Last month's global bans of sixteen users in the Middle East/North Africa region, including over a quarter of Arabic Wikipedia admins and three of the four founders of the Saudi Wikimedia User Group, sparked a spate of press coverage over the past two weeks.
During the fracas, there was much coverage of a seemingly unrelated event that came to light during investigation: that two Wikimedians with a long history of editing in medical topics, Osama Khalid (User:OsamaK) and Ziyad Alsufyani (User:Ziad), had been serving long prison sentences in Saudi Arabia since 2020. For detailed coverage see our Special report. – AK, J
Legalis.net, a French site specializing in legal news in the tech sector, reports that a Paris court has ordered the Wikimedia Foundation to hand over a user's data, under article 145 of the code of civil procedure – with a penalty of 500 euros for each day of noncompliance. Previously, the WMF had refused to provide the information, prompting the plaintiff to seek a court order. The editor in question, Sulpyensid, is a banned user accused of creating an attack article on a French businessman.
For discussion of the case in the French Wikipedia community, see fr:Wikipédia:Le Bistro/6 janvier 2023#Laurent de Gourcuff. Opinion there seems divided: one user, says: "In my opinion, this is something that had to happen. In this case, it affects a user already banned by Wikipedia. For the rest, we'll see." However, asks: "So is the end of the protection of IP addresses by the WMF for France? (Even if here, the request is quite justified) What obliges an institution under American law to obey a French summary?"
One point made in the discussion is that the user was banned in May 2022, so the IP data – usually only kept on WMF servers for 90 days – ought to no longer be available. Given the speed at which courts operate, this may well be a common occurrence. – AK, J
Larry Sanger, known to some as the co-founder of Wikipedia, prefers to be called the "ex-founder". He's announced – well, he's announced a lot of things, and we've covered most of them: Digital Universe in 2005, Textop in 2006, the Encyclopedia of Earth (also in 2006), Citizendium (also also in 2006), WatchKnowLearn in 2008 (which we missed), Everipedia in 2017, and Encyclosphere in 2019. Time has not been kind to them: Digital Universe and Textop are deadlinks; Encyclopedia of Earth and Citizendium are basically zombies if their recent changes are any guide; WatchKnowLearn was last updated in 2020 (but wished Wikipedia a Happy Birthday on its main page back then. How nice!); and Everipedia... "rebranded" into IQ Wiki and now exclusively covers Cryptocurrency and NFT
scams. The jury is still out on this latest thing, a browser plug-in that may be the solution to your tiredness. It lets you see articles from the multi-headed mega-'pedia known as Encyclosphere. You can even block Wikipedia articles from your searches. His general take is that our project has overrun the net, squashing out other perspectives in favor of a biased view run by a cabal of libs. Sanger's 'sphere allows those other perspectives to write their own articles in their own encyclopedias, which are then collected in the 'sphere, where you can choose an article in whatever flavor you like best. And now there is a browser plug-in to display them when you search at Google and DuckDuckGo. There is even an option to rinse the taste of Wikipedia out of your mouth by automatically removing our articles from results. It only works with Chrome and Brave, though (no Firefox compatibility – ouch!).
That is the idea, anyway. Encyclosphere's main page looks fairly impressive (nice gradients!) but The Signpost couldn't find a way to search for articles there (or a link to the aforementioned plugin). Homesick Wikipedians will be relieved, however, to see that they are also asking for donations. The list of projects has some neat links, but no articles. If you actually want to use Encyclosphere, you need to do some scrounging – or read the results of our scrounging – to wind up at Encyclosearch. As of press time, searching here resulted in a HTTP 500, although they were helpful enough to return a stacktrace:
java.lang.RuntimeException: java.io.FileNotFoundException: /mnt/sdd/encyclosearch/encyclosearch/public/index.html (Too many open files). When they're back, have a look at the results for "Larry Sanger", "Gilbert and Sullivan", or "Fermat's Last Theorem" – all of which rapidly go off-topic within a handful of results. Trying a few subjects that are more difficult to explain well, the first relevant result (after a bunch on software, games, and a dictionary definition) for "Evolution" comes from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia and is barely comprehensible. Another way of searching for articles is the Encycloreader, a web application that is operational as of press time; it uses a different configuration and includes Wikipedia (as well as Citizendium) by default in its searches. Feel free to report your results in the comments.
This is being advertised with Sanger's usual bluster: according to his Knowledge Standards Foundation, "If you want to participate in the world's largest encyclopedia, you must collaborate with a shadowy group of anonymous amateurs and paid shills on exactly one article per topic." He adds, "No small group of elites deserves the power to declare what is known for all of us." However, Encyclosphere does not really seem to provide a vastly different viewpoint – there aren't any pages endorsing Qanon, or slobbering over Donald Trump. Encyclosphere, in the end, seems to consist of at least somewhat decent, somewhat neutral, and somewhat reliable sources: it seems Conservapedia didn't make the cut, and there is no weal of Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About. The worst you can say about the encyclopedias it draws from is that they aren't necessarily as well-written, well-polished, in-depth, or as consistent as Wikipedia. Well, that and they use Java. – AC, Sb, J
Wikipedia's twenty-second birthday was celebrated by the multilingual news site Pressenza. They quickly review Wikipedia's founding with the roles played by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger; the movement's cumulative achievements; and the idealistic motives behind what we do. "It shows the strength of voluntary, collective, and collaborative action dedicated to the common good and shared knowledge, [which is] far superior to the pettiness of the private, the restricted, the exclusive, and the paid." While these motives may seem simplistic or naïve to those who have struggled to build our encyclopedia over two decades, we should never forget that these ideals are the rock that supports the encyclopedia.
Pressenza may be biased toward Wikipedia, however. They were founded in 2009 and publish multilingual news and commentary with unpaid contributors. Their articles are all published under a Creative Commons license.