The New York Times says this is "Wikipedia's Moment of Truth" and asks: Can the online encyclopedia help teach A.I. chatbots to get their facts right – without destroying itself in the process? Starting with the 2021 essay, Death of Wikipedia by , the Times examines how Wikipedia and artificial intelligence will interact. Barkeep considers death-by-AI to be the most likely cause of Wikipedia's demise, followed by a fragmentation of the internet, and forks caused by WMF shenanigans. All these scenarios might seem wildly optimistic, but Barkeep does outline the strengths of Wikipedia: only a better encyclopedia will be able to replace us. But reaching that milestone will be very difficult for a new 'pedia, with a likely lack of agreement among Wiki editors on which 'pedia to move to, and the lack of the WMF's stash of cash. He elaborates why our encyclopedia won't likely succumb to any of these threats anytime soon. But he did admit that "AI's day of writing a high quality encyclopedia is coming sooner rather than later." He told the Times reporter that "It wouldn’t surprise me if things are fine for the next three years, and then, all of a sudden, in year 4 or 5, things drop off a cliff."
Academic researcher Nicholas Vincent worries, according to the Times that AI will cannibalize Wikipedia, mostly spouting information taken from the 'pedia. A chatbot need not be better than Wikipedia, but simply faster, or somewhat more up-to-date. Once a chatbot's Wiki-based output becomes more popular than the 'pedia itself, the quality of the 'pedia might fall, leaving the chatbot to cannibalize itself. This has lead one group of Wikipedians on a conference call to agree that "we want a world in which knowledge is created by humans".
The article continues at length and in depth. Other topics include the Wikimedia Foundations's recently announced Wikipedia plug-in for ChatGPT (see our previous coverage) and a reflection on Joseph Reagle's 2020 essay "The many (reported) deaths of Wikipedia". There's even a few paragraphs on the final death spiral. In sum, the Times article is encyclopedic: something that this author doubts a large language model could replicate. –S
Three news outlets covered a tempest in a teapot that resulted after Durham, North Carolina's City Attorney Kimberly Rehberg sent a request to the Wikimedia Foundation to identify editors who have been editing articles on Durham city politics (see our related coverage in this issue's News and notes column). Mayor Elaine O'Neal and City Council members DeDreana Freeman and Monique Holsey-Hyman also requested that some material in "their articles" be removed. O'Neal will not be seeking re-election this year, while Freeman will be running for mayor, and Holsey-Hyman who was appointed in 2022 is seeking election to the council.
Holsey-Hyman has been accused of attempting to solicit a bribe to vote for a rezoning proposal. There's no news on whether an investigation by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is going anywhere. She was also accused of improperly using city employees for her election campaign. Freeman reportedly engaged in an aggressive shouting match with a political opponent. These facts seem to have been properly reported and documented in Wikipedia's articles about the two politicians.
Some people may be surprised when they see a Wikipedia article about themselves. The Signpost recommends that if you don't consider yourself notable or you have a strong desire for privacy that you identify yourself and request that the article be deleted, either on the article talk page or at Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons/Noticeboard. If you believe the article is inaccurate, rather than just unpleasant, you should also post on these pages. However, please do not attempt to doxx our editors, edit the article yourself or through paid editors, or make even vague legal threats. Everybody will be much happier if you follow these recommendations. –S
Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY), aka Michaelvlawler, was doxxed by the Daily Beast as none other than himself, after making 26 edits to the Mike Lawler article. It wasn't really a case of jumping to a conclusion − since User:Michaelvlawler had been warned about his apparent conflict of interest, ignored the warning and kept on editing about himself, and was ultimately blocked. His only other edit had been to include Mike Lawler as a well-known alumni at Manhattan College. He'd also added his middle name, Vincent, to his own article. Only after the Daily Beast article appeared did he contest the block, saying that he had been blocked because he did not confirm that he was the subject of the article, and that he would promise not to edit that article again. A kind-hearted admin — our own Tamzin — undid the block after the proper documentation was received at WP:VRT, but did emphasize the promise not to edit the Wikipedia article and recommended that he review WP:Conflict of interest. While we are not complaining about the forgiving spirit demonstrated here, we note that there are sometimes downsides to forgiveness. Lawler then disputed the Daily Beast article, extracting a correction saying that he was not banned by Wikipedia for editing the Wikipedia article about himself, but rather that he had been banned for not confirming that he was the subject of the article. Lawler is not a lawyer, but an accountant. Nevertheless, we are sure he would have made a very good Wikilawyer had he not already given himself away.
The Signpost strongly recommends, again, that politicians never edit articles about themselves, whether they do it personally or through staffers or other paid editors. Too many reporters now know the trick of checking a politician's articles for biased or conflict-of-interest edits. Those politicians who do such editing are almost certain to get into a spot of bother. We also recommend that publications not doxx these editors. Simply note the edits that seem most promotional, any whitewashing and warnings to the editor on the article or user talk pages. The Signpost will then be able to mention the problem in this column – provided we have the space. We have lots of space. –S
UnHerd criticizes Wikipedia for a communications project intended to update a number of articles related to climate change, run as part of the UN's Sustainable Development Goal 13; they call it "just the latest front in the UN’s ongoing online climate change narrative control war" and draw parallels to similar projects undertaken during the time of COVID-19.
The communications project in question is –
formally entitled "Phase 2 Communicating current SDG 13 knowledge through Wikipedia – a collaboration between Wikipedia editors and content experts at SEI, IPCC, UNFCCC and other organisations" and runs from mid 2022 to mid 2024.
The project selects relevant Wikipedia articles dealing with climate change topics that have significant daily pageviews and at the same time require updating and improvement in content and quality. The project team scores the quality of these Wikipedia articles at the start and at the end of the project using ten quality parameters. We also interact with published experts who advise us on necessary content edits. The core project team is made up of academics who have scientific and climate change expertise and also know how to edit Wikipedia.
embarked on a major PR campaign to boost its green credentials ahead of the COP28 UN climate summit in Dubai later this year, prompting heavy criticism from climate groups and some politicians.
At the same time, researchers are raising red flags over allegations of more covert influence campaigns, as members of the COP28 team were found by the Centre for Climate Reporting and the Guardian to have been editing Wikipedia pages about the conference’s chief, and an army of fake social media accounts has appeared, promoting the country’s climate record.
For further coverage see this issue's Disinformation report.