User:Econterms/Congressional staff edits

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Revision as of 19:32, 13 February 2016 by Antony-22 (talk | contribs) (→‎Background: use talk page)
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Core issue: Is it okay if Congressional staff edit Wikipedia on the job? What constraints apply? What advice can our chapter offer?


  • Ideally they should create accounts and add COI statements ; we can provide some models
  • Explain that they are in the category of "paid editors" if editing on-the-job to achieve purposes of their employers; there are people who object to paid editors, but it is definitely permitted.
  • They can write to OTRS with issues they want addressed officially, if for any reason. (we should give precise clear advice) PBM to follow up with James Alexander
  • Editors are tracked, and develop reputations. Do not edit until you understand this: "Everything's in a database." We'll show article talk pages, user talk pages, and the @Congressedits twitter stream.
  • It is useful to know some past cases, including both good and bad examples.
    • (1) the Gingrich campaign case, (2) the Cornyn case? (to research).
    • Bad examples: 2006 scandal in which the Capitol's IP addresses were banned, CongressEdits. Perhaps the Wiki-PR case to show that they can still get caught even if they think they're taking countermeasures.
  • My inclination is to say yes you should edit ; however very very experienced Wikimedians have advised me that the Congressional staff should basically leave that to others.
  • They are welcome to build their expertise and reputations by attending our edit-a-thons. Show them what an edit-a-thon is.


  • Can be drawn from our usual presentations to beginners.
  • The safest way to do things is to post feedback or suggested text on the talk page. We should go over how to bring this to the attention of experienced Wikipedias through WikiProject talk pages, BLPN, etc.
  • Should they remove obviously false and defamatory text themselves? If so they should still post a note on the talk page, but it's sometimes easy to mistake legitimate criticism for defamation.
  • Show example topics, notably elected officials, legislation, topics related to ideology, parties, and partisanship. Their focus (so far) is on the biographies of elected officials.
  • Discuss policy on Biographies of Living Persons, and obligations it imposes on others and themselves.
  • My advice: make some uncontroversial edits to get used to the system and develop a reputation before making any COI edits.
  • Are there examples of political professionals posting bad/negative information about other people? If so, discuss.
  • Follow up: w:WP:Congressional_staffer_edits, w:United_States_Congressional_staff_edits_to_Wikipedia, and w:WP:WikiProject_U.S._Congress
  • Show/discuss watchlists -- this is one way articles are watched
  • Discuss bots -- another way articles are watched


  • Need consensus among our own public policy committee before we present
  • I'd like to (re-)check with Newby, Summers, Varnum, Alexander, Bardella, Chin, and the Wikimedia public policy list. that's a long to-do list however.
  • We must study/reconcile with the PR statement of practices (can ask Bill Beutler? Pete Forsyth?)

Issues outside our scope

  • Which topics for editing are government work versus campaign work? Our contact can consult a legal counsel on this on the Hill. I am interested in the answer. As Wikimedians we do not particularly have to speculate on this but it will help us to know what they think.
  • Should we mention our own topics of advocacy briefly? It might be out of scope, or we might squeeze that in.
  • I am inclined to invite them to email us if they have questions. Is this out of scope? Some people say that means intervening too much and we do not want to become the story by taking responsibility for their issues.
  • Consultancies? We can say they exist and that codes of conduct apply to them. The solution for a congressional office could be to dispatch requests about Wikipedia to a consultant.


We are invited to present Feb 16-19, or Mar 4, 11 or 18. (Mar 11 probably booked already.) We could also delay further, and that's necessary if we do not have consensus. Tentatively, Tuesday Feb 16 at 11am was ideal for them and fine for me. Following their usual practices we have up to 45 minutes to present and at least 15 minutes for questions-and-answers.