Wikipedia

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Wikipedia is a politically left leaning online wiki-based encyclopedia[1] project owned by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation and financially supported by a $20 million annual online fundraising drive[2] and well as other grants. Wikipedia is written and edited by an ad hoc assemblage of mostly anonymous persons who are mostly, according to the Register (UK),[3][4] teenagers and unemployed persons.[5] Increasingly, Wikipedia is edited by paid PR agents on behalf of their clients. Wikipedia editors, unlike their counterparts at Conservapedia, are overwhelmingly liberal, young males[6] — a demographic associated with self-centered belief systems and behavior.

Wikipedia was founded by atheist libertarian objectivist Jimmy Wales and atheist philosophy professor Larry Sanger. The website was born out of expert-written project Nupedia as a way to collaborate on articles. Nonetheless, Wikipedia overtook Nupedia and became an independent project hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation, which also hosts related websites including Wikiquote, Wikibooks, and Wikinews. An irony of internet history is that Jimmy Wales, despite being an atheist, refers to himself as Wikipedia's "spiritual leader."[7]

Continuing loss of influence

Wikipedia's traffic level stems from its high placement in Google searches, and that many people rely upon it for quick research regarding trivial facts. However, users are turning to alternatives such as the voice-based iPhone application Siri or the Knowledge Graph display on Google search result pages of key facts about search targets.[8] Wikipedia page-views dropped by 2 billion between December 2012 and December 2013. Wikipedia's most popular versions are leading the decline: page-views of the English Wikipedia dropped by 12 per cent, those of German version slid by 17 per cent and the Japanese version lost 9 per cent.[8]

In addition to the number of visitors declining, there continues to be a drop in active editors as well. In August of 2012, it was reported that Wikipedia has a shrinking base of editors.[9] At the same time, Business Insider indicated Quora was "Wikipedia's worst nightmare".[10]

Unreliability of Wikipedia

Wikipedia relies on self-selected "editors" to write and compile articles, with no preference given for scholars in the fields about which they are writing. This fact may disqualify Wikipedia from being considered a genuine encyclopedia, ironically even by it's own standards. An encyclopedia is supposed to be a collection of articles by "well-educated, well-informed content experts."[11] Theoretically, Wikipedia is supposed to compensate for this weakness by requiring references to reputable secondary sources. But editors can delete, without collaboration, any text or entry they dislike, citing one of the many Wikipedia guidelines for doing so. Entries posted by scholars in the field, based on peer-reviewed, academic articles are deleted by editors with an ideological bias. Wikipedia, then, only represents the majority view of it's editors.

As the contribution of volunteer editors has declined, some of the void has been replaced by paid public relations professionals. These paid editors seek to present their client companies or individuals in the best possible light. This has resulted in many articles being transformed into paid advertising pieces that take advantage of the English Wikipedia's high placement on Google search results. This chronic problem has become so severe that the Wikimedia Foundation has proposed amending its terms of service to require disclosures of paid editing conflicts of interest.[12] In the competition to control content, the paid PR editors win out because they are monitoring pages as a full time job, while editors seeking to keep content more balanced are only part-time volunteers.

In 2008, the American Journalism Review declared concerning Wikipedia:

"An even more blunt assessment appears in the encyclopedia's "Ten things you may not know about Wikipedia" posting: "We do not expect you to trust us. It is in the nature of an ever-changing work like Wikipedia that, while some articles are of the highest quality of scholarship, others are admittedly complete rubbish." It also reminds users not to use Wikipedia as a primary source or for making "critical decisions."[13]

Despite its official "neutrality policy," Wikipedia has a strong liberal bias. In an article entitled "Wikipedia Lies, Slander Continue," journalist Joseph Farah stated Wikipedia "is not only a provider of inaccuracy and bias. It is wholesale purveyor of lies and slander unlike any other the world has ever known."[14] Mr. Farah has repeatedly been the victim of defamation on Wikipedia.[15] In December of 2010, Christian apologist JP Holding called Wikipedia "the abomination that causes misinformation".[16]


Some say that Wikipedia's unreliability is systemic, citing Douglas Adams: "In other words—and this is the rock-solid principle on which the whole of the Corporation’s Galaxywide success is founded—their fundamental design flaws are completely hidden by their superficial design flaws. Wikipedia, which is written by anyone, still struggles to solve the need for traditional quality controls characteristic of conventional encyclopedias. The self-policing practices has produced results and accuracy some claim is far better than originally expected but is still widely questioned. Research released in April 2012 claimed 60% of wikipedia article contain "inaccuracies", leading the "Daily Mail" to dub it "Iffy-pedia".[17] The lack of consistency and uniform supervision leaves an ever present shadow over any given piece of information. Many in the academy insist that it is unreliable source for research and an unacceptable reference in many classrooms. However, Wikipedia steers people to original source material, and with the use of hyperlinks and search engines, it has become the most widely used intermediary reference tool on the Internet.

According to the style manual for the Associated Press, the largest news agency in the United States, Wikipedia should not be used as a primary source, but the hyperlinks in articles may be helpful as sources.

Wikipedia has millions of entries on trivia and mundane topics ranging from an explanation for "duh"[18] to singles by obscure rock bands[19] to arcane British nobility.[20] There are editions of Wikipedia in 250 languages, and 130 have more than 1000 articles.[21] After about four years Wikipedia had about 450,000 entries,[22] and after six years it had about 1.7 million entries.[23] Four years later this number had more than doubled again: in November 2011, there were more than 3.8 million content pages.[24] As of February 2014, there are more than 4.4 million "content" pages, many of which lack educational value. On important topics, the information is often misleading due to the unchecked, systematic liberal bias that dominates Wikipedia.

