[Foundation-l] Discussion Questions for Potentially-Objectionable Content

Ting Chen wing.philopp at gmx.de
Tue Jul 27 08:37:34 UTC 2010

  Hello Alec,

at first thank you for the long mail. It would take me some time to 
write my own answer but I don't want to make a hasty and unconsidered 
reply. So if the answer comes a little late, please accept my honest 
apolozies. My reaction to your mail is very complicated. There are a lot 
of things that I agree and I support. But there are also other things 
that I disagree or that confuse me. But the nature of a discussion, I 
will elaborate more on points that I disagree than where I agree with 
you. This may induce an impression as if the disagreement is far larger. 
Since the mail is very large, I will not cite everyline of your mail and 
make a comment on it. If you think that I have ommitted something 
important, please ask, it is not my intention to cite you partially. 
Also it seems that Thunderbird has some problem in cite your mail so 
maybe I will make some copy-and-past, if the format looks bad, please 
also bear with me.

Last not least, although I hate to repeat this disclaimer again and 
again: It is all my personal opinion.

When I wrote my last mail, one of the main motive is that I think the 
way how Robert's initial mail was treated is not ok. Robert, let's say 
comes from outside, has a task from the board, and asks the community to 
give its comments and what he got was more or less go away, we don't 
want to talk about it and whatever you do, sorry you are doomed as a 
Nazi. I know the topic is emotional, and it had repeated again and 
again. But because it repeats again and again it shows that it is 
important. And it is important for Robert's work to get a good response, 
like that from you and the one from Milos later in the thread. Your mail 
had changed the character of this thread, from a very rejective to a 
very engaged, and this alone is for me the reason for a big thank you.

Am 24.07.2010 16:47, wrote Alec Conroy:
> To begin with, please consider that  NOTCENSORED has been the law of
> the land for many years and Wikipedia has prospered under it.   It's
> not a new idea.

I think this is the idea state for us. And as you said there are a lot 
of values in this idea. And most of us had discussed endless times to 
uphold this idea. For example for me on my home wiki (which is the 
zh-wp). Everytime in the past when zh-wp was blocked on mainland China 
we had one (or many times) discussion about if we should change our 
policy so that more people can access many many information that are 
totally inpolitical and valuable.

But like in the physics, the idealized state is not the real life. I 
mentioned in my last mail three examples where our projects already do 
filtering today by its current policies. I can give you two more:
- When on Wikimania this year in Gdansk I had a talk in one evening with 
a long time wiki-friend of mine, zh:user:Mountain, who is the first 
Chinese Wikipedian at all. So he told me about his childhood in a 
village in the coast of Shandong province. And told that in that part of 
China there were a lot of old traditions that are now dying out. For 
example the locals earlier had special technik to fish ensis 
[[:en:Ensis]]. Nowaday no one is practicing that technique anymore 
because the coastal line is now used for salt production. He told me 
that he would like to write some article about these old traditions but 
he is aware that these articles would be deleted because he cannot find 
any sources and citations for them. So unless some Chinese ethmologist 
come to this (unimportant) part of China and write some scientific 
articles about them, they would go lost for ever.
- In June I attended a german community conference called Skillshare. 
And one of the sessions was about quality. One user complained on that 
session that our quality rules make our articles bias because for 
example in medicine only the knowledge of well sourced western medicine 
get their full length and detail, while the poorly researched and 
sourced traditional medicine of other cultures only get very poorly 
written articles.

So the result is that our rules itself work like a filter, or a 
censorship. In these both cases it censors in favour of those knowledges 
that are in focus of scientific research and against those that are 
poorly documented.

If a scientifc magazine only accept articles about western medicine we 
would clearly call it censored. And if our rules oblige us to do the same?

Notcensored is an idea. It is a good idea, but in the real life it is 
not possible. There are a lot of reasons why it is not possible, it must 
not be religious or political. It could be scientific, which sounds 
weird. It could be, that we try to improve our quality and reliability 
and thus put up rules that work as a censorship, which also sounds weird.

You say the notcensored Wikipedia had worked in the history. The fact 
is, the notcensored Wikipedia had never worked. Everytime we want to put 
up a new rule on editorial content, the question is, what do we win 
through such a rule (for example better reliability, or less vandals, or 
less conflict with privacy of living person, or what ever), and what 
price do we pay for it (part of our articles get bias. often unintended).

>>Let me take some example. Ar-wp decides per community concensus not
>>  to use Mohammed  images. Seen in the light of en-wp rules, this is a censorship.
>>  If we maintain "no censorship" then ar-wp must remove that concensus. If not,
>>  we cannot maintain the "no censorship" slogan.

