I've been involved with hr.wiki case as a steward. I suggested to take a series of quite bold actions but there were reasonable concerns in terms of legitimacy among stewards, there were the ability of smart dudes in the cabal to hijack discussions, there was the reluctance of meta people due to nPOV concerns, [some more very polemic things I prefer to omit], etc etc.
Putting it simply hr.wiki case showed some limit of our model, the model I was born and grew up as an user.
The wiki process of a medium-sized community went broke, with a language (even weaker than some Central Asia wikis) barrier lowering the wiki's accountability, nobody had formally the role to step in.
I got my personal dose of clamor during my annual confirmations which probably sounded quite intimidating for anyone willing to tackle the issue.

Probably the lesson to be learnt is the need for an audit of contents and some structure with the means to investigate a very very narrow set of very complex complaints, although both things (the first one in particular) are very sensitive in terms of culture neutrality.


Il giorno lun 23 ago 2021 alle ore 14:22 Andreas Kolbe <jayen466@gmail.com> ha scritto:

The corruption of the Croatian Wikipedia began in 2009 and became front page news in Croatia in September 2013. The term "fake news" hadn't been invented yet, but the Croatian Education Minister issued a public warning to the country's youth in 2013 that they should avoid the Croatian Wikipedia, as much of its content was "not only misleading but also clearly falsified". 

So I can't agree that this "was perceived, rightly or wrongly, as less of a problem" at the time. It's hard to imagine how it could have been more prominent. 

The matter was even discussed in the US mainstream media, hardly known for detailed coverage of Croatian affairs. In October 2013 the Croatian Wikipedia's subversion was the subject of a dedicated article by Tim Sampson in the Daily Dot. In 2014 it received a mention from Caitlin Dewey in the Washington Post. (You can read all about this timeline in the English-language Wikipedia article on the Croatian Wikipedia, and the sources cited therein.)  

Compared to the level of public interest eight years ago, the press had actually been quiet about this decade-long scandal in recent years – more due to topic fatigue, I think, than anything else – though there was a smattering of articles published by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in 2018, concluding with a report stating that the Wikimedia Foundation had refused to respond to their inquiries.[1] Ouch.

So it was all the more welcome that the WMF finally did something this year and commissioned an expert to write a report, after a decade of complaints from media and the volunteer community. 

The idea to have an outside expert look at how human rights violations by political regimes are covered (or covered up ...) in various Wikipedia language versions, and summarise their observations in a public report, is an obvious one. (I suggested as much back in 2015.[2]) 

The costs of doing this now will hardly have been prohibitive. Commissioning a report like this would have been well within the WMF's means in 2013 as well. (The WMF reported a budget surplus of $13 million in 2013.) So I stand by my assertion: the WMF could have done then what it has done now, but lacked the will, or courage.

You are right about one thing – in matters like this, both action and inaction can be construed as a moral failing. I absolutely applaud the decision made in this case, but can also imagine that, the precedent having been set, scenarios might arise some years down the line, under different leadership, where the same type of WMF action could be more problematic. This is something for the community to watch out for.


On Sun, Aug 22, 2021 at 11:33 PM Mike Godwin <mnemonic@gmail.com> wrote:
I think you're indulging in the common tendency of inferring that if WMF did not do something a decade ago that it had the legal right to do, it follows that it lacked the moral courage to do that thing (or else that it had moral courage then but lacks it now--the moral-judgment fantasy can run in both directions). 

Given that concern about disinformation on Wikipedia and elsewhere was less prominent in public discourse a decade ago, Occam's Razor suggests that the primary reason for any change in willingness to engage in top-down intervention was that disinformation was perceived, rightly or wrongly, as less of problem. In addition, you assert (without any facts offered in support) that WMF was just as well-positioned to directly intervene in disinformation problems a decade ago as they may be now, or as they may soon be. This doesn't seem to be grounded in anything other than prejudgment. 

But if moral condemnation based on presumption of a lack of ... some virtue or other ... floats your boat, who am I to detract from your innocent fun?


On Sun, Aug 22, 2021 at 12:59 PM Andreas Kolbe <jayen466@gmail.com> wrote:
Well, that was the difference I was referring to. (I wasn't really thinking of content found libellous in court, child pornography etc.)

What is new is that the WMF is expressing an interest in the actual integrity of the encyclopedic content, hiring staff to address "misleading content", "disinformation", etc., rather than restricting itself to deletions required by law. 

The WMF's recent action concerning the Croatian Wikipedia surely is an example of this shift. The WMF had the means – but not the will – to do what it has done now, ten years ago.

In a similar way, I understand that content added by ISIS sympathisers is a problem in the Arabic and Farsi Wikipedia versions that the WMF is now trying to address.


On Sun, Aug 22, 2021 at 1:31 PM Mike Godwin <mnemonic@gmail.com> wrote:

Andreas Kolbe writes:
It's worth noting that Yumiko's article (now also on fastcompany.com)
quotes the WMF as saying it "does *not often* get involved in issues
related to the creation and maintenance of content on the site."

That "not often" actually indicates a little publicised but significant
departure from past practice when the WMF would disclaim all responsibility
for content ....

WMF did not "disclaim all responsibility for content." Instead, WMF disclaimed primary responsibility for content, and still does. When WMF was understaffed, as it typically was during Wikipedia's first decade, we made a point of steering certain complaints and legal demands to the editor community as a default choice. The policy reasons for this choice were straightforward. But WMF directly intervened on a number of occasions, typically as required by law.

Mike Godwin

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