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China bans, and is there intelligent life on this planet?

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By Bri, Ganesha811, and Smallbones
Microsoft dances with Frankenstein. Er, Megatron. Whatever.

Some months it just pours. There was a lot of Wikipedia news this month, from the serious (WMF's ban on some Chinese Wikipedia contributors) to the silly (the "Depths of Wikipedia" Instagram account). Dig in!

BBC's Click covers Wikipedia conflicts in China

External videos
video icon Wikipedia: The Fight for Facts, BBC Click, October 19, 2021, 9:45
video icon Has China 'Hacked' Wikipedia?, BBC Click, October 16, 2019, 8:43

The long-running BBC program Click reports, for the second time in as many years, on editing conflicts on the Chinese Wikipedia (zh.wikipedia). The most recent report focuses on the WMF office action that banned 7 editors and desysoped 12 admins. The Click program was expanded slightly in a recent print article.

As background, a screenshot (at 3:25) of a chat site run by a group of pro-Beijing editors is translated as "The idea sounds ok, dox their ID and report it to National Security Police". The "physical harm" cited by the WMF to justify the bans is only briefly implied by "threatening edits" (3:35).

The report, about 10 minutes long, features four interviews: two from pseudonymous 'pro-democracy' editors, another from Enming Yan, a now-banned admin on zh.wikipedia from the 'pro-Beijing camp', closing with Jimmy Wales's views.

The two pro-democracy editors state that pro-Beijing editors have become much more aggressive. The first diagnoses an "overflow of patriotism in China", but does not believe that the pro-Beijing editors are paid to edit. The second emphasized their difficulties editing with pro-Beijing editors, and their inability to have their complaints heard. Yan states that mainland Chinese users are simply providing their perspective, and that Wikipedia's neutrality has been harmed by the office action. He states that the editing balance now favors anti-Beijing forces.

The central question is "are Wikipedia's open-knowledge goals compatible with a world in which different countries have different views?" Wales states that Wikipedia is a global, not localized, project. He defends the office action and redirects the focus back to the root of the problem, the "biggest thing preventing mainland Chinese people" from editing is the Chinese government, Jimmy says.

For previous Signpost coverage on this topic, see July, Special report; September, Opinion; News and notes "Wikimedia users 'physically harmed'; WMF bans or desysops nineteen"; and In the media "China: Infiltration, physical harm, and bans"; and this month's Community view. – GS

Another big story on the China bans from Slate

Stephen Harrison, reporting in Slate, may have the final word in the case of the banned Chinese editors. Setting the stage with the contentious relationship between China and Wikipedia in 2015 and 2019, he moves right to the heart of the matter: the bans as explained by Maggie Dennis, WMF's Vice President of Community Resilience and Sustainability, who stresses the importance of combating harassment, "including in some cases physically harming others." Heather Ford, an associate professor of digital and social media at the University of Technology Sydney, explains why China – and other countries – may care about their coverage in Wikipedia.

Harrison talks with people on all sides of the issue and lets mainlanders explain why they care about Wikipedia rather than the larger encyclopedia Baidu Baike, which "publishes a lot of garbage." The conclusions are much the same as the BBC's report. But, given the limits of video versus print, the details and even the logical flow are more complete.

There's no intelligent life on this planet

New Shepard on the West Texas launchpad (not)

Ninety-year-old William Shatner, aka Captain Kirk, took a 10-minute suborbital joyride on Blue Origin's New Shepard flight 18 to the edge of space on October 13, compliments of an enterprising young man named Jeff Bezos. Kirk reportedly took the shuttlecraft because the transporter beam was out of order.

Two paying passengers, Chris Boshuizen, cofounder of Planet Labs, and Glen de Vries, cofounder of Medidata Solutions, went along for the ride. According to CBS, neither paying passenger "has an entry in Wikipedia and both seem content to keep personal details personal". What's this? Klingons attempting a double reverse Streisand? The Klingons deny the accusation.

Blue Origin Vice President Audrey Powers was also on the flight. But she had to wait three days before she got an article. "Beam me up, Scotty", a misquote purportedly from Captain Kirk, has had an article for 16 years, as well as a disambiguation page. "It's borderline on the simulator, captain. I cannae guarantee that she'll hold up!". We can only wonder how it all ends. – S

Do you have any idea who you are dealing with?!

Noam Cohen, a longtime reporter on all things Wikipedia, has a new article: "VIPs expect special treatment. At Wikipedia, don't even ask." Appearing in The Washington Post, the article shows how big shots are sometimes treated on Wikipedia. Just to drop a few names: John C. Eastman, Jimmy Wales, Mark Dice, Richard Dawkins, Amy Fisher, Andrew Yang (allegedly), the United States Congress, the Vatican, and the Gupta family of South Africa. Keep up the good work, folks!

Cohen does note a few BLP mix-ups or other failings: Edward Kosner, articles that include the real names of porn stars, deadnaming, and the subject of this month's opinion article.

Cohen concludes "But with the big platforms choosing to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted ... there is one corner of the Internet that turns a skeptical eye toward everyone, even VIPs." Another example of modern mainstream journalism treating Wikipedia as "the good cop" of the internet, as previously described in this book chapter from Wikipedia@20.

Rhombus of power

The article Merkel-Raute appears in 12 Wikis. This photograph appears in 17 Wikis. Live long and prosper.

Angela Merkel will soon give up her job as chancellor of Germany which she has held for 16 years. AFP and The Statesman find power in the Merkel rhombus, aka Merkel-Raute in German. They note "It has its own Wikipedia page and its own emoticon." "<>" – S

English speakers don't have a corner on the irrationality market

Reflecting cultural biases, German Wikipedia described homeopathy as simply eine alternativmedizinische Behandlungsmethode, "a form of alternative medical treatment", but English Wikipedia says it is "pseudoscience" (The Local, Germany's long-standing love affair with homeopathy [in English]). Maybe someone read the article – German Wikipedia was edited to add "pseudoscience" to the lede on 14 October.

To be fair, we note that distinguishing science from pseudoscience, the demarcation problem, is an application of epistemology and that – according to Wikipedia – the appearance of the word epistemology in English was predated by the German term Wissenschaftslehre (literally, theory of science), which was introduced by philosophers Johann Fichte (German) and Bernard Bolzano (Bohemian) in the late 18th century. – B

Don't bite the newbies

Host Katie Puckrik doesn't like her photo on Wikipedia. Hint: just upload a freely licensed photo of yourself.

A stylish, well-written, new podcast dot com dedicates its first six episodes to Wikipedia.

The series runs for another four weeks. A different series on another web project will be coming in January.

In brief

Of debatable goodness on a menu; never good in an encyclopedia
BuzzFeed did not recommend watching Tusk for Halloween, or really, ever.

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