User:Bob Moncrief/Precedent Collation

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Hi! This is a sandbox of Bob Moncrief's to collate precedent he finds in the archives. Note that due to the nature of links to A/VB archives especially, some links may link to the wrong subsection of an archive page (as subsections are often labeled identically); sorry for the inconvenience and please check the others of that heading on that page.

User Talk Pages

This is based largely on A/VB archive precedent. (I've gone through the 2008-2020 archives so far; may try to go through the long 2006-2007 ones at a later point. —BM)

The initial reference is the UDWiki:Specific Case Editing Guidelines, which state:

SCEG said:
It has been explicitly noted that User: and User talk: pages are the sole property of that particular user (so, User:Odd Starter and User talk:Odd Starter are both sole property of Odd Starter). As such, Users are free to do whatever they wish to their user pages, including complete wiping of any comments, removal of material they do not like, etc, though it is considered poor form to do this, and it is recommended that users create archive subpages in which to store dead conversation. Further, Users may request the deletion of their User and User talk pages, or any subpages therein.

There are, however, a large number of precedents and clarifications of exceptions to this. Trivially, the "do what you want with your talk page" does not preclude the kinds of TOS violations that are vandalism no matter where on the wiki they are.[1] User talk pages are places where e.g. impersonating a sysop isn't allowed, just like elsewhere on the wiki.[2]

User talk pages must be usable

There has long been a guiding principle to rulings that user talk pages must be usable to contact that user by both the sysops and the userbase at large, with the sole exception of banned users, whose talk pages are protected. The user talk page is the first stop for anyone discussing edits elsewhere on the wiki. There are innumerable examples of "take this to the admin talk page or your talk page" if you go back through the A/VB and other admin archives. The user talk page is the place to have discussion, including discussion the user in question doesn't like.

Talk pages are to be used, for example, for soft warnings and nudges that someone's activity could result in vandalism if they continue.This alongside numerous other examples

A user making their talk page unusable is not allowed.[3] Doing so is vandalism if it is intentional, but not if it is an honest coding mistake.[4] This has been a clear part of the broader anti-wiki-breaking policies over the years.examples This includes to the extent that others may e.g. reduce image size in order to make a user's talk pages useable.[5]

It has not been rigorously tested yet, but the consensus on this case is that redirecting your user talk page elsewhere is probably vandalism, although may be allowed in very specific circumstances, like redirecting it to a reasonable alternate point of contact (e.g. a group talk page of which you are a member). Others may undo such a redirect in the process of contacting you, and that would not be vandalism.

Users can request that their talk pages be deleted, but cannot, for example, demand their talk pages remain deleted/uncreated by other users, as they are needed as a point of contact.[6]

A user talk page can only be protected if the user is banned; it should be protected for the duration of the ban. This includes self-ban requests. In the past, there was some precedent for protecting users' talk pages if they were leaving the wiki,[7][8] before self-bans became the accepted mechanism for this; however, it is doubtful this would be implemented again given the longstanding self-ban mechanic.[9] If such a ban/hiatus-induced protection is in place, circumventing it by creating a user talk subpage is vandalism.[10] And even during ban-induced protections, edits may be made to conform to regular administrative procedures (e.g. adding or removing ban templates). In any case, a user cannot have their talk page protected or uneditable during any time when they are active on the wiki.[11]

What if I don't want someone messaging my userpage?

The general action if you do not want someone editing your userpage, is to post on their userpage requesting as much. However, this is considered polite rather than an enforced rule.

Even after having done so, contacting a user via their talk page, even with unconstructive content, isn't vandalism.[12] A person's post on your talk page doesn't have to be in good faith, and doesn't have to be constructive.[13] Talk pages (including administrative talk pages) are also "the place for nonsense", and something being nonsensical garbage does not mean it is vandalism.[14]

It is basically impossible to prevent someone from posting on your user talk page. Even harassment does not count as vandalism.[15] [16] Another, very clear, example, referring to a long history of precedent This case is not specific precedent but there are unchallenged, theoretical references to a situation in which a user posts the same thing on someone's talk page 250 times over a long period; this is not vandalism. (However, these messages would not be considered constructive for the purposes of e.g. a de-escalation decision.)

The exception is harassment that stretches across a wide variety of talk pages (but not a single user's talk page)[17] which falls under the regular rules around spam.[18] [19] non-user talk example Spamming a message across 20 or more pages is basically always considered vandalism, but this number is approximate.Spam ruling with 16 pages 8 pages, I believe

Posts are, of course, vandalism if they violate TOS. For example, if a talk page message contains malicious links or malware[20] or death threats[21] it is vandalism; but decisions around threats are strictly constructed.[22]

The only way to guarantee a given user cannot post on your talk page is through an A/A ruling.[23] If an Arbitration ruling states that users may not interact, they may not post on each others' talk pages.this case has various details

Can I remove or edit someone's message on my talk page?

You can remove people's messages from your page with impunity in whole, but not in part, as has been demonstrated by innumerable A/VB cases. You cannot replace someone's message with a summary.[24] (I believe replacing it with "a discussion occurred here" is fine, but if you attribute statements to people it is vandalism. —BM}

You can break up someone's long message on your talk page into chunks in order to respond to the chunks for readability purposes, as long as you don't change the content or order of those chunks, and you also keep it clear who is saying what message. Doing this is considered bad form but is not vandalism.[25]

Headings posted by someone on your talk page are considered parts of their message, and cannot be altered (impersonation) but can be removed (like any talk page message).[26] [27] [28] Third parties may not edit these headings either. [29] A user can add their own headings and subheadings to their own talk page, however [30] Here is a complex example, that indicates that the above (and other rules) don't always apply if they are manipulated in a way to try to lure someone into committing vandalism.

Can someone else remove or change content on my talk page?

Others can remove their own messages from your talk page, which is considered a retraction of that message.[31] (I'd argue that they cannot ask for it to be removed from the page's history (without another reason for such an action), though, and others can refer to such a message as long as it's clear it's a quotation of a deleted message. But I don't know of specific precedent for this; just a corollary of the above. —BM)

Other users can't remove or edit content they didn't create on your talk page without your explicit permission, but if they have it then it's fine.[32] But such permission must be explicit and not based on friendship or a history of "practical jokes".[33] An exception is if the material being removed has been judged to be spam or vandalism in itself, in which case any user may remove it.[34]

Certain small good-faith edits, e.g. adding unsigned templates (even to messages of the user whose talk page it is), are also acceptable.[35] This extends as far as reorganizing messages and material for clarity on mainspace & administrative talk pages;[36] I can't find an edit for user talk pages on this topic, so generally only the owner of the page should do reorganizations. There is a mixed record on correcting spelling errors in others' messages. (Here it was ruled not vandalism, but given the original edit is missing (the joys of 2008) I can't quite tell what is allowed or not allowed by this precedent. —BM)

What if I post rules on my talk page?

There has been a long history of people posting lists of rules or guidelines for their own talk pages. Talk page rules are, however, superceded by general wiki rules.[37] For example, if a user has a rule that administrators cannot post on their talk page, it is meaningless since administrators have to be able to use talk pages to contact users (to inform them of warnings/bans/ongoing cases/etc.) Violations of talk page rules are not in and of themselves vandalism[38], just as the creation and enforcement of such rules isn't inherently vandalism.

What are my recourses?

The first recourse is to decouple your talk page from email notifications, so you are only notified of edits on your page when you log on to the wiki. If someone's talk page edit violates the above then you should report them to A/VB. Otherwise, you may take the person to arbitration if you don't want them posting on your talk page and can show their actions are part of a pattern of harassing behavior that extends beyond your talk page.