In the media
Turkish Wikipedia censorship; "Can Wikipedia survive?"; PR editing
Turkish Wikipedia warns readers of censorship
Part of the banner alerting Turkish Wikipedia readers to government censorship
The Hürriyet Daily News reports that the Turkish Wikipedia has posted banners on the top of the encyclopedia to warn users that a number of articles are being blocked by the Turkish government. Four articles on human anatomy have been blocked since November 2014 and an article on Turkish politics was blocked this month. The articles are:
Katherine Maher, chief communications officer of the Wikimedia Foundation, told BirGün that the WMF was working on curbing the censorship, both through legal means and through implementing HTTPS on all its projects (see Signpost coverage). She said, "We are trying to overcome these obstacles in countries where access to information is limited or controlled." She added, "[T]he community of Wikipedia is completely against censorship."
The Turkish government has a history of Internet censorship and issues with Wikipedia in particular. Last March, it briefly banned Twitter after evidence of alleged corruption by high-ranking Turkish government officials circulated in social media. Last September, a cabinet minister used Twitter to complain about how President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was depicted in an article on the English Wikipedia (see Signpost coverage). (June 19) G
"Can Wikipedia survive?"
On the opinion pages of the Sunday, June 21 edition of the New York Times, Andrew Lih (Fuzheado), professor of journalism at American University, author of The Wikipedia Revolution, and long-time Wikipedia editor, asks "Can Wikipedia survive?"
Lih writes about the challenges facing Wikipedia: the steady decline in editor participation, the low rates of recruitment of new administrators, tensions between the Wikipedia community and the Wikimedia Foundation, and the rise in the use of mobile devices to access the Internet, which are less likely to be used to edit Wikipedia because "it’s simply too hard to manipulate complex code on a tiny screen." Efforts are being made to address these challenges, such as improvements to Wikipedia mobile apps. Lih highlights some positive developments, such as partnerships between Wikipedia and scientific and cultural institutions like the Wikipedian in Residence program. "These are vital opportunities for Wikipedia to tap external expertise and enlarge its base of editors," he writes.
||The worst scenario is an end to Wikipedia, not with a bang but with a whimper: a long, slow decline in participation, accuracy and usefulness that is not quite dramatic enough to jolt the community into making meaningful reforms.
No effort in history has gotten so much information at so little cost into the hands of so many — a feat made all the more remarkable by the absence of profit and owners. In an age of Internet giants, this most selfless of websites is worth saving.
Lih's article prompted discussion on Wikipedia and Wikipedia mailing lists, as well as press coverage, such as a column from The Guardian's Andrew Brown, who concluded that mobile devices were the reason that "Wikipedia editors are a dying breed". G
Undisclosed paid editing now in the Sunshine
The New York Times reports on claims of paid editing of Wikipedia by employees of the public relations firm Sunshine Sachs. Sunshine Sachs has represented a number of celebrity clients, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck, Barbra Streisand, Guy Fieri, The Jonas Brothers, and Trisha Yearwood. In 2012, Business Insider listed its CEOs, Shawn Sachs and Ken Sunshine as among the "most powerful publicists in Hollywood".
The alleged paid editing by Sunshine Sachs was exposed by Pete Forsyth (Peteforsyth), a Wikipedia editor and paid consultant who runs Wiki Strategies, which "provides consulting services for organizations engaging with Wikipedia and other collaborative communities". (The Signpost interviewed Forsyth in 2012 on the subject of paid editing.) Prompted by a Sunshine Sachs email Forsyth received which read "Sunshine Sachs has a number of experienced editors on staff that have established profiles on Wikipedia. The changes we make to existing pages are rarely challenged," Forsyth paid journalist Jack Craver to investigate and write a story called "PR firm covertly edits the Wikipedia entries of its celebrity clients" for the Wiki Strategies blog. The story focused primarily on edits to the article for Naomi Campbell, a Sunshine Sachs client, by one editor identified as a Sunshine Sachs employee. The editor removed a number of references to the extremely poor critical reception of her 1994 album babywoman and other potentially unflattering information.
The story attracted further coverage in a number of news outlets around the world, including the Daily Mail, India Today and stuff.co.nz.
