Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2019-10-31/In the media

How to use or abuse Wikipedia for fun or profit: Sweden, Poland, Armenia, Russia, the Vatican, and clueless English pubs.

A fake Nazi death camp in Warsaw

On 4 October, Haaretz published "The Fake Nazi Death Camp: Wikipedia's Longest Hoax, Exposed", with later coverage in The Times of Israel, The Week, and at least nine other news sources in several languages.

For fifteen years, the article for Warsaw concentration camp, also known as KL Warschau, contained the misinformation that the camp was an extermination camp with the majority of its victims non-Jewish Poles. Although there were numerous revisions to the article in time, and disputes as to the veracity of the claims to it being an extermination camp, the misinformation persisted from the creation of the article by the now deceased Halibutt in August 2004 until interventions by K.e.coffman on 5 and 6 May 2019 and Icewhiz on 27 and 28 August 2019. The misinformation (called a "hoax" by Icewhiz and Haaretz) largely originated from research by the judge and author Maria Trzcińska, whose obscure hypothesis about the camp being an extermination camp that targeted non-Jewish Poles was officially discredited in 2007 (three years after the date that the Wikipedia article was created). Icewhiz reported to Haaretz that they investigated the claims in the Wikipedia article after they read a May 2019 article by Christian Davies in London Review of Books which mentioned "Wikipedia entries amended". They posted an essay on their user page documenting the existing problems found on Wikipedia, both in the article itself and mentions of Warsaw concentration camp elsewhere on Wikipedia, as well as the state of the article prior to K.e.coffman's edits. User:François Robere approached the Signpost in September with an edited version of Icewhiz's essay prepared for publication, but the Signpost declined to publish.

Icewhiz was involved in several content disputes about antisemitism and misinformation related to Poland in World War II, and is subject to sanctions per Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Antisemitism in Poland. They have now been banned indefinitely for off-wiki harassment pertaining to the Antisemitism in Poland content dispute, see Arbitration report. Icewhiz states that they brought the story to Haaretz as an attempt to generate reliable coverage of the facts regarding KL Warschau which could then support their arguments on Wikipedia. Both Icewhiz and Haaretz writer Omer Benjakob claim that this case was just one out of many instances of intentional misinformation added by Polish nationalist editors. Benjakob writes that there "seems to be a systematic effort by Polish nationalists to whitewash hundreds of Wikipedia articles relating to Poland and the Holocaust." Benjakob links this effort on the English Wikipedia with current Polish nationalist political efforts, which he accuses of promoting Holocaust distortion and attempting to minimize the documented complicity of Poles in the Holocaust and promoting Poles as equal or worse victims of the Holocaust. The historian and Haaretz contributor Daniel Blatman countered in a 17 October 2019 opinion piece that the false claims in the article persisted through several Polish governments, including those which acknowledge the complicity of Poles in the Holocaust, and thus cannot accurately be described as an attempt by Poland to falsify Holocaust narrative. The blame for the faulty article lies, Blatman argues, entirely with Wikipedia. User:Poeticbent, who was the most prolific Wikipedia editor of Polish-related articles, including those about Jewish-Polish history, until he retired from Wikipedia in May 2018, is named by Icewhiz as one of the Polish editors intentionally spreading misinformation on Wikipedia. He responded to the accusations with an essay posted on his user page. User:Piotrus, another prolific editor of Polish content, is also named in the article, and was interviewed by Haaretz for the piece. However, Piotrus states that the interview was never authorized for publication, and so they posted a response on the Polish Wikipedia. In this response, Piotrus says there are inaccuracies and false statements from Icewhiz that were not corrected by Haaretz.

As a remedy in the Antisemitism in Poland arbitration case, all articles pertaining to Poland in World War II (1933-1945), including those pertaining to the Holocaust, are subject to the guidance applied to the Collaboration in German-occupied Poland article: "Only high quality sources may be used, specifically peer-reviewed scholarly journals, academically focused books by reputable publishers, and/or articles published by reputable institutions. English-language sources are preferred over non-English ones when available and of equal quality and relevance. Editors repeatedly failing to meet this standard may be topic-banned as an arbitration enforcement action."
- 3family6

Swedish embassies lead edit-a-thons

The Swedish government's gender equality foreign policy is shown by WikiGap edit-a-thons held in Swedish embassies in Japan and Pakistan this month. Previously about 60 other WikiGap events have been held. (32 events are shown here).

In brief

Odd bits

  • Vatican edits: The conservative Catholic website LifeSiteNews reports that somebody within the Vatican City, possibly in the Secretary of State office, has vandalized the article on Taylor Marshall, author of Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within.
  • And for the sequel? Larry Sanger wrote an encyclopedia article about his left thumb on Everipedia, the encyclopedia that promises to pay for your writing with digital wooden nickels. Sanger has now returned his wooden nickels and resigned from his position as Everipedia's CIO without writing an article about his right digitus medius. Sanger's next project looks thumb-what more promising, a decentralized encyclosphere supported by the Knowledge Standards Foundation. Not only can anyone edit, but anyone can create their own encyclopedia, with articles on a topic being rated across encyclopedias. Of course anyone can rate the encyclopedia articles.
  • Clueless: Wikipedia “Could Spell the End of Clueless Arguments in Pubs”: However unlikely that seems, it was published on the UK satire site NewsBiscuit.
  • Moscow Times reported on October 9 that the Great Russian Encyclopedia will be repurposed as the Russian analogue of Wikipedia and will be designed for 15 million users per day. Russian technology site reported that the state budget will fund the new site for about $31 million. The Russian broadcaster RT, which usually has a political or ideological agenda, reported that the website will be "free of any political or ideological agenda." Last month The Signpost reported that Belsat, which has a different political or ideological agenda, gave the same information. The Signpost predicts that the GRE will not replace Wikipedia in Russia, but that it will have a political or ideological agenda.

Do you want to contribute to "In the media" by writing a story or even just an "in brief" item? Edit next month's edition in the Newsroom or leave a tip on the suggestions page.