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Manning "put back in the closet"; State involvement in the Azerbaijani Wikipedia

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By Andreas Kolbe

Reactions to Chelsea Manning's Wikipedia bio being renamed, again

After media praise for Wikipedia's decision to move the Bradley Manning article to Chelsea Manning (see last week's Signpost), the reversion of that page move on August 31, after a discussion in which several hundred Wikipedians participated, has so far triggered less favourable feedback, as well as a blog post from Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Sue Gardner expressing her disappointment with the decision.

The Daily Dot reported on the decision to move Chelsea Manning back to Bradley Manning on the same day, asking: "Can a website vote on a person's gender transition?" The article stated, "On Wikipedia, Chelsea has been sentenced to remain Bradley", and went on to quote Jimmy Wales, who responded to complaints from Josh Gorand on his user page by saying:

The Daily Dot article was picked up by Slate in France on September 2. Slate expressed the opinion that Wikipedia had "put its foot in it".

On 4 September, the New Statesman weighed in with a piece titled "Chelsea Manning gets put back in the closet by Wikipedia", attributing the decision to a lack of diversity among Wikipedia editors:

The New Statesman went on to quote excerpts from a blog post Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Sue Gardner had published earlier that day, in which she argued:

Gardner and the New Statesman both noted that an arbitration request had been filed. Gardner commented on her blog,

It remains to be seen whether Gardner's hope that ArbCom "clarify policy" is at odds with ArbCom's constitutional role, as defined in Arbitration Policy:

The New Statesman meanwhile noted that any ArbCom decision would take at least a month. "But it's the best chance yet for Wikipedia's editing community to take some time for the introspection it apparently needs."

Gardner clarified in her blog post that she had written the post in her capacity as a volunteer editor. She added, "everything I say here, I say with lots of respect for the Wikipedia community. This is a rare misstep: an unusual and unfortunate blind spot." HASTAC also had an analysis of the naming dispute, by Wikipedians Adrianne Wadewitz and Phoebe Ayers.

Azerbaijan government's involvement in its language's Wikipedia expansion

The Azerbaijani news portal reported on September 6 that the Azerbaijani Ministry of Communications and Information is creating a "social movement for expansion of the information about the country in online encyclopedia Wikipedia". The Ministry said it was collaborating with the Azerbaijan Association of Young Translators (AGTA) to create a wiki movement in the country. The website of VikiHərəkat, the Azerbaijani wiki movement, is here. Jimmy Wales said on his talk page, "I know nothing about it." According to Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijan has a deteriorating human rights record. Under the heading "Azerbaijan: Crackdown on Civil Society", Human Rights Watch summarises the most recent developments in the country as follows:

This makes Azerbaijan, after Kazakhstan (see earlier Signpost report), the second state with a dismal record on human rights and free speech to take an active interest in the expansion of the local language version of Wikipedia.

According to The Guardian, the Azeri government is employing a number of PR agencies in Europe, including Freud Communications, Consultum Communications and Ketchum.

In brief

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  • @Jayen: I've removed the fair-use image for now. I heard a donation was being considered, but until such time we still need to follow the NFCC. — Crisco 1492 (talk) 23:44, 6 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • Bless Sue Gardner. Some of the comments left in that discussion were really nasty (it's why I chose not to participate) and the whole debacle left a bad taste in the back of my mouth. --TKK! bark with me if you're my dog! 01:48, 7 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]
    • I agree - I've discussed the Chelsea Manning issue with friends who were misgendering her and complaining about their taxes supporting her treatment, and was able to explain things from my experience as a trans woman. They know and respect me, and it didn't take long for them to understand why that attitude is so troubling and came away with a much better understanding of trans issues. Then I saw her name changed back on Wikipedia, and didn't feel like I could give my opinion - some of the comments just didn't make me feel welcome. When people are making statements that imply that trans people are less human than them, it seems like there's no point in trying to explain things from my point of view. Katie R (talk) 15:41, 10 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]
      • But there is a point. You're changing hearts and minds, little by little. I'm sure it's hard, and I understand if you feel you can't handle it... but it's not futile. Believe me. Powers T 18:20, 11 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]
        • This issue has probably embarrassed me more about Wikipedia than any other (and that's saying something). I'm a hetero bloke from a conservative working class area and if I can see that both proper encylopaedic process and decent humanity would indicate that Chelsea Manning is the correct way to refer to her, then surely it's a no-brainer. And Katie Ryan; thank you for contributing to Wikipedia. You are sorely needed here. --Roisterer (talk) 00:14, 12 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • ArbCom + politics. What could possibly go wrong? In reality, the decision was sound and is not in ArbCom's purview. WP:COMMONNAME is the controlling policy, and must be interpreted in the context of WP:RS (and WP:TRUTH). On this, community support should be clearly in support of a change per WP:CONS. It was not. Just remember the old adage: hard cases make bad law. The best solution IMO is to let the liberal media have a good go at the subject, and let the Wikipedia editors flock to the article title change proposal en masse. Int21h (talk) 03:56, 7 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]
    • "Liberal" media? What does political leaning have to do with a source's input into the acceptability of the name change? Powers T 17:19, 8 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]
      • It has to do with editor consensus, as anything that influences editors also influences editor consensus. The liberal media happens to be very influential on Wikipedia editors IMO. Int21h (talk) 23:16, 8 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]
        • It sounds like you're implying that accepted media standards for handling transgender persons is a creation of the liberal media. I suppose you would favor the conservative media as a model to follow? Powers T 19:29, 9 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]
    • Before unthinkingly quoting hard cases make bad law, you should probably have read that article and noted that among legal scholars, that adage is widely discredited. Every significant legal development has arisen from a 'hard case'; it would be more accurate to say 'hard cases make the law'. (Of course, here on Wikipedia laws exist to be ignored anyway...) Robofish (talk) 00:11, 12 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • It was an appallingly transphobic decision, in my opinion. Particularly as all conversation on the name is currently blocked over at the article. Adam Cuerden (talk) 05:08, 7 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]
    • Any action that pretends to block conversation is void on its face as a violation of WP:CONS, and WP:IGNORE obviously applies; in addition, "[administrators] may block editors for behaviors that interfere with the consensus process" which I assume would apply to any such pretension. Administrators have apparently blocked "a new proposal to move the page ... being initiated ... less than thirty days from the date of this determination", which is close but not quite the same, and implemented discretionary sanctions, which is just a fancy way of saying "I'm watching you while you edit". Int21h (talk) 08:27, 7 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • It looks like we don't have an article on Consultum Communications, but an apparently good quality CC-licensed article exists in German on Lobbypedia. [1] I can riddle out the language with enough effort, but it would be much appreciated if someone fluent would a) look through the article on Lobbypedia and mirror whatever is appropriately sourced for Wikipedia to de.wikipedia, then (b) translate it here? Thanks! Around here it is not a threat but a promise that "when you look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you", and I'd hate for any of the firms to be left out. Wnt (talk) 21:14, 11 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]


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