The Signpost

Predators unconcerned with Wikipedia's wellbeing may be closer than you think.
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It's not the tiny volunteer base. It's pretty much the entire Wikipedia community and the Wikimedia Foundation who constantly fail to accept how serious these issues are, and how they affect the encyclopedia's reputation. And their refusal to acknowledge and invest in the the need for more, policy based controls on who can edit, and who can patrol the new content. Many Recent Changes reviewers and New Page Patrollers are among the least qualified of all kinds of editors - over 20% of users who join WP:AfC do it to be able to be sure their own articles make it to mainspace.
The tiny volunteer base are the idiots (like me) who organise and do the cleaning up. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 12:41, 6 February 2017 (UTC)[reply]
Thus far, the punishments for paid editing result in bans. What if the WMF chose to send "cease and desist" letters (and publicized such incidents) and if ignored, filed lawsuits against such editors? I know this would lead to a drain on the legal team's resources, but might WP's rules be taken more seriously? - kosboot (talk) 13:24, 6 February 2017 (UTC)[reply]
There are certainly steps WMF legal could take. The key step for the WMF, IMHO, is to widely publicize that we have strict rules against advertising and undisclosed paid editing. Individual editors can do "naming and shaming" pointing out where specific companies are inserting ads into our articles. Smallbones(smalltalk) 14:39, 6 February 2017 (UTC)[reply]
You've got to get those editors to find out first who the culprits are before they can do the naming and shaming. Since its conception, Wikipedia has had a totally dysfunctional system for vetting new content and/or new users. Every common or garden village residents blog or forum has stricter rules than Wikipedia. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 14:46, 6 February 2017 (UTC)[reply]
Re: "totally dysfunctional system for vetting new content and/or new users"—@Kudpung, I know you're into ideas... Do you have any recommendations on this front? Or is it under discussion somewhere? czar 18:42, 6 February 2017 (UTC)[reply]
It's been under discussion for 6 years but we've now arrived at a corner of a blank wall - on one side it's the WMF refusing to recognise it as a priority and on the othr is our volunteer community itself who insist on the 'anyone can edit' meme and continue to regard NPP as a hobbyhorse rather than a policy driven core function. As a result, I'm stepping down, but there is to be an election for people to carry on with the work I've been doing for the past 6 years. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 22:18, 6 February 2017 (UTC)[reply]

The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.
— Garry Kasparov[2]

It takes a certain wherewithal to edit in high-activity topics, nevertheless with bad-faith actors. But it's insult to injury to then put our time-sinking editors through even more time sinks once it becomes apparent that (1) the actors are indeed bad-faith actors, and (2) the effort is designed to overwhelm our editing capacity. I hope there will be more discussions about article quality now that we're past the point of collecting garbage on every topic and in the stage of refining that garbage into that which is reliably sourced and that which isn't. To that end, it's worth collecting in one place stories like the one above as documentation for the many wasted hours of editor productivity. Juxtapose this situation with the other article in this Signpost on the women's march and how the editors chose to keep IP access because there were more productive IP edits than otherwise. I don't know the specifics of either situation, but that spirit of decentralized guild-like decision-making is emboldening. If our best editors are being overwhelmed in stewarding a topic, the best solution is not always the libertarian option of walking away and hoping someone else will fit in (nor is it to believe that particular stewards are the only ones worth considering), but the stewards should be able to appeal to the community for restrictions that will support their work in what becomes a war of attrition. I don't know how else to describe the above story, yet I especially don't know how to justify a volunteer sticking around for that kind of abuse once the problem gets that deep. Sometimes we fight for free/open in the wrong venues—the encyclopedia is free/open, but every individual article reflects the consensus of those who edit it, and those isolated instances may not be free/open. If Kudpung is correct in his assessment that both the community and admin do not treat these affairs seriously, I hope that in the future we could have more solidarity when our own editors are confronted with efforts so designed to exhaust them, because if those outside efforts succeed in their exhaustion, both our community and the encyclopedia will suffer. czar 18:42, 6 February 2017 (UTC)[reply]
Everybody in the world should know that paid promotional editing is not allowed on Wikipedia - try telling that to the Wikimedia Foundation, Smallbones. In a video conference on the topic with the WMF two days ago I was accused by them of organising a 'pissing contest'. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 23:10, 6 February 2017 (UTC)[reply]
There may be many mom & pop promoters who don't know the rules; sure, no problem with telling them the rules. I'd guess that all of the suspects editing Banc De Binary were already aware of the rules though. wbm1058 (talk) 21:44, 6 February 2017 (UTC)[reply]

An interesting and well-researched article on a desperately important issue. I'd compare it to developers who will gain by building something that will cause harm, such as a mine in a nature reserve. The developers have professional staff skilled in the process and paid to advance their cause by whatever means (and that can include disinformation or other forms of "political" deception). The nimbies are volunteers, organise in their own time and at their own expense, and may be outflanked in many different ways. Guess who's more likely to win. Anything that can help tilt the balance in favour of truth is to be welcomed.Chiswick Chap (talk) 10:53, 8 February 2017 (UTC)[reply]

