In the media
Lawyer goes to court to discover Wikipedian's identity; Storming Wikipedia; Wikimedia UK Secretary in conflict-of-interest controversy; Does Wikipedia need a "right to reply" box?
Lawyer wants Wikipedia editor's identity revealed
The National Law Journal reported on September 9 that lawyer Susan L. Burke has been taking legal steps to discover the identity of Wikipedia editor Zujua. Zujua had edited her biography, allegedly adding misleading content about various lawsuits in the process:
||Burke was hired in 2009 by the families of victims of shootings in Iraq to sue private security contractor Blackwater Inc., now known as Academi LLC. The cases settled in 2010. Around the same time, the U.S. Department of Justice was prosecuting Blackwater security guards for the killing of Iraqi civilians. In late 2009, a federal district judge dismissed the government's case, finding that prosecutors improperly used statements made by the defendants. The criminal case was later reinstated.
In 2012, according to Burke's complaint, the Wikipedia editor Zujua edited Burke's page, adding a section incorrectly tying the ruling dismissing the government's case to Burke's civil lawsuit. Burke removed the section. Several months later, a Wikipedia editor known as CapBasics359 removed Burke's edits and repeatedly republished the inaccurate information over Burke's objections, Burke alleged. "The frustration of dealing with Wikipedia led her to file the suit, mostly in an effort to find out who was doing it," said Burke's lawyer, William O'Neil of The O'Neil Group in Washington.
Zujua's edits to Burke's biography are still available in the page history, and appear to bear out her complaint.
The Wikimedia Foundation itself is protected from legal responsibility for Wikipedia content by the safe harbor of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which states "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."
The legal protection of the Act has been tested several times in court, most notably in 2008 in Bauer v. Wikimedia. Legal responsibility for edits rests solely with the editor who makes them. Burke therefore subpoenaed the Wikimedia Foundation for information on Zujua and CapBasics359 after filing suit in September 2012. CapBasics359 did not contest the subpoena, but all Burke's lawyers learned was that the edits had been made by an unknown person from a Starbucks in California.
Zujua on the other hand challenged the subpoena. The Center for Individual Rights (see their comments on the case) argued on Zujua's behalf that his edits were protected free speech about an issue involving a public figure: "We view this as having the effect of chilling the free speech rights of other Wikipedia editors who will hesitate to edit on matters of public concern for fear of being sued if they make a mistake."
The judge, however, disagreed:
||District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Maurice Ross sided with Burke in January. Ross found that Zujua failed to prove the Wikipedia edits constituted protected speech, since Burke wasn't a public figure. Moreover, the judge said, Zujua hadn't shown his statements weren't commercially motivated—another factor under the anti-SLAPP law—and that Burke had proved she was likely to succeed.
Zujua has appealed. Arguments were scheduled to be heard in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals later this month—first of all, to decide whether Zujua in fact has the right to appeal the decision—but according to a September 12 post on the blog of the Legal Times, the court has asked for additional briefs and said it would reschedule the hearing.
After positive coverage in the past weeks (see Signpost coverage two weeks ago and last week), Fox News, FrontPage Magazine and Patheos.com took a more skeptical view of FemTechNet's "Storming Wikipedia" this week, portraying it as an effort to insert feminist and left-wing propaganda into Wikipedia, rather than an effort aimed at addressing Wikipedia's existing gender imbalance.
Fox News quoted Katherine Timpf, a reporter for CampusReform.org, "They're more concerned with making it politically correct than factually correct. This is the opposite of what [students] should be taught."
Gene Veith on patheos.com asked,
||What if Christians were to storm Wikipedia, writing their thinking into the entries? I assume that would not be academically acceptable. (Would it be theologically acceptable, since Christianity holds to objective truth and doesn't need to be advanced by propaganda, as radical ideologies do? Or should Christians also storm Wikipedia?)
