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By Bri, Andreas Kolbe, HaeB, Jonatan Svensson Glad, and Smallbones

Wikipedia's World War II controversy attracts comments from opposing scholars

Line drawing of balanced weighing scales (the symbol of Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee)
Scholars question Wikipedia's neutrality and the effectiveness of its arbitration process

Scholars from both sides of the scholarly debate around World War II and the history of Jews in Poland are expressing their dissatisfaction with Wikipedia this week.

Shira Klein, co-author of the paper with Jan Grabowski that triggered the arbitration case on this topic area, criticized the Arbitration Committee's decision even before the case officially concluded. In a press release by Chapman University, she stated that the "Ruling on Wikipedia's Distortion of Holocaust History Lacks Depth". While the release acknowledges that the ruling includes a topic ban of "two distortionist editors" (appealable in 12 months), Klein argues that these "remedies lack depth and consequence" and that "[b]y ignoring the egregiously false content our article flagged for them and focusing only on editors' conduct (e.g. uncivil language), Wikipedia has once again failed, and miserably so." Fundamentally, she holds the view that ArbCom was ill-equipped to deal with the problem: "[Arbitrators] have zero content expertise, so they have no idea when an editor is spinning lies. More than that: They are bound by Wiki policy to steer clear of content. ArbCom was simply the wrong solution to begin with. What they should have done, which some editors suggested, was to ask historians for help."

Meanwhile, Richard C. Lukas, one of the scholars criticized in Grabowski and Klein's essay, published an editorial in the May–June issue of the Polish American Journal, titled "Is it History or Propaganda?" Lukas relates that after he had been "informed by interested friendly sources of the changes in my Wikipedia biography" that were prompted by the essay, "[m]y belief that the editors of Wikipedia genuinely tried to be fair and balanced in their presentations has been seriously shaken." However, he argues that "The larger issue is not Wikipedia but the hijacking of Polish wartime history by a group of Jewish historians who, in this post-fact world, seem more interested in exaggeration and hyperbole than in facts and analysis."

Whatever the merits and demerits of their respective arguments, it is clear that Wikipedia will never be able to satisfy everyone. – AK, H

Janeen Uzzell profile

Janeen Uzzell wearing red glasses looking towards the camera.
Janeen Uzzell, the former chief operating officer of the Wikimedia Foundation, is also featured in this issue's "News and notes" section. has a celebratory profile of former Wikimedia COO Janeen Uzzell, titled: "How Janeen Uzzell rose through corporate ranks to manage a Wikipedia Foundation fund worth $4.5M". The piece describes her early decision to study engineering and her subsequent work for women in STEM at General Electric, for the Wikimedia Foundation and today as Chief Executive Officer at the United States' National Society of Black Engineers.

The 4.5M fund referred to in the headline is the controversial Knowledge Equity Fund held by Tides Advocacy (see previous Signpost coverage). Wikimedia CEO Maryana Iskander announced in January 2023 that the remainder of the fund would be moved back to the Wikimedia Foundation (see previous Signpost coverage). Janeen Uzzell was with the Wikimedia Foundation for just under two-and-a-half years; her executive compensation and very substantial severance, as disclosed by the Wikimedia Foundation in its recently published Form 990, are discussed in this issue's News and notes. – AK

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If there was a manual of style for the Signpost, perhaps I wouldn't be wondering why "chief executive officer" was capitalized, when it wouldn't be if either the Wikipedia or Associated Press style was adopted, for example.~TPW 13:27, 22 May 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Holocaust / Poland arbitration case

Since we are linking to Richard C. Lukas for context information, and mention related changes to it, it is probably worth noting that right as the ArbCom case was being finalized and this Signpost story was being written, that article was significantly edited by one of the case parties, e.g. to remove the sentence "Several of his books have received criticism for downplaying antisemitism in wartime Poland and overstating the heroism of Poles in rescuing Jews during the war." Regards, HaeB (talk) 15:43, 22 May 2023 (UTC)[reply]

I did some research on Worldcat that may be of interest. First, here are some data on Lukas:

Now for another author, Nechama Tec, who Grabowski and Klein mention approvingly in their essay:

As for Grabowski himself:

As I've mentioned before, Lukas' books are also prominently featured in bibliographies published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: [1], [2].

Judging by the above criteria, Grabowski looks junior to Lukas in terms of academic standing. Lukas looks about equal to Tec, who Grabowski and Klein mention as a bona fide Holocaust expert. --Andreas JN466 16:15, 23 May 2023 (UTC)[reply]

