Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2023-06-19/In the media

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English WP editor glocked after BLP row on Italian 'pedia: ... and an AI writer explains why he just bought a paper encyc
In the media

English WP editor glocked after BLP row on Italian 'pedia

Italian Wikipedia controversy leads to global lock of English Wikipedia contributor's account

Alessandro Orsini, the academic whose biography was at the centre of the controversy

Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano reports (Google Translation) on what it calls a "bizarre soap opera" surrounding the Italian Wikipedia biography of Alessandro Orsini (it). According to his university website, Orsini is an Associate Professor at LUISS University of Rome, where he teaches General Sociology and Sociology of Terrorism in the Department of Political Science, as well as a long-time (2011–2022) Research Affiliate at the MIT Center for International Studies. He has also written as a journalist for Il Messaggero and Il Fatto Quotidiano.

The dispute on the Italian Wikipedia was focused on whether his biography was unduly negative. It led to the global lock of User:Gitz6666, a user with around 7,500 edits and a clean block log on the English Wikipedia, though some prior blocks on Italian Wikipedia. Gitz6666 had recently been a party in the World War II and the history of Jews in Poland arbitration case; the case decision contained no findings of fact or remedies concerning them.

According to the Il Fatto Quotidiano article, Gitz6666 and another user, now also blocked, had been defending Orsini, arguing that the Italian Wikipedia biography had become an attack page. The press article agrees with their assessment, pointing out that the biography paints an unbalanced picture of the reception of Orsini's book Anatomy of the Red Brigades (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011). The Italian Wikipedia article, currently protected by an admin, acknowledges that the book won an award but then focuses exclusively on negative reviews, including one published on an ex-terrorist's personal blog, while positive reviews (e.g. [1][2][3][4]) or mixed reviews (e.g. [5][6]) in reliable sources are not represented. The Il Fatto Quotidiano article, written by Lorenzo Giarelli, ties the biography controversy to critical comments Orsini has made about NATO.

The global lock of Gitz6666's account was made by a steward, User:Sakretsu. The rationale given was "violation of the UCoC, threatening and intimidating behaviour". – AK

World Book Encyclopedia, 2023 edition

Like many of us, including Jimmy Wales, Benj Edwards grew up reading the World Book Encyclopedia. His article in Ars Technica, "I just bought the only physical encyclopedia still in print, and I regret nothing", explains that there is still a demand, in the thousands per year, for a print encyclopedia, mostly from schools and public libraries. He even gives a link to the World Book website, where you can buy your own copy for $1,199, and says that he can occasionally find a copy on Amazon for $799. Slightly older editions go for much less.

Advantages of owning your own print encyclopedia include

Every morning as I wait for the kids to get ready for school, I pull out a random volume and browse. I've refreshed my knowledge on many subjects and enjoy the deliberate stability of the information experience.

Disadvantages include explaining the purchase to your family, and the shark photo on the "spinescape". – S

Holocaust and Polish nationalism: Critic proposes history advisory board

In The Forward, Shira Klein (chair of the Department of History at Chapman University) accuses English Wikipedia of "repeatedly allow[ing] rogue editors to rewrite Holocaust history and make Jews out to be the bad guys", reiterating and expanding her criticism of the recent ArbCom decision in the "World War II and the history of Jews in Poland" case (see also last issue's "In the media"). The case had been prompted by an academic paper (Signpost review) where Klein and Jan Grabowski had identified "dozens of examples of Holocaust distortion which, taken together, advanced a Polish nationalist narrative, whitewashed the role of Polish society in the Holocaust and bolstered harmful stereotypes about Jews." Klein also gave a keynote speech about "Wikipedia's Distortion of Holocaust History" at the Wikihistories conference on June 9.

In her Forward article, Klein argues that "The problem is not the individual arbitrators, nor even ArbCom as a whole; the committee's mandate is to judge conduct, never content. This is a good policy. [...] But this leaves a gaping hole in Wikipedia's security apparatus. Its safeguards only protect us from fake information when enough editors reach a consensus that the information is indeed fake. When an area is dominated by a group of individuals pushing an erroneous point of view, then wrong information becomes the consensus."

Klein proposes that the Wikimedia Foundation (which "boasts an annual revenue of $155 million" and has previously intervened "to stem disinformation in Chinese Wikipedia, Saudi Wikipedia [sic] and Croatian Wikipedia, with excellent results"), "must harness subject-matter experts to assist volunteer editors":

In cases where Wikipedia's internal measures fail repeatedly, the foundation should commission scholars — mainstream scholars who are currently publishing in reputable peer-reviewed presses and work in universities unencumbered by state dictates [apparently a reference to the situation in Poland] — to weigh in. In the case of Wikipedia's coverage of Holocaust history, there is a need for an advisory board of established historians who would be available to advise editors on a source's reliability, or help administrators understand whether a source has been misrepresented. [...] This is no radical departure from Wikipedia's ethos of democratized knowledge that anyone can edit. This is an additional safeguard to ensure Wikipedia's existing content policies are actually upheld."


Tenth Russian fine this year, Foundation sues again

Reuters reports (citing Interfax) that on June 6, a Russian court "fined the Wikimedia Foundation, which owns Wikipedia, 3 million roubles ($36,854) for refusing to delete an article on Ukraine's Azov battalion." According to Interfax, "This is the tenth time Wikipedia has been penalized in 2023 for not removing prohibited information. The ten fines total 15.9 million rubles." (See previous "In the media" about one of these fines that was issued in February: "Russia fines Wikipedia for failing to toe the party line on the Ukraine War".) Separately, on May 29 Interfax also reported that the Foundation was filing lawsuits against the Prosecutor-General's office and Roskomnadzor, "asking the court to invalidate Roskomnadzor's notices about violations of procedures governing dissemination of information on Wikipedia, as well as the Russian Prosecutor General's Office's demands for measures to be taken to restrict user access to this information." In November last year, the Foundation already reported it had several cases "pending before the Russian Courts including an appeal against a verdict where the Foundation was fined a total of 5 million rubles (the equivalent of approximately USD $82,000) for refusing to remove information from several Russian Wikipedia articles." – H

In brief

  • "Best ever" citation needed no longer needed: BoingBoing felt certain they had located the best ever use of "[citation needed]" on Wikipedia. It was in the I've got your nose article. However, as might be expected with an encyclopedia updatable in real time, a reliable source was soon found, meaning that the "[citation needed]" tag is no more.

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