I wonder which ideologies would be an acceptable basis for re-writing according to the prestigious universities offering academic credit for this. Could there be a course storming Wikipedia from the perspective of Marxists? (I suspect that would be all right. ) Or libertarians? (I don't think so.) Or animal rights activists? (Of course.) Or political conservatives? (That would be corporate manipulation!) Wouldn't contributors who push an ideological agenda be the death of Wikipedia? The Bastille was not just stormed; it was destroyed.
FrontPage Magazine published two pieces commenting on the initiative, "Wikipedia and left's propaganda innovations" by Daniel Greenfield and "Colleges recruiting students to propagandize Wikipedia" by Ben Shapiro.
Wikimedia UK Secretary appointed chief executive of UK public relations body
An article on TheDrum.com published on August 27 reported that the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), a professional body for public relations practitioners in the UK, has appointed Alastair McCapra, the current Wikimedia UK Secretary, as its new chief executive, replacing Jane Wilson.
The appointment, due to become effective in November 2013, has been discussed at the Wikimedia UK Watercooler page and on Jimmy Wales' talk page. Wales said,
||It is obviously a conflict of interest and clearly demands a choice between one or the other. There is no shame in that—such is the nature of nonprofit work. But especially for Wikimedia UK, with a history of problems in this area, it's absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt something that has to be handled with the utmost defensiveness about the reputation of the organization. I trust that Alastair will do the right thing.
Alastair McCapra has posted a statement and a further response at the Wikimedia UK Watercooler, stating that "... my commitment to working for WMUK is undimmed, I wish to continue to serve on the Board and don't feel, on the basis of what has been said above, that there is a strong case for my not doing so."
"Right to reply" box for biographies?
In an article on MarketingLand.com, writer Danny Sullivan asserts that Wikipedia is the "free encyclopedia that anyone can edit"—anyone who is not the subject of the article that is.
He proposes that Wikipedia should include a "right to reply" box that would allow subjects of biographical articles to correct misinformation about themselves, and further suggests that Wikipedia should introduce verified identities, following the example of Twitter, Google and Facebook—and indeed the German Wikipedia, which has operated a user verification scheme for some time now. This, Sullivan argues, would enable biography subjects to claim their "right to reply" box.
Responding to the idea of verified identities, Wikimedia Foundation Product Manager Steven Walling said on Twitter that "Orgs like TW, FB, GOOG have way more money and manpower to throw at it, and they still fail all the time."
Told by Walling that subjects are always free to use the talk page, Sullivan countered that "Talk pages aren't friendly to Wikipedia outsiders". Walling conceded that "Improving usability and friendliness of discussion pages is a key project for us this year" (referencing Wikipedia:Flow); Sullivan responded that he hoped his idea would be given consideration:
||Personally, I'd hope to see a Right Of Reply area as part of those changes. However you do them, the point is that the subject can add details they feel make sense, directly, without having to figure out the arcane and strange world of the Wikipedia—or hoping that some third-party talking to them percolates into the page.
- Virginia State Corporation Commission: The Virginia-based Connection Newspapers outlet published an article on September 5 about a dispute concerning the Wikipedia article on the Virginia State Corporation Commission. Pr geeks, identified as Virginia State Corporation Commission Director of Information Resources Kenneth Schrad in the Connection Newspapers article and on the Wikipedia article's talk page, had made a complaint on behalf of the Commission that parts of the article content were not factual. At the time of writing, the Wikipedia article carries neutrality and copyright warnings.
- "Wizards of Wiki" launch commercial Wikipedia article translation service: A press release by SEO and marketing experts Stardom Alliance, dated September 6, announced that its "Wizards of Wiki" are launching "a translation service after taking on a number of additional writers. They are beginning their focus on French, Spanish and German articles aiming to provide this service to western companies and individuals who want their article listing in more than English."
- Guy Fieri "genocidal", according to Wikipedia: The Daily Meal, part of the Spanfeller Media Group (SMG), reported on September 6 that TV personality Guy Fieri was described in his Wikipedia biography as a "genocidal member of the U.S. Supreme Court", illustrating its piece with a Google search screenshot prominently featuring that wording. The content was only in the biography for 14 minutes, although there has been an attempt to re-introduce it since in modified form, by an IP address stating it refers to Fieri's portrayal in web comic Homestuck.
