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In the media

Truth, AI, bull from politicians, and climate change

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By Smallbones, Andreas Kolbe, HaeB, and Red-tailed hawk

A moment of truth or just the end of the Wiki?

How will Wikipedia fare in the age of Artificial Intelligence?

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 Barkeep49, 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

Durham bull

An illustration for "Alice in Wonderland" involving a teapot
A tempest and a teapot

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.

A broken teapot
A teapot that's been through a tempest

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

Just another politician editing Wikipedia

A political cartoon suggesting that politicians sometimes stretch the truth
Politicians sometimes stretch the truth

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

Wikipedia's climate coverage in the news

Alleged to have been "greenwashing" Wikipedia's coverage of him: Sultan Al Jaber, the President-Designate of the upcoming COP28 climate talks

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.

On much the same topic, though from a different perspective, CNN reports that the United Arab Emirates, the country hosting this year's COP28 climate conference, has –

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.

The COP28 president's "greenwashing" of Wikipedia had previously been reported by the Centre for Climate Reporting in late May of this year. – S, AK, J

For further coverage see this issue's Disinformation report.

In brief



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Uncritical coverage of the Unherd piece on climate?

It's rather sad to see the Signpost uncritically grouping the Unherd claim of a UN lead conspiracy to create disinformation on Wikipedia along a real, evidenced piece of disinformation found on the projects. The piece makes exagerated claims of conspiracy and repression of perspectives, while also citing widely debunked and poorly researched disinformation itself. If the Signpost is going to run these kinds of claims, at least provide some basic qualitative review of how well-grounded the claims are.Sadads (talk) 21:56, 1 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree with Sadads. Some further reading/discussion on this piece from UnHerd (and UnHerd as a source in general) is available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Reliable_sources/Noticeboard#UnHerd . Interesting how the misinformation which one person or blog post started spreads around to other blog posts and gets repeated by other newsletters. Good for Signpost to pick this up but bad for not putting it into context / being critical about it. EMsmile (talk) 09:43, 2 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Sadads@EMsmile: This little piece had a convoluted edit history. User:Smallbones started it out like this, with Unherd identified as "a British conservative political magazine" and a prominent mention of the UK government (based on the headline) in the text. Then I came along and edited out the reference to the UK government (because the article didn't say it was involved in the Wikipedia initiative). A day later I combined the two climate stories, and finally it went through a copyedit by our editor-in-chief, User:JPxG, who introduced direct quotes from both the project page and the Unherd article and removed such editorialising as was there, including the label as "a British conservative political magazine".
I think the value of the Unherd article is that it mentions a Wikipedia project I (and probably many other Wikipedians) had never heard of. I think if we are asking outside experts to take on an editorial role that's something that the community should be aware of. I believe most Wikipedians would welcome this particular initiative – because limiting climate change is the challenge of our time – but I can also think of cases where outsourcing a sort of content refereeing function to outside scholars would be far more contentious (recall the recent Holocaust in Poland discussions, for example, where scholars are more divided than they are in this case). While I don't agree with much of what the Unherd article says about climate change and what to do or not do about it (I fear the author is taking a very shortsighted approach), I am grateful they highlighted the project. Andreas JN466 13:15, 2 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Jayen466 I agree that highlighting the project is good -- but the article has all of the classic indicators of a vitriolic, exaggeration with claims of conspiracy of the UN towards Wikimedia and other platforms. At least acknowledging that the particular opinion piece is interpreting the Wikimedia project in a bad faith way would be important. Platforming misinformation without evaluating it as misinformation