News and notes: the Trump photo and a paid editing mishap

Form 990 released

A piece in The Register written by former Signpost co-editor Andreas Kolbe, “Golden handshakes of almost half a million at Wikimedia Foundation“, reported the amounts of severance pay revealed on the recently released Form 990 for the 2015-2016 fiscal year for former VPs of engineering Erik Möller and Damon Sicore as well as former executive director Sue Gardner.

 Trump photo copyright issues

Donald Trump’s official portrait was briefly deleted on Commons, after a copyright claim, then restored, then removed again after a deletion discussion. The file at this point remains deleted, and Trump’s Wikipedia article is now illustrated with a photo taken by Jette Carr at a Pentagon event. The current image was originally lightened, but after a discussion on the talk page describing the image as “uncharacteristically pale”, the original colorization was restored.

Research: WP censorship in China, Thailand, Uzbekistan, and Turkey

Berkman Klein Center released a study on internet censorship titled “Analyzing Accessibility of Wikipedia Projects Around the World”  conducted by the Internet Monitor project at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society that examines the changes in censorship after Wikipedia’s switch to HTTPS in 2015.  They concluded that the change was largely successful in curtailing censorship, since a country can no longer censor individual Wikipedia pages.  The main countries that still censor Wikipedia are China, Thailand, and Uzbekistan, with China being completely blocked at the moment.  Previously, the Chinese government would block Wikipedia during the anniversary of the Tienanmen Square protests. In 2015, Russia briefly blocked Wikipedia after editors refused to censor a marijuana-related article.  Harvard Magazine noted that researchers found that after the study concluded, China blocked Wikipedia in additional languages, and Turkey blocked Wikipedia in all local languages.

Research: pre- and post-HTTPS censorship

Also from the Berkman Klein Center’s Internet Monitor, a study titled “An Uptake in Communications Encryption Is Tempered by Increasing Pressure on Major Platform Providers; Governments Expand Content Restriction Tactics” looked at content restriction practices in 75 countries, including the blocking of individual Wikipedia pages. Since encrypted (HTTPS) connections means that governments can no longer selectively block individual Wikipedia pages without blocking the whole site, the report notes that all of Wikipedia is now available in Iran, while none of Wikipedia is available in Turkey. In 2011, Saudi Arabia was blocking specific Wikipedia pages, such theory of evolution, however there is no evidence that Saudi Arabia is currently blocking any Wikipedia content. In 2013, nearly 1,000 Persian-language articles were blocked, but since the switch to HTTPS, those articles now have increased traffic, an indication that censorship has been unsuccessful.

Legislator uses Wikipedia as a reference

State Rep. Ramon Perez brought his colleagues printouts of a Wikipedia article to discuss a bill, but did not notice the printout showed open tabs of a porn website. Perez apologized and brought new printouts of the Wikipedia article without the porn references.  But commenters at the Fox News Facebook page ignored the porn question and left dozens of complaints about using Wikipedia as a reference. “This idiot uses Wikipedia to support legislation,” said one. “Wow.”

“If Wikipedia isn’t allowed as facts in our school projects then they should not be allowed in our government either.”

Vandalism in the news
VPNs to bypass the Turkey block

Wikipedia remains blocked in Turkey, reported the New York Times. While Turkey has a huge number of VPNs, mirror websites have also sprung up to bypass the block. One such site is IPFS.

Jimmy Wales comments on the i-phone

Wired magazine asked a number of tech personalities, including Jimmy Wales, how the i-phone had changed their lives. Wales revealed, “I love Apple products so, of course, I’m using a Mac and an iPad, but …I’ve always been an Android man…”

Paid editing backfires

In a July 6 interview with Entrepreneur, Nathan Chan described how he decided his magazine Foundr needed a Wikipedia article, and hired someone to write it. He agreed to pay $1,300 for articles about himself and his company.  On July 7, the article for Foundr was nominated for deletion, and a sockpuppet investigation was started on the article’s author. The AfD ended in deletion and the sockpuppet investigation confirmed eight socks related to each other, including the author of the Foundr article.


1 Comment

  1. The very worst thing an up and coming business needs is a Wikipedia article. It beggars belief presumably smart people still fall for the hype and believe it is worth the effort, let alone paying thousands for something which is easily done for free. There are established companies out there, ones with huge amounts of coverage across a wide range of platforms, whose Wikipedia entry is nonetheless a millstone – the vast majority of Wikipedia editors are entirely uninterested in editting or maintaining an article about a business, unless it is to add negative material, usually after a controversy that fits with the overall biases of Wikipedia editors. It really should be legally possible for companies to sue Wikipedia where they can be proven to be violating their own policies by failing to ensure neutral entries based in the avaie of coverage and its content as an aggregate. As always, they hide behind their Section 230 immunity, while also protecting the very people who slant business articles, often quite innocently without any real thought of the consequences or impact, as well as those who do it quite deliberately as part of an agenda. What other option do they have then, other than clandestine conflict of interest editting? Especially as it has been proven time and again that Wikipedians are typically unresponsive to legitimate complaints from properly identified representative editors. This is what happens when you build a website where every rule and procedure is essentially just advisory – the only thing anyone needs to know, certainly those fools thinking they need a Wikipedia article, is that Wikipedia editors are not obliged to do anything, and most certainly cannot be forced to do anything, even in pursuit of an article which complies with their own policies. And yet these are the very same people who write the encyclopedia. Businesses have only one realistic effective means of interacting with Wikipedia, through legal channels in communication with the WMF Legal department. Hopefully the message gets out, but the entire movement is very much anti anyone who wants people to know these realities of their enterprise. Everyone in the world is expected to participate on their terms.

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