Wikipedia:Confidential evidence

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Wikipedia:Confidential evidence was a proposal to regulate the use of confidential evidence in administrative decision making. The goal was primarily to reduce the risk of error and alleviate the drama caused by intransparency. Although the idea was met with generally positive responses, a loosely conflicting Arbitration Committee decision[1] and some other complications[2] impeded the proposal's progress. Still, the ideas that were developed and the surrounding discussions shed light on some general principles which seem to be agreed on by most of the community:

  • There are reasonable arguments in favor of using confidential evidence in certain circumstances.[3] There are also legitimate concerns associated with the use of confidential evidence.[4]
  • While different editors regard the concerns with different degrees of importance, most rate them between moderate and momentous. Consequently, confidential evidence should be used only when the reasons for doing so are significantly compelling.
  • When confidential evidence must be used, the situation should be handled carefully to minimize potential harm. Publicly communicating the details of an issue would defeat the purpose of confidentiality, but efforts should be made to communicate the nature of the dilemma. Users should be careful not to misrepresent or exaggerate the strength of the evidence. Generally, the evidence should be thoroughly reviewed by one or more users who can be trusted with access to it.
  • In light of the Arbitration Committee's decision,[1] users are generally expected to pass evidence through the ArbCom rather than acting on it themselves. As the principle states, this does not apply to evidence obtained through Oversight, CheckUser, or OTRS tools. This could change in the future, as the ArbCom has expressed willingness to allow a community-formed policy to replace the provisions of the decision.

The above points are not intended as binding principles; consensus can change. Still, for the time being, they may be useful in assessing whether particular actions are in line with communal consensus.


  1. ^ a b In the Durova case, the Arbitration Committee unanimously passed a principle regarding confidential evidence. Numerous questions were later asked, and clarifications were given; see FT2's summary for an overview.
  2. ^ Within a few weeks, the proposal had branched out into four separate versions. By the time efforts to fix the problem arouse, interest and participation were running low.
  3. ^ Overview of justifications for using confidential evidence:
    • In some cases, a degree of confidentiality may be necessary where privacy issues are involved.
    • Keeping sleuthing techniques private may keep persistent problem users from circumventing them.
    • In extreme cases of persistent abuse from the same user or group of users, timeliness may come into play.
  4. ^ Overview of concerns surrounding the use of confidential evidence:
    • Lack of external review may increase the likelihood of error.
    • Lack of community participation may allow individuals to deviate significantly from community norms, making confidential action a bad example of consensus decision making.
    • Even when the proper outcome is realized, procedural intransparency can cause significant upset to editors, creating tension that may have been avoidable.