And this book is held by 2,467 libraries according to Worldcat, a much higher number than any of the above. So by Andreas' criteria, Holocaust denier David Irving is far senior "in terms of academic standing" to all of the above mentioned authors.
A good illustration of the quality of some arguments in this debate. (Andreas' Holocaust Museum argument has also been questioned by several other users, see the talk page of Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2023-03-09/Recent research and the preceding discussion mentioned there. But of course that doesn't stop him from continuing to repeat it.)
Regards, HaeB (talk) 17:24, 23 May 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Good try. Quoting from our lead for David Irving: "By the late 1980s, Irving had placed himself outside the mainstream of the study of history". The book you mention was published in 1977. Contrast its library holdings against those of Irving's later works: Churchill's War (1987), 346 libraries; Goebbels (1996), 192 libraries; Hitler's Army (2011), 9 libraries; True Himmler (2020), 2 libraries. Surely there is at least some correlation between the worth of a book and libraries' decision to purchase it.
And while I concede my argument about the USHMM bibliographies has been "questioned", nobody has explained why in a bibliography on "Polish and Soviet civilians, and Soviet prisoners of war" comprising a total of five (5) works, two of which are about Russia, the USHMM would choose to include two books by Lukas. Apparently we're supposed to believe they rolled dice.
(We're having the same argument at Wikipedia_talk:Arbitration_Committee/Noticeboard#Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/World_War_II_and_the_history_of_Jews_in_Poland_closed ... maybe we should agree on having it in one place only. I concede it's my fault, as I posted similar stuff here and there.) Andreas JN466 18:50, 23 May 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Irving may not yet have outright denied the holocaust in 1977 yet. But as noted in our article about this book, he was arguing at that time already "that Hitler was against the killings of Jews. He claimed that Hitler even ordered a stop to the extermination of Jews in November 1941 (British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper noted that this admission blatantly contradicted Irving's other claim that Hitler was ignorant about the mass killing of Jews)". See also this RSN discussion about an even earlier (1964) book of Irving where the same argument that Andreas makes here was roundly dismissed. Regards, HaeB (talk) 20:06, 23 May 2023 (UTC)[reply]
In the unlikely event that anyone is interested in the further back and forth between us they can read my reply over there. Andreas JN466 21:14, 23 May 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Twitter/Turkey censorship

insert Virgin Elon vs Chad Jimmy meme here --Firestar464 (talk) 15:37, 22 May 2023 (UTC)[reply]

I applaud Jimmy for pushing E.M. on this, and for highlighting our own principled stance. However, one should also be aware that:

  1. The Twitter takedowns appear to have happened due to a new, pretty terrible Turkish "disinformation" law (that we don't seem to have an article about yet), i.e. the Wikipedia block and reinstatement happened before it came into force.
  2. For what it's worth, after these media pieces about Jimmy's comments came out, Twitter said they had filed objections in court at least (and published the underlying court orders and correspondence with the Turkish government's censor regulator; making good on E.M.'s promise after he had been called out by Matthew Yglesias on a lack of "Twitter Files" about this. Although a Turkish activist called them out on *not* publishing the actual throttling threat that was imminent).
  3. IMHO Twitter should get some credit for this publication (even though, again, it only happened after having been nudged very publicly, and after, problematically, having recently pulled out of the related Lumen reporting system). And as Wikimedians we can actually ask if the Wikimedia Foundation is always as transparent (and as promptly transparent) with publishing legal correspondence that resulted in content takedowns. Relatedly, does anyone know why the Foundation stopped publishing the "Right to be forgotten" (RTBF) notices it receives from Google (specifying which Wikipedia pages Google had to legally remove from search engine results)? WMF used to always post these at , but the most recent ones there are from 2019. Did Google stop sending them? See also the talk page there.
  4. Lastly and importantly, Jimmy made his comments - quite intentionally, one assumes - in the content of the current situation in the UK, where the Foundation has recently said it will not comply with doing age checks under the planned "Online Safety Bill". Which could very well end in Wikipedia getting blocked in the UK (as it once effectively was back in 2008 already, until the regulators there backed down). Now I'm fully in support of Jimmy's and the WMF's uncompromising stance there. But it does have to be said that letting the entire site becoming unavailable for an entire country is not a small thing, whether it's WP in the UK or Twitter in Turkey. I hope that the people who cheered about Jimmy's comments because they love dunking on E.M. will also support this kind of difficult stance when it doesn't involve a billionaire that they are preoccupied with.

Regards, HaeB (talk) 16:29, 22 May 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Modi documentary

What's odd in the petitioner's claims against WMF as reported by ANI is that (among other things), it calls for WMF to cease the publishing of the two-volume documentary series. Unless the BBC free-licenses the documentary, Commons is not going to even start distributing it (not for longer than the few seconds it takes for speed deletion, anyway, I assume). As for the actual informational content, this is Streisand effect territory, and it's good that the 2002 Gujarat riots topic is returning to global attention.

Some of my ancient attempts at mediation and explaining NPOV prior to modern Wikipedia talk page style are the 2002-2003 Talk:2002 Gujarat riots/Archive 1 and 2003-2005 Talk:2002 Gujarat riots/Archive 2. By 2005-2006, Talk:2002 Gujarat riots/Archive 3, the number of South Asians (or others sufficiently interested) willing to edit and discuss edits for the article had grown enough that there was likely a sufficient variety of biases for NPOV to become stable and a good quality article emerge. A quick browse only shows minor issues, such as overcite to a long list of academic sources at the end of the lead. A good challenge now for people who work on promoting "good" and "featured" status for articles would be to see if the article can be brought to either status despite (or thanks to) the increased attention. It might not be too much work. Boud (talk) 21:34, 25 May 2023 (UTC)[reply]


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