Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2019-12-27/In the media

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"The fulfillment of the dream of humanity" or a nightmare of PR whitewashing on behalf of one-percenters?: Praise for possibly pansophic Wikipedia from a Nobel laureate collides head-on with real-world events in December.

A Nobel lecture, "we are not capable of bearing this enormity of information"

Olga Tokarczuk, 2018 Nobel laureate in literature, gave her Nobel Lecture, The Tender Narrator, on December 7, 2019 . Her references to Wikipedia, both to the promise of Wikipedia and the "disappointing" fulfillment of that promise, are close to the heart of the lecture's message. Extracts of the passages are given below. Wikilinks added.

John Amos Comenius, the great seventeenth-century pedagogue, coined the term “pansophism,” by which he meant the idea of potential omniscience, universal knowledge that would contain within it all possible cognition. This was also, and above all, a dream of information available to everyone. ... Will not knowledge within easy reach mean that people will become sensible ... ?

When the Internet first came about, it seemed that this notion would finally be realized in a total way. Wikipedia, which I admire and support, might have seemed to Comenius ... the fulfillment of the dream of humanity — now we can create and receive an enormous store of facts being ceaselessly supplemented and updated that is democratically accessible to just about every place on Earth.

A dream fulfilled is often disappointing. It has turned out that we are not capable of bearing this enormity of information, which instead of uniting, generalizing and freeing, has differentiated, divided, enclosed in individual little bubbles...


Firm accused of whitewashing articles for one-percenters

See this month's Special report for more analysis of the claimed article whitewashing by Status Labs.

The Wall Street Journal published a 2,000 word article by Rachael Levy on December 13 titled "How the 1% scrubs its image online" (paywall) detailing efforts of Status Labs to control media and Wikipedia coverage of its clients. The subtitle was "Prominent figures from Jacob Gottlieb to Betsy DeVos got help from a reputation management firm that can bury image-sensitive Google results by placing flattering content on websites that masquerade as news outlets". The article named specific Wikipedia editor or editors.

According to The Wall Street Journal, articles edited by Status Labs operatives included bank executive Omeed Malik,[1][2] biomedical company Theranos,[3] and hedge fund Citadel LLC.[4]

An account named in the WSJ report as a related operative, Jppcap is now indefinitely blocked for "advertising or self-promoting in violation of the conflict of interest and notability guidelines". The publishing of this article by the Journal also led to the opening of a discussion on the Conflict of Interest Noticeboard. B

Business Insider has reported on a less nefarious instance of editing on behalf of a wealthy and powerful individual, namely technology businessman Elon Musk. After perusing the Wikipedia article about himself "for 1st time in years", Musk took to Twitter to suggest some edits, including the removal of the label "investor" from the short description, since he insisted "I do basically zero investing." Musk also apparently jokingly supported the replacement of the word with the term "business magnet"—as opposed to business magnate. User:TechnologicalScribe subsequently altered the short description accordingly and added in the edit summary that the changes were made "as requested by Elon Musk". The phrase "business magnet" has since been removed from the short description.

Did ... ?

You be the judge.png
We wanted to show you this, instead.

The Signpost story occupying this space cited The Washington Post which linked to another reliable source. We were essentially accused of outing for linking to The Washington Post and thus threatened with censorship by some oversighters. Rather than put our existence at risk, we have withdrawn the story and will pursue the matter via ArbCom in the New Year S

It's alright, Ma. I'm only bleeding.

Mother Jones lists Heroes and Monsters of the 2010s including Wikipedia – but only as a hero.

Perhaps the 2016 Nobel Laureate in Literature can explain this choice. S

Wikipedia and Women in STEM

BBC Radio interviewed British physicist Jess Wade on her efforts to create more articles on women experts in science, math, and technology, with specific focus on the sudden, recent tagging of many articles she has edited for notability concerns by an IP address editor (the portion of the broadcast relevant to Wikipedia begins at 9:30). Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Katherine Maher was also reached for comment. She expressed concern about the gender imbalance in Wikipedia's content and editing community, but praised the community response to the taggings, including the blocking of the IP editor. More details at this issue's Op-Ed by Wade. Ib

Block of Wikipedia in Turkey unconstitutional

Reported by virtually all major media including BBC, Reuters, The New York Times, Le Monde, etc. – just before we went to press, the Constitutional Court of Turkey ruled the block of Wikipedia in Turkey to be unconstitutional. B

In brief

Canada NORAD Jet Fighters Santa 2008.jpg
CF-18 Hornet fighter jets – O Canada, we stand on guard for thee – in an image released for NORAD Tracks Santa


  1. ^ "Former Bank of America Corp. executive Omeed Malik also received services from Status Labs, according to people familiar with the matter." – WSJ
  2. ^ "A Wikipedia page about Mr. Malik also became the first result in a Google search of his name, displacing news articles. Following a Journal query, Wikipedia removed Mr. Malik's page." – WSJ
  3. ^ "Disgraced blood-testing startup Theranos Inc. also received services from Status Labs, according to former employees. An editing account used by Status Labs ... according to people familiar with the matter ... made several favorable edits to Theranos' Wikipedia page. One edit removed a reference to an article in the Journal reporting Theranos devices often failed accuracy requirements." – WSJ
  4. ^ "The hedge fund of billionaire Ken Griffin, Citadel LLC, hired Status Labs to edit information on Wikipedia in 2015 about the fund's investments and Mr. Griffin's art collection, according to a person familiar with the matter." – WSJ

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