This page is an essay on the Wikipedia:Reliable sources guideline.
|This page in a nutshell: The community has decided to exclude certain highly questionable sources from articles, except in special cases.|
Deprecated sources are highly questionable sources that editors are discouraged from citing in articles, because they fail the reliable sources guideline in nearly all circumstances. These sources are subject to restrictions, including an edit filter. Deprecation is a formalization that arises from Wikipedia’s normal processes for evaluating sources. It primarily exists so that we can save time by not repeatedly discussing or explaining the same issues, and to increase awareness among editors of the status of the sources in question. For example, if editors are unfamiliar with either the specific sources in question or the general sourcing requirements, they can be saved the experience of having their work undone later on. Deprecation can be proposed with a request for comment at the reliable sources noticeboard, and the restrictions are only applied if there is community consensus.
Since there are an endless number of poor sources, there are also an endless number of sources that would be deprecated if we bothered to have discussions on them. These sources have always been de facto deprecated as a normal result of our policies and guidelines that try to ensure that we use reputable sources. Of course, a discussion that results in deprecation may involve a change or clarification of editorial consensus (thus resulting in a change of current practice), but the only effect of deprecation itself is to explicitly codify the source’s pre-existing status, as already determined by Wikipedia’s sourcing requirements. It does not inherently change how they are evaluated under those requirements.
Deprecated sources should not be considered to be either unique or uniquely unreliable. They may be those that are most often cited by unaware editors, or those that come up in discussion the most often – for example, due to real-world controversy, borderline reliability, or a tendency to be promoted on-wiki despite a lack of reliability. Since there are many reasons that a source may be unreliable, the specific reasons for deprecation vary from case to case. The first source to be formally deprecated was the Daily Mail, which was determined by community consensus in a 2017 RfC to have a "reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism, and flat-out fabrication". This RfC became a landmark decision, and new deprecation proposals are usually based on language from its closing summary.
Deprecating a source is a more moderate measure than "banning" it. Deprecation is also different from blacklisting, which is generally proposed to address spam-related issues. There are currently seven deprecated sources.
Effects of deprecation
Deprecated sources are restricted in four ways, all of which originate from the 2017 Daily Mail RfC:
- The source is designated as a generally unreliable source.
- Citing the source as a reference is generally prohibited, especially when other more reliable sources exist. Images and quotations should also be avoided, since they can be manipulated or fabricated. If the source contains material that cannot be found in more reliable sources, it may be valid to assume that the material in question is incorrect. The source may only be used when there is a demonstrable need to use it instead of other sources.
- The source is no longer used to determine notability.
- Typically, an edit filter set to "warn" is implemented, which displays a message to editors attempting to cite the source in an article, notifying them of the existing consensus and asking them if they want to proceed. At this point, the editor may choose to cancel the edit, or dismiss the warning and complete the edit. An alternative to this is that the website for the source may be put on the spam blacklist and/or the Wikimedia global spam blacklist, though this option is generally not a direct result of deprecation.
Acceptable uses of deprecated sources
Deprecation is not a "ban" on using the source, despite having been reported as such in the media. In particular, reliability always depends on the specific content being cited, and all sources are reliable in at least some circumstances and unreliable in at least some others. Citations to deprecated sources should not be removed indiscriminately, and each case should be reviewed separately.
The primary exception to deprecation is that deprecated sources can normally be cited as a primary source when the source itself is the subject of discussion, such as to describe its own viewpoint. The verifiability policy provides an additional exception: a questionable source may be used for information on itself, subject to the conditions in Wikipedia:Verifiability § Self-published or questionable sources as sources on themselves (WP:ABOUTSELF). Additional exceptions may be specific to individual sources: for example, the closure of the Daily Mail RfC referenced the possibility that it may have been more reliable historically. An external link to the source can be included on an article about the source. Editors are also expected to use common sense and act to improve the encyclopedia. If an exception applies, the source can be evaluated and used like any other. Deprecation does not change the application of Wikipedia's policies and guidelines, and the use of all sources continues to be governed by WP:RS and WP:V.