is spreading misinformation, Sadads (talk) 14:40, 2 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I can only answer for this article version, because that is how I left it. Would you have had a problem with that wording? Andreas JN466 14:52, 2 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Jayen466, Sadads, and EMsmile: Thanks to all of you for your comments. Indeed, I think Andreas's last version was perfectly acceptable. I particularly liked Sadads comment "Platforming misinformation without evaluating it as misinformation is spreading misinformation". This points out how this column has to be different than a "straight news" column on what's been published about Wikipedia. That would read something like Reader's Digest and might be one of the most boring news columns printed anywhere. I think we have to read this column as a "journalism review" (something like a book review section). That's how I've always viewed the column since I first read it 15 years or so ago. So there are sometimes going to be some pointers that say "is this really the case?" or similar. That's the type of stuff that editors can sometime miss in good faith. And I'll add with absolute certainty - good editors can be expected sometimes to make mistakes. Smallbones(smalltalk) 15:36, 2 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks, Smallbones. There is just one thing I would add – I don't believe the Unherd article was written in "bad faith". As the term is commonly understood, and defined in the lede of the bad faith article, "bad faith" means a sustained form of deception which consists of entertaining or pretending to entertain one set of feelings while acting as if influenced by another. I have no reason to believe that is what the author was doing. I think it more likely that they simply, quite honestly, mistrust the initiative and feel in some way powerless and overrun. Now, "mistrust" and "bad faith" sound similar, but they are not at all the same thing. You can be mistrustful, and wrong, in good faith, and if Wikipedia teaches anything, it is that assuming good faith is usually the best way to build bridges and make progress. Andreas JN466 15:53, 2 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Jayen466 that is close to what I would expect, not quite but closer. @Smallbones agreed -- and most of the time this section is pretty good at handling that kind of "We as the editorial team, think that the piece doesn't quite understand how Wikimedia works", Sadads (talk) 15:44, 2 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Sadads: Hi. I read through the UnHerd article, and I read through the things on-wiki that it referenced, when editing this piece. I spent a while thinking about it, and decided to go with our own description of the website, which is that it's a "British news and opinion website" (and makes virtually no reference to any political leanings other than to mention briefly that the founder had conservative beliefs). If there were space, I could indeed have come up with a more nuanced take, but as it was, we had a brief couple of sentences to describe what one piece of press coverage said, and then a lengthy blockquote from the actual project itself (which was about twice as long) that gave further context.
As for the actual content of the UnHerd piece, well: insofar as the claims about the English Wikipedia are concerned, I did not see anything that was abjectly false. There were some implications of vague sinistrosity on the part of the UN, but I don't think it is the Signpost's responsibility to defend the UN from people calling them jerks online. The factual claims (i.e. that the initiative is to write articles that "reflect UN-approved perspectives and information on the subject") are, I mean — what our own documentation page said at the time was that the project was a collaboration between Wikipedia editors and content experts at SEI, IPCC, UNFCCC and other organisations". This is definitely a suggestive way to phrase it, but it does not seem false. I don't think it is a conspiracy theory to claim that two entities working on a collaborative project are working on a collaborative project, and then claim that this sucks.
I am not sure, in this context, what you mean by "misinformation"; I understand people have been using this term more broadly in the last few years, but it would seem here to be a matter of opinion ("The UN is collaborating with Wikipedians to edit articles, which is good" versus "The UN is collaborating with Wikipedians to edit articles, which is bad"): I dearly hope that our readers have the wisdom and fortitude to read an article and form an assessment of its opinion without needing instruction. jp×g 22:15, 2 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Hi @JPxG (and cc @HaeB) the main argumentation in the piece is built on articles like this piece -- which uses a number of arguments that built on selective facts, and active misinterpation of the science (i.e. for example citing one 2011 study about food production increasing with heat, when the concensuse science for the last few decades and the most recent IPCC reports all point to catastrophic rolling food security issues).