Contents


Origins

Multilingual Wikipedia Home Page

Initially, Wikipedia was hosted on servers operated by Bomis, Inc., a company that also sold pornographic pictures.[25] In 2003, Jimbo Wales founded the Wikimedia Foundation to oversee the day-to-day operations of Wikipedia. The Wikimedia Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides support for Wikipedia and other similar projects,[26] and also the free MediaWiki software that runs Wikipedia and Conservapedia.[27]

Leftist bias

See also: Leftist roots of Wikipedia

See also: Examples of Bias in Wikipedia

Wikipedia shows a systematic bias in the proportion of articles which treat controversial issues. It ignores its own NPOV policy when it allows contributors to "delete well-referenced information" merely because it comes from a scientist who holds a minority view. It would only be a violation, if the article used the information to give a false impression of the proportion of scientists adhering to that view, but liberals use "undue weight" like a sledge hammer. They are either unaware or unconcerned about their bias.

This is not surprising, given this Zogby poll:

While 97% of Republicans surveyed said the media are liberal, two-thirds of political independents feel the same, but fewer than one in four independents (23%) said they saw a "conservative bias". Democrats, while much more likely to perceive a conservative bias than other groups, were not nearly as sure the media was against them as were the Republicans. While Republicans were unified in their perception of a left-wing media, just two-thirds of Democrats were certain the media skewed right – and 17% said the bias favored the left.[28]

David Swindle writes at FrontPage Magazine:

There was not a single ideological vision driving Wikipedia’s founders and core contributors as they launched the project. Jimmy Wales​, who would become the face of the project and its “benevolent dictator,” according to Andrew Lih’s The Wikipedia Revolution​, is a libertarian and Ayn Rand​ian Objectivist. Also important in shaping Wikipedia was the so-called “hacker ethos,” the culture that has developed amongst computer programmers over the last 40 years and been shaped by the Left, the counterculture, popular culture, and anarchist thought.

What binds together these ideologies is a utopian ideal that human beings are more prone to altruism rather than self-interest. In Wikipedia Revolution Wales is quoted as saying, “Generally we find most people out there on the internet are good… It’s one of the wonderful humanitarian discoveries in Wikipedia, that most people only want to help us and build this free nonprofit, charitable resource.” Ward Cunningham was the programmer who created the wiki concept and software. According to Lih, he believed in the Wiki because “People are generally good.”

Lih explains how this philosophy is embedded within Wikipedia’s rules:

A core idea Wikipedia embraced.. was to assume good faith when interacting with others. The guideline promoted optimistic production rather than pessimistic nay-saying, and reads, “Unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, assume that people who work on the project are trying to help it, not hurt it; avoid accusing others of harmful motives without particularly strong evidence.

But as it worked out, Wikipedia in practice has strayed from these utopian ideas because of the ease with which political and social bias trumps altruism.

After almost a decade of rapid growth and free-wheeling experimentation the situation at the site by the Summer of 2009 was chaos. Political operatives would sabotage one another in electoral contests by vandalizing pages. More malicious misinformation filtered in freely, with living historical figures accused of involvement in conspiratorial plots.[29]

The atheist philosopher Peter Singer defends the practice of bestiality (as well as abortion, infanticide and euthanasia). Despite holding these immoral views the liberal and pro-evolution academic establishment rewarded his views with a bioethics chair at Princeton University.[30] See: Atheism and bestiality and Wikipedia on bestiality

Research

On August 23, 2011, David Swindle published an article at FrontPage Magazine detailing how Wikipedia has been taken over by the political left and he cited statistics relating to Wikipedia's articles on Anne Coulter, Michael Moore, Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann which helped demonstrate the Wikipedia has a leftist/liberal bias plus he discussed the liberal/leftist cultural foundations of Wikipedia.[31]

For example, Swindle wrote:

"Consider Ann Coulter versus Michael Moore​. Coulter’s entry (on August 9, 2011) was 9028 words long.* Of this longer-than-usual entry, 3220 words were devoted to “Controversies and criticism” in which a series of incidents involving Coulter and quotes from her are cited with accompanying condemnations, primarily from her opponents on the Left. That’s 35.6 percent of Coulter’s entry devoted to making her look bad. By contrast, Moore’s entry is 2876 words (the more standard length for entries on political commentators), with 130 devoted to “Controversy.” That’s 4.5% of the word count, a fraction of Coulter’s. Does this mean that an “unbiased” commentator would find Coulter eight times as “controversial” as Moore?"[32]

Purported "Tertiary" Source and Arbitrary Standards

Wikipedia purports to be a "tertiary" source, relying on edited work from reputable sources. The policy is meant to build on the work of qualified editors of secondary sources. Some accuse Wikipedia, therefore, of relying on hearsay, and discouraging the application of logic and new development of new insights. The result is a agglomeration of reheated "consensus" with little or no intellectual merit of its own; in particular, it is impossible to challenge orthodoxy, received wisdom or commonly held misconceptions through the Wikipedia system, no matter how factually incorrect those orthodoxies might be.

