In November 2019, the nonprofit Internet Society announced that it had reached a $1.1 billion deal with a fledgling private equity investment firm, Ethos Capital, to sell the Public Interest Registry and thus its control of the .org web domain. Dot-org has been under the stewardship of the Internet Society since it was founded in 1985 for use by nonprofit organizations, and managed through the PIR since 2003. The domain has been available to for-profit enterprises in recent years. The sale blindsided many web leaders, while the Internet Society explained that it was focusing on other goals and was not keen on spending its time managing domains. Hundreds of nonprofits voiced their objection, raising fears that Ethos would raise prices or attempt to censor information or sell data gleaned from hosting their websites.
In 2013, wiki and open source websites made up the largest share of users of .org, holding 22% of the registered domains. According to Alexa Internet, as of the time of writing Wikipedia has the highest volume of traffic of any global website that uses the .org domain, ranking as the 13th most used website.
Reutersbroke the news early this month that a group of concerned internet nonprofit leaders were appealing to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to block the sale, and had moved to create a nonprofit cooperative, the Cooperative Corporation of .ORG Registrants, as an alternative buyer of the .org domain. Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Katherine Maher has offered herself to be one of seven directors of the new cooperative. She told Reuters, "There needs to be a place on the internet that represents the public interest, where educational sites, humanitarian sites, and organizations like Wikipedia can provide a broader public benefit." Maher also said that the organization was not offering a competing bid for .org, but wishes to obtain it to safeguard its integrity and ensure that the sites it hosts are not subject to censorship. The NonProfit Timesadded that a few members of the United States Congress have declared their opposition to the sale.
Beware of malware: Gadget and some other outlets have reported on recent, unsettling findings by Kaspersky Lab researchers into Shlayer, a group of Trojan horse malware programs that target macOS. One method by which the malware was spread was through links which, when clicked by unsuspecting victims, downloaded the program. The researchers found that even Wikipedia had been affected, as "such links were hidden in the articles' references. Users that clicked on these links would also get redirected to the Shlayer download landing pages." The full report on the findings can be found here.
The Sum of What? On Gender, Visibility, and Wikipedia: Author Kirsten Menger-Andersonreviews the number of women academics cited in Wikipedia articles on literature and mathematics on Undark. She finds that women are generally cited much less often than their male peers in both categories, and noted that Wikimedia's list of 31 writers essential for every language Wikipedia includes no women. Ultimately, she suggests that Wikipedia's gender bias is a product of both its own features and pre-existing disparities in the academic community.
Fighting fake news: Omer Benjakob of Haaretzwrites about Wikipedia cracking down on misinformation and blocking sources deemed untrustworthy, and thinks we do a whole lot better job of it than social media giant Facebook.
Wikipedia caught up in Indian liability changes: Tech Crunchreports on proposed changes to Indian liability regulations that require web "intermediaries" to better identify content creators and filter what they produce to avoid legal liability. The move has generated an outcry from the tech community, including WMF general counsel Amanda Keton, who warned that such action could interfere with the functioning of Wikipedia.
Katherine Maher interviewed: The WMF Director shares her thoughts (in Spanish) on Wikipedia's usefulness and its future with artificial intelligence to The Clinic.
Political impropriety roundup
There were four main instances real-world politics and allegations coming up on Wikipedia this month in the form of vandalism or sharp content alterations, accompanied by an unusual enthusiasm for criminal investigations. The Signpost would like to advise political actors that Wikipedia is not a court of public opinion.
Policing vandalism or ownership by the police? In a strange display of both vandalism and apparent government assertion of ownership of content, an IP editor "cyber criminal" inserted disparaging language into the Uttar Pradesh Police article, which the real-world department discovered and reverted, as reported by The Times of India. The apparent police editor account, User:Patroitwarrior, also took the chance to insert that the department is "one of the finest and technologically advanced police forces in the world". Director General of Police for technical services Asim Arun confirmed to the Times that the department was responsible for the reversions, saying "Within hours [of being notified], the department removed the objectionable content." Arun continued, "We value the Wiki principles of sharing of information, but will take steps to prevent such vandalism. We are trying to identify the culprit and will lodge an FIR." An admin stepped in to admonish Patroitwarrior to disclose any COIs and protected the Uttar Pradesh Police page to prevent further vandalism.
"Sunda imperialism" or trolling overblown? CNN Indonesia and Tempohavereported on what appears to be an overblown incident of vandalism. An IP editor altered the article for the United Nations to say that the first session of the UN General Assembly was held in Indonesia instead of the United Kingdom. Though the vandalism was quickly reverted, politician and self-proclaimed internet "expert" Roy Suryo decided to bring it to the attention of the Jakarta Police, accusing a mysterious social media group known as the "Sunda Empire" of being responsible. Spreading fake news across electronic media is illegal in Indonesia, and police have opened an investigation.
Aspersions against a Dutch politician lead to Maltese parliamentary inquiry: The Shift Newsreported that an IP address added information to the article for Pieter Omtzigt in October 2019, accusing him of paying bribes while investigating the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 to secure fake evidence that the plane's crash was Ukraine's fault and absolve Russia of suspicion. The IP address is used by a government ministry in Malta. Omtzigt suggested that this was related to his investigation into the death of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, which was not warmly received by the Maltese government. The accusation has since been removed from the Wikipedia article. Later, the Times of Maltawrote that the incident led to questions being raised in Parliament, following which the Ministry of Education declared that it had, after conducting a "technical investigation", located the responsible editor, a contract employee, and dismissed them. Maltese MP Jason Azzopardi took to Twitter to demand that the culprit's name be made public and that they be brought up on criminal charges. Minister for Home Affairs Byron Camilleri assured Parliament that police had concluded that no crime was committed. The Signpost surmises that Azzopardi might have to contact authorities in Uttar Pradesh or Indonesia to get his wish.
British politician apparently COI edits out mentions of his financial conflicts of interest: According to an article in The Independent, British Member of Parliament Stuart Anderson "appears to have edited his own Wikipedia page". An account named "Stuart Anderson MP" removed "references to funding that one of his companies received from the EU and information about illegal dividends that he was paid". The account was warned about conflict of interest guidelines and then blocked pending a change of username or confirmation of identity. A Signpost request for information from Anderson's new parliamentary e-mail account received an automated response saying that since Anderson was newly elected, a response would be delayed.
The tax man says Strass: What do Australians and New Zealanders call a Boloney-like substance that before WWI was called "German sausage". According to the Wikipedia article it's "polony," "luncheon sausage," "Belgium," "devon," "Windsor sausage" and "fritz". "Bung Fritz" is incorrect because that delicacy includes sheep appendices. According to Gizmodo Australia on January 16 someone at the Australian Tax Office added another name variant that same day, "Strass". The ATO issued a gentle reminder that their employees should confine their use of office computers to official business. The article raises three important questions. Don't ATO employees have anything better to do than put "Strass" into Wikipedia articles? Don't Gizmodo journalists have anything better to write about than this? And what do Ozzies call salami?
Captain America thinks Wikipedia articles are too long:Chris Evans, who has played superhero Captain America in ten films, is founding a new website dedicated to showing one-minute videos of politicians explaining basic topics in the news such as DACA and NAFTA. According to Slate, Evans's motivations include the belief that people would rather get the information from politicians in a short video than in Wikipedia articles, which are too long to read. The Signpost suggests that he freely license the videos so that Wikipedia can put them in our articles if his website is taken down.