Grant Shapps story continues: Grant Shapps, who was the co-chairman of the UK's Conservative Party until this week, has been accused of maliciously editing the Wikipedia biographies of his party's rivals.
The Grant Shapps story continues to make waves in the British press. Shapps, a politician who was the co-chairman of the UK's Conservative Party until this week, has been accused of maliciously editing his own Wikipedia biography as well as those of rivals within his party (see previous Signpostcoverage).
On April 30, the Registerwondered whether Shapps had fallen victim to a Lib Dem plot. Shapps himself continued to deny any involvement in the Wikipedia edits in a BBC interview (May 8), calling it a "nonsense story" and adding: "In reality the Wiki founder, Jimmy Wales, phones me up the next day [...] he phoned me the next day, said, Sorry, not Wiki's corporate view, this was one individual, happened to be a Lib Dem activist, he shouldn't have said it, he's been chastised, he's under individual ... he's under investigation within Wiki, it was not true, but yeah, of course these things happen."
Even so, by May 11 the Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Independent reported that Shapps had been "sacked" or "demoted" in the post-election cabinet reshuffle, prominently mentioning the Wikipedia story as one of a small number of factors that might have contributed to the decline of Shapps' fortunes.
Somewhat Reasonable, a blog of the Heartland Institute, an American conservative and libertarian think tank, complained about "Wikipedia’s Leftist Ties And Its Censorship Of The Facts" (May 12). The alleged "leftist ties" are rather tenuous. The blog post connects Jimmy Wales and Sue Gardner, former executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, to the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan group dedicated to government transparency. Wales, who is a libertarian, also allegedly has "close personal ties to multiple left-wing bigshots", though the post only specifies Wales' appearance at a birthday party for George Soros, a billionaire supporter of liberal causes who is often the target of American right-wing ire. The post also noted the support of Democratic candidates by two current American members of the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation, which consists of ten members from seven countries. The post concludes "the evidence suggests Wikipedia has been affected by its leftist leaders and many biased editors", but does not specify how these "leftist ties" translate to any changes in encyclopedia content.
The blog cites a 2012 paper by Greenstein and Zhu examining bias in Wikipedia articles through identifying allegedly biased "code words", which indicated that bias in those articles was decreasing over time (see previous Signpostcoverage). The blog post mentions only the specific issue of climate change as an example of "obvious" Wikipedia bias and "an effort to censor information", citing the work of Dr. William Connolley (William M. Connolley), an engineer and climate modeller, on Wikipedia. Connolley, a former Wikipedia administrator who is known for his work on climate change topics on the encyclopedia and is frequently the subject of complaints on climate change denial blogs, is labeled a "climate alarmist" in the post. The Heartland Institute receives millions of dollars in funding from oil and gas companies like ExxonMobil and politically conservative organizations which deny climate change. The New York Times wrote that the Heartland Institute is "the primary American organization pushing climate change skepticism." G
Hand-stitched Magna Carta Wikipedia page: The Guardianreported (May 14) on an art project by Cornelia Parker, "a 13-metre-long embroidery celebrating the Magna Carta by copying its Wikipedia article", that will be on display in the British Library. "Prisoners, writers, politicians, musicians, campaigners – and embroiderers – help[ed] craft a digital-to-analogue work of art examining freedom in the modern age". The unveiling was also covered by the BBC, The Independent, and a second piece in The Guardian; further information, including pictures and a more detailed list of contributors, can also be found in the British Library's press release, and a video in which some of the contributors discuss their contributions. Forthcoming discussion events about the work will be held at the Library on 15 June with Cornelia Parker and Jimmy Wales, and on 13 July with a panel of artists. (See previous Signpostcoverage.) A.K.
"Phantom" filing changes stock price: The New York Timesreported (May 14) that a "phantom" regulatory filing by the possibly nonexistent PTG Capital Partners declared an intention to buy the company Avon by purchasing its stock at $18.75 a share. The filing caused Avon's stock to increase by over a dollar. Portions of the filing were copied from the website of TPG Capital, a real company, and Wikipedia. G
Wikipedia facts: Australian lifestyle and tech site Techlynoted (May 12) "Wikipedia is so free and open that the entire main page was once deleted by mistake, and other amazing Wikipedia facts". The piece contained a long quote from Neil deGrasse Tyson, who pronounced himself intrigued a few years ago that atheists kept wanting to claim him as one of their own in Wikipedia. (He identifies as an agnostic, and his Wikipedia biography no longer claims he is an atheist.). A.K.
"Hacked on Wikipedia, backed by the voters": British Conservative PartypoliticianMichael Fabricantrecounted (May 8) in The Independent that at one point in the run-up to the recent election, a journalist had called him, advising him that his "Wikipedia account" had been "hacked" and the journalist thought they knew who had done it. Fabricant says he declined to comment. (I assume the journalist's communication concerned unfavourable edits to Fabricant's Wikipedia biography, rather than what Wikipedians might refer to as the "hacking" of Fabricant's "Wikipedia account".) A.K.
"Wikipedia hacker runs for Library Board in New York": The New Rochelle Talk of the Sound similarly seems keen to leave the public thinking that editing Wikipedia involves a form of "hacking", castigating (May 10) a candidate for the New Rochelle Public Library Board for having written a Wikipedia biography of a local politician that "read like a campaign brochure". A.K.
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