Supporters of Wikipedia would claim that relying on secondary sources encourages reliability and objectivity. However, there are cases of Wikipedia applying it's standards arbitrarily. For example, the case of Wikipedia editor "Yeoberry" (user ID 3606936), an editor with a Ph.D. in church history who first posted materials about "Icons" on August 6, 2012, with multiple citations to historical documents. The material was removed and Yeoberry was told that Wikipedia is a "tertiary" source and so he needed to find reliable secondary sources. On April 4, 2013, Yeoberry again added largely the same material, this time citing a newly published academic paper in a peer-reviewed journal. The information was again removed, with editors, at least some of whom religiously affiliated with the organization supporting icons, claiming the editor had a "COI" (conflict of interest). Neither time did the editors removing Yeoberry's material consult Yeoberry. But when Yeoberry reverted back to his edition, he was charged with "edit warring." When Yeoberry challenged the arbitrary use of Wikipedia criteria he was blocked from editing indefinitely and then his access to his own talk page was also blocked.[33]

Wikipedia articles, especially on controversial or political and religious topics, are often guarded by editors who have an interest in slanting the content of the article, may have no formal education on the topic, and can find a so-called reason for suppressing the information they want to suppress. Editors can claim the source is unreliable (as they interpret that); that information gives "UNDUE" weight to the topic the information is about; peer-reviewed, academic articles written by scholars can be removed by editors if, in the opinion of an editor, the view expressed is "Fringe" or if the contributor has a "COI" (conflict of interest) if he's the author of the secondary source or has an advanced education or other interest in the topic; etc. Editors with advanced education in a topic, citing sources from peer-reviewed journals, can have their contributions deleted and their participation prohibited if a few other editors, without such qualification but with enough knowledge of the Wikipedia jargon, decide to suppress him or her.

Originally, encyclopedias were written by scholars, either by one or a few whose knowledge is considered "encyclopedic" (i.e. very broad) or each article is written by an expert in the field. But in Wikipedia, expertise in a given field can disqualify one from contributing in that field resulting in Wikipedia being accused of being a "idiocracy".

Economics

Though Wikipedia is non-profit, the Wikia project of its co-founder is very much for-profit and has raised millions of dollars in venture capital. Already Wikipedia has been criticized for favoring Wikia. When Wikipedia community voted 61-39% percent to treat all links to other sites equally by removing nofollow (Google-ignored) tags for all of them, the Wikipedia co-founder overruled this decision and Wikipedia now favors Wikia in its treatment of nofollow tags.[34][35]

The Register said:[36]

Wikipedia has tried to balance the Utopian goal of "an encyclopedia anyone can edit" with the more utilitarian goal of "a website anyone would want to read". With over a million articles, and a rulebook almost as dense, Wikipedia has demonstrated an insatiable desire to participate, create lists and generate procedures. The result is a huge silo of recorded trivia, and perhaps the world's largest, most distributed bureaucracy - mostly manned by a casual staff of teenagers and the unemployed.

For the past few years, Wikipedia has added banners begging for money from its viewers. The site claims to be in need of more funding, but in fact it is "awash with cash - and raises far more money each year than it needs to keep operating."[37]

Wikipedia, a registered trademark of Wikimedia Foundation, is used also by services like WikiExperts.us, which is declared as not being affiliated with it. WikiExperts.us accepts money to write Wikipedia entries for businesses and is included in American business ventures of Alex Konanykhin, the Former Russian oligarch, who has been wanted in Russia since Yeltsin’s days to face charges relating to embezzlement and financial fraud.[38]

Scandals and decline

Decline in Wikimedia Foundation donations.[39]
Graph courtesy Gregory Kohs. Used with Permission.
The cumulative effect of multiple scandals and revelations has led to declining activity on the English Wikipedia. The rate of new account creation peaked in early 2007 and has declined ~30% since. Overall editing activity showed a steady decline beginning in February 2007. An independent analysis reported, "The rate at which edits were being made to Wikipedia articles appears to have peaked in February to April 2007 and declined since. This decline is unprecedented in Wikipedia's history.... Though it may be purely coincidental, this time frame also corresponds to the Essjay controversy appearing in the press."[40]

Even after the hoax was revealed of high level intimates promoted by the Wikimedia Foundation as experts in fields that they were not, to persuade college professors to allow students to cite Wikipedia as a reliable source, and entrusted with the ability to invade users privacy which could affect, in their words, "life and death," Wikipedia still appealed to students with a Jim and Tammy Faye Baker-style fundraising slogan across one million project space pages that read, "OMG! Wikipedia is gone! I’ll flunk my exams!" [7]

Further evidence of the decline in Wikipedia is that the number of editors who voted in the 2012 Arbitration Committee elections has dropped to 858.[41] For a website that claims to have thousands of active editors, this is very low.

False claim about Brent Bozell

In March 2007, Brent Bozell described this falsehood in Wikipedia:[42]

The other day, Bernie Goldberg emailed me, upset. He pointed me to his Wikipedia entry. To read what was written was to conclude that apparently I must hate his guts. But we are friends. He is a man for whom I have profound respect, professional and personal. He knew there was foul play.
Right there on the screen, under the heading "Criticism," it stated that I had attacked him, "claiming that Goldberg merely lifted material he had been producing for years, and only published the book because he had an ax to grind with his former employers and was attempting to make a 'quick buck,' noting that Goldberg never mentioned the alleged liberal bias of the media until it was 'convenient' and 'profitable' for him to do so." ...
In fact, those words have never been uttered by me. The accusation would be false. Back in 1996, Goldberg used the op-ed pages of The Wall Street Journal publicly to castigate his own network for its one-sided oafish bashing of Steve Forbes. It was anything but "convenient" or "profitable" for him. It ruined his friendship with Dan Rather and put him on a path to the outer fringes of CBS "News. Ultimately, it ruined his newscaster career.
My attorney contacted Wikipedia by email demanding the removal of this false entry. No response. So we edited out the offensive material ourselves, after which in writing counsel alerted Wikipedia to the legal action that might befall them should this be repeated. Here's full disclosure, Wikipedia-style: You can see how each article is altered, sometimes hour by hour, in its "History" section. But there is no mention of the attorney's complaints. In the Goldberg article's history, an editor simply now scolds: "Bozell's article is a mock-jealous swipe at Goldberg's opportunism. PLEASE REREAD IT." (Capitals theirs.)
Goldberg and I are not alone. The website Conservapedia.com has a long list of 41 allegations of bias and factual errors at Wikipedia. You can add to that the problem with the credentials of its staff. One of its editors, named only "Essjay" online and described on his user profile "as a tenured professor of religion at a private university with expertise in canon law," was recently exposed as a 24-year-old college kid in Kentucky. He resigned in disgrace — even though Wikipedia tried to retain him, claiming he'd edited thousands of articles with flair.

