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Ban on IPs on ptwiki, paid editing for Tatarstan, IP masking

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By Érico, Bri, Smallbones and Tilman Bayer
Information placed on English Wikipedia is paid for by the Government of Tatarstan (Дом правительства Татарстана – Cabinet of Ministers building, Kazan, Tatarstan shown).

Portuguese Wikipedia bans IP editing

Disclosure: the author Érico actively participated in the discussions on ptwiki

In early October ptwiki banned editing by unregistered editors, who are often called anonymous or IP editors. The ban is already being implemented.

The issue has been debated many times since the beginning of Portuguese Wikipedia and has always been very controversial. In recent years the ptwiki community came to an unofficial common understanding that vandalism by IP editors was out of control. IPs were responsible for 85% of vandalism. Despite all the anti-vandalism systems being used, from Huggle to dozens of editing filters, vandalism was no longer being effectively controlled.

The project routinely received complaints that vandalism remained in articles not just for days or months, but for years. It was rare to see IP editors making useful edits within the rules. The community discussed the topic and decided to vote on the subject. More than 70% of voters were in favor of preventing edits from IPs in the main domain and 82% were in favor of preventing article creation by IPs.

This was one of the largest and most decisive votes in the project's history: 169 votes in favor, 69 votes against. The community then contacted the WMF Board of Trustees to argue in favor of the new rule. The WMF has not responded so far, but neither have they interfered. It is not necessary for the WMF to take action, as IP edits are being prohibited through edit filters and IP range blocks.

One community concern is that there could be other interference from people outside the community, who might not listen to their concerns. Such interference has happened before with the developers community, which simply said that banning IP editors was impossible - "this isn't going to happen." Can someone with no experience on ptwiki say "it is simply not possible to ban IPs"? Since the ban was carried out, there has been a substantial increase in creation of accounts and vandalism rates have decreased significantly, allowing editors to spend their energies creating and referencing articles. É

Government of Tatarstan paying for editing

Kazan written in embellished Arabic script

The government of the Republic of Tatarstan, part of the Russian Federation, will be paying for articles on the Russian Wikipedia, which will then be translated for inclusion on the Tatar Wikipedia and the English Wikipedia, according to reports on Russian Wikinews. Farhad Fatkullin, 2018 Wikipedian of the Year, helped organize the tender with the Tatarstan Investment Development Agency (TIDA) which was won by Anna Biryukova. According to Fatkullin, "TIDA is interested to have Tatarstan-related materials available also in at least 8 more languages, which are German, French, Spanish, Turkish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean."[1]

Vladimir Medeyko, director of Wikimedia RU, said that the chapter assisted in the tender "to help formulate its conditions in the most correct way. In my opinion, this has been achieved, and I am grateful to Farhad." However, they did not place a bid. "We studied the issue of participation in it. I must say that in general we were wary of this in connection with possible reputational risks."

The contract, which has not yet been signed, covers 51 articles, or sections of articles, on ruwiki, plus the translations for tawiki and enwiki, with payment expected to be 990,000 rubles (about $12,500).

Biryukova is a well known commercial paid editor on ruwiki, according to Ymblanter,[2] and declares her paid status on her enwiki user page. According to that page she's worked as a paid editor on 7 articles.

Ymblanter compared the project to Gibraltarpedia, a troubled project paid for by the Gibraltar government which worked with a former board chairman of Wikimedia UK to increase tourism. Ymblanter says "I am not sure why this project should turn out any differently."

He continued "The government of Tatarstan is not the most democratic institution in the world. I expect that most edits would be uncontroversial, but some probably would not be, and we might very well be in a situation when a user is being paid to add POV to articles. In the English Wikipedia, these articles are poorly monitored, and users prefer not to deal with Eastern European topics which have a well-deserved reputation of … POV pushing and edit-warring."

The Signpost asked Fatkullin about concerns that accepting money from the government to write Wikipedia articles had ominous overtones. He responded, in part:

I love the fact that Wikipedia … is seen by many as the place where people manage to find consensus around phrasing their differences in a civil manner & that diversity of views present benefit its readers, promoting the mission of free knowledge. I would clearly like to see institutions and individuals from around the world contributing to and otherwise supporting as many Wikimedia projects in as many languages as they find attractive. … Our main safeguards against "officially approved" government, private, NGO or individually-pushed POV is in following m:Founding principles and WP:5P, whilst democracy without pluralism is indeed the road to hell paved by good intentions.

Biryukova replied to our questions by saying: "The work doesn't imply any influence on the text on the part of the customer. Wikipedia rules are always more important." She added that the work was not profitable from her point of view. "The authors, whom I have involved in this project, understand and accept this fact. From their side, [the] work is more like volunteering". S

  1. ^ Email – October 30, 2020
  2. ^ Email – October 29, 2020

Mandatory IP masking

See today's Op-Ed for the WMF's view on this issue.
An un-masked IP address is currently displayed for edits made by logged-out users.

