same nuance to Quackwatch if I could. Alas, WP:BLPSPS makes no allowances for such nuances, neither does this RfC, and neither would my imaginary RfC asking the same question about small town newspapers. Either they are self-published, in which case they are self-published for both claims about Joe, or they are not self-published, in which case they are not self-published for either claim about Joe.
So what is the answer to this dilemna? The answer is to determine that neither the small town newspapers nor quackwatch are self-published, and instead make the decision on reliability. For a statement such as "Joe attended Smalltown High School and graduated with honors in 1975", the local paper is a reliable and non-self-published source. For a statement like "Even in his student days, Joe was a quack" the local paper is a nonreliable but still non-self-published source.
The publisher/writer/editor of The Smalltown News is considered a subject-matter-expert on the subject of who attended Smalltown High School in 1975 and whether they graduated. The publisher/writer/editor of The Smalltown News is not a subject-matter-expert and thus not reliable on the subject of who is and who is not a Quack.
By abandoning the SPS classification, which allows for no nuance, and instead embracing the "reliable for this but unreliable for that" classification, which is already baked into our policy on identifying reliable sources, we allow the highly desirable nuance you describe. --Guy Macon (talk) 15:18, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
Its called consistency, either these are SPS or wp:sps needs to be revamped.Slatersteven (talk) 15:22, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
What we have is WP:SPS (per WP:V), WP:BLPSPS and WP:BLPSELFPUB (per WP:BLP) and all are policy. Atsme Talk 📧 17:49, 13 November 2019 (UTC)
And dictionaries, because WP:SPS doesn't define what the term "self-published" means, so the normal English meaning is the place to start. A typical dictionary definition says (or said, the last time I looked, which was probably five to ten years ago) that self-publishing is when the author publishes his/her own work, except for traditional publishing houses. In other words, typical newspapers are automatically exempted from self-published status, no matter how few people are involved. (I don't think that single-human newspapers are that common, though. They do exist – The Mulberry Advance, if it still exists, was a one-man labor of love for a long time – but having a couple of people involved seems to be more typical, and with newspapers being sold to larger companies, sometimes the same few people all work on multiple, theoretically separate newspapers.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 07:25, 27 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Comment I keep seeing the argument brought up that the site is peer reviewed. That appears to be mostly false. What review that does happen is not specified and at the discretion of the site owner. No reviews are named nor their qualifications. Basically there is no discernible review. Simple as that. PackMecEng (talk) 00:29, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
    • Here is a reminder. Scientific related articles appear to be mostly peer-reviewed. See "Most articles that discuss the scientific basis (or lack of scientific basis) of health claims are reviewed by at least one relevant expert."[48] The site is expert peer-reviewed. Wow! QuackGuru (talk) 00:48, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
      • Most is not all, that is an important distinction. Can you say which articles are and which are not? If not then my point stands. Also who are they and what are their qualifications? No one knows there either. PackMecEng (talk) 00:49, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
        • PackMecEng, your questions are answered below in a new section. -- BullRangifer (talk) 01:29, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
          • Great! A 13 to 16 year old list of people he might of worked with on certain unspecified articles at his discretion. That might answer part but not the trust of the question in general. The other thing to note is what is the question here? It is if Quackwatch is a SPS. According to WP:USESPS it comes down to if the publisher and writer are the same person it is a SPS. Pretty much regardless of anything else. Which is the case here. PackMecEng (talk) 02:08, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
            • We agree that only Barrett's articles are SPS. QW is not an SPS. Otherwise, your dissing of a recognized expert is really out of line. Why the disrespect? That's uncalled for. -- BullRangifer (talk) 07:11, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
              • Hopefully we also agree that the "articles" that are not written by Barrett may or may not have appeared in a reliable source, and if they did, we should cite the reliable source, not Barrett's web site. It's an easy solution that allows us to continue following our policies.- MrX 🖋 16:58, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
                • MrX, yes, we agree. Barrett does republish, with permission, articles that may currently appear, or no longer appear, on other sources. If they still exist on those original sources, we can cite those sources, rather than QW.