Last year, a number of prominent public relations agencies committed to "ethical engagement practices" when editing Wikipedia (see Signpost coverage). Despite this, a number of companies still do not disclose their COI editing. For example, a April Signpost report revealed undisclosed advocacy editing by Sony. (June 23) G
- "Next time you take a photo of the London Eye, or the Angel of the North, or any monument, artwork or building in a public place, know this: you are exercising a freedom that is under threat".
- Two days later, on June 26, the newspaper also featured two follow-up letters at the top of its letters page, one signed by Jimmy Wales together with the British Photographic Council, the British Press Photographers' Association, the British Institute of Professional Photographers, Amateur Photographer, the Bureau of Freelance Photographers, the Chartered Institute of Journalists, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and the Open Rights Group; the second by Michael Maggs, chairman of Wikimedia UK.
- The Times's news reporting on the subject (subscription) was followed up by the online editions of The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, the Daily Express and the Daily Mail. (A tracking page on Commons has more UK political and media echo.) The coverage notably included opposition to the change from a spokesperson for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA),
- "We are concerned that the well-intentioned proposals to ensure that architects are paid for the use of images of their work by commercial publishers and broadcasters would instead have negative implications, and represent a potentially damaging restriction of the debate about architecture and public space."
- As of June 26 a petition to "Save the Freedom of Photography" launched by photographer Nico Trinkhaus on the website change.org had reached over 25,000 signatures in its first three days.
- German Wikipedia is now running black banners above its articles to warn of the threat, and a discussion is open at Wikipedia talk:Freedom of Panorama 2015 as to whether the English Wikipedia should do similarly. The hashtag #saveFoP on twitter has also seen extensive traffic. Jheald
The 30 most edited Wikipedia articles as of March 2015
- Visualizing Wikipedia editing: A bar graph of the 30 most edited Wikipedia articles as of March 2015 was created by Ramiro Gómez, based on data from Wikipedia:Database reports/Pages with the most revisions. He posted the graph to the Reddit forum DataIsBeautiful. The Independent noted that "The list has little coherence or order. Some at the top are among the most important things in the world...but others are much more insignificant." It concluded that "the list perhaps says more about the people who are using the site than anything to do with the people being written about." Vox wrote that "In some cases, it's about the level of controversy and the scrutiny a certain topic might receive...Other times, however, it can be based on a topic being extremely dynamic or inspiring a lot of passion." Gómez himself attributed some of the traffic to vandalism, writing "Controversial figures certainly attract people who desparately [sic] try to be funny". (June 24-25) G
- Jimmy Wales asked to return UAE money: The Middle East Monitor sharply criticized Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales for having accepted $500,000 from the UAE government last December, a decision controversially discussed at the time, given the UAE's dismal human rights record (see previous Signpost coverage). The renewed criticism was sparked by a Twitter and email exchange between Wales and Alastair Sloan, the article's author. (June 24) A.K.
- Apparently they all have manifestos: A white supremacist manifesto has been discovered on a website belonging to Dylann Roof, who has been charged with nine murders in the June 17 Charleston church shooting. The manifesto, presumably written by Roof, details the racist opinions of its author and how he came to them, beginning with learning about the shooting of Trayvon Martin. The author writes, "The event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case. I kept hearing and seeing his name, and eventually I decided to look him up. I read the Wikipedia article and right away I was unable to understand what the big deal was. It was obvious that Zimmerman was in the right. But more importantly this prompted me to type in the words 'black on White crime' into Google, and I have never been the same since that day." (June 20) G
Wikimedia Armenia's new offices
- New offices for Wikimedia Armenia: ArmeniaNow reports on the opening of the new offices of Wikimedia Armenia on Friday, June 19. The new offices are in the Press Building in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Serzh Sargsyan, the President of Armenia, toured the offices and participated in discussions about Wikimedia projects in Armenia. Also on hand were Jan-Bart de Vreede, Chair of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, Asaf Bartof, Head of WMF Grants and Global South Partnerships, Anna Koval, Manager of the Wikipedia Education Program, and Liam Wyatt, GLAM-Wiki Coordinator for Europeana. Wikimedia Armenia was founded in 2013. Last year, their "One Armenian, One Entry" program spurred Armenians to add thousands of articles to the Armenian Wikipedia. It is currently the 40th largest Wikipedia, with over 170,000 articles. De Vreede told ArmeniaNow that Wikimedia had much to learn from Wikimedia Armenia's efforts. (June 19) G
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