|“||What?????? What the hell???||”|
|— arbitrator Moneytrees, arbitration request for Lourdes|
A 2015 arbitration report in this very periodical said "it was a matter of deep concern" that an abusive editor who had obtained administrator privileges "was able to fool the community for so long". At that time, they were banned by the Arbitration Committee following a long case. We are sad to report that, not only did the abuse not stop in 2015, but the same person managed to obtain a second administrator account, and was just discovered a few days ago.
Beeblebrox opened a request for arbitration against administrator Lourdes on 1 November, claiming misdeeds including
administrative blackmail — bullying other less-privileged editors over their votes during a recent request for adminship. With the case request around one day old, on 2 November, the respondent suddenly stated that they are the site-banned former admin Wifione. The case request was closed as moot following Lourdes' admission.
One of the contributors to the case, Kurtis, asked "Is this an ArbCom case request or an M. Night Shyamalan movie?" Others, like arbitrator Moneytrees in the quote above, were more to-the-point.
If you have read our prior coverage of how the Wifione siteban came to be, amidst allegations of paid editing while holding the admin bit, you can probably skip over this section.
According to the 2015 Arbcom case, the oldest known account used by the individual also known as Wifione was created in 2006. They created dozens of sock accounts, which were revealed by a 2008 checkuser request.
That prior account was later linked to another account called Wifione, which was created in 2009 and that had become a Wikipedia admin in 2010. The Arbitration committee case found that Wifione was engaging in search engine optimization related to an Indian educational firm. Wifione was sitebanned as part of the case resolution.
This long-term abuser created the Lourdes account in late 2015, initially under a different name. In 2016 they renamed the account. They were most active in 2016–17, and ran an unsuccessful, self-nominated request for adminship in early 2017; a second attempt in 2018 was successful with 207 in favor and 3 opposed. The account went mostly unused for 2020 through 2022, with many months of total editorial inactivity, although it continued to perform admin actions. In 2023, they returned to regularly editing the English Wikipedia.
Throughout their tenure, they made 2,282 admin actions, according to User:JamesR/AdminStats.
The arbitration case request filed this month alleged that Lourdes engaged in egregious abuse of their administrator status during a recent request for adminship, including the following:
Because I remember having acted on your complaints at ANI a few times, and on the basis of that connect and support that I gave you, I am requesting you to reconsider your stand
— Lourdes, at the case request
This kind of pressuring (there were other examples) was described by one of the contributors to the case request as "the kind of thinly veiled threat you'd expect to hear in The Godfather". In response, Lourdes gave an admission nobody expected:
I am User:Wifione, the admin who got blocked years ago.
My RL identity has nothing to do with any celebrity or anyone like that. I am not writing this to have any final laugh. It's just that I feel it appropriate to place it here specially for Beeblebrox, who I almost emotionally traumatised over the years with the aforementioned double sleight -- aka, pulling him around for revealing my so-called identity. It also required double-doxxing myself on at least one external project, namely Wikipediocracy, which even placed mentions of my name in the private section to protect my identity.
— Lourdes, at the case request
And blocked themselves indefinitely:
All of the details of the request and the statements made there — which arbitrators voted to decline as pointless soon after the revelations and the self-block — can be seen at its last revision link.
Nobody is quite sure what to make of this. How did they get away with this for so long? How did they conceal it this well? How did nobody notice? What was the point of spending years as a productive administrator, making tens of thousands of edits and logging thousands of actions, to implode the whole thing over a pointless argument on an RfA talk page?
The Signpost's sources have confirmed that the particular BADSITE mentioned in Lourdes' final message has indeed discussed this issue, and that both Beeblebrox and the disgraced LTA have posted more about the events, but the thread over there doesn't make a whole lot of sense either.
In short: what?
The Financial Times, in "New book from UK shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves lifts from Wikipedia", accuses Rachel Reeves of wholesale plagiarizing from Wikipedia in The Women Who Made Modern Economics. There were lesser amounts of unattributed copying from The Guardian and several other sources. The Guardian reported that
Basic Books, the publisher, said some sentences should have been "rewritten and properly referenced" and pledged to review all sources in the book, but added that "at no point did Rachel seek to present these facts as original research".
Reeves told the BBC that some sentences "were not properly referenced", but would be corrected in future reprints. She also told the BBC:
I'm the author of that book, I hold my hands up and say, I should have done better .... Obviously, I had research assistants on the book, but I take responsibility for everything that is in that book.
But for me, what I wanted to do is to bring together the stories of these women. And if I'm guilty of copying and pasting some facts about some amazing women and turning it into a book that gets read, then I'm really proud of that
Both The Guardian and the Financial Times highlighted the irony "that one of the themes of the book was the failure to properly acknowledge the work of female economists."
A tweet, from the world's richest man and leading tweeter, said that Wikipedia should change its name to "Dickipedia," offering Wikipedia a billion dollars to do so, "in the interests of accuracy". The tweet mockingly referred to a screenshot of a Wikipedia fundraising banner ("Wikipedia is not for sale. A personal appeal from Jimmy Wales"). Perhaps this check was slated to be cut right after his cage match with Zuckerberg.
An explosion of press articles followed:
Wikipedians can be grateful for the support of all these journalists when we are getting roasted by the world's richest man (who, less than three years ago, had expressed a very different opinion on occasion of Wikipedia's 20th anniversary: "Happy birthday Wikipedia! So glad you exist"). They all, in their own way, attest to the quality of our website and the power of collaborative editing. The number and strength of their responses also reflect on him.
In fact, the "Wikipedia is not for sale" fundraising banner that the rich man mocked in his tweet had itself already been inspired by an earlier richest-man-related Twitter controversy and the observation that it had generated a lot of public support for Wikipedia. As detailed by Jimmy Wales when he proposed using the "not for sale" wording in fundraising appeals back in December 2022:
I saw a tweet from a New York Post journalist saying to [the rich man] (who had complained to his fans creating a silly "scandal" about a routine deletion debate) "I wonder how much Wikipedia would cost?" I responded in a quote tweet with a dry "Not for sale". [see also Signpost coverage] This got an extremely positive response (at this moment over 220,000 likes!) from people including many who said that they hadn't donated before but would donate now. I paid close attention to the negative responses but they were mostly from the sorts of people who claim that that community is basically full of CIA agents, etc.
