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Deadnames on the French Wikipedia, and a duel between Russian wikis

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By Bluerasberry, Oltrepier, Smallbones, Your Friendly Neighborhood Sociologist, and JPxG

French Wikipedia grapples with names and pronouns for transgender people

Magazine Friction published an open letter from French LGBTQIA+[n 1] Wikipedia editors, reacting to and protesting the outcome of a heated community survey on the French Wikipedia on whether to include the pre-transition names of transgender people (deadnames) in articles, in what circumstances, and where.

In 2022, an essay was written on the French Wikipedia recommending style conventions for transgender identity; nonetheless, edit wars continued over the precise details, culminating in the poll. For people who had met notability criteria prior to transitioning, the results of that poll were narrowly in favor of including pre-transition names in the lead, and a larger majority agreed they should be mentioned in the body. The discussion was covered, while it was ongoing, in Numerama and France Inter and later by Le Monde.

During the discussion there were charges of canvassing. Sinkra, the president of Les sans pagEs (the French equivalent of Women in Red) was given a three-day block for canvassing/meatpuppetry[n 2] after she posted a notification to a public Mastodon instance asking people to participate. Other editors, who shared the post to ask for specific votes, were more heavily sanctioned. The poll, in its section on canvassing, argued that the notifications swayed the results for amounts ranging 1% to 6% for the different questions. Several comments referenced le wokisme.

The authors of the open letter argued that within the discussion, they were subject to unfair accusations of bias due to their identities. They stated they regretted the results of the poll, as well as another poll from four years ago, which had closed with consensus against the use of the French gender-neutral pronoun iel. They applauded the work being done to improve articles relating to transgender topics, while stating too many editors had left due to the editing environment. Previously, in October 2022 Le Nouvel Obs published an open letter from LGBT public figures denouncing the French Wikipedia for misgendering them, deadnaming them, maintaining pre-transition photos, and attacks on editors who denounced such practices.

The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees gave comments in their March 2024 public conversation, in response to claims that the French Wikipedia had become "actively hostile and in need of office actions", saying that the Board would have the Trust and Safety department analyze the situation and that it "will commit to supporting T&S findings and any related actionable steps".

Similar discussions have been occurring on the English Wikipedia, with the recent discussions and policy/guideline development around topics like MOS:DEADNAME and MOS:GENDERID (as well as a thematically related essay, No queerphobes, which was in the last couple weeks written, moved to No queerphobia, nominated for deletion, closed as keep, then brought to deletion review but speedily withdrawn). In March, a Request for Comment on the names of deceased trans people, having sought to expand MOS:DEADNAME, was found no consensus (with the closer saying "Our existing policies and guidelines, including WP:V, WP:NPOV and WP:BDP continue to determine the standard for inclusion of material in articles").


  1. ^ While the contributors used LGBTQIA+ to refer to themselves throughout the letter, Friction Magazine used the term "LGBTQUIA+" when introducing them. The "U" stands for undefined.[1]
  2. ^ (The fr.wp policy is called pantin, which literally means "puppet", but on the French Wikipedia they say that to mean meatpuppetry — their term for what we call a "sockpuppet" is a faux-nez, or 'false nose').

Russian government cracks down on VPNs, we wonder which wiki will wilt?

In Russia, the unspeakable includes "Nyet voynye!" ("no to war!"). Will the contents of Wikipedia follow?

In the last issue of The Signpost, we reported the political censorship occurring on the Russian Wikipedia's new fork, Ruviki, as first revealed by Novaya Gazeta. In the meantime, the Streisand effect has kicked in as national and international outlets, including 404 Media (who cited our story), PC Gamer, Agi (in Italian) and Sveriges Television (SVT) (in Swedish) all noticed the fork rewriting Russian reality.

SVT also remarked on a worrying sign for the real Russian Wikipedia. On March 1 Roskomnadzor, the censorship agency of the Russian government, announced that they will enforce an order designed to ban all forms of advertising and promotion of circumvention tools such as VPN services. Anton Gorelkin, the deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technologies, and Communications, stated on Telegram that there were allegedly "legal grounds for blocking Wikipedia", since the site hosts an article about VPNs, while adding that legislators would have to "make sure this doesn't cause significant inconvenience for users". As reported by SVT, in April Gorelkin reiterated his hostility towards Wikipedia, stating that "it [was] clear that Wikipedia has become an instrument in the ongoing information war to delete pro-Russian opinions", and that Russian authorities needed to create sources "where citizens can obtain objective and non-propagandist information".

Although the Russian Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media, Maksut Shadayev, recently excluded the option to block Wikipedia as a whole, at least for now, it's clear that the already turbulent relationship between the platform and the national government is hitting a new low. If we consider that WMF chapter Wikimedia RU was forced to close in December, and that the fork full of censored material is currently on the rise, it's safe to say that the cloud looming over the real Russian Wikipedia is ominous.