I was surprised to see this brought up at such a late date. Most of this happened in 2014. Here's the history on AN/I: Wikipedia:Administrators'_noticeboard/IncidentArchive844. As a result of that, all the Banc De Binary editors and their sockpuppets were blocked. After that, further problems on Wikipedia were not difficult to handle. John Nagle (talk) 20:21, 1 June 2017 (UTC)[reply]

"Naming and shaming" vs. "assume good faith"

While "naming and shaming," as described in this piece and discussed above, has an important and legitimate role, it's an approach that should be used with caution. In some cases, "naming and shaming" can conflict with our assume good faith policy. One clear instance impacted a client of mine, who had diligently observed Wikipedia's policies in both letter and spirit. A columnist called out their clearly disclosed efforts, and Wikipedia founder Jimbo Wales repeated the (largely inaccurate) accusation, explicitly stating that shaming was in order. This prompted extensive discussion on Wikipedia; ultimately, no wrongdoing was found, but the accuracy of Wikipedia's content had already suffered substantial damage in the meantime. Beyond that, the call for "shaming" had negatively impacted our collaborative dynamics, with a variety of accusations, ranging from good faith but misguided comments to outright vandalism and harassment.

This is a dynamic I frequently encounter in less dramatic examples, when helping friends, teaching students, and advising clients. Shaming is a powerful tool; it has great power to advance our goals when used with care, and great power to damage our social dynamics when used recklessly. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 22:21, 6 February 2017 (UTC)[reply]

There is a certain truth in what you are saying: Naming and shaming, while necessary to set an example, adds more to the negative publicity that puts the accuracy of Wikipedia in question. The encyclopedia is already being lampooned by the serious newspapers and TV in the globally powerful and respected UK media. So, Peteforsyth, what do you suggest we do about it? Perhaps next on the Signpost agenda should be an article about what's been done, actually being done, what's being attempted, and what's deliberately being ignored and how the community is polarised and utterly divisive about it. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 23:06, 6 February 2017 (UTC)[reply]
Obviously, I can't assume good faith when it comes to the editors employed by Banc De Binary. I stand behind my decision to name and shame Banc De Binary. There very well may be better ways to deal with others, but we are not using them. For the "mom and pop" coffee trucks that have articles on Wikipedia, I think a clearly stated publicity campaign would do the trick. For those in between these two extremes other methods should be used. We just have to get off our duffs and do it. Smallbones(smalltalk) 01:21, 7 February 2017 (UTC)[reply]
Smallbones, yes, I think that is obvious -- so much so that I neglected to say so explicitly :) I agree, your story offers a clear illustration of a case where "naming and shaming" is appropriate. My comment was intended to inspire caution around the idea of generalizing that the approach is a good core strategy for dealing with undisclosed -- or, especially, disclosed -- paid editors.
To Kudpung, I think the general approach has to be that we continually encourage each other to take care and exercise good judgment in specific cases, rather than trying to find a "one size fits all" approach. I would hypothesize that part of the problem is, when a highly prominent figure like Wales advocates naming and shaming, perhaps some of our younger or less experienced Wikipedians hasten to find instances where they can take part. Whether conscious or unconscious, the idea that we can gain social status by accusing and embarrassing other users is IMO something we ought to be very cautious about encouraging. I believe the stance Wales takes frequently and prominently around COI editors is at odds with Wikipedia policy and works against our parallel efforts to improve our social dynamics and reduce harassment and hounding.
I don't think there's a simple answer, but I do think the right answer includes acknowledging that these situations are rarely as simple as they might have been with BDB. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 02:12, 7 February 2017 (UTC)[reply]
There are a few reasons why offering paid editing for all productive editing would have an advantage over BDB-types. Obviously if someone is asking you to do something sneaky or risky they cannot be trusted to fulfill any bargins. Someone who is looking to make $$ editing WP, if given a choice between working for bad actors or working for the project, might be more inclined to devote their efforts to the project.TeeVeeed (talk) 19:14, 7 February 2017 (UTC)[reply]
No, what IP 108 suggests is absolutely off base in its implications, even if some of the facts are accurate. I was, over time, the most consistent and vocal critic of the WMF on this 2013-14 incident, and was centrally involved in it -- I know this episode well. A few points:
  • We're talking about disclosure, so the choice to post anonymously is more than a little ironic.
  • The Wikimedia Foundation did not intend for the position to be a paid editing position; that happened due to a lack of oversight and some naive decisions, not due to a desire to "send money to a paid editor." That's an oversimplification, and a significant one.
  • Neither the WMF nor admins "silenced" anyone (nor could they have); in fact, they did the opposite. The first public posting about the issue was from odder on his personal blog (which he has since deleted). Following some open and candid email list discussion, the WMF's then-executive director Sue Gardner and her deputy Eloquence proactively created a thorough report on the incident, on a public wiki, inviting input and feedback. And afterwards, KLove (WMF) elaborated on what lessons the WMF had learned from the episode, and how it has adapted its grant programs accordingly.
This is an example of a fairly isolated mistake that was handled with care, and in order to interpret it as indicative of the WMF's disposition in 2017, you'd have to ignore a lot of important stuff. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 18:49, 9 February 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Smallbones(smalltalk) 23:17, 29 May 2017 (UTC)[reply]


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