This gave me an idea – people do love it about us that we are not like other websites. Wikimedia is a nonprofit, a charity, and therefore isn't subject to the kinds of risks and pressures that other major websites have. [...] So I propose this banner message, and welcome open testing of variants. [...] --Jimbo Wales (talk) 12:17, 8 December 2022 (UTC)
In the aftermath of the posts, outlets such as Vice have (contrariwise vis-a-vis the rich man) claimed that the Wikimedia Foundation is "obviously spending money on servers to keep things stable". In this case, it should be noted that the Wikimedia Foundation's spending, and its funding priorities, have been criticized sharply by Wikipedians themselves for many years, and indeed criticized in the pages of this very publication. Indeed, we would be remiss to let our readers go away thinking that some rich guy from online invented criticizing the Wikimedia Foundation in 2022 — Wikimedians invented that the same day they invented the WMF!
The New Yorker cartoonist Triana Muñoz draws websites (here) as if they were musical styles and gives the styles names in the captions. Not to ruin your viewing pleasure, we list the websites and give music to fit the captions.
The Spectator Australia, a conservative magazine, criticizes the English Wikipedia's coverage of the 2023 Israel–Hamas war as biased. The (paywalled) article examines two existing articles that recently were thrust into the news limelight by the conflict, focusing in particular on the neutrality of their lead sections ("when read time is primarily the first two to three paragraphs on any page, those paragraphs need to include a variety of sources"):
[In the article Gaza Strip,] the initial two paragraphs would lead the reader to think that Israel occupies Gaza since 1967, that Hamas are not a terrorist organisation, and that Israel blocks Gazan land, sea, and air space for no reason at all. To find any mention of the word terrorist (of which there are only two mentions) the reader needs to navigate through over 11,000 words down to near bottom of the page. The word terrorism is not mentioned once despite reference to Hamas control of Gaza since 2007, and sources are predominately from the United Nations which is known for its anti-Israel bias or from the post-Zionist writings of the 'New Israeli Historians' [see New Historians].
(It may seem reasonable to ask whether this Wikipedia article – as it looked like around the Spectator article's publication time – creates a misleading impression for readers without any background knowledge about Hamas. However, the author does not seem to be aware of Wikipedia's general guidelines discouraging the use of terms like "terrorist", and also doesn't mention that the article about Hamas itself contains ample mention of it being described as a terrorist organization by various entities.)
The introductory section gives three references about Ahed portraying her as a Palestinian activist, two sources from Haaretz, and one from The Guardian. Haaretz is an Israeli news source known for its left-wing and liberal stances as is The Guardian – even a search on Wikipedia itself tells you this. There is no counter stance provided about Ahed's alleged family connection to terror. In the section "Early life" there is no mention about her parents encouraging Palestinians to throw stones at Israeli soldiers and berate them. There is no mention of her unrepentant aunt, Ahlam Tamimi, one of the convicted masterminds behind the 2001 Sbarro Pizzeria suicide bombing in Jerusalem that killed and wounded hundreds of Israeli civilians.
[... T]he page is seriously lacking in context and sourcing and is a detriment to the reader. The recent vanishing of Ahed Tamimi's Instagram account following her alleged post stating Israeli settlers should be slaughtered and referencing the Holocaust and Hitler, is nowhere to be mentioned (to date). It is not known if she deleted the Instagram account or if it was suspended. In fact, since I have recently become a Wikipedia editor, here is the discussion on why it is not included [excerpting this talk page section]. [...] The battle between editors over arguments of sources on Ahed's page is illustrative of the dominance some editors have over others.
The author, who identifies as "an advocate for the 'Deleting their Lies' campaign – a group dedicated to tracking and reporting hate speech on social media", concludes: "With growing anti-Semitism worldwide, Wikipedia has become an increasingly risky source on these topics as readers cannot exercise critical thinking with the limited information presented. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is only one such area highlighting this. Currently, it is unwise to blindly trust the Wiki crowd and it should be paramount for Wikipedia editors, new and old, to note all sides of the debate [...]."
The article also contains some general remarks about Wikipedia's importance and alleged ideological bias. As evidence for the latter, it cites two somewhat dated studies by Greenstein and Zhu (see our previous coverage in Recent research: 2015, 2012), Wikipedia's own article Ideological bias on Wikipedia, and criticism by Larry Sanger that had attained media attention in 2021 ("Sanger highlighted the Covid vaccine and the Hunter Biden scandal as examples of topics with left-leaning bias and little debate", see also our own coverage at the time: "Larry Sanger on bias in Wikipedia – with opinion orthodoxy, truth becomes more elusive"). – H
Insolvency is also of benefit to the insolvent, in that it grants him relief in certain respects.1
In broad and everyday terms, a person is insolvent [...]
The Wikimedia Foundation's RamzyM (WMF) last month posted the proposed candidacy process for the 2024 Wikimedia Foundation board election on Meta-Wiki.
Shortlisting candidates (if necessary)
The benchmark is a shortlist of 12 candidates (since there are 4 open seats). After the confirmation of the candidates’ eligibility, the following process would take place.
- If there are more than 15 candidates, trigger an affiliate process that will help to shortlist the candidates using the qualification criteria. This would be how affiliates are involved in a process for “community-and-affiliate seats.” Elections Committee and Affiliates to design the process, and the support team will be responsible for managing and implementing the process.
- PROPOSAL: Iterate the process we used in 2022 for the affiliate process: request 1 representative for each affiliate to provide endorsements (or alternatively, the default contact point from each affiliate can provide endorsements); they could endorse a maximum of 12 candidates and at the end. The top 12 candidates with the most endorsements from affiliates would make up the shortlisted candidates.
- Note: the reason the proposal uses the threshold of 15 candidates to trigger this shortlisting process even though the ideal number is 12 candidates is because the 1-3 candidates that are removed might feel ostracized and it would be a lot of work for affiliates to carry out to only eliminate 1-3 candidates from the candidate list.
- Community questions for candidates
- The Elections Committee can select from the community questions for the candidates to answer (suggested number of questions should be 5-7 total to ensure equity).
- Note: in 2022, there were two separate sets of questions: one from the affiliates, one from the community. In this proposal, there would only be one call for questions (to be shared alongside the call for candidates) whereby anyone – from communities, projects, affiliates, etc. – can suggest questions to ask the candidates.