    One of the goals of QW is to publish information that is hard to find or no longer exists on other sources, so many times we will treat QW as a secondary/tertiary source and use QW for that content. This may be quality articles by other subject experts, scientific research formerly found on the websites of recognized medical journals, court filings, government documents, and historical records and books. I used to use the website a lot and never got close to plumbing the depths of that database. It's huge.
    When I find an article from another RS or subject expert that used to appear elsewhere, but now is only published at QW, I form my citation as if it was from the original source, with the URL to QW being the only difference. I have done this several times. Sorry for the delay in replying. Too many things on my plate. -- BullRangifer (talk) 15:42, 15 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Comment: I reject the implication that there is a straightforward demarcation to be had regarding publication provenance and source quality. Quackwatch is an excellent source for sussing out (pseudo-)medical practices and practitioners who are otherwise left unidentified by the credulous. That's how it should be used. If people are afraid of defamation, they should demonstrate errors that Quackwatch has published. I've yet to find anything that was erroneous. Sometimes their choice in rhetoric is combative, but that is an issue of tone and not of reliability. jps (talk) 13:17, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
    • As I touched upon earlier, WP:BLPSPS makes no allowances for such nuances as "no straightforward demarcation to be had". BLPSPS is binary; either a source always is or always is not. The answer is to determine that Quackwatch (like my small town newspaper example above) is not self-published, and instead make the decision on reliability. Quackwatch is reliable for some claims, and unreliable for others, just like any other generally reliable source. By abandoning the SPS classification, which allows for no nuance, and instead embracing the "reliable for this but unreliable for that" classification, we acknowledge the fact that there really is no straightforward demarcation to be had regarding source quality, which is a concept that already baked into our sourcing policy; see WP:CONTEXTMATTERS. --Guy Macon (talk) 15:30, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
WP:BLPSPS is bad policy that was unduly influenced by partisans here at Wikipedia who are part of the WP:CRYBLP faction famously angry about global warming denialists being so labeled by scientists. It erroneously engages in an arbitrary sorting of sources that does not reflect the actual reliability of the sources and instead just looks at accidents of publication. This has led to nonsense stick-in-the-muddism by rule sticklers. To give a hypothetical example of how ridiculous this policy is: Let's say the Surgeon General of the United States says on WP:TWITTER, "John Doe is wrong to promote cigarette smoking as a cure for cancer." As I read BLPSPS, this would not be allowed to be in John Doe's biography. That's a bad policy. jps (talk) 16:03, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
And this is not the right venue for that discussion, if policy is bad we change it, we do not ignore it (which has been what I have been saying since this started).Slatersteven (talk) 16:06, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
I categorically reject the idiocy of saying we can't discuss the shittiness of the BLP policy here as it directly conflicts with WP:RS. WP:IAR is a fucking pillar of the project. So go complain elsewhere. jps (talk) 16:16, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
As far as I am aware policy cannot be changed on this type of notice board, sure we can slag it off as much as we like. But we cannot change it.Slatersteven (talk) 16:19, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
Slatersteven, there's no such rule. It'd be unusual, and in practice it'd probably fail if you didn't leave at least a little {{please see}} on the talk pages of any policies or guidelines that the proposal could affect, but there is no required location for such discussions. You can have those discussions on any discussion page, so long as you make sure that everyone has a fair opportunity to discover that the discussion is happening. WhatamIdoing (talk) 07:39, 27 November 2019 (UTC)
The situation is complex, hence why it is good to determine first if QW is an SPS or not. At which point, then the question of whether BLPSPS is hampering its use, should it be determined as an SPS, can be asked. I should note that outside that BLPs, being an SPS does not otherwise change what I read it is otherwise being a reliable source on quackery, simply that how it gets used at BLPSPS needs to be asked as a wholly new question. --Masem (t) 16:22, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
That is (distractions aside) exactly what this is about, its use for comments about living people, not comments about science, or theories or claims, just people.Slatersteven (talk) 16:25, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
Well, if QW is determined NOT to be an SPS that goes away. If it is determined to be an SPS, we need to figure out the line, as BLPSPS right now reads that NO SPS may be used, even if it is for discussing someone's presented theory, and not the person themselves. --Masem (t) 16:28, 10 November 2019 (UTC)

