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In the media

"The fulfillment of the dream of humanity" or a nightmare of PR whitewashing on behalf of one-percenters?

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By Bri, Hawkeye7, Indy beetle, and Smallbones

A Nobel lecture, "we are not capable of bearing this enormity of information"

Olga Tokarczuk, 2018 Nobel laureate in literature, gave her Nobel Lecture, The Tender Narrator, on December 7, 2019 . Her references to Wikipedia, both to the promise of Wikipedia and the "disappointing" fulfillment of that promise, are close to the heart of the lecture's message. Extracts of the passages are given below. Wikilinks added.

John Amos Comenius, the great seventeenth-century pedagogue, coined the term “pansophism,” by which he meant the idea of potential omniscience, universal knowledge that would contain within it all possible cognition. This was also, and above all, a dream of information available to everyone. ... Will not knowledge within easy reach mean that people will become sensible ... ?

When the Internet first came about, it seemed that this notion would finally be realized in a total way. Wikipedia, which I admire and support, might have seemed to Comenius ... the fulfillment of the dream of humanity — now we can create and receive an enormous store of facts being ceaselessly supplemented and updated that is democratically accessible to just about every place on Earth.

A dream fulfilled is often disappointing. It has turned out that we are not capable of bearing this enormity of information, which instead of uniting, generalizing and freeing, has differentiated, divided, enclosed in individual little bubbles...


Firm accused of whitewashing articles for one-percenters

See this month's Special report for more analysis of the claimed article whitewashing by Status Labs.

The Wall Street Journal published a 2,000 word article by Rachael Levy on December 13 titled "How the 1% scrubs its image online" (paywall) detailing efforts of Status Labs to control media and Wikipedia coverage of its clients. The subtitle was "Prominent figures from Jacob Gottlieb to Betsy DeVos got help from a reputation management firm that can bury image-sensitive Google results by placing flattering content on websites that masquerade as news outlets". The article named specific Wikipedia editor or editors.

According to The Wall Street Journal, articles edited by Status Labs operatives included bank executive Omeed Malik,[1][2] biomedical company Theranos,[3] and hedge fund Citadel LLC.[4]

An account named in the WSJ report as a related operative, Jppcap is now indefinitely blocked for "advertising or self-promoting in violation of the conflict of interest and notability guidelines". The publishing of this article by the Journal also led to the opening of a discussion on the Conflict of Interest Noticeboard. B

Business Insider has reported on a less nefarious instance of editing on behalf of a wealthy and powerful individual, namely technology businessman Elon Musk. After perusing the Wikipedia article about himself "for 1st time in years", Musk took to Twitter to suggest some edits, including the removal of the label "investor" from the short description, since he insisted "I do basically zero investing." Musk also apparently jokingly supported the replacement of the word with the term "business magnet"—as opposed to business magnate. User:TechnologicalScribe subsequently altered the short description accordingly and added in the edit summary that the changes were made "as requested by Elon Musk". The phrase "business magnet" has since been removed from the short description.

Did ... ?

We wanted to show you this, instead.

The Signpost story occupying this space cited The Washington Post which linked to another reliable source. We were essentially accused of outing for linking to The Washington Post and thus threatened with censorship by some oversighters. Rather than put our existence at risk, we have withdrawn the story and will pursue the matter via ArbCom in the New Year S

It's alright, Ma. I'm only bleeding.

Mother Jones lists Heroes and Monsters of the 2010s including Wikipedia – but only as a hero.

Perhaps the 2016 Nobel Laureate in Literature can explain this choice. S

Wikipedia and Women in STEM

BBC Radio interviewed British physicist Jess Wade on her efforts to create more articles on women experts in science, math, and technology, with specific focus on the sudden, recent tagging of many articles she has edited for notability concerns by an IP address editor (the portion of the broadcast relevant to Wikipedia begins at 9:30). Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Katherine Maher was also reached for comment. She expressed concern about the gender imbalance in Wikipedia's content and editing community, but praised the community response to the taggings, including the blocking of the IP editor. More details at this issue's Op-Ed by Wade. Ib

Block of Wikipedia in Turkey unconstitutional

Reported by virtually all major media including BBC, Reuters, The New York Times, Le Monde, etc. – just before we went to press, the Constitutional Court of Turkey ruled the block of Wikipedia in Turkey to be unconstitutional. B

In brief

CF-18 Hornet fighter jets – O Canada, we stand on guard for thee – in an image released for NORAD Tracks Santa