The hallmarks that this is selective argumentation to create disinformation though is that they are including several widely discredited sources known to fuel climate disinformation through these kinds of public attempts to discredit anyone community climate science. For example: it includes a commentator Bjorn Lomborg, who is widely crticized for not understanding the science he cites and only choosing the studies that he finds help his narrative (see this profile in the most widely respected climate-denial database: https://www.desmog.com/bjorn-lomborg/). This is all getting couched in the language of "realistic climate policy", when in fact all of the experts and recommendations from people involved in the policy ecosystem is quite the opposite. This is charachteristic of several of the most incidious climate denial outfits, including the repeatedly cited Breakthrough Institute, a hothouse of climate disinformation that is widely discredited for its selective uses of evidence to advance discourses of delay (see the Wikipedia article or the founder's profile on desmog, who by the way has a long history of attacking editors of his biography) - which are funded by the same institutions that funded climate denial a decade ago. Its not that Unherd or the author of this piece are just using inflamatory language, its that they are creating a pool of self-referencing articles that disguise the fact that all of the arguments and criticism are about inflaming skepticism about climate change while misrepresenting the work of climate communicators -- it's misinformation.
I am sure if I dug more I could identify more problems, but I would hope that the Signpost which covers disinformation, would be a bit more helpful to Wikipedians when we platform suspicious claims of disinfo and conspiracy in the wild Sadads (talk) 12:58, 4 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You are presenting all this criticism without making it clear to your readers that apart from the first dozen words in your first sentence, everything you say pertains not to Kit Klarenberg's article, but to one of the 20 or so articles hyperlinked in his article ... and then to people cited in that article, and so on.
This could in itself be described as a disinformation tactic not unlike the one you are complaining about. (And do you really expect us to read and critique 20 hyperlinked articles and the people cited in them every time we mention an article here?)
To my mind, the key problem in this affair seems to be that the people in this project "embiggened" the UN involvement to make it sound like a UN project in order to increase their chances of getting funded. Andreas JN466 13:42, 4 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • While I didn't write this Signpost story (and might have written it a bit differently), I think it's worth pointing out that the Signpost's "In the media" section has always been collecting and summarizing media coverage about Wikipedia without endorsing it (contrary to what you appear to imply by run these kinds of claims). What's more, like other ITM stories, this one links the Wikipedia article about the publication right at the beginning for context. And I find it interesting that at least in its current version, it doesn't contain criticism of that publication that would rise even near the level of outrage you express about it here.
  • Regarding exagerated claims of conspiracy and repression of perspectives: Granted, I do see some overheated rhetoric in the article. But honestly, shaky accusations of bias and information suppression against Wikipedia are routine even in the mainstream news media's coverage of our projects. Just peruse the archives of this Signpost section (or the Signpost's in general). And even if media claims about causal mechanisms are wrong, that doesn't mean that there couldn't still be a real content problem, or that the Signpost should not make its readers aware of such criticisms. Yes, I understand that as someone involved in the SDG project that is being criticized by the article, you (and especially EMsmile as its paid employee - something she may want to disclose more clearly when weighing in on such matters) may bristle at being tarred with such broad a brush - just as the many admins who made deletion decisions that ended up being pilloried in the news media (such as in the Strickland case) may have been take aback at very public bias accusations against them personally, even when such biases may well exist more generally.
  • Specifically regarding "perspectives", are you referring to e.g. the following claim in the Unherd article?