And my point is being slavishly devoted to WP:BLPSPS as a "non-negotiable" aspect of policy is what has got us into the mess of people removing extremely reliable information from biographies sourced to QW. How QW is published is categorically irrelevant to whether the material is reliable or not, but the raison d'etre of the BLPSPS policy is that SPS sources are never reliable for BLPs. I have been arguing that this is wrong for a decade now and I'm not going to back down just because people think there is some kind of stare decisis. If a statement published in QW is reliably made, it should be allowed to be used in Wikipedia whether it is a BLP or a road article or a snippet on the Main Page. jps (talk) 16:41, 10 November 2019 (UTC)

You don't change a policy by ignoring it, categorically rejecting it, or creating a guideline that contradicts it. If your view is that BLPSPS should be changed, you or anyone else can readily propose such at WT:BLP. I don't understand why nobody has done that. - MrX 🖋 17:06, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
It should be noted this whole thing started at a post at BLP/N about QW and BLPs. I think since (after it being moved to here, RS/N) that several fair questions on BLPSPS have been raised, even separate from this QW one and speaking to broader terms, have been raised, but it doesn't make sense to muddy this ongoing RFC with a fresh one at BLP that overlaps significantly. --Masem (t) 17:20, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
Hey User:Masem followed it back further finding this latest Quackwatch dispute originated at Fringe_theories/Noticeboard on 30 October. Discussion still there. Whatever happens I hope Quackwatch is clarified so there's less confusion in future. CatCafe (talk) 22:32, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
Part of the frustration is that this didn't start with removing content based on Quackwatch, but simply replacing Quackwatch references with ones that weren't self published. I don't see this as starting from slavishly following BLP, but slavishly trying to protect a prefered source even when it wasn't needed. That said, the issue of reliablity includes what checks exist in a process - if something is self published, it might potentially be correct, and it might generally be reliable, but without the checks of a separate publisher and writer it is more likely that libel will sneak in compared to a source which does have those checks. - Bilby (talk) 21:07, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
without the checks of a separate publisher and writer it is more likely that libel will sneak in compared to a source which does have those checks. this statement is so wrong as to be risable. I guess I should just say, [citation needed] or, how the hell did you decide this was the case? jps (talk) 03:34, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
I think I'll just quote SarahSV, who put it better than me above: "a self-published site is one where you can wake up at three in the morning and, sitting in bed in your pyjamas, tap out an article and press "publish", without having to check first with a professional staff of fact-checkers, copy editors, a managing editor, an editor-in-chief, the company lawyers, or a publisher". - Bilby (talk) 03:55, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
This rationale ignominiously suffers from the fallacy of composition. Reliability is not something you can determine on the basis of publisher=author. jps (talk) 11:24, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
Sure there is WP:SPS, WP:BLPSPS, and WP:USESPS. They all talk about how it can be a problem of reliability if publisher=author. PackMecEng (talk) 16:14, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
Doesn't really deal with my point, but thanks for playing. jps (talk) 17:17, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
If you want us to stop ignoring policy, you're going to have to change fundamental policy at this website, darling. jps (talk) 03:35, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
Or... you could just follow established policy and use proper venues to changes things you have an issue with? Crazy right? PackMecEng (talk) 03:46, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
Dunno. WP:IAR looks pretty dang established and proper to me. jps (talk) 11:20, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
Certainly is, but if that is the only thing you have going for you and all these people are saying you are wrong so it is not a IAR situation. It is a ILIKEIT situation, which yeah not supported by policy. PackMecEng (talk) 16:14, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
Lol. I have other things going for me, thanks. jps (talk) 17:17, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
  •  Question: Given that this seems likely to end in no-consensus, where exactly does no-consensus leave us in this position? GMGtalk 15:58, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
I think we need a non-non-consensus close here: it is either one way or the other. If the closers can't determine consensus from this, then the only thing that we can go on it how it has been seen in practice in the past which is the point of the discussions on Wikipedia talk:Biographies of living persons/Archive 44, which at that point, would likely have put QW as an SPS (the whole issue about changing BLPSPS to allow QW). --Masem (t) 16:28, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
We are not a democracy, it is arguments based upon policy that count, not votes. If policy is wrong that is irrelevant.Slatersteven (talk) 16:31, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
Well, policy can't possibly exhaustively tell us which sources are SPS and which are not. In that respect, it does become somewhat more like a vote in making these subjective assessments, at least so long as the arguments made on both sides reasonably adhere to common sense. GMGtalk 16:48, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
Actually it is pretty clear an unequivocal as to how we identify SPS
Who is the author or creator of the work?
Who is the publisher of the work?
If the answers to these questions are the same, then the work is self-published. If they are different, then the work is not self-published.
It adds "In determining whether a source is self-published, you should not consider any other factors. Neither the subject material, nor the size of the entity, nor whether the source is printed on paper or available electronically, nor whether the author is a famous expert, makes any difference."
So it is pretty clear what policy says.Slatersteven (talk) 17:02, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
Well yes, I don't really need policy to tell me that much. That doesn't really change people above arguing that it's not SPS because some proportion of the content is written by someone else, or because those that are SPS are "peer reviewed" by...someone...who has...some authority? GMGtalk 22:36, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
True, but many of the arguments are based upon the expertise or factual accuracy of the cite. Also only some of the content (as the site itself says) undergoes review by "experts", and the site does not identify which article have been so reviewed. A pucker non SPS sends all articles for reviews, not just those on the subjects the editor/owner does not understand in detail. In essence Barrett decides which articles to send for peer review (as was said above he can if he wishes just publish, and there is nothing stopping him).Slatersteven (talk) 10:10, 11 November 2019 (UTC)

