"Wikipedia's Plan to Resist Election Day Misinformation" by Noam Cohen in Wired features the story of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) appearing on the TV news show Meet the Press with a sticker or campaign button in the background saying simply "86 45". US President Trump's campaign staff tweeted that the sticker meant that she was "encouraging assassination attempts against President Trump," with 86 apparently meaning kill and 45 referring to the 45th president – Trump. To prove that 86 means "kill", they tweeted a screen shot of the Wikipedia article 86 (term), which said that "killing someone" was one of the definitions of 86. Wikipedia's reaction was to first remove that definition as unsourced. Once a source was found, the main definition was expanded and the following words included: "The term is now more generally used to get rid of someone or something. In the 1970s its meaning expanded to refer to murder." Cohen does not mention that an editor was warned for edit warring when they tried multiple times to include the original wording, and then banned indefinitely.
Going further, the Wired article examines Wikipedia's plans to reduce political misinformation, especially on election night, November 3. The 2020 United States presidential election article is now extended confirmed protected. Admins were interviewed about their plans to protect other US political articles on election night and alert other admins and editors to watch those articles closely. – S, B
"The Internet should be more like Wikipedia", by Stephen Gossett in Built In is formally a book review of Wikipedia @ 20. It takes three or four topics from the 22 chapter book and runs with them. The first topic is misinformation and disinformation. The main target of the Russian troll factory might have been expected to "be something like Wikipedia, because it's just a hardscrabble, bare-bones crew of people who are kind of keeping the wheels from falling off the thing," according to Brian Keegan, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado–Boulder who contributed a chapter on breaking news to the book. Part of Keegan's answer to why this didn't happen is Wikipedia's social production model. Wikipedia's differences from Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube are emphasized such as not having ads, not striving to keep its readers engaged on the the site at all costs, its "strong editorial identity," and a commitment to a neutral point of view (NPOV).
Wikipedia @ 20 co-editor Jackie Koerner is briefly interviewed and points out that NPOV is sometimes in opposition to justice and covering all points of view in matters of race and gender, where reliable sources haven't properly recorded the views of the oppressed. Gossett skips quickly to the topic of artificial intelligence and notes that Wikipedia uses AI to assist its editors rather than replace them.
Wikipedia's future challenges are explained starting with gender equality and "pedantic bureaucracy". Gossett makes a brave attempt to give his readers a taste of the book, but readers will find many more topics than these in the book itself. – S
"What We Know and Can Agree On: Wikipedia at 20" by veteran British journalist Simon Garfield in Esquire surveys Wikipedia as it is about to turn 20 years old in January. It should not be confused with the newly published book Wikipedia @ 20, though both extensively cover the history of Wikipedia. Garfield's article starts with a rollicking tour of Wikimania – though it's an idealized version with colorful details patched together from history. The article ends with a history of encyclopedias, with some emphasis on Britannica.
A too short interview with Jimmy Wales elicits the fact that he is a "passionate chef". Jimbo has now found at least one interviewer who listens to him without imposing their own preconceptions. Jimbo explains Wikipedia's governance system:
We are humans, and people do get into arguments, and people who 'aren't here to build an encyclopaedia' show up to push an agenda, or to troll or harass. And dealing with those cases requires a great deal of calm and sensible judgment. It requires building robust institutions and mechanisms. If we were to deal with some problems in the community by allowing the Wikimedia Foundation to become like other internet institutions (Twitter comes to mind), where policing the site for bad behaviour is taken out of the hands of the community, we'd end up like Twitter — unscalable, out of control, a cesspool.
WMF Executive Director Katherine Maher is more extensively interviewed. Most of Maher's interview won't surprise Wikipedians who have followed her career, except perhaps in the detail and clarity of expression. Nevertheless there is an odd detour into epistemology:
I don't think Wikipedia represents truth. I think it represents what we know or can agree on at any point in time. This doesn't mean that it's inaccurate, it just means that the concept of truth has sort of a different resonance. When I think about what knowledge is ... what Wikipedia offers is context. And that is what differentiates it from similar data or original research, not that that isn't vital to us.
Garfield did slip up on a few things. He notes that "an early article on the poodle ... stated simply, 'A dog by which all others are measured'", but seems to have missed the joke: the title of the article was "Standard Poodle". (See here and here (#8) for more about the joke.)