While there is a near-consensus that climate change is happening, how individuals and governments should respond to the problem is far from settled — yet the UN is determined to suggest otherwise.

On that matter: Speaking as an editor who has spent a non-trivial amount of time combating climate change denial on-wiki (especially back in the "Climategate" years), I do think there is an important difference between reflecting the scholarly consensus about scientific topics (as indeed recorded by the IPCC in this case), and uncritically endorsing the policy goals posited by particular international political organizations (such as the SDGs) or the action targets prescribed by international treaties for their member states. It would be highly problematic to blur the lines between these areas and decry as "disinformation" statements that are fundamentally political (we should do X/not do Y), even if we disagree with them as a matter of opinion. It looks like the SDG project clarifies in the small print that it is not about promoting these policy goals in the sense of POV pushing, but instead focuses on improving article quality in the corresponding content areas in line with Wikipedia policies, and that its content experts consists by and large of academics, rather than, say, employees of a UN agency's PR department or a think thank. That's good, but the project's title still unhelpfully conveys that it is about promoting a policy goal ("Communicating current SDG 13 knowledge through Wikipedia" instead of, say "Communicating current knowledge about climate change through Wikipedia"). And before you point out that there have been other such SDG "campaigns" before: Concerns about mixing advocacy with our mission in this regard are also not new, in fact I recall quite some eye-rolling half a decade ago already about the Wikimania 2019 "theme" (which many or most conference participants appeared to ignore by and large).
  • I also have trouble understanding your concerns about grouping. In the context of a campaign to "communicate" the goals espoused by organization X about topic Y on Wikipedia, it does seem relevant for Signpost readers that the top leader of a central, influential event by organization X about topic Y has been credibly accused of deceptive PR involving topic Y that included manipulative Wikipedia editing. At the very least, it is a reminder that there is basically always some unappetizing political sausagemaking behind such goals. Understood, it may not be what you want to read if you have personally signed up for campaigning for these goals, but other Wikipedia editors may feel differently.
  • In that respect I am also reminded about the WikiForHumanRights campaign that (according to your staff user page) you have been leading in your professional role as Senior Program Strategist at WMF, as a partnership between the Wikimedia Foundation with another prominent United Nations organization. Now I don't want to criticize the existence of that campaign per se here, and would be ready to believe that it has done good work overall. But it's worth noting that during that project, your UN partner was also seriously criticized (by e.g. the Washington Post's editorial board, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch) for deeply problematic official statements denying or minimizing widespread human rights violations by a totalitarian regime. Fortunately the English Wikipedia community did not espouse the views of your/the WMF's WikiForHumanRights UN partner as a consensus statement about this matter, not did it dismiss criticism of these UN views as "disinformation" - otherwise the article Uyghur genocide would look very differently.
Regards, HaeB (talk) 16:43, 2 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Just to clarify: the current working title of the project that was discussed in the article is "Improving communication of climate change knowledge through Wikipedia" (see here). The previous "official" project title is no longer quite correct and I have just edited our project page accordingly. The old title was "Phase 2 Communicating current SDG 13 knowledge through Wikipedia - a collaboration between Wikipedia editors and content experts at SEI, IPCC, UNFCCC and other organisations". In Phase 1 we had called the project "Phase 1: Communication of SDG-related research knowledge in water and sanitation (SDG 6), climate action (SDG 13) and life below water (oceans) (SDG14) in Wikipedia while engaging professional networks". You might wonder why we even mentioned the SDGs in the title. The answer is simple: it's because we had submitted this project proposal in a response to a call for projects for communicating content about the SDGs and the topics underpinning the SDGs. The project is funded by Formas. This is all explained on the project page. Last year, we have published a PPT if any of you are interested to learn more about this project: https://www.sei.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/icsd-wikipedia-ppt-sept-20-2022-longer-version.pdf
I think more important for the Wikipedia community - or anyone who wants to help with climate change information - is the WikiProject Climate Change. We'd love to have more active editors there.