It is disrespectful to see above in the 9.9.1 Survey section, where editors are allowed to add comments, without actually voting, after other people's votes thinking they have the right to correct or challenge them. This is like me going to vote at a Federal election then a guy comes up to my booth to see what boxes I ticked, then tells the room and mocks me for my choice. That would be unlawful. It's chaos in 9.9.1 especially seeing there's a 9.9.2 Comments section for comments. CatCafe (talk) 04:20, 12 November 2019 (UTC)

We do not use "voting" in consensus discussions. One or more uninvolved admins will review the input above and decide which side has made the most compelling argument within policies and guidelines. This does allow editors to comment on other editors' input in this manner. --Masem (t) 04:23, 12 November 2019 (UTC)
Sorry I disagree. There is a survey section for individual's Yes, No or Mu response to surveys. There's a comments section for the opportunity to comment. There is separate sections for this, otherwise it is chaos in my opinion. And the term "vote" or "!vote" was used dozens of times in the discussion prior to the "survey" being posted. CatCafe (talk) 04:31, 12 November 2019 (UTC)
Sorry if my comment came across as disrespectful, CatCafe. Replies are allowed in survey sections of partitioned RfCs, although extended discussions can always be moved to the discussion section by any editor if needed. On the English Wikipedia, the only election that resembles a federal election is the annual Arbitration Committee Elections. For all other centralized discussions, the use of the word vote is generally discouraged in favor of other terms to reflect the ideas described in WP:NOTVOTE. Not all editors use the term !vote every single time, but !vote is usually what is implied when we refer to "voting". — Newslinger talk 04:42, 12 November 2019 (UTC)
No problem, your comment was pretty innocuous compared to the lengthy corrective debates I see after other peoples 'survey responses'. I can only see one reason why a 'comments' section was created, and that's for those other lengthy discussions such as I see in 9.9.1. It's wierd to read about people taking a 'vote' or '!vote', then when they do, I am corrected for assuming the survey akin to a vote. Lingo-twisting - not for me. CatCafe (talk) 04:50, 12 November 2019 (UTC)

Simonm223 raised a good point about how self-published doesn't necessarily mean "bad". I would extend that point to general reliability as well: generally unreliable sources (and some deprecated sources) aren't necessarily "bad" sources; they just don't meet Wikipedia's inclusion standards in the majority of cases. For example, I personally find YouTube (RSP entry) to be a good source of useful tutorial videos, even though many of them are self-published and shouldn't be cited in articles. When we conflate aspects of a source with "goodness" or "badness", we obscure our goal of determining the source's appropriate use cases on Wikipedia. — Newslinger talk 19:25, 12 November 2019 (UTC)

Newslinger, I think you are on to something when you talk about “appropriateness”. This is not the same as “reliability”. A reliable source can be inappropriate, and (on rare occasions) an unreliable source can be appropriate. And “Appropriateness” has another factor: content. As we craft article, we need to ask whether some bit of content is appropriate or not ... and the answer CAN be “no” even if that content can be supported by a reliable source. Is it ever appropriate to call someone a “quack”? That is debatable. Blueboar (talk) 20:02, 12 November 2019 (UTC)
Blueboar, fortunately this isn't a problem because Barrett doesn't usually use that language (in spite of the name of the QW website), and we don't use QW to label people as quacks. Even if we did, it is not libel, just an imprecise slur that lacks practical value here. We don't need to worry about this, as any such addition would promptly be removed.
Barrett does use the word in a historical sense, but I don't recall him using it about living people who practice quackery. This article is really good: Quackery: How Should It Be Defined? The word "quack" is used only once (to define it), but "quackery" many times. It's a real word. Face-wink.svg He is usually much more specific in his terminology, as explained in that article. -- BullRangifer (talk) 05:38, 13 November 2019 (UTC)