Instead of apologizing to Brent Bozell, Wikipedia instead says "Bozell points to Conservapedia as a resource that documents Wikipedia's faults in this regard, presumably holding it as a more authoritative reference less vulnerable to vandalism."[43]

Rewriting its own history

The Associated Press and others credit Larry Sanger as the co-founder of Wikipedia.[44] But the Associated Press quotes Jimmy Wales as denying it:[45]

"When you write this up please do not uncritically repeat Sanger's absurd claim to be the co-founder of Wikipedia."
"I know of no one who was there at the company at the beginning who would think it anything other than laughable," he added. This is an interesting comment, considering that Larry Sanger takes credit for coining the name, "Wikipedia."[46]
"I am not bent out of shape about it," he wrote. "The facts are on my side, which is why I bother so little about it."

According to the Associated Press, Jimmy Wales "has repeatedly tried to address this - even going so far as editing his own Wikipedia biography to tone down credit for Sanger. Such autobiographical contributions are frowned upon in Wikipedia's community, and Wales apologized after his changes were noticed and publicized by blogger Rogers Cadenhead in 2005."[47]

Jimmy Wales has admitted that certain administrators, contrary to their own rules, have at times completely removed editing evidence.

Seigenthaler scandal

In early October 2005, a prominent and respected journalist John Seigenthaler Sr., contacted Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales about false and libelous content in his biographical entry. Essjay, a 24 year old Wikipedia Administrator who was advancing rapidly in the organization, was dispatched to handle the situation.[48] An anonymous contributor added to Seigenthaler's biography the previous May,

"John Seigenthaler Sr. was the assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the early 1960s. For a short time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven," and "John Seigenthaler moved to the Soviet Union in 1971, and returned to the United States in 1984. He started one of the country's largest public relations firms shortly thereafter."

Wales told Seignethaler that Wikipedia is "accountable" and corrects mistakes immediately, but that the internet service provider of the anonymous user probably would not be helpful in identifying who placed the content.[49] Accountability activist Daniel Brandt, a victim of a spurious biographical entry by Wikipedia Administrators, identified the place of employment of the anonymous user, and from there the person accountable was identified.[50]

Seigenthaler returned to the editorial pages of USA Today from which he retired as its first editorial manager to write an Op-Ed piece critical of Wikipedia and the threat it poses to free speech due of its overt provocation of government regulation, its irresponsible self regulation and lack of accountability.[51]

CNN interview

On December 5, 2005 Wales and Seigenthaler appeared on CNN. An exchange between CNN moderator Kyra Phillips and Wales went like this:

PHILLIPS:...I ran my name. I was shocked to see what was under my name. ...I'm telling you right now, Jimmy, that's not how I want people to see me and understand me. And what I'm about and what I write about in my interviews, et cetera. So, you know, it's not just individuals like John, but me and many other people, that just have concerns that this is creating gossip that can be very harmful. And people go to these sites thinking that this is the truth.
WALES: Well, I mean, I think the real key is that the site matures over time, the -- all of the articles are edited over and over and over, and improved. Anyone's free to contribute. You're free to go and contribute.

This in fact is not the case. Phillips was not free to remove objectionable content within her biographical entry, as Daniel Brandt at that exact moment was discovering. Not four days prior, Wales told Editor & Publisher magazine regarding Brandt's objections to a false Wikipedia biography created by Wikipedia Administrators about him, "I find it hard to take him very seriously at all," and libelous slanders remained in Brandt's biography for a year and half. Wales told CNN, "we are very, very responsive to complaints and concerns."

Seigenthaler told the audience "with accountability comes credibility" and expressed fear that, "I'm afraid we're going to get regulated media as a result."[52]

On December 9, Seigenthaler appeared on C-SPAN's Washington Journal with Brian Lamb and articulated his concern that members of Congress or other powerful figures in government may likewise be targeted. On November 2, 2006, days before the mid-term Congressional elections, an anonymous IP address traced to the New York Times changed U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay's Wikipedia biographical entry from "a prominent member of the Republican Party" to "Grand Dragon of the Republican Party."[53][54]

Seigenthaler wrote a more expansive column in the The Tennessean after the November 30 USA Today piece appeared,

a sudden stream of invective — homophobic, anti-Semitic and racist — spilled, as if from a sewer, onto the Wikipedia page under my name. ..It identified me as ...a "Nazi," "fascist-oriented" ....murderer ...there also was the profile picture of Adolf Hitler over the caption, "Press photo of Seigenthaler." The accompanying line: "He is secretly responsible for killing all the Jews."

Accountability and Section 230

From Wikipedia Watch. [3] The inscription reads,
"Two wikifascists find someone without a biography."

