Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2023-06-05/News and notes

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WMRU director forks new 'pedia, birds flap in top '22 piccy, WMF weighs in on Indian gov's map axe plea: Code of Conduct Coordinating Committee Building Committee Commences Command By Convening
News and notes

WMRU director forks new 'pedia, birds flap in top '22 piccy, WMF weighs in on Indian gov's map axe plea

The Picture of the Year 2022, by Prasan Shrestha, showing a great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), little egret (Egretta garzetta) and a gadwall (Mareca strepera) in Taudaha Lake, near Kathmandu, Nepal

Picture of the Year 2022

The Picture of the Year contest on Commons for the year 2022 has concluded. The top 12 images can be viewed here; all 56 finalists can be found here. – AK

Wikimedia Russia director starts Russian fork and is replaced

Wikimedia Russia logo

On 24 May 2023, long-time Wikimedia Russia director Vladimir V. Medeyko (User:Drbug) announced "Рувики" ("Ruviki"), a Russian fork of Wikipedia (Google translation of the announcement). Below are some excerpts from the announcement on, as translated by DeepL and Google:

I have been a part of the Wikimedia movement for nearly 20 years. And I can say with absolute certainty: Wikipedia is a great project. Because of its importance to the world, it has become a natural monopoly. This means that it is very difficult to reform. Primarily from the fact that it is scary to screw it up.

My colleagues and I have long wanted to try various innovations and reforms. But, as mentioned above, this is extremely difficult in Wikipedia.

Fortunately, Wikipedia is a free project. Anyone can use its content for any purpose, including creating their own project based on it. A project that one can safely try to develop!

And this is what we (as individuals) have decided to do: to start a new encyclopaedic project which is a fork of Wikipedia. That is, it is based on its content (all 1.9 million articles in Russian), but it will develop in a different way – with the said innovations and fundamental reforms.

We have only started to implement our project now, because two powerful motivating factors have emerged in 2022.

The first has to do with the issue of credibility. It has been bothering me for a long time. Back in 2008, at a Wikimedia conference, I discussed the problem of unreliability of articles in Wikipedia, the negative impact on readers, and ways to overcome it. Various mechanisms for ensuring reliability and neutrality have emerged and evolved since then. But the events unfolding in Ukraine have created unprecedented pressure on them – and in my view, the Wikipedia mechanisms are not coping well with this pressure. The need to find additional mechanisms has increased dramatically.

The second factor has to do with artificial intelligence. This topic interests me even more. At a press conference in 2007 I predicted that Wikipedia materials would be actively used in training samples for artificial intelligence systems. By 2022, this has become a reality, with Wikipedia texts used to train a wide variety of systems. On top of that, the past year has seen a boom in large language models. And it was found that the quality of a training sample is especially important for them, otherwise the occurrence of "hallucinations" in the output increases sharply. It is easy to predict that both search engines and Wikipedia will become irrelevant unless ways are found to integrate them with artificial neural networks.

I've also always been concerned about the atmosphere of the project – the friendliness, the focus on compromise for the sake of education and cooperation. I have had many discussions with fellow Wikimedians on this topic. In our view, Wikipedia is suffocating without an influx of newcomers; drastic measures are needed to attract them.

Finally, Wikipedia has an ambiguous reputation in Russia, and it has become difficult to attract participants as well as partners to organize events to support it. But at the same time the public demand for new Wikipedia-like projects has grown.

According to Russian Wikinews, this is the last known photograph (on Commons) of the fork's founders Vladimir V. Medeyko (middle) and Dmitry Rozhkov (left) as members of Wikimedia RU, showing them attending the funeral of User:Соколрус who had volunteered to serve in the Russian invasion of Ukraine and was killed in a mortar attack near Lysychansk in March.

The fork has been welcomed by those media outlets which are still allowed to publish in Russia, such as TASS. Ruviki will not be the first Wikipedia fork to be published in Russia. Runiversalis, which had difficulties getting started last fall, now claims to have 1,920,588 entries, but does not seem to be operated according to the usual Wikipedia rules. Adding to the expected confusion is that the new fork's name "Рувики" is pronounced "Ruviki", the same as a common name for the original Russian Wikipedia,

In community discussions on the Russian Wikipedia and elsewhere, as well in a Russian Wikinews article, it was pointed out that concerns about AI and newbies might not be the main drivers of this project, and that it should rather be seen in the context of what the fork's announcement appears to allude to as the "pressure" ("давление") that it criticizes Wikipedia as not handling well. Namely, the list of articles banned by the Russian government has increased greatly since last year due to the addition of coverage of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, but they remain accessible in Russia as long as authorities are reluctant to block Wikipedia entirely.