Checking some of the references under Quackwatch#Influence, the recommendations by RSes and other organizations seem to be in a very generalized way, naming QW as one of several "resources" for information. In evaluating WP:USEBYOTHERS, I believe we want sources using QW for specific subject matter that's relevant to the topic area being written about here, per WP:RSCONTEXT. If anyone could post examples of such use by published RSes, that could be helpful. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 04:39, 20 November 2019 (UTC)

Sangdeboeuf, unfortunately, some of those types of sources/references are being removed from the article, and that's unfortunate. It not only removes evidence of notability, but of just what you're asking for. That content was added to meet those concerns and to stop the attacks and AfDs. QW has many enemies. -- BullRangifer (talk) 22:19, 30 November 2019 (UTC)
No, those types of references are not being removed. - Bilby (talk) 23:11, 30 November 2019 (UTC)
I don't see what the situation of the Wiki article has to do with anything. Putting it mildly, users have been encouraged to check the article for evidence of the site's quality. So that's what I did. It's really on those claiming that the site is held in esteem by RSes to show evidence for it in this discussion. So where's the evidence? —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 21:27, 1 December 2019 (UTC)
Sangdeboeuf, those RS are used in the Quackwatch article. Perform due diligence. Our duty is to adopt the judgment of RS about QW. If we come to a conclusion here that is counter to what RS say, then we are imposing our own OR beliefs on an article, and that violates many of our policies, most notably NPOV. Only dubious sources seriously criticize it. -- BullRangifer (talk) 01:09, 6 December 2019 (UTC)
It isn't just dubious sources - there is criticism from good quality sources as well. It may still be predominately viewed positively, but there is also valid criticism of the site. - Bilby (talk) 07:10, 6 December 2019 (UTC)
Bilby, I understand what you're saying, but they are more a POV type of criticism vs truly serious criticism of QW's factuality and accuracy. It supports mainstream science and gets no serious criticisms from mainstream science. By contrast, it is criticized by fringe people and sources, and I suspect that some of the criticisms found in RS may be from that type of person. Some of them are medical professionals who haven't lost their licenses....yet. Face-wink.svg
They can't make serious criticisms, so they make picky BS objections about style and tone. The objection to lack of "peer review" is such a criticism, and it's an utter red herring objection because websites are never peer-reviewed. It's an idiotic expectation, and yet, QW has more double-checking and input from other professionals than most websites, and it should be praised for that, not criticized for lack of "peer review".
Such objections should be ignored as they are unrealistic. Criticizing a man for not using Tampax is a criticism we would ignore. That's what we're dealing with.
People who disagree with Barrett and mainstream science will criticize QW, and therefore their views and criticisms, even when found in RS, should get little weight, IOW maybe not be mentioned in the QW article, but might be on-topic for specific articles on the topics. For example, believers in acupuncture work in hospitals and write library reviews of QW. They won't like what QW states about the lacking evidence base for acupuncture. Barrett criticizes them for making dubious claims that are not backed by good research, and he's right. We'd have to examine such things on a case-by-case basis. -- BullRangifer (talk) 00:47, 7 December 2019 (UTC)
No, there is genuine and valid criticism in peer reviewed journals such as The Lancet. It is a mistake to think that only positive quality reviews exist, and that the only negative reviews are from dubious sources. - Bilby (talk) 01:57, 7 December 2019 (UTC)
I have read the Okasha review and can understand some of her complaints, but it's her personal opinion based on a very superficial understanding of QW. She even makes false statements like this one: "However, on Quackwatch, all ‘alternative’ therapies are considered as one. More established treatments, such as acupuncture and dietary intervention, are dismissed with the more dubious ones." No, they are not "treated as one" (Barrett provides categories and definitions here[49][50]), and only disproven and dubious dietary interventions are dismissed. Otherwise, as a recognized expert in the dietary area, Barrett clearly supports proper nutrition and diet in the treatment of disease, including cancer. Her review is overly simplistic, but that's her right.
She also makes a statement, which could be taken from QW as Barrett's motto, and tries to use it against him: "In the era of evidence-based medicine, it seems reasonable to require the same evidence from all new therapies, whether standard or ‘alternative’. Well-designed, carefully conducted clinical trials are needed to establish safety, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness."
She also complains about the "one-sided" failure to present the views of proponents of the criticized "therapies". Well, Barrett explains why he doesn't engage in false balance coverage here.
We'll just have to agree to disagree about what we consider "serious". It's like watching the impeachment proceedings, where one side deals with serious crimes and evidence, while the opposition complains about procedural matters because they cannot defend the crimes. She's complaining about procedural and style issues. That's her right.
I think we're pretty much finished here. BTW, I am not advocating we delete the reference to her review. Her criticism is one of those hard-to-find examples of the exception that proves the rule that mainstream medicine and science treat QW and Barrett very well. -- BullRangifer (talk) 21:59, 9 December 2019 (UTC)
The problem is that you have been refusing to acknowledge that vaid criticism exists. It isn't just Okasha - there is other criticism in quality, peer reviewed journals, but I'll take it as a step forward that you are accepting that such critcism is out there, even if you don't accept it. At least we don't need to keep saying that all mainstream commentators agree with Barrett, in spite of the evidence to the contrary. - Bilby (talk) 22:17, 9 December 2019 (UTC)
So bring that, instead of bad examples - David Gerard (talk) 22:40, 9 December 2019 (UTC)
They're in the article. They weren't hard to find. - Bilby (talk) 23:20, 9 December 2019 (UTC)