Coming back to that piece which you had included in the Signpost. When we first became aware of the media coverage on this (on 17 July), we found that the chain of events seems to have been like this: Chris Morrison wrote a first article on 16 July in “The Daily Sceptic” on July 16: https://dailysceptic.org/2023/07/16/british-government-funds-campaign-to-rewrite-climate-science-entries-on-wikipedia/ Then David Icke picked it up the next day on his own page on 17 July: https://davidicke.com/2023/07/17/british-government-funds-campaign-to-rewrite-climate-science-entries-on-wikipedia/ David Icke is, according to Wikipedia, "an English conspiracy theorist". The Unherd article which was mentioned in the Signpost came a week later: 24 July by Kit Klarenberg. It might have been interesting for the Signpost piece to show this chain of events from which it becomes clear that one person copied from the other... And I think you were indeed spreading misinformation but unintentionally, perhaps just from superficial reading & lack of time.
I don't think a discussion about WikiForHumanRights has anything to do with this, and just confuses things. Our project does not work with any "UN bodies". It actually mainly works by me doing a lot of editing myself (see my edit contributions), together with some other team members plus one or two dozen academics who have kindly donated their time to give us feedback and reviewers' comments about Wikipedia articles on climate change topics. Absolutely nothing "sinister" about this. There is no actual "story" here but climate change deniers (like David Icke) like to make a story out of anything... EMsmile (talk) 18:16, 2 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Our project does not work with any "UN bodies". - who said that it does, and whom are you quoting here? Please avoid straw man arguments.
Thanks for updating the project page, and for clarifying that the project's previous title had been changed. But regarding You might wonder why we even mentioned the SDGs in the title. The answer is simple: it's because we had submitted this project proposal in a response to a call for projects for communicating content about the SDGs and the topics underpinning the SDGs. - well, that's the point, is it not? Such project proposals are always written to appeal to the grant giver's motivations and goals. This is an ubiquitous issue in grantmaking and funding (also in our specific context of Wikipedia projects that are externally funded by supposedly benign non-Wikimedia nonprofits or public institutions - happy to talk a bit more about the history here if you're interested). Of course this can be handled and mitigated, and I hope that that's what you and the others involved in this project have done here, by carefully keeping the work confined to the intersection area between the grantor's and Wikipedia's goals. But we should not indignantly dismiss any notion that such tensions could even exist.
As for David Icke, yes, he is a wacky conspiracy theorist, but no, the fact that he picked up this topic too among others does not automatically mean that it is invalid or (as I hope you agree) that one can accuse the Signpost of spreading antisemitic theories about lizard people. If you search hard enough, you can surely find lots of stories in established news media like (say) the Guardian or Slate that were previously popularized by random Twitter personalities or picked up by sites of dubious reputation like Occupy Democrats or Palmer Report. But that doesn't automatically mean that the writer at the more established outlet hasn't done their due diligence to separate the wheat from the chaff.
What's more, I second JPxG's observation above that the term "misinformation" (and also "disinformation") is being thrown around rather liberally here - by Sadads and you - without ever specifying which statements it refers to concretely. Such innuendo tactics may work well in some spaces, but on Wikipedia we usually pride ourselves on a more evidence-based communication style. A more convincing rebuttal might have consisted of specific statements like "UnHerd says X (quote), but X is not true because (evidence)".
Coming back to that piece which you had included in the Signpost [...] And I think you were indeed spreading misinformation but unintentionally [...] - uh, I had nothing to do with the inclusion of this story in the Signpost. I had already said right at the start of my comment above that I didn't write it. And even before that, Andreas had provided a detailed account of how it came to be. So I'm quite confused why you would even conjecture that I was to blame for a story that you and Sadads see as so problematic, let alone accuse me directly of publicizing David Icke conspiracy theories in the Signpost. The cherry on top is your belittling perhaps just from superficial reading & lack of time in a mistaken claim that quite clearly was based on your own superficial reading.
As already indicated above, I can, to some extent, understand why you or others involved in this project might feel strongly about this UnHerd article. I'm not endorsing every criticism that it levels, and am prepared to believe that your editing work as part of this project is beneficial for Wikipedia overall. But the way you are communicating here as its paid employee honestly doesn't inspire confidence. You started out above by weighing in against the Signpost's coverage involving your project without disclosing your direct involvement with it, then got several easily verifiable facts wrong in your accusations about spreading disinformation... It might be an idea to add some support from experienced public communications professionals (if the grant has room for that) or at least get a second pair of eyes on your statements before you publish them.
