Concerns about unimpeded access to Wikipedia continue
Free-of-charge access and free-of-interference access to Wikipedia were the subjects of articles in a number of outlets – the libertarian magazine Reason, Harvard University's Harvard Magazine, the online magazine Slate.com, and the Canadian cultural magazine Vice. The Vice story provocatively suggested nullifying censorship of Wikipedia by disseminating Wikipedia via the dark web, a venue more often associated with porn, terrorism, and Bitcoin-fueled drug transactions.
In Reason, WMF's former legal counsel Mike Godwin wrote about how Everyone Should Be Getting Wikipedia for Free (June 4, 2017). Libertarians are skeptical of interference with free markets. In some cases, Internet providers have been choosing to lower rates or charge zero for Wikipedia access over their networks like Wikipedia Zero. But some call this a violation of net neutrality to favor one website, even if it is the global repository of the sum of all human knowledge. Godwin explains: "Internet providers should be able to experiment with giving subscribers free stuff, such as access to Wikipedia and other public information and services on their smartphones. Unfortunately, confusion about whether today's net neutrality regulations allow U.S. providers to make content available without it counting against your data plan—a practice called "zero-rating"—has discouraged many companies from doing so, even though zero-rating experiments are presumptively legal under today's net neutrality regulations."
The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University has a project that monitors Wikipedia access from various countries around the globe. Harvard Magazine's Alisha Ukani reports (June 29, 2017) on the Center's findings on access in China, Iran, Thailand, Uzbekistan and eleven other countries in research conducted since 2014. The study concluded that since WMF's implementation of across-the-board encryption using HTTPS, most countries faced with an all-or-nothing censorship decision have opted not to censor. The Center's director and a participant in the research said, "Wikipedia is one of the most prominent, and most important, sites out there," and states that it was the first, "complete empirical deep dive into incidents of the blocking of Wikipedia projects around the world".
A Slate blog post by Angelica Cabral titled "Wikipedia Seems to Be Winning Its Battle Against Government Censorship" (June 1, 2017) echoes the Berkman Klein Center findings at least in part. She says, "In Iran—as you might expect—internet content about women’s rights, sex, and religion are censored and filtered. Wikipedia articles on the topic used to be blocked," but this changed after mandatory HTTPS was implemented by the WMF in 2015.
Cristian Consonni is the former Wikimedia Italy vice-president. In Vice's Motherboard (June 7, 2017), Louise Matsakis analyzed Consonni's proposal to bring up Tor's darknet as a Wikipedia platform. The Motherboard writer suggested, "It would be far more difficult for governments to censor or monitor Wikipedia's dark web version. But Consonni and like-minded editors aren't just concerned with surveillance. He hopes bringing Wikipedia to the dark web will also help improve Tor's reputation. The browser is often thought of as a tool for drug dealers and other criminals, instead of say, encyclopedia readers trying to avoid government surveillance." B.
"Follow the money" leads to unexpected half mil of parting payments
Following Andreas Kolbe (Jayen466)'s May 2016 Signpost special report titled "Compensation paid to Sue Gardner increased by almost 50 percent after she stepped down as executive director", executive compensation for Wikimedia Foundation staff who had been terminated (but possibly re-hired temporarily) was the subject of several off-wiki reports, many of whom used the phrase golden handshake to describe the situation. One report that appeared in The Register (7 June 2017) was also written by Kolbe and reprised his analysis of the annual Form 990 report, asking the rhetorical question "is this what donors giving $15 'to keep Wikipedia online and growing' had in mind?"
In International Business Times, Mary-Ann Russon – noting the apparent largesse of the Foundation – likewise asked "why does the foundation keep saying the online encyclopedia is struggling to survive?" (8 June 2017) Her IBT column seems to answer its own question at the same time as Kolbe's with an internal sub-heading titled "Urgent appeals for donations don't ring true".
The WMF declined to explain individual payments, saying it would "not be commenting on the specific nature of the severance payments or circumstances which may be related to them" (wikimedia-l 2017-05-24).
Andreas Kolbe further clarified the Form 990 reporting cycle for Signpost: "Forms 990 are supposed to be published 5 months after the end of the financial year (the WMF financial year ends on June 30), but organisations can request up to two three-month extensions, and the WMF generally does so. This is why its Form 990 is generally published in May, almost a full year after the end of the financial year. Unless the WMF does a quicker turnaround next year, the 2016-2017 Form 990 will become available in May 2018, and it will show Lila Tretikov's severance payment – more than two years after the event (because, as explained in the email announcement, information related to key employees is published on a calendar-year rather than financial-year basis, with the 2016-2017 Form 990 covering the 2016 calendar year)." B.