Upon his retirement from USA Today, Seigenthaler founded of the First Amendment Center, an organization dedicated to a national dialogue about First Amendment rights and values. Seigenthaler criticized passage of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Section 230 states that "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker." Unlike print and broadcast companies, internet service providers (ISP's) cannot be sued for disseminating defamatory attacks on citizens posted by others. Seigenthaler noted Jimbo Wales told Brian Lamb in a C-Span interview that Wikipedia is accountable and that mistakes are corrected within minutes, but the false information remained in Seigenthaler's biography for five months. Seigenthaler concluded,

And so we live in a universe of new media with phenomenal opportunities for worldwide communications and research — but populated by volunteer vandals with poison-pen intellects.[55]

In the case of Zeran v. AOL, Zeran sued AOL for refusing to screen and remove defamatory messages, even after Zeran notified the ISP of their existence. The lower court ruled for the service provider and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the decision, noting that the intent of Section 230 was to (1) remove incentives on service providers to restrict speech on the Internet and (2) encourage self regulation by service providers.[56][57]

An American citizen who posts material on the Internet that is illegal in a foreign country could be prosecuted if he subjected himself to the jurisdiction of that country. Internet users who export material that is illegal, that is to say, post material that is accessible and illegal in some foreign countries may be subject to prosecution in that country. However, under American law, the United States will not extradite a person for engaging in a constitutionally protected activity even if that activity violates a criminal law elsewhere.[58]

Essjay given oversight

See Main article: Wikipedia:The Essjay scandal

Essjay wrote a professor to persuade her to allow her students to use Wikipedia as a viable source of information and posted a verbatim copy of the email for others to use. Essjay stated, "I was the administrator who deleted the inappropriate revisions when Mr. Seigenthaler contacted our founder, Jimmy Wales; it is quite unfortunate that a relatively minor issue on a relatively minor figure has provided so much negative publicity.[59] Seigenthaler noted in his Op-Ed piece, "The motive for the salacious stuff directed at me is reasonably obvious," and quoted some comments, "We all at Wikipedia think he (Seigenthaler) is a horrible, stupid p...k for complaining about small inaccuracies in his biography."[60]

Others said, "Mr. Seigenthaler's attitude and actions are reprehensible and ill-formed," and “if there is an error whether large or small, he can correct it.” This again, was not true. Even prior to the Wikipedia policy, Biographies of Living Persons, conflict of interest restrictions existed on the subject of an article editing their own entry. Another wrote: "Rather than fixing the article himself, he made a legal threat."[61]

The Seigenthaler scandal was viewed as "the best thing that ever happened to Wikipedia" as curiosity seekers to view the misinformation skyrocketed Alexa rankings.

Despite the damage to an innocent person and divulgence of Wikipedia's precarious claim as a viable source, the Seigenthaler scandal was viewed as a triumph and considered "the best thing that ever happened to Wikipedia,"[62] catapulting it into a top ten most visited website as curiosity seekers responded to the negative publicity.[63]

The scandal was originally billed as a "hoax", then "controversy," then downgraded to "incident," and now re-upgraded to "controversy," evidently in response to criticism. The Wikipedia entry on "Seigenthaler controversy" contains disinformation, making the claim, "After the incident, Wikipedia took steps to prevent a recurrence, including barring unregistered users from creating new pages." No actions were ever taken to require disclosure of the real life identities of contributors. Barring unregistered users from creating new pages had nothing to do with the Seigenthaler scandal--the page already existed when an anonymous IP added the false information. Registration of accounts requires no accountability of the real life identity of the contributor. Indeed many experienced Wikipedia editors and Administrators have dozens of registered accounts, called "sockpuppet accounts." Protecting the identities of anonymous high-level Administrators has always been more of a priority to the WikiMedia Foundation than the propagation of false information about real life persons whose identities are known. Wales was asked by BusinessWeek magazine, “Why do you feel it is important to allow contributors and site administrators to remain anonymous?” Wales responded, “there are definitely people working in Wikipedia who may have privacy reasons for not wanting their name on the site….there are lots of reasons for privacy online that aren’t nefarious.”[64] In the Seigenthaler case, it was the odd circumstance that a victim of false information had a large enough platform to respond, coupled with the welcome fact that the victim fundamentally opposes government regulation of internet speech.

Wikipedia's "Seigenthaler controversy" also states, "The Foundation added a new level of "oversight" features to the MediaWiki software,[12] accessible as of 2006 to around 20 experienced editors nominated by Wales,"[65] one of whom was Essjay.

This ban on anonymous page creation “reform” was abandoned less than two years later as Wikipedia's usage and ratings slumped in the wake of yet more scandals and questions about Wikipedia's culture, core content policies, and endemic lack of accountability.[66]

Brandt / Berlet feud

See Main article: Wikipedia:The Daniel Brandt controversy

An ugly far-left sectarian dispute[67] reared its head in 2005 with disastrous consequences for the site's credibility. The feud had been dormant for many years until the need to elevate a “controversial and notable expert” above the level of “partisan and extreme” defined by its own policies became apparent which would have precluded the so-called “expert” as "a source for anything other than himself,” as Wikipedia's ever fluid policies dictate.

Daniel Brandt, founder of Namebase,[68] Google Watch, and Wikipedia Watch, removed Chip Berlet from his Board of Advisors in 1991 when Berlet refused to sit on the same Board which included Fletcher Prouty." Prouty, a retired Air Force colonel whose intelligence career stretched back to accompanying President Franklin Roosevelt to the Teheran conference, was allegorically portrayed as the mysterious “Man X”[69] by Donald Southerland in Oliver Stone's film, JFK. A Brandt biographical page was created using Berlet as the source for unsavory attacks on Brandt. Brandt describes himself as an "accountability activist"[70][71] and claims he originally began working with Wikipedia editors in good faith during October 2005 but any biographical information he revealed was spun against him to depict him in a negative light. Brandt states,

I soon realized that it was also about Berlet, who was still bent on undermining me. Berlet was using Wikipedia as part of his political agenda, and he was successful in this.[72]

Berlet's biography underwent an extensive revision with most of the substantive NPOV criticism cut out. The revising editor commented, "I kept Daniel Brandt, not because I feel he's a credible source, but because there's so little published criticism of Berlet, that I felt I had to retain something."[73] This is an extraordinary statement and raises the question why the same high-level Administrator and author of several of Wikipedia's core content and citation policies, including Wikipedia:Reliable Sources and Wikipedia:Biographies of Living Persons (BLP),[74] would use a source she did not consider credible.