  1. ^ "Former Bank of America Corp. executive Omeed Malik also received services from Status Labs, according to people familiar with the matter." – WSJ
  2. ^ "A Wikipedia page about Mr. Malik also became the first result in a Google search of his name, displacing news articles. Following a Journal query, Wikipedia removed Mr. Malik's page." – WSJ
  3. ^ "Disgraced blood-testing startup Theranos Inc. also received services from Status Labs, according to former employees. An editing account used by Status Labs ... according to people familiar with the matter ... made several favorable edits to Theranos' Wikipedia page. One edit removed a reference to an article in the Journal reporting Theranos devices often failed accuracy requirements." – WSJ
  4. ^ "The hedge fund of billionaire Ken Griffin, Citadel LLC, hired Status Labs to edit information on Wikipedia in 2015 about the fund's investments and Mr. Griffin's art collection, according to a person familiar with the matter." – WSJ

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Self-censorship because an authoritarian environment makes people uncomfortable speaking freely is definitely a form of censorship, often more effective than explicit censorship. It's especially effective when people like you then follow along claiming that nobody was actually censored and that if only Smallbones would consent to getting banned from Wikipedia we would see what actual censorship is like. —David Eppstein (talk) 06:44, 27 December 2019 (UTC) (Please let me know if this is misquoted) Or should I call out the oversighters and ask them directly - is it ok with you if we just go ahead in the next issue and have the discussion of the issue I had planned? Smallbones(smalltalk) 18:03, 27 December 2019 (UTC)[reply]
You chose not to include my reply to David Eppstein. Here it is: "Smallbones is being self-serving, not self-censoring. He wants to be able to cry "Censorship!" when there really is none. I have pointed out that the original Slate article has been linked at Talk:Pete Buttigieg since Deember 21st (and is still there). I have posted the link to the Washington Post article in this thread and it is still here. And an editor is appropriately adding links of media mentions on Talk:Pete Buttigieg. None of them have been "censored". I joined this discussion to say that I disagreed with the oversighting of the original link, so I am hardly advocating censorship, but it is good to see that your kneejerk reflexes are still working." Cheers. Bitter Oil (talk) 18:11, 27 December 2019 (UTC)[reply]

Double standards? A few weeks ago I asked if it is ok for Signpost (and Wikipedia in general) to link to a news article that does link to an outing hate page with death threats against editors and such, and the resulting ANI discussion seemed to have closed with most people saying 'not a problem'. So what's different in this case? I wonder if the difference is that the people outed on said page are not admins, but this time the person being outed is an admin (or has active admin friends)? Just a hypothesis (as I have zero knowledge of who might have been outed), but I wonder why this time such a swift and decisive action was taken. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 17:12, 27 December 2019 (UTC)[reply]

@Piotrus: Having read the articles at issue, there are two usernames involved, and neither one is an admin. One of the usernames hasn't made an edit in almost 10 years, and the other one made two edits this year, but previously hadn't made an edit in 5 years. Also interesting is that while the link to the article has been oversighted in some places, it hasn't been oversighted in other places. These points have been raised in the conversation at WT:Harassment. I agree that this situation has been handled differently from the one in the ANI post you link to, and I think this shows there's a "hole" in current policy that needs filling. Levivich 17:30, 27 December 2019 (UTC)[reply]

Where is the censorship of the Signpost?

There is a discussion at Wikipedia talk:Harassment#Mainspace outing about whether Wikipedia usernames identified by reliable sources constitute outing. As I have pointed out in that discussion (and directly to Smallbones), the original Slate story which sparked this has been linked from Talk:Pete Buttigieg since December 21st. I have linked the Washington Post article in that thread without it being oversighted or me being blocked. The claim of Signpost censorship simply does not hold water. This is a distraction from the policy issue under discussion. Bitter Oil (talk) 17:37, 27 December 2019 (UTC)[reply]

See above quote - you are just repeating yourself. Smallbones(smalltalk) 18:03, 27 December 2019 (UTC)[reply]
I expressed my opinion about this before you published it. You chose to continue (as is your right) and I am expressing my reaction now that you have published. That's what the comment section is for. Bitter Oil (talk) 18:15, 27 December 2019 (UTC)[reply]
Bitter Oil, assuming your reference to talk:Pete Buttigieg is to the diff posted in the above section by Teratix, it is suppressed. EdChem (talk) 04:22, 28 December 2019 (UTC) Edited to correct user name and re-sign for ping to work. EdChem (talk) 04:24, 28 December 2019 (UTC)[reply]
I believe Bitter Oil is actually referring to this section in Talk:Pete Buttigieg. – Teratix 04:30, 28 December 2019 (UTC)[reply]
Ok, Teratix, thanks – I guess it's something else that's been suppressed. EdChem (talk) 04:42, 28 December 2019 (UTC)[reply]


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