Georgia Tech announced a forthcoming paper by Casey Wichman and Nathan Chan. Though only the abstract and the Georgia Tech announcement are currently available, we can say that it appears the people who watch a video of the "Hakuna Matata" song from The Lion King are likely to donate more to the WMF than those who don't.
Robin Washington writes in Forward, where he is editor-at-large, about Wikipedia, where he was once an editor. He is upset about the Arbitration Committee's recent decision on a controversy brought to light by a paper called "Wikipedia's Intentional Distortion of the Holocaust". He says the Wikipedia model is fundamentally flawed, that it is "possibly the most widespread source of disinformation in human history", and that the only fix is to dox all our editors, from gnomes to arbitrators, an organizational model closer to those of Citizendium and Baidu Baike.
While it's impossible to accurately predict what the reaction of the broader editoriat might be to such a policy, we can only guess at how it would play out, although Citizendium and Baidu Baike provide obvious case studies.
Which is why I'm surprised to see Shira Klein, a respected scholar, devote any energy into proving that entries about the Holocaust are false. More baffling is her attempt to correct them by diving into Wikipedia's rabbit warren of arcane rules for article review — administered by volunteer site police who gleefully hide behind pseudonyms.
"Widespread" is accurate: the English version of Wikipedia has 6,676,896 articles, which were viewed 10 billion times last month, on 756 million unique devices, and edited by 39 thousand unique users during that time. "Disinformation" seems unlikely — articles can be edited at any time, they occasionally contain nonsense, and their contents are often the subject of contentious partisan debate, but they are provided without warranty. The Wikipedia article Reliability of Wikipedia, aptly enough, summarizes the state of the matter in great detail (checking the references for an encyclopedia article is a standard component of scholarship).
Fandom (née Wikia (née Wikicities)), the wiki host spun off from Wikipedia in 2004 by Wikimedia honchos Jimbo and Angela, has grown alongside Wikipedia over the years as a host for less formal, more inclusive, and more heavily advertising-driven subject-focused wikis. To the morbid-minded, the popups and video ads offer a glimpse of the fate that Wikipedia has fortunately avoided over the years. However, the actual inline content of Fandom sites has typically remained more strongly under the editorial control of individual wikis' editors and administrators.
Recently, however, Fandom has begun to question that control: on June 14th, the McDonald's Wiki page on "Grimace" (a mascot character used in the company's advertising campaigns) was modified heavily at the behest of McDonalds. Afterwards, editing was fully protected (i.e. to administrators only) with the summary "switching over entirety of grimace article at mc∂onald's[sic] request, just for the length of this campaign in 2023".
The previous version can be seen here: it admittedly probably wouldn't have survived on Wikipedia, but it nonetheless features a long list of obscure trivia: he danced at a baseball game in July 2012, and was subsequently not seen in the company's promotions, except for Happy Meal toys in Malaysia. The version it was replaced with, on the other hand, gives a slimmed-down "greatest hits", presumably omitting ads that McDonalds finds irrelevant to their current campaign, and ends with "At participating McDonald’s for a limited time. While supplies last. Grimace’s Birthday Meal includes choice of 10 pc. McNuggets® or Big Mac® © 2023 McDonald’s. ADVERTISEMENT: This page is sponsored by McDonald’s."
The article's main contributor, Nathan Steinmetz (nom de poste Humanstein) said of the edits:
McDon*ld's took over the Grimace wiki page and removed all the real world information, appearances, and citations that I've added over the years and turned the whole page into one big in-universe ad for the birthday promotion :(
Like I can just add it back but what's the point if they're literally paying a dude to undo it. They're partnering with Fandom for an ad campaign for the page now too..
In an interview with Kotaku, he says that "While The Grimace is a very silly page for this to whole thing to be about, I think it probably sets a really bad precedent that an IP holder can approach Fandom or whoever and have user generated content basically 'suppressed' and replaced with a press release".
While Grimace is a silly mascot character created to sell hamburgers, and his appearance in Malaysian Happy Meal toys is largely irrelevant to the broader arc of history, this does raise some questions for the "information ecosystem" writ large. For example, the Ford Motor Company has a site on Fandom, with a (rather brief) article about Henry Ford — should it mention those antisemitic pamphlets he endorsed? Well, it currently does.
In a Wikia of another age, would a General Electric fansite in 1980 have received polite letters requesting its list of Pyranol-brand polychlorinated biphenyls be silently pared down after they were banned by the EPA?
Meanwhile, Wikipedia itself has not been completely immune: an article about the Grimace milkshake was created on June 26.
C-SPAN has video coverage and a full transcript of an event hosted jointly by New America and the Wikimedia Foundation. The topic: regulating big tech companies and social media platforms, and in particular Section 230.
Introductory remarks by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), who authored Section 230 together with Republican Christopher Cox back in the 1990s, were followed by a panel discussion featuring New America Senior Director Lilian Coral, Axios reporter Ashley Gold, Politico reporter Rebecca Kern, Association of Research Libraries Director Katherine Klosek, Wikipedian and journalism professor Andrew Lih, the WMF's Rebecca MacKinnon (herself a former New America fellow), Internet Archive counsel Peter Routhier and New America President and CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department under U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Ultimately, with AI ascendant, the panel seemed agreed that Section 230 was more vital than ever to safeguard the continued existence of the ecosystem of content and sources formed by Wikipedia and the Internet Archive and that Congress should appreciate that –
We are an ecosystem that is so crucial to not only global knowledge but American competitiveness. If you just want to ... pander to make America really competitive in this area, keep 230 around so that we are still in that leadership position.
— Andrew Lih, time code 1:40:18
The U.S. Republican Party is targeting universities, think tanks and also the Wikimedia Foundation "to undermine the fight against false claims about elections, vaccines and other hot political topics", reports The New York Times. Organizations researching disinformation stand accused of censoring conservative speech online. Specifically, it is mentioned that the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee "has sent scores of letters and subpoenas to the researchers — only some of which have been made public," and that "America First Legal", "a conservative advocacy group led by Stephen Miller, the former adviser to Mr. Trump, filed a class-action lawsuit last month in U.S. District Court in Louisiana that echoes many of the committee’s accusations and focuses on some of the same defendants."
The New York Times' article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation only once, as one of the targets. It remains unclear whether the Foundation is a defendant in the lawsuit, or just one of the recipients of the committee's letters and subpoenas. It appears to be the latter, based on the fact that Wikimedia and Wikipedia are not mentioned in America First Legal's press release about the lawsuit (filed "on behalf of Jill Hines, the co-Director of Health Freedom Louisiana, and Jim Hoft, the founder the popular news website The Gateway Pundit", which is listed as a deprecated source at WP:RSP).