Beyond the Wikipedia bubble, Donald Trump’s “shocking upset” in the U.S. presidential election prompted many news outlets to examine the widespread inaccuracy of expert predictions about the race, and to explore several themes of interest to Wikimedians.
The day before the election, Creative Commons published a guide to freely licensed and public domain election resources and related media.
The News Literacy Project, an organization focused on media literacy in U.S. secondary and pre-secondary education, observed in an election day missive that "a bitterly divided nation seemed incapable of agreeing on facts — let alone solutions — for the country’s myriad challenges", and that "it is more vital than ever that the next generation be taught how to discern credible, verified information from raw information, spin, misinformation and propaganda."
There has been much discussion about the role of "fake news websites", and their distribution through social media sites like Facebook and promotion via online advertising platforms. As calls for the social media titan to evaluate news stories mounted, journalist Glenn Greenwald noted that: "People are (rightly) skeptical of the state censoring "bad" viewpoints but (dangerously) eager for unaccountable tech billionaires to do it.”
In “Facebook Doesn’t Need One Editor, It Needs 1,000 of Them”, Mathew Ingram of Fortune advised Facebook to look to Wikipedia for a solution. Ingram cited Wikimedia adviser Craig Newmark’s June 2016 blog post about Wikipedia’s role in journalism. The Harvard Business School paper (discussed in our previous edition’s In the media section, and noted below) might have offered an additional dimension to Ingram’s analysis.
A Wall Street Journal story, Most students don’t know when news is fake, Stanford study finds, pointed to media literacy as a key skill-set in countering fake news.
Melissa Zimdars, a communications professor at Merrimack College, published (under a free license) a list of questionable websites, annotated with suggestions for how to evaluate their contents. The list itself was widely shared, and was covered by a number of news outlets. Zimdars then penned an op-ed for the Washington Post, noting, “with some concern, that the same techniques that get people to click on fake or overhyped stories are also being used to get people to read about my own list.” She said: “I’m not convinced that a majority of people who shared my list actually read my list, much as I’m not convinced that many people who share or comment on news articles posted to Facebook have actually read those articles”, and concluded that “while we think about fake news, we need to start thinking about how to make our actual news better, too.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, which advocates for individual rights, was highly critical of Trump on election day, and highlighted threats it felt he might pose to the freedom of speech provisions of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, among others.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which advocates for digital rights, “wrote that 'the results of the U.S. presidential election have put the tech industry in a risky position”, urging technology companies to address several issues before Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. Issues raised include permitting pseudonymous access, curtailing behavioral analysis, keeping minimal logs of user behavior, and encrypting data. The Wikimedia Foundation, and standard Wikipedia practices, already perform better than most tech companies on all these issues; in the EFF's 2015 "Who Has Your Back" report, which evaluates tech companies on their data and privacy practices, Wikimedia earned a perfect five out of five stars. A related EFF post highlighted relevant grassroots efforts, while another urged President Obama to "boost transparency [and] accountability" in his final days in office. PF