Wikipedia, how old is Calibri?
Dawn, Pakistan's most widely read English-language newspaper, cited Wikipedia July 12 to establish the earliest date the Calibri font was available in Windows Vista, in an article about Panama Papers corruption case with potentially forged official documents printed with the built-in font. A related edit war and gold lock were noted by various major English language dailies in Pakistan like The Express Tribune, The News International, Pakistan Today, The Daily Times, The Nation. It was also discussed in various major TV talk shows.
Dawn said: "There were indications that the Wikipedia entry for the Calibri font had also been changed repeatedly to reflect a similar claim till Wikipedia itself placed a hold on editing the page till July 18 'or till editing disputes are solved'." The Times of India, the world's largest circulation English newspaper, ran another story on the edit war, as did Engadget noting "someone did manage to squeeze in a reference to the corruption probe" prior to protection. Haaretz noted "Wikipedia finds itself at center of the controversy because its entry on the font suggests a key document is fake." while The Guardian headline reads "'Fontgate': Microsoft, Wikipedia and the scandal threatening the Pakistani PM" and noted that "people praised Wikipedia for its quick response and said it was proof of the company’s integrity." Newsweek noted "Wikipedia is well known for not imposing restrictions on the editing process, and while it is possible to lock articles to avoid anonymous editing this usually reserved for controversial topics. But on July 12 Wikipedia administrators voted to lock the article on Calibri after the joint investigation team report was released." Al Jazeera, Independent, BBC and CNN, Gulf News, Financial Times, are all among the major International news outlets that noted the lockage of the Wikipedia page. The Nation noted that Pakistani MP Shireen Mazari said "If Nawaz Sharif claims that Wikipedia is also involved in conspiracy against them, don’t be surprised." S., B.
- Alt-right wikis: In counterpoint (or in concert?) to the free-information theme of lead story one, Wired carried a story (21 June) about "the Wikipedia of the alt-right", which really should have been titled "the wikis built by the alt-right on the MediaWiki platform".
- Double standard for Latinas?: A commentator in Huffington Post saw a double standard (5 June 2017) when an "extensive list of U.S. Latinas working in mainstream newsrooms" was deleted, saying "The editors have not only deleted our extensive list of U.S. Latinas working in mainstream newsrooms but they've disabled the accounts where the lists were being compiled" and appealing to Jimbo Wales to look into matters.
- Doubled representation of female classical scholars: Wikipedia doubled representation of female classical scholars since the first Women’s Classical Committee editathon in London in January 2017, says a study (11 June 2017) in Times Higher Education: "While reversing Wikipedia's gender skew may seem like an insurmountable task, breaking it down makes it much easier to achieve. The online activism of the Committee offers a good example of how real progress can be made by small groups or individuals without specialist knowledge or funds, just desire for change." The study noted English Wikipedia's relative dearth of women's biographies, and that existing biographies are usually written relative to men's accomplishments. At the same time it noted that Welsh Wikipedia has more women's biographies than men, and access in general is easy, cheap and fixing gaps is "about willpower".
- Wikipedia cited: The Register says that a report cited Wikipedia to show that "Trident nuke subs are hackable" (1 June 2017).
- Paid editing: Again (and again and again...) but with a twist: is it paid editing if it's a free add-in to a commercial SEO deal? One provider says it isn't, according to Entrepreneur (6 July 2017). Actively discussed at WT:COI (permlink).
- Wikipedia: The Text Adventure: A programmer turned Wikipedia into a classic text adventure, Ars Technica (developer Kevan Davis) (also in The Independent and thenextweb.com)
- Wikipedia has measurable effect on tourism: "Wikipedia edits, on average, led to a 9% increase in [tourist] visits" to certain European cities, according to a 2014-2015 experiment reported in Quartz "It pays to keep your online presence thoroughly up to date" (July 7).
- South Africa: fixers and the dark arts of Wikipedia: The Sowetan and South Africa's biggest Sunday newspaper, The Sunday Times printed investigative stories by the same author (July 10). The stories describe "articles written exposing wrongdoing would feature lower down on the list of Google results‚ while the Wikipedia page would paint a rosy picture" of influential South Africans. The articles further show how leaked Bell Pottinger emails – containing draft text to burnish a client's image – are linked to a specific Wikipedia article and user account that added the content. (See prior Signpost ITM and active COIN discussion.)
- Australia's Northern Territory history on Wikipedia: The Australian Broadcasting Corporation says (8 July 2017) that Wiki Club NT in Darwin has added 100 new pages on the history of the Northern Territory, often at club nights.