Mandatory IP masking is coming to Wikipedia; it's not a question of if, but only of how and when. The Wikimedia Foundation has told all communities that its counsel has determined that displaying IP addresses of logged-out editors can not be permitted,[a] and a technical solution is being sought that would stop short of disallowing logged-out editing altogether (see prior Signpost coverage). The technical solution would show "a human-readable identifier instead of the IP address", aka IP masking.

There is strong opposition to IP masking from administrators and others involved in combating vandalism. At a discussion on Meta, MER-C states that admins need better tools to combat abusive edits. Removing a simple tool like an IP address will have generaly negative and unpredictable effects for fighting vandalism. Cullen328 says that "Unregistered users can either affirmatively consent to public logging of their IP addresses, or register an account. Let's not pursue complex, expensive and divisive solutions when a very simple solution is readily available." OhKayeSierra notes that non-admins also help in fighting vandalism, and is "concerned at the fact that non-administrators weren’t seemingly taken into account with the report, and I would vehemently urge the team involved to keep us plebs in mind going forward with any decisions made." SQL and 6 other editors insisted that vandal fighting tools should be greatly improved before the IP masking issue is considered.

As of 21 October, WMF has tentatively proposed technical changes and a new user right:

  1. The vast majority of people who access our wikis would see the IPs fully masked.
  2. All admins could see them partially masked (the first three octets of an IP address being visible).[b] This could be helpful to see patterns even if they don’t have the new user right. Partially masking them reduces the privacy risk for the unregistered user.
  3. The new user right – in addition to checkusers and stewards – would have access to the unmasked IP.

Existing edit histories would retain the full IP address as currently implemented. B

  1. ^ Their actual words were If the Legal department tells us we have to do something for legal reasons – which they unfortunately can't explain publicly in more detail without risk to the projects – we have to take this and do the best we can within the bounds we've been given: the status quo can't remain, and we have to do something about the ways we handle IPs for non-registered users.
  2. ^ WMF engineering stated "parts of an IP address" in the original, apparently not considering IPv6 addresses.

Branding postponement

The WMF announced a postponement of its branding initiative, on September 30. The initiative was expected to include the word "Wikipedia" in the foundation's name, perhaps as the "Wikipedia Foundation". COVID-19 and a Community open letter on renaming were cited as reasons for the pause. The open letter which requested the pause was signed by 970 individual Wikipedians and over 70 affiliate organizations. An ad hoc subcommittee of the Board of Trustees, consisting of James Heilman, Raju Narisetti, and Shani Evenstein Sigalov, will discuss the initiative with WMF staff until 2021, at which time the initiative will resume, perhaps in a different form. S

There's a birthday coming up

Visualization of a billion edits: if each edit on English Wikipedia is represented by the tiniest dot and weighs one grain, like a single grain of wheat, then the entire encyclopedia circa the end of this year is the billion-unit cube weighing 65 tonnes.

On January 15, 2021 Wikipedia will mark its 20th birthday. The October publication of the book Wikipedia @ 20 starts the celebration by covering almost every aspect of the encyclopedia in its 22 chapters. The book's publication is covered in The Signpost with an interview with the editors, Joseph Reagle and Jackie Koerner. Reagle's chapter on "The many (reported) deaths of Wikipedia" is published here and a book review. Coincidentally, the billionth edit on enwiki will likely occur in December or January.

If your chapter, affiliate, WikiProject, or other Wiki-entity is planning a birthday event, please let us know at Suggestions for publication in our December issue. S

Brief notes

Proposed new logo for MediaWiki
In this issue
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Discuss this story

