Ethical Breaching Experiments

Original source: Wikimedia Ethics/Ethical Breaching Experiments
Version of 2010-03-03T23:02:19 (source: Wikimedia data dump)
page started by Privatemusings: examples of breaching experiments from wikimedia projects
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

 this area is brand new, and under development in January 2010

On this page we discuss, brainstorm, and possibly execute ethical breaching experiments - in particular whether or not such things are possible, and if so, how they might be designed and executed to best inform policy and practice on WMF projects.


please do sign up below
 * Privatemusings 00:47, 18 January 2010 (UTC)


Please have a go at your own definition below;

Ethical Breaching Experiment: An experiment which causes no harm in its execution, whilst yielding results useful for the greater good, or which inspire positive change, but which uses methods which may violate the letter or spirit of the guildeline "Do not disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point" Privatemusings 00:57, 18 January 2010 (UTC)

Examples of breaching experiments from Wikimedia projects

'On Wikipedia' Documents the Dr. Handel debacle

 The Dr. Handel debacle

Report from Limey (link)

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

Report from Herschelkrustofsky (link)

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

Report from Tarantino (link)

 ''This article on the Himalayan Panda was created on April Fools Day and lasted nearly 6 months before it was  deleted. The reference and external link seemed to support it if you didn't read them carefully. It still lives on in a similar form on Persianne's user page. ''

Hoaxes not apparently related to 'breaching experiments'

The Lee Dennison story

Suggestions / Ideas from others

Suggestions from Gomi (link)

1) Add citations to plausible-sounding but fictitious references to BLPs and/or health/medical articles. Inserting no actual defamation or misinformation, but supporting statements with fake references will show how open to abuse the Wiki model is;
2) Create articles on non-existent people and companies. This will be difficult, but if carefully checked to be non-existent, the harm done here is minimal;
3) Create fake articles on (non-existent) latin-named plants and animals, similar to #2, above;

Related studies, non 'breaching'

Possible areas of useful experimentation

  •  Comparing classes of articles - eg. how is unsourced information treated when added by editors of similar reputation in different classes of articles
  • Copyright concerns
  • Academic honesty / plagiarism
  • "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." -Isaac Asimov
  • from Larry Sanger to Moulton: Wikimedia's war against academic scholars
  • the destruction of content by Wikimedia's deletionists
  • censorship, bad blocks and bad bans imposed by Wikimedia's abusive administrators

Planning and executing an experiment

Please head to the planning page for more information. (here is a copy of the planning page)


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


  • I have seen your posts on Wikipedia Review and Wikiversity regarding the subject of "ethical breaching experiments." These generally are not permissible, and your involvement would be particularly unhelpful in light of prior history. Please refrain from engaging in, or inducing others to engage in, this practice. Newyorkbrad 15:58, 18 January 2010 (UTC) (newyorkbrad is a member of the english wikipedia's 'arbcom')
  • The only thing I'd personally like to see regarding "breaching experiments", especially that those that deliberately insert bad/false information into articles is: "Don't do them.", personally. They violate WP:POINT in a way that cannot easily be reconciled with further editing. SirFozzie (sirfozzie is a member of the english wikipedia's 'arbcom')
  • The Dept of Fatherland Security runs deliberate tests of the airport security system, by having agents see if they can get stuff past the screeners, who are (supposedly) left out of the loop. It's very important QC instrument. But suppose they were total doofuses who weren't doing this AT ALL. And suppose some citizens decided to take it upon themselves, using harmless toy mockups and so forth. Can you imagine the shitstorm? That's rather what we have at Wikipedia. They won't do it themselves, and they won't let anybody else do it, either. - 'Milton Roe' (link)

The original Wikiversity page was deleted on 12 March 2010
The page was given a new name (The Ethics of Breaching Experiments) and deleted again on 15 March 2010.

See also: related events