- "God less visible" in Wikipedia: HuffPost Religion featured a piece by Matthew L. Skinner on September 9, arguing that the deletion of the biography of Antoinette Tuff, a school employee widely praised for preventing another U.S. school massacre—she talked the gunman into surrendering—"made God less visible". A previous article on The Daily Kos had also commented on the deletion discussion, expressing the hope that the article would be kept: "According to Wikipedia policy, Tuff may be stricken from its record because her accomplishment is a 'one-off'—something she is unlikely to do again and which is unlikely to make her remarkable going forward. That's wrong. This woman put her life on the line to protect her school, its students, the first responders, and even the gunman. She proved Wayne LaPierre wrong in no uncertain terms. Antoinette Tuff deserves a permanent Wikipedia entry, at least. She is an exclamation mark in today's gun debate; she proved that a bad man with a gun can be stopped by a good woman with a heart." Antoinette Tuff currently redirects to DeKalb County School District#Shooting and hostage situation, which dedicated three sentences to Tuff at press time.
- Editor accused of "partisan promotion", identified through his social media accounts: New Rochelle's Talk of the Sound reported on September 9 that an editor allegedly associated with the campaign of local politician Noam Bramson had turned his Wikipedia biography into "partisan promotion". The journalist, Robert Cox, identified the Wikipedia editor, Concretebeachri, through his social media accounts; Concretebeachri appears to have acknowledged the identification on-wiki. Cox followed up with another article reporting on progress on September 10.
- Google Maps drops Wikipedia: Search Engine Roundtable reported on September 10 that Google appears to have dropped the Wikipedia layer from Google Maps. So far Google does not seem to have released an official statement in response to user complaints.
- Harvard expects alumni to have a Wikipedia biography: An article in Business Insider reported on September 10 that compilers of a Harvard alumni directory are asking alumni to provide a link to their Wikipedia biography: "If applicable, the link you provide should be to a source with some permanence, such as Wikipedia."
- Fascists running the Croatian Wikipedia?: An English-language article on inserbia.info, based on a story that first appeared in Croatian newspaper Jutarnji list, alleged on September 11 that the Croatian Wikipedia has been taken over by right-wing extremists. According to Wikimedia stats, the Croatian Wikipedia has for the past year had fewer than two dozen editors making more than 100 edits a month. The controversy is described in the English Wikipedia’s article about the Croatian Wikipedia, which has seen a major edit war over inclusion of the content.
- Partnership between York Museums Trust and Wikimedia UK results in new paid position: An article in the Yorkshire Post reported on September 11 that the York Museums Trust, in a partnership with Wikimedia UK, has created a temporary part-time paid position to expand Wikipedia content on York adventurer Tempest Anderson. The trust has a wealth of material on Anderson. Candidates have until Sunday to apply for the position. Further information is available on the www.yorkmuseumstrust.org.uk website.
- "Everything You Wanted to Know about Wikipedia and Your SEO": Search Engine Journal provided advice on September 11 on "how to get your small business involved in Wikipedia".
- Support for Wikimedia from open access publisher: A September 11 press release by the Macrothink Institute, a publisher of open access journals, announced Macrothink's support for the Wikimedia Foundation.
- Festival of Wikipedia: Computer Weekly reported on September 11 that "BCS Women, part of the Chartered Institute for IT, will be holding a Festival of Wikipedia to celebrate Ada Lovelace day this year. The festival will see volunteers adding and update Wikipedia entries on women in computing." Events are planned in October, in London, Edinburgh and Southampton. More information is available on the bcs website.
- Malta music wiki: The Times of Malta reported on September 12 on the Maltese Wikipedia (174th out of 285, according to the Times) and an editathon for the Malta Music Memory Project (M3P), a music wiki run by the M3P Foundation, scheduled for this Saturday.