This seems to be a misunderstanding - the Portuguese Wikipedia community's decision to disallow IP editing is separate from the legally mandated introduction of IP masking on all projects. That said, the latter might well motivate other communities to follow ptwiki's lead, given the masking's significant impact on the existing privacy-accountability tradeoff. Regards, HaeB (talk) 20:24, 1 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
Yeah, the masking being mandated by legal is more like what you see on credit card receipts (and presumably for analogous reasons) — instead of your card number it will show something like **** **** **** 1234. When masking goes into effect, IP edits will show up for most of us as something similar to 192.168.123.*** Nothing changes for the IP users, only for the rest of us.
The interesting question is going to be what happens with IP "User" pages, since they'll presumably no longer be able to be individualized (without effectively giving away the IP editor's full IP). I guess all the edits from a given masking prefix might end up being aggregated together, which is especially unfortunate. -- FeRDNYC (talk) 21:50, 1 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
The implementation remains to be designed in conjunction with the communities, however at present the idea is to have a unique identifier in place of the IP address, which would be associated with the IP address. Alternatively a browser cookie could be used to associate the identifier with the editor (when they use the same browser on the same computer), or both IP address and cookie information can be used. Using both would avoid aggregating different editors who got assigned the same dynamic IP at different times, or multiple editors behind a common gateway, though the individual association would be broken if editors switched browsers or erased their cookies. Thus individual talk pages can still exist with masked identities. isaacl (talk) 22:10, 1 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
@Isaacl: Yeah, I realized that as I was in the middle of reading one of the later articles. Took me a bit, but I got there. So, yeah, maybe it's not all that bad.
In fact, the cookie-based identification is an interesting idea. If that's something that would follow a not-logged-in "IP" user around even across multiple device IPs, then it could actually be a considerable benefit to anti-vandalism efforts and sockpuppet investigations. At least, against miscreants sloppy enough that they forget to clear their cookies when switching IPs. (Which, if experience has taught me anything, would end up being most of them. At least over the long run.) -- FeRDNYC (talk) 22:51, 1 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
- IP masking is disabling, as patterns of abuse by IP hopping vandals would become impossible to prove/research. I could try to convince the dubious here, but instead...
- I would wish everyone treasuring IP editing and apologizing for IP vandals would dedicate their first half hour of Wikipedia time daily to tracking IP edits. Give it a month. That's only 15 hours of your time, rather than someone else's time. Prove that vandals are not a timesink for others, by soaking up your time and goodwill. Your values will change to embrace pragmatism much more. Shenme (talk) 03:05, 2 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
  • Yes. Must have fewer petals. Not so far as to look like a daisy, but yes. Jim.henderson (talk) 02:30, 3 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
  • Yup. 12 or 16 petals would be enough. (talk) 06:43, 3 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
  1. IPs' first few edits in 3 days (let's say 5 edits) will be subject to review by a stricter version of Cluebot or by human reviewers
  2. IPs that have a history of vandalism will be subject to stricter restrictions before being blocked
I am also against IP masking (because I really don't understand how it helps Wikipedia). It can hinder anti-vandalism efforts. For example, assume that someone uses their Wi-Fi to vandalise and gets blocked. Then they switch to 4G and again get blocked or just unplug and plug in their Wi-Fi. It can actually make it easier for vandals to vandalise.
PS - if I understand correctly, Trump hates Section 230 and wants to destroy it, which can result in making Wikipedia accountable for what its editors write. But Biden has said that he will modify the law only to hold websites accountable for hate speech. Will Biden's actions affect Wikipedia in any way assuming he does what he says? (talk) 06:09, 3 November 2020 (UTC) Last rephrased at 06:43, 3 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
  • I am against an IP ban on the English version. We have much more sophisticated spam filters, more manpower, and different editing patterns than the Portuguese Wikipedia. The Portuguese version just doesn't have as much manpower, weaker abuse filters with fewer experts to create and manage them, and many more bored kids doing mobile vandalism. On the English version, there is definitely a far greater proportion of IPs that makes positive contributions. — Sagotreespirit (talk) 18:52, 3 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
On the Portuguese Wikipedia, the majority of IP edits are mobile edits from Brazil. There was a lot of sneaky vandalism that was difficult to track down, like changing birth dates and adding subtle but patent nonsense. Things appeared to get a lot worse this year when millions of Brazilian youths were locked down with nothing to do except vandalize Wikipedia on their phones. User:Yanguas, the Portuguese Wikipedia's most active admin, was furiously reverting IP after IP, but the admins couldn't catch every single vandal.
This discussion has been a huge deal on the Portuguese Wikipedia for several weeks, so I was a bit surprised that this wasn't discussed more on the English Wikipedia or on Meta. And I was the first (and as of now, still the only) English Wikipedia editor to update the Portuguese Wikipedia article about this major change to ptwiki.
So overall, I am pleased with the results that the community IP ban had achieved, and I would strongly advise against outside communities reverting this community decision. — Sagotreespirit (talk) 18:47, 3 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
  • There was also a minor backlash right after the IP ban, when someone created a Wikipedia essay called "A Wikipédia não é uma tirania da maioria" (Wikipedia is not a tyranny of the majority). That got sent to the Portuguese version of AfD (called PE), which you can see here. Nearly everyone voted delete. If anyone is interested, I have a copy of it and can archive it here with an English translation, but just for historical interest of course. — Sagotreespirit (talk) 18:59, 3 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
  • Correction: The essay was created by Quintinense in 2014. Invites were sent to everyone who had voted at the IP ban referendum. — Sagotreespirit (talk) 19:27, 3 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
There have been several cases including one in Australia. I have been offered a lukewarm coffee here in New Zealand with the reason being, "We aren't allowed to serve it hot for legal reasons." Absolutely crazy since NZ has a no blame compensation scheme. (If you are hurt in NZ you claim compensation from ACC, a Government Agency. We don't have ambulance chasing lawyers here.) OrewaTel (talk) 22:02, 4 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
This is getting off the subject. Please ignore the example of people too stupid to to be able to handle a coffee cup. My point remains that making IP addresses anonymous is an open invitation to vandals. OrewaTel (talk) 06:33, 5 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
  • @Bri: if that comment is addressed at me then I think you've misunderstood (or rather, I've miscommunicated) the nature of the video, which doesn't make fun of the victim of the incident. — Bilorv (talk) 20:11, 5 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
One of the village pump boards would be a good starting point. Possibly Wikipedia:Village pump (proposals). ☆ Bri (talk) 18:17, 5 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]


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