Regards, HaeB (talk) 23:16, 2 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm going to touch on just one small part of what's been brought up so far as this discussion - among many Wikipedians I greatly respect - is heading into more-heat-than-light territory. When EMSmile said Our project does not work with any "UN bodies" I believe she was referring to the Unherd article itself, which said, "Wikipedia editing is therefore just the latest front in the UN’s ongoing online climate change narrative control war" and insinuated in various ways that the project was being directed by the UN. This insinuation is ludicrous - if the UN or any of its member bodies actually wanted to influence what goes on at Wikipedia they could simply release their reports under a Wikipedia-compatible license, but they haven't.
Kit Klarenberg's piece in Unherd says that this project was quietly launched "in the last few weeks" and makes some heavy-sounding accusations about "censoring" and "policing". Actually the project has been going on for an entire year and yet Klarenberg doesn't include a single example of anything the project has removed from Wikipedia that shouldn't have been removed. The article has no criticism whatsoever of Wikipedia article content, policies, or processes. All it is is an uninformed individual making speculations about motives because he can't believe someone other than the UN itself would think the UN's SDGs are important. Clayoquot (talk | contribs) 02:12, 3 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Our project does not work with any "UN bodies": Well, until yesterday, the project page cited by Klarenberg said it is a collaboration between Wikipedia editors and content experts at SEI, IPCC, UNFCCC and other organisations. The IPCC is described by Wikipedia as an intergovernmental body of the United Nations. (The UNFCCC is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, with a secretariat in Bonn, Germany.) --Andreas JN466 05:21, 3 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I am aware that the IPCC is a UN body, but when you work with an expert at the IPCC, what that means is you're working with a scientist, generally a university professor, who volunteers to help write and review drafts of IPCC reports. IPCC scientists are paid by their home instititions; they are not paid by the IPCC or by any other UN body. The relationship between these individual scientists and the IPCC is roughly equivalent to the relationship between Wikipedia writers and the WMF. The list of names on a section of an IPCC report will be a list of people who have a grasp of the literature and scientific consensus for the contents of that section. If you call one of them and have a conversation about their area of expertise, you're working with an IPCC expert but you are not working with the IPCC per se. Clayoquot (talk | contribs) 14:01, 3 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Clayoquot @EMsmile Thank you for the explanation, that kind of makes sense. However, I wonder how and by whom it is then decided whether or not a particular scientist can rightfully be described as an expert "at" the IPCC. Does the IPCC maintain something like a public roster of affiliated scientists?
Also, for the avoidance of doubt, is the UNFCCC secretariat in Bonn involved in the Wikipedia project, either directly or indirectly via a service provider or contractor? Regards, Andreas JN466 14:42, 3 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The wording "expert at the IPCC" is maybe confusing. I usually refer to them as "IPCC authors", and even that is maybe confusing. Here is one of them (but he is an exception, hardly any of them have taken up Wikipedia logins as far as I am aware): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Baylorfk. Like Clayoquot explained, these are in fact just normal academics who work at universities (and get paid by them) who then additionally perform some reviewer work for IPCC reports (not paid by IPCC). Please check the IPCC Wikipedia article, it might make things clearer for you. - And no, the UNFCCC secretariat is not involved in this project. If they were, e.g. by helping us contact academics, would you find that problematic? EMsmile (talk) 14:51, 3 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No, I would not, but I suspect this would be of interest to people like Kit Klarenberg. I might reach out to him and direct him to this page. Regards, --Andreas JN466 15:13, 3 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@HaeB FWIW the Identify Topics for Impact movement strategy recommendation does include SDGs, if somewhat noncommittally. I think they are actually somewhat analogous to the IPCC. If you want present an evidence-based description of some issue but don't want to appoint yourself as the arbiter of what is / isn't supported by evidence, it is natural to look at intergovernmental expert bodies (such as the IPCC) as the best place to outsource that judgement to. And if you want, when using movement funds to incentivize article improvements, to prioritize those articles which have the largest positive impact on people's lives but don't want to appoint yourself the arbiter of which topics are the most impactful, it is natural to look at intergovernmental bodies tasked with making such choices (such as the UN DSDG) as the best place to outsource *that* judgement to.
That's not to say they should be above criticism, or that it's guaranteed to be a good idea to defer to their judgement, but it's a sensible default. Being critical of a project based on IPCC or SDG material by default makes sense if you think you are an iconoclast deep thinker who is better than the establishment at discerning truth or priorities - which is pretty much the brand of UnHerd, but undesirable on Wikipedia. Tgr (talk) 06:12, 3 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I agree with Clayoquot and Tgr who are making very good points. Just to clarify two things: I am not an employee of the project. I am a freelancer who applies to funders for projects and then has billable hours for those projects. In this instance, I, together with SEI, applied to Formas to fund this communication type work. The project has actually been going for three years now, not one (but Phase 2 has been going for one year).