- The Elections Committee will finalize the list of questions, which will be shared with the shortlisted candidates.
Candidates will provide written responses in English within a specific timeframe. Support staff will coordinate the translation of these responses and upload the English and translated responses to Meta at a designated time.
- “Meet the Candidates” Panel
- Host a panel interview with all shortlisted candidates. This panel will be available virtually with interpretation; and recorded for those who can’t attend live.
- To ensure equity, the questions will be shared with candidates ahead of time so they can prepare. Support staff will facilitate to make sure there is equal airtime for every candidate.
This shortlist method is similar to the procedure used in 2022 to fill two seats that were historically "affiliate seats" (the difference is that the shortlist will now be longer than in 2022). The four seats up for grabs in 2024, however, were historically "community seats" before the Wikimedia Foundation board abolished the distinction between the two types of seats. If the proposed shortlist method is implemented, this will mark the first time that "community seats" will not be subject to a free vote by the volunteer community. – AK
Not quite 3,735,928,559 votes were cast for two recent admin candidates, Wikipedia:Times that 200 Wikipedians supported an RFX.but attendance at the requests was sufficient for both to be listed now at
Both nominations had a certain amount of attention on their technical qualifications: both do advanced technical Wiki-stuff such as operating bots, creating edit filters, or script wrangling. And, of course, they both have "x" in their user names.
But RfA on November 3, breaking the "x" trend and only getting 153 supports (that's a 99% support ratio). They may have also created a new trend. Along with JPxG he is a Signposter, having contributed over a dozen articles to this newspaper before this year. Don't worry, we don't expect this trend to continue – but who knows?passed his
The Signpost congratulates and welcomes the English Wikipedia's three newest administrators.
WikiStats is hiding the number of Russian, Belorussian, and Kazakh contributors by policy because
WMF does not release aggregations of sensitive data in countries identified by independent organizations as potentially dangerous for journalists or internet freedom. In an RfC on Meta, many editors from the affected region objected to this "protection" by a count of 30 to 2:
We, ruwiki contributors, believe that this policy does a lot of harm and no good: Russian Internet users tend to believe that ruwiki is an alien resource, and Russia/Belarus/Kazakhstan has so many ruwiki contributors that it's impossible to get any information about certain user from that generalized statistics.
Remarkably, the first !vote in favor of rescinding the policy reads "Support. Statistics were not needed to put me in prison," by Pessimist2006 (for context, see this Wikipedia article and our own previous coverage). The issue had already been raised back back in May by another editor who related how they frequently "had to explain to my opponents, who showed me this, that no, the Russian Wikipedia is not written only by foreign authors" - apparently without a reaction by the Foundation.
On October 21, WMF Trustee Victoria Doronina (herself a longtime member of the Russian Wikipedia community) stated that "The WMF staff is aware of the RfC and is working on a reply. I know that it doesn't solve the problem, but in the meantime here's some data for Russia in 2022 - 23."
Until around 2013 or 2014, the Foundation regularly published data on the number of edits (rather than editors) by country for each language Wikipedia, but these statistics are no longer being updated.
Try as I might to assume good faith, it's impossible to do so for your tweets of October 22: "I will give them a billion dollars if they (Wikipedia) change their name to Dickipedia" which was followed up by two tweets "(Please add that to the 🐄💩 on my wiki page)" and "In the interests of accuracy".
The only way to interpret those tweets is that they are intentional insults to all Wikipedians. You are effectively calling me and all Wikipedia editors "dicks" on a platform that you control where millions of people can view the insult within hours. Ten days later the tweets had been viewed 18.5 million times.
And you start with a reminder of your wealth "I will give them a billion dollars", letting us know that you are a big shot. In fact, you are now the richest man in the world, according to both Forbes and Bloomberg. Most people don't like it when some rich person insults them and uses their money to justify the insult.
A fundamental tenet of Wikipedia, known as "assume good faith" or AGF, instructs us to assume good faith on your part, but that's just not possible in this case. As the saying goes "AGF is not a suicide pact". But there are other fundamental policies that you should know about. First you need to know what you have done wrong, what rules you've broken. That's pretty simple here — the flip side of AGF, "don't be a jerk" is the basis of all of our behavioral rules. Originally this rule was known as "don't be a dick", which might seem more appropriate in this case. But the rule's name was changed after a few years, because naming this policy in a discussion was considered calling someone a dick: a "dickish move" as the argument for changing the title went. You can see the quandary this can cause. It's difficult to even talk about the problem with your tweets. So let's just use the new name: "don't be a jerk". The idea behind that policy is easy to explain. Just view the video shown at the top of this page, that's been included in the policy since March 2018.
Another standard rule that you have violated regards inappropriate canvassing. It simply says that if you have a disagreement about Wikipedia, don't call out to everybody you know who agrees with you to change the disputed article. And don't even think about telling them to put 🐄💩 into an article. You are not the first person to try canvassing like this. Soon after Wikipedia was founded, radio talk show hosts would run out of anything interesting to say, so they would talk about something they disagreed with on Wikipedia. Then they would call on their listeners to vandalize one of our articles. So we were forced to create the "inappropriate canvassing" rule.
I shouldn't pile on by naming all the rules that you may have broken, but your phrase "my wiki page" particularly irks me. The policy you have broken prohibits article ownership. We edit collaboratively. It is not your wiki page — you don't own it. It is Wikipedia's article about you.
There is also a rule about autobiography that you should know about, which contains a literary quote as a perfect explanation about why we need it.
It is said that Zaphod Beeblebrox's birth was marked by earthquakes, tidal waves, tornadoes, firestorms, the explosion of three neighbouring stars, and, shortly afterwards, by the issuing of over six and three quarter million writs for damages from all of the major landowners in his Galactic sector. However, the only person by whom this is said is Beeblebrox himself, and there are several possible theories to explain this.
— The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Fit the Ninth
Wikipedians are accustomed to dealing with people who act like jerks and don't follow our rules. The first time you break the rules, you'll usually be let off with a warning. Consider this letter to be a warning.
In fact, there is an interpretation of the rules — and people who will argue this interpretation — that you haven't broken any rules at all. It is implicit in every rule that you have to edit Wikipedia to break the rules. But Wikipedians interpret the rules on a case-by-case basis, and ultimately look to the spirit of any rule, rather than any technicalities. Nothing "implicit" need apply.