Biographies of living persons

Wikipedia:Biographies of Living Persons (WP:BLP) policy did not come into being because of the Seigenthaler scandal, but rather over the Brandt controversy, as the originating editor noted in an edit summary.[75] Brandt requested Wikipedia delete his biographical entry, and ceased working with editors he suspected of working to further the propagation of false information about him.

Editor & Publisher magazine bills itself as the nation’s oldest trade journal serving the newspaper industry with roots dating back to 1884. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales responded to questions from Editor & Publisher in a prepared statement on December 1, 2005 about Daniel Brandt saying,

I don't regard him as a valid source about anything at all[76]

Wales comments added undue weight[77] (WP:UNDUE) to criticism of Brandt when placed within his biographical entry. Brandt demanded accountability from the army of unidentified Wikipedia Administrators furthering Chip Berlet's agenda to destroy Brandt's credibility, and elevate Berlet's own as a Wikipedia "expert."

From WikiTruth, the inscription reads,
"The Big Bad Brandt is Gonna Getcha!

Brandt became known as the scourge of the Wikipedia Admin community. WikiTruth says in its Brandt the Boogeyman entry,

he dates back to a time when people would look up facts in books and would verify information without just doing a copy and paste from an AP news article and thinking they were done. He compares writing styles, he calls government agencies, and he writes letters. And when he's done, he tends to know. Or at least, he knows where he stands in terms of information. He's rather tenacious about getting stuff right.

Wikipedia, of course, doesn't do this much at all: depending on the day, they'll laud a link to a website as being absolutely useless (it's on the WEB, of course) and then the next minute link to a different website to back a "fact" up. Citing books and printed materials is often a no-go, because nobody can read the original citation, so it gets swept away as well. Really, you have no idea what's good and what's bad, and it's all one big happy soup-hug.

Therefore, guys like Daniel Brandt are horrible for Wikipedia: he researches. He finds laws that pertain to situations. He asks the tough questions that could upset the whole Wiki-cart.

The Wordbomb Saga

Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne [4]

One of Wikipedia’s most bitter and drawn-out disputes, chronicled in The Register,[78] centers around the assertion by representatives of Overstock.com[79] that a mainstream financial journalist Gary Weiss had been editing Wikipedia to impose his point of view on a series of articles relevant to the company. Weiss was once a reporter with BusinessWeek, in 2007 became a columnist with Forbes, and had for over 10 years been posting under fake names to confuse, distort, hijack Usenet groups, stock message boards, and Wikipedia, to prevent the public from understanding criminal activity.[80] Weiss was notorious around the Internet for his public feud with Overstock[81] and its CEO Patrick Byrne,[82] ridiculing their campaign against the controversial practice of Naked Short Selling.

In 2006, Judd Bagley, an ally of Overstock’s Patrick Byrne having interviewed the CEO for a personal project, began editing Wikipedia to counter what was perceived to be a skewed representation of Naked Short Selling and Overstock.com. He was swiftly dispatched by influential Wikipedia administrators.

Shortly after, Bagley became Overstock’s Director of Communications, and embarked on an aggressive campaign to publicize the dispute on various websites, aiming to expose the administrators he held responsible for protecting Weiss. Using the moniker “Wordbomb”, Bagley presented evidence[83] suggesting that not only was Gary Weiss editing Wikipedia using the name “User:Mantanmoreland“,[84] but that he was operating other accounts to manipulate consensus and protect his interests in the dispute. Mantanmoreland violated Wikipedia policies against Conflict of Interest and No Self Promotion by creating an article about himself.[85] Bagley proved Weiss had edited Wikipedia from one of two main IPs used by the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC),[86] the organization charged with settling about a quadrillion stock trades each year. The DTCC is also the organization Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne said acts an enabler of perpetrators of illegal naked short selling of many public companies.[87]

Wikipedia responded to Bagley’s campaign in typical schoolyard fashion. The dispute was escalated by a small clique of powerful Wikipedians who seemed less interested in the truth of Bagley’s assertions, and more concerned with attacking perceived threats to the status quo at Wikipedia. With the approval of Jimbo Wales, administrators sided with “Mantanmoreland” / Gary Weiss, and anointed Bagley / Wordbomb an “Enemy Of The Wiki” who needed to be silenced — a “stalker” and a “harasser” for publicizing the details of the person who had been editing relevant articles on Wikipedia, and the people who had been stopping him from doing the same.

For nearly two years, Bagley’s name was invoked to inspire paranoia in the Wikipedia Admin Community to keep questioning editors in line. It became a textbook case for analysis of the intense group-think Wikipedia has become notorious for.

Judd Bagley was made a target at the highest levels of Wikipedia and became a victim of a global witchhunt by the Wikipedia Admin Community for daring to expose an unholy alliance of abuse and corruption on Wall Street and in the Wikipedia cabal. [5]

Bagley was repeatedly disparaged[88] by a cabal of out-of-control administrators such as Guy Chapman, who denounced Bagley as “lunatic” and “evil” when it suited. UK Wikimedia representative David Gerard banned an entire area of Utah to prevent Bagley raising his issues and made personally disparaging remarks.[89] Wikipedia Arbitrator Fred Bauder claimed that Bagley’s blog AntiSocialMedia.net showed “moral depravity”[90] for challenging the Wiki-elite. Administrator Phil Sandifer dismissed Bagley in highly personal and offensive language while boasting[91] that he himself had become a “powerful and trusted administrator on the 9th biggest website in the world.”