Request for closers[edit]

Because this RfC has policy implications, I posted a request on AN/RFC for an uninvolved admin, and preferably more than one, to close it (permalink). As Newslinger suggested, a panel of uninvolved admins would be ideal. SarahSV (talk) 02:17, 9 December 2019 (UTC)

Scientific and legal advisors[edit]

Let's get this right. There is a large group of experts. The lists were posted up until March 2006:

"When the number was small, we listed them online, but as it grew, the task of keeping a directory up to date became far more trouble than it was worth."
"Quackwatch is an international network of people who are concerned about health-related frauds, myths, fads, fallacies, and misconduct. Its primary focus is on quackery-related information that is difficult or impossible to get elsewhere. From 1970 through 2007, it operated as a nonprofit corporation headquartered in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The corporation was dissolved in 2008, but the informal network will continue as usual."

BullRangifer (talk) 01:25, 10 November 2019 (UTC)

It might be me, but we only have "help prepare articles", I am not sure if that counts as Peer review or not. In fact I see no mention of peer review in their list of activities, which takes us back to which articles are peer reviewed, how can we tell? The site explicitly says that "news" articles are never peer reviewed, it does not say what they are or identifies them as far as I can tell. Thus any given article maybe a "news" article. In fact I find this evasiveness from the site rather concerning, it is almost as if it is being written to with our RS polices (and wikilawyering) in mind.Slatersteven (talk) 10:59, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
It's not reasonable to expect us to trust that these unnamed advisors exist, let alone that they are qualified to debunk medical claims. Transparency is important. - MrX 🖋 13:01, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
It's not reasonable It seems to work given the recognition Quackwatch has received. --Ronz (talk) 19:10, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
Our duty is to accept the judgment of RS, and they all consider QW to be a quality and reliable source of information for the subject matter it deals with.
The only question we should be dealing with is this new complaint that we shouldn't be using it for people in BLPs. This has never been an issue in previous RfCs, but we do need to settle this specific issue. -- BullRangifer (talk) 02:00, 12 November 2019 (UTC)
One gets a clear impression from many of the comments here that editors are not performing due diligence. They haven't even read the Quackwatch and Stephen Barrett articles. Until they do, they shouldn't comment. -- BullRangifer (talk) 02:00, 12 November 2019 (UTC)

Part of the problem here is that "peer review" is a straw man issue. Websites are never peer-reviewed, and that one reviewer complained that it wasn't peer-reviewed got people expecting something they should not expect. We don't expect this from other websites. QW is not pretending to be a scientific journal, where peer-review is expected. We shouldn't even be discussing this as if it were a "lack". -- BullRangifer (talk) 01:55, 12 November 2019 (UTC)

The problem is that the claim that it is peer reviewed is being used as the basis of saying that it isn't self published. - Bilby (talk) 02:03, 12 November 2019 (UTC)
Which is neither here nor there. A source can be SPS and peer-reviewed, and it can be peer-reviewed and not an SPS.
This is all we need to know: Does Barrett own QW and is Editor-in-Chief? Yes. Ergo, the articles he writes and publishes there are therefore SPS. It's that simple. This does not apply to articles written by others. Now we just need to tweak the policy to make it clear that this applies to the BLP person, not their false claims. The two things can be written about separately and sourced separately. Barrett's articles can still be used for the claims. -- BullRangifer (talk) 03:52, 12 November 2019 (UTC)
That was my understanding. But it is not the understanding shared by everyone !voting. - Bilby (