There is only one case that I know of where a person who hadn't been proved to have edited Wikipedia has been blocked. This is the case of the paid editing company Wiki-PR, which used hundreds of undeclared paid sockpuppets to insert bias and advertising into articles.
While we blocked all the paid socks, as is normal, we also blocked the company as a whole, including the owners who might not have done any actual editing, and most people associated with the company.
Employees, contractors, owners, and anyone who derives financial benefit from editing the English Wikipedia on behalf of Wiki-PR.com or its founders are banned from editing the English Wikipedia. This ban has been enacted because Wiki-PR.com has, as an organization, proven themselves repeatedly unable or unwilling to adhere to our basic community standards.
— WP:ANI on October 13, 2013 and The Wall Street Journal
The most irksome part of your behavior is that you didn't need to do any of it. If you want to influence how an article is presented in our encyclopedia, all you have to do is start editing, while following a few of the basic rules as stated above. Anybody in the world can try to influence how an article is edited if they follow the rules. But please remember that your preferences are not any more important than anybody else's, per "no ownership" and "don't be a jerk".
It's best to create an account first so that people can't track your IP address and so that you can get messages on your own talk page. If you want the username User:ElonMusk, there are some minor procedures to go through so that people won't impersonate you. It's a bit like that blue checkmark as it used to apply on Twitter.
At this point you should read our policies on conflict of interest and paid-editing. If you want to edit the article about yourself, or about the companies you own, you will need to comply with the conflict-of-interest guideline and likely the paid-editing policy, which is also part of the site's terms-of-use.
In short, you should not edit the affected pages. Rather you can just edit the talk page, identify yourself as an editor with a conflict of interest, and make a polite and detailed request of how you want to have the article changed.
You'll likely not want to do this yourself. After all, your time is worth a lot of money. So you are allowed to hire a paid editor to do the same thing for you. There's really only one strict requirement — the paid editor must declare that you are paying them, or that you are the client (or both). There's no anonymity for the employer or the client. Also, it's best that you only hire one paid editor at a time. If they work together, or make another editing mistake, or engage in any type of deception, they'll both likely be blocked as sockpuppets. And please make sure that they realize that they have no special privileges on Wikipedia. They must follow all Wikipedia rules in addition to the paid editing rule.
There's a lot of material covered here, so let's do a quick review. You need to respect the following rules if you want to influence article editing on Wikipedia:
It's really not that hard to understand. I hope you'll join us in improving Wikipedia, while following the rules that apply to everybody.
After ten months of creating, expanding and reviewing articles, the 2023 edition of the WikiCup, the English Wikipedia's annual editing competition, has concluded.
The new champion of Wikipedia is ... (drum roll) ... myself? I never saw that one coming — especially considering that I was the last person to qualify in Round 3, as well as the last in Round 4 — but yes. I, BeanieFan11, am now the 14th champion in the WikiCup's history; second place honors went to Thebiguglyalien, followed by Epicgenius in third.
Over the course of the competition, editors achieved 60 featured articles, 15 featured lists, six featured pictures, 397 good articles, over 300 Did you know entries, and 120 In the news articles; the competition also led to 545 good article reviews and 298 featured article reviews, so clearly this resulted in great improvement to the encyclopedia!
Do you ever wonder where Wikipedia articles come from? With a world of knowledge to represent, it’s a big question. In my role at Wiki Education, I am especially concerned with Wikipedia being an equitable and representative resource. Whether it’s a museum of paintings, a library full of volumes of books, or an online encyclopedia, systematic bias is inherent in every collection. And Wikipedia is not immune to it. So when we think about where Wikipedia articles come from, another question we must answer is how do we ensure Wikipedia has articles to make it a more representative resource?
With support from the Nielsen Foundation's Data for Good grants program, I have been developing a Wikipedia resource that encourages editors to create articles to improve representation of diverse groups and topics on Wikipedia. We have been inspired by some of the amazing projects that are already working to address this issue on Wikipedia — Women in Red, Art + Feminism, and Black Lunch Table, to name a few. It's our hope that this tool can complement the work of these projects.
Specifically, Women in Red uses Wikidata, the linked data knowledge base that connects all Wikimedia projects, to generate lists of articles that could exist in English Wikipedia, but don't yet. Building on their efforts, we are creating a resource that allows community members to do the same thing, but with a broader scope of demographic variables. In addition to individuals who identify as women, we have constructed pages that list thousands of potential articles based around sexual orientation, nationality, disability status, and ethnicity.
These lists query the other language versions of Wikipedia and pull only the results that don’t have English language articles. From there, community members can select individuals and generate English language versions of the articles. Since these articles exist in other language versions of Wikipedia, the idea is they already pass notability and have references. The article writing process will still take time, but it saves some effort in not starting from scratch. Check out our the lists here.
I know what you’re thinking — can this get any cooler? And the answer is yes! Wiki Education has been developing and maintaining the Dashboard for the past few years. The Dashboard allows instructors and individuals to create courses that are scoped to a set of students, Wikipedians, edit-a-thon attendees, and so on — basically any set of individuals that want to participate in whatever the course is. Another feature is the ability to frame a course around a list of articles. Using the same query from our resource, anyone using a Dashboard can scope it to one of the lists we’ve developed. The idea here is to encourage Dashboard users to select articles about underrepresented groups or individuals, and write them for English Wikipedia. Follow this link for an example of an article-scoped Dashboard. Heads up — clicking the PSID list will take some time to load, because it is large.
And this, dear readers, is one place where Wikipedia articles come from.
The main idea is we’re building a tool that encourages community members to write articles to increase the visibility of diverse groups and topics on Wikipedia. We’re doing this using Wikidata, queries, a list tool called Listeria, articles scoping on the Dashboard, and the hard work of anyone taking a Dashboard course or attending an event that uses the Dashboard. Although systemic bias and underrepresentation will remain a significant problem on Wikipedia and beyond, we hope this tool can push new and old users alike to edit in a way that helps to improve representation on the platform. As the community and these tools mature, we also hope others can refine and adapt it to their specific needs. An amazing thing about pulling from Wikidata is that users can narrow and expand queries to generate new lists. These lists are configured to improve English Wikipedia, but in a snap they can point to other language versions.
We're still tinkering and ironing out the wrinkles, but we hope you can start taking advantage of it now! Get ready to make some edits.