>Admittedly, "free-information" people can be very black and white--
>but even I'm  not  quite THIS black and white.:)

>I, for one, am not at all troubled that WMF might host a project that,
>via TRUE consensus, decides to be, by my standards, censored.   (I
>actually really wish we had a few censored english-language projects
>lying around, so people would be less tempted to try to co-opt

>I don't oppose people 'censoring' themselves if that's truly their
>choice-- what I oppose is someone censoring US against our consent.
>What I oppose is WMF trying take a NONCENSORED project swap out
>NPOV/NOTCENSORED in favor of a fiat-imposed  "potential-offensiveness"

This is the passage from your mail that confuses me at most. Whom do you 
mean with US? You wrote that Wikipedia is notcensored, but ar-wp is also 
Wikipedia, as well as the other 270 some language versions of Wikipedia, 
including the ace-wp, or not? Is it censored or is it notcensored?

And as I mentioned, even en-wp is not notcensored. Also en-wp has rules 
and policies that imposes biases.

This is the reason why I said notcensored is a bad argument, because it 
doesn't describe the reality. We have consensus on a lot of points, for 
example I think every language version agrees that we want to use 
neutral languages to describe the facts, we don't want an article to use 
to emotional or enthusiastic words. We want to include as much opinions 
about an issue as possible and we don't want to omit any opinion that is 
important enough to be included in an encyclopedia. And so on and so on.

I don't believe there is a standard for potential-offensiveness. Maybe 
everybody has his or her own standard. My personal standard of 
offensiveness is very low. There is until now on my chinese user talk 
page a passage where a user call me a "dirty homosexual". To be honest, 
I don't feel myself insulted. It is his opinion and I am ok with him 
express it publicly, if it is ok for him too. But I do have 
understanding for a lot of other users who don't have such low standard 
of offensiveness. I block users who say similar things to other users 
because I know they got insulted.

For us, living in a culture that is secular since at least 200 years (in 
some countries even longer), it maybe not understandable why Muhammed 
cariculture should be SO insulting that people call out for murders. For 
others it may be as insulting as for you to see Wikipedia to be 
censored, or even worse. But if we are not going to be just the next 
generation crusider who want to convert and salvate the poor in the 
undevelopped country and society, we must acknowledge that people get 
deeply, very very deeply insulted. And we must have dialogs with them, 
show our understanding for them, show our own understanding about our 
doing, and search for methods and means so that they can get involved in 
our movement.

For my understanding, this is why the board initiated this all.

>Suppose, for instance that an admin showed up and demanded that a
>notable work of art be deleted on the ground that it was "potentially
>offensive".    How do you defend against that charge?

 From my personal perspective I don't believe that the board or the 
Foundation would issue a standard like you feared, because of the reason 
I mentioned above (because I don't believe there is a general standard). 
I think that both for Robert, as well as for the rest of the board, and 
certainly for me, it is important to read such arguments. This is why 
such discussions are important, both for Robert, as well as for me.

>I think the real issue is that that consensus HAS been reached on the
>NOTCENSORED / NPOV/Sexual Content policies issues--  the community
>consensus just match the pre-designated conclusion, and so it was thus
>ruled to be the outcome of a "broken and flawed" process, something
>the community just  can't handle on its own, not without grown-up

Both the discussion on this thread, as well as on meta, shows me that 
the discussion is ongoing. And as someone who was born and grown up in a 
country which has a quite different culture, and lived even longer in 
one of the most free country of the world, I don't think that the result 
could be a black or white.

>Wikipedia never promised anyone that  "Wikipedia Doesn't Show Muhammad Pictures"!
>But Wikipedia promised everyone "Wikipedia Is Not Censored" and
>"Wikipedia is written from a NPOV"

Again, I don't think this is true, not even on en-wp. And again, 
Wikipedia is not only en-wp.

>Many of us thought that, via projects like Wikimedia, we were helping
>to eliminate censorship from the rest of the world.  Many of us write
>software, to make free laptops, for kids we'll never ever meet, just
>so that people all around the world can have a chance to see what free
>speech is really like.  Some of us are here because help STOP
>censorship around the world, not to help perpetuate it,  and certainly
>not to subjected to it ourselves.

I don't think that this is our mission. And I don't agree that we are 
going to free the world. Sorry, I don't trust anybody who think he 
brings light to the world, who thinks he knows the best for the rest of 
the humanity. And I am certainly not such a person. I am born in 1968. 
The year when millions of Chinese youth went to the country and thought 
they are going to free the rest of China from the ugly feudal rest that 
still remains in the country that impede the country to arrive the 
status of heaven on the earth. I was old enough to understand when the 
country began to reflect what destruction, what sorrow and what waste 
that we-can-sae-the-humanity actually brought it. I am not comparing any 
Wikimedian with the Red Guards. But read the lines above make me flinch. 
A stigma from my childhood.




Ting's Blog:http://wingphilopp.blogspot.com/

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