[Foundation-l] Letter to the community on Controversial Content

Andrew Crawford acrawford at laetabilis.com
Wed Oct 12 13:26:16 UTC 2011

On Sun, Oct 9, 2011 at 9:55 AM, Ting Chen <tchen at wikimedia.org> wrote:

> Their opinions and preferences are as legitimate as our own

This is a problematic statement. Although as a bland truism it initially
seems unexceptional and obvious, it is in fact flatly untrue. It is greatly
troubling to think that this statement might represent the level of
discussion going among board members.

Firstly, it ignores the basic problem that the "opinion and preference" of a
large group is not merely that they should not have to see a particular
class of image, but rather that no one at all should be able to see them. By
showing those images by default, as we clearly plan to do, we are
deliberately and knowingly privileging our "opinions and preferences" over
theirs. Of course, this is the right thing to do - but it directly
contradicts Ting's statement.

Secondly, it ignores the fact that an encyclopedia, at least in intention,
does not deal in opinions at all, but rather in facts - and while everyone
is entitled to their own opinions, no one is entitled to their own facts.
The Earth is spherical, and we will show a picture illustrating that. Person
A's opinion that it is actually flat is not legitimate, and we will
disregard it. Millions of Jews were killed by the Nazi regime, and we will
show a picture of a mass grave, because it is the truth, and we greatly
prefer it to person B's opinion that the Holocaust is a mere
propaganda conspiracy.

In these and a thousand other topics, there are groups who have opinions
which are directly contrary to known truth, and to pretend that we regard
those opinions as "equally valid" is utter nonsense, and completely contrary
to the spirit that drives Wikipedians.


Andrew (Thparkth)

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