This post was originally published on the Wiki Education blog on August 31st, 2023.
A monthly overview of recent academic research about Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, also published as the Wikimedia Research Newsletter.
A paper in the American Political Science Review (considered a flagship journal in political science), titled "Rule Ambiguity, Institutional Clashes, and Population Loss: How Wikipedia Became the Last Good Place on the Internet"
[...] shows that the English Wikipedia transformed its content over time through a gradual reinterpretation of its ambiguous Neutral Point of View (NPOV) guideline, the core rule regarding content on Wikipedia. This had meaningful consequences, turning an organization that used to lend credence and false balance to pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, and extremism into a proactive debunker, fact-checker and identifier of fringe discourse. There are several steps to the transformation. First, Wikipedians disputed how to apply the NPOV rule in specific instances in various corners of the encyclopedia. Second, the earliest contentious disputes were resolved against Wikipedians who were more supportive of or lenient toward conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, and conservatism, and in favor of Wikipedians whose understandings of the NPOV guideline were decisively anti-fringe. Third, the resolutions of these disputes enhanced the institutional power of the latter Wikipedians, whereas it led to the demobilization and exit of the pro-fringe Wikipedians. A power imbalance early on deepened over time due to disproportionate exits of demotivated, unsuccessful pro-fringe Wikipedia editors. Fourth, this meant that the remaining Wikipedia editor population, freed from pushback, increasingly interpreted and implemented the NPOV guideline in an anti-fringe manner. This endogenous process led to a gradual but highly consequential reinterpretation of the NPOV guideline throughout the encyclopedia.
The author provides ample empirical evidence supporting this description.
First, "to document a transformation in Wikipedia's content," the study examined 63 articles "on topics that have been linked to pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, extremism, and fringe rhetoric in public discourse", across different areas ("health, climate, gender, sexuality, race, abortion, religion, politics, international relations, and history"). Their lead sections were coded according to a 5-category scheme "reflect[ing] varying degrees of neutrality":
The results of these evaluations, tracking changes over time from 2001 to 2020, are detailed in a 110-page supplement, and summarized in the paper itself for nine of the articles (Table 1) - all of which moved over time in the anti-fringe direction (see illustration above for the article homeopathy).
To explain these changes in Wikipedia's content over the years, the author used a process tracing approach to show
[...] that early outcomes of disputes over rule interpretations in different corners of the encyclopedia demobilized certain types of editors (while mobilizing others) and strengthened certain understandings of Wikipedia’s ambiguous rules (while weakening others). Over time, Wikipedians who supported fringe content departed or were ousted.
Specifically, the author "classif[ied] editors into the Anti-Fringe camp (AF) and the Pro-Fringe camp (PF)". The AF camp is described as "editors who were anti-conspiracy theories, anti-pseudoscience, and liberal", whereas the PF camp consists of "Editors who were more supportive of conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, and conservatism."
To classify editors into these two camps, the paper uses a variety of data sources, including the talk pages of the 63 articles and related discussions on noticeboards such as those about the NPOV and BLP (biographies of living persons) policies, the administrator's noticeboard, and "lists of editors brought up in arbitration committee rulings." This article-specific data was augmented by "a sample of referenda where editors are implicitly asked whether they support a pro- or anti-fringe interpretation of the NPOV guideline."
(Unfortunately, the paper's replication data does not include this editor-level classification data – in contrast to the content classifications data, which, as mentioned is rather thoroughly documented in the supplementary material. One might suspect IRB concerns, but the author "affirms this research did not involve human subjects" and it was therefore presumably not subject to IRB review.)
Tracking the contribution histories of these editors, the paper finds
The key piece of evidence is that PF members disappear over time in the wake of losses, both voluntarily and involuntarily. PF members are those who vote affirmatively for policies that normalize or lend credence to fringe viewpoints, who edit such content into articles, and who vote to defend fellow members of PF when there are debates as to whether they engaged in wrongdoing. Members of AF do the opposite.
The paper states that pro-fringe editors resorted to three choices: "fight back", "withdraw" and "acquiesce" (similar to the Exit, Voice, and Loyalty framework).
The author hypothesizes that
The causal mechanism for the gradual disappearance is that early losses demotivated members from PF or led to their sanctioning, whereas members of AF were empowered by early victories. As exits of PF members mount across the encyclopedia, the community increasingly adopts AF’s viewpoints as the way that the NPOV guideline should be understood.
To support this interpretation, the paper presents a more qualitative analysis of the English Wikipedia's trajectory over time:
The author also discusses and rejects various alternative explanations for "why content on the English Wikipedia transformed drastically over time." For example, he argues that while "Donald Trump’s 2016 election, the 2016 Brexit referendum, and the emergence of 'fake news' websites" around that time may have impacted Wikipedia editors' stances, this would not explain the more gradual changes over two decades that the paper identifies.
As readers might have noticed above, the author includes political coordinates in his conception of "fringe" ("more supportive of conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, and conservatism") and "anti-fringe" ("anti-conspiracy theories, anti-pseudoscience, and liberal"). This is introduced rather casually in the paper without much justification. (It also puts the finding of a general move towards "anti-fringe" somewhat into contrast with some older research by Greenstein and Zhu. They had concluded back in 2012 that the bias of Wikipedia's articles about US politics was moving from left to right, although this effect was mainly driven by creation of new articles with a pro-Republican bias. In a later paper, the same authors confirmed that on an individual level, "most articles change only mildly from their initial slant.")
Even if one takes into account that the present paper was published in the American Political Science Review, and accepts that in the current US political environment, support for conspiracy theories and pseudoscience might be much more prevalent on the right, that would still raise the question how much these results generalize to other countries, time periods or language Wikipedias – or indeed topics of English Wikipedia that are less prominent in American culture wars.
Indeed, in the "Conclusion" section where the author argues that his Wikipedia-based results "can plausibly help to explain institutional change in other contexts", he himself brings up several examples where the political coordinates are reversed and the "anti-fringe" side that gradually gains dominance is situated further to the right. These include the US Republican Party in itself, where "Trump critics [i.e. the "pro-Fringe" side in this context] have opted to retire rather than use their position to steer the movement in a direction that they find more palatable", and "illiberal regimes within the European Union have gradually been strengthened as dissatisfied citizens migrate from authoritarian states to liberal states."