Nevertheless, the Russian government cannot force the real Russian Wikipedia to close, since the site's servers are located outside of Russia, as are many of the editors who contribute to it every day. Editors located inside Russia might be forced to stop editing, but those located in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics (e.g. the Baltic republics, Georgia, Armenia, and Kazakhstan) are outside Russia's direct control. What's more, other Russian-speaking editors live in Israel, former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe, Western Europe, North America and Australia. Closing off VPNs to Russian residents will only mean that they will have no influence on the real Russian Wikipedia's content. On the other hand, Ruviki doesn't have enough of its own editors to keep up with 1.9 million articles, so its articles on the Russian invasion of Ukraine will likely be originally written by Ukrainians, and then heavily censored by bots, removing any sense of reality from the article in the process. And if the real Russian Wikipedia is forced to close, where will Ruviki copy its articles from to begin with?

S and O

In brief

Logo of the Unicode Consortium, of which the Wikimedia Foundation is now an associate member
Wikipedia:WikiProject Women in Religion sponsors the 1000 women in religion events
Wikimedia Italy participated in the Turin International Book Fair this week.

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I think while writing on sensitive topics like this the authors should fact check first, write later.--Victoria (talk) 14:14, 17 May 2024 (UTC)[reply]
  • You made an error inserting [were]: that passage is a hypothetical future concerning their domestic government-approved Ruwiki, not a factual statement about the way our own Russian Wikipedia evolved. ☆ Bri (talk) 14:19, 17 May 2024 (UTC)[reply]
@Victoria: Thanks for the feedback, I honestly did not know. I apologize for the errors even as I am still learning what to say that would be correct. If you or anyone else would like to propose a precise correction, then The Signpost can include it. I was not one of the authors here, but I am an editor, and I wanted to respond to you.
  • About the reporting on Russian Wikipedia - This is challenging for us to report, and I am glad that we reported enough to get comments to advance the conversation. Here is some feedback that I heard: There is a Russian Wikipedia editing community, they do good editing and include many diverse perspectives, and they are proud of Russian language Wikipedia's quality and scope of content. This is commendable. Russian Wikipedia editors have good control over Russian Wikipedia, and saying otherwise without evidence and stating ways to improve things is defeatist and misguided. I apologize for my own part in failing to communicate this.
  • About the Signpost - Publishing stories which need correction is better than not having a newsletter at all, and I hope the day comes when the Wikimedia Movement incorporates development of community reporting about issues like this into its strategic planning. This is a volunteer publication with no budget. Anyone who reads the Signpost is a user who is able to contribute to its reporting, including for fact-checking. All the people in the world who wished to discuss this topic in The Signpost showed up to share their views, and all of them are also welcome to submit corrective and improved reporting in the next issue. I asked some people for submissions and will see what happens. Thanks. Bluerasberry (talk) 15:31, 17 May 2024 (UTC)[reply]
  • @Bluerasberry: Thank you for the reply.
  • The original passage: "Ruviki doesn't have enough of its own editors to keep up with 1.9 million articles, so its articles on the Russian invasion of Ukraine will likely be originally written by Ukrainians, and then heavily censored by...". Replace with "Ruviki doesn't have enough of its own editors to keep up with 1.9 million articles, so its articles on the Russian invasion of Ukraine will likely be originally written by the editors outside Russia, and then heavily censored by...". As you see, a small but significant distinction.--Victoria (talk) 09:38, 21 May 2024 (UTC)[reply]
    Not even that. There are articles (on the Ukrainian war as well as other subjects over which current Russian authorities try to exercise exclusive control) that were created or heavily edited by editors from Russia with views significantly differing from the party line. There are enough people in Russia who don't like the direction in which their authorities steer the country, and I wouldn't be surprised if they are actually overrepresented in the Russian Wikipedia community compared to the overall demographic. So I understand what Smallbones wanted to say and what you want to say but I think the "undesirable" pool of editors is even wider. Deinocheirus (talk) 19:24, 24 May 2024 (UTC)[reply]
There is a Meta link on the topic: m:Requests for comment/Hiding the number of Russian/Belorussian/Kazakh contributors on the statistics map (also see the Dark theme that is now implemented on Meta). --ssr (talk) 13:03, 28 May 2024 (UTC)[reply]

() Hello @Victoria:. I'm sorry, I had no intention of contributing in any way to the Russian government's propaganda against the real Russian Wikipedia. I think you did misread the one sentence you partially quoted. I'll add some parenthetical comments here to clarify what I was trying to say: "(Ruviki's) articles on the Russian invasion of Ukraine will likely be originally written by Ukrainians (after VPNs are shutoff by the Russian government), and then heavily censored by bots (at the Ruviki fork)..." This doesn't mean that the WMF or the CIA or whoever are stopping Russian residents from contributing to the real Russian Wikipedia, rather it just states the obvious - that the Russian government will be stopping Rusian residents from doing so if they block both Wikipedia and VPNs. The Russian government can only blame themselves. If Ruviki takes the further step of censoring the real Wikipedia article, the Ruviki article will likely be unacceptable to everybody.