Deprecating a source is a weaker measure than banning it, and the two terms are not comparable. Wikipedia’s equivalent to banning is blacklisting, which is an entirely separate mechanism, and websites are usually only blacklisted if they are involved in spam-related issues, such as external link spamming. Blacklisted sources are listed at the English Wikipedia spam blacklist and the Wikimedia global spam blacklist, with new proposals submitted at MediaWiki talk:Spam-blacklist. External links to blacklisted sources cannot be included in edits and editors will be shown an error message. In contrast, deprecated sources can be cited by editors as long as they are not on either of the spam blacklists.
How does a source become deprecated?
To start a discussion on deprecation, start an RfC at the reliable sources noticeboard. Editors will then evaluate the source and determine whether there is a consensus for deprecation. However, if the source is not already de facto deprecated as current practice, or if the source has not already been discussed at length in the past, it may be a better idea to start a regular RSN discussion instead.
In general, a source that is proposed for deprecation should be either frequently used or frequently discussed. Additionally, in order to prevent instruction creep, sources that should be particularly obvious (for example, The Onion) are unlikely to be formally deprecated unless there are editors seriously arguing for their reliability.
What sources are de facto deprecated?
Any source that fails the reliable sources guideline in nearly all circumstances. While we will never have an exhaustive list, most deprecation to date has focused on sources that promote known falsehoods, particularly debunked conspiracy theories. This does not have to be intentional and may be a result of factors such as poor fact checking or sensationalism. One might assume, for instance, that fake news websites are effectively deprecated, as are sources that promote pseudoscience or denialism. The pages on potentially unreliable sources and perennially discussed sources may also be helpful.
Currently deprecated sources
Since each source proposed for deprecation has to be discussed separately, we cannot formally deprecate all possible sources that deserve it. As described above, the fact that an unreliable source is listed here does not make it inherently different from an unreliable source that is not listed here.
|Source||Date of deprecation||RfC||Notes||Uses|
|Breitbart News||25 September 2018||2018||Breitbart News is on the spam blacklist.||1|
|Daily Mail (MailOnline)||8 February 2017||2017 2019||The Daily Mail was the first source to be deprecated on Wikipedia. The decision was challenged and upheld in the 2019 RfC. This deprecation also includes the newspaper's website, MailOnline. Editors note that the Daily Mail may have been more reliable historically.||1|
|InfoWars||30 August 2018||2018||InfoWars is on both the spam blacklist and the Wikimedia global spam blacklist.||1 |
|Occupy Democrats||25 September 2018||2018||Occupy Democrats currently does not have an edit filter implemented.||1|
|The Sun (United Kingdom)||18 January 2019||2019||The Sun currently does not have an edit filter implemented.||1|
|VDARE||22 December 2018||2018||VDARE currently does not have an edit filter implemented.||1|
|WorldNetDaily (WND)||11 December 2018||2018||WorldNetDaily currently does not have an edit filter implemented. A request is stalled at Wikipedia:Edit filter/Requested/Archive 12 § WorldNetDaily, because we lack a suitable template (like MediaWiki:Abusefilter-warning-dailymail) to implement the warning.||1 |
- Edit filter
- Potentially unreliable sources
- Reliable sources § Questionable and self-published sources
- Reliable sources/Noticeboard
- Reliable sources/Noticeboard/Archive 220 § Daily Mail RfC
- Reliable sources/Perennial sources
- Spam blacklist
- Verifiability § Self-published or questionable sources as sources on themselves
- Wikimedia global spam blacklist
- Jasper Jackson (8 February 2017). "Wikipedia bans Daily Mail as 'unreliable' source". the Guardian. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
- Jon Sharman (9 February 2017). "Wikipedia bans Daily Mail because it's an 'unreliable source'". The Independent. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
- Sebastian Anthony (10 February 2017). "Wikipedia bans Daily Mail for "poor fact checking, sensationalism, flat-out fabrication"". Ars Technica. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
- Also see Daily Mail § Other criticisms.