More seriously, he asserts that "On 2 October 2018, [Donna] Strickland was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics ... But good luck trying to find more information on her on Wikipedia the day after the announcement." Actually, a new article was started on Strickland's article early that morning, and by afternoon ran to 3500 words. It got more than 100,000 pageviews on the day of the announcement.
The odd misstatement aside, Garfield's article is a wonderfully readable, in-depth view of Wikipedia's first 20 years. It captures Jimmy Wales's and Katherine Maher's views without the usual preconceptions. And, as with Wikipedia itself, there will be much more content to read in similar articles as we approach Wikipedia's birthday. – S
In "Wikipedia bans editors from expressing support for traditional marriage" the author comments on the deletion of a user box that read "This user believes that marriage is the union between one man and one woman," plus 18 similar userboxes, following comments by Larry Sanger and the right-wing online newspaper Breitbart. started the 4th nomination at MfD with the consensus reached that the boxes were hate speech which members of the LGBT+ community found threatening. Some !voters referred to other "political" userboxes, such as those about Black Lives Matter. Admin resigned after the close. – S
Since last month's coverage in this column ("Both parties agree, curb Section 230"), a journalism professor, a former WMF lawyer, and a Supreme Court Justice have weighed in on the likely changes to Section 230. There could be dangerous water ahead for Wikipedia. – S
"The Wikipedia Battle Over the Tragic Death of a Bollywood Star" by Stephen Harrison in Slate covers the conspiracy theories surrounding Bollywood star Sushant Singh Rajput. The Wikipedia article was viewed 11.5 million times in the week after his apparent suicide. But was he 6 feet 0 inches (1.83 m) tall or 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m)? Did he suffer from depression or was his mood caused by poisoning? Most curious of all, did Wikipedia report his death hours before he died? As if to confirm the bizarre controversy described by Harrison, 5 days later Republicworld.com published "'Sushant Singh Rajput Was Murdered; Please Change His Wikipedia Status,' Demands Petition". – S
"Wikipedia and W.H.O. Join to Combat Covid Misinformation:" The New York Times reports that the World Health Organization is now working with Wikipedia editors to update COVID-19 information into almost 200 languages, rather than just the organization's 6 official languages. W.H.O. is allowing free use of some of its published information, graphics and videos under the CC-BY 3.0 license; a portal has been set up on Wikimedia Commons where Wikimedians can suggest specific assets to be made available. Ryan Merkley was quoted saying that the participants hope that the arrangement can be extended in the future to "AIDS, Ebola, influenza, polio and dozens of other diseases." A press release from W.H.O. says they are trying to prevent an "infodemic" which includes "the rapid spread of misleading or fabricated news".
On October 24, a man was arrested in the city of Zhoushan, China for reading Wikipedia using a VPN (virtual private network) tool to circumvent the block of Wikipedia in the country, according to a note published on the website of the government of Zhejiang province (since removed, but preserved at the Wayback Machine). US-based journalist Tony Zy highlighted the case on Twitter, observing that "while using VPN has been deemed illegal in China, this is a rare case for the gov to specifically disclose what the VPN is used for: reading wikipedia for research. ... No matter how comfortable you're with using VPN in China, it is a dangling sword hanging over everyone's head." Radio Free Asia subsequently published an article with more details about the case ("China Now Has The Ability to Track Internet Users Who 'Scale The Wall'"). According to the police report, the man had used the Lantern circumvention tool to "make repeated, illegal queries on the Wikipedia website" on his mobile phone. After being taken to the police station and detained, he "received an administrative penalty, a warning, and an order to cease and desist from connecting to websites outside China". It also mentioned that he had downloaded Lantern following a Baidu search, raising the question whether this China-based search engine is the safest way to find and install such tools.
In a discussion on the Chinese Wikipedia about whether and how to react, some editors proposed to publish a community statement condemning this incident, or a warning to readers, and other argued that such actions might be counterproductive or overtly political. – H
The relationship of Wikipedia to the U.S. electorate gained some attention this month. – B
"transnational uncivil society" — a network of paid Western enablers who help corrupt political operatives and business people launder their reputations worldwidecovered elsewhere in this column.