I also need to say that having such a distinguished Wikipedian comment on something I wrote as a special experience. In the last 5 years, starting with a short piece on the Great Russian Encyclopedia (preparing to take over the real Russian Wikipedia's place on the Russian internet), The Signpost has published over 2 dozen articles or shorter pieces on the Russian Wikipedia, most of which I've written or edited. My favorite is The oligarchs' socks. So you are an expert on Wikipedia and on Russia. Taken as a whole, how has our coverage of this topic been? We might want to continue this conversation via e-mail. Sincerely,

Smallbones(smalltalk) 03:55, 18 May 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Hello @Smallbones:,
I don't think I misunderstood you, as in this reply you reiterate the problem: you think that the articles about Russian-Ukrainian war are written by the Russians and Ukrainians and removing the Russian residents by VPN blocking will mean that "the Ukrainians" will write the articles.
People who edit Russian Wikipedia - including the articles about the war - are much more diverse than Russian/Ukrainians as they include the editors from the former 14 USSR republics, which are now independent countries, plus former Eastern Block countries and very large diasporas in the US, Germany and Israel (10% of Israelis are Russian-speaking), recently swelled by the exodus of hundreds of thousands of supporting democracy Russians. Take me as a case in point - I'm originally from Belarus (one of the former USSR parts), I live in the UK - in no way I'm either Russian or Ukraininan, while my ho0me wiki is Russian Wikipedia.
The other point you are missing is that recently the number of Ukrainian readers of Ukraininan Wikipedia overtaken the number of Ukrainian readers of Russian Wikipedia. Concurrently, I saw a number of prominent Ukraininan-speaking Russian Wikipedia editors who switched from editing Russian to editing the Ukrainian Wikipedia after the start of the war. All this makes your statement that "articles on the Russian invasion of Ukraine will likely be originally written by Ukrainians" very unlikely.
I'm flattered to be called a "distinguished editor" - it's a first, thank you. Thank you for making the wider community aware about what is happening in the Russian-speaking wikimedia movement I'd be happy to continue our discussion in the e-mail. Victoria (talk) 09:54, 21 May 2024 (UTC)[reply]


Re Jim.henderson in Special:Diff/1224253099: On Twitter people "tweet" and "retweet". On Mastodon people "toot" and "retoot". Anomie 10:51, 17 May 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Forsooth. jp×g🗯️ 07:31, 19 May 2024 (UTC)[reply]

frwiki and no queerphobes

I'd like to note broader thematic connections between the frwiki poll and the WP:NOQUEERPHOBES discussion.

As mentioned in the article, there were sanctions levied against editors for canvassing. In the case of Srinka, she posted a notification on Mastodon asking those eligible to vote to do so. Editors noted that the Mastodon instance the notification was posted to was explicitly queer-friendly, which some believed made it inherently partisan - so it was unjustifiable to notify it and ask eligible editors to participate. This all regards a public statement, that a poll was going on in frwiki, outside of frwiki.

What is not mentioned in the article is the charges of canvassing at the MFD and DRV for WP:NOQUEERPHOBES, the latter being opened explicitly on the charge that canvassing had distorted the discussion, In particular the notification of the LGBT noticeboard by Your Friendly Neighborhood Sociologist. The DRV nomination stating While arguably within a strict reading of guidelines [ WP:APPNOTE ], it still had the effect of prejudicing the discussion. ... my position is that you cannot have a fair discussion and an accurate reading of community consensus when there have been notifications made to editors and forums that as a matter of commonsense are going to disproportionately generate support for one side of a discussion/debate.

French Wikipedia discussed whether a public explicitly LGBT friendly (as opposed to LGBT antagonistic or just explicitly indifferent I guess?) Mastodon instance was an appropriate place to notify; Here, a vocal minority tried to discuss whether the noticeboard of our own LGBT Studies WikiProject was (with the obvious answer being "yes"). @Trystan:, you commented in the discussion that Suggestions that notifying WP:LGBT on LGBT issues inherently constitutes canvassing? Almost makes me feel nostalgic for the early 2010s when that issue was settled. - I'd love if you could provide a bit more historical context! Your Friendly Neighborhood Sociologist ⚧ Ⓐ (talk) 16:36, 17 May 2024 (UTC)[reply]

I had in mind two related issues. The first was establishing consensus that WP:LGBT (starting out as the WP:LGBT notice board) could exist as a subject-based forum for editors interested in LGBT topics. The second was a series of debates circa 2010-2012 (eg, eg) establishing that WP:LGBT can tag articles of interest, in order to be notified of discussions on those articles.--Trystan (talk) 18:11, 17 May 2024 (UTC)[reply]
“For people who met the pre-transition notoriety criteria, the results of this poll were largely in favor of including pre-transition names at the top, and a larger majority agreed that they should be mentioned in the body". This is a fact: the results were such and such. And now, some people are using some French media to publish their disappointment at not having won the vote... and are trying to enforce a reversal of the result. It is not certain that such a way of proceeding will convince the dissenting majority! Pldx1 (talk) 16:52, 29 May 2024 (UTC)[reply]


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