[Wikimedia-l] The soft underbelly of the WP: the sponsored private fiefdoms that thrive in the blind spots

Rui Correia correia.rui at gmail.com
Mon Jul 22 16:02:38 UTC 2013

Dear All

It is certainly not news that a lot of deliberately biased editing goes on
on the Wikipedia. It is equally known that there are mechanims to address
these issues.

But that is where the problem lies - those intent on skewing information
know all the tricks and loopholes, whereas neutral editors who pass by to
add something they came across are not so clued up. Most editors that get
reverted just move on and don't bother. This leads to the 'ownsership'
syndrome, with editors shooing away anybody that adds anuthing they don't
like. The bigger problem, is when these editors who act as if they 'own'
certain articles are actually either being paid to do so or are actually
lomked to an organisation with particilar interests in the page(s).

A case in point, the other day I was looking for images of mosquitos
sucking blood and and came across blatant pornography on Flickr. I added a
few lines about pornography on Flickr and because it was reverted (I admit
the edit was not sterling worsmithing) it made me look into the history of
the page.

That there are two or three editors who automatically revert anything
negative is obvious. Less obvious is that one of these editors was
'dormant' for a year-and-a-half, then suddenly came out of hibernation 2
months ago to exclusively counter any anti-Flickr edits and add pro-Flickr
edits - about 75 edits in 2 months. And one or 2 sanitsing the page of
Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo!, (which owns Flickr). Another has
practically admitted to having some kind of association with Flickr (there
is plenty in Flickr-related debates on user pages to prove that there is
indeed a sinsiter and unhealthy relationship. The two or three work in a
concerted manner, even replying on behalf of each other, which makes
suspect the presence of sockpuppets or similar. There is also a high-school
student among the reverters. Things are now at a point that they are making
rules, 'agreeing' with those against them on the maximum length of a
section of a Flickr controversy. No such limitations on any other
(positive) aspect of the article. They have have 'agreed' that a number of
Huffington Post comments on Flickr must not be included - it is not a
relaible source, apparently..

This would not have bothered me were it not for the fact that the Flickr
article is of an adequate size, with lots of good information on it and
most of it quite complimentary. It is worrying that a few lines of bad
press should so annoy people that they are on stand-by to revert at
whatever hour of day or night.

The mechanisms that the Wikipedia has created to improve the project play
into the hands of people like these - features such as the watchlist.
Within minutes of a change, it gets reverted. Sometimes an editor will
persist for a while, but eventually walks off and goes edit elsewhere.
Which is odd, because if there are mechanisms for redress, why not use
them? Unfortunately, in my experience, whenever anything is put up for
arbitration, the first ones on the scene include the very editors involved
or others whom they trust who get tipped off about the issue as soon as it
develops. It is this that is tarnishing the name of the Wikipedia and
driving away good editors.

I use Flickr as an example, but is it not the firwst time that I have come
across this type of behaviour.
And so, tiny cliques and coteries flourish like fiefdoms in the blind spots
of the mechanisms created to ensure that we all strive for the same
principes. What is worse, there are big players behind this all. In an age
when the so-called 'big media' is already overwhelmingly in the service of
'big business', we owe to ourselves to keep them out of the WP.


Rui Correia.

Rui Correia
Advocacy, Human Rights, Media and Language Work Consultant
Bridge to Angola - Angola Liaison Consultant

Mobile Number in South Africa +27 74 425 4186
Número de Telemóvel na África do Sul +27 74 425 4186

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