How to Permanently Delete a Wikipedia Account: Step-by-Step

Updated

Wikipedia has become known as the peoples’ encyclopedia. With over six million contributed articles in English alone and another fourteen and a half million articles in languages from around the world, there are a lot of users online.

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If anyone wants to contribute to the encyclopedia, their work will be attributed to either their IP address or their username. It may just be that you or your loved one created a Wikipedia account in order to contribute, edit, comment, or share a bit of history somewhere on the website. If this is the case, and you’re now ready to clean up your online presence by deleting your Wikipedia account, read on.

How to Delete Your Own Wikipedia Account

Wikipedia is an interesting platform for a number of reasons. First, it is the largest crowd-sourced encyclopedia in the world. Second, you can’t delete your account. That’s right - deletion isn’t allowed. 

Wikipedia has a strict attribution policy. If a user ever edits, comments, or creates a page, they will receive attribution for their work. In other words, their username will appear somewhere next to their comment or on the page they created. If the user were to delete their account, the username would cease to exist and there would be no record of attribution. Thus, Wikipedia disallows account deletion.

So, what do you do if you want to tidy up your online presence? Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to lock your account down and effectively vanish from the world of Wikipedia.

Check your account standing

To complete the steps outlined below, your Wikipedia account will need to be in good standing. That means there are no current or ongoing arbitration cases against your account, there are no temporary sanctions (editing restrictions), and no temporary or permanent blocks on your account. 

You can check for your account standing by searching for your username on the block list page. If there is a temporary block on your account, there will be a note of how many days remain on the block next to your username. If your account is permanently blocked, it will say, “no expiry set” next to your username.

Set your account to “retired”

If you simply want to retire your account and let people know that you are no longer contributing, editing, or interacting on the popular Wikipedia Talk pages, you can add a “retired” tag to your user page and talk page.

To do this, go to your user page and click “edit.” Write “{{retired}}” at the top and click the publish button. This will create a black and white banner that says “RETIRED” at the top of your user and talk pages to let people know you are no longer active on Wikipedia.

Vanish completely

If you want to go an extra step and delete all association with pages you’ve edited, you can vanish thanks to Wikipedia’s “right to vanish” policy. To do this, you need to access your user page and click “edit.” Write “{{db-u1}}” at the top and publish your changes.

This will alert Wikipedia administrators that you wish to be removed from all pages you’ve edited. You don’t need to specify a reason, and typing the command will be enough to flag Wikipedia administrators.

Request a name change

If you want the information you submitted to remain on Wikipedia but you’d like to remove your original username, you can request a name change. It’s important to know that name changes can be tracked down so a person could theoretically find the original username that contributed to an article.

To request a name change, you’ll need to be logged in to your account. Navigate to the name request page. There, enter the new username you’d like and your current email address. A Wikipedia administrator will confirm your username change via the email address. To make it clear that you wish to be removed from Wikipedia, change your username to something like “Retired User [number]” or “Vanished User [number].” 

Remove your email address

To “lock” your account down after you followed one of the above steps, you can remove your email address from the account. For this step, you’ll need to be logged in. Navigate to the special preferences page and choose “change or remove email address.” Enter your password to confirm the removal.

Change your password

A final step to take in the process is changing your password to a random string of numbers, letters, and symbols that you won’t remember and logging out. The password will be incredibly difficult to hack should someone try, and without an email on the account, there is no way to reset it, effectively locking the account forever.

How to Delete a Deceased Loved One’s Wikipedia Account

If you’re tackling many executor duties on behalf of your loved one, you’ll eventually encounter the need to close down digital accounts. In the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t have to be tackled right away and can be placed farther down on the list of what to do when someone dies

Log into their account

To complete any of the steps in this article, you will need access to your loved one’s account. Good places to check for information like usernames, emails, and passwords would be in a password manager

If you cannot find their password but you have access to their email or username, you can reset the password by clicking the “forgot password” option on the login screen. You can also use this option to recover their username. Simply enter their email, and the username and new password will be sent to the email you entered.

Once you log into your loved one’s Wikipedia account, you can choose from the options below. This is one of the few tasks where you won’t need to figure out how to get a death certificate.

Check their standing

Just like your own account, you won’t be able to make any changes if Wikipedia has a temporary or permanent hold on your loved one’s account. Follow the steps in the section above to check for any holds and proceed accordingly.

Retire the account

Did your loved one want to keep their hard work available for generations to come? If so, you can simply retire their account by following the steps above. Doing this will place a “Retired” banner over the top of their account and will keep any pages they created available for the general public.

Other options for their account

Retiring your loved one’s Wikipedia account is on par with deleting it, as there will be no further messages, emailing, or other actions related to any of their Wikipedia pages. If you want to go a step further and completely lock their account down, you can follow the steps written about in the first section of this article. 

Once you’re logged into your loved one’s account, you can complete all actions necessary to fulfill their wishes.

Frequently Asked Questions: Deleting a Wikipedia Account

Do you still have a few questions? Here are answers to the most common.

How can you delete a Wikipedia page? 

This might be the simplest task to complete from this entire article. To delete a Wikipedia page, you must request deletion from Wikipedia administrators. 

Pages you created yourself: Add {{db-author}} to the top of the page. Administrators will delete it shortly afterward. If other contributors have made edits and contributions to the page, use the next method.

Pages created by other people: Add {{delete|reason}} Administrators will determine if the page should be deleted and respond accordingly.

Does Wikipedia delete inactive accounts?

The short answer is, no, Wikipedia never deletes inactive accounts. The reason for this is due to Wikipedia’s attribution policy. If an inactive account was deleted, then any places where the user at one time contributed would lack proper attribution. 

What if you created an account and you never commented, created a page, or used it? Wikipedia still won’t delete the account. At this point, if an account is created on Wikipedia, it stays in the system forever.

Contributing to the World’s Encyclopedia

Wikipedia administrators maintain the largest crowdsourced encyclopedia on the web. While account deletion isn’t possible because of the strict rules they’ve put in place, they have made it possible to vanish without a trace and remove the potential of someone else logging into your account. By following the steps in this article, you can put a permanent end to your activity on Wikipedia.


Sources:
  1. “Criteria for Speedy Deletion.” Deletion Policies, Wikipedia, 3 June 2021. en.wikipedia.org
  2. “How to Delete a Page.” Page Deletion, Wikipedia, 24 May 2021. en.wikipedia.org
  3. “Retiring.” Retired User, Wikipedia, 3 June 2021. en.wikipedia.org
  4. “Right to Vanish.” Vanishing, Wikipedia, 25 May 2021. meta.wikimedia.org
  5. “Template: Retired.” Inactive User, Wikipedia, 15 February 2020. en.wikipedia.org

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