Secondly, I can now see that the wording collaboration between Wikipedia editors and content experts at SEI, IPCC, UNFCCC and other organisations could have been misunderstood. In practice, we work with academics at various universities (anyone who is willing to donate their time really; we have contacted perhaps 200 people and got reviewer's comments from perhaps 20), some of whom have also been authors of IPCC reports. We also draw a lot on the content of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report which is basically a big fat literature review with consensus on WP:DUE aspects (i.e. fringe theories not getting any more room than they deserve, according to scientific consensus).
If anyone from the Wikipedia community has any specific concerns/objections about our project you are very welcome to put them here, or even better, to add them to the talk page of our project here. I would be very happy to discuss things further with you there and see how any concerns could be addressed.
For your information, I am always on the look-out for more funding for this kind of activity (usually from philanthropic sources) because I think we owe it to our readers to get the climate change content right and understandable. For that, only relying on volunteers to edit, is not enough, as is evidenced by the current low quality of many of the sub-articles on climate change topics (the main climate change article is very good). If articles' quality can be boosted by people who can work on content as part of their day jobs (always keeping WP:COI issues in mind), this would give more and better content faster. Getting this kind of funding is not easy as you can imagine. Our current Funder, Formas, has been excellent. They take a hands-off approach so you don't have to worry that they someone dictate or influence what we edit. And no, we don't have spare budget available in our project for "experienced public communications professionals". If we had spare budget, I'd rather spend it on more Wikipedia editing time.
Just to re-iterate I am very open to constructive criticism of our project, on the project's talk page. The criticism that came from David Icke, Kit Klarenberg etc. was not overly helpful to say the least (what exactly would they want us to change about the project?). May I point out that David Icke had entitled his piece: "British Government Funds Campaign to Rewrite Climate Science Entries on Wikipedia" and below it he had an image with the text: Wokepedia. What does that tell us? In any case our funder is a Swedish government research council if anything, not the British Government (just for the record).
Thank you for taking the time to look at our project and to point out any issues that you consider relevant, independently of the piece in Unherd. EMsmile (talk) 09:38, 3 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I am not an employee of the project. - I was using the term in its generic meaning (wikt:employee). But I'm happy to switch to a more precise terminology instead that distinguishes between e.g. long-term contractors and full-time staff with benefits etc. However, such distinctions are irrelevant to the points that were raised - in particular that you should have disclosed this relation to the project when coming here to criticize the Signpost for its coverage involving your project. I don't see any reflection of that on your part, which was one of the reasons for suggesting you might want to get advice and support from people who are more aware of such communications issues. Relatedly, while it's good that you now have made various corrections and updates in reaction to the UnHerd and/or Signpost article (and that the project's name had already been changed earlier), it could be worth reflecting on how to avoid such communication mistakes from the outset, rather than having to fix them afterwards.
If anyone from the Wikipedia community has any specific concerns/objections about our project you are very welcome to [...] - that's good, but in the above discussion I don't see any Wikipedians expressing concerns or objections about the project's overall work. (E.g. speaking for myself, I had said that I am prepared to believe that your editing work as part of this project is beneficial for Wikipedia overall - that's not to say that such problems couldn't exist, but simply that I don't have formed an opinion so far on whether they exist or not.) Rather, the specific concerns and objections here are about the project's/your criticism of the Signpost's article and vague accusations of the Signpost spreading misinformation etc, at least some of which has now turned out to be not very well-founded.
Regarding David Icke etc.: Above I already discussed your efforts to tie the UnHerd piece (and by extension, the Signpost's) to wacky conspiracy theorists, and pointed out why it is problematic. I see that you decided to entirely ignore such concerns and instead double down on this tactic. For others reading along here: A useful term for the disingenuous rhetorical technique that this representative of the "Improving communication ..." project chose to use here is "nutpicking".
Regards, HaeB (talk) 16:15, 3 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Tgr From your comments it's unclear whether you saw what I wrote about these matters above, so allow me to quote some of it here:

Speaking as an editor who has spent a non-trivial amount of time combating climate change denial on-wiki (especially back in the "Climategate" years), I do think there is an important difference between reflecting the scholarly consensus about scientific topics (as indeed recorded by the IPCC in this case), and uncritically endorsing the policy goals posited by particular international political organizations (such as the SDGs) or the action targets prescribed by international treaties for their member states. It would be highly problematic to blur the lines between these areas and decry as "disinformation" statements that are fundamentally political (we should do X/not do Y), even if we disagree with them as a matter of opinion. It looks like the SDG project clarifies in the small print that it is not about promoting these policy goals in the sense of POV pushing, but instead focuses on improving article quality in the corresponding content areas in line with Wikipedia policies, and that its content experts consists by and large of academics, rather than, say, employees of a UN agency's PR department or a think thank. That's good, but the project's title still unhelpfully conveys that it is about promoting a policy goal ("Communicating current SDG 13 knowledge through Wikipedia" instead of, say "Communicating current knowledge about climate change through Wikipedia"). [The latter was fixed afterwards, see above]

So regarding the prioritizing of content areas, I'm unsure what your point of disagreement is exactly. However, I think your attempt at equating IPCC or SDG material in general (or to paint anyone who doesn't endorse the SDGs as "iconoclast" like someone who disagrees with the scientific consensus as recorded by the IPCC) fundamentally confuses fact and opinion, or scientific knowledge and political goals. (And let's not even get started on the weird world of movement strategy here, which since 2017 or so may have sucked up tons and tons of energy from people involved in what one might call the corporate side of the movement and whose outputs might get quoted sometimes in funding matters, but enjoy very little awareness and influence in the Wikipedia editing community's day-to-day content decisions - unlike, say, the IPCC's reports.)
Regards, HaeB (talk) 16:44, 3 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Regarding not having disclosed my involvement in the project in my very first post on this talk page: point taken. In the second sentence that I wrote here I had said this and provided a link to an earlier discussion: Some further reading/discussion on this piece from UnHerd (and UnHerd as a source in general) is available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Reliable_sources/Noticeboard#UnHerd. In that earlier discussion, another Wikipedian had pointed out for example EMsmile has very properly disclosed being a paid editor in this realm, so I forgot that I should really re-introduce myself again, as this is now a different crowd of Wikipedians. Thank you for the reminder, will be more thoughtful in future.
It is also true that I am more interested in any constructive criticims of our project than of The Signpost article. (someone pointed out above I think the value of the Unherd article is that it mentions a Wikipedia project I (and probably many other Wikipedians) had never heard of. I felt that the post that sadads made was valid but overall it's probably not really worth spending too much time on this as the reach of The Signpost is rather small compared to other newsletters. So for me personally, it was actually more interesting to take this opportunity to get a feel for what other Wikipedians might not like about our project.
My take-home message from this is that it can be "dangerous" to be seen by the Wikipedia community to be too closely aligned with the SDGs or any UN bodies. I didn't think the SDGs were so controversial (even though I have been the main editor of the Sustainable Development Goals Wikipedia editor and have added a fair bit of content there about challenges) but so be it.
So from my perspective everything has now been said and (more or less) clarified. I'll bow out of the discussion now. Thanks everyone! EMsmile (talk) 13:06, 4 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

20th anniversary of the Hebrew Wikipedia

The folks from Wikimedia Israel shared their own report of the celebration with some charming photos. Ckoerner (talk) 20:32, 3 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Nice pictures indeed! Good vibes. Thanks for the link. Andreas JN466 21:32, 3 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]





       

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