Wikimedia Ukraine secretary Bohdan Melnychuk strongly criticized the fork in the Wikipedia Weekly Facebook group, saying that –

... at the moment Russian Wikipedia is on the brink of being banned in Russia [...] the concern here is not that there is a fork created per se. The concern here is that there are forks being created so that the most successful of them gets to be named the Wikipedia's replacement by the Russian government, while the Wikipedia proper gets banned in Russia.

Medeyko has since been replaced as director of Wikimedia Russia by Stas Kozlovsky and is now indefinitely blocked on Russian Wikipedia, alongside Dmitry Rozhkov, another longtime editor involved in the fork. Kozlovsky told RTVI on the day of the fork's announcement that (DeepL translation):

Vladimir Medeyko, the director of Wikimedia RU, happens to have been secretly involved in the preparation of such a project. There will be a general meeting today to strip him of his directorial powers. [...] Wikipedia is distributed under a free license; anyone can take the content of Wikipedia and use it – it is absolutely normal. It's not normal to use the authority of the director of Wikimedia RU to do this, and to do it in secret for several years. In my opinion, it's not very pretty.

For further discussion see the Wikimedia-l mailing list thread and the Wikipedia Weekly Facebook group. – AK, HaeB

U4C Building Committee

Seven African boys with white body painting on stilts
Not the U4C Building Committee, but the runner-up in the 2022 Picture of the Year contest, showing Ethiopian children with traditional body painting playing on wooden stilts

The U4C Building Committee has been set up. Its members are:

According to the page on Meta, the task of the U4C Building Committee will be "to draft a charter that outlines procedures and details for a global committee to be called the Universal Code of Conduct Coordinating Committee (U4C). The U4C Building Committee will convene to define and set up the U4C to coordinate the on-going work of the UCoC. This work includes the enforcement, annual review and possible revision of the Universal Code of Conduct and Enforcement Guidelines. The U4C development and implementation will happen over the next year. This crucial work is the next step in providing community structures for the Universal Code of Conduct." – AK

Indian map dispute

Map of India
One of the maps of India identified as requiring attention

A letter written by Jacob Rogers on behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation's Legal Team to the English Wikipedia community at the NPOV noticeboard addresses concerns raised by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) of the Indian government regarding maps on Wikimedia projects. It acknowledges that India, along with several other countries, has laws that deem maps not conforming to the Indian government's national border outline as illegal. In 2023, MeitY sent the Foundation direct complaints about specific maps and provided a list of 81 URLs on Wikimedia projects, primarily English Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons. MeitY expressed its intention to block access to Wikipedia in India if the Foundation did not respond to their demands.

The Foundation, following its standard practice in responding to government demands, explained the community-governance processes of the Wikimedia projects. It emphasized that content and editorial decisions are made by volunteers, and the Foundation has no authority to make changes based on government requests. MeitY acknowledged and agreed with this stance, clarifying that their request did not involve deleting any content from the Wikimedia projects.

However, MeitY made two specific requests to the Foundation. Firstly, they requested that the Foundation inform users (editors) about MeitY's demands. The Foundation considered this request reasonable and aligned with its transparency principles, and therefore decided to make the information public by writing the letter. Secondly, MeitY asked for notices to be added to pages where maps did not comply with Indian law. They also requested a reference to the official Survey of India map, which they had recently released into the public domain and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.

The Foundation's Legal Department reviewed the requests and opined that informing the community about MeitY's notices was a reasonable course of action, consistent with transparency principles. However, regarding the second request, the Foundation understood MeitY's concern to be the potential misinterpretation of maps' depiction of disputed borders. In response, they suggested the addition of language to image captions in an encyclopedic style to address some of MeitY's concerns while adhering to existing content policies.

After conducting a thorough manual review of the 81 URLs shared by MeitY, the Foundation meticulously identified twelve maps of India that required attention. These maps were spread across eight pages and notably lacked any indication of the border dispute in their visual representation or accompanying captions. The identified maps are as follows:

Recognizing the importance of providing a more balanced and contextual understanding, the Foundation acknowledged the potential benefit of addressing the border dispute in relation to these maps.

The letter emphasized the Wikimedia Foundation's support for the community's editorial decisions and processes. If the community collectively decided not to take any action in response to MeitY's requests, the Foundation would communicate this decision to MeitY and would also attempt to challenge any potential blockage of Wikipedia in India. In conclusion, the letter expressed gratitude to the readers for their time and consideration. – JSG

Brief notes