Other editors who raised Overstock’s quite legitimate complaints were banned as proxies of Judd Bagley. Paranoia had taken such a hold that editors with productive records from all over the US, and as far afield as Europe and Asia found themselves accused of being Bagley. When the editor Cla68[92] questioned the issue of Gary Weiss editing Wikipedia, he was swiftly blocked by administrator Durova on the orders of Jimbo Wales who wrote,[93] “Durova and Guy have my full support here. No nonsense, zero tolerance, shoot on sight. No kidding, this has gone on long enough”.

A study[94] undertaken by concerned administrators into the editing patterns of “Mantanmoreland” came to fruition. Despite the “Mantanmoreland” account ceasing edits on Overstock / Naked Short Selling articles in September 2007, the study revealed evidence beyond reasonable doubt that the same person had been operating several accounts to “control” articles. Thus affirming Bagley’s claims.

More worryingly for good faith Wikipedians was the revelation[95][96] that Jimbo Wales, alongside leading administrators, had considered that this person was almost certainly Gary Weiss in a private discussion as long ago as September 2007 (the same month the “Mantanmoreland” account quit editing the relevant articles). Meaning that behind the scenes, they were admitting that Bagley was probably right all along, yet in public were vilifying or blocking anyone who publicly stated so.

After the financial meltdown of 2008, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued directives aimed at curbing abusive naked short selling.[97] Patrick Byrne has been widely recognized as in the forefront of the movement aimed at curbing such abuses.[98]

Michael Moore

The website MichaelMoore.com, dissatisfied with a Wikipedia editor's edits to Sicko, published an image of a Wikipedia user on its main page. This was combined with links to edit both Sicko and the editor's user page.[8] Several Wikipedia editors and Administrators regarded this action on the part of Michael Moore's official website as an egregious violation of a well publicized ruling to protect Wikipedia editors from outside harassment. [9][10] The consensus, per Wikipedia's policy was to remove links from Wikipedia to Michael Moore's attack site which was urging vengeance and reprisals against an editor who posted criticism of Moore's film.

In Arbitration, Wikipedia's internal policy making and dispute resolution arm, the Arbitration chairman publicly admitted,

No question it contained an attack, including a link to edit our user's page. The problem is that many of us like Michael Moore very much and don't care much for the viewpoint of the user involved. Applying our policy in a rote manner (Without consideration of the unwritten rule that we support prominent subjects that we like) yields removal of the link (At least while it contained the personal attack).[99]

Wikipedia's Neutral Point of View (NPOV), laid down by founder Jimbo Wales allegedly is "absolute and non-negotiable."[11][12] The ArbCom chairman further stated, "Obviously we need to make an exception for prominent people whose viewpoint we support." [13] When asked, "How, then, is this remotely compatible with NPOV?", the ArbCom chairman responded, "Not at all." [14] The editor whom Michaelmoore.com was urging its viewers to attack and harass is described as "a Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank."[15]

Sinbad hoax

On March 16 2007, Wikipedia entry on the 50-year old entertainer Sinbad, born David Adkins, states: "He succumbed to a fatal heart attack on the morning of March, 14, 2007." This hoax was widely reported in the media[100].

Robert Clark Young revenge edits

From 2006 to 2013, Robert Clark Young, an author who had only published one novel to mixed reviews, edited Wikipedia extensively with 13,000 edits under username "Qworty." He engaged in aggressive behavior making revenge edits to biographical articles of his rival authors and other people against whom he held grudges. He also puffed up his own Wikipedia autobiography, and repeatedly denied that he was connected to Young. He also created other single purpose accounts to further his campaign.[101][102] Only after his true identity was revealed in a salon.com article,[103] was Young banned[104] and efforts made to reverse his vindictive edits. In essence, he would remove favorable items from the biographies of his enemies or nominate them for deletion. The salon.com article concluded,

But Qworty’s example tells us that even when people call attention to a rogue editor, even when that editor’s temper tantrums come to the attention of the founder of Wikipedia, it’s quite possible that no action will be taken.

Rutgers-Ivy League hoax

A Wikipedia entry falsely stated that Rutgers was once invited to join the Ivy League. Although that false statement was eventually removed from Wikipedia, it was not removed before the Daily News relied on it in this story:

You don't have to define your college with your football team, but Rutgers long ago decided to give it a try. Back in 1954, when it was considered a 'public Ivy,' Rutgers might have joined the fledgling Ivy League and altered its destiny. But the school declined the offer - arguably the dumbest mistake in its history. Ever since then, Rutgers has scrambled to prove itself worthy of playing football with the big boys."[105]

Barbara Bauer vs. Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedia Foundation is one of 17 defendants in a lawsuit suit filed in New Jersey, by Barbara Bauer and her literary agency. Her Wikipedia article was deleted on March 25, 2007 by Wikipedia administrator Doc Glasgow as a "bloody disgrace".[106][107][108][109]

GFDL License Issue

Wikipedia's practice of complete deletion of articles[110] without reference to the original article, the author(s)/publisher(s) of the article, and the history and title(s) of the article, including modification history, description and appropriate dates, is a direct violation of at least GFDL version 1.2. Additionally, the GFDL License states that if the article/document contains Copyright notices, that said notices must be preserved at all times. If those notices are removed, then they are in violation of Copyright Law, as well as the terms of the GFDL license. Furthermore, the question of them removing anything outright at all comes into quite a grey area. If one reads the GFDL License literally, then it implies that once the article document is posted, it is in distribution, and technical measures are not allowed to be taken to prevent the use of the document in question, and that no other conditions whatsoever can be added by the user to those of the GFDL license.[111][112]