As these examples show, the consolidation mechanism described by the paper may not be an unambiguously good thing, regardless of one's political views. For Wikipedians, this raises the question of how to balance these dynamics with important values such as inclusivity and openness. But also, the paper reminds one that inclusivity and openness are not unambiguously beneficial either, by demonstrating how by reducing these in some aspects, the English Wikipedia succeeded in becoming the "last good place on the internet."
See also a short presentation about this paper at this year's Wikimania (where Benjamin Mako Hill called it a "great example of how political scientists are increasingly learning from us [Wikipedia]")
Other recent publications that could not be covered in time for this issue include the items listed below. Contributions, whether reviewing or summarizing newly published research, are always welcome.
From the abstract:
"[...] this study collected comprehensive global news coverage and Wikipedia coverage of top US political news events from 2015 to 2020. Time series analysis found that none of the media types (Wikipedia, elite media, and non-elite media) exhibited dominant agenda-setting power, while each of them can lead the agenda in certain circumstances. [...] This article proposed a multi-agent and multidirectional network architecture to describe agenda-setting relationships. We also highlighted four unique characteristics of Wikipedia that matter for digital journalism."
From the abstract:
This study builds on the theory of stigmergy, wherein actions performed by a participant leave traces on a knowledge artifact and stimulate succeeding actions. We find that stigmergy involves two intertwined processes: collective modification and collective excitation. We propose a new measure of stigmergy based on the spatial and temporal clustering of contributions. By analyzing thousands of Wikipedia articles, we find that the degree of stigmergy is positively associated with community members’ participation and the quality of the knowledge produced.
From the abstract:
"This paper presents a media biography of Wikipedia’s data that focuses on the interpretative flexibility of Wikipedia and digital knowledge between the years 2001 and 2022. [....] Through an eclectic corpus of project websites, new articles, press releases, and blogs, I demonstrate the unexpected ways the online encyclopedia has permeated throughout digital culture over the past twenty years through projects like the Citizendium, Everipedia, Google Search and AI software. As a result of this analysis, I explain how this array of meanings and materials constitutes the Wikipedia imaginaire: a collective activity of sociotechnical development that is fundamental to understanding the ideological and utopian meaning of knowledge with digital culture."
For once, we've managed a complete featured content, everything described, including the lists. Which I may have guaranteed by doing lists first, but must thank Quicole and JPxG for their work in helping me finish this. It's been a rough week.
Fifteen featured articles were promoted this period.
Eleven featured pictures were promoted this period, including the ones at the top and bottom of this article.
Thirteen featured lists were promoted this period.
The presence of systemic bias on Wikipedia has been well-established by several studies. Most studies demonstrate simple quantitative bias by noting that a particular class of articles has fewer instances than another similar class (e.g. there are more biographies about men than women, and there are more articles about Paris than all of Africa).
Qualitative bias in article content (i.e. biased information in existing articles) is more difficult to assess. Creation of new articles helps address simple quantitative bias in the number of articles, but it does not independently remedy bias in the encyclopedia if those articles are orphaned or poorly interlinked. Integration of missing topics requires an assessment of due weight to determine where, for example, a new biography about a female mathematician should be linked from articles about her area of expertise, awards she won, or other mathematicians she may have influenced. It's also possible that some of her works would meet notability guidelines (WP:BK) and are also missing. The complexity of this situation means that assessing qualitative bias on the basis of even a limited class of articles (e.g. 1,000 women mathematicians) quickly implicates many thousands of other articles outside that class.
I propose a systematic approach for assessing bias by using Wikidata to create an ontological map of related articles. This approach generates a set of statements that could potentially be missing from the encyclopedia, and is intended to be a step toward assessing qualitative bias in large sets of articles. In combination with a separate assessment of sources to determine due weight (only marginally developed here) this approach could lay a foundation for identifying and integrating missing information from large sets of articles and help counter systemic bias (WP:CSB).
For this exercise, I examined articles related to environmental conflicts and environmental justice. Wikipedia is overwhelmingly created by white males in Europe and North America – a demographic that generally benefits from environmental injustice. Information about Indigenous people and the Global South is notably absent, creating gaps in knowledge about those portions of the world that bear the burdens of environmental injustice. There are about 4,000 environmental conflicts currently listed in the Environmental Justice Atlas, and the number is growing. Given the complexity discussed above, these 4,000 conflicts could have implications for tens of thousands of articles (some existing, and some missing) about environmental justice campaigns, resource extraction projects (e.g. mines, pipelines, gas fields), notable environmental defenders (individuals and organizations), corporations, commodities, disasters and other events, threatened ecosystems, and more.
For this exercise, I examined 800 environmental conflicts from the EJAtlas to determine how they were represented on Wikipedia and Wikidata. I used script-aided matching to iteratively sort the conflicts and establish an ontological structure comprising statements that define relationships between entities. Wikidata statements have a subject-predicate-object format: for example the relationship, "The Escobal mine protests oppose the Escobal mine" is represented as: Q106830477 Escobal mine protests — P5004 in opposition to — Q16957078 Escobal mine. That statement does not exist in Wikidata at the time of this writing.
After compiling the list of conflict titles, I queried them in the English Wikipedia, returning the two most relevant matches. Of these conflicts, 488 returned at least one proposed matching entity (61%). I then sorted through the conflicts, to remove false positives and confirm that the proposed matches clearly related to the EJAtlas conflict title. This process confirmed the match for about 20% of the EJAtlas conflicts; two thirds of the initial 488 results were potentially false positives.
Following this initial matching, I reduced the size of the set to the first 250 conflicts (including unmatched conflicts), and developed a second script that enabled matching of multiple entities to a single conflict and placement of the matched entities into one of several categories:
To aid accurate and detailed matching, this script also provided a text input and one-click querying to retrieve additional information about the conflicts: up to five relevant Wikipedia entities, the lead paragraph of a Wikipedia article, the lead paragraph of an EJAtlas description, or the company name from a Wikipedia infobox.[a]
I was able to match 161 entities to 113 conflicts (from the reduced set of 250, so 45% of conflicts were matched with at least one entity, up from 20% in the first iteration.) Forty-eight conflicts (20% of the set) were matched to more than one entity. Most of the 161 entities were projects (45%) or companies (26%).
I used these matches to generate a partial ontology for 250 conflicts consisting of 481 relationships, including 250 general statements establishing the conflicts themselves. Very few of these statements are presently included on Wikidata, although a few were added during the activity. Many of the conflicts remain undefined, and some properties that seem integral to environmental conflict ontologies do not exist.
|Partial ontology for 250 conflicts|
|Number of statements|
Q106830477 Escobal mine protests
|in opposition to P5004||Project
Q16957078 Escobal mine
Q7675621 Tahoe Resources
Q4807540 Asociación pola defensa da ría
|advocates for P2650 interested in
participant in P1344
Q3326808 Ria de Pontevedra
EJAtlas ID 76,(Pontevedra industrial complex)
Q945954 Penobscot River
|polluted by (property does not exist)||Project
Old Town paper mill Q122334386
Q5101849 Chirano gold mine
|owned by P127||Company
Q546880 Kinross Gold
|participant in P1344||Conflict
EJAtlas ID 172 (Uranium in Gabon)
Q2219131 Paraguaná Refinery Complex
or significant event P793
Q5803217 Amuay tragedy
EJAtlas ID 120 (Demeter International Katondo Farm)
|has location P276
or advocates for P2650
Q3364406 Bwabwata National Park
Q115812365 Earlimart pesticide poisoning
Q109968152 Pesticide incidents in the San Joaquin Valley (EJAtlas ID 140)
Conflict is an instance of (P31) environmental conflict (Q5683226).
These statements are a small portion of all possible relationships that could comprise environmental conflict ontologies; they were chosen to illustrate the process and to (mostly) make use of existing Wikidata relationships more than to recommend a particular ontological structure. Obviously, a different set of relationships would have to be derived for a different set of articles (such as that for female mathematicians discussed above).
The low matching rate found in this activity limits possible statements, and is at least partially due to poor coverage of environmental conflicts on Wikimedia platforms.[b] Although this experiment did not systematically determine what proportion of missing conflicts would meet general notability guidelines (GNG), only seven articles about a conflict were found in the final set of 250 conflicts for which an ontology was generated (7/250 = 3%).[c] Given that the EJAtlas is a moderated platform that requires secondary sourcing, and that conflicts in general are frequently newsworthy topics of discussion in academic literature, this rate seems absurdly low. I did identify several missing entities that met GNG and worked with another editor to create articles for them.[d] Since notability requirements for Wikidata are lower, presence of a conflict in the EJAtlas is sufficient to establish a conflict entity as an instance of (P31) environmental conflict (Q5683226). The statements proposed above assume that these entities would be created on the basis of the EJAtlas entry.
This examination suggests that Wikipedia's coverage of environmental conflict is poor. It also suggests that without further script development, it would take a little over fifty hours of work to accurately match about half of the conflicts listed in the EJAtlas to at least one existing Wikidata entity. Accurate and efficient matching of the remaining 50% (and more complete matching in general) would probably require additional development. These matches could be used to facilitate an information exchange between the EJAtlas and Wikipedia that has potential to improve the quality of information on both platforms.[e]
This work could set a foundation for correction of bias in coverage of environmental conflicts in Wikipedia by identifying entities that are missing entirely, or articles that may lack information about environmental conflict. The structured relationships also provide a framework that should facilitate script-aided editing to establish the missing information (in combination with further development to identify supporting sources).
In order to evaluate whether a missing entity meets GNG, relevant sources would have to be assessed. That assessment is mostly beyond the scope of this exercise, but I did develop a script to extract sources from an EJAtlas entry about a conflict. Similar scripts could be developed to identify relevant sources on Google Scholar or other databases, and these tools should make it relatively easy to establish whether a particular entity meets GNG — although that assessment is frequently subjective, as evidenced by many impassioned debates at AFD! Assessing due weight for inclusion of a conflict (or any concept) in other related articles is much more difficult, though tools could and should be developed to aid that assessment.
It would be possible to extend this methodology to any class of articles likely to suffer from systemic bias in its representation on the encyclopedia. Our earlier example of women mathematicians could be represented as an ontology consisting of biographies that are related by statements about mathematical concepts, other biographies, places, awards, books, and technologies. In the case of environmental conflicts, the EJAtlas makes it easier to organise this information and provides a resource for identifying many of the related entities. For other sets, a similar resource would be helpful.
In the case of environmental conflict, some care is warranted to ensure that we develop an ontological structure that minimises harm. The central question is which categories should be differentiated and which should remain ambiguous. Within the platforms explored here, conflicts and conflictive projects are frequently conflated. My initial experiment conflated conflicts and disasters (in the single category of events), though I differentiated these categories in the final iteration. Any structure will erase certain distinctions while preserving others, and this erasure has the potential to do harm.
In view of the ongoing violence of environmental injustice and the possibility that this work could reduce harm by making information about that violence more accessible—as well as the reality that some of this ontology is already implicit in the existing structure of Wikidata, Wikipedia, and the EJAtlas—continued development of this approach seems worthwhile; but it will require additional attention to details about the ontological structure. I doubt quandaries about how to structure these relationships will have clear and unambiguous answers.
It is also true that sorting through large sets of articles is a lot of work; and perhaps a more organic and less systematic approach could eventually address systemic bias. But given how little attention this problem seems to get (WP:CSB has struggled to remain viable for years, and it teeters on the edge of inactivity); and given the scale of the problem, some organised and systematic approach carried out by a small number of editors seems advisable. This approach is intended to save labour in the long run by facilitating script-aided editing.