However, beginning June 15, 2009, the Wikimedia Foundation began transitioning content on Wikipedia to be dual licensed under both the GFDL and Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 3.0.[113]

Cyberbullying

The press have reported on incidents of cyberbullying on Wikipedia.[114][115][116] An editor threatened an Asian student at the Glen A. Wilson High School in 2008,[114][115][116] and a 14-year-old boy was arrested for making a threat against Niles West High School on Wikipedia in 2006.[117]

Wikipedia on bestiality

See also: Wikipedia on bestiality and Atheism and bestiality

As noted earlier, the Wikipedia project was initiated by atheists and entrepreneur Jimmy Wales and the agnostic philosophy professor Larry Sanger on January 15, 2001.[118]

Bestiality is the act of engaging in sexual relations with an animal. As of July 18, 2012, Wikipedia's article on zoophilia/bestiality has an entire section on "arguments for zoophilia" plus pictures depicting zoophilia as well as a section on "arguments against zoophilia". As of September 24, 2011, Wikipedia has a "Zoophilia and the law" article which has a section on the impact of zoophilia laws where eight alleged negative impacts of zoophilia laws are given, but no positive impacts of the laws are given.[119]

See also: Atheism and bestiality and Evolutionary belief and bestiality

Trademarks and domain names

The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) uses the licensing of its trademarks as a tool to control local chapters. Although each local chapter is in theory an autonomous organization, each chapter signs an contract with the WMF as a condition for using its trademarks. The WMF also tried to stake out control over many domain names that contain the word "wiki" including "wikileaks". WikiLeaks and Wikipedia have no affiliation with each other. ("Wiki" describes a type of website and is not a trademark.)[120][121] Wikia did purchase several WikiLeaks-related domain names (including wikileaks.com and wikileaks.net) as a "protective brand measure" in 2007.[122] Wikia started to transfer those domain names to wikileaks on June 14, 2007, but the transfer was never completed, and Wikia held those domain names when the "Wikileaks scandal broke.[122]

Humorous quotes concerning Wikipedia

See also: 10 telltale signs you are on your way to becoming an atheist nerd - satire

"...dealing with the Wikipedians is like walking into a mental hospital: the floors are carpeted, the walls are nicely padded, but you know there’s a pretty good chance at any given moment one of the inmates will pick up a knife.” - quote from a New York Times article on Wikipedia written by the journalist and author Judith Newman[123]

An article entitled Wikipedia Gridlocked by Wikipedia Nerds declared:

So who are these Gatekeepers to all the internet's knowledge?

A survey the foundation conducted last year determined that the average age of an editor is 26.8 years, and that 87% of them are men.

As you suspected: nerds.[124]

Jimmy Wales said the typical profile of a Wikipedia contributor is "a 26-year-old geeky male" who moves on to other ventures, gets married and leaves the website.[125]

Seth Meyers noted on his Late Night program, "Wikipedia is now accepting donations using the online currency Bitcoin. So now you can support information you're not sure is true with currency you're not sure is money."[126]

When obscure author Patrick Modiano was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in October 2014, few journalists knew much about him. The person updating his Wikipedia biography to reflect the prize added this warning to the article, "To the Reporter Now Copying From Wikipedia: Be careful boy. Primary sources are still best for journos."[127][128]

Song excerpt

All of my action figures are Cherry,

Stephen Hawking's in my library....

I edit Wikipedia...I'm nerdy in the extreme, whiter than sour cream...

They see me strollin', they're laughin' And rollin' their eyes cause I'm so White and nerdy". - White and Nerdy, Weird Al Yankovic[129]

Unbiased editor recruitment

Wikipedia claims that anyone can edit it. It is to an extent, its editor pool is self-selecting. However, on January 25–29, 2012, the Wikimedia Foundation paid for Gregory Varnum and others to attend and staff a booth at the "24th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change" conference in Baltimore, Maryland. The purpose of the Wikimedia booth was to create more LGBT activists to edit Wikipedia. Although Wikimedia has outreach efforts at other conferences, there has been no outreach at conservative events.

Wikipedia editor Sarah Stierch was the volunteer moderator of the Gender Gap email list where she departed from discussing Wikipedia to freely share her negative experiences with men in her life. In fall 2011, she was hired by the WMF as a Community Fellow to work on creating a "Teahouse" for newer Wikipedia editors. The report on the Teahouse Pilot Project[130] explained, "If you click through to the Teahouse, it’s clearly aiming to broaden female participation - just look at the pastel background and references to tea." Stierch tried to use Twitter to recruit more female editors into Teahouse and the English Wikipedia. The report concluded, "Because so much time and energy needed to be spend during the pilot on setting up and maintaining the space, we weren't able to focus as much as we'd have liked on gender-targeted strategies for recruiting female guests and hosts. There are clearly more experiments that need to be run in order to better integrate the space with other gender gap efforts and WikiWomen's calls to actions." The WMF terminated Stierch on January 9, 2014 following complaints of her moonlighting as a paid editor.[131]

On August 18, 2014, during the Congressional summer recess, the Cato Institute and Wikimedia DC jointly conducted a seminar to encourage Congressional staff members to edit Wikipedia about pending legislation and policy issues.[132][133] The panel discussion included Michelle Newby, a full-time Cato employee who edits Wikipedia as a part of her job. She promised to work with any Congressional Staff that would be interested in editing.

See also

Further reading

References

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