|1||2023 Cricket World Cup||3,937,866||It may have taken three weeks, but the latest edition of the premier cricket tournament finally made it to the top of this list. Last week witnessed some big upsets, with Afghanistan beating the reigning champions England, and South Africa losing to the Netherlands. On the other hand, India and New Zealand have remain unbeaten after four games each, but one of them will lose that streak when the two teams face each other on Sunday.|
|2||Suzanne Somers||2,539,567||'Had Somers died in 1993, her achievements would have been immortal. Had she died in 2003 she would still have been a great actress but flawed. But she died in 2023. Alas, what can one say?' Paraphrases about Chairman Mao aside, actress and health and wellness businesswoman Suzanne Somers died at 76 of cancer.|
|3||Leo (2023 Indian film)||2,458,805||Kollywood returns with another action film. This one stars Vijay, and is directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj, whose previous film topped this list last year, and this one would have probably done the same if not for sports and deaths. A sequel is already in the works.|
|4||Cricket World Cup||2,358,550||Brought to this list by #1.|
|5||2023 Israel–Hamas war||1,759,278||The latest Middle Eastern conflict continues, with rockets flying, thousands of civilians dying, both sides accused of committing war crimes by the other side and being called out for their misdeeds (the extremist group who rules the Gaza Strip and struck first for terrorism, Israel for continuous occupation of territories recognized as Palestinian that tends to turn violent).|
|8||State of Palestine||1,495,597|
|9||The Fall of the House of Usher (miniseries)||1,457,045||A Netflix miniseries based on The Fall of the House of Usher and other works by the Gothic fiction writer Edgar Allan Poe was released on October 12.|
|10||David Beckham||1,453,522||One more week for the footballer chronicled in Netflix's Beckham. And it's nice that the miniseries features a clip from the hilarious interview Posh and Becks gave to Ali G.|
|1||2023 Cricket World Cup||4,201,290||One more week of India receiving the world championship of its national pastime. The hosts have won all their games so far, and surprisingly defending champions England have only one win in six matches!|
|2||Cricket World Cup||2,927,565|
|3||Leo (2023 Indian film)||2,595,951||Still in India, a Kollywood action thriller based on A History of Violence starring Vijay, that is also a sequel to last year's Vikram and part of a franchise known as the "Lokiverse" (a name which Hollywood's Loki would probably want for himself and his show). Leo is the fifth highest-grossing Indian film of the year so far, and who knows if it can take fourth from another movie that spent a while in this list, Jailer.|
|4||Mike Johnson (politician)||1,753,392||The new Speaker of the U.S. House, and the first from the state of Louisiana, was elected on the fourth ballot. He is the most junior representative to be elected speaker since 1883.|
|5||Killers of the Flower Moon (film)||1,716,626||Martin Scorsese made his third 3-hour movie in a decade, an adaptation of a novel that itself was inspired by the true story of the Osage Indian murders that happened in 1920s Oklahoma after oil was found on the Osage Nation's land. While big chunks of Killers of the Flower Moon could be cut with no loss, it's a worthwile watch, helped by an exceptional cast led by Marty's two favorite actors: Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio. The studio arm of the biggest company in the world could easily spend $200 million in the picture, and while it might not make as much in theaters between its length and competition with among others #9, the praise received by Killers of the Flower Moon makes it a certain awards contender.|
|6||Five Nights at Freddy's (film)||1,225,895||Coming in at number 6 is a heartwarming (if you ignore all of the murder and jumpscares) movie about an older brother (played by Josh Hutcherson) reconnecting with his younger sister (played by Piper Rubio) while fighting ghost robots and Shaggy Afton. MatPat appears in a cameo role, having made numerous videos about the FNAF franchise at the height of its popularity. Markiplier was also supposed to have a cameo as a security guard, but he had to decline due to scheduling conflicts.|
|7||2023 Israel–Hamas war||968,300||The latest Middle Eastern war sadly continues, with thousands of civilians dying in bombings and many more being displaced, and now Israel has sent ground troops and tanks into Gaza to rescue its hostages.|
|8||Deaths in 2023||938,672||And it's true that you've reached the better place|
Still, I'd give the world to see your face
And be right here next to you
But it's like you've gone too soon and the hardest thing to do is say bye
|9||Taylor Swift||859,140||Along with wrecking the box office with Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (which has led in North America for two straight weeks and also surpassed $186 million worldwide), the singer released her fifth re-recorded album 1989 (Taylor's Version) (even if there's nothing less necessary than extra versions of "Shake It Off" and "Bad Blood"), which soon broke streaming records, while her viral 2019 track "Cruel Summer" currently occupies the top spot on the Billboard charts.|
|10||David Beckham||856,673||Netflix's documentary miniseries Beckham keeps its subject one more week. The footballer was a fan of someone who'll rank highly next week.|
For the September 30 – October 30 period, per this database report.
|2023 Israel–Hamas war||7495||As if it could've been anything else but the latest flare-up in the Israel-Palestine conflict, that needs constant updates regarding military developments and international reactions.|
|Deaths in 2023||2319||Among the deceased of October were the aforementioned Suzanne Somers, and also Bobby Charlton, Dick Butkus, Tim Wakefield and Richard Roundtree.|
|October 2023 Speaker of the United States House of Representatives election||2261||After Kevin McCarthy was removed from his post, an emergency election was held, eventually promoting Mike Johnson of Louisiana.|
|India at the 2022 Asian Games||2259||India had its performance at the continental games, with over 100 medals and ranking fourth overall.|
|Al-Ahli Arab Hospital explosion||1528||One of the worst moments of the current war in the Holy Land, as a hospital already damaged by a Israeli rocket was hit head-on by a missile of undetermined origin (Hamas blamed Israel, who in turn said it was a Gaza rocket that malfunctioned and fell), causing hundreds of deaths.|
|Legalism (Chinese philosophy)||1381||FourLights continues to expand and clean up this page.|
|United States at the 2023 Pan American Games||1283||Santiago, Chile is taking in sports from all the Americas in the 2023 Pan American Games. The sports potencies of North (even if the USA mostly brought B-list athletes) and South (in fact, the hosts are one of the only two nations in the continent that Brazil doesn't border) America lead the medal count.|
|Brazil at the 2023 Pan American Games||1242|
|Bigg Boss (Tamil season 7)||1179||The latest edition of India's version of Big Brother, airing on Star Vijay.|
|2023 Lewiston shootings||1107||40-year-old Robert Card was the lone gunman that killed 18 and injured 13 in a bowling alley and a restaurant on October 25. A intensive manhunt soon followed, and Card was found dead in an apparent suicide in Lisbon, Maine two days later.|
|Mike Johnson (politician)||1085||The latest Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and a fairly minor politician before, with Senator Susan Collins downright telling a CNN reporter that she doesn't know Johnson and was going to Google him.|
|List of Cricket World Cup records||965||The 2023 Cricket World Cup inspires updates on these lists.|
|2023 Cricket World Cup statistics||953|
|Leo (2023 Indian film)||925||Kollywood fans update as the latest in the Lokesh Cinematic Universe picks up the crore.|
|List of NBA regular season records||811||As the 2023-24 NBA season starts, BeFriendlyGoodSir decided to expand this list of basketball achievements.|